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2006-07-10 Interview with Bobby H. Richardson, July 10, 2006 Leg001:2006OH115LEG118 01:22:40 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Rural schools -- Kentucky. Kentucky. General Assembly -- Reform. Educational change -- Kentucky. Lobbyists -- Kentucky. Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Brown, John Y. Jr. Carroll, Julian mercantile one-room schools Democratic Party Republican Party campaigning probate of estates no-fault divorce committees legislative independence bail bonds office space for legislators retirement in vitro fertilization separation of church and state lobbyists ethics reform BOPTROT Key Legislation: no-fault divorce; probate of estates Term and District: House (1970-1992), 23rd district Leadership Position(s): House Majority Floor Leader, 1976-1982 -- Speaker of the House, 1982-1985 Counties in District: Barren County (Ky.) -- Metcalfe County (Ky.) Bobby H. Richardson; interviewee Jessica Flinchem; interviewer 2006OH115_LEG118_Richardson 1:|12(2)|18(2)|27(15)|33(14)|40(7)|45(7)|50(6)|58(17)|63(14)|73(15)|78(13)|84(11)|90(6)|99(5)|106(13)|115(2)|120(16)|125(13)|136(7)|141(8)|146(3)|151(14)|157(3)|168(7)|173(3)|182(14)|188(5)|196(7)|200(20)|207(13)|213(10)|218(7)|224(4)|230(3)|236(1)|241(1)|247(9)|253(7)|259(15)|264(13)|270(12)|276(17)|282(12)|287(5)|291(1)|301(10)|306(12)|311(1)|315(12)|320(12)|329(18)|335(5)|340(3)|346(8)|350(13)|356(10)|361(15)|367(3)|372(15)|378(5)|385(5)|390(17)|399(5)|405(18)|410(1)|415(11)|422(4)|428(12)|437(16)|443(3)|448(6)|452(17)|457(15)|463(8)|473(13)|479(6)|485(3)|489(13)|494(19)|507(3)|513(4)|521(3) audiotrans Legit interview FLINCHUM: Mr. Richardson, what is your full name? RICHARDSON: My name is Bobby H. Richardson. FLINCHUM: Bobby H. Richardson. RICHARDSON: Yes. FLINCHUM: Could you please tell me when and where you were born? RICHARDSON: I was born November 25, 1944, in Barren County, Kentucky. I grew up at a little metropolis called Eighty-Eight, Kentucky, which is about ten miles east of Glasgow. My parents and family ran a country store. Farm supply, general merchandise business there. I think my dad was the fourth-generation to have been in mercantile business at Eighty-Eight. I grew up in that store and around that business. I went to my first six years of school at a one- room school at Eighty-Eight, six grades, one teacher, and after I completed my sixth grade, I went to Temple Hill Consolidated School; it was called then. Seventh-eighth grade through high school, graduated high school at Temple Hill in 1962. FLINCHUM: Will you tell me about some of your memories of growing up? Your family, school days? RICHARDSON: Well, of course, we were a pretty close-knit family. My dad had two brothers that were in business with him, and we all lived in a cluster around the business, and my grandmother, who was the matriarch of the family, was in the middle of us. My cousins and I all grew up together there. Hardly knew which parent was going to do the discipline. I went to church there, the Baptist church. Learned a lot of things. Learned my, whatever people skills I have and learned to like people, and to enjoy people, and to like stories, and to like storytelling from all the farmers who loafed at the store in the wintertime, and in the cool of the afternoons. Learned to play checkers, and learned to love politics there, at that store. You know, this one- room school is a thing of the past now, and there's not many of us left that went to one-room schools. It was a very effective educational system to be honest about it. It's hard to believe that one teacher could teach six grades. They would have all the subjects, and that you get a real good education. But, you learned, the younger ones learned from the teaching of the older ones because you were in a room, probably 25 x 40 or something of that sort, and you had to hear what was going on. When I was in the second and third grade, I was learning fractions, decimals, and that sort of thing that the sixth-graders were learning. It was a pretty effective learning technique, you know. Each morning-I think I can remember-we started out every class did their spelling. Then, she went through every class doing their reading. Then, she went through every class doing the math. That usually took us to about noon. Then, after noon, there was English and history, or some social study. It wasn't always history, even some science. And I believe that was about the agenda every day. Most everyone brought their lunch to school in a lunch pail. We heated the building with a coal stove. It was a big pot-bellied stove in the center of the room, and we had morning and afternoon recesses. It was a pretty idyllic existence. It seems to me not too concerned about world events. Things were rather peaceful and serene. I had a wonderful, wonderful childhood. Enjoyed every minute of it. I was very close to my family, my extended family, grandmother, great uncles. I had a great uncle who had a drug store inside our grocery store. He taught himself pharmacy. Took the test, I believe, in about 1890. He also was a watchmaker, self-taught. He had a lot of wonderful stories and a lot of wisdom. There were just people there that older people that I developed a rapport and a relationship with that I think made my childhood. It was a very enjoyable, educational, and I made long, some long-standing memories. FLINCHUM: What were some of your first memories of world events? RICHARDSON: Well, I remember-I think the first real world event, national event that I remember was Truman firing MacArthur, and I believe that was about 1951. Now I've got a memory. I remember a lot of things that happened before 1951, but that's the first national event I think I remember. I'm a very dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, but my family was and is to this day, very dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. Harry Truman was almost the devil incarnate in our neighborhood. That was a very talked about event when Truman fired MacArthur. I remember watching the 1952 Republican and Democrat conventions on television. We'd gotten our first television in 1950. So, those were my earliest political memories. I don't remember when I-in 1951, there was a race for the state legislature in this district, and I remember that race very well. Politics was a subject that everybody talked about. My dad was interested in politics. He was the Republican precinct committeeman. My great-uncle was Herbert Branstatter, was the county Republican chairman. So politics was inherent, in my family, in my blood, I guess. I just had developed a different attitude about the issues. FLINCHUM: How did you come to agree with the persuasion of Democrats from a Republican family? RICHARDSON: Well, now we have a lot of fun in my family about why I'm a Democrat. One of my uncles, who's now gone, said that I fell off the bed on my head when I was a baby, and I say, I'm the first Richardson that learned to read, but neither of which is true. When I grew up, the Republican Party was pretty reactionary, and not very optimistic, more pessimistic. It just didn't hold any allure for me, their views. I came to age in the Kennedy era, so I think that that probably had a big impact on me. I was a great admirer of Happy Chandler, Governor Chandler in that era, too. Maybe that seems a little incongruence because he was awfully conservative, but I did like him, and I think I enjoyed his flamboyance more than I did his philosophy. Anyway, he had an impact on me. Then, in 1962, when I was a senior in high school, Senator Richard Garnett, who was this state senator from this district, arranged for me to be a page in the state Senate. I wasn't one of the constitutional pages, but I was a permanent one. I was there the whole session. It honed my interests in state politics. As a matter of fact, I have here on my desk a little brass donkey that I first saw, in 1962, on the desk of Henry Carter who, at that particular time, was secretary of state. He had that donkey, and part of my duties was taking Colonel certificates to his office to get the secretary of state-they had to be signed by him-and other documents, and he and I became acquainted, and I tried to talk him out of that donkey, and I never could do it. He held, he was state treasurer, secretary of state, probably both two or three times. Apparently, he remembered that, because I think I was speaker of the House about the time of his death, why, his daughter brought that to me and said, "Dad wanted you to have this." I've still got that. I think it's just a little aside, but I've always had-especially when I was younger-a burning interest in politics. FLINCHUM: Did you, early on, also decide to go into law? RICHARDSON: You know, next to politics and the politicians, sort of the heroes of the people who did the talking around the store were the lawyers. They debated the merits and demerits and the attributes of the various lawyers around. That piqued my interest. Then I knew I wanted to be in politics, and I noticed that most of the politicians were lawyers. So that probably made my interests a little more sharper in the law. Actually, I became a lawyer, probably so that I'd be able to be in politics, but after I was in both of them a while, I found out I was really a much better lawyer and more interested in the law then I was in politics, to be honest about it. FLINCHUM: Earlier you mentioned Truman, JFK, who are some of your political heroes, whether they be Presidents, Governors? You mentioned Chandler- RICHARDSON: Well, as I was growing up, and had all that Republican influence-of course, John Sherman Cooper was probably the leading Republican in his day. Thurston Morton, those were people that I admired, and by the way, I still do. You know, it would be hard for anybody that grew up in the Eisenhower era not to say that they liked President Eisenhower. If there was ever anybody who looked like your grandfather and acted like your grandfather on television, it was President Eisenhower. But I learned something from President Eisenhower that maybe burst my bubble a little bit, and made me a little more cynical about some things than I might have been. I didn't think the United States ever did anything that would-I thought we were highly moral. That our foreign policy was based on morality, and John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State back then, and he was a real strong Presbyterian. He made us think that everything that we were doing was for the right purposes. We had the U-2 Incident where one of our spy planes was shot down over Russia. I believe it was piloted by Francis Gary Powers and the President denied that we were spying on Russia, and then it turned out that we were, and I think that one event, made a little bit of a cynic out of me, and made me question, not take for granted, everything that our leaders and our government says, that just because they say it, doesn't mean that that's the way it is. Heroes, I had a lot of political heroes, locally and nationally. I think Kennedy probably has to stand out in my younger days, as the one that captured our imagination more than anybody else. Frankly, I think that in my lifetime that Bill Clinton has probably been the most effective President, and if we set aside all of the issues that have arisen about his personal sexual morals, I'm going to classify him as one of the best President in my memory. FLINCHUM: I have been doing a lot of interviews in Republican southeastern Kentucky, and I've heard that Democrats in Western Kentucky are a lot more conservative than in some other places. What is your opinion on what it means to be a Democrat or Republican in Kentucky? RICHARDSON: Well, that's changed a lot. The Republicans of today have very little-well, national Republicans have very little connection to the Republicans of the past. You know, the Republicans of the past, they were fiscally conservative, but they thought that government ought to help those who couldn't help themselves. They were against a lot of things, but on the other hand, they were a compassionate philosophy. They've changed a lot. They've got to the point-at this point, the national party especially, and Kentucky party equates religion as a political philosophy. Something that I think is bad. It seems to me like, that both the Democrats and Republicans have lost a lot of civility and that we can't disagree agreeably. They have to be personal about it. The thing that has changed the Democratic Party in Kentucky more than anything else-and it's always been a conservative party in some respects-after the War between the States, the real conservative movement called the Bourbon Democrats controlled Kentucky up through Governor Beckham, at least. Well, even later than that and the New Departure, or the more liberal wing of the Democrat, was not very strong in Kentucky. So the Democratic Party has been rather conservative. But what has occurred is that the issues of abortion, which are supported by the national party, the gun control, which is supported by the national party, and religion in the schools and so forth, have not been very attractive to many Kentuckians, and as a result, they have been turned off by the national Democratic Party. I see a Democrat in Kentucky, as one who is interested in seeing that the common everyday working person has an opportunity. That, in those instances where people-because of the mental inaptitude, because of the conditions as to the way they grew up, or their physical limitations- are not able to help themselves, then we're willing for the government to help them. We want our educational system to be the best that it can be. We want to put money into it, rather than to cut corporate taxes, or to spend our money for incentives. We want to keep religion out of our school system. Let everybody, practice their religion at home, as they want to, and to insure that the government is a servant, but it serves those who can't serve themselves. FLINCHUM: What do you remember about your first campaign? RICHARDSON: What do I remember about it? FLINCHUM: Um-hm. RICHARDSON: Well, it was a very, very enjoyable experience. I met people that I would never have met. Forged friendships that I never would've had, that have endured. I learned a lot about how the people in this county though. I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I tried to call on everybody that I could. I spent at least half the day, every day, from about the middle of August till the November election in visiting people. I don't remember any particularly unpleasant parts of it. I would like to run for something else again. I'd just be afraid I would win, and I would have to serve. I would certainly enjoy the campaign. FLINCHUM: What were some of the issues at the time? Some of the top priorities for your district when you were running, the first time? RICHARDSON: You see, that's been thirty-four years ago, and I'll have to search the recesses (??) of my memory but I remember that I was interested in some issues about probate of estates. I was trying to make that a little simpler. It used to be, one of them could die and the other one would have a hard time going through all the legalities, and I was able to get that done. My first session of legislature, I introduced a bill that was the first bill adopted that session. That was to dispense the administration of the estates. I was interested in some farm issues. Uncomplicating the divorce laws-tried to, I introduced a no-fault divorce bill, which the one just like I introduce became law, but the companion bill introduced in the Senate is the one that was finally adopted. I remember that my campaign slogan was "Judgment you can Trust." So those are the basic issues, as I recall. FLINCHUM: As time went on-I probably should have worded my question more broadly-throughout different terms in the House, what are some of the highlights? RICHARDSON: Well, there are a lot of highlights in the legislature. I was elected for my first session in 1972. Governor Ford was elected at that time, and he succeeded Louie Nunn, who was from this county, as a matter of fact. Norbert Blume was speaker of the House. I was not a big factor in the issues that the Governor was supporting because I was a freshman legislator and that just wasn't the way it works. What I noted that first session was, how difficult it was for an individual legislature to get things brought to the attention of the body that made any-that was real controversial. Now, I learned early on, you know, I could take a simple bill like this estate bill, and with working with people, I could get that done. But I saw that we were controlled, more or less, through the committee system. I and others sort of chafed under the fact that you could introduce a bill and be assigned a committee, and if the committee chairman didn't want to take, pick your bill up to, that you didn't have-that virtually there was no way to force that bill to be heard in that committee, and if you was able to talk the committee chairman into hearing your bill and it got out of committee, then there was this rules committee over here, that was controlled by the leadership. Like the bill just gets there and that was almost like being in oblivion, you know. Wasn't any assurance that that bill would ever get out to the floor. Actually, the rules committee, in theory, is just supposed to be sort of a traffic cop-a valve to control the flow, so that you don't have every bill coming out here on the floor today and then none tomorrow, to try to keep it consistent. There were several of us-myself, George Street Boone, Nick Kafoglis, David Karem, Bill Kenton and others that said, "Hey listen, this is not a very democratic way to do this." It was done that way because the Governor had the allegiance of the leaders, and the leaders had his allegiance, and the Governor had enough power through the ability to spend money, and so forth, that he could say, "Bobby, I want you to vote for Bill Jones for speaker or for majority leader. If you do, I'll sure look favorably on your request for roads or schools or something in your district." So, we started complaining about those things. I guess we got a reputation. At any rate, I was not the author or finisher of any significant legislation in those first 2 sessions, '72 and '74. I had some influence on things but it was not-I wasn't one of the leaders. Nineteen seventy-six, then I got to be majority leader. I got it the same way everybody else got them. The Governor supported me, and I returned that support. But Speaker Kenton, Bill Kenton, was elected speaker in 1979, and I was elected majority leader, and we started changing our relationship with the Governor. We were able to terminate the director of the Legislative Research Commission and bring in somebody that we selected, that wasn't beholden to the Governor for his job. We supported the Governor's program but we were able to find out what the members were thinking, and then we were able to get the Governor to change. We forced some changes on him. Then we found out that knowledge is power. We knew that, but we found out that that was especially true in the legislature. To get knowledge, you had to have information. When I went to the legislature in 1972, the only place that I had assigned to me that I could sit down was my seat on the floor. I had a desk, a roll top desk with two or three drawers in it, and it was about three feet wide. No staff to speak of. None assigned to me. We didn't have a private telephone. Didn't have anywhere to get together and talk. I remember that the telephones were along the side in the hall beside the chambers. If you wanted to use the phone to call constituents or anything you, you just had to wait in line for a telephone. The only people that had an office was the speaker and the majority leader, and the majority leader had an office a little bit bigger than a broom closet. The first thing that we did was to try to get a little more space, and a little more staff and a little more facilities, and we kept on it till we was able to enlarge those a little at a time, you know. But that was one of our goals. Another thing was we wanted to change this committee system. So that a person just couldn't arbitrarily, unilaterally say, "I'm not going to hear this bill." We fixed it so that the members of the committee themselves could post a bill. We change the rules committee, so that a bill could just be stalled in there for, I forget, just a few days. If you didn't pass it out to the floor, it had to go back to another committee. That may have been its death nail, too. I was the majority leader because-but anyway, that was one of the things that we did. As a majority leader, you know most of the Democrats-we had about seventy-five or seventy- six Democrats out of the hundred-and most of them supported Governor Carroll, who was Governor by the time I got to be majority leader. By the way, one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed while I was in the legislature, happened during Governor Carroll's administration, when we did away with the bail bonding system in Kentucky. Did away with bail bondsmen and had a court administered system of bail bonds, and it's worked wonderfully. Took a lot of the cost out of the system. A lot of the corruption that follows bail bonding. That was a great thing that we did. Then, I was majority leader in 1976 and 1978. Governor Carroll then went out of office and Governor John Y. Brown was elected. It was about that time that what's called the Kenton Amendment. But Speaker Kenton and I sat down together and wrote it. We changed-we did some changes on the legislature. Number one, we fixed it so in this amendment that was adopted by the voters of Kentucky, and that's where we got an extra year term, one time because we changed it so that when a new Governor was elected, that the legislative leadership had been elected the year before he got there, so the Governor couldn't impact who the speaker and who majority leader, the president of the Senate and majority leader in the Senate and all those leadership positions, he couldn't impact those as Governor. Then we weren't elected at the same time that the Governor was. That took a lot of the Governor's ability to control the legislature away. That was a big change. At about that time, we were able to get some offices over in the capital annex. We called them the cubicles. But I remember when I was-that was about my first term of speaker in 1982, all of the offices became-all one hundred and thirty eight had a little cubicle office over in the basement of the annex. Then we also made sure we had committee rooms. In my first session of the Legislature, I attended some committee meetings that there wasn't enough room in the room for the committee members. I stood out in the hall, tried to hear, and tried to be able to participate. We had committee meetings on the fourth floor of the capitol in little rooms that weren't over twelve or fourteen feet wide and little low ceiling rooms, and one of the first things we did was try to get some committee rooms, and we were successful in doing that. These facilities and offices and staff that we could call on to do typing for us, where we would have to send constituent letters, and so forth, was a big help in being able to have a legislator have enough independence from depending on people that was provided for the Governor to make up their own mind about the issues. I was fortunate, as before I became Majority Leader that I was a lawyer and had some dictating equipment that I could take to Frankfort with me and dictate letters to constituents. Then bring them home for my legal secretary to type over the weekend or to get out for me after I was gone. That Kenton Amendment, and the fact that Governor Carroll-or Governor Brown, excuse me-was amenable to legislative independence. He was not the personality, nor did he have the political culture behind him to want to dominate the legislature and he would tell me. He'd say, "I'm going to Florida for a week. You handle this thing while I'm going. And, whatever decision you make I'll be happy with. If you want to talk to me, call me." I was majority leader and maybe even speaker at the time. We were pressing for changes. We met a Governor, who was amenable to change, and most Governors, like all politicians, are egotists, and the biggest politician is the Governor. Therefore, the biggest egotists, and most Governors were, so. They didn't want to give up one-inch, centimeter of apparent power or control but Governor Brown was-the exercise of power didn't appear to be the aphrodisiac for him that it was for others. It wasn't just what he was interested in. So he has a big a part, of us being able to bring the legislature from this subservient group over to something relatively equal empowered to the executive branch. You know, just before the adoption of our present constitution, in 1890, I believe it was, before that, the legislature had just been so beholden controlled by the special interests, especially, the railroad interests in Kentucky. That, it just got to the point that the people were not willing to put up with it anymore. I did know the statistics at one time, but I believe if you will refer to John Ed Pearce's book, Divide and Descent, the legislature before the Constitution was adopting about eight hundred bills, over half of them was just purely private interest bills. So the legislature asked for control. [Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.] RICHARDSON: As I said before, but I'll repeat, because of the corruptness of the legislative process, the new constitution adopted in 1890 put a lot of restrictions and controls and brakes on the legislature. It took one hundred years almost, to get the people of Kentucky, back to a mind to give the legislator a little bit more power and make it a relatively equal branch of government. I was cognoscente of that. I was a little paternalistic towards the legislature. As speaker, after we got into this, I probably was a little too concerned about the fact that if we didn't watch out, and we wasn't real careful, if we weren't, real, didn't tenderly, and gingerly watch out what we were doing, we'd get setback. I probably tried to keep too much of a reign, on the House to try to get them not, to act really responsibly and did not get them to do anything to cause the people of Kentucky to want to turn back. Use really good judgment. I think that after six or eight years, they sort of chafed under my leadership, not wanting to try to keep a reign and maybe an overlook on what was going on. But that we retreat, that was my goal. To make sure that we didn't do anything that was so outrageous that the people would want us to retreat back to an unequal branch and I guess I was overly cautious about that. The only thing that I really think got by me, that I should have probably have noticed and paid more attention to, was what was called the "Greed Bill," at that time, which was legislative retirement. I didn't really see it as a big issue when it was being talked about. Because retirement issues were coming into play nationally and so forth, but that was something that probably, gave the legislature a little of a bad name, but it's survived that. I think that, with a few exceptions over the years, the legislature has acted relatively responsibly. I guess, I can say as responsibly as Governors have. (both laugh) FLINCHUM: I noticed the pictures out in the hallway taken when you were speaker of the House. You looked like a man who thoroughly enjoyed your job, because- RICHARDSON: Well, I did. Frankly, I enjoyed being majority leader maybe more than I did being speaker. I liked the arena rather than being the referee. I was majority leader for six years and I thought good at it. I thought I did a good job. I thought, I don't ever remember, permanently losing a bill that I tried to pass. Sometimes I had to take another tact. But, the arena was where I thought that I showed my greatest talents. I think, and my contemporaries have told me, that I had the ability to persuade when I was on the House floor. Some fellow over at the University of Kentucky-I believe by the name of Malcolm Jewell, somebody like that, that I never saw in the legislature, never saw him appear-claimed to be a expert on it, and on what grounds he made that claim, I don't know-it's sort of denigrated my oratory, if you want to call it that, but it was always effective. One of the-there were two things over the years that I think, that I am most proud of in my legislative career and that's the legislative independence. That's one thing I was at the forefront of that. I was a soldier of that. I was a commander in that. I don't know that it will be marked but it's a legacy that I want to preserve. The second thing is there was that, that all throughout my legislative career, there was a movement to call a federal constitutional convention to offer a balanced budget amendment. To say, to submit to the states that we had to have a federal balanced budget. Now I didn't object and still don't object to a balanced federal budget. I think that we ought to, try as hard as we can to balance our expenses and revenue. I think there are times when you don't need to, but you ought to spend more than you're taking in. I think there are times that you should spend less than you're taking in. But I didn't object to that, but I did object to the constitutional convention. I thought that if you called a constitutional convention that the whole constitution was subject to being revised. I thought it was subject to having changes made that we didn't anticipate if we called it just for a purportedly for federal balanced budget proposal. So, from the time I was, before I was majority leader to speaker, I think that I can say that I am the one person who consistently blocked that vote. Obviously, we got to the point that Kentucky, if we had passed the resolution for a call for a convention, it would have happened. I was able, I took the forefront, and I was able to get that avoided. I doubt that you could get the Bill of Rights readopted if you had a constitutional convention. But anyway, now, the people that were pressing for that-the Jim Bunning's of the world, Gene Schneider, who is no longer in the Congress-a fellow I admired, by the way-and those people, they wouldn't be for that now because they're not interested in balancing the budget now. It probably was a political ploy on their part, anti-democratic, but I wasn't looking at it that way. Then, another thing that I was proud of was, there was a bill up to prohibit in vitro fertilization in Kentucky. I took the lead on opposing that. The right-to-life people opposed in vitro fertilization. You are familiar with that? Why, I don't know except they might have thought there may have been additional eggs are fertilized or something, but I thought the technology was a wonderful way for a childless couples to end up parents, and I still do. That was a fight that I took a lot of pleasure in, after we were successful. We're here talking this afternoon, an hour or two about a twenty-year career, and if I had reviewed everything that went on, there's probably some other important things that I could point to that I thought was important, but those were major things. Those were things that impacted a lot of people. You may raise your taxes or lower your taxes, and it sort of affects people, but these were things that really could affect people's lives. I was very glad to be able to do those things. I always-I'm a Baptist. I'm a deacon in a Baptist church. I believe, obviously, in the Baptist doctrine. Over the years, we've believed in the separation of church and state. I tried my best to carry that philosophy because I think it's the right one with me to the legislature, and when the people tried to impose religion into our government, into our schools, I was opposed to it. Baptists got to be the worst violators out of it and still are today. But, I remember on the fight of keeping scientific creationism from being taught in schools. You know, there's a lot of little bills that came up, special interest, that would help you, or it would hurt this one, or some company wanted this, or some interest group wanted something else, and those bills could be very important, too. But, philosophically, I thought we needed to keep the government out of our religion and our religion from running our government. To try to help people, instead of using the government to impose some philosophical attitude that-and I went there with the idea of not having a philosophy. Sort of, to be a practicalist. If it was good, I thought-of course, everybody thinks what they do is good-but if it was good and you would called it liberal, I would still be for it. It was a good idea proposed by a Republican, I was for it. If it was a bad idea proposed by a Democrat, I was against it. Not to be a liberal, conservative, a Democrat, or Republican, but just to be a Kentuckian. That's still the way I think legislators need to be. I didn't represent Barren County; I represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If something was good for Louisville, even though they might not like it in Glasgow, I thought I had an obligation to be for it. It was sort of, like the Governor Martha Layne Collins proposed what was known as the Toyota deal. It was the first incentives that we'd really ever heard of to get a company to locate in Kentucky, and I thought it was a good economic idea, and I supported it. We had a lot of World War II veterans that just were very adamant that I had done the wrong thing, but turns out that it has been one of the best economic issues, the best thing that we have done for jobs in Kentucky. It brought those jobs to Georgetown but it's brought hundreds of jobs to Glasgow. I'm sure it did in Bowling Green. I hope it has in Jackson County in East Kentucky, but if it was in your judgment, you thought it was the best thing to do, you ought to do it-Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, or whatever. FLINCHUM: Earlier, we were talking about growing legislative independence, and I think everyone has to agree that's way up at the top of probably the biggest accomplishment of the past several decades. How do you describe some of the accompanying changes after that independence? With lobbyists, for example? They had been aggravating the Governor and then they turned to the legislature. RICHARDSON: Well, that was a danger, when we did legislative independence. When I cited to you what had happened before the change in the constitution in 1890, that prior two or three decades, the excesses of the legislature had come as the result of the influence of lobbyists, so that was a danger. After I left, it got a little worse. We had-was it BOPTROT, it was called where my successor as speaker and several other legislators and some legislative aides got in some legal trouble as a result of maybe being too cozy with the lobbyists. You know, I think that the legislators reacted to that in a proper way, and put the restrictions on that needed to be put on. They could have even gone too far. They stopped those excesses. You know, when a kid gets his independence from his parents, he's out to sew some wild oats. And I think you can equate the legislature with that, and they got their hands slapped, they got a spanking, they got disciplined, and I think that that has evened out, and that's not a real problem in Kentucky anymore. Lobbyists, all of my-not all, that's too general a statement-but my constituents, many thought the word lobbyist was bad. That a lobbyist was a sort of an evil, lurking figure that wore the dark cloth cap and stood in the shadows. Actually, the legislature could not function properly without the lobbyists. They are an important component in the whole process because they've got information. They got information about how a bill affects them. You know, the service station owner out here, where I buy my gas, if I was in the legislature, when he talks to me about some issue that affects his business, he's a lobbyist. He just may not be in Frankfort, but he's a lobbyist because he's trying to influence the legislation in showing me how that affects him. Well, I need to know how legislation is going to affect him and everybody else, when I'm in the legislature, and any legislator does, so those people are essential. You've got to exercise discretion, as to whether you believe everything they say, or whether, most everybody overreacts too when they think legislation is going to hurt them. You've got to be able to discern a little bit about it. That takes a little learning. It takes a little experience, and lawyers probably are-(coughs)-excuse me-are probably trained to do that a little better than some professions are. That's why a legislator stay in there a little longer and a little longer. Having a some longevity in his service helps them. You know, you can lie to a fellow one time, but it's hard to do it the second time, if you've been caught the first time. So, lobbyists are good; you just can't get too cozy with them. FLINCHUM: (coughs) Excuse me. Another major development right around the time that you left the General Assembly, KERA [Kentucky Education Reform Act]? RICHARDSON: That was adopted my last year. Well, we had to do something about our educational system in Kentucky. It obviously wasn't working. Educational systems in general may not be working. There was a court decision said we had to do something, but anybody with a discerning interest in education knew that we needed to do something, and the constitution said that we was to maintain a system of schools in Kentucky, but we weren't doing a real good job with having a good system everywhere. A lot of the school boards were political, and we had to do some things. KERA, I think has been successful. I think it's made us focus and has put the spotlight on every system in Kentucky, and just because you're over on the far side of Black Mountain down in that shadow of it, they're going to be looking at you in Frankfort. Just because you're up in Oldham County that doesn't mean you're going to be the only one that's got a good educational system. So it's done that. Now, I lack a lot being an expert on education, but I believe that public education is becoming more and more difficult, every day. There are lots of distractions to children. We've got problems today with drugs, with abuse, with broken homes, with alcohol, with working parents that we never had before. Children today face obstacles that I never, you know, in that little community of Eighty-Eight. It was-there might have been some bad people around, but the problems that I faced were nothing compared to problems that children of today face, especially in a larger school system. I fear for the future of public education. I'm about as egalitarian as you can get. But, I just wonder if I would want to turn my grandchildren into the atmosphere in some public schools today. Even scares me to think about what the children are face and what every day they see and hear. KERA has helped. Had we not had KERA, I don't know what kind of shape we'd be in, but there's got to be some changes in our culture, if public education is really successful in the future. And we are asking so much of the public school system. You know, we got to be able to deal with the handicapped, physically handicapped student. We've got to spend the money to make it accessible. We've got to deal with the mentally challenged child, the autistic child, the special education kids of all kinds. I don't know how the public education system is going to be everything to everybody and how it is going to succeed in the future, to be honest about it. I guess I got off the subject, but I think one of the biggest problems challenging state government today is how we are going to mold and fashion our educational system for the twenty-first century. Now I'm off my soapbox. (both laugh) FLINCHUM: I don't think you got off the subject at all. In fact, one of my last questions is going to be what are some of the most important ways in which you would like to see Kentucky change in the future? Some of the biggest problems that we are facing today? I'd imagine that education would definitely be one of those? RICHARDSON: Well, I really think that that is education. It may not be just Kentucky. It may be the biggest problem confronting the country, domestic problem. We've got a culture, a history in Kentucky against education. We got a high dropout rate. People in Kentucky have just never put a emphasis-and I can't say that about everybody; don't get me wrong-but a typical Kentuckian wouldn't put the emphasis on education that they should. I hope that culture's changing because everything about Kentucky is changing. This is not the same state that I grew up in. As the facilitator here, you've told me that you are from Jackson County. Jackson County is just not the same place it was when you grew up. We are becoming urbanized. We are leaving the farm. We are having an influx of people from other place-and I've may be overused the word this afternoon-but different cultural backgrounds. Neighborhoods are gone. As we talked about where I grew up, when I grew up, I knew everyone in a four or five mile radius of Eighty-Eight. Everybody that lived at Eighty-Eight in that community either went to the Baptist church or to the Church of Christ. Now, I got a farm in 88. I'm a pretty sociable person, but I've got people that join my farm that I have no idea who they are. There's no community connection. They don't go to the churches. The country stores are gone. The meeting places are gone. There's no community anymore. It's just a change. Tobacco is gone. I mean, that was just one of the threads that wove the fabric that we were. Full-time farmers are a thing of the past. The country churches are just sort of dissipating. We've done away with the community kind of schools, basically. Kentucky is a different place. We are going to have to have different approaches. We are going to have to have different attitudes. We've got challenges, but what a wonderful place Kentucky is-most beautiful place in the world. I couldn't live in a-God sort of made him a little place here and hid it from the rest of the world, but now they're finding it. As far as topography and how it looks, I hope that we can train our people, to live in a different world than I grew up in because it's going to have to be done. FLINCHUM: I have a legal question for you. RICHARDSON: All right. FLINCHUM: Do you think Kentucky needs a new constitution? RICHARDSON: Well-I'm not so sure that's a necessity. The worst trouble with our constitution, as I see it, is that it is just too detailed. But, I can't say that it's keeping us from doing what we ought to do. Most of the time, if it gets in the way, we've found a way around it. (laughs) It's so divisive. We don't need anything to change it. We don't need any other divisive issues in Kentucky. Those fellows at Frankfort, they can't get along in the legislature. They don't like each other apparently. That's the way it appears to me. It's more about one-upmanship than it is about getting things done. You know, when I was in the legislature, Republicans and Democrats, we might have to put on a little bit of the show about a partisan kind of issue, but we liked each other and knew everybody was sincere in wanting to do something good for the state. I mean, there's always exceptions. You know, there's rogues. There were rouges in the Garden of Eden, but it seems like that the attitude has changed. I don't like the attitude that, I am right and You're wrong, and I can't be right, I mean, I can't be wrong, and You have to have the worst idea. You know, if you'll just listen, we've all got a little bit of a story to tell. We've all got an idea and a viewpoint that has some validity. We need to listen to each other. FLINCHUM: Are there some things that I've failed to bring up? We discussed several different issues. Anything else you would like to go on the record? RICHARDSON: No, I don't think so. I want to say that my service in the legislature was one of the most fulfilling things I ever did. I hope I did something that was valuable. I hope that I made some changes that was good for the Commonwealth. My advice to legislators would be to try to remember that you represent the Commonwealth of Kentucky, not just your little area. FLINCHUM: Thank you for a good interview. [Tape 1, side 2 ends.] [End of interview.] Richardson (House 1970-1992, 23rd district; Democrat) recalls his family's mercantile business, the one-room schoolhouse he attended, his early political influences, and his reasons for choosing a political affiliation different from his family's. He discusses changes in both political party platforms, legislation for no-fault divorce and probate of estates, the committee system, his role as Majority Floor Leader (1976-1982) and Speaker of the House (1982-1985) in advancing legislative independence, education reform, and the role of lobbyists. Kentucky Legislature