Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 26, 2012

RONNIE ELLIS: Reading between the lines

FRANKFORT — There was a funny and informative moment Thursday during a meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue.

Chairman Bob Leeper, the Senate’s lone independent who caucuses with Republicans, recognized Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, for a question.

Leeper referred to Neal as “the soon-to-be most senior member of the Senate.” Neal laughed and said, “What you’re saying is that I’m old.”

I heard something else. Because for Neal to be the most senior member of the state Senate it would require the departure of Senate President David Williams, who has served there longer than Neal.

By the time you read this, Williams’ nearly universally presumed departure to become a circuit judge in southern Kentucky may have already been announced. Many were expecting Gov. Steve Beshear to make that announcement Friday (after this column was filed).

But nothing was official when Leeper made his comment. Shortly afterward, when I asked him if I could interpret his comment as proof that Williams was leaving, Leeper, a genuinely congenial man who smiles easily and just as easily gets along with reporters, some of whom think he is unusually conservative even by Kentucky standards, laughed.

“I guess that was a slip of the tongue. What I meant to say was that he was the most senior member of the A&R committee,” Leeper told me. Sure. Nice try Senator.

There were other amusing moments. The committee heard from Carrie Banahan, the executive director of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, the online “marketplace” for health insurance coverage required by the Affordable Healthcare Act – “Obamacare” if you prefer.

Republicans would prefer Obamacare to disappear. They’re pinning their hopes on the Nov. 6 presidential election and the promise by Republican nominee Mitt Romney to repeal it on “day one,” even though the law is modeled on one Romney passed in Massachusetts.

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