Saturday, September 16, 2000

Westwood criticized over 'equity' legislation

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — Republican state Sen. Jack Westwood let women down by not supporting gender equity legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly, his Democratic opponent charged Friday.

        Jaimie Henson of Independence, who is challenging Mr. Westwood in Kenton County's 23rd Senate District race, said the first-term Erlanger Republican “had a chance to show some leadership on this issue, and he dropped the ball.”

        The so-called Gender Equity Measure, House Bill 380, would have permitted but not required Gov. Paul Patton to appoint women to Kentucky boards and commissions even if a nominating body failed to include any women on the list of nominees.

        The bill passed the Kentucky House 93-1, but died in the Republican-controlled state Senate without a vote.

        Mrs. Henson said Mr. Westwood should have taken the lead on calling for a vote on the bill.

        “Clearly, women are under-represented in state government, and also in the legislature,” she said. “That's one of the reasons I'm running for the state Senate. As a working mother with two children, I believe I can bring a different perspective to solving the problems confronting the people of Kentucky.”

        Marc Wilson, Mr. Westwood's campaign manager, said if Mrs. Henson had “really” studied the bill she would have realized the governor already has the power to make appointments to boards and commissions.

        “I would hope she would criticize her own party for the good old boy system,” Mr. Wilson said. “There are four women in Kentucky's Senate and guess what? They're all Republican.”

        Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said if there is a problem with gender equity on boards “it's a Democrats' problem.”

        “Gov. Patton, a Democrat, has been governor for five years,” Mr. Williams said. “Since somebody can only serve on a board for four years under our constitution, Gov. Patton has had the opportunity to make every appointment on every board in the state.”

        Mr. Williams also said the Republican Senate killed the bill because “it was a blatant, untenable attempt at a power grab because it would have allowed the governor to circumvent the process and appoint any political hack he wants to.”

        Mrs. Henson also mentioned that Senate Republicans, including Mr. Westwood, approved a controversial bill to raise lawmakers' pensions while allowing the gender equity bill to die.

        “It's very offensive to me that Jack Westwood and his colleagues would think that doubling their pensions is more important than ensuring fairness on state boards and commissions,” she said.

        Mr. Wilson said the voters of Kenton County “will not be fooled by Ms. Henson's personal attacks on Sen. Jack Westwood. He works hard for Kenton Countians, men and women, in Frankfort.”

        The 23rd Senate District includes Bromley, Covington, Elsmere, Erlanger, Fort Wright, Independence, Latonia Lakes, Ludlow, Park Hills, Taylor Mill, Piner, Visalia and most of southern Kenton County.


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