Sunday, October 25, 2015
Bevin endorses, Conway opposes legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes; next-to-last debate heated at times
By Cheyene Miller
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
Health care dominated Sunday night’s gubernatorial debate at Eastern Kentucky University and both candidates strayed from party lines on the issue of medical marijuana.
“I would in fact sign such legislation into law,” Republican candidate Matt Bevin said of a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The Louisville businessman said research shows marijuana can treat patients with epilepsy and other disorders and that these patients desperately need help.
Democratic candidate Jack Conway said he would not support a bill legalizing medical marijuana, and that doing so could lead to an increase in recreational drug abuse. He said he wouldn’t consider legalization unless the Kentucky Medical Association advocated it.
“Medical marijuana is the only medicine I can think of that would be prescribed in joints,” said Conway, who has been the state’s attorney general for almost eight years.
The candidates also sparred over the expansion of the Medicaid program under federal health reform, a move that covers about 400,000 Kentuckians.
“The people that are enrolled now, will be enrolled in the future,” said Conway, who said there are too many people on Medicaid, “but to kick them off now would be callous.”
Bevin initially said he would abolish the Medicaid expansion, but later backtracked and said he would seek a federal waiver to change the program, an idea Conway criticized as being fiscally irresponsible.
“It won’t save us any money,” Conway said. “That’s just a red herring.”
In regard to education, Conway said he would look into restoring funding for Bucks for Brains, which endows professorships at universities, as well as restoring some of funding to higher education. “I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver though,” he added.
Bevin advocated outcomes-based funding, saying the state needs to start differentiating between French literature and electrical engineering.
In response to a reporter’s question after the debate, he endorsed incentives for students seeking careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“If you are going to ask for taxpayer money to subsidize that education … then it should be used for things that are going to be to the best benefit of the taxpayers themselves,” he said.
On the issue of safety on college campuses, Bevin said he supports the right for trained teachers to carry concealed deadly weapons on campuses. Conway advocated detailed contingency plans by university police departments and reiterated afterward that he does not favor arming teachers.
The debate heated up during several moments, with Bevin persistently accusing Conway of lying to voters. A squabble ensued after Conway claimed to have cut his office’s budget by 40 percent.
“You keep taking credit for it, and it’s a lie, stop lying to these people,” said Bevin, who noted that the legislature and the governor write state budgets.
Conway said he returned $300 million to Kentucky taxpayers, and that he doesn’t “need a lecture in fiscal responsibility from anybody.”
Both candidates said they would protect and promote Kentucky’s coal industry, which has seen a major reduction in jobs over the past few years.
Bevin said “there is more demand now” for coal than in the history of the world, and the idea that coal jobs are not coming back is false. He said he would stand up to federal over-regulation of the industry.
Conway said he was the “only one who’s actually done anything for coal” and was the only Democratic attorney general to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over coal regulations.
Independent candidate Drew Curtis did not meet the League of Women Voters’ criteria to participate in the debate, at least 10 percent in established, nonpartisan polls.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.