Jim Waters

Jim Waters/Columnist

This edition of “Liberty Boosters and Busters” comes your way courtesy of the 2015 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

A “Liberty Booster” is a policymaker who offers an idea that advances freedom, defends our liberty or in some way boosts opportunities for Kentuckians.

“Busters,” on the other hand, attempt with their ideas to obstruct economic opportunity, take away our freedoms or just give some politician the limelight they crave, often without the political courage required to earn that attention.

Liberty Booster: Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, supported reforming Kentucky’s telecommunications regulations in his statement to a House committee.

“As a realtor, madam chair, in a rural area, it used to be people would say: ‘How are the schools here?’ That was the main question,” Rand said. “Now they ask: ‘How are the schools, and can I get broadband? Is it available to me in your rural area?’ That’s an important thing because so many people now don’t operate in storefronts.”

Rand proves you don’t have to be a right-winger to support sound economic-development policy in the form of freeing telecommunications companies from maintaining antiquated copper phone lines in larger populated areas while allowing them to use new technology to provide basic phone services.

So does Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who tweeted that the proposed reform “strikes a strong balance between providing consumer protection & creating #econdev opportunities across KY.”

Liberty Buster: A handful of left-wing House members, including Louisville area Rep. Jeffery Donohue, D-Fairdale, are stifling telecom reform.

Donohue has accomplished little in the legislature – much like the special committee he chaired that was charged with investing sexual-harassment claims against former Rep. John Arnold.

Yet whereas his legislative résumé is short on advancing real-life policies that create conditions for the commonwealth’s prosperity or address its serious pension, education or economic-competitiveness challenges, Donohue’s surely on the ball when it comes to filing amendments that slow, stifle and obstruct the kind of reforms that would allow Kentucky to brush aside telephone regulations put in place before Sarah was answering the switchboard in Mayberry.

Donohue wouldn’t be oppressing this major reform opportunity without the blessing of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who opposes any kind of telecom reform, telling reporters: “I just don’t like deregulation in general.”

If you can name one business, industry, nation or government in history that thrived because it just “didn’t like deregulation, in general,” I personally will maintain your old copper phone line wherever in the world you live.

Liberty Booster: Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, proposed a constitutional amendment that would change elections for statewide offices – including governor – to even-numbered presidential election years.

McDaniel’s proposal alone would save state and local governments $18 million every four years. It also would ensure that many more Kentuckians are involved in choosing governors.

Only 29 percent of registered voters even bothered to turn out in 2011, when Beshear was reelected – down from the 38 percent that voted when he won his first term in 2007. Primary-turnout numbers are even lower.

Forty-seven other states figured out that it’s more effective – in terms of both cost and participation – to avoid gubernatorial elections in off years. Isn’t it time for Kentucky to do the same?

Liberty Buster: Not everyone agrees with McDaniel. But hey, what’s a few million here or there when “a little more prestige” is involved?

“We have to acknowledge that democracy costs something,” piped Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson. “I think it gives it a little more prestige in the fact that it has its own election.”

So saving Henderson County the $138,000 it costs to hold one of these elections or getting more voters involved in deciding who’s going to be governor isn’t prestigious enough for the senator who represents that area?

Such reactions reconfirm Nobel laureate Milton Friedman’s observation that: “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.”

Doing so apparently wouldn’t be “prestigious” enough.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

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