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1991-10-04 Interview with Carolyn L. Kenton, October 4, 1991 Leg001:1991OH362LEG34 01:05:53 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Women legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Property -- Kentucky. Elections -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Kentucky. General Assembly -- Reform. Kenton, William G. Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Kentucky. Governor (1983-1987 : Collins) Lexington (Ky.) Kennedy, John F. University of Kentucky Chandler, A.B. (Happy) Nunn, Louie B. Carroll, Julian Brown, John Y. Jr. Collins, Martha Layne Kenton, Bill (Boom Boom) term limits interim committees retirement property taxes Key Legislation: legislative retirement plan, property assessment (HB 565, 1982), HB 682 (legislative redistricting) Term/District: House (1982-1984), 75th district Counties in District: Fayette County (Ky.) Carolyn L. Kenton; interviewee Judy K. Bowen; interviewer 1991OH362_LEG034_Kenton 1:|10(7)|22(5)|31(2)|38(6)|47(8)|56(1)|63(13)|76(7)|83(15)|92(3)|101(3)|115(6)|124(1)|131(13)|140(10)|148(12)|157(5)|165(15)|174(2)|181(9)|188(1)|195(17)|205(7)|213(3)|222(7)|231(2)|237(14)|250(1)|257(11)|267(3)|280(4)|289(14)|299(13)|308(11)|319(7)|335(11)|347(7)|356(4)|372(1)|382(9)|397(8)|407(13)|426(9)|452(3)|460(8)|472(9)|485(7)|492(16)|509(2)|515(13)|523(12)|537(14)|548(4)|555(8)|569(7)|578(3)|593(13)|601(10)|610(8)|624(5)|632(16)|643(10)|653(13)|662(13)|676(3)|688(4) audiotrans Legit interview BOWEN: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former state representative Carolyn Kenton, who represented the 75th District in 1982 and '84. The interview is being conducted by Judy Bowen of the University of Kentucky Library Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project on September 20 in her office in Lexington, Kentucky, at two o'clock p.m. Correction: it's October 4, and this is the second session. [Pause in tape]. This afternoon I would like to ask Mrs. Kenton about her husband before we begin the discussion of her legislature, legislation, legislature career. Could you, please, just go ahead and discuss your husband's career and him as a person also? KENTON: Certainly, I'll be glad to. What is it you want me to say about it (laughs)? It's a very large subject. BOWEN: Just tell us about what he was like as a person before he went into the legislature. How was he when you first met him as a person, some personal beliefs of his, his political views and things like that, things of that nature? KENTON: Bill was a politician I think from the moment he was born. He was born into a political family. His father had run for political office and his grandfather and great grandfather before him had been members of the General Assembly. His father was actively involved in party politics in Mason County and Bill grew up with that tradition of believing that politics was a calling in effect. It was a public service; it was something that you did to benefit the people of your community, your state, and your nation. And he was focused toward becoming governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from the time he was in high school or before. At fourteen he organized a Young Democrats Club. It was one of the early ones that had been organized in his county and he was even too young to participate in the group. So his experience with organizing people for political endeavors came very early. As a high school student he served as the Student Government president both his junior and his senior years in high school and his nickname among his peers at the time was "Governor." It was acknowledged among everyone that that was what he wished to be and what everyone assumed that he would be good at doing. So Bill participated in politics at really a very early age. He organized a rally for John Kennedy back in 1960 when John Kennedy was a virtual unknown and was a firm supporter, and followed the ideals that John Kennedy espoused through his speeches and public sayings. I first met Bill as a, in his capacity as a campaign manager for a slate of individuals who were running for the student body at the University of Kentucky. He was supporting a slate of Student Government candidates, and won all but the president's slot on his particular slate of individuals. Bill and I were both studying political science at the time and we met in the spring of 1962 during that Student Government race and then in the fall of 1962 we had classes together. He had an eleven o'clock and a one o'clock class with me and between classes we'd go out and have lunch together and he would tell me all about the exploits of the true politicians. At the time, he had been appointed as the statewide youth chairman for A.B. Chandler's 1963 gubernatorial race, and one of the first social events that I attended with Bill was to go to Louisville for the campaign opening where he spoke to five thousand individuals and brought the message of the youth support of "Happy" Chandler. Unfortunately, that was a losing venture on his behalf but he was a wonderful instructor in the art of politics, and it was fascinating to listen to his tale of experiences that he had gained in politics in a small county. I came from Louisville and politics in a big city is a little bit different from politics (laughs) in a small county. Bill always had the interest and desire to run for public office and focused himself to that as quickly as he could. He did go to law school after the 1963 defeat and when he graduated in 1966 he then took a year off and ran "Happy" Chandler's 1967 campaign. And at that time he did nearly all of the organizational campaign tasks that were involved. "Happy" lost again but Bill made the transition into regular Democratic politics at that time and started focusing himself toward a run for public office here in Fayette County and was first elected to the General Assembly in 1969, I guess. He was an outstanding freshman even though he was not awarded the Outstanding Freshman Award. His first year in the General Assembly he was, he introduced and saw more bills become law than any other freshman legislator in the General Assembly at the time. And that record of proposing outstanding and innovative legislation and seeing it through to its conclusion was something that followed him all through his career. He rose fairly rapidly, really, in the legislative process. He became a friend and protegee of Governor Carroll's and assisted Governor Carroll in his race for lieutenant governor and after that particular race which was when Wendell Ford and Governor Carroll were elected at the time, he then became chairman of the Cities Committee. His innovative thoughts carried through. At that time he had public hearings for the committee that he took all over the state and it's one of the few occasions that the General Assembly committees have gone out into the state to actually do public hearings. It took him four years to be in that position before he was then elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and served with great distinction in that position. What else do you want to know (laughs)? BOWEN: I think that is a good summary of his career. Did he have a close relationship with the different governors that he served under? KENTON: Yes. Bill had an excellent relationship with the governors that he served under. He even had a reasonably good relationship with Louie Nunn who, of course, was the governor of an opposite party, but Bill was, Bill was not a vindictive politician. He knew how to appeal to the better nature of individuals, how to keep programs focused on the issues and was not unfamiliar with some of the interpersonal and public pressure activities that take place in the political arena, but was really very able to use those to the best advantage of the policies that he wanted to pursue. And he was really a very policy oriented person. He proposed probably the most innovative policy pieces of legislation that anybody else in the state has proposed, in my opinion. He was a key sponsor of the bill that created the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. He was an initiator and cosponsor of the uniform divorce laws. He was an initiating member of the revised judicial code. He proposed many other kinds of legislation. Not having prepared to talk about his career (laughs), I could go on more if I had had the chance to sit back and look through it, but those were certainly some of the key issues that come to mind. His basic thrust was to take care of those who were unable to take care of themselves and to provide for the good of the greatest number in his legislative policies and proposals. BOWEN: Okay. We're gonna go ahead and move on to your career now, but that was a real good summary of his years in service in the General Assembly. The first thing I want to do is ask you some general questions just about the governors or the governor's position in the state of Kentucky. When people talk about being a governor of Kentucky there have been many different interpretations of that particular position. Some people say that it used to be a very powerful position, that the governor pretty much rode roughshod over the General Assembly up until John Y. Brown Jr. and Martha Layne Collins. After that, the governorship of Kentucky by some authors including Dr. Jewell in one of his books, actually in one of his later, in latest books, the one that was published last year, has called the governorship of Kentucky now a weak governorship, what do you think about that? Do you agree that the governorship of Kentucky has changed over the period of time that you saw it and did you see those two particular governors as weak governors? KENTON: Well, one of the things that I didn't mention when I was talking about Bill's career was his efforts to try to make the legislature a co-equal body within the governmental process. BOWEN: I remember some of the, in some of his legislation that I looked at there was quite a few that proposed constitutional amendments and things of that sort. KENTON: Bill was interested in constitutional reform from his very earliest years and one of the activities that he engaged in was to be an aide to the 1963 Constitutional Convention that drafted a new constitution which was never adopted. Kentucky, unfortunately, has had a long history of trying to liberalize and modernize its constitution, unsuccessfully for the most part. I've just jotted down the years of Bill's political service and the governors under which he served: Louie Nunn, Wendell Ford, and Julian Carroll were all very strong governors. Up to and through Julian Carroll's administration the governor would send up a list of bills that were to be considered on the floor that particular legislative day marked "yes," "no," or "no comment," and the leadership would inform the membership as to who was to vote on what bills in what fashion. And generally speaking the governor could control from the first floor what legislation was passed and what legislation was not passed. The General Assembly had no staff, no offices, no independent way of gathering information. The committees met at the call of the chair. There was no set schedule for when the committees would meet. There wasn't any opportunity for an opponent to come in and present a case for or, well, obviously an opponent against a particular bill because the committee meeting times were not scheduled. And Bill and a number of other young innovative legislators who arrived at about the same time, including Mike Moloney and Joe Clarke, David Karem was another one of the legislators that all were elected about the same time, wished to have a greater input and control in the legislative process. And many of these people began to work toward making the legislators have a better control over the legislative environment and the things that they could do. I think that one of the first things that happened was that the Rules Committees were open to the, or the, actually the meeting of the committees were open to the public and the Rules Committee eventually became open to the public as far as listening in on the proceedings. The committees then began to be posted for hearing times. The numbers of the committees themselves were reduced from twenty-five or thirty or more down to fifteen or seventeen. The jurisdictions of the committees between the House and Senate were established so that you had the same, you could know from the title of the committee in the House and in the Senate which committee that particular bill was more than likely to be given. The leadership's control was reduced to some extent because they couldn't hide a bill by just passing it around. You had to have, there was a definition as to what a committee would consider and the bill had to be given to that committee unless there was some particular reason for it not to. So from the period of 1970, which was Bill's first legislative session, until 1980 when John Brown became governor there was a gradual building of independence and separate control to the point that in 1980 the General Assembly had been able to acquire space from the administration to be able to put legislative offices. And the first separate legislative office that the legislators had was in the 1980 session. Up until then legislators, the only office space they had was their desk on the floor of the General Assembly, and they had no place to meet constituents, if they chose to do so, except in the hallways, and they had no place to eat a sandwich except down in the legislat--, down in the general cafeteria where all the state employees eat. And they really gained some status when they achieved their own office space and some space where they could have a telephone and make telephone calls to constituents. And all of those things were developing independently of the election of the governor. Part of the strength and independence of the governor's chair relies on the personality of the individual that's there. Julian Carroll had served in the General Assembly as a member of the body, he had served as the speaker, he had served as a lieutenant governor, and then he served as the governor. He knew the legislative process backwards and forwards. He probably was the most adept governor at the legislative process that we've had in the last twenty-five years. John Brown on the other hand knew absolutely nothing about government process, much less about legislative process. He didn't know anything about running the business even though he fashioned himself as being a governor who would run the state like a business; if you look closely at his business career he was in fact a salesperson, and a very successful salesperson, but was not a manager and was not an administrator, which is part of the responsibilities of a governor. He also was not a politician which he unabashedly pointed to with great favor and the public maybe accepted that as something desirable. My personal opinion is that politicians frequently are given a poor report card, undeservedly in many cases, because being a politician is developing the art of compromise and it takes great skill to do that, you can't please everyone when you've compromised. As a matter of fact, you often end up pleasing no one (laughs), but the society doesn't work unless you do have some compromise. So you had two intervening curves: you had the General Assembly that had been building momentum for independence, which came into a situation where you had a governor who had no interest in the legislative process, no knowledge of the legislative process, and very little knowledge of the governmental process, and basically had very little interest in most of the legislation that goes through the legislature except for a few major bills that he was focusing on. Actually, I served under John Brown in his, in the second half of his administration, and it was my opinion that he needed the legislative leaders to get his program through, he was so unknowledgeable of the legislative process. He also didn't particularly care to be concerned about most of the legislation that went through. So it was not so much that the legislature forced the independence, it's that the personalities that were involved could not gather themselves together. The other aspect of the relationship between the governor and the General Assembly was that the General Assembly over the course of the years had begun meeting during the interim, and it quickly became frustrating and apparent to Bill that the cart was before the horse. There was immediately after an election a General Assembly and then the General Assembly adjourned for eighteen months and began to meet in study committees, which were then interrupted by the legislative process, excuse me, by the electoral process adding 15 to 25 percent new individuals into the body, and then immediately you would have another legislative session so that all the study work and the interim work that went in to preparing legislation for the next General Assembly was interrupted by an infusion of new politicians who wanted to make their own mark and had not had the previous study period to be able to acquire the knowledge for the bills that needed to be adopted. So it was he who proposed the idea. Well, first of all, he proposed the idea of annual sessions and that was not very well adopted. Then he proposed the idea that the legislators be elected, have an organizational session to elect their leaders and appoint committee chairmen and make assignments and so forth, and then adjourn for the following eighteen months until the General Assembly, or at least the next year when the General Assembly would meet and actually attempt to adopt legislation that had been studied. That legislation was adopted in November of 1981 at the same time that Bill died. I think it has had an enormous impact on the relationship between the governor and the legislature because now you have a governor who is elected and must get an administration appointed and organized in two months' time, or less, before they then have to deal with the General Assembly that is prepared and has been preparing for the last year to consider legislation. You also have the other problem of incumbency. When Bill was running for office, first running for office in 1969, in the mid '60s, legislators did not serve for extended period of time, often. Particularly from rural Kentucky, there were informal agreements where one person from one county would run for the General Assembly at one election, at the next election someone within that district from another county would run for the General Assembly, and so the legislators never built up any kind of tenure in the legislative process. After the redistricting of 1970, and 1980 as well, the legislators have begun to build up tenure and there are now quite a number of legislators who have served for fifteen or twenty years or longer in the General Assembly. So you have experienced politicians with a lot of skill in their positions and a lot of knowledge of the state's problems who are trying to deal with a governor who has been newly elected and has no experience in the area and the governor can't succeed himself. So the lack of succession becomes a bar to development of expertise in the governorship. BOWEN: Going back to what you were just saying about the legislators, many people think that some legislators have made a career out of being a legislator, they've become professional legislator, do you think that that's a good idea to have someone make a career out of it, say stay fifteen, twenty years as a legislator? KENTON: I don't see any problem with having extensive experience in the General Assembly. I think that politicians always need to be responsive to the public. I think it is a far better way to assure that responsiveness to the public to address the issues within the legisla--, within the electoral process than within the legislative process. I don't think that I agree with the thrust to put limitations on service, on a politician's service. Incumbents get reelected because they can get money. Opponents find it very difficult to get funding to run elections and elections are very expensive. Even the lowest possible budget election is going to require some sort of means of communicating with the general public and district sizes are too large, even within a county. A county such as Fayette County can have constituencies of 25,000 a piece perhaps. The General Assembly districts have constituencies of 50,000 or greater. The Senate constituencies are a 100,000 perhaps. And you cannot meet these constituents on a one-on-one basis. You can't talk to them on a one-on-one basis any longer, because of their numbers and that means that in order to communicate with them you have to go through some sort of medium and that is expensive and the more sophisticated the medium the more expensive the cost. BOWEN: That's very true. I have one more question about the governorship of Kentucky. The governor of Kentucky has a veto power, do you think that this veto power has become obsolete for the governor? Some people do think that it has become just a stamp that he could put on and go, why, I'll veto this and the legislature can overturn the veto with a particular, you know, with the majority they can overturn it, do you think that the governor has a need to have a veto power? KENTON: Definitely. I think that that's desirable. A governor who really wants to sustain his veto has the same opportunity to lobby the legislators as those who do not choose to sustain the veto. As a matter of fact, the very first veto session that the General Assembly had was in 1982 and one of the issues in my subsequent reelection in 1984 was a vote that I cast to override the governor's veto. It happened to be in relationship to a legislative retirement bill, but it also happened to have been the very first bill that the General Assembly had had an opportunity to override since the constitution had been written in the 1800s. Up until the adoption of the amendment creating the veto session, which is held about fifteen days after the regular session closes, when the General Assembly went home the governor could have a whole pocket full of bills that he could veto, could hold until the General Assembly adjourned and then veto, and the General Assembly would never have an opportunity to consider that as an override. In my opinion it was a very desirable thing to have the General Assembly be able to come back and consider those governor's vetoes. It is unfortunate that the test case got to be the legislative retirement plan which I wasn't particularly in favor of supporting, and was certainly not a beneficiary of, but I wanted to establish the precedent for overriding the governor's veto. Well, people don't ask you your intent behind why you vote "yes" or "no," they just look at whether you did. Unfortunately, that had some negative impacts on my reelection. BOWEN: Okay. For several years people have been discussing the possibility of having an annual session of the General Assembly. Do you think that this a good idea? Do you think that there should be an annual meeting of the General Assembly for them to consider bills so that they don't have such a load to get through when they do have a meeting on the second year? KENTON: I suspect that they would have a load to get through regardless of whether they had annual sessions or not, which does not influence my answer to your question. I think it probably is desirable to have annual session. I think we have, however, the mechanism available for that to take place in conjunction with the organizational session. And at this point I am not willing to say that the constitution should be changed to have annual sessions. Perhaps my approach would be to say that the legislative leadership should be given the opportunity to call the general session into a special session defining the subjects available. At this point the Kentucky governor is the only one who can call a special session and can designate the subjects for that call. I think that if the members of the General As--, if the leaders of the General Assembly were given at a minimum the opportunity to put additional issues on the agenda of a special session that is called that that might resolve some of those issues. I don't see that it's working poorly at this point. BOWEN: Okay. Right now I want to move on to your actual service. Do you remember what your first speech was on the floor? Do you remember what it was about? KENTON: No, I don't remember my first speech on the floor, but I do remember my first vote on the floor, which probably is more important than my first speech (laughs). I was not an orator in the legislative arena, but the very first day that I arrived to serve as a member of the General Assembly was the day that the House considered the congressional districting plan, or redistricting plan. Of course, the General Assembly had been meeting for three weeks prior to my arrival. My election didn't take place until I guess three weeks after the first meeting of the General Assembly, because the seat was really not vacated until the General Assembly met. Joe Barrows who was, and still is, the state representative from Jessamine County got on the floor and gave a very impassionate speech begging the members of the House to include Jessamine County in the 6th District. It was included in the 5th District at the time, and Joe was very persuasive in his speech. However, I, fortunately, had enough legislative experience and understanding to realize that in dealing with the redistricting plan that you're dealing with basically a house of cards that's been put together very carefully (laughs), and so I voted to support the leadership on the congressional vote and there were a number of folks in the leadership who wanted to know why I had waited such a long time before I cast my ballot in that direction but it was memorable that that would be the very first issue on the floor when I arrived. BOWEN: During your tenure in the House were there, was there any person, any one person who was, who you admired for their ability as a speaker or any other aspects of their political personality that you might say? KENTON: Well, I was fairly familiar with the members of the General Assembly through my contacts through Bill. I'm afraid that all of them suffered in comparison to Bill during my service there. There were some very able legislators and people who were very honest and capable in their legislative service, and a number of them that were good orators, Bobby Richardson obviously as the speaker served well. I guess Jim Lemaster at the time was the majority leader, and Joe Barrows was excellent and liked to get up and speak. You cannot really evaluate a person's legislative service, however, by what they do on the floor of the House. There are some legislators who are good orators but their effectiveness in actual accomplishing a change in policy may or may not follow that oration so you kind of have to look behind the scenes as well. BOWEN: Um-hm, 1982 was your first General Assembly meeting- KENTON: Yes. BOWEN: wasn't it in January about two or three weeks after- KENTON: Yes. BOWEN: the meeting began, you just mentioned Jim Lemaster who was the majority leader, what did you think of him as the leader? Do you recall what your impressions was of, were of him? KENTON: Jim, I think, was capable. It was quite a shock to everyone to have Bill die as suddenly as he did and Bobby and Jim and all the rest of the members of the leadership were not particularly prepared to assume the roles that they were in and they had to take some time and learn on the job. Bobby was not prepared, really, to take over as the speaker. Bill died on the 5th of November which was just two months away from the start of the General Assembly and so there was a lot of scrambling I suspect that was done trying to get things reorganized and reoriented and to make a transition. But I think Jim was capable. BOWEN: Okay. And do you, along the same lines, do you recall your impressions of Bobby Richardson anything further than what you've just said? KENTON: Bobby was, Bobby had a much more directive personality than Bill had had. He was much more inclined to, probably to dictate to the members than Bill was. Bill had an easier and more laidback manner about his leadership and I think that that may have created some conflicts between Bobby and some of the rest of the members of the General Assembly. Personalities make a big difference in that kind of arena particularly. And Bobby was just a little more aggressive in his personality, and that, I think, influenced to some extent his leadership there. He did very capably, I'm not criticizing him at all but there was a different in the style of the leadership. BOWEN: I think that's always very obvious anytime you come into an organization the different leaders will give you a different view. Some people can get you or get the people to listen to them and do what they want without telling them exactly what it is they want and other people have to directly say- KENTON: Right. BOWEN: this is what I want and this is what- KENTON: Bill in many ways had the appeal of a Pied Piper. He could lay the scenario out for you so that you could visualize the fantasyland, the Walt Disney-he was a Walt Disney in effect of the Kentucky legislative process. He could describe Disney World and have people see it with him and want to go and participate in that kind of creative endeavor. That's a skill that very few people have. BOWEN: Definitely, definitely. One of the bills that you sponsored in 1982 was House Bill 565 which related to property assessment and it was, from what I gathered, intended to help initiate the repairs and restoration of residential areas and other areas, do you recall what made you sponsor the bill or come up with that idea? KENTON: I had discussed that with some friends who, of course, I live in a downtown area and I had discussed that with some friends and it was designed to try to help the rehabilitation of older residential areas, and they, these friends, came to me with the thought and we worked on this issue together. It was one that had appeal both in, well, actually in all the urban areas both, all, Louisville and northern Kentucky and Lexington as well, that was really the genesis of that. BOWEN: It did, when I read it it impressed me, it impressed upon me the idea of possibly helping with some of the apartment housing and things like that too. So many apartment buildings have really gotten rundown and the people don't- KENTON: Well, there's a tremendous- BOWEN: did that apply to that also? KENTON: there is a tremendous problem with older housing in that mortgage companies will only loan money based on what the assessed value of the home is. The home is assessed at its current market rate, which means in its dilapidated state, and consequently people who want to buy those older more dilapidated homes don't have any source of income or funding to be able to upgrade the housing. And one of the problems that you encounter is that once you've invested your money in there and the house is upgraded you then have the problem of having the tax assessor come in and raise your tax base on it. So the thrust of the legislation was to allow people to have older structures and renovate them, bring them into a more marketable position, but not be penalized for this immediately; at least to have some leeway to recoup the investment that they made before the assessment is raised and the tax base is raised. BOWEN: Definitely. Another bill you sponsored was House Bill 682, which related to elections and the changing of the legislative districts if I'm not mistaken, and that's the bill that you discussed a few minutes ago, because it's on legislative redistricting- KENTON: Um-hm. BOWEN: and you've already told me about that so I'm gonna mark this off. Okay, another one was House Bill 684, which was, created the position of a state geographer. And I noticed that in '82 it wasn't passed but it was adopted in 1984, wasn't it? KENTON: I think it was. BOWEN: the position. Do you recall what made you think that this position was necessary for the state? KENTON: I was responding to constituent interest in that regard. I had been asked if I would be interested in sponsoring that and I felt that was a position that would be desirable in the state and was willing to support my constituents in that regard. BOWEN: Okay. I had wondered where that came from because so many of the other bills that you sponsored were related more to issues of people, people issues and this one was just like- KENTON: It jumped out right at you, huh? BOWEN: I was like, "hey, what is this?" KENTON: Where did that come from? It came from a constituent (both laugh). You had asked earlier whether I was more constituent oriented or policy oriented and I, you have to be a combination. BOWEN: Definitely. Okay, I want to ask you a few questions about the committees that you served on. In 1982 you served on three, which were the Cities Committee, the Judiciary, and State Government? KENTON: Yes. BOWEN: Could you tell me a little bit about each of the committees? What was their purpose and possibly people that you remember who were on the committee and what you would, what you think were some of the important issues that you all discussed in 1982? KENTON: Oh, gee, that's been a long time ago (both laugh). BOWEN: I know. But you could tell me- KENTON: I'll do the best I can. The, each legislator was appointed to three committees. Fortunately, I had friends in the General Assembly who saw that I got on some reasonably decent committee appointments, because if they hadn't intervened on my behalf I would've probably ended up on something totally inappropriate. The Judiciary Committee considered, well, actually it was Judiciary Civil and it considered most of the civil court activities, considered election laws and covered that particular area. The State Government Committee covers the organizational aspects of the government. Any of the bills that come in for altering the structure of the government is in the State Government Committee. Also, the redistricting bills are in State Government, which, of course, I was interested in. And the Cities Committee is, does exactly what its title says and that's to consider all the legislation in relationship to the organized entities in the state that are created by legislation, meaning the cities of various classes. [End of Tape #1, Side #1] [Begin of Tape #1, Side #2] KENTON: I was sitting here trying to, it's been such a long time since I've thought about those committees that I'm not even sure I can tell you who the chairpersons were at the time. Well (laughs), that's known as selective memory I think (laughs). It was an enjoyable service on the committees. I was still very, very much in shock myself with the loss of my husband, and it was a big adjustment for me and all the rest of the legislators at the time to try to get integrated. It takes a while to change your focus from being a supporting member of a team to being the lead member of the team, and there was-I think that, or at least I hope that, I adequately reflected the needs of my constituents during that first legislative session, but it was a difficult time. BOWEN: I'm sure, very sure, of that. Is there any legislation in 1982 that you sponsored that I haven't mentioned? I only picked that one or two of the things that really jumped out on me. Because I know with the number of bills that you sponsored and things it's difficult for, remember specific ones, but is there any that I haven't mentioned that you would like to bring up? KENTON: I don't think so. Actually I didn't, as I said just a moment ago I was not programming myself to be a legislator at that period (laughs) of time, and I was mostly reacting to other people's needs at that point. There are really two ways to look at legislative service. You can look at it from the standpoint of being an initiator of legislation or being a reactor to legislation that others have initiated. My legislative service particularly in that first session was more within the category of being an reactor to other legislation. There were, of course, some major initiatives that had been started, and with me arriving late in the legislative session to begin with it was difficult to get organized and to really put together a program for what I wanted to do during the General Assembly. I don't have any memories at this point of any particular programs that I would wish to mention. BOWEN: Okay. In 19--, in the 1984 session Bobby Richardson was still the Speaker of the House- KENTON: Right. BOWEN: do you think that based on the way that he came into being Speaker of the House on such short notice do you think that his second term was better organized? Do you think he became more used to the role of being Speaker of the House? KENTON: Oh, unquestionably, he was much more comfortable in the role at the time. He in essence inherited his position because of the circumstances that he had had and there was some, there were some rumblings in the membership about his, again his leadership style, I think, which eventually resulted in his being defeated, I think, as speaker. One of the unusual aspects, I guess, that took place in the whole thrust of legislative independence was the method by which speakers were selected. In 1976 when Bill was selected speaker he was selected through the governor's influence. In effect Julian Carroll told the General Assembly who he wanted as his speaker, and there had not been a speaker longer than a governor's four-year term, four years. In 1980, when John Brown was elected, John had no interest in selecting a speaker, and Bill did have an interest in continuing to serve in that capacity, and the members elected him. But that was the first independent election of the speaker that had taken place. In 1982 at Bill's death when Bobby became speaker, the General Assembly was still in the position of electing its own leadership, but Bill's death was such a shock to the group that there wasn't any thought of looking outside of the current group of leaders to be able to take that position. And it's only under the current administration that you truly have had a speaker and leadership group that has been really elected through their own efforts by eliciting support from the General, the members of the General Assembly themselves. Bobby grew in his position as speaker, but his, he still had a much more aggressive leadership style either than Bill or the current speaker. And I think that that style probably contributed to his not being elected again. BOWEN: Okay. In 1984 you served on two committees. I couldn't find the third (laughs) for some reason in the back of the legislative records I could not find the third committee you served on. Did you serve on the same three committees? KENTON: Yes, uh-huh. BOWEN: I thought so. Do you remember any, you know, anything about those committees, anything specific about any issues that you all talked about? KENTON: Well, I had been very interested in trying to modernize the county government system, and had made some effort in that regard during the interim. But there was a lot of reorganization-well, actually in the 1984 session that was when Martha Layne Collins became governor. BOWEN: What did you think of her as a governor before? KENTON: Well, Martha Layne was not as adroit in the legislative process as I would have expected her to be given her experience, and she wasn't as forceful as I had expected her to be. She, a lot of that particular session was taken up on the issue of whether or not there would be a tax increase enacted. Martha Layne was unwilling to initiate a tax increase. John Brown had run business, or had run the government like a business, the four years during his administration and had basically robbed from Peter to pay Paul and had stripped the government of all of the surplus moneys that he could find in any little kitty or any little pot, and there were a lot of programs in 1984 that were running very lean. Martha Layne wanted to have a tax increase and she wanted to have it for the support of schools, but my constituents were the inner city of Lexington and there were a lot of social service programs that I wanted to have funded and Martha Layne wasn't willing really to negotiate with the members of the General Assembly until the eleventh hour and then when she did want to sit down and talk with the individual legislators she wanted to lay out what she wanted and was unwilling to discuss what the legislator wanted. So she called each legislator in and asked for their support, but she wasn't willing to say "and what do," you know, "is there something that you need from this process." So she didn't interact very effectively, I didn't think, with the legislators. I can't, I'm not sure I could tell you why she didn't but she was not as forceful as I would have expected her to be under the circumstances. BOWEN: Okay. I apologize for interrupting you a few minutes ago when you were, might have thought about your committees. Do you want to continue with the committees? KENTON: Well, as far as the committees were concerned I guess the reason we got interrupted was that what I was starting to say is that the thrust of the General Assembly that year was wrapped very much around the financial needs of the state, and whether there would be a tax increase or not, and what could be funded if there was not a tax increase. So the issues that got involved in that legislative session were not very well defined, really. It was a situation where it was difficult to initiate new programs because you didn't know you could get funding for it and there was a lot of pressure to try to figure out what the programs were going to be if there was not going to be funding. There weren't any major pieces of legislation that I proposed that year. BOWEN: Okay. In 1984 you sponsored a bill, which was House Bill 376, which concerns different ways of enforcing child support- KENTON: Yes. BOWEN: through liens and wage assignments- KENTON: Right. BOWEN: could you tell me a little bit about that and what made you want to support that bill? KENTON: I was asked by a constituent if I would be willing to support that bill and I did so enthusiastically. I had observed through a number of career moves the detriment that families go through when they do not have full financial support from both parties. And I had, was, had read extensively about the problems that divorced women particularly had when absent fathers were not paying support for their children. I felt that this was a very desirable thing to encourage the financial support of these children and that the government ought to have tools appropriate to be able to collect this, these payments. Wage assignments-the bill itself operates on a similar principle to your tax withholdings. Money that you don't have in your pocket you can't spend (laughs), and therefore you have the money available for those obligations. The wage assignment process operates on the same system as the tax deduction operates. It's a deduction from the paycheck before the money goes into your paycheck. So the money could be extracted at that source and paid to the, for the benefit of the children and the father doesn't have to submit it to the court, doesn't have to dig out of his pocket, doesn't spend it some place else before he gets at home to be able to spend it for the children. And I, that was a very important piece of legislation which has since been improved, but it was definitely an initial step. It was a piece of legislation that was being pushed along by the needs of the federal requirements because at the time there had been legislation adopted on the federal level that was requiring the states to initiate similar legislation which was one of the initiating factors. One of the folks who was with state government in that area was one of the constituents that asked that that be put, that I propose that piece of legislation. BOWEN: Okay. Another bill that for some reason appeared to me (laughs) and stuck out in my mind was House Bill 596 which concerned the ability to receive retirement credit for unused sick days for state employees. KENTON: Um-hm. BOWEN: Could you tell me what brought about this particular piece of legislation? KENTON: Well, as a member of the State Government Committee you have a lot of state government bills that come before you. This was another one of those bills that comes before legislative, with that process. The thrust of the bill was to reward people who have observed good attendance and not abused their sick leave policy. The sick leave policy with the state of Kentucky is that you accrue a certain number of sick leave days and it is not uncommon for employees to use the days of sick leave as though they were days of vacation. And so then instead of accumulating these days for catastrophic purposes they would be inclined to have a headache or have hay fever or something perhaps that would lead them to use these sick leave days on a more frequent basis. And it was a management tool to try to encourage attendance on the part of the state employees and to reward them for this attendance at the end of their service by being able to pay them after that. It's a technique that's used in a lot of states. BOWEN: Um-hm. Through looking at your legislative career, and this in my opinion, I thought that much of the bills that you sponsored or your name was on, even if it wasn't the first (unintelligible), pertain mostly to what I call people politics. It pertained to housing, children's benefits, benefits for state workers, and things of that nature, how would you characterize or what would you characterize rather as your major concern throughout your legislative career, your one, your major concern? KENTON: Well, if you were to put my legislative initiations on a continuum between extremes with individual interests being at one end and business or corporate interests being the other I would probably fall much closer to the individual interest than I would to the corporate interests (laugh). I think you probably accurately characterized my interest. I was hoping to be able to serve and benefit the individual citizen of the commonwealth and certainly of my district. If I were forced to choose between the interests of the employer or of the corporation over the interest of the individual I would probably be more likely to support the individual interests. BOWEN: Okay. Do you have, more in, getting in the future, do you see yourself as running for any other public office? KENTON: Not in the immediate future. I never rule out anything because life takes many changes, but at this point I still have children in home. My son is twenty and my daughter is fifteen, and my daughter is still in school, in high school, and will be for several years now. I don't foresee that I would choose to do anything of that nature until I have fewer responsibilities in that regard. Politics is very time consuming and it's, and it is very economically consuming. It's very expensive to run for public office either, both in money and in time, and I don't have a whole lot of either that I can devote to that (laughs), that activity at the moment. But at some future time I might. BOWEN: Okay. That's fair answer (laughs). Is there anything that I haven't mentioned, legislation, anything that you were involved in while you were in service in the state legislature, any stories or anything that you would like to share on this tape before we start closing the interview? KENTON: I can't think of anything at the moment. I, if I were to sit down around the table to reminisce with appropriate refreshments available I'm sure we could sit and talk about many stories, but probably none of them are significant enough (laughs) to be recorded for posterity, so I won't do that. BOWEN: Okay. The last question I like to ask you is right now how would you like to be, when people think back on your career as a legislator how would you want to be remembered? KENTON: I would hope to be remembered as a person who came in and did an acceptable job to represent the interests of the people of the 75th District, who was, made the decisions as best she could given the circumstances to represent the greatest interests of, or the interest of the greatest number of individuals available, and I would hope that my legislative service made some difference in the lives of the people that were in my district. BOWEN: Okay. Well, I would like to thank you very much for taking two times out of your days to talk with me and I've really enjoyed it. Thank you very much. KENTON: Good. [End of interview] Kenton (House 1982-1984, 75th district; Democrat) discusses her husband Bill Kenton's contributions as a legislator, highlighting his involvement in legislative reform. She concludes the interview with her perceptions of various Kentucky governors, and her own sponsorship of legislation. Part 2 of 2. Kentucky Legislature