Keeling: Legislature perfecting art of procrastination

Herald-leader columnistMarch 25, 2012 

FRANKFORT — What if they held a General Assembly session and nothing happened?

Roll the tape from the first 50 or so days of the 2012 soireé, and you'll learn the answer.

Aside from the passage of a legislative redistricting plan that got tossed by some picky members of the judiciary who care about trivial constitutional niceties, the most memorable moments from that period were the visits on consecutive days by a penguin and "The Turtle Man." As one hallway observer noted recently, no one yet has made a more astute statement about this General Assembly than the penguin did — without uttering a word.

Lawmakers picked up the pace a bit last week. Now, with just six session days left before the state constitution obliges them to go back to the real world, the mad rush to do something — even if it's wrong, as it too often is — begins in earnest.

We could have arrived at this point with just three days left if legislative leaders had not postponed a few sessions because wandering around so long in a redistricting wilderness can cause weak knees.

(Those postponements do not include a couple of days the Senate gaveled into session with nothing on its agenda because one of its members was desperately needed at a sporting event in a Southern city known for letting the good times roll — even at casinos.)

Really, though, it's no surprise to get to the final few days of a session with all of the heavy lifting left to do. It happens every year, redistricting wilderness or no redistricting wilderness.

In the Kentucky General Assembly, as in the bigger arena of Congress, procrastination is an art form. Nothing gets done until it absolutely, positively, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously must be done.

Even then, it sometimes doesn't get done because the two chambers' leaders can't resolve their annual manhood measurement contests.

In 2002, 2004 and 2010, their brinkmanship games resulted in the General Assembly adjourning without passing a budget. In 2011, they went home without fixing a huge hole in the Medicaid budget.

Conventional wisdom assumes agreeing on a budget will be easier this year because this spending plan is so bare bones there's little to fight over.

And on the surface at least, the budgetary differences this time don't appear to be the kind that get tempers flaring.

But Senate Republicans still haven't shown the world what they've done with the state road plan, which contained many items near and dear to the hearts of House Democrats when it left that chamber.

I've been known to back a longshot or two in the past, and probably will do so again when Keeneland opens next month. But I would never bet on the House and Senate leaving town without a good fight over the budget or road plan, not even in a session as quiet as this one has been since the redistricting fiasco. That's way too much of a longshot for me.

Too many egos involved. Bruise just one, and it's time to bring out the measuring sticks.

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