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Liberty-boosting-and-busting moves, movers and shakers

Editor’s Note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being published by newspapers statewide.

The 2022 session of the Kentucky General Assembly has moved past the halfway point.

With plenty more to come, let’s pause to highlight some of this session’s liberty-boosting-and-busting moves, movers and shakers.

Liberty Boosters: It’s as important as it is inspiring to see rural representatives stepping into Kentucky’s school choice arena.

First-term Rep. Josh Calloway from rural Irvington joined fellow Republican and veteran state Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester – a longtime leader in Kentucky’s educational liberty movement – to sponsor legislation expanding school-choice options in last year’s Education Opportunity Account Act, which the legislature passed and then overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto.

House Bill 305 does something an overwhelming 71% of likely Kentucky voters support: allows parents in all 120 Kentucky counties to use education opportunity account (EOA) funds to cover tuition costs at nonpublic schools. Last year’s bill limited the use of EOA funds for private and parochial schools to parents in only the most-populated counties.

Liberty Busters: Naysayers need to better educate themselves about Campbellsville Republican Sen. Max Wise’s legislation improving Kentucky’s social studies’ standards.

University progressives are trying to paint Senate Bill 138 with the same broad brush as anti-critical race theory legislation introduced in the House.

But Wise’s bill is different. Its entire flavor is positive, not negative.

For example, SB 138:

  • requires that 24 key historical documents be part of each student’s middle and high school educational journey;

  • ensures principles such as “all individuals are created equal” and “Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law” will be taught throughout Kentucky; and

  • explicitly prohibits restrictions on teaching controversial aspects of history -- including past oppression of people groups – while stipulating that instruction on current, controversial topics be age-appropriate, relevant, objective, nondiscriminatory and respectful of differing student perspectives.

None of which lines up with erroneous claims made by Eladio Babadilla, an assistant professor of history at the University of Kentucky, who told reporters that SB 138, the Teaching American Principles Act, is “a frightening attempt to whitewash history and strong-arm teachers into becoming purveyors of propaganda rather than facilitators of critical thought.”

Liberty Buster-turned-Booster: During the first week of this year’s legislative session, Gov. Beshear’s Finance and Administration Cabinet sent a letter to county clerks’ offices telling them to brace for a 40% rise in vehicle taxes due to inflated car values created by COVID-related supply chain shortages.

Six weeks later, Beshear signed an executive order freezing the taxable value of motor vehicles at 2020 levels.

The turn-around represents some progress: A governor once quick to declare an emergency, seize power and shut down the commonwealth becomes a chief executive who waits until the state Senate indicates in a joint resolution that he does have the authority to give Kentuckians relief from the hated vehicle tax.

Let’s hope there’s no relapse in this governor’s use of emergency powers.

Liberty Boosters: Even in a legislature where one political party holds a supermajority, it’s possible for the parties to act in a unified way to protect Kentuckians’ liberties.

The Uniform Public Expression Protection Act, which protects Kentuckians’ freedom of speech by shielding them from retribution by government agencies, passed the House unanimously last week.

House Bill 222 is co-sponsored by fellow Louisville Reps. Nina Kulkarni, a Democrat, and Republican Jason Nemes, and its policy supported by a diverse nonpartisan coalition, including Americans for Prosperity – Kentucky, the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, my organization, the Kentucky Open Government Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Kuklarni says the bill allows judges to “dismiss certain civil lawsuits that are used to intimidate, censor or silence those who speak out on a matter of public interest or concern by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense against what is ultimately a meritless lawsuit.”

Hopefully, much more such liberty boostin’ will be happenin’ in Frankfort during the remainder of the 2022 legislative session and beyond.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free market think tank. Reach him at and @bipps on Twitter.

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