Op-Ed

Time to ensure legislature cares about us

Shelley Roberts Bendall
Shelley Roberts Bendall

Another January, another Kentucky General Assembly. The session has just started and already I’m exhausted.

Maybe that’s because I’m still enraged at the way our legislators behaved themselves during last year’s session: writing legislation in private then ramrodding it through the chambers without a chance for lawmakers to read the bills, much less do any research or hard thinking on the issues.

How is that good for the people of Kentucky?

Maybe it’s because we’ve spent the last few months talking about sex scandals and secret agreements and whistleblowers in the House of Representatives. The People’s House. It’s shameful.

Maybe it’s because our governor has blocked more citizens on social media than any other politician in the country, yet somehow believes social media is the best way to provide unfiltered information to the citizens of the commonwealth.

I guess if you’re the governor, it’s easier to have a one-way conversation with the people you represent; no difficult or confusing questions to force you to refine your answers.

Maybe it’s because our legislators are already filing bills to restrict my control over my own body, similar to bills that have been found unconstitutional in the past and will, in all likelihood, be found so again. This is an example of legislators wasting our time and money on all but certain unconstitutional outcomes.

Maybe it’s because we have a House speaker embroiled in a sex scandal who couldn’t seem to decide whether he should stay or go. Even better, we’ve got a political showdown within the controlling party over this very issue. Classy, legislators. Classy.

Maybe it’s because a House staff member was suspiciously fired over the holidays after he may have shown sympathy to one of the whistleblowers of the sex scandal.

This does nothing to encourage the transparency that Kentuckians should insist upon in our political leaders. It’s disgraceful that this is the example our legislators are setting for our children.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been more politically active in my life this last year than I ever have. And the more you see how the sausage is made, the more disgusted you become with the entire process.

But we can’t give up on the processes or institutions of government. As citizens of this great state, we deserve better. Much better. Part of the embarrassing mess this state is in is because we’ve been too lenient. We’ve been too convinced that lawmakers have our best interests at heart and in the end and, whatever they do, we’ll be OK.

I include myself in this shaming. For too long I didn’t feel my voice was particularly needed in the public sphere, but now I’m convinced it is. And so is yours.

We have to rethink the belief that our lawmakers will take care of us when what some of them seem to value most is taking care of themselves. We have to pay attention. We have to think about what’s best for us and our families and what’s best for Kentucky.

Do our legislators vote for the issues that are important to us? We have to let them know how we feel about issues. If they don’t have anything to hide, they’ll talk to you. They’ll listen to you.

And if they don’t, you vote them out. They work for us. Don’t forget that.

Shelley Roberts Bendall of Lexington can be reached at shelleyrbendall@gmail.com.

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