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whitney

Legislative Drafting Board: Expungement

Legislative Drafting Board: Expungement

During the course of the session there are bills that cover different topics that orbit around us. Some of these bills orbit at different speeds and some have more gravitational pull than others, drawing more support from legislators or conversely drawing additional ire from them. 

Until the War is Over

Back in May (2014), I made a trip to Frankfort to catch up with a school group that was taking a daylong field trip around the historic sites of the Capitol City.  The Heritage Christian Academy Warriors (4th graders) have made a trip up to the Capitol both years I've been in office, and like any other school group visiting during the interim (when I'm not already up there for session) if I can I make the trek to Frankfort too meet them.  I hate missing a chance to visit with school kids about the job I'm blessed to have — one of these kids from the district is going to have this job one day in the future!

I caught up with the group and took them to the Senate chamber and had a chance to talk to them for nearly 45 minutes.  They asked all kinds of questions and I gave all kinds of answers!  Since we had the room to ourselves and plenty of time, I explained a lot about the kind of things we do, good and bad.  One of the students asked if I had ever been scared doing my job.  Interesting question.  Easy answer.  Yes.

I've been nervous before, about speaking or carrying a bill on the floor, but those are just nerves about sounding stupid or saying something inaccurate or embarrassing.  Fear, on the hand, hasn't been felt nearly as often.  In fact, I can only think of one occasion.  Carrying Senate Bill 8, the "ultrasound bill," in the House Health & Welfare Committee.  The bill, just like others over the years before now, had come out of the Senate and died at the hands of a pro-choice Committee Chairman and pro-choice House leaders — some publicly and unabashedly, and others under cover of anonymity and secret, if not outright deceit.  This year, the bill had sat without a hearing in the House Health & Welfare Committee for over two months when a discharge petition was filed in the house.  A discharge petition, if passed by a simple majority (51 of 100), would remove the unheard bill from the Committee and bring it before the full House for a vote on the floor.  This year, despite 61 co-sponsors of a house bill that contained SB8 language, 49 democrats and a couple of republicans (many of whom brag on themselves for co-sponsoring the same kind of bill) either walked out on the discharge petition vote or simply failed to show up for it at all.  The petition failed to pass.  Naturally, the next move of House leadership was to hear the bill in Committee - it's an election year so they can't ignore the bill altogether.  That's where I come in.

The House Health & Welfare Committee is perceived, fairly or unfairly, as unfriendly territory for conservatives.  Liberals control the membership head count, and the tension between committee members of opposite ideologies is palpable and sometimes expressly shown.  Even the committee members themselves refer to the committee by its common nickname "Hell & Warfare."  This was the lions' den, and I was ordered to march in knowing legislative defeat was certain.

I approached my testimony with great fright, believing I would be attacked or my words twisted by the committee members or the media or both.  But I carried on. I presented the bill calmly and directly, explaining the bill didn't actually do anything to expressly restrict abortion at all (no matter how much I wish would).

My testimony fell on more deaf ears than not. Those who wish to protect abortion rights made half-true claims about the bill, and particularly galling was the act by two of the most fiercely prochoice members of the committee to make the initial motion and second for the bill to be voted on — they knew they had numbers.

I explained the situation as it unfolded (edited for time and content, of course)  to these school kids. I told them how scared I was of that meeting and the battle that would come my way.  It was at that moment when a young man raised his hand to ask this profound question:

So you fight until the war is over?

Yep.

A reporter politely asked me once why we (conservatives) keep fighting for prolife legislation when we know it will continue to be defeated.  We keep fighting because those lives should be protected, and we can't give up until they are.  I trust God's plan, regardless of the outcome.  He can *seal* the mouths of the lions!

 

KCAA 2014 Distinguished Legislator of the Year

LEXINGTON, KY — Third District State Senator Whitney Westerfield was selected as the 2014 Legislator of the Year by the Kentucky County Attorney Association (KCAA) on Thursday, August 21, at the annual Prosecutors Conference in Lexington. The award was made by Christian County Attorney J. Michael Foster, President of the KCAA.

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Foster praised Senator Westerfield, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for being “sensitive and attuned to the needs of prosecutors in the state.”  During the 2014 General Assembly session, Senator Westerfield spearheaded significant revisions of the state juvenile justice code designed to reduce the number of juvenile status offenders who are incarcerated by the Commonwealth. 

Senator Westerfield’s Senate Bill 200 was the result of a two year-long study of juvenile offender issues by the Task Force on the Unified Juvenile, created by the 2012 General Assembly and reauthorized by the 2013 General Assembly.  Senate Bill 200 passed the 2014 General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor. Foster noted that Senator Westerfield did an “amazing job” of listening to the concerns of the county attorneys as the issue was being studied and the bill was being drafted, and incorporating prosecutors’ suggestions into the substance of the bill.

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Foster also praised Senator Westerfield for his work on legislation in the 2014 General Assembly impacting the traffic safety programs run by county attorneys. Fees from these programs help cover the county attorney office expenses.  Foster stated that Westerfield “went to war for us” over this legislation in order to protect this funding stream.

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Senator Westerfield, a former Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in Christian County, expressed his gratitude to the KCAA for the award and his camaraderie with the prosecutors who daily work to protect the safety of communities and families across Kentucky saying, "As a former prosecutor, I am particularly proud of this award, and thankful I can continue fighting for public safety in the Kentucky Senate.

Gaming, indeed.

My position against gaming is well known, particularly in Frankfort.  Gaming lobbyists never waste time bringing it up to me.  Despite my personal, philosophical objection to the idea of gaming I'm still willing to have a learned discussion about it.  I'm open to hearing opposing view points.  My job as a legislator requires me to keep an open mind and weigh ideas.  If anyone who supports gaming ever came to me to talk about it I'd be happy to have that discussion, but unfortunately, so far, their arguments have failed even the slightest examination.  There are lots of questions gaming advocates haven't answered.  If they want it to pass, like advocates for any legislation, they must be prepared to answer the questions and own the results - good or bad.

A recent article in the New York Times discussed some of these questions in the context of a study done by a partnership of universities.  It's a short read that I highly recommend, regardless of your position.

The debate in Kentucky circles the often cited "let the people decide" sales pitch.  I posed to gaming supporters during the 2014 session the following hypothetical:  If we moved such a law forward, and put the gaming expansion matter on the ballot for voters to defeat or pass, would the gaming industry consent to spend just as much money advertising the woes of gaming as it does advertising it's merits?  Supporters conveniently fail to say out loud what everyone in state politics believes - the best ad campaign usually wins.  How many of you reading this believes the gaming industry would be outspent by those of us who oppose gaming?  Casinos made about $35 Billion in 2011. The Family Foundation and the Kentucky Baptist Convention don't exactly compete.

While I'm at it, here are a couple more questions that must be answered by the gaming industry:

  1. What portion of your patrons are in the middle and lower income groups of the communities/regions where the casino exists?

  2. What do you do to educate your patrons that you are taking steps to attract prolonged gaming? For example, do you inform them that slots are designed to entice more gaming (i.e., "near misses" and penny bets)?

  3. What financial information about patrons do you collect?

  4. How much do middle and low income gamblers lose as a percentage of their income?

  5. What impact do casinos have on existing businesses in the areas where they operate?

  6. Excluding management, what are the mean and median incomes for your job positions?

  7. What losses in revenue do churches and non-profits experience when a casino enters a region?

  8. Similarly, do churches and non-profits experience an increase in service requests and outreach in regions where you operate?

  9. What amount, if any, do you set aside to provide for financial education programming and does that programming use a curriculum that cautions against gaming habits? How do you make your patrons aware of the education programming?

 These are just a few to start with.  So far, I haven't had a conversation with a gaming supporter that didn't bring up a handful more that went unanswered.  I'm not holding my breath.