A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky House Democrats propose ethics and election bills in advance of 2020 General Assembly

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Three House Democrats announced they are proposing Executive Branch ethics and election-oriented bills, for consideration by the 2020 General Assembly.

Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham, D- Frankfort, says all three bills share a common goal, “To increase accountability and transparency to the Constitutional state offices. As former U. S. Supreme Court Justice and Kentucky native Louis Brandeis famously said, ’Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant.’ The more we know, the more likely we as Kentuckians can be sure that our tax dollars are being spent wisely and in our best interest.”

From left: Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort and Minority Whip Joni Jenkins, D-Shively. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

He explained why these bills are being proposed now, and not when Democrats controlled the Governor’s Mansion and the Kentucky House.

“To put it bluntly, recent actions by Gov. Bevin have shown long-standing practices are no longer enough, and these new rules will apply to Democratic and Republican officials alike, going forward.”

Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, says recent news report of state aircraft by the Governor, is the reason she is sponsoring her legislation.

“It would require a detailed description of events,” she said, “including the reason for using state resources for non-public purposes, the date and time of the event, an estimate of the cost of the event, any reimbursement that was made to repay or offset the cost of the event, including which includes the name, title and business address of the person who made the reimbursement, and the reason the reimbursement was provided.”

The name of those who accompanied the Governor to event would also be required to be disclosed, according to Hatton.

Hatton noted, “This was filed directly in response to this Governor’s assertion that his use of our plane for a private purpose is none of our business. I disagree with that and I thank the taxpayers disagree with that.”

Minority Whip Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, said her bill is in response to gubernatorial candidates who self-fund, like Matt Bevin did in 2015. “This Governor told voters he was beholden to no one, because he was a self-funder. After his election, he began to recoup his own personal funds that he gave to his campaign. This bill would not prohibit that practice, but it would say you only have one year to recoup the loan you made to your own campaign.”

Graham said his bill would require candidates for all statewide Constitutional offices to release their three most recent tax returns.

“The release of their tax returns will be submitted along with their campaign finance reports to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance,” he stated. “It also allows for sensitive information such as social security numbers to be redacted.”

His bill would go into effect for the 2023 campaign. Violations would carry a $1,000 fine for the first three days tax returns are no released, plus an additional $500 per day after that.

Graham also said the bills will be filed regardless of who wins the Governor’s race in November. “We’re going to push ahead with these bills, hopefully in a bi-partisan way with our colleagues across the aisle.”

Davis Paine, Bevin Campaign Manager for Gov. Bevin issued a statement, in which he said, “This is nothing more than a political stunt three weeks before an election. If the Democrats were truly interested in transparency, they would require Andy Beshear to disclose how much he profited from representing Purdue Pharma.”

The General Election is November 5, while the 2020 General Assembly begins January 7.

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