Jon Larson | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Jon Larson

Political party: 
Question 1: 

What’s your vision for Kentucky? How will the lives of Kentuckians be improved as a result of your time in office? What legislative committees will you request to serve on once elected? 

entucky has been notorious for civic corruption, and now we are a divided people. Historically, we spent our blood to maintain union. As your representative for the poor and downtrodden, I ask for a peaceful accommodation of all viewpoints. I am a proud Republican, with no serious hopes for financial gain from this office, at my age. All I want is to be known as the civil rights advocate: for poor, felons, hispanics (especially undocumented), African Americans, Gays, Homeless, Handicapped, Single Parents and mothers of murdered children. Years of participating in KFTC activities, especially felon voting rights advocacy, and being the most experienced criminal defense attorney in this area, gives me a unique platform. Perhaps I may be your only hope for bi-partisanship, reaching across the aisles. I believe I can get things done, in a General Assembly, which continue to have a Republican majority leadership. As a veteran (a creator of our Veterans Treatment Court), with a graduate (international) business education, I may be valuable to job creators and job seekers. As the only Republican to have won a contested county-wide election here since merger in 1974, I have connections with county governments, state & local agencies - and you.

Question 2: 

Even after Governor Beshear's December 2019 executive order that restored voting rights to 152,000 Kentuckians with felonies in their past, over 170,000 Kentuckians are still ineligible to vote. Do you support a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to all Kentuckians with felonies in their past once they've served their time, probation, and parole? Why or why not?

As I have announced years ago, I see felon voting as correcting a historical wrong: "No taxation without representation." Our revolutionary ancestors created this nation of diversity when they were denied the right to decide how their money would be spent. I have lobbied and testified on this issue, both with and without KFTC present in Frankfort. Convicted felons, with whom I may be the most familiar, as the first full-time public defender. Here, are taxpaying citizens, with important governmental concerns, who resent disinfranchisement, and are not single party voters, as some would suppose. As a veteran campaigner for constitutional amendments (Fayette Court Judge Executive and State Treasurer), I am uniquely qualified, to advocate for legislative approval and ratification by voters in the following election cycle.

Question 3: 

During the 2020 primary, Kentuckians voted in record numbers as a result of mail-in absentee voting and early voting. But we can improve on what we learned in the primary and make voting more accessible for all Kentuckians. What is your view on modernizing state election laws? Specifically, do you support allowing early voting, mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration, extended hours at polling locations, offering ballots in multiple languages, and other election reforms? Would you uphold or work to repeal Senate Bill 2, which makes it harder for voters who don't have particular kinds of photo ID to vote, knowing that many Kentuckians do not have – and face barriers to obtaining – those forms of ID?

As I told UK Law Professor, Josh Douglas, long ago, I am in favor of increased electoral participation, unlike several in my political party. Large percentages of young people, veterans, Hispanics and the homeless are currently unregistered or unable to vote. I see no reason for discouragement of potential voters who could be lawfully registered. Early voting, same day registration, extended election day hours, Spanish translations, and no excuse absentee ballots are all tools we could use to increase our low voter turn-out, provided our county clerks and election commission have those capacities. There should be some concern about "ballot harvesting" (it happened at UK years ago), and for lack of interest in downballot elections by early voters (since information on those races is typically not publicized until close to election day).

Question 4: 

Even before COVID, Kentucky’s tax code did not raise enough revenue to meet the Commonwealth’s needs. We’ve reached dangerous levels of disinvestment in pensions, public education, infrastructure, and other essential programs. While there may be federal aid to buffer some of those impacts, we still need our own sustainable, long-term revenue solutions. What would you do to create a more equitable state tax structure – where everyone pays their fair share – that raises adequate revenue, fights poverty, and invests in Kentucky’s under-resourced communities and the services we all need?

My personal contribution to increased state funding is my continual pursuit toward elimination of constitutional offices. The functions of the small state Treasurer's Office can be performed by the Cabinet for Finance and Administration, saving millions of dollars each year by removing unnecessary political positions, and, perhaps, better protection of our state funds from electronic thieves. Fayette, and perhaps Jefferson, counties have no need to elect Judge Executives and Fiscal Courts, while their councils are also legally "county" governments. Several other offices might be ripe for abolishment: think of Jailors with no jails, Sheriffs who perform no law enforcement functions, small counties continually in financial crises, and many others. Additionally, I have spoken on behalf of Charter County Governments (KRS 67.825 et al), which authorize consolidation of some offices within more than one county. Eventually, Regional Planning Authorities (KRS 100.123) might be found to be financially and politically appropriate. As an experienced budgeter, I know the devil is in the details of tax proposals. I suggest that income taxation has been neither sound nor fair economic policy. Tax accountants and advisers manipulate and control the amount, location and timing of reported income. Sales taxes may be fairer than many think.

Question 5: 

Many undocumented and mixed immigration status families here in Kentucky do not have access to government aid, stimulus payments, and other resources offered during this pandemic, while they’re simultaneously more likely to be essential workers and are at the highest risk for COVID-19 infection. What would you do to expand support and resources to Kentucky’s immigrant families, undocumented or otherwise, in the time of a global pandemic and beyond?

In 2008, as an "unfunded" pro-immigrant candidate, I won a Republican congressional primary over an avowed anti-immigrant opponent, who had a well-funded campaign, which was supported by county organizations. I suggest Republicans are more likely than ever today, and are ripe, to vote for an eventual path to citizenship for the tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in our state. In courts, I have represented many Hispanics, and I talk with their friends and families about the devastating consequences of deportations - fears of which, our President, sadly, threatens. Many, perhaps most, of these people have been victimized by "coyotes", in league with cartels (the most dangerous, vicious criminal enterprises in history). It is my belief than police protection, and even border security, can best be gained by encouraging these people to work with us - which will only be accomplished by offering guaranteed non-deportative documentation to productive residents. Thousands of "American" kids should be protected from catastrophic deportation of their parents. Consider how documentation could lead to expanded automobile insurance coverage, to the benefit of all of us. In turn, these persons would be much more inclined and available to assist in pandemic (as well as police) protection.

Question 6: 

Is acting to address the climate crisis a priority for you? What policies do you support to ensure that solutions – such as clean energy jobs and reducing high energy bills – benefit all Kentuckians, including low-income communities, communities of color, and those who are most impacted by the changing climate? And what policies would you support to ensure that all Kentuckians have clean air and water, no matter the color of our skin, income, or zip code?

Of course, we are part fo global warming, and it is dangers to contend otherwise. We must protect our children and their descendants through international treaties and agreements. Many of us are frightened by evidence of decreased polar ice and rising sea levels, but we should be on the lookout for exaggerated fears. Carbon recapture proposals are not making much headway in this country. Clean energy ideas are numerous, and I have been advocating for many years. I take pride in recycling, urban exploring to check stream quality, and I have planted trees as former chair of our Environmental Commission. Our city has not developed a community love for mass transportation, which may take greater investments in routes, vehicles and commuter work amenities, such as bus wi-fi's. Unfortunately, it has been years since we had passenger rail here, while similar sized cities have seized federal light rail funding. Nearby Toyota is investing in hybrid electric vehicles. Solar panels and home energy saving devices have value. Algae and other plant crops may one day replace the declining, polluting, coal industry in this state. We need more trees. All Kentuckians should be thankful for the contributions of our farmers and their local products.

Question 7: 

Kentuckians from across the state are coming together to say Black Lives Matter and to demand that all Kentuckians can move through our communities without fearing for our lives or our loved ones. What is the role of the Kentucky legislature in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color in our state? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities.

As the first full-time public defender here, I may have represented more African Americans from police charges than any other lawyer. I have long been aware of "Driving while Black" (claims my many friends have told me about) and questionable searches, made lawful by court rulings. Since I am involved in the raising of two mixed racial boys, who may be confronted with these situations, I must prepare for the "talk" (how to avoid arrests when stoped by police). generally, police are protectors and friends in our community, particularly for law abiding poor and vulnerable African American citizens. Yet, as a courtroom adversary of police I have been confronted with at least three bad cops. I have walked with police working in peace marches on behalf of mothers whose children have been murdered. Over years I have learned to respect the vast majority of officers for their judgment and honor. However, we do know that there is frequent evidence of racial bias in arrests and convictions. Perhaps community review boards could work with police internal affairs investigations, given some measure of confidentiality and timing of publicity. Be aware that emphasis on "Black Lives Matter" rattles sensitivities of other vulnerable citizen classes.

Question 8: 

Kentucky has the ninth highest incarceration rate in the nation, is second for incarcerating women, and has the second-highest rate of children separated from a parent due to incarceration. In addition, Black Kentuckians face disproportionate arrest, conviction, and incarceration, and a heightened risk of police brutality. And people in many parts of our state face racial profiling, intimidation and unjust detainment and detention by federal and local authorities due to immigration status or perceived status. Many Kentuckians are calling for various measures to stem the tide of racialized criminalization, police brutality, mass incarceration, and detention and deportation – from police reform, to increased community investment, to a complete defunding and abolition of the police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If elected, what will you do to make strides toward ending mass incarceration in Kentucky and reinvesting resources into the communities most impacted by this system?

I have worked on criminal justice reforms for 13 years. I have 15r proposals (available by calling my office 859-255-1001), which I believe can cut imprisonments and incarcerations by over half, end the futile War on Drugs and reduce the number of illegal guns on our streets. Since filing for this office, I have given copies of these proposals to the Governor, Secretary for the Cabinet of Public Protection, prosecutors, police, jailers, judges, defense lawyers, and legislators of both parties. These are common sense (but mostly novel) measures which can be taken to alleve family concerns for their loved ones who are/will be in death traps behind jail/prison walls. It has long been my contention, which thousands of prisoners have confidentially acknowledged, that defendants get two things while being locked up: 1. drug connections and 2. drug dealing connections. Perhaps the majority of drug dealing on our streets is run by prisoners inside the walls and by their cohorts who have been released. We exacerbate our drug problem by refusing to address addiction as a medical, rather than criminal, problem. Police are digusted by the "revolving doors," and counties are being bankrupted by the costs of incarcerations.

Question 9: 

Do you support a statewide Fairness law to protect LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) from discrimination in housing, employment, financial transactions, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity? Do you support a statewide ban on the practice of LGBTQ conversion therapy, which would protect Kentucky youth from a harmful and medically discredited practice?

I was chair/member of Fayette County's Human Rights Commission when our Fairness Ordinance was passed, unanimously. It works well, and has been copied by many cities across the state. I consider myself as a longtime friend of many in the LGBTQ community, including state chair Chris Hartman and the Fayette Circuit Court Judge Ernesto Scorsone, and I participate in Pride events. I was invited to join the local Republican party by a gay man. After the recent US Supreme Court ruling determined Constitutional protection for gays in employment, there is a need for parallel legislation to protect this class of persons from housing and public accommodations discrimination - which I would be willing to sponsor. I join with my friends, Senator Alice Forgy Ker, and her son, Jamison, in condemning conversion therapy. I recognize that the Supreme Court has limited Constitutional discrimination claims against businesses who refuse to provide services they claim offend their religious consciences, although my friends on the Human Rights Commission argued against this ruling.

Question 10: 

Nearly 400,000 low-income Kentuckians qualified for health care – including vision, dental and mental health – for the first time under the Affordable Care Act. But major challenges remain, and many are exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. What would you do to make sure Kentuckians can get and stay healthy? What are your health-related legislative priorities? 

Answer 10: 

Let me address mental health problems: Unfortunately, since the 1940s, we have been using our jails as the primary institutions dealing with violent/annoying mentally-ill persons. We incarcerate these mentally-ill citizens for weeks and months before they are evaluated for competency. During this lagtime, many of these vulnerable unfortuates are abused by other inmates, and tehy become "educated" to learn criminal behavior and become drug addicts. I am on the state board of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and I have worked with these people who established our Mental Health Treatment Court. Recently, I have been researching community programs where citizen intervention teams have been established to relieve police of some of the dangerous and difficult jobs of meeting mental health emergencies. My friend, Deputy Sheriff Joseph Angelucci, died as a result of executing a mental health related complaint. Considering other health issues, I have been discussing the issue of national health insurance or MEDICARE for all for years. I doubt our nation is ready for the investment, but reducing insurance and medicine costs merits further studies.