SENATOR PHILLIP WHEELER’S LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Recognizing Labor Day
On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, America held its first Labor Day celebration. In 1894, then-President Grover Cleveland officially made Labor Day a national holiday. Since then, America has recognized the first Monday in September to celebrate the people who keep our economy moving and society strong – American workers.
The challenges of 2020 and 2021 have strengthened our appreciation for those who make up our workforce. Healthcare professionals and first responders remain on the frontlines, serving our communities and keeping us safe and healthy. Teachers are continuing to adapt to provide our children with the best quality of education possible. Our state and national economy depend on all the laborers who keep it moving, who work daily to keep shelves stocked, infrastructure up to par, and so much more.
As we reflect on Labor Day, the legislature is gearing up in anticipation of a special session expected to be called by the Governor. After a long and strenuous 18 months of the executive branch having sole hands on the wheel of COVID-19 mitigation, a recent ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court has finally ensured duly elected representatives in the legislature a rightful seat at the table to discuss the state’s response to the ongoing pandemic.
With this new legislative authority and a special session looming, the Kentucky General Assembly has started having deliberative policy discussions through interim joint committee meetings. Measures are being considered to address several areas of need for the Commonwealth while mitigating how the virus affects our state. One of the numerous issues expected to be discussed during a special session concerns laborers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
Medical professionals epitomize those in our workforce who we appreciate this Labor Day. None are more essential at this moment than those who are administering vaccinations and providing treatment to those who are ill. Currently, we see reports nationwide of limited capacity and critical staffing shortages within our hospitals. While a rise in COVID-19 hospitalization along with a lack of staff bandwidth is of dire concern, keep in mind that these critical issues can dramatically improve if our vaccination rates increase. Recent statistics show that 90% of virus-related hospitalizations and ICU admissions in Kentucky are among the unvaccinated.
As the Delta variant surges and nurses are being spread thin, other states, such as Montana, are offering pay incentives to attract nurses to their states. This crisis should have been a higher priority of the executive branch throughout the state’s response to COVID-19, a key topic of daily briefings and discussions. The goal was always to flatten the curve of cases and hospitalizations to avoid our hospitals reaching patient capacity. Measures to ensure an adequate workforce, and their benefits, are fundamental to that goal. Expect lawmakers to give proper attention to this issue during a called special session.
In this case, you can also expect to see fewer broad and blanketed mandates and, instead, a more targeted approach. The distant voice of government officials or unelected bureaucrats has nearly exhausted their effectiveness in promoting COVID-19 mitigation measures. The 138 members of the Kentucky General Assembly consist of creative minds. Most importantly, each is uniquely familiar with the local trusted voices and unique needs of the districts they represent. A new approach is necessary, and lawmakers are prepared to partner in the state’s efforts to take on the challenges we face. We all have a productive role to play.
To Kentucky workers, no matter your field of expertise or practice, we thank you for being an active participant in keeping our economy moving. Your service and dedication to your community and fellow citizens are especially appreciated during these unprecedented times.
We celebrate you and your hard work. I hope you enjoyed a safe and healthy Labor Day. God Bless.
# # #
Note: Senator Phillip Wheeler (R-Pikeville) represents Kentucky’s 31st State Senate District, which includes Elliott, Lawrence, Martin, Morgan, and Pike Counties. Senator Wheeler serves as a member of the Interim Joint Committees on Economic Development and Workforce Investment; Judiciary; Local Government; Natural Resources and Energy; State Government; Tourism, Small Business, and Information Technology; and Transportation. He is also a member of the 2020-2022 Budget Preparation and Submission Committee, the Capital Planning and Bond Oversight Committee, and the County Clerk Office Modernization Task Force. For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senator Wheeler, please visit: https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators%20Full%20Res%20Images/senate131.jpg