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Bluegrass Beacon: How many ways can you say ‘distraction’?

Editor’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.

We may be smack dab in the middle of Kentucky’s basketball season, but a quote from a recently retired Hall of Fame baseball manager seems to best describe the opening of the 2018 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

“There are always distractions, if you allow them,” said longtime St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa.

La Russa didn’t win 2,728 games – third-winningest in history – by allowing distractions to diminish the focus of his team and their performance on the diamond.

Instead, his teams were known for doing what motivational speaker Tony Robbins suggests is necessary for success in life: “Starve your distractions, feed your focus.”

While it’s good advice for life in general – especially for goal-oriented individuals – it’s absolutely critical for House Republicans, who in November 2016 not only were handed the keys to majority status for the first time in nearly a century but also were given a 64-36 mandate.

During their first session, opportunity for distractions were aplenty, but House leaders simply didn’t “allow them” – at least in the session’s beginning days, when they passed one bill after another that removed longstanding obstacles to economic growth and development, empowered individual workers, shined light on politicians’ pensions and protected Kentucky’s unborn.

The bills shepherded admirably through the House by then-Speaker Jeff Hoover were policies even many conservatives doubted could become a reality in Kentucky, or at least during their lifetime.

But the momentum of 2017 has now given way to “allowing” distractions.

Shouldn’t the energy in Frankfort during the first week of 2018 have centered on solving the commonwealth’s pension crisis and making tough decisions about an austere budget that constitutionally must be passed by April 13, will determine state spending for the next two years and – per Gov. Matt Bevin’s assessment – “won’t be pretty?”

Why, then, was most of the first day of the House’s session consumed with bickering about inane rules regarding how to expel members?

It’s because the focus of this session is becoming inward – away from citizens back home toward individual politicians in that chamber.

Hoover, R-Jamestown, who announced his resignation as Speaker in November following reports he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim brought against him by a staffer in his office, now says he won’t resign his leadership position.

Instead, he’s going to wait on investigations into the matter to run their course, thus – as Associated Press reporter Adam Beam described it – “sowing confusion about who’s in charge as lawmakers reconvene.”

That, in and of itself, is enough of a distraction.

Several Republican legislators also are employing those House rules argued about on the session’s opening day in an attempt to expel Hoover from the body altogether.

Adding to the distraction are notices that I’ve seen announcing: “Rally in Frankfort on Friday, January 12th.”However, instead of this being a rally about the need to consider new ideas on how to save our pension systems, close the achievement gap in our schools or make health care in Kentucky affordable again, it’s a gathering to demand Hoover’s resignation. The notices promised that someone would get back to interested parties “with further details,” including the time of the rally.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering who’s going to keep the people of Kentucky informed regarding the day and time Frankfort might get back to working on their behalf?

Now, that’s something I could really rally around.

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

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