In a rare Saturday morning session, the new Republican majority in the Kentucky Legislature rammed through legislation hand-written by their corporate allies, as jeers and chants of protesters echoed through the Capitol.
The whiplash-inducing start to the session—which marks the first time in nearly a hundred years Republicans have control of both chambers–was tactically designed to stymie debate, discussion, or public discourse on legislation that Republicans have coveted for years, which up to this point had passed in the GOP-dominated Senate only to be killed in the Democratic controlled House.
The Republicans wasted no time in the majority passing five controversial bills this morning in both chambers, setting them up for Governor Matt Bevin’s signature:
- HB 1 — Makes Kentucky a “Right-to-Work” state, following path of Republicans in Wisconsin and the South.
- HB 2 — Expands Kentucky’s existing “informed consent” laws to require a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound prior to the procedure and, if possible, let the woman listen to the fetal heartbeat.
- HB 3 — Repeals prevailing wage laws in Kentucky, which require higher wages be paid to construction workers on state and local infrastructure projects.
- SB 5 — Prohibits abortion after a woman reaches the 20th week of pregnancy. While it does make exceptions for the life of the mother, it does not make exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or mental health issues.
- SB 6 — Requires worker to give explicit written permission before an employer is allowed to withdraw union dues from his/her paycheck.
All of these bills include an “emergency” provision that would allow them to take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature. In combining bills that advance their corporate, Koch brother-funded agenda with cultural issues like abortion, Republicans hope to distract voters from the true meaning of these rushed actions.
We’ve seen this scenario play out before in Wisconsin, Michigan, and throughout the South. Union members and their allies organized a rally at the Capitol this morning but they were blocked from getting near the House of Senate Chambers:
Meanwhile, Republicans denied gallery passes to Democrats even as protesters flooded the Capitol rotunda and hallways:
While frustrated with the outcome and the whirlwind pace with which Republicans pulled the rug out from under working families in Kentucky, protesters interjected chants of “Shame!” with reminders that, “We will remember in November.” Let’s work to make sure voters remember, too.