- Special Sections
- Public Notices
On Lincoln’s birthday, when we remember his heroic words at the Gettysburg battlefield, that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth, the members of the Kentucky House of Representatives serving on the House Licensing and Occupations Committee are acting in direct contradiction to those great words.
On Lincoln’s birthday, the House Licensing and Occupations Committee will host a special committee meeting in which they will receive a committee substitute for HB-158, the bill sponsored by Speaker Greg Stumbo to permit an unlimited number of predatory video lottery terminals at Kentucky’s race tracks, and they will vote on it. Not one member of the public has been able to obtain a copy of the substitute bill. Not one member of the public will be allowed to speak to the committee.
Those of us opposed to slot machines in Kentucky were given less than 15 minutes in the first hearing on the bill on Jan. 21. The racing industry, and the Speaker, were given well over an hour to present their case in support of HB-158. The Speaker apparently can speak out of both sides of his mouth because he has been saying that the bill probably would not be voted upon during this short session, that it was on the “back burner.”
Suddenly, and almost secretly, the Slots Bill pops up to be voted on with no notice to the general public. If a reporter had not told me it was to be voted on in a special committee meeting on Feb. 12, I would not have known until after the fact.
It has been this way with the legislation to expand gambling ever since it was first proposed. The advocates continue to get maximum opportunity to present their information. The opponents, if we get to testify at all, are given less than 15 minutes. We have often wanted to bring in national experts to testify, but with less than 24 hours’ notice, we can never bring our experts in to be heard.
This is not government of, by and for the people. I am fed up with the failure of so many of our legislative committees to require a minimum 24-hour notice rule on any committee substitute legislation. It is time that the people rise up and demand transparency in the legislative process, and equal time for both sides of contentious and difficult issues, such as expanded gambling.
The thoroughbred industry, normally a classy bunch of people, ought to be embarrassed that their advocates stoop to such secretive methods to advance their cause. If their cause is just, then let both sides be heard. It is time for us to extend our legislative sessions over many more months, as they are in most other states, with legislators meeting for only two to three days per week, in order to allow decent scheduling for hearings and public discussion of legislation that will deeply affect the lives of the citizens.
The action of the Chair of the Licensing and Occupations Committee, Rep. Dennis Keane (D-Wilder, District 67), and Stumbo, to call HB-158 for a vote, and presenting a committee substitute bill at the last minute without any opportunity for the general public to see the legislation, makes a travesty of good government.
It certainly is not government of, by and for the people. Lincoln would be ashamed.
- The Rev. Dr. Nancy J. Kemper is executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches and media spokesperson for Citizens against Gambling Expansion.