One of the perks of being a Kentucky lawmaker is the access it offers to the basketball and football programs at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
For years, legislators have been able to purchase two season tickets in prime locations for UK and/or U of L basketball and football games at face value, while many other season ticket holders were required to pony up a substantial annual fee in addition to the price of admission.
With the opening of the new KFC Yum Center in downtown Louisville, U of L officials decided to ask legislators to pay the annual fee just like everyone else. After all, the new digs come with some heavy-duty debt service.
As might be expected from a group that has a number of prima donas in its midst, some lawmakers squawked — loudly enough for U of L President James Ramsey to offer to use private money donated to the U of L Foundation to cover legislators' fees for this season only.
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However, Ramsey's offer turned out to be ethically questionable, according to an informal opinion written by John Schaaf, general counsel for the Legislative Ethics Commission.
While universities can use their own money to pick up the tab for lawmakers attending university events, separate entities such as the U of L Foundation cannot do the same, according to Schaaf's opinion.
Bottom line: Since U of L isn't going to eat the annual fees itself, lawmakers who want to root for the Cardinals in the new arena this season will have to pay an extra $500 or $1,000 above the price of the season ticket for that privilege — just like the folks seated around them.
That's only fair. The privilege of being able to purchase prized tickets most fans can only dream about is perk enough for state legislators. The least they can do is pay the full bill for those tickets.
Or at least the full annual bill, since a hefty one-time payment may be required just to gain the right to pay those annual bills.
For instance, most legislators enjoy UK basketball games in sections of Rupp Arena where the annual fee is $700 above the ticket's face value. But it takes a one-time payment ranging between $110,000 and $150,000 to gain access to two season tickets in those sections. This fee can be paid over a period of years.
We wouldn't suggest lawmakers make such a one-time payment. After all, depending on the whim of the voters, their access to season tickets may be as brief as two years in the House and four years in the Senate.
But the size of those one-time payments does give you some idea about the true value of the perks UK and U of L provide legislators. Considering that value, it seems only reasonable for lawmakers to pick up the full annual tab for their season tickets to football and basketball games at UK, U of L or any other state university offering them.
Perhaps the move of U of L basketball games to the new downtown Louisville arena can be the catalyst for making that happen.