School field trips are often fun but not always educational. Thirteen Hickman County High School juniors got a good measure of both in Frankfort on Tuesday.
Students in the local Chamber Leadership Program were treated to a tour of the Capitol, time with their state senator, a speech given to the Kentucky Senate by a US senator, a tea party rally and a constitutional debate. The trip concluded on cold and windy stop at the Vietnam War Memorial. That was the educational portion of the trip.
The fun part was a tour of Rebecca Ruth Candies in Frankfort and lunch at their chosen restaurant -Chili’s Grill.
The un-fun part of the trip was getting on a school bus at 4:00 in the morning and getting off back home at 10:00 that night.
The students toured the Capitol led by a docent and joined by a group of ladies from Berea College. The combined group visited the House and Senate Chambers on either end of the building. They sat in the Kentucky Supreme Courtroom while a Capitol docent explained the workings of the Court.
Senator Ken Winters came over from his office to meet the tour group. He told the Berea College women that as president of Campbellsville University, he envied the endowment that Berea enjoyed. He complimented the school on the loyalty of its alumni.
Senator Winters discussed legislation pending related to access to over the counter drugs used for production of meth. He said that meth manufacturers created the drug in their vehicles, and then threw bottles out their windows contaminated by dangerous substances. He was concerned that innocents would be hurt by picking up the bottles on the roadside. He told the group that senators had been contacted by those who needed the meds to remain accessible without a doctor’s prescription. While he personally didn’t see a prescription as a problem, he understood the concern. His guiding principal would be the effect on young people like the group from Hickman County.
“If it weren’t for young people,” he said, “I would be playing golf in Florida. They are why I do this.”
Tuesday, February 22nd was an exciting day at the Capitol. It was the day that Senator Rand Paul came from Washington to address the Kentucky Senate. In his remarks, Paul urged that state legislatures to reassert themselves in relation to the federal government. The Senator, pronounced himself a great fan of the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution. He said that the 10th Amendment “means something.”
The Amendment states "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." It is often called the “states’ rights amendment” and is a central principle of tea party conservatives.
The students heard the Senator say that there cannot be enough good people elected to restrain federal spending. He urged that power should be returned to the states.
After Senator Paul left the Senate chamber, students and visitors were treated to an entertaining debate over passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 134. Sponsored by Senate President David Williams, a candidate for governor, the resolution urges Congress to call a constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment. (For the full resolution text, see SCR 134 ).
In support of the Resolution, Williams argued that state legislatures have the right to call a convention under Article V of the US Constitution. He said that the convention would have a single focus: passing a balanced budge amendment. The Resolution provided that Kentucky’s delegates would not participate in any other action in a constitutional convention.
Opponent Dr. Walter Blevins of Pikeville rose and told the body that legal scholars believed that a constitutional convention could not be bound to one issue. He reminded the body that the US Constitution was the result of a constitutional convention called to amend the Articles of Confederation. That convention wound up scrapping the Articles in favor of a new constitution.
Other opponents warned that to call a constitutional convention would be letting the genie of constitutional change out of a bottle. One senator warned that if there was a convention that the pressure on delegates would be of enormous rock star proportions. Proponents countered that the founding fathers had their lives on the line when they ratified the Declaration of Independence.
One Democratic Senator pointed out that a balanced budget on the federal level would hurt Kentucky. For every dollar Kentucky sends Washington, the federal government sends back $1.51.
The vote was 21-16 for passage. Republican Senator Julie Denton crossed party lines to vote with Democrats. SCR 134 now goes to the Democratic House of Representatives where House Speaker Greg Stumbo predicted to one newspaper that it will get passed out of the General Assembly “when pigs fly.”
Whatever the result of the legislation, students got to watch a debate on American politics that far exceeds any classroom experience.
Hickman County’s Leadership students may have gotten a sweeter treat at Rebecca Ruth’s Candies in Frankfort, but the memory of their day at the Capitol will last for years to come.