OpEd From State Treasurer Allison Ball: Governor's Overreach of Power, Disregard For First Amendment
OpEd by Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball:
Every statewide elected official takes an oath to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As your elected State Treasurer, I have the added responsibility of watching all state expenditures, billions of dollars every year, and making sure that your taxpayer dollars are not being used in a way that violates the Constitution.
In recent weeks, there have been stories circulating nationwide about the efforts of the Archbishop of San Francisco to overturn the punitive limits imposed on churches by the mayor of San Francisco. The last few days have seen a resurgence in the targeting of Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, as well as other houses of worship, by imposing hard caps of 10 and 25 people per service, regardless of the size of the church or synagogue. As efforts to protect civil liberties in those areas moves forward, we must remember that the targeting of religious exercise by state and local officials is not limited to the coastal “blue” states.
Kentucky, whose politics will never be confused with New York or California, has itself seen multiple federal courts strike down executive orders issued by Governor Andy Beshear, on the grounds that the orders limiting religious services, travel, or protest, violated the fundamental, constitutional rights of Kentuckians. In any other time in our history, a series of defeats of this magnitude would have been met with much greater attention and demand for accountability.
Due to my role as a watchdog of public spending, I directed my office to review the way taxpayer dollars were being spent to enforce the administration’s questionable executive orders relating to First Amendment activities. Protecting our Commonwealth and its great citizens need not be done at the expense of the First Amendment. It is possible to protect the Commonwealth while respecting, and adhering to, a principle upon which this country was founded. My office requested information from a number of health departments around the Commonwealth, and received responses from several departments, as well as the Kentucky State Police.
Our investigation uncovered numerous instances of law enforcement being used to monitor or shut down faith-based services; derogatory or confrontational comments made about religious exercise by those in leadership; and selective, targeted enforcement of mass gathering prohibitions, in violation of the First Amendment. The actions taken at a local level seem to be directly correlated to the decisions made, and the tone set, by the Governor’s administration in Frankfort, which itself has too often used daily briefings and press releases as opportunities to disparage or threaten any person or institution that questions the legality and appropriateness of the administration’s orders.
On October 22, I will be presenting my office’s findings to the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary in Frankfort. This will be an opportunity for legislators to consider what we have uncovered in relation to executive actions during last few months, and for the public to learn more about how taxpayer dollars have been spent to enforce arbitrary government orders.
Kentuckians have established a constitution and laws that demand respect for the First Amendment rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious or political beliefs. During the 1930s, as our nation was trapped within the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression, and facing the rise of dangerous forces around the world, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes reminded the country that “[t]he Constitution was adopted in a period of great emergency.” He astutely noted that “[e]mergency does not create power” and that “[e]mergency does not increase granted power.” The extraordinary challenges presented in 2020 do not provide justification for expanding the Governor’s powers, or for ignoring the fundamental tenets that separate our democracy from failed and oppressive autocratic states arounds the world.
The First Amendment must be vigorously defended by all elected officials, particularly in times of emergency, when it is the easiest for the government to justify unconstitutional restrictions. I encourage every Kentuckian to continue to demand that our government adhere to the constitution and laws of the Commonwealth, and I look forward to continuing to serve the Commonwealth as your State Treasurer.
I am the AmeriCorps Kentucky College Coach at ECHS. Our program typically serves 1st generation 9th-12th grade students. We work with students that have a desire to go to college and may need or wish to have some guidance along the way. There are approximately 40 AmeriCorps Kentucky College Coaches in Kentucky. In order for a student to be apart of the program they must turn in permission form signed by a parent or guardian.
On October 1st the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) opened up. This is one of the many things we can help with in your student’s journey to college. This federal form should be completed prior to entering college. The FAFSA determines a student will receive money for college and determines eligibility for many grants and scholarships. Some colleges require the FAFSA to be filled out before a student will be accepted as a student of their school.We urge all high school Seniors to fill out the FAFSA. Before filling out the FAFSA the student and parent will need a FSA ID. The official FSA ID and FAFSA links are listed below:
For more information about the ECHS AmeriCorps KCC or if you need help with the FAFSA you may contact me:
270-597-2151 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find us online:
--Ms. Carmon Elmore-Hughes
Edmonson County High School AmeriCorps Kentucky College Coach
To the Editor,
Elder abuse is on the rise in America and individuals living with dementia are particularly susceptible. In fact, as many as 62% of the 5.8 million Americans living with dementia experience psychological abuse, and as many as one-fourth have been physically abused. As someone who has been personally impacted by this disease, we cannot ignore the severity of this issue, especially during an isolating and unprecedented time in our nation’s history.
Unfortunately, professionals who deal with elder abuse have little training on how to work with people with dementia. Thus, they may interpret their interactions as uncooperative, disruptive, or combative rather than fully understanding the unique needs of those living with the disease. Thankfully, the Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act (S. 3703/H.R. 6813) will require elder abuse training specifically for dementia for these professionals to improve the quality of interactions and ultimately protect this vulnerable group from elder abuse.
This vital legislation is already on the move, thanks to the support of our Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul after a vote in their Chamber. Now the House must follow suit, and that’s why we need our Representative Brett Guthrie to again be a leader in the fight to protect people living with Alzhiemer’s and all other dementia. Please join me in asking Congressmen Guthrie to cosponsor and pass H.R. 6813. Together, we can prevent elder abuse.
1923 Chaumont Road
Park City, KY 42160
By Governor Andy Beshear (D) and Secretary of State Michael Adams (R):
In the midst of a global health pandemic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), as a Democratic Governor and a Republican Secretary of State we have proven that we can put partisanship aside to make our elections safer for our people.
We know that working across the aisle to reach a bipartisan agreement, regardless of where you live from Washington, D.C. to Frankfort, Kentucky, during any year, certainly an election year, is all too rare.
We don’t always agree, but we have no disagreement when it comes to protecting the health of Kentuckians during this pandemic, while making sure they are able to exercise their patriotic duty to vote.
On Aug. 14, we announced an agreement to give Kentuckians more options to vote safely leading up to and on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.
We put politics aside – there was no political “horse-trading.” We knew we had to get this right for the people of Kentucky.
This was not the first time we’ve worked together for Kentucky’s benefit. Earlier this year when the coronavirus was intensifying in the commonwealth, we jointly delayed party primaries and then quickly reached an agreement to allow those concerned about their health to vote absentee.
The result of our agreement, we had near record turnout. We had the commonwealth’s highest primary turnout in 12 years – with both Democrats and Republicans taking advantage of voting options that helped to keep them safe.
We believe the primary was largely successful because we worked together in a bipartisan fashion. That bipartisanship not only led to a better product, with concerns on both sides accommodated, but it also showed all voters that our new election rules were fair, legitimate and credible.
The plan was not perfect, but we learned from that experience.
Our plan for the general election keeps the best of what worked in the June primary, especially giving voters options to safely cast their votes, and it makes improvements where necessary, including pushing for more in-person voting locations and faster election results.
During this pandemic, Kentuckians will have more than just 12 hours to vote at one polling place on Election Day.
Our plan includes:
Expanded absentee voting – Kentuckians who are concerned about in-person voting due to the coronavirus can request an absentee ballot online at www.GoVoteKy.com or through other methods, all of which require voter identity verification. Voters can return their ballots by mail, or put them in drop boxes we’re distributing, a first for our state.
Early in-person voting – In order to reduce lines and further social distancing, we’re offering three weeks of early in-person voting, including Saturdays, also a first for our state.
Election Day voting – While not every precinct will be open on Election Day, because, for example, some of our regular voting locations are nursing homes, Kentuckians are stepping up to serve as poll workers so that we can open as many locations as possible. Our plan requires every county to have at least one vote center, where anyone from that county can go vote, regardless of his or her precinct – another reform for our state.
Finally, Kentuckians who are unable to get a photo ID to vote due to the pandemic – whether because of risk of exposure to COVID-19, or because their clerk’s office was closed – can sign a document explaining this concern, present non-photo ID and cast their ballots.
We know that there is still a lot of work ahead, including educating Kentuckians on their options and working with local election officials on the implementation.
With all the options available for Kentuckians to vote safely, we are confident that we will see high voter turnout in November, just as we saw in our primary.
In June, we created a national model both for how to enable people to vote safely and for how leaders should work together.
To forge the framework for a safe, successful and historic general election, we have already overcome the largest impediment – partisanship.
Area Legislators Concerned Local Control Endangered By Mandates Disguised As Recommendations
By: Representatives Michael Meredith, Steve Riley, Bart Rowland, Jason Petrie, and Steve Sheldon
School administrators and teachers have been preparing to return to school for five months, knowing that this school year will look like no other in our history but realizing that education is essential to the well-being of the children and families they serve. They began those efforts by reaching out to parents across their districts to measure concern, identify needs, and determine what options to offer for “Back to School.” School districts have invested time, energy, and money into developing plans to provide a quality education while keeping our children safe. They were prepared to implement in-person learning and virtual learning, and in some cases a hybrid of both. They are ready to get back to work educating our children.
That effort hit a roadblock this week when Governor Beshear “recommended” a delay for in-person classroom instruction. We use the term recommended loosely because a recommendation would provide the information and resources needed to make the best decision possible. A recommendation recognizes that what works in Louisville may not work in Brownsville, Morgantown, or Tompkinsville and what is right for Bowling Green might not be right for Glasgow, Elkton, or Russellville. This seems to be more of a mandate than a recommendation. We have learned from school leaders that the Kentucky Department of Education is applying intense pressure with the threat of repercussions that include padlocking schools and drowning districts in bureaucratic red tape. Furthermore the strong arm nature of the recommendations have left school leaders scrambling to consult with their attorneys and insurance providers to find out if they face additional liability issues that could cripple their budgets if they choose a different path.
We naturally question why the Governor has once again issued a directive without the input of the very people who must enforce it and repair the damage left behind. Our educators, administrators and the local school boards were charged with crafting plans to safely reopen. These same educators, administrators and local school board members have extensive training in education and school governance and they recognize the potential damage caused when a child is denied access to the educational, social, and emotional support provided by our public schools. It is our teachers and administrators who see children who come to school each day with an empty stomach and without basic school supplies. It is these same teachers and administrators that provide a stable, supportive environment for children facing physical abuse or neglect or who have a parent struggling with substance abuse. Eliminating in-person education ignores the significant number of children who may not be abused or neglected, but lack access to high speed internet.
Our educators and administrators recognize the benefits of in-person instruction, and more importantly, the short and long-term impact in-person instruction has on a child’s physical and mental health and development. At the least progress for many of these students will slow; at the worst, some may fall behind forever.
COVID-19 is a real health concern we take very seriously. Because this pandemic will, undoubtedly, affect our foreseeable future, we support taking steps that stop or slow the spread of COVID-19. We encourage all Kentuckians to wear masks and practice social distancing to keep Kentucky healthy. And, while we are hopeful that these steps will reduce the impact COVID-19 has on all aspects of our society, we simply cannot stop living and preparing the next generation of Kentuckians. Our focus should remain on the education and development of our children.
Governor Beshear’s recommendation suggests “one size fits all” across the school districts of this great Commonwealth. The recommendation also suggests school officials and parents can’t be trusted to make decisions best suited for their situations. Both suggestions couldn’t be more inaccurate; decisions about in-person vs. virtual instruction and school start dates should be decided at the local level by our local school board members and superintendents. What Governor Beshear calls a recommendation, we call overreach. Overreach against the very people we trust to educate our children and keep them safe. Our school boards, administrators and teachers deserve the opportunity to complete the task they have been given –educating our children – without interference and threats of retaliation from Frankfort.
Rep. Michael Meredith represents Edmonson County and a portion of Warren County; a retired educator and school administrator, Rep. Steve Riley represents Barren County and a portion of Warren County; Rep. Bart Rowland serves Hart, Metcalfe, Monroe, and a portion of Hardin County; Rep. Jason Petrie represents Logan and Todd counties and a portion of Warren County; and Rep. Steve Sheldon represents a portion of Warren County.