Bennie J. Smith | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Bennie J. Smith

Political party: 
Question 1: 

What’s your vision for Kentucky? How will the lives of Kentuckians be improved as a result of your time in office?

My immediate vision for Kentucky is to change the external and internal perception of Kentucky by implementing more 21st century ideas while addressing the health, education and socio-economic needs of its citizens.

We will focus on closing the achievement gap of students; focus on getting citizens more healthier so they can feel better and cut into health care costs; focus on climate change while implementing renewable energy and energy efficient technology jobs for urban, rural and Appalachian areas; offer Universal Healthcare via a single payor system for Kentucky residents that includes pre-existing conditions; more funding for public schools and more funding for the arts; investment in jobs skills training while encouraging high school students not entering post-secondary education options to learn a trade or skill; restoration of the air, water and land with cleanup of polluted areas of the states affected by fossil fuels and carbon emissions.

Question 2: 

How would you create a more equitable federal tax structure – where everyone pays their fair share – that raises adequate revenue, fights poverty,  and invests in under-resourced communities and the services we all need?

I would offer to deschedule and legalize marijuana-cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes. Also set up licensed dispensaries and tax appropriately to generate revenue as well as fairly offer other hemp growers an opportunity and create the unlimited products made from hemp with manufactirers based in Kentucky. Build hotels in regional Kentucky counties modeled after Hotel Louisville and Wayside Christian Mission to aggressively address the homeless issue. This will assist many of our homeless citizens and veterans get the health and wellness treatment needed and offer job skills training in various service and hospitality careers to get them back on their feet to being productive citizens.

Question 3: 

What would you do to make sure that every Kentuckian has quality, affordable health care? What are your top health policy priorities, and what approaches to health care coverage do you support? Do you support Medicare For All?

I support Universal Healthcare with a Single Payor System (SPS) that would allow insurance companies to compete across state lines and help reduce costs in prescription drugs and premiums. We can address that by keeping AFFORDABLE CARE ACT and tweak it to allow those who already have coverage who like their coverage to keep it. No person should go without health care regardless of your age, class, economic or social status. I also support Paid Maternity Leave and FMLA.

Question 4: 

Do you support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for young people and adults? What are your plans to expand support and resources for immigrants and refugees, undocumented or otherwise?

Absolutely. This immigration policy is broken and we should do all we can in providing resources to assist in processing those human beings who work in this country a pathway to citizenship. Business owners who knowingly thwart the rules and employ undocumented immigrants should make arrangements to speed up the process to assist their workers to become U.S. citizens. I am also a DACA supporter. The current policy of the criminalization of immigrants wanting a better life for themselves and their families should offer more humane measures to address the legal process.

Question 5: 

Is dealing with the climate crisis a high priority for you, and if so, do you support federal legislation for a Green New Deal? How would you ensure that solutions to the climate crisis benefit all Kentuckians – no matter the color of our skin, income, immigration status, or zip code?

First of all, fire-powered plants that spew out green gas emissions affects the health of all within the areas of the facilities. I want to ensure that we create and lure renewable energy and energy efficient technology jobs to our urban, rural and Appalachian areas. With the continuous decline of the coal industry, we have to offer those miners and their families alternative sustainable options for an economic rebirth for their respective areas and their families. We can train and license those citizens, including immigrants and refugees, who want to work, go to school, and improve their lives.

Question 6: 

What is the role of the U.S. Congress in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, Latinx people, immigrants, those who are undocumented, and all people of color in our country? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities.

1. I would strengthen the federal TITLE VII Anti-Discrimination Law that prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, sex and sexual orientation.

2. I would also create legislation that would target Domestic Terrorism as aggressively as we target other outside terrorist groups. Seizure of assets for individuals and groups would also be a means of redress.

Question 7: 

Kentucky has the ninth highest incarceration rate in the nation, is second in the nation for incarcerating women, and has the second-highest rate in the country of children separated from a parent due to incarceration. In addition, Black Kentuckians make up 8.3 percent of the state population but 21 percent of the state’s incarcerated population. Are you committed to ending mass incarceration in Kentucky and in the United States as a whole? Why or why not? If elected, what will you do to make strides toward ending mass incarceration and reinvesting resources into the communities most impacted by this system?

I have always been one opposed to the Prison Industrial System. It appears focus of resources have been more concentrated on locking up citizens, particularly citizens of color, rather than rehabiliation. Most citizens who may have alcohol or drug addiction need treatment and rehabilitation rather than being criminalized. Private prisons have been built in communities in an effort to boost their respective community's economic outlook. Resources should go toward assisting those who lack a GED to receive one while incarcerated. Also resources should go toward job skills training to help prevent recidivism. There should also be resources to assist in the aftercare of those released to allow them to be more productive citizens. Transportation services should be provided for families who have loved ones incarcerated at a distance to assist with their visitation. And predatory services from vendors at these correctional facilities should be reviewed to determine if there's any excessive hardships on families. I would want to investigate why women incarceration rates have significantly increased? Is there something we as a society can do to address this issue on a community support basis? And what steps can we take to address youth violence?

Question 8: 

Do you support restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with felonies in their past? Specifically, do you support the Democracy Restoration Act to restore voting rights to people upon release from prison for purposes of voting in federal elections? Do you support restoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure strong federal oversight of state and local governments with a history of voter suppression aimed at communities of color? Please explain.

One of our platform initiatives supports the restoration of voting rights for nonviolent ex-felons. We also support job skills training, housing, job preparation and transport assistance to those reentering society. Definitely better aftercare resources are needed to help get each person leaving incarceration a hand up in improving their lives.

Question 9: 

Do you support proposed Just Transition bills in Congress to take care of coal miners and communities by investing in abandoned mine land reclamation (H.R. 2156 and H.R. 4248) and extending current funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for another 10 years (H.R. 3876 and S.3171)? Why or why not?

I had a father--in-law (Mr. Woodrow Lowe) who was a 50- year coal miner in Harlan, KY who eventually experienced a long and painful death with BLACK LUNG DISEASE. So I know firsthand the scourge of this dreaded disease. So I am wholeheartedly in favor of any legislation and efforts to assist our coal miners and their families, especially extending funding permanently for the BLACK LUNG DISABILITY TRUST FUND.

Question 10: 

What will you do to support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) Kentuckians? What will you do to protect people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

I will simply support any legislation that prohibits discrimination of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sex and sexual orientation.