The Richmond Register

Breaking News

Viewpoints

March 8, 2013

Down to business, finally

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT — Well, at least the tone has improved.

Predictably, the 2013 General Assembly reached the final scheduled day for passing bills and suddenly lawmakers snapped into action, passing a flurry of bills in rapid succession.

Few of them addressed major issues facing the legislature — pension reform, inadequate revenue – or even politically manufactured issues like taxing districts, hemp and military voting which garnered so much attention as the session began.

Thursday night we re-lived the annual ritual in which lobbyists and rank-and-file lawmakers ask reporters what will happen — as if Senate President Robert Stivers, House Speaker Greg Stumbo or Gov. Steve Beshear confide in us.

All reporters could tell them was that it was inevitable the two chambers would recess for the University of Kentucky basketball game. Some things never change. (Unfortunately this year, neither do the Wildcats, who lost again.)

Stivers, Stumbo and their leadership teams were summoned to Beshear’s office while a reporter camped outside on the marble bench. Another reporter wondered aloud why they hadn’t done this earlier in the session when there might have been time to work out their differences before they found themselves deadlocked and up against the clock.

Stumbo said it was an “unfair question,” commending Beshear and Senate leaders for their “sincere desire” to avoid a special session. Stivers — who to his considerable credit is more responsible than anyone for the improved tone — returned the favor, avoiding any criticism of the governor and House leaders.

The leaders were to confer again Friday about how to proceed on pensions, the issue on which the two chambers can’t agree. Stivers and Stumbo expressed confidence they could yet somehow reach a compromise on an issue on which they seem miles apart. People talked about allowing “the process to work.”

But as that process unfolded, a minority lawmaker walked by a reporter, smiling ruefully, shaking his head and mumbled: “This is a helluva way to run a train, isn’t it?” Another complained with obvious disgust: “We’re no different than Washington.”

As reporters’ deadlines neared, they struggled between their experience-tested belief that nothing important was likely to happen and their fear something inevitably would happen if they left early. What else could they do except stay and resort to Twitter?

There really wasn’t all that much to report.

So we wait, just as Kentucky always must wait, succumbing to the dark and sneaking suspicion that nothing really ever changes here despite all those speeches in the preceding 25 days about “moving Kentucky forward.” Talk about an oxymoron.

After years of refusing to make the required contributions to the pension systems, we’re surprised the system is in trouble and we wring our hands about the prospect it will go broke. Despite untold millions in tax incentives — some prefer the term corporate welfare — unemployment is at 8 percent, we remain a stubbornly poor state and lawmakers cry the sky will fall in western Kentucky if two aluminum smelters close down.

After five years during which we cut $1.6 billion from the budget, a legislative leader yet again says: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”

Well, yes, we’re spending too little on education, child care, public protection and the environment while we spend too much on prisons, projects and asphalt.

Despite how often 139 leaders talk about “moving Kentucky forward,” she seems stuck in the same place, her people insouciantly determined to live in a past which no longer exists while the rest of the world moves on without us.

But, hey, the tone has improved even if conditions for our people haven’t.

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.

1
Text Only
Viewpoints
  • 06.29 CrystalFarewell.jpg Starting over at Head Start

    All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
    I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.

    June 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Ike Adams They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days

    I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
    At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
    I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth

    When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
    Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate

    Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
    His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

    June 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Senate campaign already in full bloom

    Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
    Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
    McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG ‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’

    What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
    Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association

    Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
    Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Hitting the campaign trail

    The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
    We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
    McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • The case of the scary black cat

    If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
    Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.

    May 10, 2014

  • Ike Adams Basking in the spring sunshine

    If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
    I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.

    May 8, 2014 1 Photo