Thursday, January 28, 2010

A General Assembly Shakeup?

According to Secretary of State Trey Grayson, more than 230 Kentuckians have filed to run for the 119 contested seats in the state legislature. This could be a record. The Kentucky House, dominated by 64 Democrats, will face 42 GOP challengers. The Kentucky Senate, held by Republicans with a 20-17 majority, has 19 seats up for re-election in which 29 Republicans and 20 Democrats have filed.

So what does this mean? Renewed political interest for starters. People are certainly frustrated with Washington. But they're also frustrated with Frankfort. The special session push to expand gambling last June certainly drew many candidates into the ring. It would be an understatement to say that bribing some legislators with the promise of new schools and holding other legislators hostage with the threat of nixing new schools didn't go over well with the people. Then we have a looming $1.5 billion deficit over the next two years and a governor who wants to fill the shortfall by inviting the casino sharks into the commonwealth to "fix the problem."

House leadership has been particularly hostile to pro-life and pro-family legislation over the past several years. For the last two years they've killed ultrasound legislation that would benefit women in crisis pregnancies. In fact, there have been no truly significant pro-life laws passed since fetal homicide legislation passed in 2004. Public decency, which would restrict strip clubs, has been killed in the House every year since 2000. Add all this up and you get a frustrated electorate; a record number of candidates who challenge incumbents; and quite possibly some significant turnover in the legislature come November. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 22, 2010

When pro-choicers oppose choice

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand and ushered in the era of "choice." Since then, Roe's allies assert that abortion should be a last resort. Unfortunately, they have done little to make that happen. Pro-choicers have done even less to further assist women in crisis pregnancies with all the information they need to truly make an informed decision.

Enter SB 38—The Ultrasound Bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 14. This bill requires abortionists to offer a woman the opportunity to see the ultrasound picture of her unborn child and to provide an explanation of the results. It does not force the woman to look at the screen; nor does it force her to hear the abortionist's interpretation. It simply mandates that the abortionist turn the screen (they already do ultrasounds to determine how much to charge) and ask the woman if she would like to see what he already sees. As it is, they keep that picture from the women, and unfortunately, women are kept in the dark.

Where I come from, people would consider SB 38 a choice. But in the Twilight Zone that is called the General Assembly, House Leadership has effectively denied a choice for the same women they purport to be preserving choices for. That they can do it with a straight face is disturbing.

One would think such a bill would unite the "let's keep it safe, legal and rare" crowd with the "one in every three babies dies from choice" crowd. Yet one would be wrong. For the past two years, the Kentucky House has killed ultrasound legislation by assigning the bill to committees where its fate was doomed on arrival. But also killed was a choice for women to have at their disposal medical information that could better help them in one of the most critical decisions in their life.

Interestingly, pro-choice organizations across the nation have labeled ultrasound legislation as "anti-choice" and a threat to "reproductive freedom." And in their Orwellian world, death is life and information is disinformation. So the bill hangs in the balance. Or maybe not.

The political winds are shifting, not just nationally, but also in Kentucky. In last month's special elections, the candidates who favored ultrasound legislation each handily won seats in the Senate and House. House Leadership seems to have gotten the memo and early political maneuvering indicates the bill may have a chance this year. This is good. According to, 16 other states have similar ultrasound laws on the books. Kentucky could be next.

The emergence of the ultrasound bill has shattered the figurative bunkers between embattled pro-choicers and pro-lifers. Default arguments no longer apply here. If the issue is really about choice, SB 38 should receive hearty support from both sides. If it’s about something else, then a certain political agenda has been exposed. And it’s the pro-choice crowd that might want to contemplate another moniker for their movement.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beshear is no Amarillo Slim

A group opposed to slot machines at Kentucky horse tracks criticized Gov. Steve Beshear's announcement that he was basing the state budget on gambling revenue that legislative leaders have already said is not likely to happen. "The Governor is rolling the dice with taxpayer money," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for Say No To Casinos.

Cothran said that not only is slot revenue not likely to materialize, it's getting less likely all the time, with votes for such a measure disappearing by the day. "Gov. Beshear is gambling on the financial future in this state by betting on revenue that just isn't there," said Cothran.

"This is a governor who doesn't know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, when to walk away, or when to run," he said.

Cothran pointed to the comments of both House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams, neither of which expressed support for the Governor's proposal despite the fact that their support would be necessary to pass the bill, making the odds of such a measure very slight.

"The Governor is doing his best impression of Amarillo Slim. But there's a big difference: Amarillo Slim knows how to gamble; Beshear clearly doesn't."

Cothran said the Governor's attempts to take over the Senate to get his gambling bill through failed miserably when, despite his support and the infusion of millions of dollars of political cash, he failed in his recent attempt to seize control of the State Senate by appointing gambling opponents in the Senate to government posts and trying to replace them.


Governor's budget "passes the buck" on fiscal responsibility

For immediate release
January 19, 2010
Contact: Martin Cothran
Phone: (859) 329-1919

LEXINGTON, KY--A spokesman for an anti-expanded gambling group charged that Gov. Steve Beshear was avoiding making responsible fiscal decisions to the legislature in his new budget by premising it on slots revenue. "The Governor is passing the buck," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for Say No To Casinos, "and passing the buck is not a good governing strategy."

"Kentuckians have this strange notion that a governor should govern, not pass the responsibility to make good fiscal decisions to someone else."

The Governor's inclusion of slots revenue in his budget will force state lawmakers to either make cuts themselves or to try to cobble together another slots bill that is unlikely to pass. "To put out a budget based on something that is unlikely to happen is the height of fiscal irresponsibility," said Cothran.

The group said that slots legislation has little chance of passing either the House or the Senate and to assume that gambling revenue will be available is to simply ignore political reality and place the burden of budget cuts on the legislature.

"The leaders of both chambers of the General Assembly have advised the Governor not to do this. He should listen to good advice."


Ten Commandments returned to Grayson County

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling saying that a Ten Commandments display at the Grayson County Courthouse had to be removed. The Ten Commandments are now back in Leitchfield:

LEITCHFIELD — Amid anthems, hymns, and plenty of "amens," a copy of the Ten Commandments was placed back on the wall at the Grayson County courthouse Monday, almost a decade after it was removed.

"We all love Jesus Christ and anything that comes with it," exclaimed Steve Mahurin, a minister who works for the road department, one of several hundred residents who showed up for the ceremony. "This represents our savior, and it's the law we have to go by."

The ceremony was sparked by the Jan. 14 decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a lower court order. According to the 2-1 decision, posting the Ten Commandments did not violate the U.S. Constitution because it was part of a display of historical documents, including the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact and the U.S. Bill of Rights.

A federal judge in Louisville had previously ordered county officials to remove the Ten Commandments from the display because it violated the constitutional rule against government endorsing or promoting religion.

Read more here.

How the gambling industry lost the 14th district State Senate seat

The Louisville Courier-Journal's Joe Gerth tells the story of how, despite the gambling industry's expenditure of $890,000 to buy a seat the State Senate in Kentucky's 14th Senate district, it lost by double digits:

They had a good candidate in former state Rep. Jodie Haydon: A successful businessman. Well-liked. A member of the famed Kentucky National Guard group called “Sons of Bardstown,” which took heavy losses in the Vietnam War.

And they had all the money in the world.

Of the loss, Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley said of the Republicans: “They had better polling than we did, and they apparently understood the district better than we understood it. … We just got beat.”

Read the rest here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Same sex marriage advocates on why they should be worried about their case against California's Proposition 8

Opponents of California's Proposition 8 are worried that their case against the measure--which overturned the attempt to impose same-sex marriage on Californians--could lead to legal disaster for their movement:
Attorney Charles Cooper, a Reagan-era veteran who is well known to the justices, filed an emergency appeal last weekend urging them to block all video coverage of the trial — even if it were limited to a few courthouses in California. By Monday morning, the high court had granted the appeal and ordered a halt to any video coverage outside the courthouse.

Legal experts on the left and right gleaned three insights from the high court intervention:

First, the justices are following this case closely. They typically rule on appeals after cases are decided. It is rare for them to intervene in a pending trial.

Second, the court’s conservatives do not trust Walker to set fair rules for proceedings. Their opinion described how he had given shifting explanations of his plans. This suggests Walker’s ruling on Proposition 8 may be viewed with some skepticism.

And third, the majority has a distinct sympathy for the foes of same-sex marriage. The justices cited a series of newspaper stories reporting on the threats and harassment faced by those who have publicly opposed gay unions.

Read the rest here.

I never thought I'd say it, but let's hope the gay rights groups are right on this one.

Should we raise the compulsory school age?

Every session, it seems, state lawmakers entertain a bill proposing to increase the compulsory school age from 16 to 18. And every year the bill is largely ignored. That could be different this year, with the issue already getting unprecedented attention. Two bills have been introduced to do this: House Bills 94 and 140.

In today's Lexington Herald-Leader, a story presents the case for the change. Here are the reasons not do to it:
  • Students wanting to drop out after becoming 17 have more than likely already been failed by the school they are in. So why draw out an already bad situation?
  • Students who would otherwise drop out in the system could make it more difficult for the students who want to be in school to get a good education by becoming distractions in class.
  • Keeping students who would otherwise dropout in schools would divert resources devoted to students who choose to stay in school and would increase the financial burden on the education system at a time when funds are tight.
Like earlier attempts, neither bill has gained any legislative momentum, but this year could turn out to be different.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Charter schools die in committee, but the issue could still rise from the dead

For Immediate Release
January 14, 2010

LEXINGTON--"We will be back," said Martin Cothran, communications director for The Family Foundation of Kentucky, after an amendment providing for charter schools failed in a tie vote in a State Senate committee. "This was the end for this amendment, but it wasn't the end of charter schools in this state."

"We were disappointed in the vote," said Cothran. "We understood we had the votes going to vote for the amendment. It turned a golden opportunity for more parental and local teacher control of schools into a lost opportunity." The bill failed when State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr voted against the amendment.

"This was a loss for parents and local teachers and win for state educrats and teachers' union bosses who are to the left of the Obama administration on this issue. Charter schools are supported across the political spectrum--from Newt Gingrich to the Democratic presidential administration."


Casino Crowd Finds Elections Not for Sale

Yesterday Joe Gerth of the Louisville Courier-Journal reported something we already knew about the casino lobby: they're willing to spend money on elections. Of specific interest, however, is just how much they're willing to pour into a campaign. In the special election to fill former State Sen. Dan Kelly's seat, Democratic candidate Jodie Haydon outspent his opponent by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. In fact, he spent $890,000 to Higdon's $328,000. The spending set a record for a Kentucky Senate race. Nonetheless, Higdon, the underdog, went on to win the race, thus dampening the Governor's prospects of passing a pro-casino bill this session. Higdon's election was also a repudiation by Kentucky voters that Senate seats are for sale and automatically go to the highest bidder.$900+000+on+special+election