The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly began Tuesday, but discussion was dominated by fallout from a committee tasked with investigating sexual harassment claims against a former lawmaker.
Members of the panel took turns speaking on the House floor, with Republican members saying that the committee had failed by not fully investigating the claims against Rep. John Arnold. The panel disbanded after Arnold resigned.
Rep. Arnold Simpson was a member of that committee, and defended the committee’s actions in a floor speech. He argued that the state faces more pressing concerns in the areas of education and addressing poverty.
“So let’s put this report behind us. No one’s proud of the actions taken by the former gentleman of Union-7, but he’s taken a course that, in my thought, was a proper course, and resigned," said Simpson.
Rep. Rita Smart sat on that committee. She told colleagues that she suffered sexual harassment for many years.
“I’m retired after many years of public work," said Smart. "I started in 1971. So over the course of 32 years, I worked mainly in the agriculture field. So do I need to say any more to you?”
Rep. Julie Raque Adams, a Republican member of the committee, thinks the House should form a new committee with powers to continue the investigation.
Rep. Julie Raque Adams, a Republican member of the committee, thinks the House can do both. She has asked colleagues to form a new committee with powers to continue the investigation.
“We have issues relative to whether or not we should finance a plan that affords low-income individuals a helpin’ hand on gettin’ jobs by providing child care assistance," said Simpson. "These are the large issues, Mr. Speaker. Those are the issues I think we should vote our attention on.”
The Senate, meanwhile, made history by recognizing newly elected Democrat Reggie Thomas of Lexington, who became the second African-American to serve in that chamber.