Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ted Cruz's "Captive"Audience

Sen. Ted Cruz chose to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president at Liberty University, Virginia, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Cruz undoubtedly chose this backdrop to tout his conservative bona fides.

However, those 10,000 students who attended the Cruz announcement were forced to attend:  convocation is mandatory at Liberty University. In fact, students who skip it are fined.

Certainly Liberty University's ties to Falwell were intended to appeal to evangelical voters, an important block in the conservative coalition.

However, the forced attendance of the students infringes upon the freedom of association of the students. At its most basic, conservatism is about expanding liberty. Mandates -- including mandates to listen to a speaker or face a fine -- are the antithesis of liberty.

Those students who wore the Stand With Rand t-shirts to the rally made the point that although they could be forced to attend Cruz's announcement, their vote is still their own.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#StandWithStudents Rally

The following is from Eric Bush, a junior at St. Xavier High School who attended the Prichard Committee's Stand With Students Rally in Frankfort this morning.

If you follow this blog, you are probably aware of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team's efforts to pass HB-236, which would allow students a seat on superintendent hiring committees. Although I was not involved with the writing and lobbying of this bill, several of my friends were and I have been following it throughout its course in the legislature.

The bill passed the house 88-5, but has not yet been voted on in the Senate. Two controversial amendments were recently added in the Senate which put the bill's passage at risk. Students involved with the bill organized a rally to support passing a clean version of the bill which took place this morning on the Capitol steps. The energy level at the rally was high and students from across the state were excited with the chance of passing their bill.

More than 300 students attended the Stand With Students rally

Sen. Max Wise speaking about the importance of student voice

Unfortunately, the chances of HB-236 passing are slim, especially with the legislative session ending tomorrow. The best chance the bill has is through political maneuvering that would attach it to a last minute monster bill that encompasses a wide variety of topics. But if HB-263 doesn't pass tomorrow, you can bet we'll be back next year.

Kentucky High School Students Lobbying in Frankfort on Student Voice Bill

The six-thousand high school students in Kentucky who participate in the Y Club have been closely following the fate of the Student Voice Bill.  That's the bill to include a student on school superintendent search committees (school boards would retain the power to ultimately pick the superintendent).

As I have written previously, the Student Voice Bill enjoyed almost unanimous bi-partisan support.  Then two Republicans tarted it up with extraneous -- and controversial-- amendments.

Many high school students are in Frankfort today to demonstrate support for the bill.  Even students from private schools, who would not be directly affected by the bill, are in Frankfort calling for a vote on a clean bill minus the controversial amendments.

It now looks like Sen. Embry will drop his amendment, the so-called "Bathroom Bill" (requiring transgender students to use the restroom that reflects their biological status, not preference).  Good for Sen. Embry.  Regardless of one's opinion of the Bathroom Bill, it deserves to pass or fail on its own; attaching it to the Student Voice Bill was just tainting the Republican brand for the students who had worked so hard to get the Student Voice Bill as far as it came this session.

Unfortunately, it appears that Sen. Robinson is not prepared to withdraw his amendment regarding religious speech in schools.  Again, the issue is not Robinson's religious speech bill but rather his cynical use of the School Voice Bill to try to get it enacted.  Robinson needs to take the long view:  he is seriously angering students who, if not now eligible to vote, will be eligible shortly.  Robinson is making Republicans look like jerks in front of the next generation of voters.  Someone please talk some sense into him.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jack Richardson's on the KY Caucus

Jack Richardson, who served for many years as the Jefferson County GOP Chair, agreed to provide a copy of the remarks he delivered the the Kentucky Republican Executive Committee on March 7, 2015, when it voted to hold a caucus in stead of a a primary.

Jack makes some important points that are relevant for the particular circumstances in 2016 due to Sen. Paul's presidential run. But as Jack notes, this is not just a one-time issue.  Unless and until Kentucky moves its primary up, to give us a real say in the presidential primaries, I think we should stick with a caucus in presidential election years.

Jack attended the planning meeting for the caucus this yesterday and reports that those charged with making it a reality are enthusiastic and committed to making this work.

Here are excerpts from Jack's remarks:

We have two issues here today and I want to address the first one and that is Kentucky’s Republican Party’s paralysis by analysis problem.  We desperately need change but we secure our second place status in a state that should have been Red long ago because of a status quo that is protected by either lethargy or over analysis, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. We need not look far for examples.  Last November Republicans had an historical electoral result across the nation. The Democrats had only two bright spots, Iowa and the Kentucky house. No change there. 
We have talked for decades about Kentucky’s irrelevance in the Presidential primaries. It’s amazing to me that anyone even bothers to turn out and vote because by the time Kentucky’s primary gets here the decision is essentially a fait au complet.  Oh, but we talk, and we talk, and talk and talk. But, God forbid that anyone actually propose to do anything about it. Never fear though, there is always that old faithful security blanket of talk, talk, talk.  If anything threatens to change the status quo, we just talk it or analyze it to death and we keep cozy in our old sameness. 
As usual, for things to change, it takes someone, a catalyst to bring about that change, but unfortunately, in Kentucky, that lone southern state that stubbornly refuses to turn red, they will be faced by that same affliction of paralysis by analysis. 
We need to become relevant and particularly so in the Presidential Primary and the caucus will do that.  We need to become a state worthy of its two world leaders, Sen. McConnell and Sen. Paul.  We as a party need to be a help to these two world leaders, not a hindrance. 
That brings me to my second point. The caucus is right and good for Kentucky, Kentucky Republicans and the Kentucky Republican party. Contrary to one remark I heard about this being just about Sen. Paul, this is not just about Sen. Rand Paul. But, arguendo, if so, so what?
I was Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican party for nearly 10 years. One of the first things I told my membership was:  know your job description.  I said, none of you are a US Senator and not likely to be. We are here to help not hinder.  The same goes for this committee. 99.9 % chance that no one here will ever be a US Senator. We are committee members. We are the Indians, not the chiefs. 
Six years ago there was a man, a little known doctor from Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Today that man, is listed in Time Magazine, is one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. He didn’t get there by committee. He has extra ordinary talents and political instincts. We didn’t give him permission to do what he has done. He didn’t need our permission to be great, he just was.  He didn’t talk and talk and talk about it………………he just did it. He’s in the top 100, we are not. We need to be worthy of our two world leaders.  
Sen. Rand Paul has earned the right to be the captain of the ship, or the chief as it may be. Just as Mitch has earned that right and deserved our cooperation last year, he got it.  Now he’s the leader of the US Senate. What a marvelous honor that is for our state. What great recognition that brings to Kentucky. 
Sen. Rand Paul is known from coast to coast and seen on all the nightly news shows. He has brought great distinction to our state.  Both of our US Senators are world class, and national leaders.  What other states can boast of such.  
This Caucus issue is not about Rand, but if so, so what?  Who cares? For years when Mitch needed or wanted something he got it and deserved it and we are all the better for it.  Now it’s Rand’s turn and he has done this state proud. And, this country desperately needs the kind of leadership he will provide.  I see our job description as a committee of being helpers, not hinderers. Let’s show the rest of the country the faith and confidence we have in our great senator. Let’s begin the needed change for the Republican Party of Kentucky by making Kentucky relevant in the Presidential nominee selection process. 
Sen. Paul has extraordinary political instincts and has parlayed them into being in the top 100 of the world’s most influential people in just six years.  He has earned the right to our help and I for one am not going to supplant my judgment for his proven success and political instincts. 
As I told Mr. Youngman at the Lexington Herald in a recent interview, you can take any idea and pick it to death. It’s easy to snipe. This is not the time or the place to do that. All of our leaders have endorsed this caucus measure.
It’s time to break from the past. It’s time to make a change. It’s time to stop talking and start doing.It’s time to stop saying can’t and start saying let’s do it.It’s time to stop navel gazing and wringing our hands and to start looking forward with courage, faith, boldness and action. It’s time to Nike up and “Just do it.”It’s time to be united lest we fall.It’s time to measure up to the greatness of our two US Senators.It’s time to support our Sen. Paul and to support the caucus initiative.Its time – now let’s just do this! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

GOP Legislators Teach KY Students Cynicism

This is not helpful publicity for Kentucky.  The Washington Post is covering the saga of the Prtichard Committee's Student Voice Project.  That initiative resulted in proposed legislation to allow a high school student representative to serve on superintendent search committees. (School boards would still make the final selection.)

It has strong bipartisan support in both chambers.  At the last minute, however, Republican legislators tacked on controversial and completely unrelated amendments that threaten to doom the bill.

Sen. C.E. Embry (R-Morgantown) added an amendment to ban transgender students from using school bathrooms other than what matches their anatomical gender.

Sen. Albert Robinson (R-London) added a bill to protect religious speech in schools.

The content of the amendments, and what one thinks about them, is beside the point.  They have absolutely nothing to do with the Student Voice bill.

The students who drafted and have been testifying for the Student Voice bill are Kentucky's brightest.  They are among the smartest, most articulate students in the state. These are kids we want to stay in the Commonwealth.

That two Republicans would destroy their hard work reflects very poorly on our party. This will have bad fall-out for the Republican Party's efforts to appeal to young people.  Again, the underlying bill has broad bipartisan support.  Pass it already.

High school students across the state are watching this. These are citizens who will be eligible to vote, in many instances, next year.

Embry and Robinson need to withdraw their amendments and fight those battles separately.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My C-J Column: Pro Medical Review Panels

My column will appear in tomorrow's Courier-Journal but is already up.  Here's the link.

Medical Review Panels, to my mind, make good sense as a ways to quickly compensate injured victims but also expose frivolous claims that would otherwise drag on for years.

The issue intrigued me when I learned that a medical provider I respect located his practice in Indiana, rather than Kentucky, because Indiana has Medical Review Panels.

Kentucky needs to look closely at what states like Indiana are doing.  We are falling behind these states for a reason.; let's cherry-pick those policies that give Indiana a competitive advantage.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Caucus Was The Right Thing to Do

The Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky made the right decision to switch from a primary to a caucus this year. We need to look after our own, and if this allows Sen. Rand Paul to explore running for president while keeping his Senate seat, then that is a good thing.

I have mixed feelings about the caucus being for this year only.  It is ridiculous that Kentucky's primary is not until May. That makes us completely irrelevant with respect to having any say on who our presidential nominee will be. I would therefore like to see the primary moved to Super Tuesday in March, or switch to a caucus permanently.

Many in the party are concerned about the cost and logistics of a caucus.  I think it could draw in Republicans who regularly vote in primaries but have not taken the step of volunteering.  That could be a very good thing in Jefferson County, in particular.

We'll see how it plays out.  This year, the Paul campaign will pay the cost of the caucus. That gives the party the chance to experiment with this format without spending any resources.