Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Could Cowgill, CPE get the last laugh?

We lament Brad Cowgill's decision to resign as president of the Council on Postsecondary Education in the midst of the controversy surrounding his appointment.

Gov. Steve Beshear meddled politically in what is supposed to be an apolitical position, and Kentucky will be the poorer for it.

Even though Cowgill is a Democrat, his term of service as a distinguished employee in Ernie Fletcher's administration once again underscores a fatal flaw in Kentucky Republicans: They give in too easily and won't fight for their honor.

That undesirable behavior manifested itself time and time again when the Democrats attacked Fletcher. Precious few took up the gauntlet to defend the honor of an honorable man.

Politics is a blood sport, a to-the-victor-go-the-spoils game, but Republicans in Kentucky must have gotten used to enjoying being pushed around by the Democrats. The GOP in this state lacks the testicular fortitude to fight the good fight.

We'd have much rather seen Cowgill stay to fight it out. We wanted him and the CPE to draw a line in the sand and dare Beshear and Little Jackie Conway, he of the fellatory attorney general's opinion, to cross it.

But there may be a method to the madness here.

What if the CPE conducts Beshear's sacred nationwide search and hires -- Brad Cowgill? Especially after Beshear tried once again to gratuitously meddle in the process by saying Cowgill “should not be part of that search?"

After eight months of serving as interim president, and the last few weeks as president albeit with an unsigned contract. Cowgill certainly has the requisite experience. He's earned praise for his work, satisfying any arbitrary requirements about reputation. And if the CPE pays strict attention to the state's Open Meetings Law, it can hire Cowgill back -- which is the result it wanted all along -- and all Beshear will be able to do is sputter and stutter and ask Little Jackie Conway to come perform legal fellatio on him again.

There may be a distinct lack of testosterone in some quarters in this state, but who knows? We're hoping that the CPE has something up its sleeve and is planning a big, hearty, "up yours" to the governor who meddled where he shouldn't have.

How kosher is the highway bill veto?

Twice in recent years, the General Assembly adjourned without a budget and the governor implemented an executive spending plan to keep Kentucky's state government going. It happened during Paul Patton's last biennial session and again during Ernie Fletcher's first session.

After the 2004 session, when the legislature failed to enact a budget and Fletcher implemented a spending plan, the act was challenged in court. By the time a decision was rendered, in 2005, the legislature had passed a budget, but the court decision basically said that state government cannot legally or constitutionally operate without a legislatively-enacted budget.

That leaves us with all kinds of questions about yesterday's veto by Gov. Beshear of the legislature's highway bill.

Beshear says the bill unfairly restricts the way the Transportation Cabinet can spend construction dollars, and it allows the inclusion of projects that may not be funded but are still a priority for the administration, and Jody Richards agrees with him.

This year's Six-Year Road Plan angered a number of people because it omitted a significant amount of projects, including some much-needed safety and economic development projects in Republican areas of the state that had been championed by governors such as Patton and Jones as well as Fletcher. Beshear says that after his veto, he'll instruct Transportation Secretary Joe Prather to author a highway plan that includes legislative as well as administration priorities, and that it will include some projects for which funding is obviously not available but it will keep them in the pipeline.

Senate President David Williams is questioning the timing of Beshear's veto as well as the constitutionality of an executive highway spending plan not approved by the legislature.

We certainly applaud the re-inclusion of a number of the dropped project -- but we'll have to wait a couple of months for Prather's final plan -- but not at the expense of constitutionality.

We aren't convinced that the state can legally follow a road construction plan that has not been approved by the General Assembly. We'll be watching to see how this plays out in the courts.

In defense of Steve Beshear -- for once

Steve Beshear is getting criticism for his dismissal of Susan Bush from the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, both from conservative blogs and the liberal media.

However, we won't be criticizing him for that act.

After all, Bush held a politically-appointive position and served at the pleasure of the governor. Beshear is well within his rights to replace her with one of his own political appointees.

One thing we believe Ernie Fletcher did wrong was to keep many of the political appointees that had served in previous Democrat administrations. Many of those people did not serve the best interests of Fletcher or his political agenda.

Bush may or may not have done a good job. For a political appointment, that's irrelevant. We'd expect Beshear to bring in his own people for sensitive positions, and if he has someone in mind to replace Bush, that's certainly his prerogative to do so.

There's plenty of ammo out there with which to criticize Beshear. This act shouldn't be part of that arsenal.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dear Steve Beshear: The election's over and you won, so act like it!

Will Steve Beshear ever get out of campaign mode?

Every time he's made a statement on a controversial topic during the past week, the Person Who Occupies the Governor's Office (he's too dumb and inept to be called "governor") couldn't resist a shot at the man he defeated last November, Gov. (A Real Governor) Ernie Fletcher.

Don't be a sore winner, Beshear. You won, the state's reins are yours, and now it's time for you to deal with whatever realities come your way.

We aren't pleased with the way Beshear is meddling into the Council on Postsecondary Education's affairs, but even more bothersome is the way Beshear crowed about the settlement the Transportation Cabinet reached with Missy McCray.

We could go on all day about how blatantly untrue Beshear's comments were about state employees being mistreated and fearing for their jobs -- it's a bald-faced lie that was never rebuked by the mainstream press during the personnel investigation -- but we won't. Instead, we'll merely say that Beshear couldn't have acted less gubernatorial if he had tried.

We don't know why Beshear or the Transportation Cabinet felt the need to put a quote from him in their press release, but Beshear could have used the opportunity to appear magnanimous. He could have said something about wanting to move forward instead of looking back. He didn't. Instead, he used the opportunity to take a campaign-style shot at Fletcher, and an untrue one at that.

Beshear hardly has a reputation as a guardian or a champion for state employees. His record as attorney general on the matter was abysmal. As governor, he swept state employees under the rug by not pushing for a pay increase that mirrors cost of living increases, and by not championing pension reform and letting that matter go unresolved in the just-concluded legislative session.

If Beshear would quit campaigning against Ernie Fletcher, six months after the election's over, and instead focus on trying to lead this state, maybe his approval ratings wouldn't be battling his predecessor's during the worst months of the personnel probe.

One more thought on the McCray settlement (which we thought was outrageous and, quite frankly, abhorrent, but that's a topic for another day): The Herald-Leader (in a headline) and the Courier-Journal (in the body of its news story) incorrectly reported that McCray was fired from the Transportation Cabinet. That's not the case. She was not fired.

But now she has a non-merit job in the Personnel Cabinet, as part of her settlement, and we will take great pleasure in seeing the next Republican governor fire her from that job when she will have absolutely no legal recourse whatsoever. In fact, we hope firing her is one of the first things the Republican governor (at this point, we're hoping for Geoff Davis, Hal Rogers or Joe Lambert) does after he takes office in 2011.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reaction to Cowgill's appointment puts Democrat hypocrisy front and center -- again

When the Kentucky Board of Education appointed Jon Draud, a Republican state representative, as education commissioner late last year, Democrats cried foul.

They accused Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher of strong-arming the board into hiring a fellow Republican. They urged the board to delay hiring a commissioner until after last November's gubernatorial election, to give the winning candidate the chance to offer his input on the process. They expressed outrage when the board went ahead and hired Draud, unhappy that the leader in polling for the governor's race (Democrat Steve Beshear) might be forced to deal with someone he didn't approve of.

In short, they didn't want Fletcher to have any influence (actual or perceived) in choosing a new education commissioner.

But this week, when the state Council on Postsecondary Education chose former Fletcher administration official Brad Cowgill as its president, state Democrats did an about face. The same group who accused Fletcher of strong-arming the process of hiring an education commissioner is now trying to strong-arm the CPE's selection of a president.

Democrats can't have it both ways, although they always try mightily. If Fletcher was wrong in allegedly strong-arming the Board of Education into hiring a commissioner, then Steve Beshear is wrong in trying to strong-arm the CPE's presidential selection.

Cowgill, a Democrat who is both a close friend of Fletcher and a former law partner of Beshear, was chosen to be interim CPE president last year and by all accounts has done a bang-up job. Only the most ardent Fletcher-haters out there have been critical of him.

In opposing Cowgill's hiring, Beshear is hanging his hat on a state law governing the hiring of a CPE president that is certainly open to interpretation. Perhaps the most laughable part about the whole deal was Beshear's public proclamation that he is asking Attorney General Little Jackie Conway, also a Democrat, for an advisory opinion.

You don't need a crystal ball to determine how that'll turn out. Conway will perform the legal equivalent of fellatio on Beshear by issuing a fawning opinion saying how awful and illegal the CPE's hiring of Cowgill was. Beshear will try to use that advisory opinion, which will carry no force of law, in another attempt to force his will on the CPE.

Beshear needs to give this one up. Cowgill has proven himself to be professional and nonpartisan. By continuing to press the issue, Beshear just makes himself look small and petty. "He worked for Fletcher, therefore he's not fit to hold that job," is the message Beshear is sending.

But the message that resonates with Kentuckians is that once again, Bluegrass Democrats are hypocrites.