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JUDGE HORNER’S ROUNDUP FOR WEEK OF DECEMBER 08, 2012
LawReader columnist Steve Horner is a 50-year veteran of Kentucky politics. He once served as a Jefferson County Juvenile Judge, was general counsel of Louisville’s occupational tax collection agency now known as the Revenue Commission, and was state Alcoholic Beverage Commission Board chairman and Department commissioner.
This Week’s Quote:  House Speaker Greg Stumbo, on making special district reform House Bill 1:“This one takes on significance particularly because how many lives it impacts across Kentucky and how much money is involved.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mongiardo Eyeing 2015 Gubernatorial Run
 
Former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo told The Herald-Leader’s Jack Brammer that he and his family are actively giving thought to what would be his fourth statewide campaign since 2004 – a 2015 race for the governorship. “Stepping out of politics for a while has given me the perspective of what many people not in politics see,” the Hazard eye, ear, and throat surgeon said, according to Brammer’s Nov. 30 story. “People are frustrated with the lack of progress and compromise in government…I’m frustrated with government and might be looking at what I could do to change it.”
 
Mongiardo finished his term as Lieutenant Governor in 2011. Before becoming Lieutenant Governor in 2007, Mongiardo served for seven years as a state Senator. His prior statewide races included a close loss as the Democratic nominee to then-US Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) in 2004; his election as Gov. Steve Beshear’s running-mate in 2007; and his close loss to state Atty.-Gen. Jack Conway for the Democratic nomination for US Senate in the 2010 primary.
 
Mongiardo, 52, said that he would look for a running-mate “who has a passion for serving people, knowledgeable about the issues and has leadership capabilities,” according to Brammer’s story. He said that those attributes describe Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, whose name has widely been speculated as a Democratic candidate for US Senate in 2014. “She is very bright and has an excellent future in public life,” Mongiardo said.
 
Other Democrats whose names are in the speculative mix for 2015 are Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson; Conway; state Auditor Adam Edelen;  former state Auditor Crit Luallen; and US Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY6) who will be leaving office on Dec. 31 after losing to Republican Andy Barr on Nov. 6.  They do not live far away from each other – Abramson and Conway are from Louisville, Edelen from Lexington, Luallen from Frankfort, and Chandler from Versailles.
 
Republicans who are known to be interested in making a gubernatorial run in 2015 include US Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY2) and state Agricultural Commissioner Jamie Comer. Both Guthrie and Comer served extensively in the General Assembly before getting elected to their current posts. They do not live far away from each other – Guthrie is from Bowling Green and Comer is from Tompkinsville.  
 
 
Edelen, Conway Don’t Rule Out Gov’s Race in Insight Interviews
 
Edelen and Conway were separately interviewed recently by Insight Communications’ Ryan Alessi. Edelen said in a story posted on Dec. 5 at mycn2.com that he might run in 2015 but that he is too involved with his office’s duties to give any thought to a campaign that far in the future. Conwaysaid that he would take a “good hard look” at running, but wasn’t ready to start considering it now, according to another story by Alessi posted on Dec. 5. 
 
 
House Dems’ Top Legislative Priority: Special District Reform
 
Legislation that would require more transparency and accountability for special taxing districts will be House Bill 1, a bill number reserved for the majority party’s top 2013 priority, according to a Nov. 29 story by The Herald-Leader’s Beth Musgrave. State House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) said that oversight of the $2.7B that these districts spend annually is more important than even public pension reform and tax reform – both of which have been studied this year by task forces appointed by Beshear – or legislative redistricting or a proposed constitutional amendment on gambling which has been near the top of legislative agendas for almost two decades.
 
“This one takes on significance particularly because how many lives it impacts across Kentucky and how much money is involved,” said Stumbo at a Nov. 29 press conference, according to a story by The Associated Press’ Roger Alford posted on Nov. 29 at The Herald-Leader’s Kentucky.com.  
 
Earlier this year, Edelen released a report compiled by his office during a six-month study that identified 1,268 districts statewide run by non-elected appointees of elected officials. The districts’ money largely comes from a combination of taxes and fees not approved by elected officials and not a part of their agency general fund budgets.  Edelen found that about 40% of these districts do not submit their budgets to their county governments as statutory law requires them to do – and elected county officials do nothing about it. 
 
About $1.5B annually goes to the districts in taxes and fees, and they receive about $1.2B in donations and grants – including many from the US government. Musgrave reported that Edelen’s study showed that, in all but three Kentucky counties, citizens pay more to special taxing districts than to the county government. Edelen’s report revealed that these districts hold about $1.3B in bank reserves – about twice the aggregate amount of the state’s 174 school districts’ contingency funds. 
 
Edelen appeared with Stumbo at the press conference. “Special districts in Kentucky represent a ghost government,” Edelen said, according to Alford’s story. “What I mean is that we have had compounding generations of neglect in oversight that created a level of government that exists, frankly, between worlds...The people of Kentucky deserve a system of oversight for what very well may be the second-largest level of government in Kentucky.”
 
“People want to do the right thing, but don’t know how,” Edelen said, according to Musgrave’s story. “We have to have a more workable system...We have to have something to compel compliance.” Edelen said the legislation would require districts to register with the state and file reports. Those that didn’t would draw thorough audits from Edelen’s office.  
 
 
Expecting Oversight Legislation,
Somerset Library Protestors Drop Dissolution Petition
 
 The first positive outcome of House Democrats’ announcement to bring oversight reform to special districts has occurred in Somerset as a group, organizing to dissolve the Somerset library taxing district through a petition drive, dropped their plans on Nov. 29. The controversy in Pulaski County started after the library board approved a tax increase in September, raising the rate from 6.3 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 6.4 cents. That meant a one-dollar increase, from $63 to $64, on a house assessed at $100,000, according to a Nov. 30 story by The Herald-Leader’s Bill Estep.
 
The group had not stated how many names that they had gathered toward a legal requirement of 6,500 signatures on petitions by Dec. 11, but the effort had caused deep concern in Pulaski County – home to about 63,300 people. The Pulaski County Library District has the legal right to raise taxes without the concurrence of Pulaski Fiscal Court – one of the very touchy issues regarding the state’s special districts. 
 
The “taxation without representation” controversy in special districts across the US has been and still is a prime Tea Party issue. However, if fiscal courts are granted veto power over taxing districts in Kentucky, Edelen said that it could limit the ability of counties to issue bonds. “It doesn’t work on a practical level,” Edelen said, according to Estep’s story. Edelen said that he didn’t expect the legislation to give veto power over special districts’ tax increases to fiscal courts. 
 
 
Barr Criticized for Making Phone Calls for Thayer
 
The state Senate GOP Caucus’ selection on Nov. 27 of Damon Thayer of Georgetown to be its new Majority Leader was considered by “Monday morning quarterbacks” to be a huge surprise. Now, one of the reasons has been publicly disclosed. Barr has said that he made phone calls for Thayer, according to Brammer’s Dec. 1 story. “He is a friend and I thought it would be good to have someone from Central Kentucky in leadership in the state Senate,” Barr explained, according to Brammer’s story. “Damon Thayer represents Toyota in the state Senate, and I will in Congress. We have mutual concerns.”
 
Barr defeated David Givens of Greensburg, and although the caucus did not release any vote totals for the various leadership races, it did acknowledge there was one tie. Brammer reported that the race was tied after two ballots and that Thayer won on the third ballot.
 
Lexington lawyer and prominent Republican Larry Forgy said that Barr made a “serious mistake” by getting involved in a legislative leadership race. “What’s a U.S. congressman doing in state legislative leadership races?” Forgy asked, according to Brammer’s story.  “I think Andy has hurt himself with conservatives.”
 
Thayer had bucked the majority of his caucus to support expanded gambling in the 2012 legislative session. For the first time, then-Senate Pres. David Williams (R-Burkesville) allowed a vote on the Senate floor but the proposal lost 15-23 with Thayer, the bill’s Senate sponsor, the only Republican vote for it. Beshear made expanded gambling his 2007 campaign centerpiece, and has made several unsuccessful legislative attempts to move the proposal along.  
 
Forgy suggested that Barr and Thayer have sold out to expanded gambling. Barr “has managed to put the governor’s pawn in as majority floor leader of the Kentucky Senate,” Forgy said, according to Brammer’s story. “Barr should not have gotten involved. It’s hard for anyone to believe that he did it just for Central Kentucky’s sake.”
 
Thayer called Forgy’s comments “ridiculous,” according to Brammer’s story. “Not everything that happens in Frankfort these days is because of gambling…Those who are obsessed with it – either for or against gambling – should understand that.”
 
Besides Isaacs, Other Dems Considering Race Against Barr in 2014
 
Former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaacs was the first – as has been previously covered in this column – and now there are other Democrats mulling a 2014 race for the Democratic nomination to oppose Barr. Alessi covered the following in a story posted on Nov. 26 at mycn2.com:
 
State Rep. Sannie Overly (D-Paris) – an engineer and lawyer, Overly is beginning her third term and heads the state House’s Appropriations and Revenue Sub-committee on Transportation; “You know, all of this is so unexpected,” Overly said, according to Alessi’s story. “I didn’t expect Congressman Chandler to lose. All of this is really new and unexpected. But I am getting some encouragement.”
 
State Senate Minority Leader R. J. Palmer (D-Winchester) – a banker, Palmer is beginning his fourth term after serving one term in the House; “I’m interested in keeping my options open,” Palmer told Alessi. “Whether it’s the right time, that’s something my family and I need to decide.”
 
Colmon Eldridge – from Georgetown, an executive assistant to Beshear, Eldridge is vice-president of the Young Democrats of America; Alessi did not get a quote from him.
 
 
 
As Expected, Abramson Not in Race Against McConnell
 
Abramson, whose name has constantly been a part of speculation on US Senate (2014) or Governor (2015) said on Nov. 27 that he will pass on the possibility of running for the Democratic nomination to challenge US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2014. Abramson said that he is a “CEO type” and that the US Senate is “not a good fit,” according to a story by WHAS-TV’s Joe Arnold posted on Nov. 27 at whas11.com.  
 
 
Political Analysts’ Comments
 
Dec. 2 – Larry Dale Keeling in The Herald-Leader:
 
“…Getting real tax reform done anytime will be extremely difficult. Getting it done in an odd-year regular session increases the level of difficulty by about 20 percent because it takes a super majority (60 votes in the House, 23 in the Senate) to pass a revenue measure in an odd-year regular session. In a special session (or an even-year regular session), it takes just 51 House votes and 20 Senate votes. For anyone who wants real tax reform, the difference in votes needed for passage argues strongly in favor of dealing with the issue in a special session later in 2013 rather than taking it up in the regular session.
 
“Delaying it would also give a governor who is inclined to do so time to stump the state building support for whatever plan his blue ribbon panel proposes. But stumping the state on behalf of his initiatives hasn't been one of Gov. Steve Beshear’s stronger points, and I don't expect him to change now.
 
“So, I’ll just rest my argument on the numbers.
 
“Republicans failed to achieve their ‘12 in 12’ goal of taking over the state House this year, but the party’s sweep of the four seats vacated by retiring Democrats in Republican-trending parts of the state suggests it’s just a matter of time.
 
“When the House convenes in January, four Democratic representatives from areas of the state that are getting redder by the moment will be in their 70s; five more will be in their 60s. I’m not sure House Democrats can redistrict themselves out of this dilemma…
 
“Love Ashley Judd. Fine actress. Bright. Articulate. Speaks her mind on issues. On the good side of issues as far as I’m concerned. Ardent member of Big Blue Nation. What’s not to love?
 
“However, progressive Democrats dreaming of a Judd-Mitch McConnell Senate matchup in 2014 must have missed the memo about the November election results in Kentucky. This state is going so red in federal elections progressive and/or liberal candidates need not apply outside of Jefferson County.”
 
Dec. 3 – Joseph Gerth in The Courier-Journal: “Senate may still oppose Beshear”
 
“…New Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer’s…ascent from State and Local Government Committee chairman to floor leader may mean that (Gov. Steve) Beshear’s loses his most outspoken Republican on the issue of gambling. 
 
“As a rank-and-file member, Thayer was more free to buck leadership and his caucus and support issues such as gambling. But as a member of leadership, he’s likely to feel pressure to stick with the party line. 
 
“It’s also uncertain who will replace Thayer as state government chairman and whether he or she will try to push gambling legislation through the committee as Thayer did….”
 
 
You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. – John Wooden
 
 

 
 

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