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Richard Treitz, 59, lives just outside of Summersville in Green County. He is single, but he has relatives throughout the state.
Treitz graduated from Ballard High School and attended Vanderbilt University for two years. In his professional life, he's worked in the fields of seismic engineering and telecommunications, and he is currently working in the health and wellness industry.
1. Why are you running for state representative?
RT: I have been a citizen advocate for a number of years. I'm real familiar with the legislative process. To a large degree, that's broken down, and I believe we need new leadership. Not that I'm going to be the new leader, but I hope to a part of the change in leadership so that we can have some good reforms in Frankfort.
2. Why do you feel you are qualified to serve as a state representative for this district?
RT: As I just said, I spent a decade or more as a volunteer - my own time, my own gas and so forth - in Frankfort. I've actually written legislation. I testified before committees. Many of the senators and representatives know my name. Some of like me. Some of them may not, but I guess that's part of the process. I'm well-experienced, and I can step right in immediately in the position and start.
3. How are you preparing for the position if you are elected?
RT: I follow the [unclear]. As editor you may be aware there's a website from the Legislative Research Commission called the LRC website. I also a member of a group called Take Back Kentucky, and the group has a number of members - I'm not the only one of them - who follow the legislative process and the legislation. So, I'm well familiar with not only the process but the bills themselves. If you're familiar with that website, you can easily follow and track those bills. I've done that regularly for a number of years now.
And I might add that there are a number of issues that, not always, but frequently continue to resurface year after year. The same piece of legislation that's been reintroduced by a particular legislator, so there's issues that continue that I'm familiar with. For example, expanded gaming. That's just one example.
4. What do you see as the biggest issues facing the state in the next few years?
RT: Overwhelmingly I believe is the broken pension process. The program is woefully underfunded, $41 billion in unfunded liabilities. And that's only the state retirement system. That's doesn't include others, like teachers, for example. So, we need a balanced budget. The state continually adds - despite the fact that we have a constitutional provision requiring a balanced budget - the state continually adds more and more debt every year. The budget that sits on the governor's desk right now waiting to be signed once again adds more debt to our state.
The spending, the budget process, the unfunded liabilities ... USA Today, maybe within the last couple of weeks, had an article and ranked Kentucky in the bottom five states in the nation in unfunded liabilities in the budget process. That's my number one issue.
I might add to that very quickly that I'm unashamed to be pro-life. And every year there are good pro-life legislative bills that are introduced and have continually been not acted upon in the House. And that is also one of my top priorities.
5. What steps should be taken to address those issues?
RT: As I said, a change in leadership in the House would go a long way to addressing actually a number of issues, including both of those. The leadership refers pro-life bills to committees and committee chairman that continually refuse to hold hearings on the bills and refuse to have votes and bring them to the floor despite the number of efforts and legislators, for example, discharge petitions and so forth. So the leadership is responsible for the roadblocks in front of good pro-life legislation.
And I would also blame the House leadership for the broken budget process. Look at the budgets that come out of the House - more taxes, more spending, more debt. The Senate has put some restraints on that somewhat, but a change in leadership in the House is, in my opinion, long overdue.
6. What long-terms issues would you make a priority if you are elected?
RT: I guess you could consider the budget and the pension programs not only short-term, but long-term issues. The pension program has been woefully underfunded for a decade or more, and it may take many years in order to recover and make that solvent once again, as well as reforming the pension system itself. The state has made obligations to current retirees, and I think we should fulfill those obligations.
But for future retirees, the details yet need to be worked out. Future retirees, the system just needs to be reformed. So that would be a longer term.
7. The Bluegrass Pipeline is aimed at bringing natural gas liquids through Kentucky en route to processing facility in Louisiana. The companies argue the project will bring jobs to the area, while opponents are concerned about environmental risks and the impact on private property. What is your view of the Bluegrass Pipeline?
RT: I'm in favor of private industry and private contract, and while the federal and the state constitutions allow eminent domain, there's limitations upon the use of eminent domain. And I don't think that this pipeline qualifies for the use of eminent domain. The provisions in the constitution allow for the protection of private property owners, and I think that's how the issue should be dealt with. If the orders and the project contractors can come to agreement with private property owners, I believe it's their right to do that. I do not believe the state should use the power of eminent domain to take the private property for that project.
8. The next question follows up on that. There were bills introduced aimed at clarifying eminent domain, that the NGL pipelines cannot use eminent domain. A Franklin Circuit Judge ruled that NGL pipeline project could not invoke eminent domain under current state law. What is your view on whether legislation is needed?
RT: I would agree with the judge's ruling that that was not an appropriate use of eminent domain. Whether or not there is legislation that is actually needed in order to continue to address this issue, frankly, I would have to study it a little more in depth. I thought the ruling was appropriate. Perhaps the owners and the contractors are wishing to get around that somehow. I don't know for if their intending to have legislation introduced. We'll just have to wait and see what comes out of it in the next session.
9. The legislature has approved legislation that would allow cannabis oil to be used for medicinal purposes. Should Kentucky allow medical marijuana? Why or why not?
RT: I'm not sure on that issue. Again, I would have to wait to see what specific legislation would be introduced as to whether I would vote yay or nay. Some of the research that I've read would indicate that there would be benefits to that.
I'm much more pleased that our current agriculture commissioner, James Comer, has very emphatically supported the production of industrial hemp by our farmers here in the state. I think we should continue to pursue that aggressively. Hemp, to me, is industry for the state and for our farmers and for workers. A lot of products could be developed from that because hemp is not marijuana. I think we should continue to aggressively pursue that. Just to be sure, some people are confused about the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. Some people think it is the same thing, and it is not.
10. Expanded gaming is an issue that has been raised repeatedly. What is your position on expanded gaming in Kentucky?
RT: I don't know. Again, I would need to see the specific provisions of legislation that would be introduced. I have followed that issue over the years. Some bills may have been better than others. Some bills perhaps raised constitutional questions because it does require a constitutional amendment to the Kentucky Constitution. And, just from a practical standpoint -- there's a moral issue whether people think it should be allowed or not. From a moral perspective, I would be opposed.
But even just from a practical standpoint, there's overwhelmingly studies -- there's a lot of proponents of expanded gaming that claim there will additional revenue to the state and taxes, and seem to think this is some kind of great panecea. But studies show overwhelmingly from a practical standpoint that gambling is a net negative to society. The cost [unclear] at the various levels, at the local and state levels. It's a net negative to society.
I would have to read the specific legislation, but generally speaking, I would be opposed.
11. Tax reform is also an issue that state officials have discussed for years, but done little about. What, if any, changes does Kentucky needs regarding its tax policies?
RT: There's another top priority of mine. Many states that surround Kentucky do not have an income tax. I would be a proponent. The governor has quote-unquote tax proposal that is not really reform. But, if we really wanted to reform our tax system in this state we'd need to eliminate both the personal and the corporate income tax, and go strictly to a sales tax. Tennessee has done quite well. As a matter of fact, economically, Tennessee has outpaced Kentucky for years and years. They do quite well with only having a sales tax.
And I personally know of businesses, businessmen who have left or are seriously considering leaving Kentucky because of our anti-business, anti-free market tax and regulation structure that we have in this state. That is another area that needs reform.
12. What else would you like voters to know?
RT: My name is a little unusual, Treitz. It rhymes with rights. And my campaign slogan is Treitz fights for your rights. And I'm not really a conservative; I'm a constitutionalist. I believe in all the principals of the Declaration of Independence, our federal and state constitutions and our Bill of Rights.
And as a state, and as a state legislator, we could do many things to help defend the rollbacks under the powers of the federal government that they have usurped. Powers under the ninth and 10th amendments that rightfully belong to the commonwealth and to the other 49 states.