Shirley Mitchell | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Shirley Mitchell

District/Office: 
Political party: 
Democrat
Incumbent: 
No
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? 

All my life, I’ve lived in the 45th District of Kentucky, except when I was serving my country as a civil engineer officer in the U.S. Navy. My parents worked two jobs each to support our family. Through my experiences, I look forward to solving the tough problems that face our state so Kentucky’s future is bright and equitable for the next generation.            My vision for Kentucky is rooted in ensuring that we provide quality education for every child, our economy works for everyone, and that we take care of our earth and natural lands. If elected, my responsibility is to build a Kentucky, alongside you, that is built upon the foundations of security and opportunity.            For committees, I believe my skills would best serve the Commonwealth on Appropriations and Revenue; Economic and Workforce Development; Education; Natural Resources and Energy; Small Business and Information Technology; and Transportation.

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?

I support a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to all Kentuckians once they’ve served their time. A Kentuckian’s right to vote should not be contingent on who is currently occupying the Governor's office, which is why I support a constitutional amendment to codify voting rights for ex-felons who have paid their debt to society. Kentucky is one of a handful of states that prevents ex-felons from voting for life. The disenfranchisement of ex-felons disproportionately affects black voters. 1 in 4 Black Kentuckians were unable to vote because of felony convictions. Studies have shown that when ex-felons vote, they feel like they are part of the community and, statistically, they are less likely to commit another crime. We must send a clear message that our fellow Kentuckians deserve a second chance.

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?

From my middle school civics class, I learned and still believe two key principles: 1) voting is both a right and a responsibility, and 2) democracy works when everyone has a voice. As society advances, the election process must also change. We must employ modern methods when collecting votes, accommodate different work schedules, and welcome citizens who speak English as their second language into our civic life. Modernizing state election laws allows us to increase eligible voter turnout. Our right to vote was hard-won; we must keep early voting, ease the process of mail-in ballots, establish same-day voter registration, extend voting hours, and create multiple language ballots.            Voters, in the midst of a global pandemic, face an additional step of proof of photo identification in the general election because of the passage of SB2 in the 2020 session. I would work to repeal Senate Bill 2 in the next legislative session. We must do everything in our power to ensure that citizens, specifically low-income citizens, do not face significant barriers when going to the ballot box.

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?

I was disheartened that a state that is cutting funding for pensions, education, and other basic programs would also change the tax code in favor of the highest income earners. Since income tax is our highest revenue source, we need to develop a better solution for a more equitable tax structure, and make sure we do not put more of the burden on low and middle-income families.            I would support tax changes that do not place a disproportionate burden on the middle and lower classes. The biggest indicator of any healthy economy is the strength of the middle class. It is economically counterproductive to place the highest income tax burden on the middle 20% of Kentuckians. Furthermore, services that help the economically disadvantaged, such as Medicaid and food stamps, generate more in economic activity than what is initially spent on them.            Let’s face it. We have a revenue problem. We need to change our mindset from short-sighted ideas to building a true, long-lasting strategy for economic growth. We need to focus on the industries that are our strengths, increase revenue by medical marijuana, and make a concerted effort to be a leader in the emerging industries.

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?

Immigrants are a vital part of our communities. We need to ensure that people who come here to provide a better life for their families feel safe in our community, and have access to quality medical care throughout COVID-19 and beyond. Largely, issues regarding undocumented immigrants for access to government assistance require remedy at the federal level. However, all Kentuckians in this pandemic need PPE, medical care, and employee rights. Our Commonwealth must protect essential workers, regardless of immigration status, during the global pandemic and afterwards.

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?

Protecting our earth is a top priority for me. My master’s thesis at UK was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, and I’ve worked on sustainability initiatives throughout my career. With my experiences, I'm prepared to work on sustainable energy and forestry policies that move Kentucky’s green economy forward and protect our natural lands.            I would build upon 19RS-HB213, which establishes renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and clean energy goals for the future. I support incentivizing the growth of the solar energy industry and carbon sequestration in farming.            Kentuckians should have clean air and water no matter the color of their skin, income, or zip code. It is imperative that we work to ensure our citizens can work with dignity and that we preserve the planet for our children.

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.

In the 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr died, we have seen some progress, but 2020 demonstrated there is much more work to do to achieve true racial equality. Black lives matter. Throughout my campaign I have focused on listening, learning, and self-reflection. I am hard at work at becoming a stronger ally and having needed conversations in my community. I will bring a more hopeful, inclusive, and sensible vision to the legislature.            Once in office, I will propose hate crime law reform in order to include all types of violent crimes. I will also support the bipartisan efforts to transform our disparate bail system that harms people that can’t afford cash bail, and disproportionately impacts citizens of color. Lastly, I will support banning no knock warrants in Kentucky. We must be relentless in ensuring racial equity for all of Kentucky’s citizens.

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?

We must stop mass incarceration and pass meaningful criminal justice reform. As Governor Beshear said, “Our people aren’t more violent, we don’t have more criminals, we just put more people in our prisons and jails."            I hear the educational impact from the teachers when they describe the number of their kids who have one or both parents in jail and being raised by their grandparents. When children lack a strong home support system, learning barriers are created, passing ramifications to the next generation. It is vital to reinvest resources into our schools and ensure educational equity for students for color. I would propose reforming the bail system, which keeps thousands accused of low-level offenses behind bars without ever being convicted of a crime. Criminal records can follow individuals the rest of their lives and impact their employment opportunities, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. When people who want to work hard to provide for their families are kept off the job market, the whole state suffers.            I would propose a Clean Slate Act that would expunge the records for those who served their time for nonviolent, low-level offenses and have remained crime-free so that they can find self-sustaining employment.

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 absolutely support a statewide Fairness law. Discrimination in any form is wrong, plain and simple. I support HB225, which protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, financial transactions, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I also support bipartisan bills SB85 and HB 199 which protects LGBTQ youth’s mental health by banning conversion therapy. I will be a State Representative for every resident in District 45 and ensure everyone is protected in our state.

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: 

Every Kentuckian should have access to quality, affordable medical care. The impact of COVID-19 has brought to light how unprepared the nation and state are to combat such challenges. First, Kentuckians must come together and be good neighbors to slow the spread of COVID-19. Next, we should continue the free and easy access to COVID testing. Public health crises, like COVID-19, require proactive measures to ensure Kentucky is prepared to protect the health and wellbeing of all Kentuckians.

            We must continue the efforts to cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin, end surprise medical billing, and protect healthcare coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

            I support HB 180, which would end employer-imposed waiting periods for new employees’ health insurance coverage. New employees should have coverage on day one.

            American maternal mortality rates are increasing and lag behind many developed countries, especially among women of color. We should join the thirty other states that have passed a Maternal Mortality Prevention Act.

            Quality healthcare empowers people to care for their families, work their jobs, and live their lives.