CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
It may be due to the fact that so many of us grow up in small towns. We like our communities in small bite sizes. We are known for the number of our people who choose to stay close to home, sometimes only rarely leaving their home county. It happens in cities, too. Growing up, we rarely had to leave our home neighborhood. We could shop, go to school, get our haircut and even go to the public library right there, nice and close to home. Kentuckians relate to each other as much by high school as we do by holler. All this makes it easy to think small. And we legislators are good at doing that.
And we don’t easily let by-gones be by-gones either. I mean, rivalries and disputes can go on and on for generations. Literally – prompting more than one cartoon, newspaper or TV production of the Hatfield & McCoy feud to paint a picture of Kentucky for the rest of the country to forever believe to be the real Kentucky. You know that picture…
Indeed, some of whom I must assume are among our finest citizens are still fighting the Civil War. I recently picked up bumper stickers at a flea market proclaiming, “The South Will Rise Again”; “Ole Times Are Not Forgotten” and “The Truth About Our Flag Being Maliciously Slandered Will Be Told”. We like our past to hang on like a tick.
We’re a tenacious lot, if anything. It’s just that the older I get, the richer the words of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler become. Whether it be the Christian Laitner shot that STILL shocks the senses of full grown Cats fans (causing complaints about UPS logistics ads last month of all things!) or it’s the result from some past election, we keep our virus’s alive in Petri dishes we carry around like badges of courage – then desperately search for something, or someone, to blame for the disease.
This Special Session is also a result of ongoing conflict. You know that story. Let’s just hope we won’t be back for yet another one next week! At some point the public, members of the General Assembly, the media – and even Leadership itself is going to have to say, “Enough is enough”.
The caboose is loose and the train has skidded far enough off the track — let’s see about reconnecting it. Speaking of transportation…
SO, HERE’S WHERE YOUR BUTTER GETS CHURNED:
The words of House Repub leader, Jeff Hoover – whatever his political motivations were – are instructive. There are processes in place to provide for reasoned debate, and the amicable flow of business up here. And many of them are NOT being followed. His specific complaint: projects were added to the “Road Bill” by Conference Committee members (mostly leadership) outside the purview of the public and outside the process the rest of us have to abide by. That is not the only complaint about the Transportation funding bill.
Rep. Jim Wayne and I questioned info – known to the Transportation Cabinet Secretary – involving the prospect of future tolling of the Sherman-Minton Bridge. A report shows that in 2031, there is a sudden jump in revenue for the Ohio River Bridges Project – a project that will be tolled. It was that revenue spike in 2013 that caused our Q: Is there a potential at some point of tolling Sherman-Minton? The Cabinet’s response was contradictory. Once again, as policy makers we found ourselves being told, “Trust Me” by the Cabinet. Boys and girls, I assure you,any criticism you may have of a government that says, trust me pales in comparison to the cynicism of us Doubting Thomas’ IN government! We are asked to rely on that stale tune, make sound public policy decisions based on it, and then come home and face a critical public! In an election year when it’s all about winning your upcoming election, there’s little wonder why most legislators are not willing to take tough votes – and little wonder why road projects that bring home the bacon are slipped into budgets…
Everyone knows there are more road projects than available funding. But there’s this entire system of systems within Transportation that simply plays havoc with any objective sense of what is sound public transportation policy — unless, of course, you are one of those donor counties that receives much more from Frankfort than you provide. Take for example, the formula for allocating gasoline tax dollars among Kentucky counties. It needs reformulating! Counties with the largest population and the most miles driven on their roads often receive less funding under the current plan than counties with many factors of fewer cars, population and miles driven. It’s an antiquated model that hasn’t been changed since, well, since the day when counties were responsible for building their own turnpikes and tolls for horse and buggy usage were collected to pay for them! Point is, it’s been a long while…and this change is long overdue.
And there’s that matter Rep. Hoover brought up. Road projects appearing out of the blue in the Transportation budget. In my view, the Governor was right to hold firm his right to veto these projects. If his decisions were based on politics – and I don’t believe they were — the Governor surely was on sound footing for making them! Just a cursory comparison of proposed funding in a few select counties with the rest of the state – or just with Jefferson County – reveals the political nature of those projects. That so many of the projects were proposed in the districts of House and Senate leaders is revealing. Importantly, the Governor and the House stood united in agreement that the Governor should have this power.
This much maligned Special Session could end with a whimper and the Senate reduced to making symbolic gestures of defiance in the shadow of a veto proof transportation budget.
CONTACT ME: Call me directly at 502.564.8100 or write me at Rm. 329C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601. I’m also on FACEBOOK so hit me up there or online at Reginald.Meeks@lrc.ky.gov or at http://reginaldmeeks.com. To reach any particular legislator, contact our toll – free number at 800.372.7181. For the deaf or hard-of-hearing, that number is 800.896.0305