Damon Thayer

Senate Wants to Spend More Time Screwing Up Redistricting

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February 28, 2012
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The State Senate is chomping at the bit to get back into the redistricting process they just got done screwing up.

The State House… not so much. While the Republican-controlled Senate wants to git ‘er done by the close of session in April (because apparently they have nothing better to do), Stumbo and the House appear ready to wait til next year. Musgrave & Brammer:

[Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers] said the Senate “is prepared to go forward and thinks it appropriate” to consider legislative redistricting this session. “We hope to have discussions with the House on the possibility of doing so,” he told reporters Monday.

He said the Senate would want to redraw legislative district boundaries for this year’s elections.

Stivers also said that if the House did not want to redraw House boundaries this session, the House might agree to let the Senate do its redistricting “to get it out of the way.”

The Supreme Court has not yet released its full opinion on just how screwed up the previous maps were, but obviously if the Senate’s Stivers, Thayer and Williams can’t remove Kathy Stein’s district from Lexington until next year then she’ll already be re-elected and all their hard work will be for nothing.

Who Can It Be Now: On Damon Thayer, Political Strategery & Gambling in Kentucky

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February 27, 2012
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Since Thursday’s failed vote on Beshear’s gambling amendment, many around the Bluegrass and the Commonwealth have noted the sacrifice Damon Thayer made. They have lauded him for taking a stand, for crossing party lines, putting his reputation at risk, to co-sponsor the bill that could — as the argument goes — save the thoroughbred industry.

But is Damon Thayer deserving of this praise?

Or did Damon Thayer outplay everyone, working both sides to achieve his own ends?

The Paulick Report pronounced Damon a “Winner” in the 2012 Gambling battle, writing:

Since the beginning of 2012, no one has laid it on the line politically like Sen. Thayer. The horse industry destroyed him just a few years ago for not going along with a statutory approach to expanded gaming. And yet, he stood up to immense pressure from his own Republican caucus and right-wing base of supporters to bring forth the constitutional amendment bill he promised the industry when he first ran for office.

Let’s take a closer look at what Damon Thayer has done — and how he’s done it — since the beginning of 2012.

Thayer hails from Georgetown, just across Fayette County’s border. He represents Scott, Owen, Grant and Kenton Counties. A Kentucky Colonel (who isn’t?), he is a member of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, the NRA and Kentucky Right to Life.

He is the Chair of the Senate standing committee on State and Local Government and in that capacity he was in charge of the Senate’s redistricting process. The map Thayer drew, ruled unconstitutional on Friday by the Kentucky Supreme Court, removed Fayette County Senator Kathy Stein from office, relocating her 13th District seat to Northeastern Kentucky and replacing her with a Senator from a county three hours drive to the West.

After this plan was announced on January 18th, the Herald-Leader reported:

Senate State and Local Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said moving Stein out of Fayette County was not political retaliation. The move was necessary to redraw Senate district lines to reflect the state’s shifting population, he said.

….Thayer did not answer a reporter when asked if Williams had ordered that Stein’s district be moved because of a vendetta. Stein said she was glad that Thayer at least did not lie. Williams later said he did not direct Thayer to move Stein’s district.

Upon signing the unconstitutional Senate and House redistricting maps into short-lived law on January 20th, Governor Beshear expressed unguarded skepticism about Thayer/Williams’ claim of a lack of coordination:

Beshear blasted Williams, accusing him of personally ordering Stein’s district to be moved. “The action directed by the Senate president to move Senator Kathy Stein’s district in Lexington to northeast Kentucky in order to keep her from being able to run for re-election, and moving Western Kentucky Sen. Dorsey Ridley’s district to Lexington, goes beyond partisanship. It reflects a personal vindictiveness that should have no place in this process.”

Political observers across the spectrum recognized that Williams and Thayer had worked together to craft the Senate redistricting map, in part a retaliation for the Democrat-controlled House plan which disenfranchised several Republican representatives, in part to settle partisan grudges and flex political muscle.

Days after the Governor signed the Thayer/Williams redistricting map into law, the Herald reported that Thayer would cross party lines to sponsor the Casino Gambling Amendment:

Senate State and Local Government chairman Damon Thayer of Georgetown said Wednesday he was “strongly leaning” toward sponsoring Gov. Steve Beshear’s constitutional amendment to expand gambling.

….Thayer said Williams “has said publicly and told me privately that he will not stand in the way of a constitutional amendment coming to a vote in the Senate. I have no reason not to take him at his word.”

Indeed Thayer did support the amendment, appearing with Beshear to introduce it and then pushing it out of his own State and Local Government Senate Committee for the full, and failed, Senate vote.

After that Senate vote failed, Thayer explained to reporters his conflicted position on gambling:

Thayer, a horse industry proponent and former racing executive, said after the vote he believes a constitutional amendment is the only way to address the issue. He noted he opposed gaming-via-statute legislation a few years ago. “I paid the price for that but I was able to look myself in the mirror, and I can look myself in the mirror now,” Thayer said. “Other states have done (expanded gambling) by statute, but it is wrong. I’m not afraid to give people the opportunity to decide this issue. This is a democracy.

Thayer was against casino gambling before he was for it but even when he was for it, Damon Thayer was never really in favor of it. He just wanted to let the voters decide.

That’s the Damon Thayer narrative this time around.

Just like last time, Thayer doesn’t actually support gambling but this time he professed to support the peoples’ vote.

That’s a nuanced position and any in the horse industry or in the state who wish to laud Thayer for trying should take a moment to fully consider Thayer’s actual purpose.

Thayer’s strategy allowed Damon Thayer to

  • Represent the horse interests of Scott County.
  • Represent the anti-gambling interests of the increasingly conservative voters of the rest of his Northern Kentucky district.
  • Put forward the vote under veil of giving voters what they wanted.
  • Coordinate the Senate vote’s timing with Senate Prez David Williams.
  • Ultimately lead the Bill into Williams’ buzzsaw.
  • Weaken the Governor.
  • Strengthen his own political position with both sides.

This positioning creates political capital with both sides. For the far right religious voters who opposed gambling on a Biblical premise, Thayer delivers a CYA under guise of “letting people decide.” For anyone on the inside of the KY GOP, word is whispered out that Thayer is very much on their team — as he has always been in the past — and acted out of expediency to his horse constituency while strengthening his overall statewide position.

Thayer is not pro-gambling. Thayer saw polls from the horse industry and from the Republican Party which showed a wide majority of Kentucky voters wanted to vote directly on the initiative (regardless of their support or opposition to it). Thayer presents himself as someone who has opposed gambling in the past but wishes to let the people decide this time while simultaneously planning with Williams a way to kill the bill, keep people from ultimately voting and, in the process, weaken the Governor. No gambling, no problem. A win/win.

Thayer’s committee passed the bill on Wednesday. On Thursday, David Williams announced he would bring it to a vote even though he knew full-well three “Yes” votes (all Democrats) would not be in attendance.

Ultimately, two of those three hastily re-scheduled and made it to Frankfort but the third “Yes” remained unavailable.

The bill needed 23 votes to carry. Given the divisivness of the issue and the prolonged madness of the ultimately failed Thayer/Williams/Stumbo/Beshear redistricting mess, a handful of votes remained in the balance. Senators were hesitant to take a stand one way or another without knowing what district and which voters they would be voting to represent and down the road seeking re-election from (and in this way, Thayer could be given credit for killing the bill twice, if you’re willing to acknowledge it).

Beshear said he had 23 votes. Thayer said there were 23 votes. One of those is at worst wishful thinking while the other is at best being honest.

In the middle, perhaps, there is truth.

Still unsure of their ultimate electoral districts (thanks, again, to the T/W/S/B redistricting debacle) the swing Senators who could vote Yay or could vote Nay on casino gambling and thus could account for the needed 23 were further compromised by David Williams move to force the vote on Thursday, when three of the 23 needed Yes votes were unavailable.

Even after two of those Yesses showed up, one was still missing. While some have stressed the wide margin of the eventual vote — 16 to 21 — as evidence the votes were never there to begin with, another explanation is that the missing six voters were holding out for the assurance of victory.

If the Governor could guarantee 23 votes, perhaps he could have gotten 23 votes.

As it happened, David Williams scheduled the vote on a day he knew there would not be enough votes. Williams assured there would be at best 22 votes given one Senator’s pre-established absence. The six swing-Senators then would be voting for a failing amendment and putting their own chances for re-election on the line for a failing vote.

Thayer passed the bill out of Committee on Wednesday. Williams called it to the floor on Thursday knowing it couldn’t get 23 votes. After the bill was voted down, Thayer expressed regret and extended congratulations:

Soon after the proposed constitutional amendment to allow gambling failed in the Senate by a 16-21 votes, Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, who sponsored the casino bill, congratulated Senate President David Williams of Burkesville for “orchestrating” the measure’s defeat.

All of this came after a Herald-Leader report that Thayer’s consulting firm represented thoroughbred interests, a revelation Governor Beshear blamed on Willaims:

“I certainly thought that that was a cheap shot that was taken this morning in the newspapers about Senator Thayer,” Beshear, a Democrat, said during a news conference after an event in the Capitol Rotunda. “He’s a fellow of integrity, and he is doing what he thinks is right in sponsoring this amendment to let people vote on it.”He implied that Williams, R-Burkesville, was behind the story and said it is “certainly further evidence of intimidation by Senator Williams and others who are against this amendment. I think it’s very clear that that’s the case.”

Again, Thayer is not in favor of gambling but he is in favor of the horse industry. That’s a good place to be politically for someone with ambitions for even higher office.

In the Gubernatorial election of 2011, Beshear trounced Williams and the theory went the Governor was trying to run up the numbers (thus, his tax task force was not a policy platform but an afterthought) in order to not only defeat Williams at the polls but render him impotent and unelectable again as Senate President.

Beshear did defeat Williams but Williams retained control over the Senate Republicans:

Williams, a Burkesville Republican who has headed the Senate since 2000, said after a retreat Thursday for Senate Republicans that there would be no leadership changes in the Senate.

He said no Republican leader faced a challenge.

There was speculation that there might be a challenge to Williams’ leadership, given Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s resounding victory over Williams in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election.

Some thought Williams could be a liability for Republican candidates in the 2012 elections, when half of the Senate’s 38 seats will be up for grabs.

The Republican Party of Kentucky is powerful and forward looking. On the national level, they have foisted the nation’s most powerful Senator, Mitch McConnell, the nation’s leading Tea Party voice, Rand Paul, the holder of the nation’s pursestrings, Hal Rogers, and a trio of powerful Congressmen who control the national policy on environment unprotection and “job creation” — Whitfield, Gutrhie and Davis.

On the state level, however, the Kentucky Republican Party has over and over proven ineffective in taking over government. The Williams nomination was, in itself, a declration of failure. The Bully from Burkesville never had a chance and no one of right-thinking mind ever thought different. He was nominated because a) it was his time; and more important, b) no one else had statewide cred.

With his backhanded support of the Democratic Governor’s gambling bill, Thayer is attempting to take that mantel.

The Senate Republican caucus’ decision to keep Williams as President was not an endorsement of Dave’s job performance but a recognition of reality: Governor Beshear has four (right?) more years in office, he can’t run again which makes 2015 a clean slate struggle between the two parties. Better to have an established villain perform the task of obfuscater than run, again, someone so easily lampooned as the reason nothing gets done in Frankfort.

So David Williams carries on as bad guy and the Republicans around him jostle for position.

Who can it be now?

Damon Thayer opposed gambling in the past.

This year, in 2012, he did David Williams’ bidding on the failed redistricting bill.

Then he took a “brave” stance across party lines by sponsoring not the idea of casino gambling but the idea Kentucky voters should be able to vote it down themselves.

He worked alongside Williams on the unconstitutional disenfranchisement map. Why would you think he didn’t do the same on gambling?

He passed it out of committee on Wednesday. Williams took it to a vote on Thursday when everyone knew there weren’t enough votes.

Gambling died. Will the thorougbred industry?

Will Damon Thayer get the credit he deserves?

Mission Accomplished: Kentucky Supreme Court Tosses Disenfranchisement Map

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February 24, 2012
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Believe It Or Not by Joey Scarbury on Grooveshark

Go big AND go home:

The Kentucky Supreme Court has blocked implementation of the newly-drawn boundaries for state legislative districts.

In a two-page order issued a few hours after hearing oral arguments in the case Friday morning, the state’s highest court upheld Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s ruling that this year’s redistricting was unconstitutional.

“Until the General Assembly passes redistricting legislation that complies with Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution, the terms of the injunction entered by the Franklin Circuit Court remain in place,” the court said.

Read the Full Story @ HL

The Thayer/Williams/Stumbo/Beshear disenfranchisement bill fails. Kathy Stein is returned to her rightful and elected seat (as are the others) and Williams’ mission to run her out of office is lost.

The Supremes were unanimous in their decision — 6 to 0! (one recused). The 2002 lines stand for now.

Rejoice! And remember…

 

Kentucky Roulette: You’ve only got one shot?

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February 24, 2012
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Snap back to reality! The sun is risen and Kentucky’s big gamble is dead… or is it?

CN|2 caught up with KEEP chief Patrick Neely who says the gambling bill’s defeat is not the end of the fight:

But when asked if it was the last best chance, he said: “I don’t think so. There are two main issues that are not going to go away. The first is, Kentuckians are going to continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars across the river. That’s not going to change. The second is our industry is going to remain in peril.”

Neely outlined the external threats from other states’ tracks that can pay higher purses and have put Kentucky’s horse industry in “crisis mode.”

Horses are now the fourth-highest-grossing segment of Kentucky agriculture with $700 million in sales, according to 2010 Kentucky agriculture figures.

But Neely said the tracks are suffering from external competition.

“I think tracks like Turfway and Ellis Park are in serious jeopardy,” Neely said, although he didn’t put a time-line on how long they would stick around.

[Click for full interview]

The Herald has both Stumbo and Thayer who both suggest that while it’s probably dead for this session, there may be a Zombie Gambling Bill lurking just outside the chamber:

The sponsor of this year’s proposal, Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, said on Thursday that he has no plans to attach the amendment to other legislation.

“I think it’s very difficult to predict in this building what’s alive and what’s dead,” Thayer said.

Stumbo agreed, noting that no measure is dead until the General Assembly adjourns for the year.

Sorry. But maybe everything that dies some day comes back?

The Paulick Report has a must read round-up of the latest battle’s Winner’s and Losers. Among the Winners:

Indiana – Oh, to be an Indiana casino owner today! As Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Eric Crawford put it on Twitter, the final vote tally was actually Indiana 21, Kentucky 16. I would assume the president of Southern Indiana’s Horseshoe Casino has named his first daughter Kentucky in homage to the wing of his house built on Bluegrass money Horseshoe has collected over the years.

I can’t wait to be a part of the $400 million transfer Kentuckians will make to neighboring casinos in 2012. Maybe I’ll eat at an Indiana restaurant while I’m there.

Kentucky Democrats – If SB 151 had passed and been on the ballot in November, social conservative Mee Maws from Pikeville to Paducah would have come out in droves to vote against the scary casino man. These same voters are more likely to vote Republican than Democratic and that would not have been good for a party that is already facing a difficult road on the House side in this year’s election.

And among the Losers:

Steve Beshear – Gov. Beshear has now had two major bites at the expanded gaming apple and both times was poisoned by Sen. Williams’ tactics. No one will question Gov. Beshear’s ability to fundraise and win elections but as a leader, it’s clear the governor still has some work to do.

You really do want to read the rest of that… there’s a lot of collateral damage in the Bluegrass and while we might all be a little down, it’s never a bad time to sing a song.

Kentucky Roulette: Know When to Run (or: Horseshoes & Hand Grenades)

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February 23, 2012
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The Gambler by Johnny Cash on Grooveshark

Passed out of Committee yesterday and forced to a vote today, the Casino Gambling Bill failed 16 Yeas to 21 Neighs, with one very important vote not cast.

The tally:

YES

REPUBLICANS — Buford, Nicholasville; Gibson, Leitchfield; Harris, Crestwood; Higdon, Lebanon; Schickel, Union; Thayer, Georgetown.

DEMOCRATS — Blevins, Morehead; Clark, Louisville; Harper Angel, Louisville; Palmer, Winchester; Parrett, Elizabethtown; Pendleton, Hopkinsville; Rhoads, Madisonville; Ridley, Henderson; Shaughnessy, Louisville; Stein, Lexington.

NO

REPUBLICANS — Bowen, Owensboro; Carpenter, Berea; Denton, Louisville; Givens, Greensburg; Hornback, Shelbyville; Jensen, London; Kerr, Lexington; McGaha, Russell Springs; Seum, Louisville; Smith, Hazard; Stine, Southgate; Stivers, Manchester; Westwood, Erlanger; Williams, Burkesville; Wilson, Bowling Green; Winters, Murray.

DEMOCRATS — Carroll, Frankfort; Jones, Pikeville; Turner, Prestonsburg; Webb, Grayson.

INDEPENDENTS — Leeper, Paducah.

NOT VOTING

DEMOCRATS — Neal, Louisville.

The Bill needed 23 votes to pass and obviously fell well short of that — they needed those four Dems, the missing vote and two Republicans, or some similar combo.

Thayer fought to delay the vote as Sen. Neal could not be there but Williams went on with it and got what he wanted — a double whammy, screwing the Governor who trounced him in November and flipping the bird to the state that so roundly rejected him.

The bill would not have legalized gambling, just put it on the ballot in November for the people to vote on, an option polls from the horse industry and even the republican party showed the people strongly favored. (Though it was never clear if the Amendment would have passed that popular vote.)

Some of the thinking goes that certain people who’d said they’d put the bill over the top were only willing to cast their Yeses if the Bill had the votes to assure victory. When Sen. Neal couldn’t make it — he was out of town — the pledged supporters fell away, not wanting to lend their voices to a controversial losing effort.

The Herald has the story, including:

Patrick Neely, spokesman for the Kentucky Equine Education Project, also expressed disappointment on behalf of horsemen.

“Kentucky’s horse industry has undoubtedly reached a critical juncture,” Neely said in a statement. “We therefore challenge those elected officials who professed support for Kentucky’s signature horse industry, but voted against the bill, to help us find solutions to our industry’s significant competitive disadvantage.”

The missing Senator, Neal, says he was out of town. David Williams says Neal skipped out on the vote to attend the Michelle Obama event in Louisville. Neal voted yesterday in Committee in favor of the bill.

Beshear put on if not a poker face at least a brave one. In a statement:

“Obviously, I am disappointed that several of the Senators who had publicly said they would support letting the people decide did not follow through on their commitment to our citizens.

I am also disappointed that Sen. Williams chose to sabotage the chance for our citizens to decide by scheduling the vote for today, when he knew that a Senator who planned to vote “yes” would not be in town.

However, for the very first time, we were able to get this issue considered by the state Senate, and I appreciate the bipartisan cooperation of Sen. Thayer and others, which allowed that to happen.

This is a good omen for the future of expanded gaming in our state, and I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to address this issue.”

Alice Forgy Kerr, Senator from Lexington, took to the floor and gave a little speech (with a shout out to her brother Larry):

“I don’t care what the other states are doing,” said Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington. “Why would we jump off this cliff into darkness and sin and addiction? This is terrible public policy.”

She’s not up for re-election until 2014 after she squeeked by Don Blevins back in 2010.

What’ll happen next? Can Beshear pull a rabbit out of his hat, or a lucky horseshoe? Or do we move on to revising the state’s tax system?

Kentucky Roulette: Alice Forgy Kerr doesn’t understand Lexington; Senate to vote on Gambling Bill

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February 23, 2012
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The Senate Committee on State and Local Government voted yesterday 7-4 advanced the gambling bill to the full Senate. David Williams is pushing for a full vote today, while Republican co-sponsor of the bill Damon Thayer is pushing for a delay since two Democratic Senators aren’t going to be there today to vote

(According to CJ’s liveblog, at least one of those missing Senators appears to have made it to town but is holding the Fair board vote up against his Casino vote in a game of brinkmanship.)

The HL:

The bill approved by the committee dropped a key protection for horse racetracks and Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he will propose more changes that could sour racetracks on the legislation.

As amended Wednesday, the bill no longer guarantees that five of the seven casinos will be located at racetracks.

Also, Thayer said he will offer floor amendments to eliminate a provision that prohibits free-standing casinos from locating within 60-miles of racetracks and to alter language that says the General Assembly “shall” create gambling regulations if voters approve the constitutional amendment. Instead, the bill would say lawmakers “may” create regulations that allow casino gambling.

Beshear and Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Jamie Comer testified in favor of the revised bill during a two-hour hearing, saying it would adequately protect the horse industry.

Alice Forgy Kerr, of Lexington, voted against the bill because she was concerned that 18 year olds who have for years gone to Keeneland to bet on horses would still be able to go to Keeneland and bet on horses. She went on to accuse the Governor of wanting to bus 18 year olds to the casino track… which is really stupid since the 18 year olds who tend to go to Keeneland are Duck Heads and Seersuckers, so they’re probably gonna take that leftover 4-Runner not get on a city bus.

But who ever accused Alice Forgy Kerr of understanding Lexington?

The CJ has more…

Bob at BlueBluegrass writes:

There are fiscal arguments as well, but the most powerful argument is that the signature industry and former number one farm crop for our state deserves a fair chance to compete with other states. The revenue arguments support passing the amendment as well. Even if the gaming “only” brings in a few hundred million a year to the state, to a commonwealth that is undergoing amputation of state government functions, such money is desperately needed. And the unholy alliance of Kentucky Senate President and Indiana casino gambler David Williams and his out of state allies who seek to protect their markets are laughing their heads off, knowing that any negatives associated with gaming are already occurring as Kentuckians drive out of state to gamble, and knowing that Kentuckians are being tricked into paying for Indiana’s racing program, Indiana’s schools, roads, and state government.

Please call senators today, and please let them know how very much this matters to Kentuckians. To say it is important is an understatement. A lot of good Kentucky farms are already gone. Do something to protect those that remain. Call 1-800-372-7181.

The Herald Ed-Board writes:

Our support for expanded gambling of any kind stems from our belief that Thoroughbred racing, a signature Kentucky industry, needs it to remain competitive with its counterparts in states where purses and breeding incentives are supplemented by revenue from expanded gambling.

Although not specifically stated in the proposed amendment, the buffer zone has the practical effect of assuring some of the seven casinos authorized by the measure will be located at and operated by racetracks, thereby helping them to achieve parity with other “racino” states. Remove the buffer zone, and there is no guarantee any casinos will be located at racetracks or even provide any benefit to the racing industry.

Without such a guaranteed benefit to a signature industry, Kentucky doesn’t need to add to the gambling options it already has.

Here’s yesterday’s committee vote:

FOR:

  • Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown
  • Dan Schickel, R-Union
  • Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon
  • R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester
  • Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg
  • Walter Blevins, D-Morehead
  • Gerald Neal, D-Louisville

AGAINST

Lexington Senator Alice Forgy Kerry voted against the amendment.
Will the horse industry make her pay?

  • Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington
  • Dan Seum, R-Louisville
  • Tom Jensen, R-London
  • Robert Stivers, R-Manchester

Redistricting Saga Continues: Supreme Court wants motions by Friday, could get sent back to Legislature

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February 15, 2012
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You Keep Me Hanging On by The Supremes on Grooveshark

H-L:

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Tuesday fast-tracked the appeal of a Franklin Circuit Court ruling that declared Kentucky’s newly drawn legislative districts unconstitutional.

The state’s highest court said all responses to all motions must be filed with its clerk by noon Friday.

Lawyers for Stumbo/Williams argue the disenfranchisement of Lexington voters and several Republican House districts was done meticulously with previous court rulings in mind. They argue that they knew exactly what they were doing, meant to do it, and have every right to do it. And voters can go             themselves.

Here are the Supremes. Will Scott, top left, has recused himself as HB1 redraws a district he’s running in… but you can learn all about them here.

The AP:

The changes produced some oddly shaped legislative districts. One House district was stretched from the Tennessee line in McCreary County, zigzagged narrowly through Laurel County, then encompassed all of Jackson County. One Senate district was stretched more than 130 miles from Barbourville to Morehead.

….Chief Justice John D. Minton has given attorneys in the Kentucky case until noon Friday to file all motions that the Supreme Court will need to consider before issuing a ruling. Lawmakers are hoping for a quick resolution because the lingering questions about redistricting have overshadowed other issues pending before the General Assembly.

One of those issues has been Beshear’s bill to open the Commonwealth to casino gambling. That bill was supposed to hit the legislature early in its session but instead didn’t show up until yesterday — Day 27 of 60 — as Thayer and Beshear kept pushing it back as redistricting uncertainty left legislators unclear how they wanted to vote or how secure they would be in their votes.

Obviously with the case still tied up in court, those questions remain but Beshear and Thayer and others have decided they just can’t wait for the Thayer/Williams/Stumbo disenfranchisement plan to come to fruition.

The C-J:

Questions over redistricting, however, could still pose problems for the amendment. The legislative redistricting issue remains in the courts on appeal — and the issue could be sent back to the legislature. That could mean a reopening of the filing period.

….One of the criticisms of that proposal was that it was filed late, on the 27th day of that 60-day session.

But Beshear and Thayer have said they believe there’s enough time this year for legislators to take up the amendment.

“We have plenty of time to pass this measure,” said Beshear, adding that he doesn’t know of any votes that he’s lost during the redistricting process.

Which is of course why he waited until half way through the session to propose it.

Gambling Amendment Out of the Gate

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February 14, 2012
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Gambler by Madonna on Grooveshark

Damon Thayer and Steve Beshear brought their long-awaited gambling bill to the Senate today. It would allow (to begin with) seven casinos — five at horse tracks, two not at horse tracks and not within 60 miles of a horse track.

The governor said additional tax revenue and licensing fees from casinos could buoy the state budget and help the Kentucky horse industry, which is threatened by competition from other states with casinos.

Thayer said co-sponsors from both parties have signed up for the bill, which he expects to be sent to the Senate State and Local Government Committee, which he chairs.

He said he expects it next to come up for a hearing and probably a vote on Feb. 22.

Joining Thayer and Beshear was Ag Commish Jamie Comer (AKA, that one Republican candidate who didn’t lose to a Democrat last November) who campaigned on and will testify in support of bringing casino gambling to Kentucky.

AP:

Thayer said he believes Kentuckians should have the right to decide the gambling issue this November in an election that will draw a large turnout because the presidential race also will be on the ballot.

“The time is right to put this issue on the ballot this November, and let the people vote,” he said.

That ballot question, via WFPL, would be:

“Are you in favor of authorizing the General Assembly to permit the establishment and operation of up to seven strictly regulated casinos, up to five of which would be at licensed horse racing tracks, with the Commonwealth’s revenue from them to be spent for job creation, education, human services, health care, veterans programs, local governments, public safety and support of the horse industry?”

Well. Are you, punk?

More interesting question (at least in the immediate) is the one we’re still waiting on an answer to: Will Andy Barr support casino gambling?

We asked him a while back and dude seems real shy. Does he side with his religious/conservative voters, or with the horse folk? Tough choice.

In other news, Nebraska is also talking about opening their land to casino gambling:

The amendment proposal would give the Legislature the authority to legalize casino gambling, which is currently banned in the state constitution. If approved, the measure would allow Nebraska to build casinos within 60 miles of a border state — unless the border state agreed to share some of the tax revenue.

The idea faces long odds, because Nebraskans have rejected several gambling proposals over the past decade.

So is New Hampshire:

Amendments to a bill in the New Hampshire House to legalize gambling include licensing four casinos with 14,000 slot machines and 420 table games, as well as lowering the business tax.

With Massachusetts approving licenses for three casinos in November, proponents say New Hampshire must act immediately to legalize gambling or else it could see a drain of tourism dollars and room and meal tax revenue towards its neighbor to the south. The amendment to authorize four casinos would make all the licenses available simultaneously.

And everyone else is moving past brick and mortar casinos and going “online“:

This explains why 2012 will be known as the year that at least one state – probably two or three – launch the first instance of legalized online gambling in the United States. In 2011, the District of Columbia approved it but had implementation issues. Nevada has also legalized and is taking applications from operators. New Jersey and Iowa were close to passing it. Now, at least 10 states are actively considering it. States are looking for the types of revenue that online gaming can bring – immediate, significant and well regulated.

Reports by Morgan Stanley suggest that 15 million, or more, Americans today will log onto their computer and illegally play poker online. This seems innocent enough until you realize that it is unregulated, untaxed and completely unlawful. With smart technologies and the leveraging of existing state regulatory and law-enforcement organizations, online gambling could be taxed and generating revenues in any number of states quickly and safely.

But that’s just crazy. The internet’s basically over.

Mapmaker, Mapmaker make me a map

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February 14, 2012
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Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Grooveshark

After the Stumbo/Williams/Thayer/Beshear alliance went forward with plans to appeal Judge Shepherd’s decision to toss their redistricting maps, it became time to spend money on lawyers.

Secretary of State Grimes and Stumbo/Williams’ Legislative Research Commission have set aside $145,000 for the fight over the House and Senate disenfranchisement bill.

Brammer/Cheves report:

The Legislative Research Commission, which represents House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams in defending the districts from a constitutional challenge, has budgeted $95,000 for Louisville attorney Sheryl Snyder, although it may end up paying less depending on how much work is necessary.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and the state Board of Elections, also defendants, have budgeted $50,000 for the law firms of Tachau Meek in Louisville and Britton Osborne Johnson in Lexington. Those legal fees will be paid with public funds.

House Republicans, who brought the lawsuit, said they are privately raising funds to pay for their lawyers at Fultz Maddox Hovious & Dickens in Louisville.

“Our attorneys told us to look at a budget of $75,000,” House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Monday. “We’ve been asking people to help, including friends of members who are going to be adversely affected by the changes in district lines.”

According to Stumbo/Williams’ lawyer, Shepherd’s decision — finding the bill unconstitutional — was  “an unprecedented use of the power of an injunction to resolve a political question.”

In the motion to overturn the ruling, Snyder argues that Shepherd misapplied the law. But even if Shepherd is correct, Snyder contends, the old districts are even more unconstitutional because population changes in the past decade have made them too big or too small.

Stumbo’s House plan forces six GOP reps from office, while Williams’ Senate plan forces four Dems out — including the disappearing of Lexington’s Senate representation.

So again we see the odd alliances continuing as House Dems and Senate Republicans fight alongside the Governor’s office against House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

From the AP:

“While adherence to one person, one vote presents a justiciable controversy, the actual drawing of the lines in an apportionment plan is a quintessential political question,” Snyder wrote in the research committee’s appeal.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has not yet decided how to handle the appeal, spokeswoman Lynn Zellen said.

The legislature’s filing deadline has already passed three times. If the courts toss Shepherd’s ruling and force the Stumbo/Williams disenfranchisement map into effect, it creates a situation where people are filed for office in wrong districts (or nonexistent ones).

That uncertainty, among other problems, continues to complicate the Governor’s gambling plans as elected officials wait to see who they represent and who they’re running against before taking a position on a bill which, still, doesn’t explicitly exist.

But hey, at least we’re not alone. Kentucky is one of 23 states with an active redistricting lawsuit.

Republican Party pushes Garland Barr IV to wave white flag

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February 13, 2012
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A quick roundup of Congressional redistricting finds Andy Barr giving up in the 6th after his fellow Republicans strengthened themselves and left the Tea Panderer out in the cold.

The bill was signed into law on Friday by Gov. Beshear. After the House and Senate failed to come to an agreement on their own maps, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers got together and crafted a map of their own.

That map strengthens all incumbents, including Ben Chandler. This angered 6th District area Republicans, like state Sen. Damon Thayer. A week after trying to expunge the area’s own Senator, Thayer was forced to pivot, flip-flopping his position so that now he finds himself incensed and offended by the redistricting process. Our hearts go out to him, and the others. From the CJ:

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, called HB 302 the “Ben Chandler Lifetime Employment Act.”

Thayer called the bill an “insult” to the people of Central Kentucky and described it as “horrific.”

….Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, complained that “we have turned our allegiance more to the congressional delegation than to the taxpayers.” He said the people in his district oppose the plan.

Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, said his constituents don’t want to move from the 6th District to the 2nd, as the plan requires.

He said the people in his district are “not a bit happy.”

Now unlike Thayer’s plan to disappear Kathy Stein, the Hal Rogers compromise map doesn’t do anything too crazy… it just shifts a few lines and Brett Guthrie should be a) concerned, and b) offended that so many Republicans are unhappy about now having his conservative credentials as their new Congressman.

What do Fayette-area Republicans have against Brett Guthrie?

Garland Barr IV was similarly offended by Hal Rogers’ plan. He said:

It’s weird that Barr and his Republican allies have taken this opportunity not to welcome their new voters or accept any challenge, but rather to throw up their hands, waving the white flag.

If you want to call it the “Ben Chandler Lifetime Employment Act” and you want to spend your time appealing to voters who can no longer vote for you because they are now represented by Brett Guthrie, that’s your choice, but it’s not particularly smart to declare your race lost while simultaneously alienating and denigrating your new voters.

[Check the HL for maps.]

The only explanation for why Barr and his allies would crap all over Hal Rogers and the Republican power nexus that crafted these maps is that the Barr campaign is continuing its strategy of pandering to the Tea Party.

Cynically believing the Tea Partiers and rank and file conservative activists to be total idiots, Andy Barr is trying to make them believe this was all Ben Chandler’s doing. Which is simply not true. Barr and 6th District republicans were pawned by Rogers and the Republican controlled delegation to make the other districts more conservative.

Each of the four Republican members, Reps. Brett Guthrie, Ed Whitfield, Hal Rogers and retiring Rep. Geoff Davis, are drawn into conservative-oriented seats.

There is a catch for Republicans, however: In keeping their House members safe, they also bolstered Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler by shifting more Democratic voters into his district. Chandler is a top GOP target who survived the 2010 election in one of the closest races of the year. Under the plan, Chandler’s Lexington-based 6th District seat will become slightly more Democratic-friendly.

Sonka/LEO’s Fat Lip has more on both the internal GOP squabbling that led to this compromise, as well as some sharp words from Ms. Kathy Stein for Thayer and Kerr and a quick numbers game looking at how the new 6th might alter vote turnouts for Barr and Chandler.

GOP internal squabbling leads to congressional redistricting deal

Though it looked like congressional redistricting would go to the courts, since the legislature couldn’t reach a compromise, that will no longer be the case. A wild morning full of emotions and accusations lead to the passage of House Bill 302, which will now go in the books and finalize the boundaries for congressional districts in Kentucky.

Though an agreement appeared to be reached a week ago, it was nixed at the last minute by central Kentuckian Republicans, particularly Sen. Damon Thayer and 6th District congressional candidate Andy Barr, who got Tea Partiers from their area to flood Republican senators with calls telling them not to agree to it. While the deal reached eased the concerns of Republicans in other districts, it does give Chandler a slightly more favorable district than what he previously had. In nixing the deal, several Republicans were quite liberal in expressing their anger at Barr for sabotaging it (particularly Tom Jensen).

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