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2006-07-07 Interview with Ed O'Daniel, July 7, 2006 Leg001:2006OH130 Leg 124 01:33:57 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators-- Kentucky -- Interviews. Postsecondary education -- Kentucky. Political campaigns -- Kentucky. Workers' compensation. Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Kentucky. Governor (1983-1987 : Collins) Kentucky. Governor (1991-1995 : Jones) Kentucky. General Assembly. Legislative Research Commission. United States. Marine Fighter Squadron, 214th Property tax -- United States Kentucky. Education Reform Act (1990) Liquors Morton), 1931- Stovall, Thelma special sessions legislative independence Capitol Construction and Bond Oversight Committee Brown, John Y. Jr. Prather, Joe Prichard, E. F. (Edward Fretwell) annual sessions Community colleges Postsecondary education University of Kentucky Basketball Singletary, Otis A. Wethington, Charles T. Kentucky Higher Education Reform Act (KERA) Ethics committee Lobbyists distilled spirits Budget bipartisanship Williams, David Cleland, Max, 1942- Legislative Research Commission (LRC) legislative independence Workers' compensation Friend, Kelsey Collins, Martha Layne Coal mines and mining black lung Lungs -- Dust diseases McConnell, Mitch Scorsone, Ernesto Cyrus, Ron Combs, Bert T., 1911- property taxes Key Legislation: workers' compensation Term/District: Senate (1978-1990), 14th district Counties in District: Nelson County (Ky.) -- Marion County (Ky.) -- Boyle County (Ky.) -- Washington County (Ky.) -- Larue County (Ky.) -- Anderson County (Ky.) Ed O'Daniel; interviewee Erik Tuttle; interviewer 2006OH130_LEG124_O_Daniel 1:|22(7)|31(14)|38(1)|49(11)|57(8)|70(5)|78(7)|88(4)|94(11)|102(2)|107(12)|115(8)|122(5)|129(7)|135(10)|153(13)|158(14)|165(8)|171(9)|181(1)|189(8)|196(2)|202(9)|211(5)|220(10)|232(12)|239(9)|245(10)|255(10)|264(9)|273(2)|281(1)|286(11)|294(6)|305(3)|317(8)|324(1)|333(11)|340(4)|344(2)|351(3)|361(7)|367(11)|375(4)|388(4)|407(7)|417(9)|433(1)|447(4)|453(9)|460(4)|467(3)|475(8)|482(2)|497(8)|507(3)|512(8)|522(5)|528(7)|539(2)|544(13)|553(7)|561(6)|567(4)|573(6)|579(10)|589(6)|596(8)|602(3)|611(4)|618(8)|626(4)|639(2)|645(6)|651(11)|660(7)|668(1)|680(5)|687(5)|700(4)|715(6)|723(5)|731(7)|741(2)|748(3)|754(9)|762(8)|781(3)|785(2)|793(2)|810(4)|826(3)|833(2) audiotrans Legit interview TUTTLE: That should do it. O'DANIEL: Make sure it's--make sure it's recording. TUTTLE: Yeah. O'DANIEL: So we don't have to do it again. TUTTLE: Yeah--(laughs)--that would not be very good. This usually check--yeah, it's about a half-second delay. It'll play right there. Um, so, like you said, if you need to interrupt at all that's fine. O'DANIEL: Thank you. TUTTLE: It's not a problem at all. Um, and what we have been starting out doing is just state your name, say a little bit about, um, where your family is from and where you are from just to get a short, like, early history. O'DANIEL: Ed O' Daniel, um, I grew up on a farm in Marion County. Um, went to school at Xavier University where I got a BS degree in English. I went to U of L law school at night while working at Brown and Williamson in marketing during the day. And I began practicing law in Springfield in 1970. I was elected to the State Senate in 1977 at age thirty-nine. TUTTLE: Um, what was it that in a specific way sort of brought you from private practice to public servi--uh, explicit public service? O'DANIEL: In law practice in small community, um, uh, public services seems to be a part of it, um, and I've always had an interest in government and politics. I remember, um, I think it was 1955 when Burt Combs was campaigning in Lebanon. I, I remember being there for one of his appearances and how, um, exciting an event that seemed to be. And, uh, there was a, a natural attraction for me to, to politics to community involvement and, like, in Springfield, um, very shortly after I came here, I began doing--helping with fund raising at Saint Catherine College which is outside of--near Springfield. Then I served on the board there for over twenty years. I, um, was involved in other community activities like Chamber of Commerce, was President of the Camber of Commerce once upon a time and President of the Rotary Club, and, um, just seemed like there was always some kind of community participation. TUTTLE: Um, I know that--or if I, if I recall correctly--the first--when you were first elected to the Senate in the general election you were unopposed? Is that right? O'DANIEL: In the--I was running in the gen--in the primary, uh, which was the big contest, and the way all this came about, um, um, the district I represented was the 14th Senate district and the state senator until '76 was Bill Gentry from Bardstown. He resigned to be appointed to the Public Service Commission. There was a vacancy that was filled by selection--the Democratic nominee for the vacancy was filled by the Democratic committees of the six counties involved. It was a very-- ended up being a very close, um, uh, contest between Randal Donahue from Loretto and me, and he beat me by about a percentage point. The votes of the committee members of those six counties and, and that came after I'd beaten him and there was a challenge made to one of the votes, and that challenge was upheld and, so, you know, he beat me after I beat him . (Tuttle laughs) Uh, and then I--the next year decided to run against him for the full term. That was '77. And, um, out of, I think it was around twenty-two thousand votes, I won by ninety-six. TUTTLE: Whew. That's a tight race. (both laugh) O'DANIEL: And then I was unopposed in the fall. TUTTLE: Um, were any of the following elec--any of the subsequent elections that tight for you? O'DANIEL: No. No I was reelected in '83 and '87 by--and in the primary by, you know, like 70 percent, I think. And, and no, um, general election opposition. And then in, um, let's see, '77, '81 there was, was the first re-election. Then there was a five year term because of a change in the Constitution and the next election was '86. And then in 1990 I won the primary which was very hotly contested but I won by a fairly good margin but then lost the general election, um, after the General Assembly had enacted KERA which resulted in a property tax increase of like 40 percent and people got their tax bills about three weeks before the election. There were probably other complications too. I was in the process of a divorce at that time. That probably had an effect on the outcome also. TUTTLE: Um, when you first came into the General Assembly, I am sure you had an idea of--sort of a view of, in a general way, how you thought government should act, and what government should do? And I wonder if that, if that changed over that amount of time you were serving? O'DANIEL: I had, um, I suppose a rather strong streak of rebellion, independence which may be the same thing, I don't know. Um, and at the time I was elected there was a group, small, rather small group of rebels in the Senate. They were led by John Berry and Lowell Hughes. And they got to be known as the Black Sheep and there were, there were several other members of that group: David Karem, uh, Joe Wright, um, Danny Meyer who was elected the same time I was, um, Ed Ford who also was elected the same time I was. But the, the, the leaders of that group were already there, uh, and, and John Berry and Lowell Hughes were the instigators of this rebellious group who had the strange notion that the General Assembly ought to have an equal role in state government with the government. And up to that time, uh, the, uh, the standard had been for, I suppose since at least constitution of 1891, that the Governor dominated the General Assembly. Um, and the 1891 constitution, um, had part of its objective was to reign in a runaway legislature, to minimize the power of the General Assembly, and it was very successful. At least until us rebels came along. (Tuttle laughs) But, up when I first went into the Senate in '78, Julian Carroll was Governor. And he, like all governors before him, uh, uh, chose who the leaders of the legislature were going to be and it didn't matter what any individuals in the legislature thought or wanted. The Governor told the legislature who were going to be the leaders and who were going to be the committee chairmen and what the legislative agenda was going to be and the legislature was a virtual rubber stamp. And, uh, the Black Sheep had the strange notion that there's some constitutional, um, obligation for equality. In fact, section 28 of the constitution says so. (Tuttle laughs) But that little detail had been overlooked for seventy-five years or so. Um, and then let's see, in '78, and at that time legislative leaders were chosen at a pre-legislative conference that took place at Kentucky Dam Village and, uh, so we all dutifully went to Kentucky Dam Village to vote for the Governor's picks . (Tuttle laughs) The Black Sheep had their, um, ideas about who the leaders ought to be which included John Berry and Lowell Hughes. And, uh, and I sided with them against the will of the Governor. Um, in a meeting with Governor Carroll, told him how I was going to vote, and, thought in doing so, that was going to be the end of my political career because the Governor wasn't going to have any time for a rookie state senator who wanted to make up his own mind about such trivialities . (Tuttle laughs) It turned out quite different from that and I think the lesson I learned was that, uh, um, you know, the Governor would test members of the General Assembly and find out who he could count on without having to make any concessions. And I always had a good working relationship with Governor Carroll and all other governors even though frequently there were issues that we weren't in agreement on. We, that is, the Black Sheep, lost our bid in '78 to name the leadership. And then in '79 there was a special session called by Thelma Sto--called by Julian Carroll--no, no, no it was called by Thelma Stovall, who was lieutenant governor while was Julian was out of state. The lieutenant governor acted as governor. UNKNOWN WOMAN: Charles? O'DANIEL: Okay, can we shut it off a second? TUTTLE: Yeah. [Pause in recording.] TUTTLE: Oh, there it is. You were saying about Thelma Stovall called a session? O'DANIEL: Yeah, in '79, um, she called a session while Julian was out of state. Um, it was a property tax issue that brought about the session. During that session, the Black Sheep, um, uh, exercised a constitutional maneuver that may not have ever been used before in the Kentucky General Assembly. I don't--can't say that for sure, but don't know of any record of it. The, the motion was made to dissolve the Senate into a committee of the whole. In a committee of the whole the elected leadership wasn't in control. The whole Senate elected leadership for that process and, and the leaders that were elected were chosen by the Black Sheep and their allies, who, by that time, were either a majority or fast becoming a majority, because there were enough votes to elect committee of the whole leadership. And so we took, we took the session away from the Governor. In fa--and then, then we attempted another maneuver that probably was fairly unique, um, certainly was unique at the time. We called the Governor to be a witness. And, uh, Governor Carroll came and the issue had to do with the capital construction budget, uh, which up to then, like all other fiscal matters, were dominated by the Governor. Um, the capital construction budget was, was--the control of that capital construction budget was solely discretionary with the Governor at that time. The General Assembly would appropriate a pool of money for capital projects and the money wasn't identified with any particular projects and then the General Assembly would approve on second, a list of capital construction projects. And the Governor would decide how much money out of the pool would be used for the list of capital construction projects as far as they would go and there were always more projects then there was money, so the Governor made all the decisions about what projects got funded. Um, and so that was to the purpose of the Governor's testimony to discuss all of that, there were other issues too, but that was, that was the primary issue. And, uh, as a consequence of that process the capital construction committee was created and that was the first statutory committee, um, of the General Assembly. All the other committees are committees created under the rules of the legislature. Capital construction was the first statutory committee--ever I think created by the General Assembly. That was, and, and, then the cap--the function of the capital construction committee was, uh, was oversight on capital construction projects, uh, in that '79 session we, we changed, in a very historic way, the, uh, the capital construction process. And after the '79 session, the Governor would submit projects to the General Assembly and the General Assembly would appropriate dollars and approve projects. So, you know, the Governor's discretion was terminated. And the capital construction committee would then the finance cabinet would report on the progress of projects during the interim. So, it was, it was a, a, a massive change in the way state government functioned. Um, and then in 1980, uh, John Y. Brown was elected Governor, and by that time it was pretty clear that, uh, the Black Sheep were going to prevail and that the leadership of the Senate would be determined by members of the Senate and not the Governor. Um, but, not surprisingly, John Y. called me--I am sure he called other members of the Senate before--after he was nominated in the spring, and before the general election in the fall, and he said, "Ed, are you going to vote for my leadership team?" I said, "No. . (Tuttle laughs) We are going to elect our own leaders." When he called me, he knew that there had been a meeting in Bardstown; a meeting that I called, uh, um, uh, where I think all, all of the Democrats in Senate attended that meeting. The purpose of it was to discuss and commit that we would not be influenced by the Governor's wishes about leadership, that we would elect our own. You know, it wasn't, there weren't any commitments made at that meeting about who, who would be chosen as leaders, but it was a, a meeting where the decision was made that resulted in the Senate- -for the first time ever--electing its own leadership. Um, and it's-- John Y., after he called around and found out what the answer was going to be, made a public announcement that, "I'm in favor of legislative independence (both laugh)!" TUTTLE: You sorta have to be in that situation. O'DANIEL: And, and from--when he made that announcement, then suddenly he got credit for--and you know, it's been reported over the years as if it's fact that, uh, legislative independence came about as a consequence of John Y.'s magnanimity--magnanimity. Um, and he is a very magnanimous person, but I'm not sure he's that magnanimous. (both laugh) TUTTLE: Um, I wonder if--uh, or I should say ask it, did the other Black Sheep approach you or did you approach them when you first came into the Senate? O'DANIEL: They, they approached me, as they approached Danny Meyer, Ed Ford, and "Eck" Rose was elected at the same time. They approached "Eck," but "Eck" wasn't a part of the Black Sheep. Um, and he, you know, he was, I'm not sure exactly whose side he was on, but he wasn't, he wasn't associated with the Black Sheep in '78. Joe Prather wasn't either. Um, um, but--and Joe was already president of the Senate. He was appointed by Julian as president of the Senate in '76. But he--Joe was, uh, uh, receptive to the objectives of the Black Sheep. And, you know, their, the--this, this group, um, really didn't have, I think it's fair to say, um, um, a selfish personal interest or a personal interest, um or a personal interest at all and what was being attempted was to establish a, a system of equal voice in state government between the General Assembly and the executive branch. Who was elected president of the Senate wasn't a personal matter and, and, and, you know, the, the, clearly the two leaders were John Berry and Lowell Hughes and either of them probably could have been elected Senate--uh, Senate president if they had really sought it. Uh, John became majority floor leader and, uh, and Joe Prather was elected president of the Senate--or re-elected. TUTTLE: When you first, um, came into the General Assembly, was there anyone who, who sort of acted as sort of a mentor? Or someone to sort of acquaint you to what was going on? Anybody you sort of looked up to? O'DANIEL: There wasn't, wasn't a mentoring process, but, um, certainly the, uh, the, the, leadership ability of John and Lowell were, uh, extremely influential with me, and I'm sure with others also. TUTTLE: Um, there's been a lot of talk and writing about the Louisville caucus and the mountain caucus. Some people say they exist, some people say they don't. Um, that sort of experiences with those did you have if you even give those ideas any stock? O'DANIEL: They didn't come about until probably mid-80s. Um, when I first went in the senate and I think the same is true about the House, there really weren't any, any formal organizations known as regional caucuses. There definitely weren't in the Senate. And I don't think they began to exist in the House until, you know, like, mid-80s and then they were fairly loose knit probably until the early 90s when the regional caucuses became more a, a, more a factor for, uh, bringing attention to various parts of the state. TUTTLE: Um, just had this question, just lost my notes, or I am losing track of my handwriting. Um, there was, um, the change to the annual sessions and how do you see that--or what do you think about that as a change? Do you think that that was a good thing or a bad thing, or, um, how do you think that things have changed since that? O'DANIEL: I always favored annual sessions. Um, always felt that the budget should be kept a biennial process and I felt that the, the off-year session should have a limited agenda. Um, and that's that ended up being the nature of the, um, of the constitutional amendment that brought about annual sessions. Um, and I, I think it's, um, in the best interest in the state to have, um, more, you know, more regular, um, opportunity for the General Assembly to function on a more equal basis with the executive branch and the, you know, their thirty- some-thousand employees in the executive branch and the legislature is a hundred and thirty-eight members and a staff of maybe two hundred and fifty. Um, and um, when you had biennial sessions, then the General Assembly would adjourn in April and nothing could be changed or, or--and the General Assembly was without power to do anything for eighteen months. As Ed Prichard, uh, said in an argument in a case on the Supreme Court, about the power of the General Assembly during the interim, he said, "When the Generally Assembly adjourns sine die it dies." (Tuttle laughs) And the Supreme Court agreed and, and that is the case and the General Assembly has no ability to uh, um change any decision of the executive branch. And, you know, all, all that can be done during the interim, the executive branch has to report to the General Assembly but nothing can be--nothing of any substance can be changed. So, an, an annual, annual session, uh, seemed, um, like the, um, like a necessary thing in a modern world. O'DANIEL: Hi! TUTTLE: (laughs) Um, I know that , uh, that UK had a big pre--continues to have a big presence, but especially when the community colleges were still under their control when people like President Singletary were around that the university had a really strong presence in the General Assembly. Can you talk a little bit about that? O'DANIEL: Uh, you mean you think the--are you asking if the influence of, of the university was greater when there was, when UK was , uh, operating the community college system? TUTTLE: Um-hmm. O'DANIEL: It--the, there was, there was a time when the leadership at UK attempted to use the community college system for that purpose. I'm not sure it ever worked. Um, and I'm not sure the university's influence was in reality any greater, um, when it operated the community college system. Um, in fact, it seems to me the university is better off without having the, having its fingers in the community system. Um, that it's able to focus more on what its real mission is and besides, UK has such sweeping influence across the state, it doesn't need the community college system to add anything. So, in my view, uh, um, the change was, was good for UK, didn't diminish any of its influence, and may have increased it. TUTTLE: Um, and sort of, I guess, a related idea--um, I know that you concentrated on--or not concentrated, but you had some dealings with, um, higher education and education in general. I read an article where you were talking about, um, undergraduate education and I, I wonder just like now what your thoughts are about this Top 20 business that the university is sort of driving towards really hard? O'DANIEL: Yeah, not, not just, that's a worthy objective, it's an objective that's attainable, uh, uh, uh it's going to take a, a lot of focus on the part of the university to get there. Um, um, in a, in a more general way, I am somewhat troubled by the, um, splintering of the state's education focus in the last--six years roughly, since around 2000. Um, after KERA in 1990, um, um education was clearly the top priority of the state. Um, um, there was a, a united front for education. Um, KERA wasn't perfect, but it was a, a huge step forward. And Kentucky has become recognized nationally for the progress in education the KERA brought about. Uh, there were several key elements, uh, um, in addition to massive amounts of new money. You know, we increased taxes that resulted in--there was a, an increase of about a third in the general fund. The general fund was, I think it was three billion in '90 and four billion in '91, so the, the increase in funding was about a third and most of that went for education. And, uh, the percentage of the general fund went to elementary and secondary education in the 1990 and '92 budget was I think about 48 percent. TUTTLE: Wow. O'DANIEL: That percentage has dropped down to 42 or 43 percent. Um, and uh, uh, the--there are critics of KERA who would--who are so critical that they would repeal the whole thing. (Tuttle laughs) Um, and there are those who would argue that more money doesn't necessarily improve education and that's certainly true, but it's also true that without more money, education wont be improved either. What that means is that, uh, there needs to be, um, accountability, and accountability was a part of KERA. Uh, and, and that process has been massaged and its--I think some improvements have been made since 1990 and the accountability, meaning testing largely. Uh, however, you have to be careful about too much dependence on testing alone, too. Um, uh, we- -also, the, the, the reduction in--not reduction, but the, uh, failure to keep up with funding at, at the universities is troubling. Uh, and the massive increase in, in, uh, college tuition uh, and the idea that fewer and fewer people can afford to go to college without accumulating massive debt is just wrong. And, and I, I think that's a, a very serious matter that isn't getting the right attention. TUTTLE: Um-hmm. Could you talk a little bit about the, um, committees and commissions that you served on in state government? I know the ethics commission, was a--was it a commission or committee? O'DANIEL: Committee. TUTTLE: All right, the ethics committee was something you were intricately involved in, um? So yeah just talk about the ethics committee a little bit and your involvement. O'DANIEL: I inherited the ethics committee chairmanship from Ken Gibson. Um, and I, when that happened, I think it was around '84, I'm not sure exactly, and I thought, Well okay I will do that for a short time. And I guess I was kind of the sucker in the Senate--(both laugh)--who got, got that thrust upon me and I was green enough that I didn't know what I was getting into. But after being on that--being chairman of that committee for a number of years, my conclusion is that it is impractical and impossible for a body like the General Assembly to uh-- [Pause in recording.] TUTTLE: What kinds--or what ones are you working on now I should say? O'DANIEL: We've got two '64 Impalas one's a Super Sport and the other is just a two-door hardtop. TUTTLE: I don't know how with that-- O'DANIEL: --huh? TUTTLE: I don't know how you get much work done in here with that going on somewhere else. Um, you were talking about the ethics committee and you said that you think it--now looking back on it--it's impossible for the Senate to police itself. O'DANIEL: Yeah, yeah and, and, and it, it, it puts, it puts the legislators who are on that committee in an impossible position of being at odds with--you know, potentially at odds with-- members of the Senate that you are going to have legislative dealings with and it's, uh, it's, it's just not, not in anyway helpful to the member-- members of the Senate who serve on the committee. And, in order to be effective, there needs to be an independent body, which is exactly what Congress needs and can't seem to figure that out. (Tuttle laughs) Or d--well, no, I'd say that differently, they don't want to understand that and they are smart enough to figure it out. TUTTLE: They know better. O'DANIEL: Yeah, but there is no interest in Congress in, in real ethics. This, uh, um, Congress as a whole is becoming pretty disgusting. TUTTLE: I had a--uh, Joe Prather and I were talking about, um, how congressional elections--he was talking about the, the Ron Lewis race. O'DANIEL: Yeah. TUTTLE: And how it was especially dirty and then, um, he said that, uh, Mitch McConnell went to, uh, who was it, to Newt Gingrich at Nixon's funeral to try to orchestrate this, like, bicameral attack to try to get Ron Lewis in it and it--just made me think of that when you were talking about Congress then. Yeah. O'DANIEL: Yup. TUTTLE: Um, a sort of related subject to Congress, um, something else that me and Mr. Prather were talking about was the increase in, um, in lobbying. He said and in his time, when he first came in, just a few and now the statistics are something like, there's about four lobbyists for every person in the General Assembly. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that, um, has changed, and the role it has now? O'DANIEL: It's been, uh, just an explosion of lobbying influence. Um, and I've been a part of it. When, when I left the Senate in '91 was my first year out and, um, I began to get phone calls from people I--actually it was people I'd worked against. (both laugh) The, the insurance industry did not consider me a friend in, in my years in the General Assembly, but they began to call me after I left the Senate and I've, I've represented various elements of the insurance industry ever since. Also, um, the, the district I represented in--included about 90 percent of the world's bourbon, and, so when I left the Senate, coincidentally, the industry was looking for a president for its trade association, Kentucky Distillers Association. And, uh, uh, called to ask if I would be interested and I was, and, um, I think it was April of '91 I became president of Kentucky Distillers Association and I still am. Um, in, in the Senate, I sponsored and promoted legislation to alleviate a, a, a storage tax burden on distilled spirits. Um, uh it was done to make Kentucky competitive with Indiana on property taxes, on aging whisky. What was beginning to happen when I first went into the Senate, uh, a lot of Kentucky's aging whisky was being transported across the river to Indiana and aged over there, uh, because Kentucky's tax was quite high. It was an annual tax that bourbon has to age at least four years, but you paid property tax on it every year during the aging process. And, um, uh, I sponsored legislation--created that legislation and, with Kenny Rapier as the house sponsor, I was elected in '78 Kenny was elected in '80 and, uh, and we got the, got that legislation enacted reducing the, the tax. And all during the time I was in the General Assembly--because I was representing a major part of, of Kentucky's oldest industry, I became something of an advocate of distilleries as well. Uh, so I suppose in part that led to the industry asking me to, um, become president of the trade association. Um, also, I have represented the trucking industry since leaving the General Assembly. So, you know, I've had some pretty broad involvement during the years since I've been out of the Senate and, and I'm confident that I wouldn't be doing that if I hadn't, hadn't been in the Senate for thirteen years. So it, it, there is, uh, an ad--an advantage to former legislator becoming a lobbyist. Uh, what, what has happened is, um, is, is an incredible explosion in the amount of influence that lobbyists have, um, and there, there is some practices that haven't been, uh, to this point, uh, as, um, as burdensome as, as they could be. Let me get that phone. TUTTLE: All right. [Pause in recording.] TUTTLE: --chords unreasonably long. O'DANIEL: Hmm? TUTTLE: They make those cords on those microphones unreasonably long. O'DANIEL: Yeah. (laughs) TUTTLE: I guess what, um-- O'DANIEL: --what I'm, one item I wanted to finish, uh, um, the budget process has in the last two sessions, um, become a tool, um, for a lot of mischief. Um, in, in essence, the budget is a, is a, a vehicle that's used at the end of the session in a conference committee to roll in any kind of legislation that, uh, that has enough influence, um, to get enacted in virtual secrecy, as opposed to, um, an open legislative process and, and, and that kind of exposure, um, creates the biggest opportunity for mischief to be done by lobbyists, uh, who can influence, uh, legislators who have key roles to, uh, tuck in to the budget items that, um, that um, for whatever reason, they--either because they can't get it passed otherwise or because they might not want to be exposed for what they're doing--tuck specific matters into the budget and do it outside the, uh, the standard leg--standard regular legislative process. And, uh, I think that is a dangerous development. TUTTLE: It's, it's really shocking to, to think about the--you called it an explosion--it really does seem like an explosion of lobbyists. Um, and I wonder ho--how different does it feel? Because I mean, like, you--you're in the same--going to the same city and then--around a lot of the same people. How does it feel to be on a different side now? O'DANIEL: It's, it's unconformable. Um, uh, I've felt very close to members of the General Assembly. Uh, and, and I, um, you know, they're they were people who were good friends, and, and, and I feel an obligation--as they do--to, uh, to keep a, a distance between, uh, our association as fellow legislators in contrast to, you know, um, me being, uh, me attempting to get them to vote for specific legislation, and, you know, I don't mind asking them to vote for it, but I hope they'll vote for it if they think it's the right thing to do. And I think they do that. Um, but it, it's, it's, it's an, it creates an unc--uncomfortable set of circumstances. TUTTLE: What do you think this upswing in lobbying and lobbyists is indicative of? I mean it I can't imagine it just came out of now where. O'DANIEL: It's somewhat consistent with what's going on at the national level. Um, and much more so at the national level than, than in Kentucky to this point. Um, the legislative process in Frank--in, in Washington has become a game for the powerful and the rich and the rest of the people might as well stay home and it's becoming clear that, um, that, that federal government is, is the friend of the wealthy and, uh, the, uh, and consideration of, of the general public is, uh, is short- sheeted. Uh, I don't think at this point, largely, that's the case in Frankfort, uh, but there's a danger of it, of, of it becoming more and more that way. And, and especially if the, this budget process is not modified, not taken back to where it was before the last three, three sessions in particular. TUTTLE: Um, uh, something that is fairly recent in Frankfort is a lot of partisanship, well I guess it was always partisan, but it wasn't really that much of a two party system. Um, I guess just talk a little bit about that and where you think that's coming from? How that has made itself now into the situation that David Williams is the president of the Senate. O'DANIEL: Um hmm. In politics, both state and national, uh, emotional issues are becoming more dominant, um, um, personal attacks, um, against people not, uh, not, uh, not based on different opinions about policy or, uh, issues of debate but making personal attacks on, um, on people who express different view points and you see that more in Washington like the swift boat attack and, you know, how you can transfer a, a decorated war veteran into an unpatriotic candidate for office and get people to believe it is, is, uh, remarkable. Um, and there's--that goes on to a lesser degree in, in Frankfort, but there is some of it. Um, and there's, there's less--in, in, in the General Assembly, there is, anymore, virtually no real debate. The leadership decides, uh, what the, what issues are important and pushes them through, uh, and party members tend to line up blindly, um, and, and the opposition gets little if any opportunity to--for--to, to, have a real debate on the subject. Um, that is, it's almost 180 degrees different from the decade of the 80s. Um, and um, the Senate was mostly Democrats during that period of time, um, but there were--there was real discussion and, and real debate on issues and it wasn't uncommon at all, um that the debate would be just as strong among Democrats as it, as, as it is, um, uh, between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, it wouldn't be uncommon for some of the Republicans to line up with some of the Democrats and vice versa. Uh, and, uh, votes were, uh, frequently won and lost in the debate on the floor. Um, I don't know when the last time a bill promoted, uh, supported by leadership was defeated in, in the General Assembly and, you know, it--even in our time it didn't happen every day, but it, um, wasn't uncommon to try anyway to defeat a bill that was supported by leadership. TUTTLE: Um, to jump back to what you were, um, you were talking about the Black Sheep and that, that whole period in the General Assembly, do you think that--sort of, the General Assembly sort of hit a peak during that period of, sort of, as close as you could come reasonably to an ideal situation and they sort of drop back off since then? O'DANIEL: I'd characterize it a little bit differently. It's my, my view that--and my observation--that during the 80s, uh, personal agendas and regionalism took a back seat to what was in the best interest of the, of the state. And, it's--it, it was my opinion of the members of the Senate, when I was there was, you know--Republicans to the same extent as Democrats--uh, had a strong interest in good state policy. Uh, they were there to represent the people of their districts, um, but self- interest regularly took a back seat to, to consideration to policy. Uh, I think there's much, much less degree of that at the present time. Now that's not to say that the General Assembly as a whole was better or worse then than it is now, but it is certainly different. TUTTLE: Um, what do you think, uh, made it possible for, uh, those moves to legislative independence to happen? Um, do you think it was just that there's a lucky collection of people who sort of have the same mind set? Or was it the environment or political climate or, or what? O'DANIEL: Probably all of that. Um, I guess for whatever reason, uh, um, the Black Sheep and their allies were, uh, very thoughtful, a very thoughtful group, um, uh, relatively young, um, progressive minded, uh, somewhat rebellious, uh, um, independent minded, uh, and, and with a, I think, a genuine interest in improving quality of life in the state. TUTTLE: Do you think the, um, the LRC had much of a role in legislative independence at that time? O'DANIEL: No. Uh, um, the, the LRC was--had, had become, uh, a-, a-, an important part of the, the legislative process, and you know, without, without, uh, highly qualified and capable, um, support group like that it would have been more difficult for the General Assembly to get the right information it needed to, to deal with issues, but it, you know, uh, I, I don't think, uh, the Legislative Research Commission, in and of itself, had any meaningful role in legislative in--, in--, uh, independence other than, uh, being, uh, uh a, a source of the right information that was needed by the General Assembly. TUTTLE: Uh, just got a few more questions. Um, there was a, a lot of newspaper coverage, at least, on, um, the workmens' comp issue and was the House Bill 1, and all that? O'DANIEL: In '87? TUTTLE: Yeah. Can you just talk a little bit about that? O'DANIEL: Uh, I'd done some workers' comp practice before I got in the General Assembly and Kelsey Friend was the, uh, workers' comp guru and had successfully gotten the, um, various bills enacted that had, uh, sweetened the pot for claimants. Um, and I'd developed an early interest in, uh, in workers' comp. Uh, I introduced a bill in the first session in '78. Uh, a, a, um--a bill that would have changed the way, uh, benefits were paid, and it was opposed by labor and opposed by Kelsey Friend and, you know, and in, in the beginning I couldn't figure out why . (both laugh) I didn't think it was something that, uh, that worked against, uh, injured workers, um, but it, uh, nevertheless, was opposed by labor. And, uh, and I, I sort of unwittingly, uh, became the Senate advocate on, on workers' comp issues and there were, there were, uh, some, some interpretations of the workers' comp act that, that really shot up the cost of workers' comp extremely in the mid 80s. And, uh, and it became a statewide issue, um, having an effect on, on attracting new employers. The state, state workers' comp costs were far above any other state in the region except West Virginia and that wasn't a very good comparison that we wanted to make. (Tuttle laughs) Um, there was, there was a group, um, appointed by Governor Collins in '86 to, um, put together a range of reforms and, and I was one of two legislators on--in that group. The, there--half the group was--represented labor and half the group represented industry. And the two le--the two legislators were Ron Cyrus and me. And Ron was president of the AFL-CIO. Um, I said that, I'm not sure he was at the time. He later became the president of the AFL-CIO, but he, he, he, um, had, had, had been a union representative, uh, for many years. Um, and, and I became identified with more the employer's side, I think, although I am not really sure. (both laugh) Um, and the--that group put together a range of reforms and, and Governor Collins in '87 decided she would call a special session, but there was one part of, of the reform that wasn't worked out and that was the method of paying for the unfunded liability of the special fund. Um, I won't go into trying to explain what that's all about. But, there was about a two-billion dollar liability that would be paid out over a period of thirty years or so. And the sixteen-member panel had not put anything in place to deal with that debt. So, I wrote the previsions, uh, for the special session and, um, created the Kentucky Workers' Compensation Funding Commission and gave that--a draft of that to governor-- [Pause in recording.] O'DANIEL: She agreed with it and that's when she called the special session, and, uh, so my--and I also was on the subcommittee that, uh, created the, the administrative structure for workers' comp, uh, that was also enacted at the same time. Um, uh, so the, the special session, uh, was called and, uh, and, and I, I became the spokesperson for, uh, explaining the legislation and shepherding it through the special session. Uh, and it was quite far reaching and it left some loose ends that still needed to be dealt with, but it, it was, it was pretty comprehensive reform. And, uh, I'm, I'm still working on that, in fact I got a judgment in a case I've been working on for three years against the state, um, having to do with the Workers' Comp Funding Commission. And this judgment is signed by Judge Graham and Franklin Circuit Court--last week--uh, uh, decided that the legislature acted unconstitutionally when it, uh, failed to provide funding to the Workers' comp Funding Commission in the an--in the biennial budget--in, in the last three biennial budgets. And if this, then this, this judgment will be appealed. If it's up--upheld, the state will have to repay over a hundred million dollars. TUTTLE: Wow. O'DANIEL: And, and this case, uh, also deals with, uh, um, uh the way in which certain items are handled in the budget that may violate Section 51 of the Constitution. And it's a potentially far-reaching decision. And it, it's, you know, it's a continuation of the workers' comp work that I have been involved with since 1978. (both laugh) TUTTLE: Long-term project. (both laugh) O'DANIEL: There aren't too many people who will stay awake long enough to fool with workers' comp that long. (Tuttle laughs) TUTTLE: Wasn't the coal industry really opposed to, um, uh, the, that, uh, house bill? Oh I guess it wasn't necessarily a house bill, but wasn't the coal industry really opposed to that plan? O'DANIEL: Uh, in part. The, the--parts of the coal industry had a, had a different idea about it. They--in general, they weren't opposed-- they, they weren't in favor of it because it, it put the responsibility for paying, uh, for black lung directly on the coal industry. Uh, uh, before that time, a large part of the liability for black lung was paid by all Kentucky employers. And a part of the purpose of the legislation in '87 was to, was to fix responsibility for black lung, um, directly on the coal industry which was, you know, was, where it, where the, uh, where those cases arose to begin with. And yes, the coal industry wasn't excited about having to pay. But it, uh, and the way, the way the coal industry was assessed to pay for black lung liability, uh, in the '87 legislation, they paid a 40 percent assessment on their workers' comp premiums. So, you know, if their, if their workers' comp costs were say a hundred thousand dollars for the current year, then they would pay in addition to that forty thousand dollars to the funding commission and then that forty thousand dollars was used to pay for these, um, these liabilities that needed to be paid off in the future. TUTTLE: Um, well, let me look here to make sure I'm not forgetting something big. O'DANIEL: One other thing I'll mention while you're looking there. Um, historically, um, um, members of university boards and, and other major institutions like that, but primarily university boards, historically were appointed for four years--terms of four years. And that's because Section 93 of the constitution says that the General Assembly shall not appoint certain offices for a term not to exceed four years and that, that limitation had always, always been applied, um, to members of university boards. Since four years is also the term of a governor, the governor could reappoint, and frequently did, an entirely new board every four years, so there was, there was a lack of continuity on university boards. Uh, I pointed out that sometime in the late 80s, that Section 23 of the constitution provides that, um, uh the General Assembly, um, cannot create any office or, or make any appointment for longer than a term of years and that that Section 23 doesn't say how many years, so I, I pointed that out to the General Assembly and introduced a bill in I think it was in '86 or '88, uh, to, uh, provide for six year terms of university board members. Ernesto Scorsone was in the House then. He introduced the same legislation in--I think in '90 and then I think in '92 after I left the Senate, Ernesto's bill passed and that, for the first time, established the terms of the university boards at six years. And I, the reason I suggested that was, you know, um, if you stagger the terms over six years, the governor serves four years, then you're not gonna, not gonna have as rapid a turnover and you are going to have more continuity on the boards. And I, and I think it's worked exactly that way. And it was, it was a, a, you know, fairly, uh, unnoticed change, uh, but I think it's had a fairly significant impact over the years. TUTTLE: So the boards now are sort of--the way the--I don't know if the state Senate is this way but the way the U.S. Senate is where the--a third is done each time? O'DANIEL: Yeah. TUTTLE: Okay. O'DANIEL: Yup. That's the way it works. TUTTLE: Well, uh, one last just sort of over-arching question, uh, what--sort of hokey question--what do you, um--as you look back, what are some of the things you are most proud of and what are some of the things you regret? Not necessarily in that order, so we don't end on a something terrible. O'DANIEL: (laughs) Well, I guess number one, KERA--uh, or maybe also number one, the legislative independence move. Without the legislative independence, I don't know if there would have ever been KERA. (both laugh) Um, workers' comp--I feel like the--Kentucky is--has a very favorable workers' comp program that, you know, is--adequately benefits injured workers and isn't excessively expensive for employers. So I think there's a pretty good balance that's been achieved that, that didn't come about all at once. You know, and the '87 reforms were only a part of that. And I, I, I do think the six year terms of university board members is a, is, is more significant than it would seem on the surface. TUTTLE: More significant than it gets credit for. O'DANIEL: Hm? TUTTLE: It's much more significant than it gets credit for. O'DANIEL: Um-hm. Regrets, I suppose there must be a few (interviewer laughs) but a--again too few to mention. TUTTLE: Yeah. O'DANIEL: There's a song that has that line in it by Frank Sinatra I believe, (O'Daniel sings) "Regrets I've had a few, but then again too few to mention." (Tuttle laughs) TUTTLE: It's a good way to do things. O'DANIEL: (laughs) Um, I, I, I guess what I'd, what I'd change, if I were doing it over again, I, I wouldn't run for re-election-- [Pause in recording.] TUTTLE: Um, if you would do something different, you wouldn't have run in '90? O'DANIEL: I wouldn't have run in 1990. I, I was--had become just exhausted from the experience and the, the, the burden was getting greater in the General Assembly, and you know, I felt like I had been there through what seemed to me the best time to have been in the General Assembly and, and I began to think, Gee, I have done all this that there is to do. Why do I want to stay here and keep doing the same thing? Um, but I, I let, um, I let poor judgment overrule what I really thought I should do, I suppose, and I didn't feel I had the same enthusiasm for it. And, and I suppose it showed which had something to do with losing the election. Um, I, you know, I didn't, I didn't like getting beat, but, um, it, I quickly found out it was quite a relief being out of the General Assembly because it, it was just overwhelming the amount of time it took and, you know, I had children in college and, and, uh needed to make a living and concentrate on law practice and I had neglected looking after my practice. And, um, it was somewhat like starting over when I had left the Senate, but I recovered just fine, and, uh, in the end, it was, it was a blessing to, um, not be reelected in 1990. TUTTLE: Well, seems to be about it. O'DANIEL: Okay. [End of interview.] O'Daniel (Senate 1978-1990, 14th district; Democrat) discusses his education, how he became interested in politics, and his first campaign for the 14th senatorial district seat. He recounts the rise of the Black Sheep Squadron, his decision to work with the group, their role in the 1979 special session of the General Assembly, and their impact on the legislative process in Kentucky. O'Daniel gives his views on annual sessions, the relationship between the University of Kentucky and the community college system, the evolution of higher education in Kentucky, lobbyists, the budget process, the work of the Legislative Research Commission, the importance of information when crafting legislation, his distaste for regional partisanship in the legislature, his relationship with Julian Carroll, and his enjoyment of working on the political issues. He reflects on his role in the workers' compensation legislation of 1987. He concludes the interview talking about his regrets and accomplishments. insert here