FRANKFORT — In and out of special session in five days. Two weeks minimum, maybe more.
Slots Bill, a veteran campaigner who has trained often for the Legislative Derby but has yet to leave the gate, doesn't have the speed to sprint through the House. Slots Bill will breeze through the House with speed to spare, allowing some of his secret admirers to avoid risking a bet on him.
If Slots Bill gets through the House, he will fade fast in the Senate stretch. Slots Bill could have an easier time in the Senate than in the House.
As these contradictory comments suggest, if you can imagine it, it's probably been uttered in the halls of state power the past couple of days. And generally speaking, you take it all with a healthy helping of that staple one company peddles with the aid of a girl, her umbrella and the slogan "When it rains, it pours."
All except this:
If Gov. Steve Beshear, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and the horse industry (Ol' Slots' current trainer, jockey and owners) seriously want him to win this race, they better have him leading, or at least in a dead heat with Budget Reduction when the field makes the turn for home. Let Budget Reduction round the turn first, and the Senate might declare him a winner, distribute the purse and send its folks home before Slots appears before them.
If I were training or riding Slots, I would want him deep into the stretch before Budget Reduction enters it. That way, a Senate that acts with warp speed on a revised $9 billion General Fund budget would look a tad hypocritical if it tried to use lack of time as an excuse for not dealing with Ol' Slots.
But if you see Slots Bill trailing Budget Reduction in the race to the Senate, you can draw one of two conclusions. His camp either has lost its will to win, or it has lost its collective horse sense.
Either would be unfortunate because the stars seem to align themselves better for Slots Bill this year than at any time in the past.
Recent events have clarified the gravity of the crisis facing Kentucky's racing industry due to the competitive advantage racino tracks have in offering purses and breeding incentives. Those same events — shortened fields, canceled races and race dates — have built momentum for giving Kentucky tracks the tools to compete.
Attorney General Jack Conway's opinion, issued Monday, concluding that enacting expanded gambling statutorily is constitutional improved Slots Bill's chances a bit.
Permit me an aside here. To be honest, the longer Conway delayed releasing this opinion, the more I wondered if his U.S. Senate aspirations might have him looking for a way to dodge the issue. My bad.
His office produced a sound, reasoned opinion that took a strong stand on a controversial matter. And although he didn't write the opinion himself, he will take the political hit for it.
He didn't have to do so. He could have used his father's involvement in racing and membership on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission as an excuse to claim a conflict of interest and avoid the issue completely.
Instead, he sought advice from the Executive Branch Ethics Commission staff. And when John Steffen, the commission's executive director, told him in a letter that any potential for conflict of interest was not "substantial or material," Conway stepped up and did his job, despite the potential consequences for his Senate campaign. That moved him up the stature scale a bit.
Now, back to Slots Bill's bid to win the Legislative Derby.
I thought Beshear missed an excellent opportunity to stress the urgency of the horse industry's crisis during his address to a joint session of the General Assembly Monday night.
An alarm going off somewhere in the Capitol caused Beshear to hesitate a few moments before beginning his speech. What a great time to say, "Hear that. It's a call to action in this emergency."