We have a winner. How the Gov. can work with Senator David Williams -we propose a Summit at Summit Hills

Can the relationship of Governor Beshear and the Democratic House, with Sen. David Williams and the Republican Senate be saved?

 A LawReader sponsor has offered a prize of $50 for the best suggestion on how to deal with Sen. Williams.  We believe we have a winner of that contest.  That winner is Senator David Williams himself.   The submissions ranged from illegal and humorous, all the way to interesting and possible. We have winnowed the submissions down to two “entries?.


The first idea discusses a broad frontal attack launching a political effort to remove enough Republican Senators in this fall’s election cycle to allow the Democrats to gain control of the State Senate.  That is an obvious strategy and it is nothing new.  Both parties are always trying to take control through the electoral process.  However the electorate in Kentucky recently seems to like a divided legislature, or at least they haven’t evidenced any great interest in granting control to one party.  If the public wants such a change they can make one on the November 4th. of this year.


This suggestion goes on to suggest looking for the weak links in the Senate and recruiting them to the other team.  This worked for the Republicans and could possible work again.  If the Democrats were to get within one or two seats necessary to control the Senate, then you can be sure that feelers will be extended to any potential Republican deserters.  We can anticipate offers of bridges, highways, and civic centers to sweeten such deals.


The problem with this first proposal is that it is nothing new.  More confrontation is not likely to provide a benefit for the Commonwealth anytime soon.


Whatever you want to say about David Williams, you have got to admit that he has firm control of the Senate, and so far has outsmarted his opponents time and time again.  He is a better coach at getting his team to play defense than Pitino or Gillespie.  So the frontal assault suggestion loses out to a more attainable plan.


This takes us to the second proposal we have received, and it comes from a source with credibility on this topic.  In a telephone conversation with Sen. Williams we asked him his thoughts about the relationship between him and the House leaders and Gov.Beshear.  From his comments, we perceive the best  answer to our request for ideas on “How to deal with David Williams? (even though he wasn’t aware we would consider his comments as an official entry) comes from Senator Williams himself.


He detailed attempts on his part to meet with the Governor and discuss common ground on various legislative issues. These meetings did not go as well as he had hoped. 


Apparently he has had little opportunity to spend personal time with Gov. Beshear without the chilling presence of gubernatorial aides being present.  We concluded from his comments that he is willing to seek bi-partisan cooperation in a number of areas, but the casino issue is not one of them.


He said that the Governor campaigned on two issues, casino gambling and taking control of the Senate.  The Governor’s efforts to take control of the Senate is an obvious bone of contention for Williams.  This is obviously not conducive to a close working relationship between Williams and Beshear.


Williams pointed out that that the legislature is quite different than it was thirty years ago. He notes that legislators are not as easy to be lead by a governor than they used to be before the legislative independence movement that started in the Administration of John Y. Brown.  


Senator Williams detailed a list of issues on which there were bi-partisan efforts during this 2008 session of the General Assembly.  Some of these efforts were derailed due to the inability of the House leaders to come to meetings with the authority to make commitments.  He cited an example of some legislation on education where House members had reached an agreement but quickly changed their position when it faced opposition from teacher’s organizations.  “How can you mediate an issue when the representatives come to the meeting without any authority to negotiate?? he asked.


He brought my attention to an issue I had raised concerning the Judicial Budget bill which severely cut the Judicial Budget by $50 million dollars.  He cited his successful efforts to restore some funding from the initial proposal for the Judicial Budget.  He said that the Judicial Budget was substantially created by the House not by the Senate. (So perhaps critics of what happened to the Judicial Budget, myself included, should direct some questions to the House Budget Chairman, Representative Harry Moberly Jr.).


He said the legislation that will terminate the Judicial Form Retirement System and throw it in with the State Retirement System as an idea that originated in the House not the Senate.  He denied any generalized opposition to the Judicial system, and pointed out that his wife is a District Judge.


While we can not directly credit Sen.Williams with offering an olive branch to the Governor, we conclude from the tenor of his comments that he is open to discussion with the Governor on a number of issues. We believe he is amenable to discussions on important issues that remain on the table such as the underfunding of the State Retirement System.  He said that as a Kentuckian, “…he wants the Governor to succeed.?


Governor Beshear has announced that he will consider a Special Session of the General Assembly to consider the State Retirement systems problems if  members of the legislature can come to an agreement. 


So we believe that Senator Williams may have answered the question, at least from his point of view, on how the relationship between Governor Beshear and the House, and Senator Williams and the Senate, can be saved. 


This would begin by the Governor making efforts to develop a better relationship with Senator Williams. We don’t expect a close personal relationship will develop, but that isn’t required for the present gridlock in Frankfort to be broken.  We would suggest that a “professional? relationship is possible.  


The Governor should leave his aides at home, and conduct any such meetings with the realization that Williams is likely going to be in control of the Senate during the entire term of this Administration.   


We would suggest that some things are not going to change.  The Democrats are going to try to remove the Republicans from office, and the Republicans are going to try to remove the Democrats from office. That is just a fact of life. That being said, that doesn’t prevent some level of cooperation to prevent the kind of gridlock presently existing.


Both Senator Williams and Governor Beshear should not focus on the issues which are beyond their control.  They should focus on specific legislative issues that can be achieved. We suggest the application of the Socratic Method which holds that opposing parties first discuss the things on which they can agree, and then the issues on which they can’t agree may be possible to work around.  


As a mediator, I have seen parties farther apart then Williams and Beshear reach an agreement.  This occurs because both sides usually come to the conclusion that some agreement is more beneficial than the risks of not reaching an agreement.  If this gridlock goes on much longer, the public is going to punish someone, and it is possible that they will punish everyone in Frankfort.


LawReader hereby makes an offer to Governor Beshear and President Williams to get this process started.  We will set up a golf outing for them at Summit Hills Country Club in Northern Kentucky.  We will call this “The Summit at Summit Hills.?   If they will put away their Billy Clubs and take out their Callaways, we will front the bar tab and the greens fees.  This is neutral ground far from the intrigue of Frankfort.  This is as good a place to start a discussion as one will find anywhere.


The third party to this process is of course the House of Representatives. The Governor needs to build a relationship with House Leaders and this may be far more difficult than building a “relationship? with one Senator.  This can’t be done by Executive Orders or the issuance of marching orders.  The Governor needs to get close, very close, to his legislative leaders and share with them the heavy lifting of building a consensus and common goals.  This means that he needs to learn their goals, and as far as possible make them his own.


 While in basic training at Ft. Knox, many years ago, a General came to our barracks to inspect the troops.  He didn’t stand us up at attention and order us around, instead he visited with us in small groups and asked us if the food was good, were we getting enough sleep, did our uniforms fit? He actually got me a new uniform when he saw my uniform didn’t fit!  I point out this story because to me it is the perfect model for a leader to follow.  Don’t start with the big things, start with the little things.  That will get the troops in the mood to follow their leader to the barricades.

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