When I called after we recessed to check on my own proposal, Senate Bill 62, a friendly voice in the Governor's office said, wearily, “We've received 108 bills in the last two days.”
I got the message.
An enormous amount of legislation cleared the General Assembly in the waning days of the 2017 session - some good and some bad. I’m just now digging out to get you a newsletter. The big office on the first floor has a lot of work to do too, deciding what will get the Governor's OK.
After holding multiple community meetings in the last month, in different parts of my senate district, I faced a fight in Frankfort to minimize damage from a battery of bad bills aimed at Louisville by the Majority Party. I also pushed bills of my own, one of which would protect health savings accounts from garnishment – an important effort, given the ever-widening use of this approach to health coverage. It passed unanimously through a House committee on Wednesday.
I keep thinking about the Kris Kristofferson lyric that Janis Joplin made famous: I was “feelin' nearly faded as my jeans.” On the other hand, it's a privilege to be here and do this work.
When you spend all week, and part of every weekend, immersed in legislative detail and constituent input, a little relief is in order.
My family found exactly that last Sunday at the farm of Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican who represents Shelby, Henry, Trimble, Carroll and a little bit of Jefferson County, and who has a serious farm pond full of fish. My kids loved that last part. It was their first real piscatorial expedition. It was all red worms and bobbers.
Watching the kids have so much fun was great, but I also loved spending time with a colleague who is a real gentleman. He and I disagree on many issues, but I have great respect for him, and great rapport with him. That's how things ought to be up here in Frankfort. That's how you get things done.
Everyone is talking about politics. The insanity coming out of Washington and the change in Frankfort has energized people in a way I haven’t seen over the last five years. I’m about to be temporarily suspended from making “brief” runs to the Kroger on Bardstown Road because the produce section turns into a town hall on pensions, the bread aisle is charter schools, and the trip to the dairy section becomes a wonderful smorgasbord of questions about the issues we confront on a daily basis. My wife asked our five-year-old when we returned from a recent trip to the store, “how many people did daddy talk to?” It was easier when he couldn’t count.
We're back in Frankfort after the tumultuous first week. On the one hand, nothing has changed. On the other hand, everything has changed.
We're facing the same challenges. We're being lobbied by the same advocates and interests. We share the same goals, which are to represent our constituents and promote a better Kentucky. We walk the same halls, and the beauty of the Capitol, with its sweeping expanses of marble and sculpted icons of Kentucky history, remains a treat for the eye and a lift for the spirit.
On the other hand, Democrats like me must work even harder to have an impact in now-Republican-controlled Frankfort, and we're doing that.
Governor Matt Bevin offered his version of the “state of the commonwealth” this week, and, as is always the case, the Governor thinks he has been doing some great things for Kentucky.
As is often the case, members of the loyal opposition see it a bit differently.
This week I was sworn in for a new four-year term while my kids, Clara and Wilson, stood on the floor with me. Four years ago they were too young to attend. This time they raised their hands while I took the oath, and, during the roll call, when the Clerk of the Senate got to “McGarvey,” two five-year-old soprano voices answered, “Here!” Children grow up all too quickly, but that was one of the few “cute” moments of the legislative week.