Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff Writer
The Kentucky Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, KBC-LEO, gathered at Murray State this weekend for the 2016 Spring Summit to discuss important issues Kentucky is facing and give a legislative update, with a keynote speech from Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton and an education panel.
The issues in Frankfort are critical and important, said Rep. George Brown, D-Lexington.
The representatives who attended agree education is a priority; therefore, Democrats want to fund the pension system without taking the 9 percent cut to higher education.
They propose more than $1 billion to support the pension system, with no cuts to education. Democrats want to restore $90 million for K-12 and $250 million for postsecondary education. The proposed budget includes more than $1 billion in new money for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and $90 million over the next two years for Kentucky Employees Retirement System, according to representative of the 42nd District, Reginald K. Meeks’s key summary for the budget and legislation.
They are working on “Work Ready Kentucky,” a scholarship program that gives qualified Kentucky high school graduates free tuition at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. This year’s senior class is the first to qualify, and the results from Tennessee’s Promise program, which provides scholarships for tuition-free attendance at some community or technical schools in Tennessee, look promising for “Work Ready Kentucky,” Brown said.
The budget puts $53 million toward the lottery-funded, need-based College Access Program Grant and Kentucky Tuition Grant.
Meeks said there is talk of closing the University of Chicago, and if it can happen in Illinois, then it can happen in the commonwealth of Kentucky.
“We must invest in higher education and higher education will not sacrificed,” Meeks said.
Rep. Jeff Taylor, D-Hopkinsville, said his religion does not stop at pro-life and marriage equality but extends to universal health care.
“People should have universal healthcare,” Taylor said. “If you quote Matthew 4:14, Christ filled the multitudes and Matthew 14:15 didn’t leave a bill. We think the root of religion as the point of pro-life and after that we get religious amnesia.”
Brown said 500,000 Kentuckians now have health care that did not have it before former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration.
House Bill 40 expands expungement to class D felonies, when specified conditions are met and House Bill 70 gives former felons the right to restore their voting rights when their sentence is complete.
“This governor is waging war on working families, on women and on the poor,” said Meeks. “He’s at war.”