Shirley Flynn Mitchell | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Shirley Flynn Mitchell

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 vision is based on a 4 E’s platform, Education + Economic Growth + Earth + Everyone. The first step in my vision starts with connecting the full pipeline from preschool to K-12 to universities, then investing in our most valuable resource—our talented people—to ensure we grow our economy in smart, sustainable ways while protecting our earth so we build a Kentucky that works for everyone.

We must invest in public education, children, and teachers to ensure our workforce is competitive and prepared for the jobs of the future. Our universities should be viewed as our economic engine.

All my life, I’ve lived in the 45th District of Kentucky, except when I was serving my country as a civil engineer officer in the U.S. Navy. My parents worked two jobs each to support our family. They instilled in me a hard work ethic, patriotism, and a belief that I can achieve anything. I’ve served on a board to fight human trafficking and volunteered in schools and churches to build stronger communities.

I’ve blazed trails where few have dared to go. I’ve succeeded because I know how to design a vision, lead large initiatives, and bring diverse teams together to accomplish common goals.

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.

A Kentuckians right to vote should not be contingent on who is currently occupying the Governor's office, which is why we need a constitutional amendment to codify voting rights for ex-felons who have paid their debt to society. Kentucky was 1 of only 2 states that banned ex-felons from voting for life. The second state is pushing to eliminate this ban, too.

This ban disportionately affected black voters because of the percentage impact to the total black voting population. Studies have shown that when ex-felons vote, they feel like they are part of the community and statistically, they are less likely to commit another crime.

I believe Governor Beshear’s Dec 2019 executive order is a step in the right direction so Kentuckians who have served their time, probation, and parole and did not commit violent crimes have hope. We need to explore the next step to lift the ban for those who are on probation. We need to send a clear message that we believe our fellow Kentuckians are deserving of a second chance and give them hope for a better way of life starting with civic engagement.

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?

From my middle school civics class, I learned and still believe two key principles: 1) voting is both a right and a responsibility, and 2) democracy works when everyone has a voice. In order to address the numerous changes that have occurred over time - including different workday hours, more sophisticated methods to collecting votes, and more non-English speaking citizens - we need to modernize the state election laws to match our citizens and make it more accessible so everyone who is eligible can vote.

This includes early voting, mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration, extended hours, and multiple language ballots. I think mandating photo IDs on election day creates new problems that silences voices without solving the real problem of preventing any potential voter fraud. We must remove the barriers that make it difficult for people to vote in order to improve voter turnout.

Our right to vote was hard-won, and we should continue to find ways to make sure every eligible voter has access and is equipped with correct and impartial information on the candidates.

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 was disheartened that a state that is cutting funding for pensions, education, and other basic programs would also change the tax code in favor of the highest income earners. Since income tax is our highest revenue source, we need to develop a better solution for a more equitable tax structure, and make sure we do not put more of the burden on low and middle-income families.

If elected, I would support tax changes that do not place a disproportionate burden on the middle and lower classes. The biggest indicator of any healthy economy is the strength of the middle class, so I believe it is economically counterproductive to place the very highest income tax burden on the middle 20% of Kentuckians. Furthermore, studies consistently find that services that help the economically disadvantaged, such as Medicaid and food stamps, generate more in economic activity than what is initially spent on them.

Let’s face it. We have a revenue problem. We need to change our mindset from short-sighted ideas to building a true, long-lasting strategy for economic growth which means focusing on the industries that are our strengths and making a concerted effort to be a leader in the emerging industries.

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 think it is the right move forward that local governments have made a policy that people will not be asked immigration status by local authorities unless there is a risk of violence. The police are there to address the issue at hand to keep our communities as safe as possible. Many times, undocumented immigrants are too scared to report a crime when they have been victimized. Those that have hurt them know of their fear and they use it to their advantage, since they think they will not get caught. Law enforcement is there to protect everyone - citizen, green card holder, or undocumented immigrant - and not to enforce the role of ICE Agents on a daily basis.

I believe we need this clarity between law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be state-wide. As a board member to a non-profit aiming to fight human trafficking and protect those who cannot protect themselves, I stand for enabling Kentucky’s members of law enforcement to be seen as people who victims can put their trust in to protect them.

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?

Absolutely! Protecting our earth is a top priority for me. My master’s thesis at UK was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, and I’ve worked on sustainability initiatives throughout my career.

I’ve already engaged with some of our top thought leaders on sustainable energy & forestry, clean water & air, and discussed with them how to propel Kentucky forward as a leader in the new economy, which is green and high-tech.

I would build upon HB213 that didn’t make it out of committee in 2019. This establishes renewable portfolio standard (RPS) targets with clean energy goals for the upcoming years. I support HB126 Affordable Utility Rates, enabling solar rooftops, boosting the solar energy industry, and incentivizing carbon sequestration in farming.

ALL Kentuckians should have clean air and water no matter the color of their skin, income, or zip code. Every child’s health matters. This means we need to engage with federal initiatives like EPA’s Clean Power Plan, where state’s are designing their progression towards targets where carbon pollution is reduced by 32% nationally.

The power of human imagination is on the verge of major breakthroughs to meet such challenges. New jobs are being created, and communities are impacted for good. I want Kentucky to be a frontrunner with these new innovations and preserving the planet for our children.

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.

In the 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr died, we saw some progress, but we still have more work to do to achieve true racial equality. I want to bring a more hopeful, inclusive, and sensible vision and conversation on this issue and bring us together so hope and opportunity can thrive.

As Kentucky State Representative, my first role is to lead by example by supporting all people of color and having zero tolerance for white supremacy. I would propose strengthening our hate crimes laws, which currently do not include certain types of violent crimes. They also do not allow for someone to be charged with a standalone hate crime and have time added to their sentence.

Immigrants play a big role in Kentucky’s economy, especially in our agriculture and forestry industries. We need to ensure that people who come here to provide a better life for their families and contribute to our economy feel safe, since sometimes undocumented immigrants are the victims of crimes and don’t feel safe reporting it. I would propose a statewide measure to keep law enforcement agencies 100% independent from ICE.

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?

We need to stop this mass incarceration and pass meaningful criminal justice reform. I agree with our Governor when he said in his state of the union address, “Our people aren’t more violent, we don’t have more criminals, we just put more people in our prisons and jails."

I hear the educational impact from the teachers when they describe the number of their kids who have one or both parents in jail and being raised by their grandparents. When children lack a strong home support system, learning barriers are created, passing ramifications to the next generation.

I would propose modifying the bail system, which keeps thousands accused of low-level offenses behind bars without ever being convicted of a crime because they cannot afford bail. Criminal records can follow individuals the rest of their lives and impact their employment opportunities, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. When people who want to work hard to provide for their families are kept of the job market, the whole state suffers. I would propose a Clean Slate Act that would expunge the records for those who served their time for nonviolent, low-level offenses and have remained crime-free so that they can find self-sustaining employment.

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?

Discriminiation in any form is wrong, plain and simple. I support HB225 that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, financial transactions, and public accomodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This type of fairness is basic for a civil society. I also support HB 199 that would protect LGBTQ youth from the practice of conversion therapy.

All my life, I have been a voice for those who felt unnoticed and unheard. All of my work career, I have strived to support my LGBTQ coworkers. On a personal level, I have close friends that I consider family who are part of the LGBTQ community. I will be a State Representative for every resident in District 45 and ensure everyone is protected in our state.

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: 

Every Kentuckian should have access to quality, affordable medical care. We need to cap the out of pocket cost of insulin (HB12), end surprise medical billing, and protect healthcare coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

I support HB 180, which would end employer-imposed waiting periods for new employees’ health insurance coverage. This has personally impacted my family when my daughter was switching jobs and did not have medical coverage when she needed it. New employees should have coverage on day one.

American maternal mortality rates are on the rise and are some of the worst in the developed world, especially among women of color. We need to end these preventable maternal deaths in our state by joining the thirty other states that have passed a Maternal Mortality Prevention Act establishing a Maternal Mortality Review Board. By identifying and addressing the causes of maternal mortality, states can save the lives of mothers and babies while significantly cutting back on healthcare costs.

I believe that medicaid is a great deal for Kentucky because it is largely paid for by the federal government. For every state dollar invested in Medicaid in 2019, the federal government invested $3.36. Quality Healthcare empowers people to care for their families, work their jobs, and live their lives.