House Speaker Greg Stumbo, at the lectern; House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, fourth from the right; and House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, third from the left, join with other House Democratic members today as they unveil their agenda for the 2015 Regular Session, which begins in January. Photo - Bud Kraft, LRC Public Information
Frankfort – Less than 24 hours after Kentucky’s voters maintained the 54-46 Democratic majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives, the chamber’s leaders offered a far-reaching agenda for the 2015 legislative session.
“We want to thank the voters for their support and for giving us the opportunity to move ahead with those ideas that are important to them and that help all Kentucky families succeed,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said this afternoon. “Our Democratic caucus has made an effort in recent years to distance itself from the policies and gridlock we have seen coming from Washington, and the voters rallied behind that. We are not like Washington, we don’t intend to be like Washington, and we don’t care for what is going on in Washington. We believe that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and our agenda reflects that.”
“Our message resonated with the people of Kentucky and proved the House Democratic Caucus is doing something right,” House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said. “We are committed to continuing our agenda to create a strong economy that will produce good jobs, improve public education, expand tourism and development initiatives and develop innovative energy solutions.”
Speaker Stumbo said a top priority for the House will be to continue working with Governor Beshear to manage state government as Kentucky continues to emerge from the country’s worst recession since the Great Depression.
House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said that helping Kentucky’s working families “guides all that we do. That’s why we don’t pursue those policies that seek to divide us. Instead we have worked tirelessly to provide the legislative tools needed to create and sustain good-paying jobs in our existing and developing industries.”
Speaker Stumbo said other agenda items would include boosting the state’s minimum wage, which has not been raised in more than five years, and ensuring gender equity in the workforce.
House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson, D-Philpot, noted that the House “has made economic development a central role in our vision for Kentucky. That includes investments in workforce training; the local-option sales tax initiative, known as LIFT, which would let local communities have a choice in determining their future by funding major projects themselves; and public-private partnerships, which will bring businesses and government closer together to accomplish a public goal. The people can see we have been focused on growing good-paying jobs, and we will continue pursuing those in 2015 and beyond.”
House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, said the House would also continue to work on those social issues that have a major impact on Kentuckians. That includes “finding a comprehensive solution to the heroin epidemic and making sure we tackle this issue much as we did prescription-drug abuse.”
She said another priority will be to extend domestic violence orders and emergency protective orders to victims in dating situations. “We are the only state not to offer some level of civil protection in these cases,” she said. “That puts an especially unfair burden on some of our youngest women who have no way of obtaining a DVO.”
The leaders added that the House would also put its support behind a constitutional amendment that would give voters a chance to bring Kentucky in line with most other states that allow most felons to vote after completing all aspects of their sentence.
“We have an ambitious agenda, but I’m more convinced than ever that we can enact it and other needed laws,” Speaker Stumbo said. “The election season is over; now, it’s time to get to work.”
The 2015 Regular Session is set to begin January 6th, and will last for 30 working days, concluding in late March.
A federal appeals court on Thursday brought to an end the extraordinary winning streak enjoyed by same-sex marriage advocates, ruling 2-1 in favor of four states letting voters decide whether to keep their gay-marriage bans intact.Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee had each argued before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel Aug. 6 that their bans should stand unless voters decide to nix them. Thursday's written ruling marked the first loss for marriage-equality advocates since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.Judges Jeffrey S. Sutton and Deborah L. Cook, both of whom were appointed by President George W. Bush, were the deciding votes on the matter. Sutton, who wrote the opinion, implied that same-sex marriage ultimately should be legal, but that voters should be given the chance to reverse their states' bans."Is it not possible that the traditional arbiters of change – the people – will meet today's challenge admirably and settle the issue in a productive way?" Sutton wrote. "In just 11 years, 19 states and (Washington, D.C.), accounting for nearly 45 percent of the population, have exercised their sovereign powers to expand a definition of marriage that until recently was universally followed going back to the earliest days of human history. That is a difficult timeline to criticize as unworthy of further debate and voting. When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers."Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way."Jennifer Branch, an attorney who filed a suit on behalf of same-sex couples wanting to marry in Ohio, said Sutton's logic is flawed."When you leave constitutional rights up to voters, they don't always obey the constitution," she said, pointing to past voter-approved bans in several states that prohibited interracial marriage as an example. "Just because the voters pass it doesn't mean it's constitutional. That's the job of the court to decide."She said that she and her legal partner, Alphonse Gerhardstein, would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court "as quickly as we can get it done."Gay marriage advocates were swift with strongly worded reactions denouncing the rulings, though they said there's an upside: Because there's now a rift among circuit courts, the U.S. Supreme Court might finally take on the issue at the federal level."We're extremely disappointed for the families in these four states, but this decision highlights the need for the U. S. Supreme Court to right this injustice," said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lamda Legal. "While a tidal wave of courts around the nation have struck down marriage bans, this decision leaves Sixth Circuit states in a backwater and, worst of all, injures same-sex couples and their children."Thursday's ruling runs counter to four others from appellate courts in the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th circuits, which struck down same-sex marriage bans in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho and Nevada. Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said the conflicting legal requirements that will result might force the Supreme Court's hand."They've been reluctant to take on the same-sex marriage issue. Now, I don't think they have a choice," Tobias said. "You're going to have all these conflicting legal requirements, which will be confusing. People move around, and (having same-sex marriages recognized in some states but not others) will screw up things like contracts and adoptions and taxes. I don't think the Supreme Court, or the country, can really tolerate that."Marc Spindelman, a law professor at The Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, agreed, saying that the appellate panel "surprisingly gives marriage equality supporters something that they wanted, but that the other appellate decisions, with all their unanimity, didn't provide: A powerful and pressing reason for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear and decide the constitutional marriage equality question nationwide."Though momentum has been favoring same-sex marriage advocates, it's not clear if Ohio and Kentucky voters would reverse their states' bans, as Sutton's ruling seems to imply.
The oral arguments drew thousands of protesters to Downtown Cincinnati, where the court sits on East Fifth Street, and turned the town briefly into the epicenter of the gay-marriage debate.None of the states challenged the same-sex marriage ban head-on. Instead, each state faced slightly different challenges filed by same-sex couples, including the right to adopt children as a couple, to have their names placed on a partner's death certificate and to have their marriages – performed legally elsewhere – recognized in the states they call home, where same-sex marriage is illegal.Eric Murphy, Ohio's state solicitor, had argued that the court shouldn't intervene. Voters had embraced a gay-marriage ban in 2004, and it should be left to voters to decide whether to repeal it, he said."A victory that comes through the political process is the truer victory," he said.That sentiment was echoed by the other three states, including Kentucky, who was represented by outside counsel hired by Gov. Steve Beshear because Attorney General Jack Conway refused to continue fighting for the ban. Kentucky's defense of the law stood out among the four states: Its lawyers argued that opposite-sex marriage promotes procreation, and procreation provides an economic benefit to the state.Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, a Covington native and the appellate panel's only Democrat appointee, argued against leaving the matter up to voters in her dissenting opinion: "This argument fails to acknowledge the impracticalities involved in amending, re-amending, or un-amending a state constitution. More to the point, under our constitutional system, the courts are assigned the responsibility of determining individual rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, regardless of popular opinion or even a plebiscite."Besides, she said, nine of the 19 states that now permit same-sex marriage do so because of "judicial decisions, both state and federal.""Despite the majority's insistence that, as life-tenured judges, we should step aside and let the voters determine the future of the state constitutional provisions at issue here, those nine federal and state courts have seen no acceptable reason to do so," Daughtrey wrote.The three judges had to weigh six cases from the four states along the Interstate 75 corridor. Two of the six hailed from Ohio, and both centered on whether the state has to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. In the first, same-sex couples sued for the right to be listed as spouses on their deceased partners' Ohio death certificates. In the second, couples sued to have both partners' names on birth certificates of their children.Michael Premo, who manages the Why Marriage Matters Ohio campaign to increase public support for gay marriage, called Thursday's ruling a temporary setback."The 6th Circuit stood on the wrong side of history today — and in doing so, the court made it even harder for loving same-sex couples to protect and provide for their families. It is for them that we will continue to fight," he said.Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, praised Thursday's ruling, calling it a victory for supporters of traditional marriage. But while Brown praised the outcome of the ruling, he disagreed with Sutton that voters have changed their minds about banning gay marriage."The movement to redefine marriage does not benefit from having momentum," he said. "It benefits from the exercise of raw political power by federal and state judges and politicians bent of imposing their politically correct view of the world on the American people."
By Amber HuntKentucky Enquirer
The Kentucky Department of Education reported 15,520 incidents of bullying during the 2012-13 school year. How do schools in Kentucky prevent and intervene with bullying? Do they help or hinder? What is the bullying policy at your child’s school?
What is the definition of bullying? “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time,” as reported on www.stopbullying.gov.
Is Kentucky protecting your children while they are in school? House Bill 91 - The Golden Rule Act (KRS 158.156 legislation) requires the Kentucky Department of Education to provide guidance to local school districts to assist with the implementation of the law at the local level. It also requires that “model policies” (bullying, code of conduct, and supervision of students) be provided to school districts. Visit www.education.ky.gov.
Section One of KRS Chapter 158 states: (1) Any employee of a school or a local board of education who knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a school student has been the victim of a violation of any felony offense specified in KRS Chapter 508 committed by another student while on school premises, on school-sponsored transportation, or at a school-sponsored event shall immediately cause an oral or written report to be made to the principal of the school attended by the victim. The principal shall notify the parents, legal guardians, or other persons exercising custodial control or supervision of the student when the student is involved in an incident reportable under this section. The principal shall file with the local school board and the local law enforcement agency or the Department of Kentucky State Police or the county attorney within forty-eight (48) hours of the original report a written report. Visit www.bullypolice.org/ky_law.html.
What are Schools Doing?
An article in the Courier-Journal reported that 11 year-old Morgan Guess was appointed to a 2014 Kentucky Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force by Gov. Beshear to work on bullying prevention in Kentucky schools. Guess is a former victim of school bullying.
The Jessamine County school district is using the Safety Tipline Online Prevention (STOP) email format provided free by the Kentucky Center for School Safety to stop bullying. Students, parents or community members can anonymously report school bullying or unsafe situations.
Students at Tates Creek High School continue to use the H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Everyday) Club to help bullied students. Members have presented to 200 middle schools.
The Kentucky Center for School Safety is a one-stop shop for bullying resources for students, parents, teachers, administrators and the community. Visit www.kycss.org/bullying.php.
Do children bully because adults bully? Children live what they learn and they learn by observing and imitating adults. Is our culture of cruelty so overwhelming that bullied children lose hope? Children live in the moment and they believe what they feel is permanent and what is happening will not change. School becomes an emotional battleground when bullying continues and children are the casualties.
The family is the foundational building block of society and this is where bullying prevention must start. Parents need to teach and talk the no-bullying walk. Caretakers need to turn off the television and technology and just spend time with talking with kids.
Please seek help from a child therapist if your child is a victim of bullying and shows signs of depression or anxiety. Ask your pediatrician for a referral. Talk with the school counselor, principal, and teachers and keep talking. Contact the superintendent, the school board members, and the Kentucky Department of Education and keep talking. If the bullying does not stop you may want to talk to an attorney.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a child therapist, consultant, and educator in Appalachia.
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