Weekly Report
February 12, 2016 - In This Issue:
EKU Alumna, Now Kentucky Legislator

"A good public official listens more than they talk."
- Rita Smart

By: Zach Holman
Representative Rita Smart
Rita Smart is the representative for Kentucky's 81st District, which covers parts of Madison County. Originally from Nicholas County, Smart has spent her entire adult life in Richmond. Not only is Smart a Kentucky representative, she also runs the historic Bennett House Bed and Breakfast in Richmond, which was built in 1889 - 1890.
Smart was part of the Eastern Kentucky University class of 1971. She was a home economics and vocational education major. Smart said her favorite organization was Phi Upsilon Omicron, which was the home economics honorary society.
Although she did not major in any of the science fields Eastern offered, Smart says her favorite and most interesting class was chemistry.
"We didn't have it in high school," Smart said, referring to her chemistry class. "It was so interesting. We were able to make plastic, and this was 50 years ago. Things were much different. The Moore Building was just built and was brand new."
One of her most memorable moments at Eastern was freshman orientation. A popular tradition at Eastern was for freshmen to wear beanies.
"I remember coming down for freshman orientation, and all the students were wearing their beanies," Smart said. "Me, being from a small town, wasn't aware of the tradition and thought it was so interesting and funny. I felt like Richmond and EKU was a big place, compared to home."
During Smart's time at Eastern, Keen Johnson Ballroom was used as the cafeteria.
"They had great food," Smart said. "We all sat at little square tables there in the ballroom. Everyone would just stay around and talk. No one was in a hurry. It was fun time."
Smart said she never dreamed of becoming a politician.
She did not take any political science classes while she was a student. The only political experience she had was helping out in small local county races with her parents.
After college, Smart became a federal employee, so she wasn't able to participate in political activities.
She did not seek a political office until she had retired.

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News and Updates
EKU GOV  Legislative  Outreach
As we wrap up this week of the legislative session we are nearing the halfway point for this 60-day session. In the past two weeks the real work has begun with House budget review subcommittees hearing from stakeholders on their budget concerns and priorities. Regular committees continue to hear and move bills - doing so at a faster pace than in the days and weeks before.
On Thursday of this week the budget review subcommittee for post-secondary education met and heard testimony from the University of Kentucky, The Council on Postsecondary Education and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. Since our last update the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee met as well, where new Budget Director John Chilton briefed House members on Gov. Matt Bevin's (R) budget proposal.  Committee Chairman Rick Rand (D) was stern in his remarks to Mr. Chilton, saying in many ways the proposal was a "Trust Me" budget, both in terms of how some agencies will achieve 9% spending cuts and how some new money will be spent. He and other Democrats on the committee cited areas that need more detail, such as specific capital projects that would be funded with a $100 million workforce development bond issue, how a plan for university performance funding will be developed, and how money would be spent from a new $500 million reserve fund called the Permanent Fund.
Rand said he supported some parts of the Governor's budget, but he indicated that the House planned to provide "more detailed" plans and directives in their budget proposal.
Meanwhile, the close margin in the House (50 Democrats, 46 Republicans, and 4 open seats) has led to an increasing amount of political maneuvering by Republicans to try and force votes on various pieces of legislation.  
On the political front, the Kentucky Democratic Party named House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly as their new Party Chairman last weekend. She will try to parlay both roles into helping Democrats protect their control of the state house.
Next week the House budget review subcommittees will continue to pick through the Governor's proposed budget as well as work their way through the continuously growing number of other bills that have been filed to date. On Thursday of next week, EKU President Michael Benson will be presenting to the postsecondary budget review committee concerning the impacts of the Governor's proposed budget.

The recent budget presentation made by Governor Bevin will pose significant challenges to the core mission of Eastern Kentucky University now and in the future. We applaud the Governor's promise to fund the Kentucky pension system. However, casting the load on an already slashed higher education appropriation is not an equitable approach to the solution. The rising costs will make higher education inaccessible to many EKU students.

Simply put, we need your help.

Why should Kentucky invest in opportunity at EKU?
  • 88.7% of EKU undergraduate students are in-state, the highest percentage of undergraduate students in the Commonwealth.
  • 75.6% of EKU degree-holders are employed in Kentucky within one year after graduation, the highest percentage among all public four-year institutions in the state.
  • More than 40% of EKU students will be the first in their families to earn a college degree.
  • EKU has the largest number of veteran students among Kentucky public institutions.
Contact your elected officials and express your concern for the detrimental impact these cuts to higher education will have on EKU. Our students depend on us to prepare them to become productive and responsible citizens serving the needs of the Commonwealth and beyond. Decisions today have a ripple effect for the students of tomorrow and the future of Kentucky.
We appreciate your support. Each contact really does make a difference for  Eastern and our community.