Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


April 4, 2014

RONNIE ELLIS: Some quotable lawmakers

FRANKFORT — The 2014 General Assembly isn’t over — lawmakers return on April 14 and 15 to consider overriding any bills Gov. Steve Beshear may decide to veto.

They might also act on bills hanging in limbo or that appear doomed and they must still pass a two-year road plan. So it’s premature to give the session a final grade. But there’s no reason not to grade some of the best lines of the session.

One of my favorites was by Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield on his Twitter feed: “I’m as guilty as anyone, but I’m going to try to stop beginning my remarks with ‘I’ll be brief . . .’ Everyone usually knows better.”

Alas, I was apparently the only person who agreed with Westerfield. No fewer than four Senators took the floor over the next hour, each beginning with “I’ll be brief,” or “I’ll try to be brief.” All four failed.

Another favorite came from House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville. General Assembly watchers know nothing really important occurs until the candidate filing deadline passes. This year was no different. But on the day after the deadline, Republicans posed multiple parliamentary challenges to a rather innocuous bill requiring local school officials to have some financial training.

As Speaker Greg Stumbo summoned party leaders to confer on House rules, Clark ambled by the press corps, grinning mischievously and said: “Filing deadline’s over boys! The session just started. Things will start rolling now!”

Stumbo is always competitive in this division, and this year was no different. As Republicans railed against Stumbo’s minimum wage bill during floor debate they pointed to Tennessee, apparently their favorite state because it has no income tax but does have a right to work law.

Stumbo, famously a fan of the University of Kentucky athletic teams, quipped: “I’ve never seen anything good coming out Tennessee except three interstates going north.”

Stumbo pulled some parliamentary sleight of hand, filing a bill mirroring an amendment by Republican Jim DeCesare had filed on a Democratic measure, an amendment on which Democrats wished to avoid a vote. By doing so, Stumbo caused DeCesare’s amendment to be out of order. Once the original bill passed the House, Stumbo withdrew his own bill.

Asked about the bill, Stumbo said, “It was a good bill — for a day. It did its job.”

Stumbo also showed he isn’t afraid to offend the other party and chamber. Asked what the House might do with a Republican Senate bill which would allow Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to run for re-election in 2016 while also running for president, Stumbo quipped: “Well, we kind of take the position over here that a man who can’t decide which office he wants to run for ain’t fit to hold either office.”

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, amended a House bill which would restore felon voting rights by adding a requirement for a five-year waiting period. To which Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, observed, “God is a forgiving God who does not make you wait five years for forgiveness.”

When I jokingly chastised a lobbyist for representing only well-heeled clients, he took mock offense and said, “We’re here to represent the people. (Long pause.) Just not ALL of the people.”

The best line of the session came from a former lawmaker, one-time House Majority Leader and later Speaker, Bobby Richardson of Glasgow. Stumbo, who was also once Majority Leader, wryly observed that, “I always thought Bobby was probably the second-best Floor Leader we’ve ever had.”

To which Richardson responded, “That’s alright. I’m also the second-best Speaker — right behind Henry Clay!”

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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