Thursday, March 29, 2007

Legislature: The Final Days

Key legislation collapses as legislature adjourns

Lawmakers adjourned this year's legislative session late Tuesday night without appropriating $9 million for a new runway at Blue Grass Airport or $38 million for a new outdoor stadium and other improvements at the Kentucky Horse Park. Afterward, Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who is seeking re-election, again promised to recall lawmakers to address what he called "urgent needs," but said lawmakers need a "cooling-down period" that might last beyond the May 22 gubernatorial primary.

What occurs when legislators slack? Miners are not safe. Critical tourism measures are not addressed. College students are slighted. Should we mock applaud our pathetic legislature or offer a moment of silence?

House balks on repealing runoff election law

The House and Senate yesterday refused to back down from their respective positions on the governor's race runoff, meaning Kentucky will probably have an overtime election and counties will have to pick up the tab. Senate Republican and Democratic leaders told the House Monday that they favored repealing the runoff provision -- the last remnant from 1992 election law reforms. The House's position would have left the runoff in place but provided $5 million to cover the counties' costs of holding such a special election. The state already is responsible for about $2 million for a runoff. The House didn't budge from that stance yesterday.

For months, I denounced the runoff. I said Kentucky politicians should play the ball as constituted. Victory is mine. Victory is mine. Great day in Kentucky people, victory is mine.

Social worker safety bill passed

The House and Senate passed a social worker safety bill and one other measure late last night and then adjourned the 2007 session -- without acting on other major issues. An impasse between the two bodies prevented action from being taken on the Senate's plan to bail out the financially ailing state retirement systems or bills that would fund scores of university construction projects and spending priorities of Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Social workers deserve protection. Governor, sign this legislation.

Groups disagree on merits of special legislative session to address retirement systems

A day after lawmakers ended their 2007 session, several groups weighed in with various opinions on a possible special legislative session to address money problems in retirement systems that cover state and local government employees and public school teachers. The Coalition for Sustainable Benefits -- made up of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence -- urged Gov. Ernie Fletcher and lawmakers yesterday to begin working immediately toward a special session this year to overhaul the state retirement systems. But the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition -- made up of the Kentucky Education Association, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, the Kentucky Association of State Employees and the Technical Faculty and Staff Alliance -- urged interested parties to study the issue over the next nine months and consider it in the 2008 General Assembly, which begins in January.

During their term, legislators were lazy. How will they act when they have no desire to govern?

Legislative deadlock leaves university projects in limbo

At Northern Kentucky University, 200 students are on a waiting list for housing, and they'll keep waiting now that the General Assembly ended without approving money for a new dorm. NKU President Jim Votruba said he understands that the building -- along with $218 million in other university projects -- is merely a hostage to a political fight over the state pension fund. But NKU has to buy the new dorm, a former nursing home, by Monday, and he's not sure how they will do it without state funding. "We're disappointed we couldn't bring closure to this," Votruba said. "My hope is that can be done in a special session." In the meantime, it will "take some creativity" to figure out what NKU will do.

Clearly, Ernie is the education Governor.

Personnel officer recommends reinstating fired merit employee

The hearing officer for the state Personnel Board issued an order for Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration to reverse the firing of Mike Duncan, a former staff assistant in the Transportation Cabinet's inspector general's office. The board's hearing officer, John C. Ryan, issued a 54-page recommendation that concluded that Duncan's firing was "excessive, erroneous and improper under the circumstances." Under the term's of the order, Duncan is to be returned to his previous position with the same pay and back pay.

Obviously, the merit hiring scandal was warranted.

Fletcher says state will sponsor 2007 Bluegrass Games

Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced plans to sponsor the 2007 Bluegrass State Games through his Get Healthy Kentucky initiative. Through the initiative, Fletcher will donate a $100,000 grant to the games, which will be July 20-22 and 28-29. "I can't think of any better ambassadors to help us spread the Get Healthy Kentucky message than the athletes that participate in the 2007 Bluegrass State Games," Fletcher said at a press conference Wednesday at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky is the Bluegrass state. Who else would sponsor these games?

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