Editorials

Keep Benvenuti in House 88 seat

Benvenuti
Benvenuti

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, a Republican, is running for a second term serving the 88th House District in southern Fayette County.

His Democratic opponent, Creasa Reed, is a longtime advocate for people with mental health issues.

While Reed's commitment and passion are impressive, Benvenuti has earned a second term.

We disagree with Benvenuti on many issues, but he has been a consistent champion of transparency and accountability in state government.

Benvenuti sponsored a bill to bring pensions paid to retired state workers under the Open Records Act. While unsuccessful, it was a gutsy stand in the General Assembly where too many members have voted for a system that allows them to retire, serve a few years in higher-paying state positions and enjoy the benefits of large pensions.

He also supports allowing legislators to opt out of the pension system, something he tried unsuccessfully to do himself.

Benvenuti, a former inspector general with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, also offered the amendment that reduced the reasons for closing deliberations of a panel created to review case files and other information about children killed or nearly killed from abuse or neglect while under the care of the cabinet.

As a minority member of the ill-fated special House committee appointed to investigate allegations that a former legislator had sexually harrassed members of the Legislative Research Commission staff, Benvenuti wanted to hire an investigator to assist the committee's attorney but was outvoted by the Democratic majority.

While there was, of course, a political aspect since the legislator under investigation was a Democrat, the committee's ultimate failure to do anything was disgraceful.

In some other areas, Benvenuti's stances are puzzling.

For example, he voted against a bill that would have allowed cities to vote on whether to increase local sales taxes for specific projects with sunset provisions.

This is especially disturbing from someone representing the second-largest city in the state where such a tax could help fund important civic investments.

More disturbing, though, is that Benvenuti's anti-tax philosophy trumped the right of a local elected body to put a referendum on the ballot for local taxpayers to vote up or down.

We wonder, too, if Benvenuti was thinking about the cost to taxpayers when he supported the so-called religious-liberty law which allows individuals to break laws as long as they claim that they are "motivated by sincerely held religious belief."

Under it, the government bears the responsibility to disprove the sincerity of that belief rather than the individual being required to prove it. Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the bill, saying it would likely have unintended consequences that could endanger both public health and safety and individuals' civil rights.

As an attorney, Benvenuti should certainly appreciate the potential for litigation and the cost to the state, as well as the guarantee of religious freedom under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Still, he both supported the bill and voted to override Beshear's veto.

Reed, who has been dealing with family crises through much of the campaign, has mounted a very limited effort and raised almost no money.

She acknowledges her chances of success against Benvenuti are limited but that she will continue her advocacy — in office or out.

We admire her commitment and believe Benvenuti deserves a second term.

The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Monday.

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