Scott Sykes | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Scott Sykes

District/Office: 
Political party: 
Democrat
Incumbent: 
No
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 primary role, representing our 31st State Senate District is to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and to protect and promote the public’s safety, health, and well-being. While this sounds like a simple statement, I can assure you it is not. For, woven through the fabric of these two documents is the form, function, and purpose of our government. In this time and place in our country’s history, I believe we need leadership that understands these principles.

Kentucky’s 31st State Senate District is among the poorest in the United States of America and ranks dead last in the Commonwealth in healthcare and well-being. My presence in Frankfort will bring a new perspective, and return a sense of dignity and hope. I will work to recruit new industry as we retool and rebuild our economy, fight for water security so our people don’t have to ever question the quality of water that runs from their spigot, support our public education system, protect pension plans, support and extend the Health Benefit Exchange, legalize marijuana, and support environmental protection measures that directly affect the safety of our citizens.

Question 2: 
Even after Governor Beshear's December 2019 executive order, over 170,000 Kentuckians with felonies in their past are still ineligible to vote. Do you support a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to all Kentuckians with felonies in their past once they've served their time, probation, and parole? Please explain.

I believe we must end felony disenfranchisement, ensuring that all voices are heard in our democracy. I support restoring an individual’s voting rights if they are a nonviolent first time offender and have served the entirety of their sentence. I also support policies to increase ballot access, such as automatic voter registration, and would support the days of our State Primary and the General Election being recognized as holidays.

Question 3: 

What is your view on modernizing state election laws? Specifically, do you support allowing early voting, mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration, extended hours at polling locations, offering ballots in multiple languages, and other election reforms? Do you support legislation requiring that Kentucky voters present a photo ID on election day even though many Kentuckians do not have that kind of ID? Why or why not?

In order to secure our democracy I believe it is essential that we take every action to increase voter participation. I believe our democracy is only as strong as the electorate and we must make ballot access a priority as we work to regain public trust in our elected officials and restore faith in the electoral process. It is essential to provide as many avenues as possible to the electorate for strong and consistent voter turnout.

Yes, I support early voting

Yes, I support mail-in ballots

Yes, I support same-day voter registration

Yes, I support extended hours at polling locations

No, I do not support offering ballots in multiple languages. As part of the naturalization process, applicants for U.S. citizenship must pass a two-part naturalization test. The first component is an English test that assesses the applicant's ability to read, write, and speak in the language.

No, I do not support legislation requiring Kentucky voters to present a photo ID on Election Day. I believe this presents an additional hurdle for low income voters and only serves to restrict ballot access.

Question 4: 

Kentucky has a tax code that does not raise enough revenue to meet the Commonwealth’s budgetary needs – a problem that was made worse by the legislature's tax shift of 2018. After years of budget cuts, the funding for pensions, public education, infrastructure, and other essential programs have reached dangerous levels of disinvestment. How would you work to create a more equitable state tax structure – where everyone pays their fair share – that raises adequate revenue, fights poverty, and invests in Kentucky’s under-resourced communities and the services we all need?

I will fight to repeal House Bill 366. I believe this regressive tax reform package gave an enormous and unfair tax break to Kentucky’s wealthiest families, shifting burden to our middle and low income households, while exacerbating existing racial and geographic inequality in our Commonwealth. We must adopt a tax code that improves, or at least does not worsen, economic and racial inequalities. The first step is focusing on taxing income, corporate profits, and inherited wealth. The distribution of these economic rewards is severely unequal in Kentucky and in some cases highly discriminatory. We must design personal income taxes that directly tie an individual’s tax rate to their personal income. To play a significant role in mitigating income inequality, we must understand there are significant differences in lower, middle, and upper-middle income families. This comes down to a person’s ability to contribute to shared priorities through taxes, and the difference in that ability among households in the top 1 to 5 percent when compared the rest of their fellow Kentuckians. We can directly address this by designing a system that increases the effective tax rate based on income and reserving the highest rates for the wealthiest households.

Question 5: 

Many Kentucky’s local governments have a policy that people will not be questioned about immigration status by local authorities, and that local police will only assist federal agents in enforcing immigration laws when there is a warrant signed by a judge or a risk of violence. What is your view of these types of policies and what would you do to expand support and resources toward our immigrant population, undocumented or otherwise?

I do not feel that an individual who has spent their entire adult life in the United States of America, has contributed to our society, maintained employment, paid their share of taxes, and has assimilated into our culture should be punished for our broken immigration system that has failed them. We are a nation of immigrants, and I believe the strength of our country and our Commonwealth comes from its diversity. We must recognize that immigrants have the same inalienable rights as any American citizen and are offered the same protections under the Constitution of the United States of America. Any and all departments working within the immigration process must provide humane treatment to these individuals and grant efficient access to justice for immigrants who wish to seek citizenship and help write the story of this great nation.

Question 6: 

Is acting to address the climate crisis a priority for you? What policies do you support to ensure that solutions – such as clean energy jobs and reducing high energy bills – benefit all Kentuckians, including low-income communities, communities of color, and those who are most impacted by the changing climate? And what policies would you support to ensure that all Kentuckians have clean air and water, no matter the color of our skin, income, or zip code?

We must accept the fact that climate change is real and take the necessary steps to address this pressing issue. I am appalled by the continuing water crisis in Martin County. I know what it's like to see mud come out of my faucet and will fight to ensure that every single person across the Commonwealth has access to clean, safe drinking water. We must understand the unique issues facing Eastern Kentucky as we expand and revitalize our existing infrastructure and transition to a new energy economy. Our coal miners are faced with the challenge of having to provide for their families. We have a highly skilled, capable, and ready workforce waiting for work. We can breathe new life into surface mine sites by installing utility scale wind projects. We can power homes and offset exorbitant electric bills by installing rooftop solar. We can cover parking lots with solar panels and protect and shade our cars while we shop at our local stores. Most importantly, we get to innovate again. Advancement in new energy technology and renewable energy production is no different than the transition from landlines to cellular phones, or analog TV antennas to satellite TV.

Question 7: 

What is the role of the Kentucky legislature 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 state? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities.

One positive thing social media and cellular phone technology has done is to make us more aware of what is happening in our country. I do believe we have a moral responsibility to speak up and to speak out against any form of hostility that is racially motivated. I also believe our elected officials, across the board, have the responsibility to address these matters and to do more than offer thoughts and prayers for our brothers and sisters who suffer from the hostile words and actions of others. The number one thing we can do to improve race relations and bridge the gap of racial and economic inequality is to provide economic opportunity to communities that are struggling. Communities that have lost hope, suffer from the ravages of drug addiction, lack skilled/good paying jobs, have higher crime rates, are geographically isolated, and have a low tax base that puts their school districts in jeopardy share an economic hardship that transcends race. Economic opportunity can bridge the divide and restore dignity and self-worth; economic opportunity can restore hope and pride.

Question 8: 

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? 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?

Rural Kentucky must realize for-profit, private prisons are not a source of economic development. We must revise and revisit our penal codes and work towards a more democratic approach to justice. I support the expungement of all charges related to the possession of marijuana and restoration of voting rights to all first time nonviolent offenders. Kentucky’s bloated and expensive correctional system must be reduced. The general refusal to acknowledge its failures and the monumental resistance to change is harming our families and undermining our communities. The destructive effects of mass incarceration and harsh punishment disproportionately affect individuals and communities of color and poverty. We must work to reduce corrections populations and budgets, and reinvest those savings in high incarceration communities to make them safer, stable, more prosperous, and equitable. Our rural communities must address the opioid epidemic that continues to impact the lives of our people. While “Drug Courts” have had a positive effect in dealing with first-time offenders, we must address the direct correlation of the issue with the lack of economic opportunity in the communities that have the highest incarceration rates.

Question 9: 

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

Yes, I support a Fairness Law and any other measure that guarantees the inalienable rights of every Kentuckian. I believe a Fairness Law is just one step forward to securing and protecting these inalienable rights. As we press forward, we must continue to ensure that every person from every walk of life has a fair and equal opportunity to help our communities prosper. Economic opportunity can bridge the divide and restore dignity and self-worth; economic opportunity can restore hope and pride. I believe no one should face discrimination for who they choose to love or how they choose to live. An individual’s sexual preference and how they choose to identify themselves is a personal, private matter and should not determine where they live, how they make a living, if they get a loan, or if they go to a bathroom stall. I believe it is time we move past focusing on what people are and start looking at who they are. Members of the LGBTQ community are part of our Commonwealth, they are mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters; we work with them, we worship with them, we learn with them, and we live with them.

Question 10: 

Nearly 400,000 low-income Kentuckians qualified for health care – including vision, dental and mental health – for the first time under the Affordable Care Act. But there are major challenges here in Kentucky. The Bevin administration failed to respond to Kentucky’s Hepatitis A outbreak, local health departments are underfunded and are slated to lose about a third of their workers, and the legislature has recently passed a bill restricting access to reproductive health. The legislature has a role in getting Kentucky on track for better health. What would you to build on the progress of Medicaid expansion and to ensure that all Kentuckians have access to quality, affordable health care?

Answer 10: 

I fully support Medicare for all programs such as the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange and I believe it should be extended to cover every Kentuckian. I also respect a woman's 4th Amendment right to privacy as much as I support ALL the other rights and freedoms guaranteed to every person within the borders of this great Commonwealth and Nation by both our State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States of America. I believe that any woman has the right to seek treatment with a physician licensed by Kentucky’s Medical Licensure Board who is legally able to practice medicine within their field of specialty. I firmly believe the great economic equalizer is open and equal access to a Medicare for all program such as the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange. Protecting and expanding access to the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange will provide economic security for our families and ensure that no one will ever have to choose between their life saving medication or paying their electric bill.