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Perspective | Help your state, decision makers

Contacting your legislator truly can make a difference
Mark Green is executive editor of The Lane Report.

By Mark Green

Alright Lane Report readers, you folks we long have called Kentucky’s “decision makers,” it’s time to shoulder some responsibility. The 2020 General Assembly is in session, dealing primarily with creating a biennial budget for the next two fiscal years.

It’s important stuff.

The budget is the key policy roadmap by which our fair commonwealth will operate. It will address our collective shared responsibilities and provide the public services to keep us, our families and our businesses safe in so many ways. It will build and repair roads and bridges, and it will determine what our public education system does.

The goal as always is to move forward, to invest in Kentucky’s future. To do that, however, legislators face tough choices and votes – that they will only cast if you decision makers make sure they know you support it. Investing requires more revenue, and it is well known that voting for more revenue is often politically perilous. Such votes bring rewards, though, when it is what constituents want.

There is lots of agreement on policies that can make our state better. Perhaps not universal agreement on all the goals, but many have broad support. This is because we know that, truthfully, to do nothing is to fall behind, and our commonwealth is already at or near the back of the pack on important health, education and income metrics that factor into quality of life for Kentuckians.

Agreement on budget goals is easy to find, but disagreement is even more plentiful regarding how much revenue to provide state government and how to divide it up for the things we want.

You decision makers can and should help your elected officials. If you do not, you should expect little change and no progress. Elected officials truly do want to reflect the desires of the Kentuckians they represent – and they definitely will when they know clearly what those desires are.

Not many of us see or rub elbows with legislators and have an opportunity to express ourselves to them on policy. And you may wonder if you reach out to your state representative’s and/or senator’s office and leave a message, will it get passed along?

The answer is: Yes.

“Green slips” are an important part of the Kentucky General Assembly policymaking process; one is created whenever a constituent contacts a legislator’s office about an issue, especially a specific bill. They originated from the former phone message system for lawmakers, under which legislative staffers created printed comments from constituent calls on green paper slips that were convenient to carry to the House and Senate floor and fit into a member’s pocket.

Today, ongoing digitization of information means “green slips” aren’t physical, unless the member asks his or her staff to print them out, which many do.

The point is that your representatives and senators really do “get the message” – if you bother to send one. They literally count them, too.

And they just might give a green slip more weight when they see the name of a “decision maker” like you on it, right?

Do you think Kentucky should modernize its tax code with less income tax and more tax on more services? Better fund education? Put fewer people in prison? Increase funding for roads and bridges? What about sports betting? How about casinos? Polls indicate significant majorities support medical marijuana.

Do you oppose any expansion of gambling? Are Kentucky’s tax levies and fees too high? Should local government be able to enact sales tax? Is expanding Medicaid to cover health care for hundreds of thousands of commonwealth worth it, or too expensive?

Take the time to contact your legislators’ offices and you can literally help create public policy.

Contact Your Legislator

To leave a message for your legislator, call the Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181; depending on call volume there may be a slight wait.

You probably know who your legislators are, but just in case you need to let someone else know who theirs is, there is a website for finding legislator and district information: apps.legislature.ky.gov/findyourlegislator/findyourlegislator.html.

Mark Green is executive editor of The Lane Report. Opinions expressed are those of the writer and not The Lane Report.