Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

January 4, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: Look out below! General Assembly time again

FRANKFORT — Oh Lord! On Tuesday lawmakers return to Frankfort and the fun begins.

I’m actually looking forward to it, though I’m concerned that says something I’d rather not know about myself and my emotional health.

It reminds me of the Clint Eastwood movie title, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Lord knows there are plenty of all those things.

There are some really good people in the General Assembly. More than enough that I fear if I start naming them I’ll leave someone out. Despite what a lot of the public believes, there are people who come to Frankfort with a sincere desire to improve the lives and conditions of their constituents.

They sometimes actually offer really good legislation that could make Kentucky a more progressive place or help people. Of course the better the legislation, the more likely a swarm of well-paid lobbyists will work tirelessly to defeat it.

We’ll see bad legislation, sometimes to lend a helping hand to those who need it least, and we’ll witness ugly behavior. Because the “Bully from Burkesville” has departed, some think we’ll see more comity.

I am skeptical.

I don’t think David Williams was responsible for all bad things in the legislature. Others, including the governor, Democrats and the House, sometimes act in petty ways, too.

I don’t know about comity but I expect a lot of comedy; tragi-comedy might be a more accurate term.

Where is Shakespeare when we need him? Then again, given some of the behind-the-scenes, dark-hearted behavior, venality and intrigue perhaps Faulkner would be more appropriate.

Things kick off Tuesday when both chambers convene and the House chooses new leaders. There are challengers for leadership posts in both the Democratic and Republican House caucuses. Senate Republicans and Democrats have already chosen their leaders.

The more interesting plot is probably among House Democrats where Johnny Bell is challenging Tommy Thompson for Democratic Whip; Arnold Simpson is challenging Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark; and reportedly Sannie Overly will challenge Caucus Chairman Bob Damron.

My advice to the challengers: you better win. Life won’t be much fun if you lose.

Republicans will choose between Adam Koenig and John “Bam” Carney for their new Whip. Word from the Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus, tweeter extraordinaire, is that Brad Montell and Steve Rudy will challenge Bob DeWeese for the job of caucus chairman.

We’ll see bills to monitor special taxing districts. But will those bills turn over funding and operation of libraries to rural magistrates, some of whom may never have been in one?

Is it reasonable to think lawmakers, who for years failed to fund the retirement system, will find a way to make the full payment in the next budget as a task force recommends?

While the federal government just increased income tax rates on the wealthy, the recommendations of the governor’s “Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform” shift the burden from the rich to the middle class.

How will the governor sell that idea and how many lawmakers are willing to vote for anything that includes any tax increase even if paired with cuts in other taxes? Already several bills are pre-filed to add still more exemptions to the sales tax.

He wouldn’t be Steve Beshear and this wouldn’t be Frankfort if we don’t have some sort of expanded gambling proposal.

Did I mention that we still need a redistricting plan?

We’ll see bills on abortion, Republican attempts to impede implementation of “Obamacare,” and endless resolutions naming something for someone most of us never heard of.

And I’m looking forward to this. Can anyone recommend a good counseling service?

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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