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Wide range of issues discussed at annual Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus forum at Gateway CTC

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

An overflow crowd of more than 150 constituents joined members of the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus Saturday for a forum in advance of the 2020 Legislative Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The event took place at the Gateway Community and Technical College – Boone Campus Convening Center and was led by Caucus Chair Sen. John Schickel, R-Union.

A total of 13 members of the KY General Assembly were on hand to listen to the concerns of constituents at the annual Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus forum at Gateway CTC Saturday (photos by Mark Hansel).

Much of the two-hour session was devoted to those in attendance weighing in on issues expected to be considered during the session. 

Speakers were allowed two minutes to speak and the discussion focused on a wide range of topics, including transportation and infrastructure, scholarship tax credits, a gas tax, gender identity and red flag laws.

Gateway President Fernando Figueroa led off the discussion, telling legislators they could expect to hear from him often during the session.

That will include a request from the Council for Postsecondary Education to fully fund its formula.

“What that will mean for us at Gateway is it will improve our opportunities to serve our region and quickly help us economically leverage the opportunities we have with the companies that are coming in and develop a strong talent pipeline for our region,” Figueroa said. “The other ask will be, in the interest of getting more people to a postsecondary credential out of high school, is the importance of dual credit and funding dual credit.”

Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Brent Cooper spoke about transportation concerns and the Brent Spence Bridge.

“In 2002, there was an article that came out, talking about the importance of the new Brent Spence Bridge,” Cooper said. “Six years ago, we talked about a plan to have construction start in 2015 and end by 2020, I was reminded of that on New Year’s Eve. What was true then is still true today, it’s worse today…so we’re asking that each of you engage in a process of finding a solution for that.” 

Beyond the Brent Spence Bridge, Cooper said Kentucky needs to explore what surrounding states have done to focus on upgrades and commit to an increased investment in infrastructure.

Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director of health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department, spoke on concerns over the increased use of e-cigarettes.

“In December, our Board of Health passed a resolution, which included important facts about youth use of e-cigarettes and actions that the board supports taking,” Saddler said. “These activities need to have a foundation of evidence-based policies in order to be fully effective in helping parents protect their kids from e-cigarettes.”

She encouraged legislators to follow the lead of the U.S. Surgeon General, supported by health organizations throughout the state, in enacting policies that would restrict the use of e-cigarettes.

More than 150 constituents filled the Gateway Community and Technical College Convening Center Saturday to weigh in on issues to be considered in the 2020 Legislative Session.

One of the more divisive issues in the state involves the rights of transgender students, and those in attendance Saturday were also divided on the issue.

A bill prefiled in the Kentucky legislature, called the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, would prevent transgender students from using restrooms that align with their gender identity.

Those opposed to the legislation say Kentucky should respect the rights of students to self-identify their gender and use a restroom consistent with that.

Opponents contend, as the legislation states, non-transgender students could suffer “potential embarrassment, shame and psychological injury” by using the same restroom or changing room as a small number of their transgender peers.

Or, as one speaker put it, “Since when did the demands of the very few, begin to outweigh the good and the safety of the many?”

There was also discussion about the so-called red flag laws that permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

There is support in some communities for such laws in light of the number of mass shootings in the country in recent years. 

That stance, however, did not seem to be a popular one among those in attendance Saturday.

At the conclusion of the public comment, legislators weighed in on topics discussed and Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown drew loud applause when stating his opposition to such a measure.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown (holding microphone), drew loud applause from those in attendance when he said there will be no “Red Flag” laws passed in the General Assembly.

“There will be no Red Flag laws passed in the Kentucky General Assembly,” Thayer said. “The gun-grabbers are going to have to come through me.”

Thayer also spoke on the Republican majority’s continued support of pro-life measures, which he said would not change because Andy Beshear is now the governor. 

“Understand, we are not taking one step backward on the great pro-life laws that we passed in the Commonwealth over the last four years,” Thayer said. “You’ve got to remember, there are super-majorities in the House and in the Senate, who voted for these bills and some conservative Democrats, too. So, I want to allay you’re fears, but don’t back off on your vigilance on theses issues.”

 Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge said even as a freshman legislator, she recognizes the challenges the General Assembly faces in adopting a budget during this session.

 “It has become very evident to me that we are in a scenario where we’re going to have to make tough decisions, going to have to prioritize needs versus wants,” Maddox said. “There are a lot of needs, we know that there are a lot of needs. It’s going to be my priority, not only to represent my district, but to look out for the greater interests of the Commonwealth.”

Traditionally, the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus takes place after the session has begun, but this year legislators wanted to get input from constituents before heading to Frankfort.

The 60-day Legislative Session will begin Tuesday and is expected to adjourn April 15, the maximum number of days allowed in even-numbered years.

It includes a recess from April 2-13, during which time legislators return to their home districts to await any gubernatorial vetoes.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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  1. Very Well, Senator Thayer. You can kill any Red Flag or gun safety legislation. But I don’t want any of your thoughts and prayers when we have another mass slaughter by some lunatic armed with a military assault rifle or a semi-automatic gun that you and your cohorts do absolutely nothing to stop. I think you should allow guns in the capitol during the legislative session so you can live with the same terrorism you are so willing to impose on the public at large. I await your hearty endorsement and passage of such a bill. I’ll probably see hell freeze over first.

  2. Steve Frank says:


  3. Marv Dunn says:

    Our new Governor better keep his veto pen handy. In addition to the budget, I expect a lot of dogwistle and other unneeded bills to come out of the legislature and hopefully the Governor can tamp them down.

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