FRANKFORT — This and that heading into 48 madcap hours during which Kentucky lawmakers may (or may not, which is my bet) atone for their procrastinating ways during the first 26 days of this General Assembly session:
Before leaving town March 11, lawmakers sent about 60 bills to Gov. Steve Beshear to sign, veto or allow to become law without his signature.
With the exception of bills authorizing bonding for a University of Kentucky medical research building, deregulating the telephone industry and granting a pari-mutual tax exemption for Breeder's Cup races run at Keeneland this fall, most of this legislation was thoroughly unremarkable. The sort of routine statutory changes that pass by the dozens without fuss or furor every year.
So, instead of spending Monday and Tuesday focusing solely on potential gubernatorial vetoes (the ostensible reason for having "veto days"), lawmakers will devote much of the time to trying to find common ground on such major items as the state's heroin epidemic, dating violence, declining revenues from the gas tax and what to do about the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System. Dozens of decisions on less compelling issues will be made as well.
Postponing decisions big and small until the last moment is an annual rite of legislative spring because games must be played. Brinks must be approached, all too often with the commonweal of this commonwealth falling over them to disastrous effect. Egos demand this kind of tomfoolery. And egos inflamed by the red/blue battle for power rule the Kentucky General Assembly (and American politics in general) these days.
No real surprises in the latest Bluegrass Poll results regarding the Republican gubernatorial primary race.
The surprise would have been Louisville businessman Hal Heiner (28 percent support among likely GOP voters) not being in the lead since he was the only candidate airing TV ads for several months. Fellow Louisville businessman Matt Bevin (at 20 percent) is coming off a Tea Party-backed challenge of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Senate primary. Agriculture Commission James Comer (also at 20 percent), who just recently started airing TV ads, hasn't run a campaign in over three years. And former Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott (at 8 percent) hasn't run a statewide race since a losing campaign for attorney general 20 years ago.
Since the GOP results speak to how quickly name recognition can fade, even for down-ticket constitutional officers, Attorney General Jack Conway's 61 percent support among likely Democratic voters (against token opposition) suggests he might be wise to start spending some money now. And not just on correcting his gaffe in making a campaign contribution to one of five Democratic candidates for state treasurer by contributing to the others as well.
While Republican candidates focus on their primary, Conway has an opportunity to define himself positively before the GOP winner and the Republican super-PACs start defining him negatively in the fall campaign.
One of the lesser arguments still to be settled by state lawmakers involves a Senate-approved tax credit for restaurants making charitable donations of "apparently wholesome" prepared food that "may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other conditions." So far, the House has declined to go along.
"Apparently wholesome" food? Not the most appetizing phrase I've ever heard.