Op-ed: Why were legislators stripped of their committees in 2023 session?

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Written by Felicia Rabourn, state representative for the 47th district which includes: Carroll, Henry, Owen and Trimble counties

Late in the evening on March 30th, in the final hours of the 2023 General Assembly Session, the voices of approximately 270,000 Kentuckians were silenced. Six duly-elected state representatives were stripped of their committees, for no reason other than pure political retribution. These legislators did not break any rules or laws, and no disruption of legislative business occurred. The only “infractions” committed by these legislators were standing up for their districts and fighting for what they believe in.

Who made the decision to remove these legislators? Five people, out of a body of 100 state representatives. These five people were members of House leadership, consisting of the Speaker of the House, the Speaker Pro Tempore, the House Majority Floor Leader, the Whip, and the Caucus Chair. No vote was ever taken to hand down this short-sighted political payback, and 95% of the legislative body had no say whatsoever.

Why were these legislators stripped of their committees? The majority of the legislators in question were targeted because they tried to strengthen a Parental Rights bill. They fought for an amendment which among other provisions stated that “A parent of a child shall have the fundamental right and liberty to make decisions concerning the child’s care, custody, and control without obstruction or interference from the government.” This amendment also prohibited school districts from teaching elementary school children about sex, or exposing any child to visual depictions of obscene sexual material.

Instead of allowing the body to take a vote on this amendment and give members a chance to vote for it or against it, the Speaker of the House ruled against the amendment and blocked it from coming up for a vote. As if that weren’t bad enough, House leadership then decided to revive the legacy of former Speaker Greg Stumbo and nearly a century of Democrat control by retaliating against members who were acting in good faith representing their districts. It’s unacceptable, and it provides indisputable proof that Frankfort is broken.

Employing political paybacks to obstruct a legislator’s ability to represent his or her district is an open assault on our representative form of government. Our constitutional republic was designed to ensure that the People’s branch of government, the legislature, would make laws in accordance with the consent of the governed. Each member of the Kentucky House of Representatives is elected to represent approximately 45,000 citizens, and to provide a direct line of representation in state government.

Kentuckians have overwhelmingly put their trust in Republicans to lead, as evidenced by the supermajority of Republican legislators serving in the General Assembly. The citizens of our great Commonwealth expect better stewardship from those who are entrusted with a position of leadership. Instead of attempting to silence conservative members and the voices of the citizens they serve, House leadership should work with the growing Republican supermajority to deliver on the promises they have made to voters.

With a supermajority of 110 out of 138 in the Kentucky House and Senate, this is where we stand: Conservative legislators are punished and silenced, good bills are blocked through a faulty process, and powerful special interests take priority over citizens.

However, we are not powerless to fix this. We can improve the process, and we can restore a system of government that works for the People as our Founder’s intended by making some changes:

* Duly-elected legislators should not be stripped of committees against their will; They should have the ability to appeal such a punitive action by way of a vote among their fellow committee members.

* All legislators should receive a committee hearing for a minimum of two bills they file, so that the priorities of their respective districts will at least be considered by the People’s branch of government.

* All bills that pass favorably in committee should be brought to the floor, so that the full body of legislators has the opportunity to debate the legislation and give it consideration.

More news:  Opinion: It's time to restore citizen participation in Kentucky lawmaking process

You can reach members of leadership to express your frustration and to convey your support for improving the process by calling 502-564-4334 or by reaching out through their individual contact information listed below:

David Osborne – Speaker of the House:
Phone: 502-645-2186
Email: [email protected]

David Meade – Speaker Pro Tempore
Email: [email protected]

Steven Rudy – Majority Floor Leader
Email: [email protected]

Jason Nemes – Majority Whip
Email: [email protected]

Suzanne Miles – Majority Caucus Chair
Email: [email protected]

This information can also be found on the Legislative Research Commission’s official website, legislature.ky.gov.

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