On February 11, 2020 Senator Rick Girdler (R – Somerset) from Boyle County introduced a short-lived resolution calling for a study that would review the management of Kentucky School for the Deaf. The proposed idea was to look into the feasibility of taking the Kentucky Department of Education [KDE] out of the equation when it came to the oversight of Kentucky School for the Deaf.
Senate Joint Resolution 142
The resolution would have instructed KDE to “conduct a study exploring how the management and operation of the Kentucky School for the Deaf may be best transferred to the Danville Independent School District” (Kleppinger, 2020). Some big names in the Kentucky Senate backed up this resolution, such as Tom Buford (R – Nicholasville), who used to be the senator for Boyle County; Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens (R – Greensburg); and Max Wise (R – Campbellsville), chair of the Senate Education Committee (Kleppinger, 2020).
Reactions to Resolution 142
As varied as responses were from KDE and the Danville Independent School District [DISD] senior officials in respect to Resolution 142, their responses implicated a call for a removal of the resolution given that an in-depth discussion never happened with stakeholders prior to proposing it and the resolution had a predetermined outcome that could have caused more harm than good to the Deaf community.
Kevin Brown, the Kentucky Department of Education Interim Commissioner, reiterated his staunch opposition in an initial letter sent out to teachers, staff, parents, and alumni of the Kentucky School for the Deaf [KSD] informing them of Resolution 142 that Girdler had filed with the state: “I am opposed to any study of KSD that is predetermined in [an] outcome and does not take into consideration the history, culture, purpose, and unique needs that a dedicated and stand-alone school for the Deaf provides to the citizens of Kentucky” (Kleppinger, 2020). The Commissioner later sent out a second letter with the update that Resolution 142 had been dropped.
The combination of widespread advocacy through publicity of the bill, including phone calls from concerned citizens and stakeholders and a prompted check-in with KDE officials, is what convinced Girdler to change his mind. Girdler announced last week on Friday that the Senate Joint Resolution 142 was taken off the table because both KDE and KSD officials “wanted it withdrawn,” and he added that the only reason why he had filed the resolution was “to get some help for KSD and their students” (Kleppinger, 2020).
How to Fight Flawed Bills
This leads to a question many people have: “How do I kill (get rid of) a bill or a resolution?” While there are differing perspectives on what merits a bill or resolution as “flawed,” this article will focus on using a very specific definition of “flawed.” When we say “flawed,” we mean to say a bill or a resolution where it is glaringly obvious the authors and/or sponsors did not check in with stakeholders at all before introducing it on the floor in their house, and/or it was not well-thought-out at all.
First things first, learn the process. Whether you’re fighting a bill on the state level or federal level, it is important to learn the path your state takes once the bill/resolution has been filed. Which committees would need to approve the bill/resolution? Which or what procedure(s) does the legislature usually take? How are legislators going to vote and what needs to happen next? Each state usually has information on its official legislature website.
Ideally, you want to kill the bill before it even gets proposed in the first place. If you know what policymakers are planning to propose during the legislative session, it is a good idea to talk to them and “generate a lot of opposition” (Grassroots Leadership Academy).
If you are just getting started out, there are two things you need to do. Find out who else would care about the bill and why they would be in favor of or against it. After you learn about who might agree with you on the stance of the bill, reach out to them using various means. Band together and work on a united approach. Build up a team and don’t worry about whether you have enough volunteers. Use public testimony and pack the hearing with as many people as possible.
If you want to learn more, the Grassroots Leadership Academy has a free legislative training program.