Another fine, messy session

In Ronnie Ellis we trust. Almost a month ago, the political guru told KET’s statewide audience about a spectacular distraction at the Capitol. “People who are not in the legislature or watching it closely may not realize how everything is being influenced by the thought of this election,” he said.

At stake is control of the 100-member House — and the power and legacies of Democratic leaders — as November’s election tests a trend that has narrowed their majority to 54. Forty-six Republicans want to take the House, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, “doesn’t want to be the speaker that loses it,” Ellis added. “The governor doesn’t want to be the Democrat that loses it. It’s hovering over everything.”

The GOP’s majority in the Senate has grown since 2000, when it ended an era of Democratic dominance. Pre-election sessions are routinely sluggish except for bills too partisan to pass both chambers. These moribund acts waste money and time but grab headlines that win points for political puffery.

So the Capitol press corps was prepared for usual games of our elected slow children at play. But the elephant in the House feasted on red meat from the Senate. It swelled with menacing measures designed to mobilize conservative voters — notably fans of Rand Paul — and to curb Democratic turnout. There came an initiative to abolish the treasurer’s office and to regulate maverick Attorney General Jack Conway after he opted not to appeal a federal judge’s conclusion that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Other bills conveyed the Senate’s will to shorten their sessions, micromanage the executive branch through the interim — and acquire the authority to convene a special session, perhaps to negate a gubernatorial order creating a health insurance exchange for an infamously sick state.

What sickened the House in mid-March was a cynical, sinister strategy reported by Adam Beam of the Associated Press and read on the floor by House budget committee chair Rick Rand, D-Bedford. “Republicans seeking to take over the House for the first time in nearly 100 years plan a vote that would force Democrats to register their support for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.”

In the ensuring debate, Republicans still begrudged the federal government for addressing a longstanding statewide health crisis without their permission. It was as audacious as the creation of the Medicare program 50 years ago!

The GOP needs to put away their Confederate flags and stop re-litigating the Civil War. Federal law supersedes state law. When they stop biting their pillows, maybe they’ll find the wisdom to join the loyal opposition. I know it’s unfashionable to ask what you can do for your country nowadays, but patriotism will rise again — even if Dixie doesn’t.

You’ll take comfort in the knowledge that most of the tribal diatribes against Obamacare range from symbolic to meaningless. They can’t kill it, and there’s evidence of a growing backlash against their sickening bitching. It’s even more insidious in the GOP-addled South Carolina legislature. Sen. Tom Davis calls the act “an infection that endangers not only the effective delivery of health care in our nation, but also our economy and quality of life.”

That’s some toxic Southern-fried fear-mongering, senator. And I wonder if it’s part of the reason a population of indigents refuses to enroll. That wouldn’t be so critical if foes weren’t fixated on de-funding safety nets during the transition. But in the event Louisville’s indigent health system crashes and burns, the Senate’s proposed budget disables the black box. It deletes a House mandate that “the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and U of L conduct an annual study of the effect of the reduction in contributions to the Quality and Charity Care Trust on the delivery of indigent care in Jefferson County.” Mad love to donkey-punchers against entitled parasites who expect free health care!

A plot to hijack the House by tarring Democrats with a program that’s winning friends via expanded access and improved outcomes defines delusional. “Kentucky’s health insurance marketplace — called Kynect — has enrolled more people per capita than any other health care exchange,” according to March news from the Pew Charitable Trusts. If House Democrats survive November with the majority, they’ll owe it to a governor who rescued the Affordable Care Act and Kentuckians’ health to earn a life-sustaining legacy.