With more favorable terrain in the legislature, Americans for Prosperity's Kentucky chapter hopes agenda hits finish line in 2017

11/22/2016 07:00 PM

LOUISVILLE — With Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, Americans for Prosperity Kentucky State Director Julia Crigler sees an easier path for her group’s top issues in upcoming sessions.

In an interview with Pure Politics on Tuesday, Crigler said she expects lawmakers to pass a right-to-work law, repeal prevailing wage requirements on public projects and enact school choice legislation in the 2017 session, with tax reform not far behind. Gov. Matt Bevin has hinted at a special session to handle the latter subject after next year’s session, she said.

Those are issues supported by AFP Kentucky, a 501(c )(4) nonprofit group focused on promoting policies.

“People are hungry for opportunity, and so I think if this new leadership in the state House looks at all the issues before them and says, ‘What is going to afford Kentuckians the most opportunity?’ I think they’re going to find themselves in a good position,” she said in her Louisville office.

“We look forward to seeing reforms such as prevailing wage repeal, right to work, serious, comprehensive tax reform, and of course issues that we’ve continued to work on the last two years under past leadership like occupational licensing reform.”

Crigler said with a 27-11 supermajority in the state Senate and a 64-36 supermajority in the House, Republicans should move quickly to enact the economic agenda supported by AFP Kentucky.

“We can’t allow children to remain in failing schools any longer,” she said. “We can’t allow our surrounding states to continue to bypass us and become an island unto ourselves, whether it’s our tax climate or our economic growth.”

AFP Kentucky had a hand in some House races, utilizing field work, digital advertising and direct mail in districts that featured incumbents, primarily Democrats, who did not support its policy agenda.

Pure Politics covered part of the group’s field efforts in Georgetown, singling out votes by ousted Rep. Chuck Tackett, D-Georgetown, on Kentucky’s state-based health exchange and expanded Medicaid program.

The group’s endeavors in the field have yielded a treasure trove of voter data. That will allow it to contact those residents in specific legislative districts to apply pressure to lawmakers on certain legislative issues.

“Having that one-on-one engagement, whether it was at the door, on the phone, we learned a lot, and we were able to identify people on what’s important to them, whether school choice is a top priority for them, whether it’s right to work, whether it’s affordable health care that’s actually affordable,” Crigler said, “and so we look forward to reengaging those folks this January and making sure they know when the issues that are important to them are coming up to be heard in the General Assembly.”

AFP Kentucky is part of a network launched by conservative industrialist brothers Charles Koch and David Koch, but that doesn’t mean Republicans can’t find themselves in the group’s crosshairs.

She cited the 2015 legislation that set a higher floor for the state’s gas tax rate as an example. The bill required three-fifths votes in both chambers, and Crigler said Republican lawmakers heard from the group.

AFP Kentucky also supported legislation passed this year to make it easier for natural hair braiders to open their own businesses, which won bipartisan backing.

“Just look at our track record here in the state,” she said. “One of the first major issues we engaged on was a gas-tax battle. Another issue we engaged on last year was hugely bipartisan with occupational licensing reform in the House and the Senate. We had a very unique coalition on a very specific issue.”

The full interview with Crigler can be viewed here:

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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