Three Democratic candidates are competing in the primary to represent the 19th state House district, which includes Edmonson County and part of Warren County. The race is among Bill Fishback, Daniel Johnson and Jacob Moore.
There’s a priority issue that comes out loud and clear from the three Democratic candidates in the 19th District primary – the value of teachers.
It’s one of the main issues that inspired Navy veteran Daniel Johnson of Bowling Green to enter the race, specifically Kentucky Senate Bill 151, done quickly and attached to unrelated sewage legislation.
“Right now the most important issue facing Kentucky is the pension crisis with our teachers and state workers," said Johnson. "I think Senate Bill 151 was shady to begin with and how they pushed it. They piggybacked them with a waste bill and wanted to flush their future. So all that stuff needs to be overturned.”
That bill includes changing the rules about figuring in sick leave when educators retire, and a hybrid retirement plan for new teachers partly related to return on investments.
Jacob Moore of Brownsville is a service advisor for a Bowling Green forklift company. He says it’s critical to keep quality teachers in Kentucky.
“My priorities for education in Kentucky are moving to guarantee teachers pensions the way that they always have been," said Moore. "There has to be incentive for you to dedicate yourself in public service and to receive what is owed to you.”
Bill Fishback is a retired Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy who worked in court security.
“I believe our most important issue here in the state of Kentucky right now is the pension, teachers’ pension, because teachers help parents raise their children, help them to become fully developed individuals," said Fishback. "And what they learn from teachers and the examples they see from our teachers, they’ll remember the rest of their life.”
When it comes to the question of arming teachers, Fishback doesn’t think educators should be distracted by also having to function as security officers.
“And even if the danger doesn’t occur, she or he has to be thinking about it all the time. That’s consuming right there," said Fishback. "So I don’t feel like we should put guns in our teachers hands.”
Johnson said students and teachers should not have to live in fear.
“I think that we have a national crisis when it comes to those school shootings," said Johnson. "I would like to see a National Guardsman’s task force team come in and work with schools. I’d rather them be here fighting our homeland war, our battle in our backyard, instead of foreign wars or trying to build some type of wall.”
Increased school safety requires funding. It all comes back to Kentucky’s fragile budget with legislators and interest groups fighting over scarce dollars.
Moore says there has to be some major change that will address the state’s budget crisis.
“I think we need meaningful tax reform. We have to look at raising the tax rate on upper incomes, such as $250,000 a year incomes and higher," said Moore. "A higher corporate tax rate may also be more meaningful.”
Moore says one place he’s like to see cuts in corporate profits is at the pharmaceutical companies that are helping to fuel the opioid crisis. He believes people who are addicted, often through legal prescriptions, deserve access to treatment.
“I think we have to create state programs where they are able to come in and get help," said Moore.
Johnson also believes ‘big pharma’ is feeding the opioid crisis.
“You play stupid when you’ve got hundreds of thousands of pills going into a local area with a small amount of people,” said Johnson.
Once people are addicted, they should not be treated as criminals and should have options for treatment, Johnson said.
Fishback has seen the devastation of the drug crisis during his years in court security.
"They would get on some drug, maybe it’s opioid in some cases, and destroy their lives," said Fishback. "That’s a sad situation, but I’ve seen it a number of times, and it can happen to good people.”
Voters in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary will decide whether Fishback, Johnson or Moore will take the next step toward confronting Kentucky’s complex issues and challenge the Republican candidate in the November election.