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Learning legislature

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Rep. King speaks to NWMS students

By Brandon Mattingly

Middle school students at North Washington received a crash course on the inter-workings of state legislature last Wednesday morning, as they received a visit from Rep. Kim King.

King handed out activity and fact books relating to the legislative process, even providing students with the tools to suggest any law that they feel should be put into place.

King shared her background and some of the more interesting aspects of being in legislature before taking questions from the youngsters.

The representative explained how the vote works in the House of Representatives, with the push of a green or red button that records the tally on a “scoreboard” next to the House speaker’s seat. She also noted that not all votes are recorded in that manner, which she’d like to see change, as noted in House bill 42.

“Not every vote that we take goes up on the big scoreboard,” she told the students. “There are times that we just make a voice vote. We literally just say, “Yay” or “Nay,” and there’s no record of what we voted.”

She also explained how committees work and noted how much power the chair of each committee has.

“We have more than 4.3 million people all across Kentucky; that’s a lot of people,” she said. “That one person decides for more than 4.3 million people if a bill is going to be heard in that committee. Well, if it’s not heard in that committee, it’s probably not going to be passed as a law.”

King laid out the difference between a regulation and a law, as well, pointing out that the House, Senate and governor all see a bill before it is officially passed as a law.

“That’s a lot of elected people who have had their eyes on that bill and hopefully made an educated decision to get it to that point,” she said.

King shared some tidbits that showcase Frankfort’s mystique, including showing students her ID card, which uses a computer chip to gain access to various areas in the state’s capital. Another interesting note that she mentioned is the tunnel system in Frankfort that allows officials to move freely between locations during inclement weather.

“I guess I’m just a kid at heart, but I think that’s kind of cool,” she said.

Among the questions from students, King was asked about the stresses of making important decisions, how many phone calls and emails she receives and if she always knew she wanted to be in politics.

The rep admitted that researching bills and contacting parties with expertise on the matter can be time-consuming but that it’s worth it when attempting to make an informed decision. As for those messages, she showed the students that she had 180 emails that needed to be checked at the time and said she typically expects to arrive home to 20-25 voicemails from constituents. As for how she got into politics, she said she didn’t always know it was in her plans.

She realized her aspirations to be in government while watching the presidential debates in 2007 and 2008.

“Watching the debates and watching the news and seeing the comments really got us concerned,” she said. “We had two options: turn the TV off and stop paying attention or turn the TV on and stay educated, stay informed and get out and try to make a difference.”

Two students asked coal-related questions, and King said that she’s pro-coal and also “pro-all-of-the-above” when it comes to finding affordable sources for energy.

“I’m all for alternative energy. I’m the all-of-the-above lady,” she said.

She also noted that the coal supply in the United States can last for hundreds of years and that much of today’s business is thanks to exportation.

The students were also curious how term limits work and wondered why representatives in the House — both at the state and federal level — have shorter terms than many other officials.

“That two years is based on a very good reason,” King said. “All of the spending and taxing bills are supposed to start in the House, so if Congressman (Brett) Guthrie or Representative Kim King raise your taxes in a way you don’t like, or spend your money in a way you don’t like, you have the opportunity to kick us out of office sooner than a four or six-year term.”

Other questions of note:
Q: Do you ever have any time to yourself?

King: I block off Sundays, so that my grandchildren can go to church with us and I can spend some time with them in the afternoon. That’s the day I always try to save for down time.

Q: If you could do any job, what job would you do?

King: Well, I’m not sure if it’s a job, but on my bucket list is playing the drums. I’d also love to take ballet lessons like I did when I was a young girl.

Q: What if you were president?

King: I would have a very good cabinet right here. I’d have you all to help me make decisions.

Q: Why can’t we have pickles on our hamburgers?

King: In the last week, I’ve probably had eight questions about school lunches. When I follow up with them, it seems to go back to those federal standards. I got two calls last night that were about ketchup.