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The Annual Spectacle in Frankfort By Gary Roedemeier

The Annual Spectacle in Frankfort By Gary Roedemeier

by Gary Roedemeier

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 3, 2011 at 6:24 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 4 at 5:42 PM

(WHAS11) - Once upon a time, in a Midwest state capitol building, an ink stained wretch who worked for a daily newspaper rose and addressed his fellow scribes and shouted to the press gallery, "Behold, the spectacle of the American people attempting to govern themselves."
It was a frustrated cry from a veteran journalist, who for years had walked the tight rope between political operatives and the people's right to know what was going in the capitol. If indeed, anybody could discern that.
This winter in those domed buildings across the country, the politicians and the press reconvene to create and report the ever changing laws of the land.
These bodies that meet in state capitols like Frankfort have never been particularly popular. When Kentucky's General Assembly met every other year for 60 days, it was a statewide joke that the Commonwealth would be better off if they met two days every 60 years.
I first heard confirmation of that view 40-years-ago when I was a young reporter covering my first legislative session in Frankfort.
I had worked late that day, and as I was leaving the capitol I removed the red badge that marked me as a reporter.  As I was riding down in the elevator with a group of lawmakers, they didn't realize that the world, in the presence of one young reporter, was still listening.
They had just left a committee meeting where a bill had passed that they believed was an onerous piece of legislation.  As the elevator headed down, one lawmaker spoke and said, "You know, when we're meeting up here in this building, no one in the Commonwealth is safe."
The bill, which raised interest rates for people that were least able to afford them, was thought to be the product of special interest groups in the loan industry.  In Frankfort-speak it was a "Turkey." As one lawmaker told me, "this bill has feathers all over it."
A few days later, in one of Kentucky's most memorable legislative sessions, someone loosed a live turkey on the floor of the House to make a point about politics and poultry.
The episode cost a House intern or two their jobs and the turkey died of a heart attack. Ten years later, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to over 20 percent making this look like child's play.
But the madcap game of political chicken, or turkey as it were, continues today. We still get the feeling that when they're meeting up there, doing the public's business, that no one…no one in the Commonwealth is safe.
And now, we watch again with great trepidation as the people we elected decide our collective futures. But recently the Senate President suggested that this session might end six days early. It would save us a few thousand dollars.
And, who knows what else it might prevent. A week early, we would be safe, safe at last.
  
 

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