A report on the Legislative Research Commission released last week described an agency in crisis: where morale is horrible, people are counting the days until retirement and young people don't want to work because there's no career path, pay raises seem to be awarded by fiat and who you know matters more than how hard and well you work.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, offered a motion to the legislative commission that oversees the LRC on Wednesday to begin a national search for a new director to guide the "rudderless ship" but it failed as Republicans lined up against it.
So now, almost 17 months after the sexual harassment scandal that pushed these issues into the open and caused former Executive Director Bobby Sherman to resign abruptly, this agency is still adrift.
Shame on Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and Stumbo for allowing this appalling, inexcusable delay.
The political reasons for the delays and dysfunction — and they can only be political — aren't important. What is important is setting them aside to provide a clear road forward to reform.
LRC employees make up the professional, non-partisan staff that does research for legislators, drafts the laws they pass and staffs the many committees of the General Assembly. The quality of that staff determines the quality of the laws that govern us in Kentucky.
Poorly researched and written legislation gives rise to uncertainty, long court battles and unintended bad consequences for Kentucky's people and economy.
The draft report released last week was written by four staff members of the National Council of State Legislatures, who collectively spent weeks interviewing legislators and LRC staff, reviewing documents and comparing practices in Kentucky to those in other states.
While not intended as a point-by-point road map for reform, it describes organizational and cultural problems and offers specific suggestions to address them and includes information about how similar agencies operate in other states.
Stivers delays, saying he wants to wait until the report is in final form to take action. Stumbo is more willing to act and correctly says there wasn't enough oversight of the LRC under Sherman. But he needs to make it clear that ultimately providing that oversight is the job of the fractious committee he and Stivers co-chair.
The legislature doesn't have to get into the nitty-gritty of management but it must set the standards and tone that will guide the work of a new director.
Politics will always be part of the story when an elected body makes rules for itself. But Stivers and Stumbo must decide, and quickly, whether politics or the good of Kentucky will dominate this story.