With the General Assembly back in business it’s time to protest

Andrew Henderson

On Tuesday, the Kentucky General Assembly turned around that “Closed” sign they put up in the Capitol rotunda and opened back up for business after a short break.

Following an eventful first week of the 2017 legislative session where controversial right-to-work legislation and legislation surrounding access to abortion were passed by the General Assembly and signed into law, it’s time to see what we can get ourselves into this go around.

The 2017 General Assembly marks the first time in nearly 100 years that Republicans have complete control of Congress, which they achieved when they won the House of Representatives in the last election.

With a Republican controlled Congress and Republican governor at the helm, Gov. Matt Bevin has few obstacles in his path as far as setting the policy agenda. This can be promising for people who agree with conservative policies, but worrying for the other side of the aisle as it’s increasingly harder to rally opposition. That, and Kentucky Democrats are a fickle bunch.

So, what can we expect to see now that the boys are back in town? The Lexington Herald-Leader has already wrangled up seven bills to look out for in the Kentucky Senate this week.

Senate Bill 1 would “establish a new process for reviewing classroom academic standards and intervening in low-performing schools.” Senate Bill 7 would allow Kentucky citizens, as young as 18, to carry concealed guns without training, background checks and a permit. Senate Bill 8 would prohibit the giving of money from local or state governments from going to organizations “that provides abortions, refers women to places that provide abortions or gives women “information that encourages or promotes abortion”.”

Schools, guns and abortion, nothing gets more Kentucky than that. Nothing also comes closer to mirroring the title of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s book “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.”

With the legislative session underway it also means demonstrations and protests are back in fashion. On Tuesday, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth held a “Stand for Kentucky” rally where people lined the hallways of the Capitol and Capitol Annex to voice their “support for issues like workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage, immigrants and the right to clean air and water, just to name a few,” according to the State Journal.

Next week provides even more opportunities for concerned Kentuckians to take to Frankfort and express their discontent as there are quite a few rallies scheduled. Here are some of the ones I know that are happening.

Next Monday, there is a Rally for Higher Education from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Capitol rotunda. Some of the speakers include Secretary of State Alison Grimes, Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, Attorney General Andy Beshear and student speakers from across the state.

Members of WKU Student Government Association plan to attend the rally. There is also an online petition created by SGA President Jay Todd Richey people can sign to signal support.

“The rally and petition are to serve one purpose and that is to demonstrate to legislators that students care about these issues, and that we are listening, and we vote,” Richey said to a Herald reporter.

On Wednesday, there will be a Fairness Rally beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol rotunda. The rally is centered around garnering support for a statewide fairness law in the form of Senate Bill 63 and in opposition to House Bill 105, HB 106 and HB 141.

A 2011 survey by The Schapiro Group found that 60 percent of Kentuckians agree that LGBT folks should “be protected from anti-gay and gender identity workplace discrimination.”

And on Thursday, is Refugee and Immigrant Day. The general gathering will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., but other sessions and meetings with legislators are scheduled throughout the day.

According to a July 2014 report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, immigrants account for three percent of the state’s population but this increased drastically by 70 percent between 2000 and 2012. And a 2015 Washington Post story found Kentucky is in the top 20 percent of states when it comes to accepting refugees.

Here are just a few opportunities you can take to go out there and speak up for your beliefs, or stay at home and continue making Facebook posts in the hope something changes, it’s really your call.