Hot Topic Bills

by Ella Abney

The second ever Virtual Kentucky Youth Assembly Conference began Thursday morning with our Governor, Darby Greenwell, delivering a message encouraging delegates to fight for those in our Commonwealth, despite our current circumstances. Following her inspirational speech, all delegates traveled virtually to their Committees, where bills were presented by the sponsors. The bills this year are written with intention, and they are applicable to current events in 2020 such as Covid-19 and police brutality. Other bills highlight traditions in Kentucky, lifting the spirits of delegates who may be daunted by state-wide issues.

The issue of police brutality and systemic racism have been exacerbated by American citizens during the pandemic, and youth have been extremely active in these movements. Commonwealth Bill 9 has caught the attention of most KYA delegates: “An Act Relating To the Use of Body Cameras by Police Officers.” During the bill ranking period, Lucy Johnson and Bella Nugent of St. Francis delivered a speech focused on the concerning number of recent incidents related to police brutality that are preventable with the use of body cameras. Those in opposition claimed that the police budget should not be expanded to provide new technology, and money should be allocated to updating current technology. Those in favor referenced the death of Breonna Taylor, who would debatably be alive today if this bill was in place. Candidate Sofia Koppenstiener of Greenwood High School stated that CW 9 would restore mutual respect among police officers and their communities as events would be perceived accurately. Following the ranking and debate process, CW 9 passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, and it was sent to the Governor’s Office.

In addition to police brutality, rioting and protesting has been prevalent within metropolitan areas of the United States, especially in Louisville, Kentucky. Bluegrass Bill 3, “An Act Relating to the Punishment of First Degree Rioting,” amends KRS Chapter 525 to create a reduction of governmental aid to those convicted of rioting in place of jail time. The sponsors, Matthan Edmunds, Katie Isaac, Will Isaac, and Anna Yates of Greenwood HS, stated that 3.6 million dollars has been lost due to rioting damage in downtown Louisville since June. They emphasized their concern for economic growth in areas like Louisville, as property damage disincentivizes business owners and community members to come into these areas. In argument, Lillian Hertz of Mercy Academy stated, “The bill sponsors mention property value decreasing, but people’s lives are being lost. People have the right to be angry. This bill disproportionately targets people of color, and blurs the line between rioting and protesting.” Those in favor of this bill argued that it would decrease mass incarceration, which allows funding to be allocated toward other important causes. Ultimately, this bill passed the Bluegrass House of Representatives and the Senate, and was sent to the Lieutenant Governor.

It is in the spirit of the Y for students to be passionate about current events, but it is also in the spirit of the Y for delegates to be creative and uplifting. Commonwealth Bill 10 of Saint Xavier High School is “An Act Declaring an emergency relating to annually required sporting events between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.” This bill, sponsored by Jackson Needham, Robbie Crady, and Matthew Boisseau, mandates that these collegiate rivalry teams face off at least once annually. Those in favor claimed that this bill would uplift Kentuckians by upholding a sacred tradition, provide financial support to each team’s funds, and be a safe option for travel during the pandemic. Keller Reid of Saint Xavier high school spoke on behalf of the Lobbyist program. Reid stated, “It is more safe that the teams remain within the state instead of traveling to another state with a high positivity rate.” Those in opposition claimed that the bill was a bit out of touch, and that the bill doesn’t prioritize the safety of Kentuckians. This bill is being presented during tomorrow’s debate, meaning that it is one of the highest ranked bills of the conference.

Despite these circumstances, the Bill Sponsors, Lobbyists, Cabinet Secretaries, and Chairs held a debate that should make the Kentucky Youth Assembly proud. Tomorrow, the conference may even debate some of these hot-topic bills.