The Richmond Register

Local News

March 13, 2013

A day with lawmakers behind closed doors

Work still goes on, just out of sight

FRANKFORT — Some of those watching the last two days of the General Assembly on Kentucky Educational Television may wonder what lawmakers are doing during all those recesses.

Most lawmakers are quick to tell you they are working — they’re just doing it out of sight of the cameras.

As the days when bills can still be passed wind down, the two chambers — the 100-member House and 38-member Senate — often pass different versions of the same measures or bills which the other chamber doesn’t like.

The leaders of the two chambers then typically appoint relatively small committees to try to work out a compromise. For those who aren’t on those committees, there isn’t much to do except wait for the committees’ reports.

Most, like Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, retreat to their offices in the annex across the street and try to catch up on correspondence with constituents.

“I’m trying to finish up answering all my green slips,” Smart said, referring to the green notes which legislative phone operators use to pass on messages to lawmakers from constituents. “I try to clean up my office as we get ready to leave. But maybe the best part is to visit other (lawmakers’) offices and see what food everyone has.”

“And of course we’re trying to figure out what’s happening or what is going to happen,” she added.

Her colleague, Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, also goes back to his office and tries to answer phone calls and respond to green slips. But he may also walk down to the Senate to check on the status of bills he sponsored and which have passed the House but haven’t come out of the Senate.

Sometimes during the last days, work goes on into the night and when the House recesses for dinner, Bell said it allows time for lawmakers to get together in a relaxed setting that’s not always available during much of the session.

“I’ll usually go out with a large group — sometimes 16, 17 people or more — for dinner,” Bell said. “But really, all we talk about is what’s going on, which bills are going to pass.”

Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, does as Smart does and heads to his office to answer green slips and “talk to others about bills we’re trying to pass.

“It’s also a good time to socialize with other members,” Carpenter added. “People back home may not realize it, but most of the time we really don’t have time to visit with others, and it’s a good time to get to know each other better.”

But sometimes that’s not possible when the House or Senate recesses “until the call of the chair.” That means they could be asked to return at any time, and at a moment’s notice.

Carpenter’s colleague from Somerset, Republican first-term Sen. Chris Girdler, got in some voice practice — singing “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” with other Senators right on the Senate floor.

Rep. Tommy Turner, R-Somerset, and Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, both minority Republicans in the Democratic House stand outside the chamber and lament the role of a minority member, often kept in the dark by Democratic leadership about negotiations on some issues — just as Republicans sometimes don’t tell all to Democrats in the Senate.

Shell, a freshman, seeks advice and guidance from Turner — a wily, low-key veteran who gets along with members of both parties and is quietly effective even as a minority member. They talk a little about hunting dogs and a little about farming.

“I’ve got 180 acres to farm and I’ve only got 10 acres plowed so far,” Shell says. Turner’s eyebrows arch and he responds: “Son, you better get busy.”

Across the way in the office of Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, laughs at a story from Rep. Hubie Collins, D-Wittensville.

Collins, who is known for bright, pastel sports jackets and artful ties as well as his good humor and easy laugh, had just returned from a quick trip to Walgreen’s for some medicine.

He was sporting his plum-colored jacket and he regaled Pullen with stories from his days as a high school basketball referee in basketball-worshiping eastern Kentucky.

“One time after a close game, the state police had to escort me all the way to Morehead,” laughed Collins.

Outside the office, Rep. Fitz Steele, D-Hazard, wondered aloud if he had time to get to his pickup and drive to Dairy Queen for a Blizzard.

Not tonight. Suddenly, the House chimes sounded, and all the lawmakers in the office, out in the hallway, jumped to it and headed for the House chamber as Speaker Greg Stumbo began to pound the gavel.

Minutes later, House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, told a 100 weary lawmakers there hadn’t been much progress in negotiations on a bill about superintendent training and another conference committee hadn’t yet met on another issue.

“So, Mr. Speaker, I move the House stand in recess until the hour of 9 p.m.,” Adkins intoned.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at


Text Only
Local News
  • 4-23 Gravestone.jpg In search of the last resting place

    At a popular illegal dump site off Bybee Loop in Waco, two marble grave markers were among some items found there by Pat and Ronnie Aldridge, residents who live about 250 yards from the area.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fiscal court awards EMA bids

    Two more bids were awarded at Tuesday’s Madison County Fiscal Court meeting for the emergency operations agency.

    April 22, 2014

  • 4-23 Peter Crowe.jpg Intoxicated man charged with wanton endangerment

    A 27-year-old Richmond man was charged Sunday with second-degree wanton endangerment after he was found intoxicated and walking with several young children in the Keystone Drive area, according to a Richmond police report.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Absentee voting available for May 20 election

    Walk-in absentee voting for the May 20 primary has begun and will continue until May 19, County Clerk Kenny Barger announced Tuesday at the Madison Fiscal Court meeting.

    April 22, 2014

  • 4-23 Tab-a-PULLooza1.jpg Friday last day to collect pop tabs for Tab-a-Pullooza

    Before throwing that soda can in the recycling bin, twist off the pop tab and donate it to a local elementary or middle school for this year’s Tab-a-Pullooza celebration.

    April 22, 2014 4 Photos

  • Pot throwing downtown leads to arrest

    A Berea man was arrested Saturday after police say he damaged a downtown Richmond business and a parked vehicle by throwing flower pots.
    Jonathan A. McCullough, 34, was charged with first- and third-degree criminal mischief as well as alcohol intoxication, according to a Richmond police report.

    April 21, 2014

  • London police chief ordered to stay away from Berea woman

    A woman who who moved to Berea in February 2013 after a live-in relationship with London Police Chief Stewart O. Walker has obtained an emergency protective order against him from Madison Family Court.

    April 21, 2014

  • Task force reveals plan to make ‘Meaningful Math' matter

    It’s all too common to hear parents say, “I was never good at math...,” as if to excuse their children for not being good at math, said Madison County Schools Superintendent Elmer Thomas.

    April 21, 2014

  • WP_20140419_001.jpg Cruisin’ with the Oldies

    With the sound of classic songs wafting through the air Saturday, hundreds of people took advantage of the summer-like temperatures and turned out for the Kirksville Community Center car show.

    April 21, 2014 9 Photos

  • 4-18 Hong Kong 1.JPG Hong Kong fifth-graders visit Kit Carson

    A group of students from Hong Kong got a taste of the bluegrass last week thanks to an invitational education program at Kit Carson Elementary School.

    April 21, 2014 3 Photos

AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Should Richmond rezone the southwest corner of Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue to B-1 (Neighborhood Business) with restrictions to allow construction of a financial services office?

     View Results