Kentucky Republicans Push Back Against California’s Ban On State-Funded Travel To The Bluegrass State

Republicans in Kentucky are reportedly “seeking payback” for restrictions imposed in 2017 by then-California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is now President Joe Biden’s health and human services secretary.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported, “Kentucky lawmakers are ready to disapprove two state contracts with California companies because of that state’s ban on taxpayer-funded travel to Kentucky due to a Kentucky law that California leaders view as discriminatory against gay and transgender people.”

The outlet quoted Republican state Sen. Stephen Meredith, chairman of the Kentucky legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee, who predicted the contracts in question would be rejected.

“We hope they are changed to businesses elsewhere or canceled,” he said. “We don’t want California trying to replace our values with theirs.”

While serving as California’s top law enforcement officer, Becerra blocked state-funded and state-sponsored travel to Kentucky and other places in response to legislation enacted in each state. Becerra’s issue with the Bluegrass State was a law called Senate Bill 17, which he claimed could allow student-run organizations in colleges and K-12 schools to exclude classmates based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Proponents of the law said it protects the constitutional rights of students enrolled in public schools to express their religious and political opinions.

Staffers with the California Attorney General’s office told the Herald-Leader that the travel ban would remain in place until the legislation is repealed.

As the Herald-Leader reported:

At issue are two contracts University of Louisville officials took to the review committee on May 11. They were told the panel would not vote immediately on them to give the university time to look for other vendors. The contracts were deferred until the committee’s June 10 meeting.

One of the one-year contracts is worth $373,600 with Korn Ferry International of Los Angeles, Calif., to provide consulting services to assist a search committee in identifying and recruiting qualified top-level candidates for top U of L jobs on an as-needed basis.

The other is a search committee contract worth $252,800 with SP&A Executive Search in Whittier, Calif.

The contract review committee approved six other search-committee contracts for U of L but those businesses were in Washington, D.C., and other states besides California.

“If the state of California doesn’t want to do business with the state of Kentucky, Kentucky shouldn’t do business with the state of California,” said Kentucky state Rep. Mark Hart, a Republican.

Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball, another Republican, said she is “deeply disappointed that coastal elites in a wealthy state like California are trying to mandate legislation in Frankfort through threats and economic sanctions against hard-working Kentucky families and businesses.”

Becerra said the restrictions were based on a California law that went into effect on January 1, 2017. The legislation prohibited state-funded travel to states “with laws that authorize or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression or against same-sex couples or their families.”

“While the California DOJ works to protect the rights of all of our people, discriminatory laws in any part of our country sent all of us several steps back,” Becerra said at the time. “That’s why when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it.”

Other states affected by California’s travel ban include Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

The Herald-Leader noted, “California has exceptions for the ban for ‘required’ travel, such as litigation, participation in meetings necessary to maintain grant funding and for the protection of public health.”

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