Judge Hale’s ruling that federal law prevents Kentucky counties from implementing their own right-to-work ordinances not only pushes aside the will of the people as expressed through their Legislature, it completely negates the intention of this nation’s founders in establishing a Constitution that empowers sovereign states and their citizens.
The ruling completely disregards at least two United States Supreme Court rulings that uphold county ordinances as state law. But perhaps even more disconcerting is the fact that Hale either disregarded or perhaps doesn’t even understand our system of federalism.
Rather than recognizing that the United States Constitution’s Tenth Amendment clearly establishes that the federal government’s power is granted by the states, Hale’s ruling indicates a belief that the commonwealth of Kentucky and its people must be content with tiny morsels of decision-making authority tossed our way by an all-powerful federal government.
Opinions issued by Kentucky’s greatest legal minds — including retired Kentucky Supreme Court justices Joseph Lambert and Will Graves as well as Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken and Hardin County Attorney Jenny Oldham — clearly hold that counties, as political subdivisions of the commonwealth — have the statutory authority to pass economic-development legislation like right-to-work ordinances.
Despite this legally thin ruling — Hale’s first major civil decision since arriving on the federal bench as an Obama appointee — the work of the Bluegrass Institute in leading an effort resulting in several counties passing their own local right-to-work ordinances covering 600,000 people clearly shows that Kentuckians from Boone County in Northern Kentucky to Simpson County along the commonwealth’s southernmost border believe in the economic opportunity and individual liberty offered by right-to-work policies. We’ve already had a referendum of sorts as 113 of the 118 votes cast by locally elected fiscal court magistrates in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner have said “yes” to right-to-work.
The Kentucky General Assembly could make sure the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Kentuckians — as represented by these local officials — are honored by passing right-to-work in Frankfort during the 2016 session of the Kentucky General Assembly. Doing so would get the future of right-to-work in our state out of the courthouse and back to the statehouse where it belongs.