One important part of the opening of the legislative session is that the members of the House elect a Speaker. The majority party (republicans) easily prevailed. The minority Democrats took the opportunity to nominate their leader for the position.
The minority leader’s remarks:
Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D): I am honored to be considered for Speaker of the House.
It is time that we let go of those issues which divide our state and address issues that our constituents have identified as priorities: true ethics reform, quality education, and job creation. Our responsibility is to our constituents and not special interests.
Racial tensions are at an all-time high fueled by an unprecedented federal election that seemed to not just ignore these issues but seem to legitimize it. Ferguson was just the tip of the iceberg and we cannot continue to ignore its existence. Ignoring the issue will not make it go away. The unrest in Ferguson was more than 2 years ago, and this legislature has done nothing to understand why it occurred and little to address the underlying issues to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. The failure to address the issue has allowed racism to trickle down into our schools, affecting our children. Our state boast an unemployment rate of 4.7% but the reality is that the unemployment rate for minorities is more than double that and for minorities age 16-24 it can be as high as 45%.
Sexual Harassment was dismissed as locker room talk. Recent articles have highlighted how serious the issue of sexual harassment is in our state. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being used to sweep these incidents under the rug rather than address the root problem. This is another issue we cannot continue to ignore. As a legislature it should be our priority to eliminate this behavior in our state.
We tout Christian values yet we continue to allow these injustices. It is time for us to say “not in our state.”
We can address many of these issues by focusing on quality public education and funding early childhood education. We have seen some improvement by all of our school districts but we still have a long way to go. Providing an educated workforce is essential to reducing unemployment and bringing jobs to our state.
When we focus on the priority of our constituents, we can find bi-partisan solutions. Democrats stand willing to work on solutions that address the priorities of our state. It is in the best interest of our state that we are committed to work together. For that reason, I withdraw my nomination for Speaker of the House. I am committed to finding bi-partisan solutions to address the problems of our state and working with the Gentleman from Butler to restore public trust in our state government.
[remarks as prepared]