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Redistricting ruling offers collateral benefits for voters, taxpayers

Slowing down Frankfort’s redistricting march offers collateral benefits for voters and taxpayers.

For one, Judge Philip Shepherd’s restraining order on January’s final day to consider House Republicans’ claims that the Democratic-friendly plan for new legislative boundaries is unconstitutional pushed back the filing deadline for potential candidates by at least a week.

Not only does Kentucky need additional voters participating at election time, also needed are more fully informed, common-sense candidates who not only talk conservative on the campaign trail, but who also lead and legislate as conservatives once they land in Frankfort.

And no, I don’t consider pushing for expanded gambling the kind of economic priority that distinguishes conservatives.

While Indiana passes right-to-work legislation, expands educational options for parents and balances budgets resulting in surpluses, some Kentucky conservatives get all shook up about their big, bold idea of … more gambling?

Feel underwhelmed?

Extend filing deadlines and interesting things also happen to appalling legislation on its way to passage in committees stacked with made-up minds determined not to let the truth even get a hearing – much less “interfere” in the decision-making process.

A bill forcing law-abiding Kentuckians to obtain a doctor’s prescription before being allowed to purchase a box of Sudafed was marching along through the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill is meant to restrict access to pseudoephedrine because it’s an ingredient used to manufacture the drug methamphetamine. The proposal was marketed by supporters as being popular with the public.

But funny things happen to flawed bills on their way to a committee vote – especially when polls say Kentuckians overwhelmingly oppose them, and when filing deadlines are extended – allowing potential opponents to challenge liberty-lethargic lawmakers.

When the judiciary committee met on Jan. 12, several signed up to speak against the pseudoephedrine restriction. None – including Pat Davis, mother of six children and wife of Republican Congressman Geoff Davis – were allowed by committee chairman Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, to address the body. 

If support exists for this big-government bill is robust – as its backers claim – why did Jensen prohibit opponents from speaking? And why did he allow out-of-state officials to dominate the Jan. 12 hearing by droning on and on ad infinitum?

However, if such claims of support are a house of cards, then it makes sense to suppress opposing views. Otherwise, undecided lawmakers might be persuaded to resist the prescription restriction.

That judiciary committee didn’t even meet during the week of Jan. 30  – which further reduced the chances this unsound policy will get anywhere close to the governor’s desk anytime soon.

True conservatives don’t promote government as the best solution to problems – even our current meth predicament. Rather they hold that, as more than one of our founders gets credit for declaring: “That government is best which governs least.”

But Speaker Greg Stumbo has a different mantra.

Gov. Steve Beshear has warned that budget cuts could result in state universities losing as much as $65 million this year. Yet Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, claims his top priority is to turn the private University of Pikeville into a state institution.

Not only is the proposal controversial with many county and university leaders statewide, it’s firmly against the national trend.

Higher education observers told the Lexington Herald-Leader that states have reduced funding for higher education – Kentucky’s per-student funding is at its lowest in three decades – while expecting those institutions to “behave more like private schools.”

Instead of adding schools, it’s “far more likely” that public university systems will merge two public schools in the name of efficiency, the Herald-Leader reported.

And Kentucky taxpayers can only hope that among the unintended benefits of Judge Shepherd’s ruling is that it’s “far more likely” that Pikeville University remains off the public dole.

Contributor bio: Jim Waters is vice president of communications for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected]. Read previously published columns at

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