FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - As Kentucky lawmakers attempt to pass a budget with projections of a $300 million dollar revenue shortfall weighing on them during the coronavirus pandemic, protesters in Frankfort circled the Capitol in their cars Thursday asking legislators to go home.
Despite the cries to leave, lawmakers told WAVE 3 News they are working on some serious legislation, important for all Kentuckians concerning health and business.
“We’re here because we want our state legislators to protect their lives and ours and each other’s and go home,” Beck Jones, a driver who said she’s worried about the coronavirus, said.
Melissa Benton, another driver from Frankfort, said lawmakers are presenting a bad example during this critical time.
“I’m here to get them to pass a budget and go home,” Benton said. “They don’t need to be here and when people can’t come into this house, they shouldn’t be here either.”
As drivers honked their horns for lawmakers and complained they were trying to push through non-critical bills related to abortion and other issues they didn’t see as essential, Republican Jason Nemes who represents Kentucky’s 33rd House District said the horns had a familiar sound.
“It sounds like democracy,” he said. “It’s beautiful, and I love it when people get involved, whether they agree with a position I like or disagree with it.”
Nemes said testimony was allowed Thursday, but angry citizens argued people who might have been in Frankfort to support or oppose a measure aren’t right now because they’re forced to work from home or take care of children because of the coronavirus.
“After passing a budget and any COVID relief, any other legislation can wait," Jones said.
Nemes and Louisville Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams say almost all their work is about passing the budget or health and business that is COVID-19 related.
“We’re going to figure out that federal stimulus dollars and how those dollars are coming into Kentucky and that’s a really critical point to give the Governor the flexibility to start to utilize those federal stimulus dollars," Adams, who represents District 36, said.
Nemes added, "We’re passing a bill right now for schools and for teachers because there’s a lot of uncertainty there. In Jefferson County, they just went to the NTI (non-traditional instruction) allowance that 118 other counties had.”
Democratic Senator Morgan McGarvey agreed with his colleagues across the aisle, but said time is being wasted at the Capitol on legislation that is not critical.
“We can’t abandon people in a time of need," he stressed, "but we need to be smart, working remotely, have staff work remotely and being lazer focused on the bills that help people through this crisis and for the rest of the stuff like naming bridges and other things come back in nine months when it’s safer and get that done.”
Lawmakers we talked to believe they can hit the target date for a budget of April 1. They also said if the governor calls a special session later, that would be a good idea.