Special-interest donations decide bills' fates

Money talks, and rarely more so than Wednesday in Frankfort. Kentucky optometrists contributed more than $300,000 to legislative candidates during the last two years, according to The Courier-Journal.

Wednesday morning, they got the third installment of their repayment when a House committee voted 14-2 to approve a bill that would allow them to perform procedures, including some surgeries, previously reserved for ophthalmologists.

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors; optometrists are not.

Senate Bill 110, which is opposed not only by ophthalmologists but also by the Kentucky Medical Association, flew through a Senate committee and the full upper chamber within days of its introduction last week.

It's speeding through the House this week at a pace that threatens to break the sound barrier.

Later Wednesday morning, another House committee repaid the payday lending industry, which has contributed more than $100,000 to legislative campaigns in recent years, by killing a proposal to cap interest on payday loans at 36 percent.

The vote was 10 in favor of the cap and 13 opposed, with four committee members voting "Pass."

Currently, the interest and fees on payday loans can run to about 400 percent a year, according to proponents of House Bill 182, the unsuccessful attempt to cap the rates at the 36 percent level Congress has enacted for payday loans to members of the military.

Rates have also been limited to 36 percent by 17 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition to the campaign contributions optometrists and the payday lending industry make, the two interest groups also employ several of Kentucky's highest-priced legislative lobbyists to help deliver their messages to lawmakers.

Yes, money talked in Frankfort Wednesday.

As a result, a bad optometry bill thrived while a good payday lending bill died.