Barring a flurry of productive activity when state legislators return to Frankfort April 12 for the final day of this legislative session, the 2012 General Assembly may best be remembered for what didn't get done (both good and bad) than for what lawmakers did accomplish.
Before leaving for their annual veto break, the House and Senate did manage to pass a budget. It's a painfully inadequate budget that will keep the state backpedaling instead of going forward. But it's a budget. Considering the number of times in recent years lawmakers failed to perform this basic task in the allotted time, even the passage of a painfully inadequate budget must earn them a hand clap or two.
Legislators also passed a congressional redistricting plan, after botching their attempt to redraw their own district lines so badly the state Supreme Court ordered them to take a do-over. They gave victims of the March 2 tornados a tax break. They paid lip service to the goal of keeping pseudoephedrine out of the hands of methamphetamine manufacturers.
After this short list, the 2012 General Assembly's cupboard of significant accomplishments starts looking a bit bare — which is why the things that didn't get done overshadow the things that did.
On the down side, the things that didn't get done include a proposed constitutional amendment on expanded gambling that more than 80 percent of Kentuckians would like to see on the ballot so they can have their say on the issue.
The list of failed opportunities also includes a proposal to increase the dropout age from 16 to 18, a simple change that could keep an estimated 6,000 young Kentuckians from making a mistake that can cost them $7,000 to $10,000 in earning power each year of their lives. At this time, the list also includes legislation targeting the "pill mills" that feed Kentuckians' addiction to prescription pain medication.
But let's not be too negative about the lawmakers' lack of accomplishment, because a few of the things that didn't get done really didn't need to be done. To the contrary, Kentucky is better off without a new layer of secrecy for child abuse records, a deregulation of the telecommunications industry that could leave some people without access to land lines and the addition of the private University of Pikeville to the state's already underfunded public post-secondary system.
Indeed, when you balance the short list of good things emerging from this session against the harm that could have been done, the demise of these bad ideas (for now, anyway) may be the 2012 General Assembly's most notable accomplishment. And it's a sad commentary on a legislative session when the best work lawmakers did was when they did nothing at all.