Wednesday, July 11, 2007

When Democrats Attack

Four months from the election that may put an end to Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher's political career, the Democratic House of Representatives is slapping him around.

On July 5, Fletcher called the General Assembly into Special Session. Because the Kentucky legislature meets only 90 days every two years (60 days in even-numbered years, 30 days in odd-numbered years), if the governor wants to get anything done between April and January, he has to drag the legislators away from their real jobs in their home districts screaming and kicking back to Frankfort.

But when the Democratic-majority House met on Friday, Speaker Jody Richards stepped down onto the Floor and told Fletcher to fuck off and die. The dems adjourned sine die and left town, mooning Fletcher all the way.

Kentucky State Police launched a house-to-house search for the bottle of Tobasco sauce somebody emptied into Richards' morning oatmeal.

Special Sessions are supposed to be rare, called only for emergency, but this one is less of an emergency than an oopsie.

Seemed Fletcher had second thoughts about his failure to secure legislation awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary tax breaks to Kentucky coal companies planning to build "coal-to-liquid" plants.

Set aside for the moment that the many hyped plans (clean coal, synthetic fuels, liquefaction, etc.) to use coal in ways that do not put the planet on the fast track to destruction are a galactic boondoggle.

Remember only that Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Steve Beshear's 40 percent victory in the primary came as a nasty surprise to Fletcher. He was counting on a Democratic runoff to drain Beshear's campaign chest and leave Fletcher way ahead in the money game. Now Fletcher is looking at a united Democratic Party with a well-funded candidate. He needs money.

And where have Kentucky politicians in trouble always found money? The coal industry. Never mind that the coal industry has screwed this state over six ways from Sunday for more than 100 years - it's got the money.

So Ernie figures, hey, give Peabody Coal Company 2, 300 million bucks the state can't afford in unnecessary tax breaks and maybe they'll cough up six figures for my re-election campaign.

And what's the $60,000 per day in costs to keep the legislature in town compared to a 9-figure bribe?

Democrats and various goo-goo commentators screamed bloody murder. Both the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader, plus other newspapers across the state, accused Fletcher of playing politics (which in Kentucky is a sport, not a crime), wasting taxpayer's money and generally being a jerk.

No, no! Ernie cried. The General Assembly also hase to approve all these capitol projects the legislature failed to approve in the spring.

Those would be the capital projects Ernie vetoed. Three months ago, they were worthy but unaffordable. Now they're the dearest wish of thousands of constituents Ernie desperately needs in November.

Richards, who usually stuns the scientific community with his ability to stand upright despite the handicap of a spine made of cooked spaghetti, saw an opportunity to look like a hero and grabbed it.

So here's where it stands tonight:

- Fletcher has suspended the Special Session until July 30 in hopes the Dems will cave, as they usually do.
- In record time, the republican Senate approved everything Ernie asked for, including ponies, then set their lawyers to investigating the possibility of turning the General Assembly into a unicameral body.
- Every special interest in the state with a vetoed capitol project suddenly given a second chance at life by Dr. Ernie - in other words, every special interest in the state - is loudly demanding the dems return to Frankfort to rubber-stamp their appropriations.
- the GOP is making robo-calls to voters in house dems' districts claiming their reps are violating the state constitution and standing in the way of progress.

We haven't had this much fun in Frankfort since 1978, when Lt. Gov. Thelma Stovall waited until Gov. Julian Carroll left the state to call the General Assembly into Special Session to pass property tax reform.