Friday, April 3, 2009

Stumbo and Leadership Got It Right

In the aftermath of the "Short Session" of the Kentucky General Assembly much criticism came from the Liberal sector admonishing the House for not changing the rules to consider some last minute legislation. Talk about hypocrisy-where do I begin.

If you recall it was only a few months ago that Rep. Jody Richards was voted out of the Speakers Chair because some did not like the old House Rules and the old ways of conducting business. Younger Legislators felt they were not involved and were not kept informed by the Speaker's Office. Everyone had an opinion and wanted the opportunity to express it. Remember that.

Well, Rep. Stumbo was smart enough to read the tea leaves and propelled himself into the Speakers Chair. Speaker Stumbo lived up to his commitments and along with House Leadership gave the Members what they wanted. Now the reality is to be careful what you ask for. When everyone has a chance to offer up their opinions and as they say "be part of the process", then not too much is going to be accomplished. There is a reason why the old rules were in place-they worked and it allowed loop holes for the House to push through legislation at the last minute.

Passing legislation is a hard enough process to begin with. Newer members of the House were allowed much more involvement by the Leadership in this Session and while some lauded this change there is another side to this coin. There is only a certain amount of time to vote out good legislation. Adhering to a process that allows for extended debate outside the Committee system and Leadership will only continue to slow the pace of legislation making its way to the House floor.

If you factor in a Republican controlled Senate then this again reduces the time frame for passing legislation. Regardless of what the House or the Governor would like to pass out, it is an act of futility to bother moving legislation to the House floor unless there is an iron clad agreement from the Senate to pass it or vice versa.

The old way of doing business was established over time through trial and error to best serve the process not to deal with the egos and naivete of younger members. They used to say that for a new member they did not even turn on their microphone during the first term. Why, because it was important to listen, watch and learn. Regardless of rules, people and politics does not change. Trying to convince a majority of a 100 members to pass something is complicated.

Greg Stumbo and House Leadership has given a majority of members what they wanted. But again be careful what you ask for because you can't have it both ways. I find that this is the norm with Liberrrrals. When somebody else does it then it's called "Good ole boy politics" and "business as usual". When they do it then it's called "ethics", "process", and "good government".

In future sessions the "Do-Gooders" might consider why they elect House Leadership and that is to sift and stream line legislation so more bills can make it to the floor for a vote. Reaching their goal will mean not having a say or their finger print on every piece of legislation that lands in the Hopper.

I have no problem with supporting the pleasure of the majority of House Members but you can't have it both ways. Speaker Stumbo and Leadership are to be commended for standing their ground. It's the Speaker's job to adhere to the majority of his caucus and protect his members from bad votes and legislation.

It's not the Speaker's responsibility to carry the Governor's or the KDP's water. The General Assembly is an independent branch of Government for which it's leadership is answerable to it's members and the members to their constituency.

Anyway, I have always thought that the great successes of the Kentucky General Assembly came from the legislation they chose not to consider not the legislation they passed. Consider - K.E.R.A, the worst piece of legislation in modern history. As Jim Bruce once replied as to why he voted against it, Bruce said "because I'm the only son of bitch that bothered to read the bill."

If we are to continue with this new theme of "process" and "transparency" then the folks of Kentucky need to be prepared for endless Special Sessions or consider paying Legislators to work full time.

For all the newer legislators who demand process then I have one suggestion for Speaker Stumbo. Take a page out of Bear Bryant's book and and host a legislative training session in Juction, Texas. It's not Boston or New Orleans but it should provide an opportunity to see who can really cut it Frankfort.

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