Sunday, April 02, 2000

Thou shalt not expect miracle from Assembly

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FRANKFORT — Well, we don't have a state budget, easily the most important document the General Assembly deals with during its 60-day legislative session.

        But, hey, we're getting a big monument to the Ten Commandments on the statehouse grounds, and probably in your child's classroom at the local public school as well.

        Of course the state is also going to be slapped with a big ol' lawsuit courtesy of that pesky ACLU, which has the unmitigated gall to defend the Constitution.

        Legislators may as well pass bills that allow the commandments to be placed in schools and next to the gaudy Floral Clock across from the capitol. Because, as of this weekend, when the budget was supposed to be passed and headed to Gov. Paul Patton for his autograph, a group of cranky legislators was holed up in a third floor Capitol conference room still arguing — sorry, debating — a budget agreement.

        So we offer our own version of the Ten Commandments, Frankfort style:

        • No. 1. Thou Shalt Not Forget the Job Legislators are Supposed to Do.

        Voters told lawmakers last November to cut automobile taxes when they passed a constitutional amendment. The tax cut never made it to a vote.

        • No. 2. Thou Shalt Try the Art of Compromise.

        The budget fight came down to a telecommunications tax pushed by Gov. Paul Patton and included in the House budget. Republicans said no new taxes, so they not only took the tax out of the budget but also hundreds of projects the tax would pay for. Is there no middle ground?

        • No. 3. Thou Shalt Leave Egos at the Door.

        Yeah, right.

        • No. 4. Thou Shalt Not Make Blatant Campaign Speeches While Debating Bills.

        See response to commandment No. 3.

        • No. 5. Thou Shalt Try to Get Along.

        You know it's bad when members of the budget conference committee couldn't agree on whether to dress casually or in suits for their negotiating sessions.

        • No. 6. Thou Shalt Not Be A Hypocrite.

        Some of the same lawmakers who voted for the Ten Commandments bill are the first to wave the Constitution when gun control measures are introduced.

        • No. 7. Thou Shalt Be More Careful when Labeling Projects “Pork.

        Money for a new golf course and funds to restore the L&N Bridge could be seen as unnecessary spending in a tight budget year. But money for senior citizens centers, community centers, parks and street repair seem like a pretty good use of tax dollars.


        • No. 8. Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid to Stand Up to Party Leaders.

        Rep. Jon Draud, a freshman Republican from Crestview Hills, stood up to Senate President David Williams during the conference committee on the budget. Mr. Draud wouldn't jump on board with the GOP plan to spend less on education than the Democrats. Mr. Draud set an example others here should try to follow.


        • No. 9. Thou Shalt Actually Know What is in a Bill Before Thou Votes.

        It's amazing how little some lawmakers know about the bills they vote on. That can't be said about Sen. Katie Stine when she chaired committee hearings on the workers' comp bill. She studied the issue for months and helped draft a bill that made some badly needed changes.

        • No. 10. Thou Shalt Not Give Up.

        Lawmakers Jack Westwood, Dick Roeding, Tom Kerr and Joe Fischer couldn't get their bills heard that dealt with abortion. But they never stopped trying.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at (859) 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at