Thursday, April 19
Friday, April 6
Those of you who get my newsletter know how much I love music, so you won’t be surprised when I reach for a Grateful Dead lyric to sum up the 2018 Session of the General Assembly
The chorus to the Dead’s song “Truckin’” exclaims, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
We detoured onto bumpy roads and occasionally veered into chaos, but to quote the Dead again, “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.”
Friday, March 30
Looking down the marble stairs that lead from the third floor of the Capitol in Frankfort on Monday, I saw democracy in action.
Thousands of teachers lined the steps, offering high-fives, hand-slaps, and hugs as I made my way down into their protest, which crowded the handsome stairwells and cavernous rotunda. Their energy was infectious and welcome.
I thought to myself, this is what the First Amendment was talking about when it guaranteed the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances
Friday, March 23
Last night was government at its worst. The Republican Majority bent itself into parliamentary pretzels, attaching a 291 page pension reform bill that no one had seen to a sewage bill and passing it into law in an astonishing eight hours. It was wrong.
It wasn’t, however, entirely unexpected. Elections have consequences.
Still I had hoped the landslide of resistance to Senate Bill (SB) 1 - which forced Republican leadership to pull the proposal three weeks ago - would be enough to bury it. I thought that would give us a chance to try again and do pension reform the right way.
Friday, March 16
Columnist Lewis Grizzard wrote a book titled “Elvis is dead and I don’t feel so good myself.” That just about sums up how I’m feeling after a tough week in Frankfort and a demoralizing loss by the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Deep breath. This too shall pass.
I actually do love my work as a state senator.
Friday, March 17
Bad news and good news this week.
The bad: We’ve reached day 51 in a 60-day legislative session, but the General Assembly has not passed either a state budget or pension reform, nor is quick success in view on the horizon.
The budget, after being passed through the House, has had no meaningful hearings in the Senate. At this point, the best we can hope is the Senate Majority will ram it through next week and send it back to the House, so the two chambers can, hopefully, craft a workable plan. Not exactly the legislative fate you would desire for what one of my predecessors, Senator David Karem, often called “the State’s most important policy document.”
Friday, March 10
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.
Friday, March 3
This was a weary week.
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.
Friday, February 24
If you're my age, or have young children, chances are you know Princess Leia's prayer: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.”
I don't think Obi-Wan would be of much assistance in Frankfort. Even a light saber can't cut through the kind of impasse that sometimes develops up here.
For lawmakers who need to pray, there's a chapel on the second floor of the Capitol. I used it this week. More on that later.
I'm not sure whether it was prayer, good timing or a good bit of work that helped me move two bills through the Senate this week.
Friday, February 17
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.
Friday, February 10
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.
Wednesday, January 11
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.
SOMETIMES CHANGE COMES FAST.
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.