82nd District State Rep. Preview: Incumbent Huff wants to focus on opioid crisis, tax reform and pensions
Incumbent State Representative Regina Huff has proven to be a political force in the 82nd District.
Since taking over the seat in 2012 to serve her former husband’s unexpired term (he died earlier that year), she’s served three full terms and is seeking a fourth.
This past May in the Republican Primary election, she got what was expected to be her stiffest political challenge yet from local schoolteacher Matt Anderson.
Huff won the contest going away by over 1,000 votes, despite coming out of a brutal legislative session marred by unrest over public employee pension reform.
“I’m running again because I just want whoever is there to be a servant of the community, and I think it’s important to have someone to fight for our rights and liberties,” Huff said. “More than anything, I want to be there to ensure there are conservative social values represented for our children and grandchildren.”
Since taking office, Huff has kept a busy schedule. She’s served in a full-time capacity as a special education teacher in the middle grades for the Whitley County School System. She will officially retire from the position Nov. 1.
In between working and frequent to Frankfort for legislative sessions and out-of-session committee meetings, Huff has undertaken a prodigious effort to be accessible to her constituents — by speaking regularly at different events, and engaging with voters via social media, and personally.
“I feel like, with every decision I’ve made, I always keep the focus on those I represent,” Huff said. “I try my best to keep everyone informed, and I am accessible, transparent and accountable.”
Huff says when it benefits her district to do so, she will break with the Republican Party line and vote in an independent manner.
On more than one occasion, she’s proven her point.
Most notably, she voted against changes to the pension system that were passed, and later struck down by the courts as illegal. Huff said she didn’t like the unseemly way the legislation was presented — as part of a completely gutted and replaced “sewer bill.”
“I did not agree with how the process was conducted,” she said. “That was something that was done constantly when the other party was in power … I hoped we would be better than that.”
Huff supported a measure that allowed cities and counties to phase in, over six years, increased pension contributions for their employees.
Fixing the pension system is something Huff said is a priority for upcoming legislative sessions. She comes at the issue from the perspective of an educator, and says teachers, and all public employees, deserve the benefits promised to them when they were hired.
“I am committed to fully funding the ARC (Actuarially Required Contribution) each year and to keeping the promises to everyone who holds a pension in the Commonwealth.”
Huff broke with Gov. Matt Bevin on transportation funding for local school districts. A drastic reduction was proposed through his budget, but Huff worked to restore it through her committee assignments because she worried it was too deep and would negatively impact how students get to schools, particularly in rural districts.
The number one priority if re-elected, Huff said, is to address in a substantive way the state’s problem with opioid addiction.
“You would be hard pressed to find a family not touched by this,” Huff said.
“It’s not enough what we’ve been doing. We put addicts in rehab for a limited amount of time, and then we return them right back to the communities and influences they had before. They just can’t handle the pressure.”
She favors more robust rehabilitation, possible relocation and job training.
And Huff said the state’s tax code needs to be revamped to “make Kentucky economically friendly” to businesses. That entails a slow reduction, to zero, taxes on income in favor of usage taxes, which she said are typically less onerous on the poor and middle class.
Huff said some criticism and derision of taxes on certain services was largely misunderstood.
“I think the theory behind those was that they were elective. You don’t have to have lawn care. You don’t have to play golf. They are luxuries if you can afford them.”
In regards to legislation, introduced every two years by Senate President Robert Stivers, aimed at the occupational tax fight between Knox County and the city of Corbin, Huff said she’s spoken out vehemently against the measure, saying it is unfair and improperly slipped into unrelated legislation.
“I’ve stood up each and every time against it. We should be better than this,” Huff said.
Huff noted that she has a “100 percent pro-life voting record,” and gets high ratings, and is endorsed, by the National Rifle Association. Her lengthening tenure in the House of Representatives has allowed her to win valuable committee assignments, including Appropriations and Revenue, Education, Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection, and she’s co-chair of the Budget Committee on Education.
“The 82nd District has never had a voice at the table like they do now,” Huff said.