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Ellis: Both teams playing politics

October 23, 2009

Reporter Ronnie Ellis with CNHI News Service has a great column today about the criticisms recently leveled by Gov. Steve Beshear and Democratic leaders that Senate Republicans were “playing politics.”

The criticism followed an announcement this week by Senate President David Williams, a Burkesville Republican, and Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican, that they would offer companion constitutional amendments next year relating to expanded gambling.

Taken together, the two amendments would establish that gambling couldn’t be expanded in Kentucky except by changing the state constitution, and then amend the constitution to allow slot machines to seven licensees, with one license awarded in each of the seven counties that hosts live horse racing.

Beshear, who now prefers allowing slots at tracks through legislative action, not amending the constitution, said in a statement this week that “this move (by Williams and Thayer) is about politics, not progress. It is about spin, not the substance of critical issues confronting Kentucky and our signature industry.”

As Ellis notes, of course it’s about politics, but so are many of the recent maneuvers by Beshear to create a state Senate, which now has a Republican majority, more receptive to his gambling proposal. And in doing so, Beshear is possibly going to appoint a Republican to the judicial bench – current state Sen. Dan Kelly of Springfield – based on politics, not policy.

From Ellis’s column

Appointing a judge whose rulings can determine the life, liberty and property rights of citizens is another. I’m not an attorney or an expert on the law. I don’t know whether Kelly is a good attorney or if he’ll make a good judge. I don’t know who the other possible nominees may be or how well they know the law or whether their judgment and temperament are appropriate to sit in judgment of others.

Judges are elected in Kentucky and anytime an election determines who sits on the bench, politics come into play. Kelly has said he intends to run for the seat when it is next on the ballot. But at least the people who live in that circuit and who may face that judge in court will make that decision. And they will have a choice between two candidates.

But it’s a bit disconcerting to think someone who sits in judgment of those accused – sometimes falsely – of crimes which can lose them their liberty and property, might have gotten there because a governor wanted another vote for gambling.

Yes, Williams and Thayer are playing politics with their amendments. But the governor and Democrats are in no position to criticize them for that.

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