Let me say something good about a good man. Jeff Hoover did, so why shouldn’t I?
This week Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, for the eighth time, shepherded through the state House of Representatives a measure to allow voters to change the state constitution to permit the automatic restoration of felons’ voting rights.
Kentucky remains one of only three states which do not automatically restore the vote to those who’ve paid their debt to society. The Kentucky constitution currently requires them to petition the governor for that privilege.
Crenshaw’s bill has always failed in the Republican controlled state Senate and Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, indicated Thursday it may not succeed this time either, although he left open the possibility. Many Republicans believe ex-felons are inclined to vote Democratic.
Coincidentally, this week, a federal judge nominated to the bench by a Republican U.S. Senator sentenced to prison a former Republican Agriculture Commissioner who misappropriated tax money while in office.
“You owe us a debt to society and you need to pay that debt,” Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove said to Richie Farmer. “But once you’ve paid that debt, then you are debt free and you can hold your head high.”
Two days later, as Crenshaw asked colleagues to show some compassion to others who’ve paid their debts to society, I recalled Van Tatenhove’s comments and concluded he is correct.
So apparently did 33 of the 46 Republicans in the House who voted with Crenshaw and Hoover who co-sponsored the bill with Crenshaw. Hoover urged its passage on the floor, but conceded he had “mixed feelings” — not because of reservations about the bill but knowing Crenshaw won’t seek re-election this year. This is Crenshaw’s last chance and he deeply wants to see it pass this year’s General Assembly.
Following custom, Hoover referred to Crenshaw by his district.
“If there’s ever been an example of a legislator showing persistence and showing commitment to an issue, it’s the gentleman from Fayette 77,” Hoover said as the entire House rose and gave Crenshaw a sustained ovation.
Crenshaw was born on a farm in Metcalfe County, just over the county line from my home Barren County. I didn’t realize that until I met him eight years ago when I came to Frankfort to cover the legislature — but I should have known it.
Crenshaw is only five years older than I, but that’s a much bigger gap than it sounds. Those years formed the bridge between the era of segregation and integration. He graduated from the all-black Ralph Bunche High School in Glasgow. I went to an integrated Glasgow High School with his brothers, Braxton, Larry and Michael. But it says something about me and that era that I know Jesse better than his brothers.
But I’m glad I got to know Jesse. He is a gentle and dignified man who carries himself with grace. But as he demonstrated to me and another reporter this week, he can quickly become very passionate about things in which he deeply believes.
We all owe a debt to a society which allows us to succeed on our own merits. That opportunity was denied Crenshaw for many years in the Jim Crow era and in some ways continues to be denied to some today. It’s a better era but one which still hasn’t completely delivered on its founding promises to every person of every color.
It would be good if Kentucky lawmakers made a payment on the debt our society owes to good people like Jesse Crenshaw. Passing his bill would be a small but good start.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ cnhifrankfort.
Let me say something good about a good man. Jeff Hoover did, so why shouldn’t I?
Starting over at Head Start
All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.
They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days
I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.
Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth
When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.
No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate
Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Senate campaign already in full bloom
Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.
‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’
What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”
Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association
Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).
Hitting the campaign trail
The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.
The case of the scary black cat
If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.
Basking in the spring sunshine
If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.
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