“Did Not Vote”: The shocking truth about the Highlands’ 28-year State Rep

“Did Not Vote”: The shocking truth about the Highlands’ 28-year State Rep

What does it mean for Mary Lou Marzian to “represent” her district?

In 1994, when I was in the ninth grade, Kentucky’s 34th House District, then representing most of the Highlands and including areas around Cherokee Park, elected a nurse, Mary Lou Marzian, to represent them in the General Assembly.

In every election since, Marzian has cruised to re-election, rarely facing a primary challenger from her party, not facing a challenger from the Republican party almost half the time. She has never faced a female Republican. Fourteen mostly landslide elections, with clockwork regularity, when there was a challenger at all. 75% to 25%. 69% to 31%. More than $60,000 raised compared to her opponent’s $0.

You would think that with this outpouring of support, from individuals and medical associations and trade unions, that Marzian would be doing something quite special in Frankfort, effectively advocating for positive change for our state and city, but nothing could be further from the truth. Somewhere along the way, she seems to have forgotten what representing a district in the Kentucky House was supposed to look like.

When someone asks me who the incumbent is (remember, before redistricting, Marzian and I would have faced each other to represent the 34th District), and I give her name, I get one of two responses. The first and most common one is “Who?” Twenty-eight years in the House and even sitting Representatives are not sure who I am talking about. You can bet everyone on the House floor knows who Jason Nemes and Attica Scott are, and neither of them has been there nearly that long.

Another reaction I get is how ineffective she is. Ineffective. Twenty-eight years, fourteen elections, and the word that describes Marzian is ineffective. Ineffective how? For one thing, she has one primary platform in the House, and that is abortion, which is a losing argument among the vastly pro-life supermajority. But instead of branching out into areas of policy in which she might actually accomplish something for the Highlands, say in making our streets safer or improving our school choices, she has entrenched herself in the abortion issue. She has made waves recently, actually, but those waves have been incredulous ones regarding the satire amendments she proposes to Republican bills she doesn’t like.

Take this amendment to 2019’s HB 148, which prohibits abortion in Kentucky in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“All women who are Kentucky residents, and of child bearing age, shall acquire a signed and notarized statement from a practitioner licensed pursuant to this chapter each month that states whether she is pregnant or not pregnant. If pregnant, the signed and notarized statement shall provide the status of the pregnancy. The woman shall submit the signed and notarized statement to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services each month. Any woman who fails to provide this monthly signed and notarized statement to the cabinet shall be subject to arrest and fines. Any woman who is pregnant and fails to provide this monthly signed and notarized statement to the cabinet will be fitted with an ankle monitor for the duration of the pregnancy in addition to any arrest and fines.”

Or how about this one, an amendment proposed to a bill prohibiting abortion for the reason of, for example, sex or disability:

“An unborn child residing in the Commonwealth shall have all constitutional rights and responsibilities as a citizen in the Commonwealth including but not limited to the right to public education, to pay taxes, to receive social security, to free speech, to inherit, to a trial by jury, and to peaceful assembly.”

Indeed, Marzian’s only shining moment in the past several years came when one of these satire (joke) pieces of legislation, HB 396, rippled all the way to the New York Times. In response to a bill requiring women to seek consultation in the 24 hours before seeking an abortion, she filed:

“A health care practitioner shall: 

  1. Require a man to have two (2) office visits on two (2) different calendar days before the health care practitioner prescribes a drug for erectile dysfunction to him;
  2. Prescribe a drug for erectile dysfunction only to a man who is currently married; 
  3. Require a man to produce a signed and dated letter from the man’s current spouse providing consent for a prescription for erectile dysfunction; and 
  4. Require a man to make a sworn statement with his hand on a Bible that he will only use a prescription for a drug for erectile dysfunction when having sexual relations with his current spouse.”

In her most recent amendment, to the ’22 pro-life omnibus bill HB3, she suggested amending it to include religious exemptions so that Jewish women who do not believe life begins at conception could access chemical abortion by mail. (I’m not sure what makes their belief different from that of, say, a Unitarian Universalist or a humanist, for that matter.)

What about matters besides abortion?

Try these amendments to 2017’s HB 147, protecting an authorized individual’s right to concealed carry. It passed the House 81 to 5. Remember each one is an individual amendment that must be voted on by the House members before they can vote on the bill itself. And that when this bill was voted on, Marzian did not vote.

  • “Require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to provide a handgun to each adoptive parent and the adopted child when a new birth certificate is issued.”
  • “Require that a handgun be provided to each parent and child upon the registry and certification of a live birth.
  • “Require that handguns be provided to any person acquiring a commercial driver’s license or an operator’s license.”
  • “Require that a handgun be provided to each person who is granted a professional license from the state.”
  • “Require that county clerks provide handguns to each party named on any application for a marriage license.”
  • “Require county clerks to provide handguns to each signatory to a recorded mortgage or deed.”

This, Highlands voters, is what you’ve sent Marzian to Frankfort to do, election after election, year after year: to make pointed jokes that never make their point.

You might grant her a little leeway if she also filed bills as a primary sponsor that eventually made their way to the House floor and made a difference in people’s lives, the way, say, Democrat Patti Minter’s insulin legislation did. But there is no such influence on any other platform in Mary Lou Marzian’s legislative world. And this isn’t just about bills she introduces or co-sponsors. This is about whether or not she even votes.

Take a look and evaluate for yourself. This is Marzian’s voting record for the last three years, before this election cycle:

March 29, 2021

Override veto – nay – lost

Override veto – nay – lost

Override veto – nay – lost

March 11, 2021

Override veto – nay – lost

March 2, 2021

HB 475 – nay – lost

Feb 26, 2021

HB 574 – yea – pass

Feb 11, 2021

SB 120 – yea – pass

Feb 4, 2021

HB 258 – nay – lost

Feb 2, 2021

SB 2 – did not vote

HB 1 override veto – nay – lost

January 9, 2021

SB 1 – did not vote

HB 10 – did not vote

SB 9 – did not vote

HB 3 – nay – lost

HB 2 – nay – lost

HB 5 – nay – lost

April 15, 2020

HB 387 – did not vote

HB 351 – did not vote

SB 9 – did not vote

April 14, 2020

HB 195 – did not vote

SB 2 – did not vote

SB 15 – did not vote

HB 336 – did not vote

April 1, 2020

HB 351 – did not vote

March 19, 2020

HB 586 – did not vote

March 18, 2020

HB 415 – did not vote

March 11, 2020

HB 432 – yea – pass

HB 32 – yea – pass

February 21, 2020

HB 1 – nay – lost

HB 136 – yea – pass

February 13, 2020

HB 37 – did not vote

February 10, 2020

HB 44 – did not vote

Feb. 7, 2020

SB 8 – did not vote

HB 22 – did not vote

Jan. 31

HB 168 – did not vote

July 22, 2019

HB 1 – nay – lost

March 14, 2019

SB 162 – nay – lost

SB 100 – nay – lost

March 2, 2019

HB 254 – nay – lost

March 1, 2019

SB 150 – nay – lost

Feb. 26, 2019

HB 5 – nay – lost

In case you got lost in the numbers, here’s that record:

Winning side: 5

Losing side: 17

Did not vote: 19

I don’t claim any knowledge over why her record is so spotty. Perhaps there were health issues. Perhaps the weather was bad. Once we look at the General Assembly’s ’22 session, shortly after the filing deadline, when it was apparent she’d face Josie Raymond in the primary and then one of three Republican challengers in November, suddenly she was there nearly every day, voting on almost every bill, passionately commenting on the most banal of bills with a befuddled question here, a misleading accusation there, going so far on the income tax bill HB8 as to call Kentucky “a hateful state” and exclaim, “Do not come to Kentucky!

At some point, a representative has to make a decision on whether she’s up to the task of actually representing the district. And when, after 28 years of “representing” the Highlands, she’s on television opposing the new district maps, but can’t actually be bothered to show up to vote on them (that’s right – she wasn’t there that day, either), it’s time for the Highlands to send a voice Frankfort will listen to.

She didn’t vote on the new maps.

Sources: Ballotpedia, VoteSmart.org, Legislator page, KET Legislature video.