Hazard meeting with State Senator Brandon Smith | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Hazard meeting with State Senator Brandon Smith

January 2013 meeting with Sen. Brandon SmithJust days before traveling back to Frankfort for the two upcoming months of General Assembly, new Senate Majority Whip Brandon Smith met up with KFTC members at the Perry County Library.   This was one of several at-home meetings KFTC members organized this past week to open up communication during this General Assembly as well as to build support for the Clean Energy Opportunity Act.  Members from Perry County, Harlan County, and Letcher County met with Sen. Smith about this legislative priority as well as the Kentucky Voting Rights Amendment (HB 70) and other local issues. 

After new Harlan County member Rev. Albert Phillips opened the meeting in prayer, Carl Shoupe thanked all 12 people for attending, especially Sen. Smith, and congratulated him for his recent appointment to Senate leadership. Members first wanted to talk with Sen. Smith about the restoration of voting rights to former felons.  Smith has often told members he supported HB 70 in meetings and other conversations. Sen. Smith recently attended the first ‘Singing for Democracy’ gospel fest in eastern Kentucky at Consolidated Baptist Church in Hazard, along with other elected officials and over 60 members of the public.  This event was held right before the November election by the Perry County Chapter, in partnership with the church, and included several gospel performances, testimony in support of voting rights, and a chili supper.   January 2013 meeting with Sen. Brandon Smith

Hazard’s Russell Oliver and Ada Smith, who both attended the ‘Singing for Democracy’ event, thanked Sen. Smith for attending and asked him how he liked the event and what he learned.  The Senator shared that he’d heard many of those testimonies before and has always supported the voting rights work and will continue to do so. He encouraged KFTC members to continue their work in Frankfort, telling stories, targeting committee members, and keeping the pressure on.  

Sen. Smith told the room full of constituents, “we’ve had a complete change in leadership. This changes the game.”  Members are hoping to move him to a more specific action on HB 70 once it passes through the House and is in Senate committee.   

Katie Pirotina, of Perry County, transitioned the conversation to the Clean Energy Opportunity Act.   The bill, a collaboration of the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance, could create more than 26,000 local jobs across the state in energy efficiency and renewable energy production.  The group shared stories of local community college students getting through an “Energy Audit Training Program” here at home just to seek out jobs in neighboring states like North Carolina, where similar bills have passed.   Ada Smith of Letcher County shared her concern that “these new businesses can’t survive in Kentucky.  They go to other states.”    January 2013 meeting with Sen. Brandon Smith

Lynch City Councilman, Bennie Massey, stated he’d spent 14 years mining underground and told the Senator, “we’ve missed out on opportunities. We need to send our miners to school, to show them there is another way.  Give them the opportunity to learn something else.” Bennie asked Sen. Smith, “What are we going to do after coal?  The younger generation has to live here and they don’t want to live under the old way.”

Senator Smith agreed, saying that “things are changing for us here. We are facing some big changes here and they’re going to find out what we’re made of and what leadership will do about it.”   He noted that he has “pushed for a diverse energy portfolio.”

Harlan County members shared some local updates involving state agencies and requests for his support to communities organizing in Black Joe.  He fielded questions about everything from industrial hemp to federal mining safety from retired mine inspector Stanley Sturgill. The hour and half meeting closed with at least thirty minutes of informal exchange between the Senator and nearly everyone who attended.

Members are excited to continue these conversations and discussions with Brandon Smith in Frankfort over the coming months of General Assembly.


January 2013 meeting with Sen. Brandon Smith

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