Rep. Al Gentry unveils caucus for the disabled

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- More than one third of Kentuckians claim some kind of disability. Now, there is a new effort to make sure their voices are heard at the State Capitol.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has formed the Engage and Empower Caucus to be a voice for the thousands of Kentuckians with disabilities.

“Today is a great day for Kentucky,” said caucus co-chairman Rep. Al Gentry, a Democrat from Louisville. “We are laying the foundation for long-term success in dealing with Kentuckians with disabilities.”

Gentry, who lost an arm in an accident 26 years ago, said the caucus will promote legislation and educate both lawmakers and the public to issues affecting the disabled.

“I think a lot of people want to help people with disabilities," Gentry said Tuesday. "They just don't know where to turn sometimes."

The caucus has sixteen members: eight Democrats and eight Republicans from both the House and Senate. It is already pushing more than a half dozen bills.

“We're going to try to put all the partisanship aside and do what's best for people with disabilities,” said Rep. Bam Carney, the House Majority Floor Leader.

William Titus of Louisville was among those who gathered in the House chamber Tuesday as organizers unveiled the new group. Titus lost both arms and both legs five years ago after surgery for an aneurysm.

The former carpenter has learned to live as an amputee, but it hasn't been easy in part because of the stigma.

“We are what I consider the silent minority,” Titus said.

But, Titus said the disabled are silent no more in Frankfort.

“We need a voice speaking up on our behalf,” he said. “We need to be a voice speaking up in our behalf.”

Priorities include adding more handicapped parking at the Capitol and making the building, which opened in 1910, more accessible.

Here is the complete list of the Engage and Empower Caucus members:

  • Rep. Rocky Adkins
  • Rep. Tina Bojanowski
  • Rep. Charles Booker
  • Rep. Bam Carney
  • Rep. Deanna Frazier
  • Rep. Kathy Hinkle
  • Rep. Savannah Maddox
  • Rep. Michael Meredith
  • Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty
  • Rep. Rick Rand
  • Rep. Nancy Tate
  • Rep. Lisa Willner
  • Sen. Julie Raque Adams
  • Sen. Jimmy Higdon
  • Sen. Morgan McGarvey
  • Sen. Johnny Ray Turner

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.