“It’s time our leaders got over their fear of union’s ability to bus in members from other states, gave Kentucky workers the right of non-membership in a union and repealed job-killing fantasy wage requirements.” –Andy Hightower, Kentucky Club for Growth
There isn’t even an election for their seats this year, yet Frankfort’s politicians — especially those in the House — remain committed to filing frivolous bills during the beginning of the legislative session while avoiding addressing the tough issues.
Take, for example, House Bill 65, which would ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 18 years of age. The bill, filed by Rep. Danny Ford, R-Mt. Vernon, has been introduced to the Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee.
Ford tried, but failed, in the past to get support for such legislation. Apparently he once again is emboldened now that the Food and Drug Administration has banned alcoholic energy drinks.
There have been a few cases of alcoholic poisoning across the country. But does this justify banning all energy drinks to all minors, the vast majority of whom drink them in moderation?
An Energy Fiend blogger wrote: “I fail to see the logic here and it amazes me how some people can be elected to government when they don’t seem to have a shred of common sense or reason.”
Since Ford and other Republicans who continue to waste taxpayers’ time and money on frivolous legislation that chips away at our individual liberties and choices — even after what happened in the November elections — perhaps a Democratic lawmaker would introduce a bill banning politicians displaying such disregard for a free society from the Capitol grounds in Frankfort.
The Energy Fiend blog offers you some direction if you want to take action:
“If you love energy drinks and are one of the vast majority who drink them in moderation, perhaps you should take some action and write your congressmen. Stop big government from legislating your freedoms away.”
Reach Rep. Ford at (502) 564-5855 or Danny.Ford@lrc.ky.gov. His office is in room 414 of the Capitol Annex.
The Messenger-Enquirer has come out against Senate Bill 13 (subscription), a bill that would provide rewards for teachers of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses in math and science when students earn high scores on the related tests for those programs.
That editorial opposition makes me wonder if the Messenger’s editors really read and understood the bill and really understand the problem.
First: It’s no secret – across the United States and here in Kentucky – schools are having a hard time finding enough qualified teachers for math and science. That is especially true in high schools, where the subject knowledge required renders potential teaching candidates very competitive for other occupations, many high-paying, that also require this important knowledge.
In fact, over the past several years, Kentucky Senator Ken Winters, who heads the Senate Education Committee, reports that all the education schools in Kentucky combined have graduated only one person each year – just one a year – who is qualified to teach high school physics.
Clearly, the shortage of high school math and science teachers is a serious situation. It is obvious that schools need to be able to offer special inducements to get more teachers in these high skills, but high shortage areas.
Senate Bill 13 was created to address this most critical imbalance problem at a cost we can currently afford.
Certainly, as the Messenger suggests, it would be good to implement merit pay across the board for all teachers along with instituting reforms that insure teachers who don’t provide good performance are removed. However, the state cannot afford to do that, right now.
So, SB-13 institutes a first step, limited program to deal with one of the most serious teaching problems of all. As such, it can provide useful pilot information for the future when Kentucky is in a better position to address all teachers’ performance.
By the way, we already have a track record in this area based on the success of a privately funded pilot program called AdvanceKentucky, which has shown that using similar stipends for performance plus doing other activities dramatically improves AP course performance.
One last note, so far, the Enquirer’s position doesn’t seem to be sitting well with its readership. Both comments on the article as of 1 PM on January 13, 2011 express differing opinions. It seems at least a few readers may have a better handle on this subject than those at the Enquirer do.
The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission has added a new feature to their site that allows Kentuckians to search the expenditures of the Kentucky General Assembly. Interested in the travel reimbursements your state senator receives? How much do you think your representative is compensated throughout the regular session? You can find out here!
|This is an example of a returned search result|
The search engine allow for searches of legislators, full-time employees (the site actually calls them ‘permanent’ – think about that for a second…), and part-time employees (I guess you could say ‘transient’…)
This new feature combined with other recent additions to the site are an encouraging step toward making Kentucky’s government transparent.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we will stop our hard work providing resources for Kentucky’s citizens through our own transparency site with articles like this one.
Gov. Steve Beshear is skipping the Kentucky Press Association’s forum for gubernatorial candidates on Jan. 21, claiming “he’ll be busy being governor.”
Bill Hyers, Beshear’s campaign manager, says in an e-mail to KPA executive director David Thomson that the governor “will be happy to appear … after the primary.”
Of course, Team Beshear knows full well that the KPA meets each January, meaning that another forum with this number of reporters, editors and publishers won’t occur again until long after November’s gubernatorial election.
I wonder: Which of those reporters’ questions is the governor trying to avoid?
Perhaps this one:
“Governor, one of the primary duties of Kentucky’s chief executive is to propose — in good faith — a balanced-budget proposal to the General Assembly. However, in 2010, you offered a spending plan that included nearly $780 million in expanded-gaming revenue, even though you knew the idea had little support in the Legislature, even within your own party. Isn’t it a dereliction of duty for you to offer a budget you knew would cause the Legislature — on the people’s dime — to essentially start the budget process from scratch?”
Or, maybe this one:
“Governor, the current budget was balanced only because of an infusion of hundreds of millions in federal bailout money. Given that those are one-time dollars, how do you propose — assuming you are reelected — that Kentucky’s next budget be balanced?”
Surely this one:
“Governor, in August, a state legislative oversight committee voted to disapprove renewing the contract of the Kentucky Climate Action Panel, expressing concern about the panel’s involvement with the radical Center for Climate Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group committed to discouraging the use of fossil fuels and diminishing consumer freedoms. You overrode this decision by the people’s representatives and funded the group anyhow. How could you agree to fund a warming-alarmist organization that supports policies that not only hurt Kentucky’s economy but also damage its coal industry and even go so far as to threaten private property rights and individual liberties?”
Come to think of it, there’s plenty of reasons for Beshear to avoid meeting with an association representing 160 newspapers and other organizations, including the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank.
The Courier-Journal reports that key leaders in the Kentucky House are already pronouncing SB-3 – the parent choice bill with both charter schools and neighborhood schools provisions – dead upon arrival.
SB-3 is intended to do something positive about poor performance in too many Kentucky schools by opening up more options to parents. The hope is that those options will create competitive forces within our currently monopolized school system that will spur real improvement for kids.
While the House leaders may make some supporters happy by pronouncing SB-3 dead, what, exactly, do those House leaders intend to do about the poor performance in many of our schools?
So far, the answer seems to be: not very much.
While the list of Persistently Low-Achieving Schools grows, and while gaps remain – largely unchanged – the best we are hearing from House Education Chair Representative Carl Rollins is that he wants to have a study on why blacks are under-performing. He also wants a bill to relieve regular public schools in Kentucky from burdensome red tape, the same sort of roadblocks that charter schools in other states can avoid now.
Well, here’s one newsflash: Schools in Kentucky already can request waivers from regulations.
It’s all covered in KRS 156.160, Promulgation of administrative regulations by Kentucky Board of Education — Voluntary compliance — Penalty, under Paragraph (2)(a).
This waiver provision has been in statute since KERA was enacted in 1990. Problem: it must not be getting used effectively if Rep. Rollins thinks we need legislation that already exists.
So far as studying why blacks under-perform, this is one of the most studied issues in education. I’d be surprised if diversity experts from the Kentucky Department of Education couldn’t outline all sorts of existing research for Rep. Rollins within a day of being asked to do so. We are past the point where we need time-wasting studies.
As Jim Waters recently pointed out in his syndicated column:
“No single politician, legislative committee or special-interest group should stand in the way of real reform in Kentucky’s education system.”
So, I return to my initial question: If not SB-3, then what? The kids of Kentucky are waiting for the answers.