The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

January 12, 2014

Dull week? Never in Frankfort

FRANKFORT — When I was a kid, a show briefly aired on American television called “That Was the Week That Was,” an American imitation of a satirical British program.

On Friday, concluding the first week of the 2014 General Assembly, it doesn’t seem like much was accomplished — but things did happen!

How can you to top lawmaker Leslie Combs’ accidental discharge of her pistol in her Capitol Annex office while fellow Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, was seated across from her desk? Naturally, the incident prompted jokes about the session “beginning with a bang.”

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, reportedly fired off some pretty good one-liners about the incident at the Kentucky of Chamber of Commerce dinner Thursday evening, suggesting House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who also is a spokesperson for Morgan and Morgan, a large personal injury legal firm, could represent Greer in a personal injury lawsuit.

Greer, a former college football lineman, meanwhile was explaining why he faced no danger by reminding listeners of the movie “The Matrix” in which a character is able to instantly contort his body to avoid bullets in flight.

Of course, in Kentucky we have a different concept of gun control than many other parts of the country. Our lawmakers, led by Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, are always prepared to shoot down any imagined threat to gun owners’ rights.

Only last year, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, came to Kentucky to lampoon a measure sponsored by Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, claiming the state could nullify federal legislation governing the sales and use of firearms. The state constitution guarantees the right to hunt and fish.

We also learned from the Chamber dinner that Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, believes the state Senate “will be bold” in 2014. Stivers is the person who, commenting on a state budget which has been cut $1.6 billion in six years, likes to make such bold statements like as “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”

Speaking of bold, Gov. Steve Beshear told lawmakers during his State of the Commonwealth speech Tuesday that after 12 studies over two decades saying Kentucky must reform its tax code, he’s prepared to offer specific proposals to do it. But he hasn’t boldly made much of a public case for it.

But Beshear, who for the first six years of his administration was viewed by some as a “caretaker” governor, seems suddenly to be thinking about Kentucky’s future and his legacy. He defiantly embraced the Affordable Care Act in spite of the law’s unpopularity in Kentucky and now says he will do what is necessary to reinvest in education.

If he delivers on health care, tax reform and increased funding for education, we may indeed one day look back on his second term as a bold one.

While they aren’t likely to agree on the specifics, Hoover welcomed Beshear’s call for tax reform. Hoover wants “to begin the discussion” on tax reform. Working with a Democratic governor to enact actual reform would certainly be bold for the House Republican leader in an election year in which he hopes his party wins control of the House.

A year ago I was skeptical about lawmakers going along with Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s proposal to legalize cultivation of hemp. I was wrong. This week, a House committee heard testimony on the medical uses of marijuana. Again I’m skeptical — but who knows? After all, this is Kentucky.

So it didn’t feel like much really happened this week. But maybe it’ll turn out to be the week that was after all.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ cnhifrankfort.

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Viewpoints
  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Education a priority? Don’t believe it

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    They got a budget, they got a road plan and they got out of town on time.

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  • Don McNay.jpg Did you miss small business health-care tax credit?

    A Kentucky professional who owns his own business found that he missed getting the health-care tax credit.

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  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Compromise is not that simple

    It’s tempting for a casual onlooker to wonder why the Democratic House and Republican Senate can’t make what on the surface looks like the obvious compromise on pension reform.
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  • Jim Waters.JPG Frankfort plays ping-pong with public pension transparency

    Legislation that would make the Kentucky Retirement Systems transparent for those paying its bills has danced into the spotlight during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
    Passage of transparency bills filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, and Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make the “names, status, projected or actual benefit payments” subject to our commonwealth’s superlative Open Records Act.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jack Strauss-BW.jpg The case of the ghostly neighbor

    Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
    Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
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  • Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously

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    I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
    I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.

    March 8, 2014

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg 50 years makes a world of difference

    I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
    But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • 02.23 Mike Duncan mug.jpg Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter

    This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.

    March 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer

    Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
    Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Making plans for spring planting

    My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
    Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place. 

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