Bluegrass Beacon: Hit drug program’s PAUSE button

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

The 340B program was created by Congress in 1992 to provide life-saving medicine to poor and uninsured Americans by forcing pharmaceutical manufacturers wanting their drugs covered by Medicaid and Medicare to sell them at discounted rates of up to 50 percent to hospitals willing to serve vulnerable patients.

However, Washington has failed to provide needed oversight to ensure that facilities signing up for 340B are, in fact, serving the poor and investing reimbursed funds – per lawmakers’ intent – into charitable care.

Wealthy Duke University hospital generated 340B profits worth nearly $500 million during a recent three-year stretch though fewer than 5 percent of its patients during that period were charity cases.

Participation in 340B by some Kentucky hospitals also raises questions.

Why, for example, are drug manufacturers forced to offer these huge discounts to Norton Healthcare, which raked in $1.5 billion in revenues in 2014 yet whose charity cases comprised less than 1 percent of its patients?

The Medical Center of Bowling Green reported $285 million in revenues that same year but still participates in 340B even though its charity cases added up to less than 0.5 percent of its patients.

An industry study last year found more than a third of 340B hospitals report charity-care levels of less than 1 percent of all inpatient costs while 22 percent of participating hospitals provide 80 percent of all care received by the program’s vulnerable patients.

The Trump administration is addressing some of the misguided incentives by slashing reimbursement rates for 340B drug purchases.

Hospitals previously acquired drugs from manufacturers at up to half the cost then turned around and received reimbursement from Medicare at a rate of 6 percent above their average national sale price, pocketing the difference with the expectation being that the surplus funds would be used to serve disadvantaged patients.

However, with the evidence mounting that poor patients aren’t reaping most of those benefits, the Trump administration is cutting reimbursements rates by nearly 29 percent, placing them at nearly 23 percent below the average national sale price.

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, assures these cuts will save Medicare beneficiaries, who are required to pay 20 percent of Medicare’s reimbursement rate for their medicines, $320 million in 2018 and “will better, and more appropriately, reflect the resources and acquisition costs that these hospitals incur” in obtaining 340B drugs.

Congress can bolster this effort by passing the Protecting Access for the Underserved and Safety-Net Entities (PAUSE) Act, which places a two-year moratorium on new hospitals and their outpatient locations participating in 340B.

Hospitals to this point have been incentivized to purchase existing physician-owned or community-based clinics, or open new outpatient centers primarily in wealthier areas where they can use their 340B status to purchase drugs at discounted rates, sell them at full price to patients at these off-site centers who usually carry traditional commercial insurance and pocket the difference.

An Inspector General’s review found that during one quarter in 2013, hospitals paid $737 per treatment for a 340B-covered drug to treat bladder cancer yet Medicare beneficiaries were billed $831 per treatment, 13 percent more than the drug cost. Plus, Medicare reimbursed the hospitals at the healthy rate of $3,325 per treatment. It all added up to hospitals collecting a total of $3,419 above their cost of acquiring the drug.

This loophole may be legal but must be closed.

PAUSE requires hospitals who want to continue participating in the safety-net program to report their charity-care rates and the insurance status of patients receiving 340B prescriptions.

Slashing reimbursement rates and pausing growth is the right prescription for repurposing the 340B program so that it fulfills its original mission.

In fact, such an approach wouldn’t be a bad idea to adapt as a process for reviewing all welfare programs.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Beacon: Reforming Medicaid, tweaking elections and overcoming evil

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Past expanded government programs, present evil and future gubernatorial elections highlight this first edition of “Liberty Boosters and Busters” in 2018.

Liberty Boosters: President Trump for allowing states waivers to create work requirements for able-bodied adults added to Medicaid as part of Obamacare, and Gov. Matt Bevin for ensuring Kentucky was first in line for approval.

Progressives are taking legal action, claiming such requirements weren’t part of the 1965 law creating Medicaid.

The reason they weren’t is that Medicaid was intended to serve a much-smaller group.

It was created as a safety net for those incapable of helping themselves, not able-bodied adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – nearly $21,000 for individuals and $43,000 for a family of four.

Medicaid wasn’t intended to cover those who can work or at least volunteer in their communities.

It certainly wasn’t made to serve 68 million Americans, 1.4 million of whom are Kentuckians.

Ideological opponents salivate at the opportunity to paint a picture of conservatives as hardened brutes who would rather see the poor die in the streets than receive Medicaid benefits.

But hardworking taxpayer-voters get it.

The same Kaiser Family Foundation poll that shows nearly 75 percent of the public view Medicaid favorably as a safety-net program also reports 70 percent of Americans agree with allowing states to impose work requirements on beneficiaries.

Liberty Buster: Lexington Democratic state Sen. Reggie Thomas apparently thinks 10-percent turnouts in gubernatorial elections is preferable to tweaking election law to increase voter participation.

Thomas in a floor debate of a bill giving voters the opportunity to amend Kentucky’s constitution to include elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner in even-numbered years when presidential elections bring significantly higher turnout, claimed voters would be confused by the change.

“I don’t think we should confuse who is running for president … with who is going to be our governor,” Thomas said in the floor debate on the bill before it received 24-11 approval by the Kentucky Senate.

Does Thomas believe voters are incapable of understanding that while who’s elected president matters, Washington isn’t going to solve problems most affecting their daily lives, like Kentucky’s pension crisis, widening education-achievement gap or budget deficits?

Voters aren’t confused. But they and their county clerks are election-fatigued, considering Kentuckians go to the polls three out of every four years.

Or, at least a few of them do.

Barely 10 and 12 percent of eligible voters turned out in the most recent off-year primaries and fewer than one in three cast ballots in the general elections, compared with nearly 60 percent in Kentucky’s 2016 presidential tally.

Yet Thomas claims the proposed constitutional amendment “goes in the wrong direction.”

So, doubling the number of voters deciding who leads the commonwealth, saving counties millions and curing election fatigue “goes in the wrong direction”?

Now I’m confused.

Life Booster: Tracy Tubbs, whose 15-year-old niece Bailey Holt’s loving life was senselessly snuffed out in the recent shooting attack at Marshall County High School.

One of Holt’s fellow students stands accused in the attack, which killed two, injured at least 18 others and shattered countless lives in the tight-knit Benton community.

It’s tempting to make the story all about a lost young man.

But Tubbs told reporters that’s not how her niece did life.

“She would absolutely tell us all to stop all the fuss, not be angry, forgive him and pray for his mom,” Tubbs said. “She would not have an angry bone in her body. She would rather us turn our pain into something good, and that’s the best way we are going to represent her life.”

Talk about love in biblical proportions: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Beacon: Councils just another failed fad of KERA

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Former House Speaker Jody Richards recently announced he would not seek re-election this year.

Richards, D-Bowling Green, who went to Frankfort the year Jimmy Carter was elected president, pounded the gavel in the House for 14 years, making him the longest-serving Speaker in Kentucky’s history.

His legacy involves playing a key role as longtime House Education Committee chairman in shaping the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990, which was accompanied by a $1.3 billion tax increase – the largest since Daniel Boone wandered through the Cumberland Gap and first laid eyes on what would become America’s 15th state.

Among the many fads KERA forced on schools were School Based Decision Making (SBDM) councils, which gave teachers control of their school’s most important funding, personnel and curriculum decisions.

Thankfully, the legislature stands poised to make progress toward significantly reducing SBDM authority and returning it to superintendents and elected school boards, where it belongs and will make it possible for parents and citizens to demand accountability for the way schools operate and educate.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, has introduced sound SDBM-reform legislation which includes returning the hiring of principals to superintendents with councils playing a more-appropriate advisory role.

It also requires councils to report their activities annually to – and align their policies with – their school boards.

It also allows board members to “overturn a decision, policy, or action of a school council” they determine to be “inconsistent with local board policy” or a “hindrance to the efficient operation of the district as a whole.”

Also, it provides a mechanism and process whereby SBDM authority can be removed from clearly failing schools.

KERA also promised that this experimental and highly controversial approach to managing schools would get parents more involved in their children’s schools, even though parents would be relegated to a minority vote on the councils.

So, how’s that working out?

An analysis of state data reveals that nearly 73 percent of Kentucky’s 1,124 schools during the 2016-17 school year had only single-digit ratios of parents compared to total student enrollment even bothering to show up to vote in SBDM elections for their council representatives.

While 15 schools did have SBDM voter-to-student ratios of at least 50 percent, such a response was by far the exception.

Nearly three out of four Kentucky schools had only single-digit ratios with 101 schools having even less than 1 percent turnout in last school year’s SBDM elections.

There are limitations to such an analysis of enrollees because it doesn’t include the total number of parents in a school since some students come from two-parent homes – both of whom can vote in SBDM elections – or have siblings enrolled in the same schools.

Still, when only about one in 10 students is likely represented in the vast majority of council elections, it’s reasonable to conclude that parent interest in SBDM activities in most Kentucky schools is sparse.

While Schickel’s bill doesn’t give parents an equal or majority vote on the councils, it does provide a process whereby parents can appeal to school-board members, who, in turn, can make their case to the state Board of Education regarding why SBDM authority should be removed from failing schools.

So, while Richards and his fellow politicians reaped the political benefits of KERA, many of its experimental fads – including the SBDM approach to governing schools – were flops and failures.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Prescription reimbursement policies: Use scalpels, not sledgehammers

Each legislative session brings its own attempts – usually born out of frustration – to address real problems in ways that just wind up growing government’s size, scope and cost.

It’s indicative of sledgehammer-to-ant syndrome. Rather than kill ants and address the specific problem, this approach knocks down the entire house.

Obamacare an example

Perhaps no large-scale policy change in America better describes such an approach than the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which provided neither protection nor more affordable coverage or care for patients.

It’s not that there weren’t some problems that needed attention. Rather, the solutions Obamacare offered went way beyond the pest control needed to address the ants on the floor and instead tore the whole house down.

Obamacare not only didn’t fix the health care and coverage problems but exacerbated them. It’s as if it knocked our whole health-care house down only to discover the ants survived the demolition and grew in number.

[Read more…]

A state secret or a secret from the state: technology as an obstacle to the public’s right to know

COG LOGOEvents have rapidly unfolded since we first commented on a serious threat to open government in the state of Missouri. The threat is a notable one for Kentuckians because it could play out in our own backyard.

The Kansas City Star reported on December 7 that  Missouri’s governor – and his staff – had downloaded the app Confide to their personal cellphones. The app “deletes messages and prevents recipients from saving, forwarding, printing or taking screenshots of messages.” The app was likened to the Mission Impossible tape recorder that instantly burst into flames after delivering instructions to the agents during the opening of the sixties’ television series.

Within days of the report, there were calls for an investigation by the Missouri attorney general into possible violations of the state’s sunshine law and records management laws.

Subsequent  requests to the Missouri governor for records relating to the use of Confide in his office met with delay and evasion. When at last the governor’s office responded, his staff indirectly acknowledged use of the app but denied a request for documents showing the date on which the governor or his staff downloaded it or a similar app.

In support, the Missouri governor cited that state’s equivalent of Kentucky’s open records homeland security exception, prompting critics to declare that the requested information – namely, the date or dates on which the app was installed — “is not a state secret, [i]t’s a secret from the state.”

Under either states’ law, and on these facts, the invocation of statutes aimed a thwarting terrorism to support nondisclosure strains credulity.

The issue is now in the courts in a case alleging violation of the Missouri sunshine law.

Opponents of the governor’s use of Confide argue that the “use of automatic communications destroying software by elected officials and government employees is illegal and constitutes an ongoing conspiracy to violate” the state sunshine and records management laws, “not to mention a significant affront to the open government and democratic traditions of Missouri and the United States.”

Meanwhile, criticism has emerged concerning the governor’s use of his “personal” Facebook and Twitter accounts  to, for example, conduct a meeting from his office in the Capitol to discuss his tax cut plan with constituents.

In an about-face, the Missouri attorney general determined that the practice does not violate the state’s Sunshine Law absent evidence indicating that the account is being used to transact public business. This begs the question: just how narrowly does the attorney general define the term “public business?”

To his credit,  the Missouri attorney general has proposed changes to the state’s laws aimed at, among other things, assigning penalties for violation of records management and retention laws of up to a year in prison, up to a $2,000 fine or both.

His efforts coincide with a bill introduced in the current Missouri legislative session that prohibits the use of software like Confide that is designed to automatically delete messages and a bill that amends the definition of public record to include social media pages so that the information contained in such pages is subject to sunshine law requests and clarifies that electronic mail, text messaging, direct or private messaging through social media accounts or other applications or platforms are, under certain circumstances, public records and must be preserved for the purpose of sunshine law requests.

Why focus on threats to the public’s right to know in Missouri under that state’s sunshine law?

It is because the same threats confront Kentucky under our open records and records management laws.

These laws were last substantially amended in 1994. In that year, the General Assembly recognized “an essential relationship between the intent of [Chapter 61 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, dealing with  open records] and [Chapter 171] dealing with the management of public records, . . .  and that to ensure the efficient administration of government and to provide accountability of government activities, public agencies are required to manage and maintain their records according to the requirements of these statutes.”

The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives – which is responsible for implementing Chapter 171 by establishing retention schedules for records of all public agencies — has been proactive in capturing all records in the schedules, based on content rather than format or location, declaring that public officials and employees “are responsible for maintaining the integrity of records whether those records are stored electronically or in hard copy. Information must be accessible to the appropriate parties until all of the legal, fiscal, and administrative retention periods have been met, regardless of the medium.”

The Kentucky Attorney General has been anything but proactive, issuing open records decision in 2015 and again in 2016 ill-advisedly declaring that communications between public officials and employees concerning public business conducted on private devices are not public records.

In so doing, the Attorney General  “ignored the expansive definition of the term ‘public record’ and years of precedent that had guided the office’s interpretation of the law recognizing that  ‘[i]n the end, it is the nature and purpose of the document, not the place where it is kept, that determines its status as a public record.’” An analysis of those open records decision can be found here.

Given the dated language of our Open Records Law, and the Kentucky attorney general’s past failure to effectively apply the law to emerging technologies or to seize the initiative in proposing legislation to address the widening gap between technology and the law, Kentucky will soon – if it does not already — face similar challenges to those now confronting Missouri.

Unless the Attorney General is prepared to reverse his position on this and similar issues, or an appellate court points out the error in his analysis, legislative action — such as that proposed in the Bluegrass Institute’s report, “Shining the Light on Kentucky’s Sunshine Laws” — represents the best, and perhaps the only, solution.

–Amye Bensenhaver is director of the Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government.

BIPPS on ‘Ky Tonight’: Is Bevin’s proposed budget anti-education?

Is Gov. Matt Bevin’s two-year budget proposal with its 70 suggested program cuts, including slashing funding for a teachers’ professional-development project, really anti-education or could some of these programs be provided in a more efficient and effective manner? And how much do these programs affect the education of children in the classroom?

These questions and more will be debated Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television’s “Kentucky Tonight,” an award-winning statewide public affairs program hosted by Renee Shaw at 8 p.m. ET.

Watch the hour-long show live on KET and at www.ket.org/live.

Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky will join Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters in promoting choice and innovation in Kentucky’s education system.

Read recent posts about what’s happening in Kentucky’s public education system, including this post containing comments from an obviously sharp young freshman in the Jefferson County Public Schools, and the need for reforming Kentucky’s School Based Decision Making policy here.

Other panelists include Tom Shelton, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, and Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form at www.ket.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions and comments on Twitter @ket, #kytonight or on KET’s Facebook page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county.

Plan to call in during the program with your comments and questions at 1-800-494-7605.

Kentucky Tonight programs are archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET, KET KY, and radio.

Help the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions continue to advance freedom and prosperity by promoting free‐market capitalism, smaller government, and the defense of personal liberties. Join us!

Bluegrass Beacon: Will pension funding engulf entire budget?

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Your humble correspondent warned for years that the day would come when public-pension funding crowded out government services Kentuckians on both sides of the political aisle care deeply about.

I’ve also warned repeatedly that dumping more money into the systems without stopping the bleeding of the nation’s worst pension crisis among states will create additional pressures on an already-strained budget while failing to fix the woes of our retirement systems.

Despite fervently hoping such prophecies were wrong, they now find fulfillment in Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed two-year budget.

Bevin recommends cutting 70 programs, including health screenings for various cancers, which especially benefit low-income, disabled and poor Kentuckians, while at the same time dumping more than $3 billion – nearly 15 percent of the commonwealth’s next entire two-year General Fund budget – into the deepening public-pension hole.

Even after more than $2 billion was included in the 2016 budget – including an additional $1.2 billion for the Teachers’ Retirement System – the pension plans’ funding levels have continued declining.

You can’t keep digging the hole and simultaneously expect to move closer to climbing out of it.

Many states face similar pension pressures, yet none have made spent, taxed or borrowed their way out of their holes, most of which aren’t nearly as deep as Kentucky’s.

The governor deserves credit for taking a stand in his recent budget speech to a joint session of the legislature against borrowing our way out of this mess, making it clear such an alternative is off the table. Doing so, he rightly states, would be like a family using the Mastercard to make payments on the American Express balance.

However, instead of going ahead and doing what that same family would if it wants to climb out of its financial hole – reducing spending – he proposes increasing it for public-retirement plans at the expense of just about everything else.

“Never once in the history of Kentucky has the (actuarially required contribution) been fully funded for all our pension systems – not one time, which is why we now find ourselves in the situation where they are all so severely underfunded,” Bevin said, sounding like many of his predecessors who found it easier to blame pension problems on funding deficiencies rather than the fact that the commonwealth has for years offered benefits at unaffordable and unsustainable levels.

“This year they will be funded in their entirety,” he boasted.

As if I should stand up and clap vigorously like I did when the governor announced something must be done about school systems’ central-office administrators making six-figure salaries while demonstrating little, if any, positive impact on student achievement in the classroom.

Bevin’s boast isn’t really that helpful, considering the ARC, which is simply the cost of current benefits plus debt payments from the past, isn’t “fully funded” because it’s been arbitrarily decided rather than actuarially established.

Instead of awarding only benefits that are properly prefunded – as defined-benefit systems are supposed to do – Kentucky’s retirement plans have for years colluded with politicians to increase benefits retroactively, thus disrupting the systems’ funding levels.

Of course, these unfunded benefit enhancements created a bigger ARC.

However, to blame Kentucky’s pension woes on inadequate funding by the legislature is like a couple with a $45,000 income getting evicted after purchasing a $1 million home and being unable to make the payments, then blaming their eviction on the fact they couldn’t make the payments rather than on the reality that they purchased a home they couldn’t afford.

It’s unfair for politicians and these systems’ administrators to make promises to beneficiaries they can’t afford to keep.

It’s also patently unfair to leave taxpayers in the private sector trying to support their families and who often don’t enjoy nearly the same level of retirement benefits holding the ARC bag into which they must dump an increasing number of their hard-earned dollars to pay the principal and interest on those promises.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Kentucky Can’t Wait 100+ Years to Improve Our Schools

A new Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions report released last week questions the lack of research and effectiveness of School Based Decision Making (SBDM) councils put in place over 25 years ago by the Kentucky Education Reform Act.

Kentucky Can’t Wait 100+ Years for Our Schools to Improve provides top line data from the report:

Bluegrass Institute_School Based Decision Making One Pager_01.22.18

 

Kentucky publisher praises Medicaid waiver

The Trump administration’s decision to make Kentucky the first step to receive approval for its 1115 Medicaid waiver request, which includes Gov. Bevin’s requirement that able-bodied adults added to the Medicaid rolls as part of the Obamacare-induced expansion work or volunteer in order to receive benefits, receives praise in a recent column by Jobe Publishing’s president and CEO Jeff Jobe.

Jobe calls Bevin’s leadership related to reforming Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion an act of “compassion but yet good honest government stewardship” and says that it will “lead not only Kentucky, but soon the nation, on a path of changing lives, showing we are indeed a compassionate people and getting back to honoring the hard-working tax payers by making sure our programs are indeed going to those in need.”

Jobe also offers a relevant personal story.

Read his commentary here.

 

 

 

Bluegrass Beacon – Fighting open-meetings offenses: Short-term pain, long-term gain

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Getting sued and seeing the glass half full is an obvious oxymoron – unless the lawsuit leads to a court decision establishing judicial precedent ensconcing a more open, transparent and accountable government.

Kentucky House leaders’ determination to rebuff the attorney general’s decision that the House’s closed-door gathering last summer to discuss pension reform violated the commonwealth’s Open Meetings Act and instead take the issue to court – hence, the lawsuit against the Bluegrass Institute – brings the saga one step closer toward final rejection of using legislative maneuvers to avoid future secret meetings on politically difficult issues.

House Republican leaders are attempting to maneuver around open-meetings requirements by claiming the Aug. 29 assembly to discuss controversial recommendations released the previous day for reforming the state’s pension systems was just another one of their political caucus meetings open to the Democratic minority caucus as well.

House attorney Laura H. Hendrix responding to a complaint filed by the institute’s Center for Open Government defended the secret meeting, arguing that political caucus assemblies are “specifically exempt” from the Open Meetings Act.

This isn’t the first attempt by House leaders seeking a closed-door discussion about a politically thorny issue to claim the meetings are caucus gatherings exempt from sunshine laws.

Similar arguments were advanced by the House in 1993 when then-Speaker Joe Clark called members into a closed session regarding Gov. Brereton Jones’s proposed health care reform, also a highly contentious matter.

House leaders escaped further legal action that year with claims that a quorum of its members didn’t show up for the private discussion.

Otherwise, the attorney general ruled, it would have constituted an illegal meeting.

While House leaders argued this summer’s secret session was a caucus meeting, they haven’t even attempted to claim lack of an attendance quorum.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that a quorum of members attended the meeting. Louisville Democratic Rep. Jim Wayne was the only lawmaker who publicly objected to the secrecy and walked out in protest.

The attorney general’s ruling that a quorum would have made the 1993 closed-door meeting – which the then-Democratic leaders of the House also claimed was one big happy caucus event – illegal should make the current case a legal slam dunk against even attempting such maneuvers.

Yet while the legal outcome is by no means certain, it will be fascinating to witness House attorneys attempt to portray a meeting of nearly the entire legislative body as just a political caucus meeting.

Doing so will, I anticipate, resemble an attempt to make the argument that if it looks, walks, swims and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a cat.

Center for Open Government director Amye Bensenhaver hoped the House would simply accept and acknowledge it violated the open-meetings law instead of wasting taxpayer money by suing the Bluegrass Institute “to justify excluding the public from its meetings, which is precisely what the Open Meetings Act was designed to prevent.”

It’s telling that longtime legislators who now are House leaders are driving this doubled-down attempt to protect the body’s ability to meet behind closed doors.

Perhaps a reminder is needed that part of being a policymaker is doing the hard work of conducting open discussions about tough issues and then being accountable not just for the final vote tally but also for how those decisions are reached throughout the legislative sequence.

It’s also important for them to keep in mind that the legislature itself has imposed the same open-meetings law the House skirted on other public entities.

Getting this issue into a courtroom, argued and resolved would represent the kind of gain on behalf of citizens that would be worth the pain of the process.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.