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Schickel: Frankfort Ethics Training is "Political Correctness Training"

By the time you read this column, we will be in Frankfort for the first week of the 2016 General Assembly. You would think that this would be a time to review legislation, contact constituents and work on the important problems facing Kentucky such as unfunded pension liabilities and shrinking budgets.

Instead, a large portion of our time will be spent sitting in political correctness and manners training, called ethics training around Frankfort, at taxpayer expense. The political correctness business pays pretty well in our capital city. The head of the ethics commission, paid about $121,000 per year and elected by no one, is charged with teaching legislators, making $35,000 to $45,000 per year and elected by the people of their district, how to be ethical and how to mind their manners at taxpayer expense.

You might ask, “How could this happen?” I would tell you that sadly both parties supported it. 

We have no one to blame but ourselves, who in 1993 and 2014 passed ethics legislation. The legislation was passed in 1993 after several lawmakers were convicted of lying to the FBI and sent to prison after an investigation into bribery. The legislation in 2014 was created in response to sexual harassment allegations in the House Democratic caucus. Now, I’m all for ethical behavior and good manners. People who violate the law should be sent to prison and those who harass people in the workplace should be sanctioned and severely punished.

Unfortunately, in the Capitol, the answer has been to send everyone to manners training at taxpayers’ expense and punish no one.

Several years ago, ex-con Jack Abramoff lectured us on ethics at Kentucky taxpayer expense which begs the question: Maybe we need an ethics commission for the ethics commission? (Just kidding.)

In Frankfort, free and open expression is critical because the issues we debate are about changing the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We have created an atmosphere where people are worried about expressing their beliefs for fear of the political correctness police. Wasn’t it Socrates who said ethics can be taught but not legislated?

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that legislators will vote for almost anything if it has the words “ethics” and “sexual harassment prevention” in it.

It is time we rethink this and do in Frankfort what the people have sent us to do – and that is represent them and not waste their time on political correctness training. Our ethics commission should be the people of Kentucky who every two or four years decide whether we are worthy to return.

Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) represents Boone County. 

Photo: Sen. John Schickel (provided)