Senator Max Wise speaks at town hall meeting
By Eugenia Jones
During the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce’s regular luncheon meeting held earlier this month, McCreary County’s State Senator, Max Wise, gave a review of September’s special session and provided an overview of what to expect in the regular session beginning on January 4, 2022.
Concerning KY’s special legislative session last September, Upchurch reminded his audience that the governor is the only one in the Commonwealth who can call a special session.
“We asked the Governor to gavel us in so we could tackle problems dealing with COVID, unemployment insurance, and other pressing matters,” Wise noted. “The Governor did call a special session; however, in doing so, he expressed his opinion that the legislature now owns COVID.”
Wise stated his belief that much was accomplished in the three day session.
“I support local decision making as much as possible,” Wise declared. “With Senate Bill 1, we gave control of wearing masks in schools back to school boards. Education is not a one size fits all matter. I was happy to act on Senate Bill 1 because the school boards are the best ones to make decisions on masks in the schools.”
Wise said issues to be addressed in the regular session beginning January 4 include workforce issues, health concerns including the opioid crisis, state employee pay, infrastructure, economic development, education, prison system reform, and mental health. Wise also noted the coming session is a sixty day budget session with the legislature required to pass a balanced budget.
Wise spoke at length on issues facing Kentucky’s workforce.
“I see lots of “now hiring” signs all across the Commonwealth,” the State Senator noted. “Today, Kentucky has 90,000 fewer workers than it did in May of 2020. Kentucky is one of the bottom three states for workforce participation. Part of the solution is to quit blaming everything on COVID.”
Wise said the legislature needs to look at many factors impacting availability of workers in the workforce including access to childcare, an increased number of retirements, and younger workers who want more job flexibility, better pay, and more time off.
Wise noted he is always faced with a lot of requests.
“I try to do what is fair and equitable,” Wise shared.
Wise said he opposes what is coming out of the federal government as far as mandating the COVID-19 vaccination for employment and noted Kentucky is suing the federal government over the mandate.
“It’s not that I am against the vaccine,” Wise observed. “I have a problem with people not having individual choice, especially in the workplace.”
As chair of the State’s Senate Education Committee, Wise said there are many issues to address in the coming session.
“If a good thing came out of COVID, it is that parents are more engaged with their children’s education,” Wise observed. “We will never get over the long-term impact of shutting down the schools.”
Wise also discussed school curriculum reform.
“I had people from all over the state sending me samples of homework assignments,” Wise stated. “I even got an assignment from Louisville that dealt with the transgender gingerbread man. Is this really what we want for our young children? As chair of the committee, we are going to have to work on taking back the curriculum.”
Wise also spoke in favor of comprehensive tax reform.
“We need to be more like Tennessee and Indiana where taxes are consumption based,” Wise stated.
Wise answered questions from members of the audience including a question from one member who was concerned about the renewal of driver licenses being moved to regional offices.
“Circuit court clerks asked to have driver licenses taken off of their workload, and the transportation cabinet said they could handle it,” Wise explained. “I think it was a mistake and would like to see it get back to the old way-if not in the clerks’ offices at least in having more transportation offices locally.”
During the next session, Wise said the legislature would also be looking at ways to improve the prison system.
“We need to find ways to make it easier for released prisoners to re-enter society as productive citizens,” Wise said.