The General Assembly could reach a new low today, if the House joins the Senate in trading Kentuckians' eyes for campaign contributions.
Should Senate Bill 110 become law, unsuspecting patients will submit to laser surgery by practitioners who are unqualified by the standards of every state except Oklahoma.
Other states have considered similar measures and rejected them.
Kentucky lawmakers are rationalizing this ill-considered decision by describing it as a turf war between optometrists, who are not medical doctors, and ophthalmologists, who are.
They tell themselves the optometrists just outworked the ophthalmologists. By work, they mean gave money.
In just two years, optometrists have given more than $400,000 to 137 of the 138 legislators' campaigns and to the gubernatorial campaigns of Gov. Steve Beshear (so much for a veto) and Senate President David Williams. That's according to The Courier-Journal's Tom Loftus.
One of the five lawmakers to vote against SB 110 during its supersonic flight, Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said an optometrist who called her cited the money he gave to her campaign as the reason she should support the bill.
Westrom, who voted against the bill in committee, was offended by this quid pro quo rationale; others in the legislature must be OK with it.
Another reason the bill's supporters can dismiss the opposition as just one side in a turf war is because the legislature has failed to seek any kind of objective study of the needs and costs or advice from independent experts.
SB 110 popped up less than two weeks ago. Leaders assigned the bill to committees that oversee laws on licensing and occupations rather than committees that deal with health care.
The House licensing and occupations committee did hear from Dr. Emory Wilson, interim dean of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, who said he "can't imagine using a laser around the eye without extensive training."
Ophthalmologists develop their skills by observing and performing thousands of procedures during one-year internships and three-year medical residencies. Under HB 110, optometrists would get up to speed during continuing education courses.
Maybe thorough study and honest debate would have revealed the wisdom of Kentucky becoming the second state to expand the optometrists' purview.
But the whole point of this high-speed maneuver was to avoid thorough study and honest debate.
We've come to expect such shenanigans when the legislature is doling out favors to special interests or itself. But we naively expected better when something as important as people's eyes was at stake.