Bigotry rules Kentucky GOP legislature

The Kentucky GOP Supermajority spent the 2023 session viciously attacking drag show performers, school library books, and trans kids. The Ron DeSantis Florida playbook has arrived here.

Click here to read. (no paywall) As always, thank you for reading.

Testifying in the KY senate against becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary state

Today I testified in Senate Committee against House Bill 153 which intends to make Kentucky a Second Amendment Sanctuary State.

Just this week, a federal judge ruled that Missouri’s nullification law — the so-called Second Amendment Preservation Act — is unconstitutional.

Click here for for the whole story of what it was like to testify (my first time ever!) during this off-the-rails Kentucky legislative session.

Testifying against conceal carry on college campuses

Today I testified against Kentucky Rep. Savannah Maddox’s House Bill 542 which intends to allow students (or anyone) to conceal carry a gun on Kentucky’s college campuses.

The insanity of such a bill — which passed easily out of committee with the GOP supermajority — in which no training or experience with firearms is required, is just beyond the pale.

I just found out about this bill at 11:00 last night and ran as fast I could to the Capitol this morning to beg them to vote no.

This was originally filed a as a shell bill. You can see by the ticker below the photo that they snuck it in under the radar by claiming it regards “workforce development.” This absurd and dangerous bill is an embarrassment for the Kentucky Republican legislature and will endanger our students, faculty, and staff on campus.

In the room where politics tries to erase people

Ever wonder what it feels like to sit inside the seat of power and realize most of the people in the room, the people making the rules, don’t care if you’re dead or alive?

It feels like this ….

Continue reading here. There is no paywall. As always, thank you for being here.

What’s so dangerous about books?

Here’s a photo I took this morning of about half the books in our house, available to anyone of any age who comes here. There is even a good spot to sit right there and read.

Here in Kentucky, the GOP legislature is suddenly very worried about what kids are reading at school, and I have some thoughts about their particular brand of ignorance. You can read it here. There is no paywall. And as always, thanks for being here.

Somebody please take the KY GOP to church

This past Sunday, I did what many of my fellow Kentuckians do: I went to church.

I live way out in the country, so on the drive to town I called to check on my dad. He told me my stepmother’s little dog, Magic, had died and that he had taken Magic’s ashes to the cemetery and dug a little hole by my stepmother’s grave so they could be together. In church, I said a special prayer for my sweet dad.

Click here to read. There is no paywall.

The blazer

I recently decided to stop attending or reporting on Anderson County Fiscal Court, Board of Zoning Adjustments, Planning and Zoning, School Board, etc.…

Today, I am going to tell you why.

On May 19 last year, two days after the primary election, there was a Fiscal Court meeting at 10:00 a.m. I cut the tags off of a brand new, pink and white-checked blazer, and drove the 9 miles to town, excited to see everyone.

I arrived early like I always do and made my way down the long hall and into the Fiscal Court. If you’ve never been there, the room has the formal, majestic, dark wood feel of an actual court, a room where justice takes place.

I immediately spotted a man I knew by name but did not know personally, and he looked, in a word, enraged.

As I set my purse and bottle of water on the floor by my chair, he let loose. “You came after me!” he yelled, pointing and jabbing his finger my direction. “I didn’t come after you! You came after me! You ****** liberals!” He continued screaming for several minutes, clearly angered by a public Facebook post he himself had shared, a post I’d then shared on Twitter, writing something like: Does this look familiar? Trumpism is deeply rooted here.

The man and I were about 10 feet apart. He kept screaming, one fist digging hard into the seat of the chair next to him, his other hand in the air. I kept holding up my hand, saying “no” and “no, that was not my intent” and asking him to stop.

He would not stop.

I tried to explain that I deleted had my Twitter post, even though he himself had shared this post publicly and that it was still being shared by his friends on social media.

The man was having none of it. He kept screaming.

I noted there were several Fiscal Court members and department heads standing just to my left, in the hallway, listening and/or watching.

No one intervened.

No one asked him to stop his abusive, inappropriate behavior.

No one asked him to leave.

When the man finally stopped, the people standing in the hallway filed in, and the Judge Executive called the meeting to order. We stood for the prayer and it was business as usual, as if nothing had happened. I was holding my reading glasses in my hand so tightly I broke them in half. I wanted to be anywhere else.

When the meeting ended, I walked to my car, dictated contemporaneous notes of everything the man had said into my phone and called my husband, a friend in law enforcement, and my lawyer.

For the next many months, I continued to attend these meetings, but my heart is no longer in it.

I understand what this sounds like. It sounds like I am weak. It sounds like I am a tattletale. It sounds like I am a quitter. It sounds like I can’t cut it. Women in politics and the media are forced to deal with these kinds of abuses — and worse — on a daily basis, just to do our jobs. And we tolerate it, because what choice is there?

That said, the male rage we are bombarded with is usually from a distance: on social media, in the comments section, in our email, in our voicemail.

What I can tell you is that this kind of rage coming at you feels different, more exhausting in person. It feels different in a small town where everyone knows everyone. It feels different when the people in power, the people you know personally, the people standing silent out in the hallway find this behavior acceptable.

It is unacceptable to me.

Our Kentucky Government needs more transparency, not less

Baptist Health called the other morning to cancel an appointment. My doctor was out sick. Would I be interested in a telehealth appointment instead?

An hour later I signed in online, only to realize that now that my appointment had been converted to telehealth, their system saw it as “new” and required that I fill out the pre-appointment paperwork again. I rushed to get this done. But when I got to the last page, the system would not let me hit the finish button. It was convinced I already had an appointment and was trying to double book. In the end, we just had to reschedule.

Was this frustrating, complex, irritating? Yes. But it was also normal. These are the travails of our normal, everyday, online lives.

A year ago, in January 2022, I filed to run for Anderson County magistrate on the last day candidates could file. I was a first-time candidate, so the paperwork was unfamiliar (and therefore, complicated) and I did not yet have an online account with Kentucky Registration for Election Finance (KREF).

To top it off, I had to do all of this fast — by the next day — and through the fog of jet-lag. We had been in Hawaii celebrating a big anniversary and had just arrived back in Kentucky on a redeye flight. As I remember it, I arrived home from the airport the day before the deadline, dropped my bags on my bedroom floor and drove around Lawrenceburg all afternoon, scrambling to complete my paperwork. And I will never forget sitting at my kitchen table that night, heart pounding, setting up my KREF account and finding my way around their unfamiliar system, hoping I didn’t mess anything up.

I tell you this story because State Sen. John Schickel has filed Senate Bill 18 which aims to eliminate the online KREF system and return to paper filings.

KREF’s executive director, John Steffen, calls the bill “the end of campaign finance disclosure in Kentucky,” as his agency lacks the staff to manually enter the information for all candidates in election years. The system is searchable by candidate, committee, contributor and expenditure, once filed.”Nothing would show online” if the system is scrapped, Steffen said. “Since we no longer have the ability to do that, reports filed on paper would literally just have to be stacked in a pile.””

And therein lies the old familiar rub: Senate Bill 18 is not about KREF being any more difficult to navigate than other websites that we all deal with daily, much like my recent kerfuffle with Baptist Health. This is about lawmakers finding a way to be less transparent about where their money comes from and how that money is spent.

Government transparency in Kentucky is not only an issue at the state level. I lost my primary back in May, but I maintained my interest in the business of the Anderson County Fiscal Court and have been working to encourage the Court to be more transparent.

For example, on Sep. 6 I formally requested that the Court consider live-streaming their bimonthly meetings. This seemed easy, a no-brainer. Everything is online these days. But their vote ended in a tie, with the nay votes saying they needed more information and that they had not heard from citizens wanting live-streamed meetings.

Over the next few weeks, I gave them exactly what they’d requested. I provided information on costs, submitted a petition with the names of 133 citizens requesting live-streaming, informed the Court of the many other counties who livestream these meetings, and wrote a formal, respectful request to the Court asking that live-streaming be listed officially on the agenda, that they simply take a public vote.

No response.

It has now been five months of silence from the Anderson County Fiscal Court. Why? Because Kentucky law does not require them to provide this basic, 21st century-level of transparency, even if their citizens want it, even if the cost to do so is minimal, even if setting up a couple of cameras would be about as easy as installing a baby monitor.

Senate Bill 18, with its goal to eliminate the online KREF system and return to paper filings, has the same goal: Our elected officials do not want the public to see what they are doing.

Ask yourself why.

Sen. Schickel has said, “I have a professional treasurer that’s really good with computers, but there are some people, especially old people, that find the electronic process kind of intimidating,” Schickel said. “And I think it makes it harder for a candidate who is new to the process. It’s just one more hoop that they have to jump through.”

Oh, nonsense. Last year, I was a 56 year-old grandmother, a first-time candidate, and I am not remotely computer savvy, to the point that I once set up TikTok and Instagram accounts only to never use them because I could not figure out how to navigate them.

Would I call setting up my KREF account and using their online system for a year, simple? No.

But is the KREF system any more difficult to use than any of the other systems we are all now required to use in our everyday lives? No. And our lawmakers know it. Senate Bill 18 is just their latest grasp at trying to keep you, the public, in the dark.

What can I do about election deniers?

A few weeks ago, an elections official —- I believe he was a County Clerk —- asked me a really great question: “What are you doing as a writer to offset the naysayers and the people who believe that elections are rigged and don’t count?”

This is the answer I wish I’d given.

Click here to read. There is no paywall.

On the emptiness of Kelly Craft

There is an empty chair at my family’s table. My mother will be gone 21 years in March. She died at the age of 56 after struggling to breathe with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for about five years and, in the last year or so, often felt like she was suffocating. We believe her COPD was the result of being a lifelong smoker and working in a factory where she was exposed to asbestos. These are the facts.

I often write about my personal life in my newspaper columns, and I do not do so willy nilly. If I tell you I met my birth father last February, that I sat with him at his kitchen table and had a fairly uncomfortable, hour and half conversation, it is because that is what happened. Likewise, if I tell you my mother died at age 56 from COPD and that, from that day forward, I often sat at her table and stared at her empty chair as her husband fried sausage for breakfast and wondered what it would feel like to sit in her chair (I never did), that is also what happened.

So let me tell you how completely enraged I was when I saw GOP gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft playing egregiously loose with the facts when she tried to defend her latest ad, in which she says, “All across Kentucky, an empty chair. A place missing at the table. Families suffering because fentanyl and other dangerous drugs have stolen our loved ones away. As a mother, this is personal to me, because I have experienced that empty chair at my table. This has to stop. We need leadership. And as your governor, I’ll back up our police and stop drugs at our border. So there’s no spot missing at the family table.”

If you tell me — if you tell anyone — there is an empty chair at your table, every human being on the planet knows what you mean. You mean someone important to you died. You mean that person is gone forever. You mean they are never coming back and that you will live with the emptiness of their absence for the rest of your life.

Craft’s campaign told Kentucky Health News that the person she is referring to is ““a close family member” who lived in her household, “battled addiction and went to rehab. By the grace of God, that family member was able to overcome the addiction and move on with their life, but we all know the struggle never ends for a family and remains ongoing.””

No, Ms. Craft. Just no. No matter how you spin it, this is not what it means to have an empty chair at your table, and you know it.

And yet, as appalling as it is to watch Craft’s ad in its entirety and to hear her and her campaign try to explain it, this was the line that really got me: “As a mother, this is personal to me, because I’ve experienced that empty chair at my table.”

As a mother, she said.

As a mother.

Every human being on the planet knows what this means, too. It means you have experienced the loss of your child, one of the most — if not THE most — devastating experiences a person can have. And I would argue that Craft, who is a mother, knows this, which makes her ad and her attempts at defending the ad all the more revolting.

The year after my mother died, my best friend’s son died. He was 16 years old. Two decades later, when she meets someone new and they ask her how many children she has, she still makes a split second decision. Should she say two (as two are living) so she can leave it at that? Or should she say three, the truth, which will likely require her to explain the death of her child to a stranger? But if she says two, if she leaves him out, she will spend the rest of the evening feeling guilty. And so on and so on …

My friend is a mother with an empty chair.

Craft is a politician who made a mistake with her ad and refuses to admit the mistake. Like too many Republican politicians following the example of the former president, she and her team have decided that doubling down on the mistake — and this one turns the stomach — will make the controversy go away.

Shame on you, Ms. Craft.

Shame. On. You.