OPINION: The Kentucky Legislature has failed Louisville


Brennan Eberwine

The Kentucky Legislature has decided to focus its efforts on a war against Louisville, instead of on actually important state matters. Graphic by Brennan Eberwine.

Brennan Eberwine

The Kentucky General Assembly wrapped-up its regular session on April 15, 2022, officially ending another year in the legislature. Numerous bills vehemently opposed by the Democrats (the traditional stalwarts of the state, but steadily losing power with each passing year) but long hailed by the Republicans were pushed through. The situation is best summed up by Joe Gerth, a columnist for the Courier-Journal, who said, “you can now mark 2022 as the year they [Republicans] finally made good on their threats.” 

Bills have now been able to pass without serious opposition thanks to a veto-proof Republican supermajority in both chambers. Despite a general trend towards red across Kentucky, cities like Louisville and Lexington have trended more and more blue. This has often put the state and Louisville in opposition with one another. Never before has this division been more decisive and clear than in the 2022 session, in which the legislature declared a “war on Louisville.”

So, what did the legislature pass?

Public education has been a huge target of the state for years, so it should come with little to no surprise that bills on this area were a focal point.  From teacher pensions to charter funding, the legislature has yet again decided to dismantle part of a structure that helps create a robust, free public education system for citizens. The Kentucky Legislature legalized charter schools in 2017, but none have yet opened in JCPS. House Bill (HB) 9 requires JCPS to specifically authorize charter schools. Don’t we just love systems built on and thriving off of profit instead of being student centered?

Many proponents of the bill spoke about low-performing schools in JCPS and how the district has refused to address the problem and is unwilling to change. Charter schools have been marketed by sponsors as the solution to low-performing schools by giving parents a choice in their education. However, charter schools usually instead serve to sap resources from existing schools, making budgets smaller in an already underfunded sector. Ironically enough, HB 9 doesn’t come with any funding from the legislature to help improve education. Governor Andy Beshear criticized the legislature for this very reason, saying the state legislature, “failed to meet this historic moment” in the education sector. Congressional members failed to give teachers raises or fully fund universal pre-k in the state budget, both of which were originally in the Governor’s budget.

Instead, the legislature was far more interested in playing political games than creating a meaningful impact with their bills. They introduced bills to ban history, weaken the power of SBDMs/school boards and put more police in schools. All while ignoring the data and the people who would be affected the most by these laws: teachers and students.

Kentucky’s education system needs help. It needs funding and support from the general assembly, not insistent attacks on some of its most valuable assets. Schools are worthy of funding, not of being berated and belittled by the general assembly.

The real intent and focus of these congressional individuals was not where it should have been. The real necessities of what should have been addressed were discarded, instead they focused in on culture war legislation such as banning transgender kids grades six through twelve from participating in school sports. 

Abortion was also a major issue heading into this year. Many states are beginning to pass more and more stringent and restrictive abortion bans in the hope of overturning Roe v. Wade. Kentucky also decided to jump on the bandwagon with HB 3, which includes a standard 15-week ban on abortion and 60 pages of regulations that are impossible to comply with. The two abortion clinics in Kentucky (both of which are in Louisville) have stopped performing the procedure as a result. The Kentucky ACLU chapter has sued the state over the bill and only time will tell how the matter will proceed. 

Even on popular issues in Kentucky, such as medical marijuana and gambling, the Republican legislature failed to pass legalization or really acknowledge what its citizens want/need. 

All of these laws show that the Republican-dominated legislature isn’t committed to small government conservatism and giving local citizens more control over their communities. Rather, they’re dead set on preventing Louisville and its citizens from implementing progressive policies that they’d like to see, even when it aligns with the rest of the state (like in the case of gambling and medical marijuana). Kentucky congressional members are more focused on enacting a sort of revenge then they are on actually addressing needs within their state. 

The legislature has no interest in hearing from the largest city in the state or what we think of how to solve problems. They would rather sit pretty and do as much harm as possible without having to listen to anyone or attempt to compromise. This is no way to conduct government and in fact a petty measure in political affairs.