Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Kathy Hinkle is seeking re-election to the role of state representative for the 96th district, and she is running on her record since her election to office two years ago. Hinkle, who is being challenged by Olive Hill lawyer, and former county attorney, Patrick Flannery, said she’s worked hard during her short time in Frankfort and hopes to do more if re-elected.
One of the things that Hinkle is proud of is her sponsorship of a house amendment to a bill that would have given money back to the coal companies that provided money for the black lung fund once all the miners eligible to draw from the fund have passed away.
“There is a large chunk of money from the black lung fund, and only two miners who can still claim it,” Hinkle explained.
She said Senate Bill 263, sponsored by Pikeville Republican Senator Phillip Wheeler, would have amended sections of the Kentucky Revised Statutes to return unused money from the black lung fund to the coal companies who paid into the fund. Her amendment, she said, would require those funds be used to repay any money owed in the form of unpaid wages, taxes, or other debts incurred by the companies before they could be returned to the companies. For instance, Hinkle said, Kentucky Fuels and Sequoia Energy – coal companies owned by West Virginia governor Jim Justice – owed “a bunch of back school taxes.” Before the funds contributed by Justice’s companies to the fund could be returned to the company, she said, they would have to catch up on those taxes.
She said she also co-sponsored a minimum wage bill that would have raised minimum wage to $15 in incremental yearly increases over an extended span of time. It wasn’t a huge increase right away, she said, and smaller businesses would have been exempt but “they weren’t going to hear that,” she said of the Republican controlled house.
She also filed a bill that would give teachers a mandatory 120 minutes of planning time each week. While she noted that many school districts do provide that amount of time, or more, Hinkle’s bill would have codified the time requirements and extended them to all school districts in the state.
“There are several other things I’m looking at, like an opioid task force,” the incumbent legislator continued. “There are still some people falling through the cracks.”
She said those in recovery who have alienated family, or who have no family support system, often fall back into addiction due to a lack of resources. The task force she would like to help create would help with things like providing shelter if recovered addicts need a place to live, and transportation to get to treatment or work. She said it would also look at ways to work with churches and other groups to “make is a community based movement.”
It would also address things like the “Catch 22” situation surrounding identification. To get a place to live or to find a job, she noted, individuals need to have a valid form of identification. But to get an identification, they have to have a residence. This often makes it difficult for those in recovery, or who find themselves homeless for other reasons, to improve their situation. Her task force would look at expanding a model already established in places like Ashland, where those without a permanent address can use a shelter to obtain a P.O. Box, which enables them to then get an identification.
“It seems simple,” she said. “But they get in a cycle where they’ve gotten clean and just need a helping hand (to stay clean).”
“I’m not out there to solve the world’s problems,” she said. “But people are falling through the cracks and I want to help shore up those cracks.”
She said she supports police and second amendment rights, and would like to see Kentucky “be more military friendly.”
She said many other states give those leaving military service tax breaks or other incentives to come to, or stay in, their states when they leave the military, but Kentucky doesn’t provide a lot of those incentives.
She said if re-elected, she’d also like to improve Kentucky’s old and failing infrastructure – particularly water lines and roads.
“A lot of our water systems are 40 to 50 years old, and our roads are not very good,” she said.
While she’s not in favor of re-instituting a large gas tax, she said she would listen to any plans to reinstate gas taxes for the purposes of improving county roads.
“It would have to go for roads and would have to be a minimal amount,” she said. “Right now (many families) can’t afford an increase.”
She said the state also needs to help communities find industries that want to locate and bring jobs to Carter and Lawrence counties.
On the plus side, she said, the legislature has “a governor that is willing to work with us,” but she feels the legislature “needs to be more small business friendly.
“I would love to have a big plant (locate in the region),” she said. “But, realistically, small businesses are where the growth is.”
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