I love Game of Thrones. I believe it’s one of the best shows on television. It’s complicated, strategic, intelligent, and full of interesting characters. That said, I am not sure why I focus so little attention on our state Capitol and the legislative process. As they say in the HBO hit, “You know nothing, Sean Snow” can be easily likened to my own current state of the legislative process. Yet after our day in Frankfort, I felt I gained more interest, understanding, and concern for Kentucky.
Heck, I even met an A-list celebrity. More on that later…
As I boarded the bus with my fellow classmates and headed to Frankfort, John McCarthy with McCarthy Strategic Solutions entertained us by describing the challenges and goals lobbyists face every day. Interestingly my major take-away from his conversation is his definition of knowing a client; the ability to send and receive texts from them. Texting has become the confirmation of business relationships in my life as well, so I was able to relate.
Once we arrived, various politicians painted a picture of the current environment. Senator Morgan McGarvey(D) started us off with another Game of Thrones analogy, there is a new king in Westeros. Matt Bevin is our Governor. He is new to the political world, he is from Louisville, and he is republican. The land has changed, so the people in it are trying to acclimate in their new surroundings. This is taking time, even though we are in the midst of a very important legislative session. There are issues that must be addressed, and if there is one commonality between everyone involved, it is the health of the pension system.
Then we had a surprise visit! Our own Mayor joined us for quick hello before he tackled his own agenda. I appreciated his interest to say hello, and value that he is working hard to help represent Louisville to the rest of the state. His agenda for the day was to lobby for the local option sales tax, changing state laws to help with vacant properties, and to change state law to allow police to work 12 hour shifts.
Les Fugate (R), with RunSwitch PR, and Matt Erwin (D), with MPE Communications offered some colorful commentary. I appreciated the banter between the parties, as I believe these two showed us a glimpse of the conversations that occur behind the scenes. Though our state is what many call “purple,” it was enjoyable to see these two battle their side of the story of whether Kentucky will turn blue or red.
After the sparks died down, the torch was handed to Trey Grayson, President and CEO of Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. As Game of Thrones has various parties, so does Kentucky. Republican vs. Democrat, and Urban vs. Rural. I was excited to hear that Trey and others are attempting to form an urban caucus that could bring balance to each party. As a side note, I am happy to have Trey back in the state of Kentucky after he spent several years at Harvard. He is a great asset.
But then Trey got trumped (no pun intended)! Senator Robert Stivers (R) came in for a few minutes to discuss the dichotomy of the House and Senate. Since the Senate is overwhelmingly Republican, it’s a calm place. The House is the target that has everyone’s attention. It is divided now, and could be evenly split between both parties. This could stall any progress being made for our state, but more importantly, it limit any effectiveness on solving the pension problems we have.
We headed over to the Berry Hill Mansion for lunch where Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of Kentucky Chamber of Commerce reviewed the latest Leaky Bucket report. I am sure Dave offered a lot of information, but all I focused on was the snowball of liability that is falling upon us, called the Kentucky State Pension. The pension issue is huge. Thousands of Kentuckians are at risk of losing their retirement income. This is dually important because they do not participate in the social security system. It is the white elephant in every room in Frankfort, and so it should be. The health of our state pensions are ranked one of the lowest in the country, and personally, I give credit to Gov. Bevin for tackling this head on. To elaborate any more would mean to write another blog, so back to our day…
We heard from Sec. Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, one of many new to the Frankfort area who has left the corporate world to pursue her ‘second life’ of service to Kentucky. I commend her for leaving a successful career to serve Kentuckians in need. After a few minutes of hearing her speak to us, I understand why. She offered a heartfelt explanation of her decision to take on the task of terminating KYnect, and wholeheartedly understands the severity of the need for her department.
The end of the day was a special surprise. We left our last speaker and had the opportunity to view the House or the Senate in action. I chose the House because I wanted to see the action and fireworks! Well, when we walked in, I did not see many fireworks, but flashes from cameras were abuzz as people were lined up to take their picture with actress Jennifer Garner! She was in town to speak to lawmakers about childhood literacy. I commend her leaving warm California to snowy Kentucky for an important cause. Many of us were star struck (some of us were googling who she was, but not many) from the balcony as she was patient enough to take pictures with Representatives. And I got the itch, as I have been known to do on occasion, to photobomb. I noticed the door where the line was formed, so I meandered down a stairway to the House floor, and noticed a man guarding a door. I was upfront and honest, and said I am with Leadership Louisville, not that meant I should be allowed into the room or anything. Regardless, he let me in and seconds later I introduced myself to the Hollywood actress, thanked her for her efforts toward her cause, and took a few pictures with her. It certainly was not how I thought my Government day would end.
Aaron, Jessica, Cynthia, Alicia and everyone else at Leadership Louisville, thank you again for a wonderful experience. This entire year has been well above my expectations, and our day in Frankfort was certainly one I will remember for more reasons than one. To top it all off, this is a team journey with wonderful classmates who I am fortunate to forge friendships with along the way. Thanks to you all.