KFTC Blog

Southern Kentucky participates in general assembly, expands local housing work

Posted by: KFTC Staff on February 24, 2014

It’s been a busy year so far for Southern Kentucky members. The year started off with action in support of House Bill 70, which would restore the right to vote to most former felons in Kentucky once their sentence is complete. Local members met with five legislators on January 15, and all five have since voted in support of the bill. With recent changes in House Bill 70, which is now in the form of a committee substitute (you can read about that HERE), members will be contacting those same legislators and requesting they hold true to the original House version of the bill and not support the recent changes. Current and upcoming actions include calls,e-mails, and visits to legislators and letters to the editor in papers here at home.

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Member Voices: The Local Option Sales Tax

Posted by: Linda Stettenbenz on February 24, 2014

The Local Option Sales Tax (LOST, or LIFT as it is now called in Louisville) bills have been filed in Frankfort, HB 399 and SB 135.   If approved by the legislature in 2014, these bills would require a state constitutional amendment to allow cities in Kentucky the power to collect sales tax.  If passed by state voters, cities would then put it to their voters.  LOST/LIFT has been getting a lot of press in Louisville, and Gov. Beshear has indicated his willingness to support it.  Louisville’s Mayor Fischer is a proponent, and is advocating for a 1% LOST/LIFT that would be for a specific amount of money for specific capital projects approved by local voters to allow “local” “democratic” control over revenue.

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Raise the Wage!

Posted by: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth on February 21, 2014

 Kentuckians believe in a fair wage.

House Bill 1, sponsored by Speaker Greg Stumbo, and House Bill 191, sponsored by Representative Will Coursey, would incrementally raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by 2016, and the tipped-minimum wage from $2.13 to 70 percent of the full minimum wage. Lifting the minimum wage to $10.10 would raise wages for one in four Kentucky workers. It would also benefit 22 percent of the state’s children who have a parent that would be affected, or 228,000 kids.

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HB 70 passes Senate with waiting period added

Posted by: KFTC Staff on February 19, 2014

In its 8th year in the Kentucky legislature, House Bill 70 passed the Kentucky Senate for the first time on February 19. The bill, which would restore voting rights to most former felons, passed with a committee substitute that would require a five-year waiting period.

In its original form, House Bill 70 – passed by the House on January 16 by a bipartisan vote of 82-12 – would place on the statewide ballot a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felons once they’ve served their full sentence, including probation and parole. The Senate version would add a five-year waiting period beyond probation and parole. The changes would also exclude from automatic restoration anyone convicted of any felony sex crime and anyone with multiple convictions, cutting in half the number of former felons who would benefit from House Bill 70. (The House version of the bill already excluded those convicted of intentional killing, rape, sodomy and sex crimes involving children, as well as treason and bribery in an election.)

Each year since 2005, the voting rights bill has passed the House only to die in the Senate without a vote.

"God is a forgiving God who does not make you wait five years for forgiveness." - Sen. Gerald Neal

The bill with committee substitute passed unanimously out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and a few hours later went to the Senate floor, where it passed 34 to 4.

Because of the changes to the bill, it will pass back to the House, where the House can either accept it with the changes or negotiate a compromise.

Senators Gerald Neal and Reginald Thomas spoke passionately on the Senate floor about the need to pass HB 70 without the committee substitute.

“We’re going to create a whole new category of punishment,” said Neal, who sponsored a companion bill in the Senate. He explained that some felons could be “on paper” for 10 years and still have to wait another five before they can vote.

"God is a forgiving God who does not make you wait five years for forgiveness," Neal said.

“This country has never compromised, Madam President, when it comes to the issue of liberty,” said Thomas. He went on to say, “This bill is not a compromise. … It’s a denial of what’s fundamental in our society, which is the right to vote.”

Other senators said they would vote for the bill with the changes because they wanted to see the bill move forward. A few, including senators Robin Webb and Alice Forgy Kerr, said they hoped the bill would come back to the Senate from the House in its original form – without the committee substitute.

Kerr referred to the five-year waiting period as a “hope buster.”

“I really feel like the God I serve is a God of second chances,” said Kerr. “And I feel like voting is a right, voting is a privilege, but voting is not just for the privileged few.”

"We are a forgiving people. We are a forgiving society. And Lord help us if we ever change from being that way." -Rep. Jeff Hoover

Webb said voting allows people to invest in their communities. “I believe that individuals will do better if they’re invested where they live and where they work. ... And I think democracy requires that.”

Earlier in the day, in a one-hour committee hearing that featured testimony by U.S. Senator Rand Paul in favor of restoration of voting rights, several lawmakers and others urged passage of the bill without the committee substitute.

“The theory behind House Bill 70 is that you want to show the person that they are being welcomed back to society,” said Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, long-time sponsor of House Bill 70. “The committee substitute does the opposite of that.”

“We find, Mr. Chairman, the Senate substitute not to be a bill that will restore rights for felons. But we find that to be a blueprint for suppression of felon voting rights,” said Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP.

Rep. Jeff Hoover, co-sponsor of House Bill 70 with Crenshaw, said restoring voting rights after completion of a sentence is a matter of fairness.

“We are a forgiving people. We are a forgiving society,” Hoover said. “And Lord help us if we ever change from being that way.”

In his remarks, Paul avoided taking sides on the committee substitute, but spoke strongly in favor of restoring voting rights, focusing particularly on the high number of incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes and the disproportionate impact on people of color.

Many drug crimes are committed in youth by kids “white, black and brown,” but the prison population is disproportionately made up of people of color, Paul said.

“Something’s gone wrong in the war on drugs. … There has become a racial outcome in who’s incarcerated in our country,” Paul said. He added that sentences are often too harsh.

“Most of us believe in redemption,” Paul said. “Most of us believe in a second chance.”

Here are some news articles about the vote:

GOP Senate makes farce of voting rights amendment

Thayer's wrecking ball takes out bill

Kentucky Senate passes watered-down version of voting rights restoration

Gutting of felon voting rights bill angers backers

Ky. felons seeking voting rights get help from Rand Paul

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I Love Mountains Day 2014: Marchers vote for a bright future

Posted by: KFTC Staff on February 12, 2014

Hundreds of KFTC members and friends braved the cold and warnings of winter storms to march and rally in Frankfort on our ninth annual I Love Mountains Day February 12.

Folks gathered at the Kentucky River and marched up Capitol Avenue to the familiar chants of “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “Whose mountains? Our mountains!”

Speakers drew parallels among communities in eastern Kentucky and other communities in Central Kentucky, Louisville, West Virginia and North Carolina that are dealing with the impacts of fossil fuels.

“We may live in different hollers, but we share the same story of environmental injustice,” said keynote speaker Teri Blanton, a Harlan County native and longtime KFTC leader who is a member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the EPA.

“It’s time for us to write a new story,” Blanton said. “Let’s create a new energy revolution in this state, a New Power revolution.”

"It's time for us to write a new story. Let's create a new energy revolution in this state, a New Power revolution."  -Teri Blanton

Blanton called on elected leaders to:

  • Invest in a new economy and a just transition in eastern Kentucky.
  • Protect the health of people in eastern Kentucky and stop the destruction, beginning with passing the Stream Saver Bill.
  • Pass the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, which would establish benchmarks for renewable energy and energy efficiency and create 28,000 new jobs in Kentucky over the next ten years.
  • Support the EPA and other regulatory agencies charged with protecting the land and people.
  • Pass Senate Bill 14, which would limit the use of eminent domain in cases such as the proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipeline.

“We have to create the democracy that we all deserve,” Blanton said.

Eleven-year-old Chase Gladson of Harlan County described how lucky he is to live in the mountains. “My dream is to grow up and raise a family right there in Harlan County, just like my grandparents did, and their grandparents before them.”

But things are falling apart in eastern Kentucky, Chase said. “I know that for me to stay close to home, things will have to change.”

Clean water and good jobs will have to be a part of those changes, he said. “I’m only 11 years old, but I believe all this is possible. … It will take all of us, I mean all of us, working together.”

Sister Claire McGowan described the proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipeline, which she and others along its route have been working to prevent.

“We don’t need to develop more fossil fuels at all. In fact, we can’t afford to develop more fossil fuels. … The transition to renewable energy sources must begin now.”

KFTC chairperson Sue Tallichet welcomed the crowd and invited everyone to take part in the day’s “voting.”  “As part of building a healthy democracy, we invite everyone here today to vote for a bright future.”

Rather than vote for candidates, participants were asked to submit ballots expressing WHAT they’d like to vote for in Kentucky. Answers ranged from ending mountaintop removal to clean energy, affordable education for all, clean water, sustainable food systems, good jobs, economic development that empowers small businesses, and more.

Music was provided by Randy Wilson, David and Phoebe Waggoner, and singers from the Loretto, Dominican and Charity women religious communities in Kentucky's Holy Land.

Here's some news coverage of the day:

 

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Members weigh in on Governor's tax proposal

Posted by: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth on February 11, 2014

KFTC members and allies met today after the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting. The committee heard the Governor’s proposed tax plan, which harkened back to the Blue Ribbon Commission's work in 2012 and 2013, and that he offered last week in the name of tax reform.

The Governor's proposal includes some good policies that are needed in Kentucky.  He’s proposed an Earned Income Tax Credit at 7.5% of the federal credit. That’s just half of the EITC included in both the Kentucky Forward Plan (HB 220) and the Blue Ribbon Recommendations, which both call for a 15% EITC.  A 7.5% credit would mean that families that qualify for the highest credit (earning just over the minimum wage, and with three or more children), would receive a credit of about $350. The average credit would be $171.6—not necessarily enough to qualify the measure as an anti-poverty tool, but a small step in the right direction.

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I Love Mountains Day logistics and information

Posted by: Erik Hungerbuhler on February 10, 2014

Here is some information you can use if you plan on attending I Love Mountains Day on Wednesday.

Webinar: We will be hosting a webinar this evening at 7 p.m. EST to get people prepared for the rally. We'll examine a range of issues, including the Stream Saver Bill and Clean Energy Opportunity Act, and ways you can be most effective when talking with lawmakers. We'll discuss where these issues currently stand in the Kentucky General Assembly, and explore ways to build support for protecting Kentucky's land, air and water. You'll also learn detailed information about the march and rally.

You can join the discussion by phone, and you can also follow-along with a slide presentation if you like.

  • To view the slide show, go to www.readytalk.com. Then enter access code: 8931147.
  • To join the phone call, dial 866-740-1260 and then enter access Code: 8931147#.
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Cheers for Kentucky and for Fairness in Wilderness Trace

Posted by: KFTC staff on February 8, 2014

It’s been a busy couple of months for members in the Wilderness Trace chapter.

In December, the chapter held its second annual holiday event, Cheers for Kentucky, at V the Market in Danville. Members took the opportunity to not only celebrate the great work the chapter had accomplished over the year, but to also educate people about the shifting political landscape in the chapter area. Because of redistricting, Boyle County is now represented by a new senator. Members posted large printouts of the new district maps and had conversations with people about the shift in legislators.

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Lifting our voices from Home during the General Assembly

Posted by: Tanya Turner on February 3, 2014

It’s a long drive from eastern Kentucky to Frankfort; a full day’s work, to say the least. That’s why members of the Letcher County Chapter of KFTC are getting creative to lift their voices around important issues this Legislative Session. 

The chapter is wrapping up a solid week of terrific work around Kentucky’s General Assembly, right here at home. Last Wednesday, several members hosted a Mountain Talk program on local community radio station WMMT 88.7 FM. The program’s theme of Voting Rights in Kentucky followed up on a recent radio news piece covering a lobby day and rally at the State Capitol in Frankfort organized by the Kentucky Voting Rights Coalition. The Mountain Talk featured clips from that rally as well as commentary from former felon Kristi Kendall in Floyd County,WMMT Mtn Talk on HB 70 retired judge Jim Bowling in Bell County, and the father of a former felon/ coal miner, Carl Shoupe in Harlan County.  

Besides the too often told story of firsthand disenfranchisement of themselves or family members, Judge Bowling gave powerful testimony of his experience sitting on the bench, forced to hand down harsh felony convictions for offenses that once were misdemeanors.

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Footprints for Peace begins annual walk to I Love Mountains Day

Posted by: Jessie Skaggs on January 31, 2014

Perry County member Russell OliverOn Friday, more than a dozen people met in Prestonsburg and began a two-week walk to Frankfort, where they will join more than a thousand other people at I Love Mountains Day.

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