The Richmond Register

August 24, 2013

A wild week in Frankfort

By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service

RICHMOND — Some weeks there simply is too much news to cover, at least when you’re a one-person bureau in a state capitol embroiled in legislative redistricting, political intrigue and sexcapades.

I wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t love it, and at its best, it never really feels like work. How many people get paid to talk to all the interesting, the powerful and sometimes strange people I get to talk to?

As one of my journalism professors at Western Kentucky University told me years ago, “In this job, Tuesdays are never the same as Mondays.”

He was absolutely right, but in a week like this one, I would be happy enough to see Saturday instead of any of the days that precede it.

We began the week looking forward to a relatively smooth five-day special session of the General Assembly, which appeared ready to pass constitutional and reasonably fair redistricting plans. The only real intrigue appeared to be what a handful of House members placed into the same districts would do in the 2014 elections.

(Not to worry. Most of those decisions had been pretty much worked out in advance, regardless of what the affected lawmakers said to reporters.)

Then, late Monday, I listened to an unusual telephonic court hearing during which one federal judge made it pretty obvious this wasn’t going to be all that smooth. One of the issues was how to conduct special elections after the judges threw out the existing lines and prohibited their use in any future elections.

Suddenly it looked like we might be covering re-districting in federal court long after passage of the bill on Friday.

Then things got really interesting.

WFPL Radio in Louisville on Wednesday broke a blockbuster story about allegations of sexual misconduct by 68-year-old Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis. The details were sordid and pathetic, but there were more to come on Thursday as WFPL revealed still another complaint against the Union County lawmaker, who won his last race by a scant five votes.

Suddenly, the question of unexpected special elections to fill vacancies was no longer just an academic one. Those judges may have to resolve that question pretty quickly.

Then the Frankfort State Journal revealed the sexual abuse complaints included allegations that a couple of other lawmakers had romantic relationships with legislative staff. They denied it of course, but some of their colleagues didn’t seem very surprised by the news.

Thursday morning at the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau breakfast various pols answered questions — well, actually they danced around them — about whether they’d run for governor in 2015. Sen. Rand Paul blew me and another reporter off when we asked about the federal deficit having fallen by half, though you wouldn’t know it by listening to Paul.

“Does anyone else have any questions?” He responded.

Feverishly trying to get multiple stories written before deadline Thursday night, the phone started ringing. In my business, you never know who is on the other end and what they may have to say, so you answer.

Guess what? There are going to be law enforcement layoffs Friday and a legislator is about to announce he’ll seek statewide office.

But I’m two stories down, it’s nearly 8 p.m., I’ve got a column due Friday morning and on top of all that, the legislature is expected to pass that redistricting bill Friday.

Sleep? That’s a luxury I can’t afford right now.

Jim Highland was right. Tuesday (and Wednesday and Thursday) wasn’t at all like Monday. Yes, I’m whining, and it’s all very stressful and tiring.

But, hey, it ain’t boring.

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.