When Kentucky voters went to the polls last November, they clearly wanted change in the state Capitol.
And they certainly got it.
Thanks to the state lawmakers they elected or re-elected, the legislative session that ended late Thursday night was one for the history books.
Of special note is the wide-ranging education bill intended to give teachers greater latitude to do their jobs. The legislation requires regular reviews of academic standards in Kentucky schools, makes schools accountable for success indicators such as graduation rates and college admissions exam scores, returns responsibility for teacher evaluations to local school boards, and reduces the amount of paperwork that’s now required from teachers and administrators.
Lawmakers also voted to allow publicly funded charter schools to open, to create Bible literacy classes for public schools, and to require the state’s universities to compete for government funding.
House Speaker Jeff Hoover told reporters that more significant bills passed in this year’s legislative session than at any time in state history. That’s not hyperbole. Gov. Matt Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers, Hoover, and every other lawmaker in the Capitol rolled up their sleeves and went to work.
They lifted a longstanding moratorium on nuclear power plants, banned late-term abortions and required ultrasounds for women seeking the procedure early in their pregnancies. They made necessary changes to Kentucky drivers’ licenses so that they comply with federal identification standards.
Within the first week of the session, lawmakers had voted final passage to a bill ending the practice of paying “prevailing wages” to workers on government construction projects. Essentially, construction workers received much higher pay for publicly funded projects, driving up the costs for schools and other government buildings.
They also passed legislation under which workers could no longer be forced to join labor unions or pay dues to keep their jobs.
Interestingly, longtime lawmakers were well acquainted with all those measures, which had been proposed time and again over the years but could never pass until voters said enough is enough, went to the polls, and booted a large group of bullheaded, stiff-necked, uncompromising and self-willed lawmakers who had been nothing but roadblocks to good government.
Anyone who thinks elections don't matter should think again. Kentucky has just witnessed the positive change that's possible when voters do their jobs.