Skip to main content

Day in the Life: Lobbying in Kentucky

Blog / Last Updated:

Many Leagues host Lobby Days throughout their state’s legislative sessions to rally their membership around a specific bill or set of bills they hope to see passed. Lobby Days are also an opportunity for Leagues to demonstrate their strength and presence as fervent advocates for democracy and voting rights and to build relationships with key legislators and their staff.  

Recently, the League of Women Voters of Kentucky (LWVKY) invited a member of our national staff to join their Lobby Day, and I had the pleasure of joining them! Arriving at the capitol’s annex building on February 8, I was delighted to see a committee room full of eager LWV Kentucky Lobby Corps members and volunteers. Thirty-six members were in person, and ten joined online. Cindy Heine, the Kentucky League’s advocacy chair, checked people in, handing them a packet with a map, League fliers, and a packet of target legislation that LWVKY identified for volunteers to discuss in their meetings with legislators. The target legislation included SB 61 and SB 80, narrowing access to voting by eliminating “no excuse” early voting days and limiting the types of valid voter ID that could be used, respectively. 

LWVKY had planned a full day for volunteers, including state legislators giving remarks to the group and small group meetings directly with legislative staff. From the first set of speakers, it was evident that LWVKY had a strong presence in the legislature.  

A state house member peered into the room just as the morning session was about to begin and offered a few words. Kimberly Banta, a Republican representing the 63rd district, applauded the League’s work and position as a valuable advocate on the Hill.

Rep. Banta is a rare kind of ally for the Kentucky League — last legislative session, she was one of three Republican representatives who voted against an anti-trans bill because she did not believe in singling out and harming members of a community struggling for acceptance and belonging. On Lobby Day, she spoke about a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) bill that would cut funding for DEI positions in higher education. She expressed her skepticism around DEI, but several League members stood up and argued why it was necessary to have salaried DEI positions for higher education to make students feel welcome and ensure equitable practices in higher education. 

League members at the LWV of Kentucky's Lobby Day

The author and LWV of Kentucky's state legislative liaison Cindy Heine

Another representative, Killian Timoney of Kentucky’s 45th house district, joined after. Also a Republican, and one of the three who voted against the aforementioned anti-trans bill, he lauded the League’s work. He explained why he came into the legislature after working as a school teacher and now an administrator in Fayette County. He highlighted the importance of civic engagement and particularly the League’s nonpartisan approach to their advocacy. Representative Timoney also emphasized how he still believes that even in a place like Frankfort, where the legislature leans heavily to one side of the political spectrum, “normalcy and middle of the road has a place.” This sentiment resonated with League members.  

After this opening session, Lobby Corps members were dismissed to attend their scheduled meetings with legislators. Their primary goal was to build relationships with their representatives and to discuss their assigned bills with topics including health care, education, DEI, and democracy restoration. Before LWV Kentucky’s League Day, I held a training on best practices when speaking to legislators, and it was incredible to see these new state lobby corps members take that training to heart.  

When folks reconvened at the end of the day, I led a debrief session. Many volunteers were surprised at how open some of their legislators were to their concerns and had promising conversations. Conversely, several others were surprised to interact with legislators not interested in working with the League; those representatives claimed that the League was a partisan organization. “So we experienced both ends of the spectrum,” Cindy Heine said, “Overall, however, we felt welcomed.”  

League members seated at Kentucky Lobby Day

They were not only welcomed but their work was appreciated. Senator Robyn Webb reminded the League of her appreciation when she joined us in a meeting room with a copy of LWVKY’s Legislative Transparency Report. The Legislative Transparency Report, the first of its kind from the LWV of Kentucky, was inspired by the state’s last legislative session. The report, published in November 2023, outlined the legislature’s tactics.

Senator Webb expressed that the report helped her understand how the legislature fast-tracked bills and conducted business without sufficient public notice. It was a heartening example of how we can make our voices heard through active participation in our democracy.  

LWV Kentucky’s transparency report responds to a common issue. Lack of transparency is an issue observed by many state Leagues. At the end of the Lobby Day, a Kentucky League member asked, “How can they do that?” after hearing about the legislature’s habit of fast-tracking bills and their general lack of transparency. It can be quite perplexing to learn about the shrouded nature of many governmental activities that affect public life.  

In all, the Kentucky League and its new State Lobby Corps met with 18 representatives on Lobby Day. The League’s presence was formally recognized on the house floor later that afternoon. Perhaps my favorite moment was when I was approached by Rachel Roarx, representing the 38th state district and serving as the youngest woman to be elected to the Kentucky Legislature at 25 years old. “I love the League,” she told me, “It’s how I got my start in civic education and voter engagement when I was in high school, and the work you all do is incredible.”

Find Your League

Representative Roarx was one of six legislators who spoke to the volunteers that day. They all were a testament to the League’s continued engagement and advocacy in the legislature. I trust LWVKY will sustain those relationships, presence, and efforts in Frankfort for generations to come.  

Donate to support our work

to empower voters and defend democracy.