Standing Up For Families


 The principal reason I ran for office is to support our families. I grew up in a divorced family, and I want to help all Kentucky families. I know how important strong families are to our community, so I want to ensure that our government is doing its part to support Kentucky families.

Here are a few things that I have done to strengthen and to protect our families. I led the effort in the House of Representatives to outlaw child marriage. Marriage isn’t for children, and now Kentucky is not only joining the 21st century in this area, but we are leading the way in outlawing child marriage. This was Senator Julie Raque Adams’ bill in the Senate, and I am proud to have been part of the process to shepherd it through the House after she worked it through the Senate.

 I worked on and supported HB 1, which revamped the adoption and foster care systems in Kentucky. HB 1 did many good things, but I am most proud of its focus on addressing the heart-wrenching problem associated with taking much too long—often years—for foster families to achieve permanency, or what they call their Forever Family.

 I was on the 9-member Committee that drafted the budget that made Kentucky the first state in the nation to fund pediatric cancer research. Our hope was that our relatively small appropriation of $5 million would incentivize private investment and other states to join our effort. Recently, UofL announced that the public money they received has attracted additional private investment. Together we are making a difference in childhood cancer, and we can all be proud that Kentucky is leading the way in this important area.

 And I sponsored HB 260, which is a bill to protect pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace. My bill would require employers to work with pregnant and nursing mothers to find reasonable accommodations to allow them to do their work while taking care of their natural needs. An example of a reasonable accommodation would be providing a private place for a nursing mother to express milk. The effort is to allow mothers to decide for themselves whether to breastfeed their children by removing as many barriers as are possible and appropriate.

In the area of raising children in divorced situations or situations where the parents are no longer together, I joined a small group of legislators that worked to pass the Shared Parenting Bill. Shared Parenting recognizes the voluminous research (and common sense) that a child has a better chance at a happy and fulfilling life when both parents are involved. They are healthier—physically and emotionally; their studies are more consistent and accomplished; and they are more socially developed. The bill, of course, retains protections against unfit parents. Kentucky now has the best Shared Parenting law in the nation, and many states have already requested support from the Kentuckians who made this law possible here. 

Finally, I support medical marijuana to help our families who are suffering. Whether it is a lack of an appetite during cancer treatment, debilitating epileptic seizures, chronic pain, or the like, I believe we should trust doctors and allow doctors to recommend that their patient access medical marijuana when the they believe it would help their patient. When I ran for office two years ago I was against medical marijuana. I have never used marijuana and have always been reflexively against it. But I took a meeting with constituents in Crestwood, not because my mind was open, but out of respect for people I represent who wanted to talk to their representative. I listened to those folks, who shared with me how medical marijuana impacted their lives and the lives of some of their kids. I left thinking that maybe there was something to this. I thought maybe my position was wrong. So I studied the matter, read tons of articles and studies, talked with scores of additional families, and called and discussed the issue with many doctors in my district. I now know that medical marijuana can help many of our neighbors who are suffering, and I am now the principal sponsor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana. (Please note that my bill only applies to medical marijuana, not recreational marijuana—or adult-use, as it is often called.)

Finally, I have also received numerous awards for my work during my first term. Three examples: I received the Stepping Up for Kids award from the Kentucky Youth Advocates. I also received the Court Appointed Special Advocates Legislative Champion Award. As many know, CASA advocates for children in the court system who have been abused or neglected. I have also been recognized as the Legal Aid legislator of the year.