The Richmond Register


March 2, 2013

So far, so bad at General Assembly

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT – Be careful what you wish for, my mother used to tell me. I should’ve listened.

Two months ago I wrote a column, only partly tongue in cheek, saying I was actually looking forward to the 2013 General Assembly.

Lord, what was I thinking?

The 22nd day of the 30-day session concluded Friday, and so far as I can see, not much of significance has happened. Bills which looked like sure bets – transparency from special taxing districts; a “framework” for growing hemp; and a bill to let military personnel stationed overseas vote by email – all seem in various degrees of trouble.

What lawmakers on both sides called “the single biggest issue facing this General Assembly,” pension reform, appears to be a hopeless mess, mired in gridlock.

We started out listening to lawmakers from both sides, as well as the governor, talk about a new tone, a new dialogue, a new atmosphere where the two parties could discuss major issues, even those about which they disagree, in civil terms.

Now one side is trying to make the other responsible for what many believe is an inevitable special session while the other side says the first will bankrupt the state while violating the constitution.

Hemp has gone up in the smoke of “politics,” and Secretary of State Alison Grimes wonders if politics is affecting the military voting bill.

Almost daily, we’re told the House has a plan for redrawing its legislative districts; then later the same day, we’re told that map is still evolving but should be ready tomorrow or Monday.

As I predicted two months ago, we have bills to honor people and to name things for them. We have a nullification bill to stand up to Barack Obama and his nefarious “big daddy government;” we’re fighting over “Obamacare” and those old familiar standards: abortion and charter schools.

Real problems facing our commonwealth and its people are ignored.

Stop by press row on the second floor of the Capitol and listen to the whining reporters. They’re exhausted, they’re snapping at editors and sometimes at each other. We complain that we’ve never seen such a frenetic pace in a “short session,” then we realize at the end of each day, despite back-to-back-to-back committee meetings, nothing much really happened.

Small wonder we jump at any chance to ask if Ashley Judd will challenge Mitch McConnell. (Wouldn’t you rather cover Ashley than Rocky or Damon?)

In the past, reporters would suggest that behind the scenes, a deal was being cut and David Williams or Greg Stumbo would at the end pull a rabbit out of the hat. This time, they’re wondering if Stumbo and Williams’ successor, Robert Stivers, may have run out of rabbits. (At least soon, they won’t have coyotes to blame.)

Gov. Steve Beshear made an appearance alongside Stumbo and Stivers to extol the success of a bill to crack down on prescription pain pill abuse. But, as he has in recent years, Beshear seems otherwise unengaged. The sense is he’s waiting for everything to fall apart and try to secure pension and tax reform packaged together in a special session.

But he hasn’t sold tax reform to the public. and he hasn’t persuaded the Republican Senate. Stivers still says, “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”

As Yogi Berra famously said: “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

I wish I hadn’t wished for what I now wish would go away.

I ended that column two months ago asking if anyone could suggest a good counseling service. I’m still open to suggestions.

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

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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.
    The Senate passed a measure based on recommendations of a task force to move new employees into a hybrid, cash-balance plan but maintain existing defined benefits for current employees and retirees.

    March 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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.
    So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously

    Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
    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. 

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort

    Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery

    Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
    We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.

    February 20, 2014 1 Photo

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