Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

February 15, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: Some double-talk in Frankfort

FRANKFORT — I’d like to say I’m prescient, but in reality I simply wrote a column last week about the funny, ironic and sometimes hypocritical things people say a week too early.

But this week there was still more.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told WHAS-TV’s Joe Arnold this about Democrats’ reservations about a bill to allow hemp production:

“Unfortunately, it looks like politics is entering into this.”

Oh my God! — politics commingled with important policy decisions in Frankfort? Heaven forfend!

Of course politics, perhaps the politics of gubernatorial ambition, has nothing to do with Comer’s crusade for hemp or Mitch McConnell’s sudden conversion to a cause supported by the tea party. Does it?

There was Republican Sen. Julie Denton standing up for those poor maligned nursing home owners besieged by “frivolous lawsuits.” She is the same Julie Denton who has bravely stood up for those abused medical providers who say they are underpaid by managed care organizations for the cost serving all those Medicaid patients.

Justice, not the cost to the state, clearly was her concern. Good for her. Uh, except that Denton changes her tune when it comes to the question of extending Medicaid to 350,000 or 400,000 Kentuckians who can’t afford health insurance — even though the federal government will pay all the costs for three years and 90 percent of them thereafter.

As a smart-aleck friend of mine likes to say, some folks are never too busy to lend a hand — so long as they’re extending that hand UP the ladder.

Likewise, Gov. Steve Beshear is correct to support a statewide smoking ban because of the impact of secondhand smoke on the health of innocent bystanders. Wouldn’t it be grand if he applied the same principle to people like Ricky Handshoe, the innocent bystander to mountaintop removal whose home Beshear visited a couple of years ago?

There he saw the direct result of his Cabinet for Environment and Energy’s indifference to Handshoe’s and his neighbors’ health. But when Handshoe stopped by Beshear’s office Thursday, the governor couldn’t be bothered.

At least he had a good excuse. He had an important meeting with several suits bearing “I Love Coal” buttons.

A bunch of House members, mostly Republicans but also some Democrats, sent Beshear a letter complaining about Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer’s comments about gun crimes and regulation to cn/2’s Ryan Alessi.

Their complaint was that Brewer “made such comments while clearly acting in his official capacity.” Oh my, the state’s top policeman shouldn’t ever comment on policy issues relating to crime, should he? Clearly it’s unreasonable to expect a career policeman to know more about crime and its causes than say a citizen lawmaker who in private life works as a financial broker? (Uh, on second thought, maybe they’re onto something there.)

The best moment of the week was watching the normally unflappable House Speaker Greg Stumbo stumped for a response.

Stumbo has been sporting the beginnings of a mustache, a facial adornment he wore in years past. Apparently neither Mrs. Stumbo nor their daughter was as fond of it as Stumbo. So there he was, with a clean-shaven upper lip, greeting reporters eager to ask questions about various pieces of legislation.

After a series of questions about pension reform, hemp and redistricting, The Courier-Journal’s Greg Hall interjected: “So, has the mustache been recommitted to committee?”

I’ve been working in Frankfort for eight years and that was the first time I’ve ever seen Stumbo taken off guard and unable to produce a quick response.

Hall gets first prize for the line of the week.

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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