2007 Short Session

I feel as though I have been living in a cave for the past three and one-half months as the General Assembly met in Frankfort for the “short session” of thirty days.  Originally, this short session was designed to deal with legislation passed during the previous year found to have unintended consequences, and to minimize the number of special sessions for when true emergencies arise.  These short sessions also may be utilized to deal with budget issues, but only after a super majority of the members are in favor of it.

I now understand that “short session” does not mean it will be less stressful or easier, and it appears that the same level of work is expected and requested of us as in a regular 60-day session.  In the past, the average number of bills filed during our even-year sessions was around 700 in the House.  Surprisingly during this short session, members of the House filed 573 bills, an impossible number considering the short time frame and all the steps required for passage.

Many legislators take advantage of the time to attempt passage of bills they filed in the previous session, which were unsuccessful.  Realistically, most bills do not see passage the first year in which they are filed, such as my “diploma mill” bill.  I have found that the most disturbing trend is the more frequent expectation by lobbyists for legislators to file any bill requested by them.  In so doing, they will increase their annual income and demonstrate how effective they are to their contract employers.  I feel certain it has never occurred to them that, considering we have only half the time to accomplish our vital objectives, perhaps some of their issues could be delayed until the more appropriate regular session.  Everyone feels they are the most important carnivore in the food chain.

I have heard rumblings from the public that we did not accomplish enough in the 2007 Session.  I must admit that I have expressed my disappointment about the work that was left undone.  However, we did pass legislation related to mine safety, the minimum wage, human trafficking, the Boni Bill, and fortunately in the last hours of the session, approval for the University of Kentucky to purchase Good Samaritan Hospital, preventing the loss of 550 jobs and 500 hospital beds in Lexington.  After five years of fighting for passage of my bill which allows breastfeeding mothers to delay jury duty, I was pleased to assist in getting my companion bill from the Senate passed!

Granted, although we attempted to find agreement on legislation that would shore up the state employee retirement system, the solution was not found with such a deeply complicated subject and a limited timeframe.  Truly this is an issue which deserves a broad dialogue in the full light of day, incorporating the expertise of various experts to limit the number of unintended consequences.  We proved that a short session is an inappropriate time to problem-solve about such a complex and important subject.

Unfortunately, there is no way for me express my outrage or concern about the omission of topics such as funding for the horse park, the diagnostic lab, and the measure to utilize $9 million in federal funding for the Lexington-Bluegrass Airport runway.

Sometimes it is hard to diagnose whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, especially after witnessing inefficiency brought about by political posturing and inflated egos by key players who ultimately have control of how Kentucky compares to other states in achievement.  Thankfully, nothing remains the same in Frankfort, so there is hope for a better day for those of us who understand that crisis promotes growth.  Now we have to figure out how to open the eyes of those who have visions of their own grandeur and have forgotten why they were elected and whom they serve.

You may reach me by calling 502-564-8100, Ext. 826.  In Lexington you may reach me at 266-7581.  My email address is [email protected] and my website is www.susanwestrom.com.  Please feel free to contact me any time and know that it is an honor and a pleasure serving you in Frankfort.