Op-Ed

Your voice matters. So get involved in this year’s legislature. Here are some resources.

Amber Duke
Amber Duke

January flew by in a flash and somehow it’s mid-February. How are you doing on those New Year’s Resolutions? Less than stellar progress? Trust me, you are not alone. Luckily, it’s not too late to make a resolution that will have a big impact on your life and those around you. I challenge you to resolve to get involved during the remainder of the Kentucky General Assembly.

This odd-number year means there are only 30 legislative working days that will end on or around March 29.

This is my seventh session of the Kentucky General Assembly and each year I hear the same feedback from Kentuckians about why they find it difficult or challenging to follow what’s happening in Frankfort.

Complaints include, “I can’t follow what’s happening. I’m at work when everything is going on.” “I don’t have transportation to get to Frankfort/can’t spare the time off from work.” “I don’t understand the process. It seems like bills have passed, and then it turns out they only passed on one side and never became law.” “My legislator already supports (insert issue), there’s no reason for me to get in contact with him or her.”

Add on top of this “emergency” regulation that temporarily blocked access to portions of the Capitol, many people don’t feel welcome at an institution that is theirs through and through.

These complaints and challenges are valid and real. I encourage people to turn to organizations they trust that work in the General Assembly for bill trackers, updates, summaries and guidance on the issues you care about.

I ask people to tune their televisions, computers, or smartphone apps to public affairs coverage on Kentucky Educational Television to follow committee hearings, sessions of the General Assembly, political commentary, and daily summaries of the news and happenings at the Capitol.

We all learned how a bill becomes a law in elementary school, but as adults we know the process can be a bit more complicated than the rhyming song we used to sing. Visit the Legislative Research Commission’s re-vamped website. It’s easier than ever to search for bills by topic or sponsor and see exactly where the bill is in the legislative process.

While you are online, follow your legislators on social media. Many of them are very active, posting videos and hosting live events with their constituents.

Kentucky has one of the nation’s top messaging systems to connect constituents with their legislators. The Legislative Message Line is open year-round, but for extended hours while the General Assembly is in Session. When you call 1-800-372-7181, you don’t even need to know who your legislators are to get a message out. The friendly dispatchers will guide you through the process and your call can be completed in as few as two minutes.

Kentucky is facing some incredible challenges and your voice matters. Even if your legislators have championed an issue for years, your meeting, your call of support is often the backup your representatives need to keep up the fight.

The 2019 General Assembly is prioritizing school safety this session. Once again access to safe and legal abortion is being debated. As opioids and meth devastate families across our commonwealth, policy around treating substance use disorders is being proposed. Access to the ballot box for Kentuckians with felony convictions and extended hours at the polls are also under consideration. Do you have an opinion or an idea on any of those topics? Good. Set aside the time that you can to take action on it. Hurry, we’ll be hearing Sine Die before you know it.

Amber Duke is communications director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

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