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Monday, April 16, 2012

Joseph Gerth: In Frankfort, Plenty Of Blame To Go Around. YEP.

In Frankfort, plenty of blame to go around
Written by Joseph Gerth

FRANKFORT, KY. — Before the House had even adjourned late Thursday, people were already pointing fingers.

Senate President David Williams assembled weary reporters in his Capitol office to tell them it was Gov. Steve Beshear who had caused the 2012 Legislative session to fall apart in the last hours and that the House leadership was untrustworthy, too, because they refused to override vetoes.

About a half-hour later, the governor had the same group of reporters into his office to assure them it was, in fact, the Senate president’s fault that we would all be back for a special session today, and that he had, in fact, “whooped” Williams last November.

Furthermore, he essentially blamed Williams for the death of people addicted to prescription painkillers because legislation to crack down on doctors who over-prescribe died in the Senate. And, he also implied that Williams doesn’t even live in his Southern Kentucky state Senate district but lives “here in his home in Frankfort.”

That prompted Williams, who once called Gov. Paul Patton a mouthy drunk, to summon reporters to his Capitol Annex office just before 1 a.m. to decry the sort of personal attacks Beshear had engaged in moments earlier and to further emphasize it really was Beshear’s fault that a special session to pass a highway construction budget was needed.

Later Friday afternoon, it was more of the same.

There was a Beshear press conference to say bad things about Williams and to blame him for stopping the road budget, and there was an unprecedented proclamation calling for a special session in which Beshear mentioned Williams by name three times.

And then another Q & A session in Williams’ office in which Williiams again decried Beshear’s impolitic words, blamed him for the impasse and said that Beshear’s words were putting him in fear for the safety of his wife and children.

And he blamed Beshear for the deaths of children who died on a stretch of highway that was slated for rebuilding in his disctrict before Beshear came into office in 2007 and nixed the project.

Just another fun day in Frankfort.

There are a few things we can make of this.

First, Beshear and Williams really don’t like each other.

Second, the state and the people of Kentucky are paying for this toxic relationship.

And third — and we can’t emphasize this enough — Beshear and Williams really don’t like each other.

Groundwork for the impasse really began two weeks ago when the House and Senate couldn’t pass a highway construction plan in time to leave on a 10-day hiatus, which would have given time for Beshear to veto the plan before legislators returned for a final day of the session.

That way, legislators could have voted to override the veto when they returned for their final day on Thursday.

But the House and Senate couldn’t come to terms after the Senate stuffed millions of dollars worth of road projects into Williams’ Senate district and changed the funding mechanism for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

They worked on the plan over the recess and came back on the last day of the 2012 Session and passed a plan they had finally negotiated the night before.

But the session broke down when Beshear refused to sign the state’s transportation plan, which is more than 300 pages long and spends more than $4 billion, before he had an opportunity to study it.

Williams contends that if the legislature sent Beshear the transportation appropriation bill before he signed the road plan into law, he could have then vetoed the road plan and spent the highway money however he wished.

Williams also claimed that Beshear was trying to force the Senate to pass a bill raising the dropout age by holding up the road plan, which he said the Senate was not going to go along with.

Beshear contended that he wouldn’t have been doing his job properly if he signed the bill before it had been fully vetted.

Like last year, when Beshear and House Democrats outflanked Williams and the Republicans on a plan to shore up the state’s Medicaid budget, Williams appears to have been outmaneuvered again.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around, in the end, it was the legislature’s fault we got to this point when they couldn’t pass the road plan during the first 59 days of a 60 day session.

Moreover, the funding plan was in possession of Williams and the Senate when the clock expired at midnight Thursday.

And as we know, possession is nine-tenths of the law.

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