I apologize for the delay in posting today's column. Blame it on an end-of-session brain lock, which is appropriate because the column contains a mathematical error that I'll also blame on an end-of-session brain lock that led me to mix apples and oranges. Obviously, 36 hours from 7 a.m. Tuesday doesn't take you to to 1 a.m. Thursday. It takes you to 7 p.m. Wednesday.
I confused the 36 hours normally cited for printing the budget with a charted time line put out by the Legislative Research Commission early in the week that outlined the 42 hours it would take to complete the whole process (including the printing) of getting a budget enacted. The last time line on that chart said a budget agreement reached at midnight Monday would mean the process could be completed at 6 p.m. Wednesday. When negotiations continued to 7 a.m. Tuesday, I added seven hours to the 6 p.m. time and arrived at the possibility that completion of the process could be pushed to 1 a.m. Thursday. It was the right time based on the full 42-hour process, but not on a 36-hour one.
My bad. But it will all be moot in a few hours anyway. They'll either make the midnight deadline or they won't.
FRANKFORT — When House and Senate leaders announced that budget conference committee meetings would be open to the public, no one really believed the down-and-dirty part of the negotiations would take place in front of the TV cameras and the outsiders granted access to the meetings. It never happens that way.
Even when the charade of an open conference committee plays out to the end of the process in the first-floor meeting rooms of the Capitol Annex, the real head-banging and arm-wrestling takes place upstairs in legislative leaders’ offices, either in private meetings or via phone conversations.
Open conference meetings are for pontificating and posturing. The pontificating can consume considerable time, and the posturing often leads to frayed tempers. Both serve as impediments to timely agreements.
So, it came as no surprise when House and Senate leaders, facing a fast-approaching deadline for producing a veto-proof budget, decided to take their talks behind closed doors Sunday in an attempt to speed the process along.
Even then, they didn’t reach agreement in time to avoid putting themselves at risk of missing the witching hour for being able to override any potential line-item vetoes by Gov. Steve Beshear.
To be veto-proof, the budget must be in Beshear’s hands by midnight Wednesday. That would mean his 10-day veto period (not counting Sundays) would expire at the end of the day April 14. Lawmakers could then override any vetoes on April 15, the last day the constitution allows them to be in session.
But getting a budget ready for lawmakers to vote on generally takes about 36 hours from the time budget conferees make their final decision. If it takes that long this year, the earliest it could be voted on is about 1 a.m. Thursday.
That would push the 10th day of Beshear’s veto period back to April 15, and conceivably allow him to veto some line items so late in the day lawmakers would not be able to override them.
No doubt, the process can be speeded up to get the budget ready for a vote in time to beat the midnight deadline, assuming there are no glitches.
But if there are glitches and the deadline is missed, well, members of the conference committee have only themselves to blame for leaving no room for error.
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Pacing the Capitol Annex halls or sitting around in nearby rooms waiting for conferees to emerge only to say little or nothing of consequence about where negotiations stand can be just as boring as watching the posturing and pontificating in open meetings.
But you at least can work the daily crossword puzzle, chat up your fellow pacers and keep current on your e-mail without fear of missing a dueling egos moment.
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Some folks have speculated that Beshear might veto the legislative budget because lawmakers generously enhanced funding for their own operations and staffing while cutting funding and forcing the elimination of jobs in other areas of state government.
While vetoing a legislative budget that is the epitome of hypocrisy and self-indulgence might be a principled stand that makes a strong statement, it would be a futile gesture since both houses would overwhelmingly override the veto. And it would be politically stupid in the extreme.
Beshear had minimal, if any, success dealing with the legislature this year. Vetoing the legislative budget would guarantee that he would be totally irrelevant to the legislative process throughout the rest of his term.
That being said, there is no reason he can’t signal his displeasure at the largess the General Assembly bestowed upon itself by letting the legislative budget take effect without the benefit of his signature.