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2006-08-14 Interview with Carl A. Nett, August 14, 2006 Leg001:2006OH155 Leg 141 1:41:20 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Political campaigns -- Kentucky. Educational change -- Kentucky. Louisville (Ky.) -- Politics and government. Frankfort (Ky.) -- Social life and customs. Kentucky. General Assembly -- Reform. Kentucky. Governor (1967-1971 : Nunn) Kentucky. Governor (1971-1974 : Ford) Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Abramson, Jerry. Carroll, Julian M. (Julian Morton), 1931- Brown, John Y. (John Young) Jr., 1933- Kentucky. Education Reform Act (1990) Nunn, Louie B., 1924- Kentucky. General Assembly. Legislative Research Commission. Ford, Wendell H., 1924- Blandford, Donald J. Blume, Norbert L., 1992- Abramson, Jerry İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti Sales tax -- Law and legislation Pre-legislative conferences Lobbyists Stovall, Thelma Mazzoli, Romano L. Hancock, Hank, 1936- McConnell, Mitch Louisville (Ky.) Frankfort (Ky.) interim committees legislative independence Kenton, Bill (Boom Boom) pension programs Young Turks Clarke, Joe Louisville Caucus Toyota Manufacturing (Georgetown, Ky.) Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) Legislative Research Commission (LRC) sales tax legislation Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) Toyota Term/District: House (1970-1990), 35th district Counties in District: Jefferson County (Ky.) Carl A. Nett; interviewee Erik Tuttle; interviewer 2006OH155_LEG141_Nett 1:|20(7)|36(5)|60(12)|83(7)|107(4)|132(5)|154(6)|173(6)|186(11)|207(1)|228(6)|255(1)|272(2)|291(2)|304(2)|318(11)|338(1)|359(12)|373(9)|394(10)|412(7)|429(10)|449(7)|466(11)|488(1)|502(2)|525(9)|542(4)|562(10)|578(5)|603(1)|624(11)|637(11)|655(8)|678(2)|689(8)|705(5)|732(9)|760(4)|775(4)|790(7)|807(1)|822(7)|846(6)|860(8)|880(3)|898(6)|916(10)|935(3)|946(8)|961(8)|980(2)|1008(6)|1034(10)|1061(7)|1073(8)|1092(10)|1114(10)|1131(6)|1146(13)|1163(3)|1185(1)|1209(1)|1230(8)|1249(7)|1271(13)|1300(8)|1320(13)|1345(12)|1364(4)|1383(3)|1414(4)|1428(10)|1449(5)|1473(6)|1493(2)|1512(9)|1530(9)|1541(7)|1557(4)|1573(11)|1588(3)|1606(2)|1621(14)|1636(5)|1655(6)|1669(4)|1690(4)|1704(3)|1717(2)|1747(9)|1769(9)|1782(7)|1796(8)|1806(1)|1825(11)|1843(1)|1854(13)|1873(9)|1897(1)|1906(6) audiotrans Legit interview TUTTLE: Ninety-nine, one-hundred- NETT: Yeah. (laughs) TUTTLE: -one hundred and four. I think that's gonna have to be it right there. Okay. Well, we've been starting out just by getting people to talk about-say their name, where they're from a little bit about their history and their family, things like that. Just to bring things up to speed. NETT: Where's your microphone, Alton? Got one? TUTTLE: I got one. It's just over here. NETT: Okay, my name is Carl Nett. I live in Louisville. I was born here, and I'm sixty- four years old. I served in the legislature from 1970 through 1991. That's twenty-one years. Oh, I have a wife. I have four grown children. I had my first grandbaby born on my birthday eight months ago. I was a schoolteacher. I taught high school locally at Saint X High School for six years. I was an elementary principal for seven years. I had a business for twelve years. Then I returned to teaching at Pleasure Ridge Park High School for nine years. During that time I run a farm for about thirty-two years or so. It's been a busy time. One of the most enjoyable things though was my service in the legislature. I enjoyed working with the people that we met there, from all different walks of life, from all different parts of the state. There were frustrations, but overall, it's a very satisfying experience. Everybody should serve at least one term in the legislature. TUTTLE: How did you get to the idea or the position to run for office? How did that transition sort of happen? NETT: A big factor was a friend of mine who was a first term member of the board of alderman, and I'd see him at church every Sunday. We would chat. One day he just asked me to run. I started looking at him and thought, Well, this is pretty good. I'd already gotten bitten by the political bug because I was active in the Gene McCarthy for President campaign. I won my precinct for that and that was gratifying, so. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I knew how to do it. I learned at somebody else's expense how to motivate people and get them out to vote. The irony was that, in that campaign that year, I won my primary and my friend lost his bid for reelection. (both laugh) TUTTLE: The success was passed on to somebody else.. NETT: Right. TUTTLE: Can you tell me- NETT: And that was kind of difficult because I was unmarried then. That's the only reason that I could've done what I did. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But I thought, Well, I could teach half a year, and then if I won, go on to the legislature in the following January. But the principal didn't see it that way. Says, "No, it's got to be all or nothing." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: "You have to make a yearlong commitment." (laughs) NETT: So I thought, Well, gee. He can't hold me back. So I just laid off that year and just went ahead and left Saint X and worked as a construction worker, which I had done for thirteen summers anyway. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So I worked construction for that first, next semester. While I was campaigning as well. TUTTLE: Can you talk a little bit about the McCarthy campaign and how that-like what your experience of that was? NETT: Well, it was one of those rebel causes, I guess. Gene McCarthy was a college professor, university professor, very well respected. He's poet as well. He had been involved in politics. He was a senator, an United States Senate. He came out opposed to our engagements in Vietnam primarily. He just caught my fancy, and I went to work for him here. I went to a few meetings that had some outside organizers come in and looked for people. So I just got involved in that. Here again is another irony, that a lot of his supporters were liberal people. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And I tend to be more moderate. In fact, today I'd call myself a conservative really. But I was more moderate than that people I was running with their during that campaign, but that's the way I got into it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. So was it the whole first time you were still unmarried? NETT: Yeah. TUTTLE: Okay. NETT: Yeah. TUTTLE: What was the social life like in Frankfort? NETT: Oh, it was radically different from what it is today. Back then you had no facilities. You had no personal staff. TUTTLE: Um-hm. [phone ringing.] NETT: Primarily in Frankfort, you went to the session, did your business, you went to the committee meetings, and then the gangs kind of congregated mostly at the Holiday Inn, up on the hill, there in Frankfort. They would drink all night and go to work sometimes bleary eyed the next morning. (Tuttle laughs) I commuted back and forth. I didn't stay overnight. I did go to some of the functions there. There were parties just about every night. Lobbyists would throw parties. Even townspeople would throw parties. And- TUTTLE: Wow. NETT: -if they had a dull night, the legislators would throw a party. (Tuttle laughs) So it was big on social life. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I think now the climate is much more business oriented. TUTTLE: Yeah. NETT: A lot of them take apartments or even live there during the time, take houses. The last term I was there, a lot of times you would have to hunt for a party. Most of them would get there-it's like going to work. You'd go home tired and relax for the evening doing what everyone does at the end of a long day. TUTTLE: When do you think that change started to happen? NETT: There were a series of changes. First off, I would say the legislature when I first went there was not all that competent really. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: You didn't have the opportunities to get competent. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: A lot of people were there for one term or two terms. Some of them in multi- county districts would rotate. There was no interim committee system. The Governor called the shots pretty much. He was the strong man of the party. He was elected the same year that the legislature was elected. He would basically pass the word to the members who he wanted for speaker in the House-I'm talking about the House now. Senate worked same way. He would decide who he wanted for a speaker, who he wanted for majority leader, and he would make a deal with somebody to be caucus chairman, and whip. He always got his way. But the last really strong Governor, I think, was Julian Carroll. Wendell Ford and Julian Carroll, I thought, were superb leaders, superb Governors. Wendell Ford, of course, was Lieutenant Governor before. Well, so was Julian Carroll. Julian Carroll was speaker of the House for, I think, four years. He was a member of the legislature for ten years. Of all the Governors I've served with, I would say he probably knew more about the nuts and bolts of the way government runs. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And you could put your confidence in Governors. Since Governor Carroll, we've had, more or less, weak Governors. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Some stronger than others but they've not had the clout. There are several things that have influenced that change. For one thing, the legislature passed a constitutional amendment, which pushed the legislative elections a year away from the Governor's election. That means the legislature's already put together. It is able to elect its own leaders. Then, they're in place, by the time the Governor's elected. In fact, instead of legislators courting the Governor for help and aligning with him in the campaign, a lot of times the Governors would look for strong legislators they could align with. Another thing that happened-this was actually before that and my first term was the first year we did it-we had the interim committee system set up. And that way legislators would actually meet throughout the two years. Each committee would meet once a month regularly, and we got to know the issues. When people first went to Frankfort, during my first term, you went up there, and you were expected to be an expert on everything from grading eggs to undertaking, to what it takes to be a college professor or a barber. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But with the interim committee system, you got to know things. When we shifted that election year, you were actually in office a full year before you've cast your first vote in a regular session. TUTTLE: Um-hm. So then, during that year, you were already with the committee then? NETT: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. TUTTLE: Okay. NETT: You're appointed to a committee. With that, moving that election, we also had the-later on, you get the off-year session, which also helps keeps members strong, keeps members informed. It keeps them in the public eye. But I would say the interim committee system, moving the elections and some very strong legislative-oriented speakers has really improved the legislature. Now, on the facility side, that's something else too. When I went there, you had no place to hang your hat really, other than in the hallway right outside the legislative chamber. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Your desk was the desk on the floor. That was it. You had no accommodation. Let me take that back; you did have access to a telephone. I think there were about six telephone booths set up outside in the hallway. TUTTLE: Wow. NETT: For a hundred House members, and the Senate worked the same way, by the way, on all these things. You had no place to do anything. Later on they gave committee chairmen a little cell, somewhere over in the annex. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But when I first went, even the chairmen had nothing. Only the leadership had offices. Now, of course, they've advanced. By the time I left, we had-each of us had an individual cell. Still with no secretarial help, other than the big general pool. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But we had our little cells with a telephone. And that was it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: That was over in the annex. Now they have computers on their desks. They have computers in their offices. They have secretaries assigned to them, I think groups of maybe four House members, and I think the senators maybe two, I'm not sure on it. TUTTLE: Right. NETT: But the facilities have radically improved. You really have a professional body of lawmakers now. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: All of this evolved during the time that I was there. We started with nothing, now they have just about everything. TUTTLE: You mentioned legislatively-oriented speakers. Do you mean speakers of the House? NETT: Yeah, we had strong speakers. Like Julian Carroll, back when he was speaker, before he became Governor and when he became Governor, he was sympathetic to supporting the strong legislature, but he still made no doubt about it-he was the Governor. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Then, after he left, we had Bill Kenton, who was a very strong speaker. He could tell you to make improvements, which would strengthen the hand. He wanted to be a co- equal branch of government. I think he had a strong ego anyway. I think he more or less equated himself as the same as the Governor. (Tuttle laughs) And Norm Blume followed him. Was big on legislative independence. Norm Blume did a terrific job in guiding legislature to what we call independence, even though actually, it is not independent. The branches should be co-equal, but no one's really independent. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So I think Carroll and Blume were two vital people at the right time. Then when John Brown became Governor, John Brown's attitude was, "I'm not here to do it all. I'm here to be Governor." (Tuttle laughs) We, a lot of times, got the impression he just wanted the Governor for title and the glory and all that. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But he was a good people worker, good people manager, and he believed in the legislature, carrying the water, passing the laws. When he wanted something, he expected to get it, of course. But in large measure, he was a hands-off the legislature type of Governor. After that, I don't think any Governor could get all the horses back in the barn. TUTTLE: It was sort of like he gave so much of it away, nobody could get it back. NETT: Yeah, that's right, that's right. You just add all these things up: the off year elections, the interim committee system, the leaders like Carroll and Blume, the Governors like Brown, and the facilities that became available. You add all of that up, and it's easy to see how the legislature evolved from, in large measure, a rubber stamp. There were also under people like Blume-there were rules changes, which had a lot to do with it. When I first went to the legislature, Louie Nunn was a Republican Governor. He'd been there two years. When I first went there, a lot at the business of the Governor's office was handled in the last four or five days of the legislature. There were a lot of suspension of the rules motions, amendments were made orally. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: They were made on the floor during the discussions of bills. Most of the people who voted, myself included, did not understand and a lot of times wasn't even aware of some of the things there were being voted on. Everything stalled around the first three, four weeks. Then things started moving very slowly. It's a regular freight train ride there toward the end, and that's when the Governor's good things usually hit the floor. With these oral amendments and no notice, it was a crazy way to do business. Nowadays, you have to file all amendments in writing. They have to be on every member's desk twenty- four hours-and this all happened while I was there, and I've been out- what, since '91. So I've been out, my goodness, fourteen years already, if my math's right. TUTTLE: Fourteen or fifteen. NETT: Fifteen years. But, anyway, with those amendments in writing. On the every member's desk, it became almost impossible to sneak things through. When stuff slips through now, it's because lawmakers are not attentive. The staffs are much better today in terms of professionalism. This is something else that changed when I was there. When I first went to legislature, I think the staff's biggest interest was in fetching coffee or water, or making cab reservations, or things like that. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: They aimed to please. They didn't do research. They didn't do bill drafting but these other things were expected. As it evolved, now if you asked a staff member to get you a cup of coffee, why he would probably-(Tuttle laughs)-he'd probably file a complaint and try to get you, impeached or something. I remember we had one female lawmaker from Louisville. She used to drive the staff crazy. She would have them go get her nylons or go to the car get her prescriptions and things like that, and oh, they would talk about her, and they hated that she thought they were servants. TUTTLE: What sort of role do you think LRC had in this move to independence? NETT: The Legislative Research Commission, well, technically the commission itself is the leadership of the House and the Senate. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So, it's hard. You can't think of it as really some outside agency. It's all, officially, the leadership of the House and the Senate. Of course, they hire, I guess, probably a thousand people by now. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: It's a much larger staff. It's been growing over the years. I think it's the requirements of leadership that we have a more professional staff. More and more of the staff are college educated. Many with master's degrees. They've become real career employees. They're researchers. That has made a better legislature. Because you can rely on staff, you know it's good stuff. You're not gonna be embarrassed, too often, with inaccuracies. A lot of times, it's your staff members that drive the vote. A lot of the lawmakers are still green-and I hate to say-ignorant. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But the staff member can encourage them and give them ideas. There are probably a lot of staff members who actually write the laws. More so than the legislators. A lot of legislators get a constituent complaint, they get a knee-jerk reaction. They get hold of a staff person, "We got to correct this and do that, do such and so." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Well, the researcher looks it up and knows the ramifications, and what all, if we did this, what would happen, what are some alternatives we could consider, what really is the best solution to the problem. Usually the lawmaker, I think, would go along with that. TUTTLE: Um-hm. You mentioned the turnover that, in the earlier days the turnover was pretty quick. NETT: Oh, yeah. TUTTLE: What do you think changed that? NETT: Several things. Number one, first, the prestige of the office was always there. They treat you like a small god on earth when you go to Frankfort. Everybody knows you. They've got picture books out. So they've catered to your ego from the very beginning. But- I'm sorry. What was the question? (both laugh) TUTTLE: About what changed the turnover? NETT: Okay. So it was all the improvements that made lawmakers want to be, I guess, active players, in the government. The pension definitely had something to do with it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: It encouraged people to stay on one more term, one more term, one more term. I think in the House-well, I think in the legislature, you had to be four years in, you got vested. So that had something to do with it. But there were a couple of lawmakers who defied tradition, and that is. Let's say if we have two counties with one House member, they rotate. This year it's one county's turn, next year it's the other county's turn. We had several members, including, I believe, John Swinford, who was majority leader. Who defied that tradition and said, "No, I'm doing a good job. I can do better than he can. I'm going to run again." They did, and they won. That kind of broke, a lot of this rural tradition. They got to thinking, Hey, being a House member's not just an honor that we just pass around. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: It's not just rewarding a political hack, and there were a lot of them in the legislature. This is a professional job, for a professional person. The whole image changed, I think, had a lot to do with it. It got so, people would talk about me as, "He's been here forever." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: When I left it after twenty-one years, that was one of the longest standing terms, but I'll bet you today you could find a number of people who've crossed twenty years. Jim Bruce and Lloyd Clapp were probably-and I think Don Blanford. I think he came in '68. Those were probably three of the-three, four, five members who were there longer than I was. I think Bruce is finally out now after about thirty-some years. (Tuttle laughs) From Hopkinsville-but nowadays, there are a lot of members with long tenure. TUTTLE: So there was-you just mentioned about they would take turns. Did that happen in Louisville at all, I mean? NETT: No. No. TUTTLE: So that's just a rural thing? NETT: A rural thing because. Oh, in Louisville we had many lawmakers. At one time, we had nineteen. When I was chairman of the Jefferson delegation, we had nineteen House members- TUTTLE: Wow. NETT: -and eight senators from Jefferson County, but out in the state where you have two counties, three counties, five counties in one district, and back in those days, there were basically just sending rubber stamps anyway. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Particularly out in the rural areas, more of your independent people would come from Louisville and Lexington. We would be the mavericks. We would be the boat rockers. But out in the state, the politicians just sent somebody there. Well, we owe him. Let's send him, and he would serve his term. Then, the next year, well, the next county would take its candidate and put in. Now, of course, sometimes you had districts would take slices out of counties. That pretty well neutered them. Those counties would never have representatives there. TUTTLE: (laughs) Do you think that had anything to do with the breakdown of the sort of the political machines that sort of ran a lot of the counties? They sort of fell apart as the factions started to fall apart, maybe? NETT: I think that they kind of worked in tandem. The parties were weakening. Lawmakers were becoming more independent and aggressive. I think there were a number of things involved there. Now, out in the state, a House member, he's much more powerful than a mayor, a county judge or anybody like that. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: He could call them in. A county like Jefferson, there's only one mayor and there was only one county judge. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So, they would call members in. That's another thing that's changed too. The mayor of Louisville used to be the political strongman and he would actually have meetings- this is before my time. He never had meetings, regular meetings. He did periodically have gatherings but he didn't have regular meetings, when I was there-but before, I guess as late as '68, the mayor of Louisville had weekly meetings with the legislators from Jefferson County. TUTTLE: Wow. NETT: In his office. (both laugh) They would all march in tandem, see. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Then, well, we had-we had then the young Turks came along. Peter Conn, and myself, and Wilson Wyatt Jr. Very conservative as it turned out. Bob Hughes, we were, I guess, the mavericks of my class. We were all Democrats. In my first term, there was an overwhelming majority in the House. Democrats, I think, passed seventy in reaction basically to Louie Nunn's increase in the sales tax. TUTTLE: Did that- NETT: Bert Combs on the three-cent tax, but when Louie Nunn pushed for it to be raised to a nickel, even though the legislature did it. It became "Nunn's Nickel." So his Republican supporters in the legislature, a lot of them got turned out, that year. TUTTLE: You mentioned the mavericks of your class, you all sort of- NETT: Now, that was from Jefferson County. There were other mavericks who just happened to come along at the same time, out there. People like Joe Clarke from Danville. Somewhat, though, he played more on the inside than people realized. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Joe was a trader. T-R-A-D-E-R (Tuttle laughs) But the public didn't know that. He was a 'Mr. Clean.' TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Oh, let's see. Oh, I'm having trouble thinking of some of them now. That wasn't the only time you had young Turks. We had another onslaught in the year Harry Moberly got elected, along with Joe Barrows and Roger Noe. Several of those came in at the same time, and they reminded me, even though we didn't get along a whole lot. We thought they were really wild, flaming liberals. (Tuttle laughs) But they were mad at me, a lot of our young group that came in '70. TUTTLE: Did you all sort of buck the system, or? NETT: Yes, we did. Yes, we did. TUTTLE: (laughs) Quite intentionally? NETT: I think sometimes we probably bucked the system just to do it. But other times, we just didn't like the way things were going along. Just like the leadership races for the House, for example. Traditionally, up at that point, you didn't really have elections. People would start withdrawing. As the word came out who the Governor wanted, people would withdraw. You'd end up with one slate. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Some of us voted for another character anyway, just to spite them. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Well, I remember Bill Reynolds, who was elected whip that year, he came to see me. I'm a freshmen and he says, "Carl, is there anything wrong?" (Tuttle laughs) I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "Well, I gather you didn't like the slate that won." I said, "I just thought we should have an election." (both laugh) TUTTLE: I guess that didn't go over to well with the Governor. NETT: No. Here again is something else that evolved. As technology came in, we found out-we knew they set up TV monitors all throughout the legislative offices, but the Governor had one going, too. His star program, his favorite program for the day was the legislature in action. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: When you would cast a vote, sometimes you would get a call. They would send in a message that the Governor had called, wanting to see you. Governor Ford was good at that. Governor Carroll was good at that. They would call you in and talk about things. (Tuttle laughs) A lot of times-those two were slick ones. When you would go down to get an endorsement or some help from the Governor's office, very frequently lawmakers would go in with something to talk about and they would leave, having agreed to vote for something the Governor wanted. (Tuttle laughs) They never did get their message on the table. That's another thing, too. The Governors have always given the legislators a feeling of importance, I guess. If a lawmaker wants to see the Governor, he's gonna see him, if he's in session. TUTTLE: When you first came in, were the pre-legislative conferences still going on? Where they did the-where was it? NETT: That was down in Kentucky Dam. TUTTLE: Yeah. NETT: Yeah. Those were just a lot of meetings. But in the evenings, there were nothing but parties. You would get in a state police car- they didn't want anyone on the road drinking. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So they had a pool of troopers assigned, and you would ride in groups in state police cars from lobbyist to lobbyist. There were two sites down there, I believe, where the lobbyists were gathered, just row after row of rooms in motels. TUTTLE: Wow. NETT: They would have alcohol, and you would just go and visit the coal people. You just go and visit the electorate people. You would go and visit the rural electorate people. You would go and visit the retail association. You'd go and visit the firefighters, the FOP. Everybody- the insurance people, accountants, bankers, anybody who had any kind of an organization had a room where they'd entertain lawmakers. In some cases, they would even bring down women they'd picked up and offer to some of the fellas. There would be poker games there for those who were so inclined. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: It was a regular outfit. That also is something that had a lot to do with the integrity of the legislature. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Once Bill Kenton got to be speaker-I believe this is when it happened. I believe it's for his second term-and instead of the Kentucky Dam Village thing, they had the conferences in Frankfort. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Of course, the leadership had its name in bronze plaques up over the doors. They had the big carved wooden offices. They make the big impression on the new lawmakers. That was the beginning of the permanently elected leadership. That's what made it possible for Bill Kenton could've stayed elected, I'm sure, but he died during office. Unless you really want a fallible legislature, leadership can be in forever. Bill, no, Don Blanford is an example. Jody Richards is an example. So if some guy happens to become speaker, even on a fluke, but he uses the accoutrements of the office, he could stay on top forever. Now, it didn't work for people like Bobby Richardson and Joe Clarke. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Bobby Richardson offended too many people. He was a little arrogant. I liked him, but he was a little bit arrogant. He liked to stir up trouble a lot, and it kinda back fired on him and Blanford beat him. Joe Clarke, he was an interim (??) sort of fella. "Mr. Clean" to replace Blanford. I knew when he went in, that he wouldn't survive. I think the reason there is he would simply not give into the lawmakers, who didn't let him take all the trips and their junkets that they had gotten used to. That's something else that speakers do to stay in power. They never say, "No," to a lawmaker who wants to take a tax paid junket somewhere. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Clarke was not one to stand for that. TUTTLE: You mentioned earlier about an insane number of local representatives. What sort of power did the Louisville caucuses have, as people called it sometimes, in Frankfort? NETT: Quite a bit when we were together. But, in those days, we had two separate school systems in Jefferson County. We had the Louisville independent district and we had the Jefferson County district. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Those people thought of each other, and the lawmakers representing the various districts quarreled amongst themselves. That was our biggest problem. Once we paved the way for the consolidation of those two districts, our group became much more harmonious. We became much more successful in bringing home the bricks and mortar projects for Jefferson County and in shifting the appropriations through the minimum foundations program to pay for the school systems. We were a lot more successful after those two districts merged. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But there were also dividers up there. Bobby Richardson, speaker, was one of those, like even from the chair speaker, I remember one day he made the remark like, "Well those Jefferson lawmakers are at it again," something like that. Several derogatory comments from him were very offensive. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But a lot of times, we deserved it, ya know. Dotty Priddy, very outspoken, radical a lot of us thought, although she's a dear friend from Fairdale. Jim Dunn from, oh, I guess, we'd say Valley Station. Bob Hughes from Okolona (??). Those of us from Louisville regarded those as real problem people and Archie Romines from Valley Station. Those four people, those of us from Louisville really tangled with, in public quite frequently. We became good friends, a lot of us did, over the years. And afterwards. But back during those early session days, it was tough. I think, let's see, Hughes went in when I went in, Priddy and Dunn and Romines came a session or two later, I think, the next-I take it back. I think Priddy came in when I came in. The other two came the next session. But, we had some problems. Okay I think towards the end, we did very well. TUTTLE: Was it a personality type conflict, or? NETT: Personality was part of it, but constituency was part of it. There was right here in Louisville in Jefferson County, a lot of antagonism. It's almost like the people outside Jefferson hated Louisville, and Louisvillians didn't regard themselves as Jefferson Countians. If they were competing for building a government building or trying to get businesses in, we had to locate it in Louisville. Well, what's wrong with the rest of the county? See back then we had the Louisville occupational tax. Counties couldn't get occupational taxes, they can now but they couldn't then. There've been a lot of things that have changed to smooth the pathways and merge the interest. Of course, now we have consolidated government. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: There is no Louisville and Jefferson County. It's all Louisville Metro. So a lot of the division is gone. We have the potential now for driving the vote. And I have not. I haven't kept up with it. Farm interests in another county have taken a lot of my time. I really don't know how well they do, but it seems like I never hear too much about the chairman of Jefferson County delegation. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Used to, during the session, the chairman was in there just about every day, as quoted and quoted for something. During the interim, he'd be the first person or she would be the first person the press would go to for, "How's the House of Jefferson delegation? Did you hear about this?" I don't see too much of that in the news anymore. TUTTLE: Um-hm. What do you think that's a product of? NETT: I don't know. I don't know. I've not kept up with it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Part of it's personality and part of it's ego, I guess each person wants to do his own, are not willing to surrender anything to a chairman. TUTTLE: Um-hm. Um-hm. NETT: Part of it could be a strong mayor. Lawmakers don't count anymore. It's what the mayor wants. TUTTLE: You mentioned the lobbyists or the lobbying organizations. I'd guess you'd say- NETT: See, on that point, here's another thing. We used to have a mayor four years. Period. Now we have a mayor for life. TUTTLE: For life? NETT: Well, he runs every four years but-(laughs) TUTTLE: Oh, okay. (both laugh) I missed ______ (??). NETT: It's hard to beat an incumbent when he has access to the money. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Campaign funds. The Republicans are putting forth a credible candidate this time, but I don't really think he's got a chance against Abramson. Let's see, Abramson was- that's something else, but he had an amendment that would allow the mayor to succeed himself twice. So, that passed. So he served his twelve years as mayor of Louisville. Then he tried for another amendment to take off the limits all together and that failed. He couldn't run again. So Armstrong got in there for four years, but 'not with metro-Louisville.' Oh, this is not Louisville anymore. This is a brand new ball game. So now he's mayor again. (laughs) TUTTLE: I think that while we-like the lobbyist, legislature, or legislator ratio now is some insane number like four or five to one. I think, what seems like that lobbyists would come a little more professional than what was, but can you talk about how maybe lobbying changed while you were there? Or, was it early eighties? NETT: Oh yeah, there was some lobbyist that you would freely talk to and you would trust them as a source of information. There were some you kind of suspected were on the sleazy side and ironically some of the sleazier side represented, public profession-okay, I'll say it. The firefighters, for example. We had a guy who would do things for people. There were several lobbyists of the ilk, ya know, and you could identify the lawmakers as they would line up with them. Certain lawmakers gravitated towards the sleazy ones, those with funds, cash, et cetera. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Those that gravitated towards the professional business person who would show up during the day and talk to you and that would be it. You'd go on back home. A lot of the lobbyists that stayed overnight- of course, that we had parties going on all the time, and they would cover losses, for example, for some lawmakers who'd gambled. If they played poker, the lawmaker got beat badly, well, one of the guys would slip him some money back, and things like that. Buy drinks for them. Of course, buying meals. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: We had one lawmaker that kind of joked about it. He had a cousin, I think, who was a lobbyist for LG&E. Every time he went out to a restaurant, he would look around to see who was in there. (Tuttle laughs) He would always say, "Let's go find us a lobster"; his word for lobbyists who would pick up the bill. Nowadays, at least, right after the Blanford scandal, that changed. It may be slipping back that way anymore. I think they got too tight and got so a lawmaker couldn't offer a guy a cup of coffee. TUTTLE: Yeah. You mentioned some mavericks that came in the seventies session. Can you talk a little bit about the '78 session with the Thelma Stonewall business and when Julian Carroll was out of state, and all that? NETT: Well, there's not a lot about it except that Julian Carroll conspired to have that happen. You're talking about the ERA amendment? TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Yeah, he kinda smiled and winked, and all the publicly, he didn't want to be for it. But I think privately he did and he left the state knowing it's what she would do. Now you'll have to-if Julian's still alive, you can check with him on that, and he may or may not tell you. (both laugh) TUTTLE: I was writing something down. You were opposed to some of the complications about the Toyota plant? NETT: Yes. TUTTLE: All that business, can you tell a little bit about that? NETT: Yes, the two biggest votes that I guess to hit the floor, I voted against both. One was KERA and one was the Toyota plant. This is ironic too. Because a retired lawyer from Lexington called on me last year and brought his tape recorder and did all this. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: He was opposed to the Toyota thing from the beginning, and he thought I was the only hero on that committee because I was the only one that raised questions. So we got a long interview on that. Yeah, it was a done deal. Martha Layne Collins had done that and she had told her commerce chairman, committee man, Secretary Carroll Knicely that she wanted Toyota at any cost. A lot of us in the legislature felt like, she was giving away the farm. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: A lot of us, philosophically, thought we need to help business, but to give them such extravagant benefits, our own businesses were struggling to stay alive. Many small businesses closed and yet here we're going across the water to bring in a company and give them all kind of benefits here. Philosophically, we just didn't like it. But when it came to the appropriations committee in the House, I was the only on that asked the questions. It was all in favor of Toyota. We basically had to put everything on the table, sign it in blood, endorse it, make the commitments, and Toyota might do this, this and this. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And that was a one-sided deal and it was wrong. Financially, I was wrong, I guess, because it has paid off. It has brought in a lot of ancillary manufacturing businesses to support the Toyota plant. It's been a financial boon for the state. But I don't regret voting against the plan that was put to us. TUTTLE: What was it about KERA that you opposed? NETT: KERA-the big thing was the 'Trust Me' buttons that some of the lawmakers jokingly put on. [Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.] TUTTLE: You were saying, that about the KERA thing, you were talking about the 'Trust Me' buttons? NETT: Oh yeah, we were expected to endorse the package. It would replace the entire system of education, without any firm answers. We referred to it as flying the airplane while we built it. Nobody had any answers, they just said, "Well, give us the money." And this called for massive tax increases. "Give us the money, and we'll give you a system of education that you can be proud of." Well, who are you to tell us that? We've had people trying in education for two hundred years. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Now the Supreme Court, which I thought was wrong in its decision, said the system was unconstitutional. (pause) And I didn't go along. I was one of very few Democrats that voted against that package. A lot of Republicans opposed it, but that was a partisan issue, I think. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But I was one of very few Democrats that opposed it. That was the big thing. That was the biggest vote that I ever cast in the legislature in twenty-one years. I didn't want to be looking as supporting the status quo and opposing progress in education, but I just didn't see the little they were telling us, was gonna be any great improvement. Basically, they were after shifting the fund. That's what the suers, the people who sued wanted. They wanted more money. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Instead, we're going to replace the whole system. Well, what did they do, when they finished? They turned around renamed everything. Put the same bureaucracy right back in place. It shifted the power from the superintendent's office. He was no longer the elected superintendent. He would be a hired toady of the legislative leadership. It definitely made the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate more powerful because the Supreme Court said the legislature cannot give up its right or its oversight to the education. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Ironically, after that, the speaker was passing the word around that, "Ya know, this may not just apply to education. Maybe roads, maybe the speaker's office can handle the roads." Etcetera, etcetera, there seemed to be no end, you know? TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Gee, if the legislature has to pass the budgets, maybe we should have oversight on all of these things. But, as it turns out, over the years there has been a UK study, which brands KERA as a total disaster. They said it did alleviate the funding problems in some of the poor counties, but I would challenge that even because as long as you allow for local option, taxes to support the state appropriation, you're going to have unequally financed districts and unequal educational opportunity. There's no way around that. If they truly wanted educational opportunities to be equalized, they needed to repeal local option. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: It's not just the KEA study. I taught in public schools for nine years, after that. I worked with teachers, and teachers hated it. In fact, I can tell you a little funny on that. When KERA was coming down the pipe, KEA opposed it. And Senator David Karem, you can give Senator Karem the credit, or the blame, for getting them on board. He got them in a room and just told them-Oh, what's his name? "You're going to be for this, or else." And all of the sudden, they were for it. In my next election, they endorsed my opponent, and the reason they gave was. I'm sure there were other things, I had personal feuds with some of their leadership- but the official reason they endorsed my opponent was that I voted against KERA. And they had been opposed to KERA. (laughs) Until the very end when they saw it was gonna pass and Karem got ahold of them and told them they better get on board. But KERA has spent a lot of money. It's tried out a lot of things that had already been tried out. The funny thing was we were putting into practice things that had already been rejected in other states- TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: -after they had tried it, and overall, have we improved the quality of education? How many states didn't pass the federal minimum standard in the last go around? Here's one of the big jokes: we have so many cases of where the fox is in the hen house. For example, the portfolio grading, each school does its own portfolio grading, except for those very few that are audited. It's strictly up to the local faculties. Now, if you're going to reward the faculty with money, if they have high ratings, why don't they give their students better ratings? And I'll tell you-maybe I shouldn't; the guy is in the State Senate now but-(both laugh)-I won't tell ya. Let's say this: there have been some cases where principals have not been happy with evaluations and have sent the materials back to the teachers and ordered them to reevaluate them. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: The unproclaimed message being, of course, surely our students do better than that, so you need to get their scores up. Because after all, we could be counted a troubled school here instead of getting a reward. So that's the big fallacy in the thing. Also, there are principals who play with the daily attendance records. Like, 'No, we don't need that. Just turn in yesterday's figures.' Things like that. There's all kinds of opportunities for hanky-panky in the educational system. This idea of rewarding teachers is a joke. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: All of the expense of these special-oh, while I was at PRP, we had a teacher in residence, an expert, and that old faculty did was make fun of her clicking her fingernails, her long three inch fingernails, whenever she would stand up rocking across the podium. We got no benefit from our experience with that person. TUTTLE: One of the distinguished educators? NETT: Distinguished educators is what they called them, yeah. TUTTLE: We had-our school district was always in a lot of trouble, and so when I was in high school, we had two or three distinguished educators. NETT: Two or three? (laughs) TUTTLE: Yeah, and they- NETT: What district were you from? (laughs) TUTTLE: Yeah, Knox County. NETT: Oh, yeah. TUTTLE: Going towards Corbin. It's funny to hear you say because the teachers and the students used to make fun of the DE all the time. NETT: Yeah. TUTTLE: That's all it was. We had sort of the opposite experience of portfolios. The principal would send back the portfolios and say, "These need to be lower because if they're too high, we're gonna get audited, and I don't wanna deal with that." (Nett laughs) So, they would go back and lower them all. There was the unofficial rule in Knox County that no one could get a distinguished portfolio. You could only have a proficient. NETT: That way you don't attract attention. TUTTLE: Exactly, there you go. You have a set number of proficient one. NETT: Yeah, yeah. Well, in my experience with PRP, two years in a row I happened to hit the distinguished one. We had one distinguished from the senior class. They are truly distinguished writers. And you might say, "Where'd they get it?" TUTTLE: Yeah. NETT: But then you talked to their teachers and looked at their other work and these were outstanding people, but that was a school almost two thousand students and you only have one distinguished out of the senior class? TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And that was what they expected. They said, "You know, it's going to be a wow paper, a wow portfolio and you won't see that too often." In fact, most school teachers are thought to be writers on the proficient level. TUTTLE: Um-hm. You said that you disagreed with the supreme court ruling. [Kentucky Supreme Court, Rose v Council (1989)] Can you talk a little bit about that? Cause that's sort of, people at this point like the ruling has sort of been set as sort of an orthodoxy. NETT: Yeah. TUTTLE: And if you oppose it, people question it immediately. NETT: Well, I said at the time, I still believe that the supreme court overstepped its bounds. The suit challenged the method of funding public school districts. And Bob Stevens, I liked him, but he was a politician. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: He was a county judge from Fayette. He was a long time political activist. He became supreme court chief justice. This was his chance to make the books. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: They overreacted and said the whole system was unconstitutional. Now, on what grounds is the system unconstitutional? Vaguely they said it was not providing equal educational opportunity for all students in Kentucky as the constitution requires. They didn't really address the financial situation itself, if they did, they would surely not have allowed the legislature to continue to offer local option. But that also was a political thing. A lot of people from the progressive districts like Jefferson, Fayette, Woodford, a lot of others said, "No, we gotta have local option. We don't want to be dragged down to the lowest common denominator. We want to be able to add on and provide better." And that's what will continue to keep us-as I said a while ago-at a disadvantage for equalizing educational opportunity. But they reached out and said the whole system was bad. I think they also said something like the legislature should be in control. I forget how they worded it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So the legislature responded. We shut down the office of the superintendent as elected office. Part of that-one of the big players in the educational bill was Roger Noe, chairman of the education committee, who had run for superintendent for public instruction and gotten beat. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And he laughingly said, "Well"-I forget the guy's name now who won the superintendent-but he said, "we'll just strip his office." Sure enough, that's what happened with KERA. The office of the superintendent was stripped. The guy remained superintendent in title only for the duration of that term. Then the speaker's office in conjunction with the Senate hired a commissioner of public education. We hear the BOPTROT scandals and all. And this is strictly off the wall; I have no evidence. But I would suspect very strongly with the same players in position with the money here and the ramrod they used to drive the KERA bill. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I suspect there were lots of money there. We're talking about millions that moved around. TUTTLE: It seemed to have, a sort of-I don't remember it but I mean from reading about it-it seemed to have sort of an unexpected momentum about it. NETT: Um-hm. TUTTLE: It was like everyone was jumping on and then. NETT: Oh yeah, you had all your progressive newspapers, your liberal newspapers. You had the politicians. Everybody was demanding educational reform, and we did not do a thing that got at the root of the problem. The root of the problem was poor education; it's in the home. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But we addressed that too. Eventually, we set up family centers. We'd bring parents in. Teach them how to be parents. We clothed the children. We gave them all of their medical needs. We'd take care of a lot of welfare things through the public educational system now. Stuff that is good that you can do, but it shouldn't be cloaked as education. TUTTLE: Um-hm. Do you think the resource centers have been successful, or are they just sort of? NETT: I don't know that they've made any great contribution. It seems like we still have the same problems in schools that we've always had. Basically in the rural areas, you have a general lack of enthusiasm for education. We've always had that. I think we still have it. In the urban areas, you have a distressful problem with minority populations. Not only do they not respect education, they resent it. They bring students from the urban areas particularly and bring neighborhood problems, street problems right into school. And the teachers don't have the tools to combat the students in this-war. (Both laugh) It's almost like we have a large population of students determined to go to school determined. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So how do we address the problem? We throw more money at it. TUTTLE: We can buy them. NETT: We can buy them into it. Yeah, we can buy them t-shirts on KERA day, we can give them suckers, we can give them pizza parties. (Tuttle laughs) We can give them field trips. Hasn't improved education. Teachers who've been-I think the new teachers are more enthusiastic for KERA and maybe that's what's gonna have to happen. A lot of the older teachers are not enthusiastic about it. Never have been. Some downright condemned it. But at the same time, a lot of these newer teachers are now products of the new KERA. Things have changed. So I don't know that their opinion is as valuable as the older teachers. Those who've been there for years and years and who've seen class after class, after class, after class. When you talk to those older teachers, they'll tell you, "We seem to be going downhill. We're working harder and getting less product from the students." TUTTLE: Do you think that's related to KERA? NETT: I think part of it's a societal problem, but I think a lot of it is KERA. What KERA has done is basically say, "We don't know how to fix the problem. So let's change the rules of the game. We can't succeed. So let's change the goals." TUTTLE: So if like- NETT: I think KERA is a great surrender, frankly. Instead of a cure for educational problems-it's been a surrender. We can't teach our kids anymore. So let's entertain them. TUTTLE: Um-hm. Make them feel good about themselves. NETT: Make them feel good about themselves. Yeah. TUTTLE: The joke that we used to make was- NETT: Never have we had students who are more proud of themselves, and so ignorant. TUTTLE: Yeah. NETT: We're dumb as hell, and proud of it. (both laugh) I heard that's what the lawmakers called it, "We're dumb as hell and proud of it." TUTTLE: When they first-the first year that we had to deal with KERA, I was in third grade. They stopped teaching spelling. Then later we used to joke about that it doesn't matter how you spell it, just long as you feel good about your decision about how to spell. (laughs) NETT: Yeah, well I teach college two days a week but a community college and I see this all the time, the product of KERA. They don't have to write in complete sentences, just get the idea. TUTTLE: (laughs) Yeah, I know. NETT: And what do you we in college? Hey! Commas! Semi-colons, periods, capital letters, you have to have them. TUTTLE: (laughs) Semi-colons? What? NETT: You want an A? You've got to make your pronouns agree with the antecedents. TUTTLE: Yeah. NETT: Yet, I noticed the Courier has surrendered. So has your news media. All of them. Instead of-they're so afraid of being politically incorrect what they'll do is use a plural pronoun to refer to a singular antecedent. It was so funny because the old rule was when in doubt use the masculine form. TUTTLE: Yeah. Um-hm. NETT: Well, that's not politically correct. TUTTLE: (laughs) That chauvinist- NETT: So the way to solve it, then is to make your subject plural. 'Students should bring their books.' TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But nowadays it's gotten to the point where 'Each student should bring their books.' And that's wrong. It's politically correct maybe, but it's not grammatically correct. (Tuttle laughs) And I nailed my kids on this all the time in college. But your news media do it all the time. It came out real funny the other day when I was Coach Petrino was talking about, "Each of our guys goes out there on that field and knows they have to do their best." And I thought, It's obvious their masculine why doesn't he say, "and do his best"? Each guy has to go out there and do their best. TUTTLE: It's gotten pretty bad. NETT: I used to call WHS and WAVE and complain about them while they were on the air, and they took me through and they're on a break and the first thing they'd say invariably is, You must be a schoolteacher. (both laugh) TUTTLE: We tried for so long to get away from guys like you. NETT: I'd tell them after we teach our children, then you guys get up there and destroy the language every night. TUTTLE: Yeah. Let me see here. Can you talk about your first election? To jump back, and how that went? I mean, those are the days when it was, most of the time the primary was the real election. Was that the case with you? NETT: The primary was-well, yeah, except I put out a Republican two- termer. A good man, but he was Republican, and there was a reaction against Louie Nunn's nickel. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: The guy did not work his district. I learned in the McCarthy campaign that you had to go door-to-door. People want to be asked. I was one of the first people in Louisville. Todd Hollenbeck did it; I did it; several others of us at that time did it. We actually went door- to-door. We didn't try to ride the ticket, which was traditional, you know. You scored the hit of the ticket. He wins everybody else wins. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I actually out-voted the mayor and judge in most of my precincts. Oh, they didn't think that could happen, you know, the politician. I bucked Fourth Street, which means I did not run with the party blessing. The party had its own choice to run. I just filed as the citizen, you know. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I was Democrat. I filed as a Democrat, ran in the primary, and won handsomely. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: It was the door-to-door campaign. Ask for the vote, people give it to you. I could've been a communist and won. (Tuttle laughs) And I said, "I'm Carl Nett, I'm running for state representative. I'd appreciate your vote." A lot of times they'd say, "Okay, thank you." That was it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Some would ask more. "Well, what do you do for a living?" And "Why are you interested," and all this, so on and so forth. But most people did not ask the first question. Okay. But they must've appreciated the call because they voted. TUTTLE: Um-hm. How did that election differ from the last election? NETT: My last election? TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Well, first off, the new guy can-I could cover a precinct tonight. I had thirty- three precincts, I could cover a precinct tonight. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And I hit my district in my first race twice before the primary and once before the general. So I hit the doors three times. You don't get everybody at every door, obviously. Even is even bigger change today. Even more and more, houses are empty during the late afternoon hours. But, I was able to do that. After you're in office for a while, people know you, and you can't make that round. You may get one city block covered in a night because they invite you in. They want to talk to you. They want to ask you questions. Let's see, if you can do this, or do you know anything about that? TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So that's a disadvantage. Secondly, I had a good opponent who worked. He did what I did in my first race. He kept working those doors. I used to call on every house. He would call on only Democrats. He'd carry his list with him, which saved him a lot of time. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But I was building for November actually in my primary race. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But he worked on the Democrats. He knew if he beat me he was home free. He worked steadily while I was in Frankfort during a session. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I had some enemies. Sheriff Greene, I would not give him the police incentive money because he was a paper server officially. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Technically. That surtax on your insurance premium, I stalled that in the House appropriations committee twice. He was gonna get that little son of a bitch. (Tuttle laughs) And eventually he did. Abramson was mad at me because of the airport. I supported the neighbors over there, and the state supreme court eventually said, "They're right." The state supreme court said they'd never seen such blatant abuse of municipal authorities. Slap, slap, right in Jerry Abramson's face. But anyway, they had to cough up millions of dollars extra to pay those people for the houses they'd already tore down by threatening condemnation. That's another story in itself. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But anyway, there's a second very powerful political enemy. So what happened was, I had the sheriff, who eventually went to jail, and to prison, and the mayor opposing me, the Courier Journal endorsed my opponent because I voted for KERA and-I mean I voted against KERA. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: That was their deciding point. I told Rob Bernard, one of their editors. I said, "I could be the worst lawmaker up there but the very fact that I'm vice-chair of appropriations committee, just by being in that room, get things in that bill for this community." And I said, "How could you guys do that?" And my opponent-who's been there, by the way, ever since, fourteen years, what's he accomplished? He doesn't even have position yet. He has no position of influence, which is unfortunate-but anyway, Bernard said, halfway apologetic, he said, "Well, I know. I said you're the better candidate, but we had already agreed that we would not support anybody that didn't support KERA." So I had a lot of muscle against me at that time. I lost by ninety-six votes in one precinct. TUTTLE: Wow. NETT: It was a new precinct added to the district in the last reapportionment. The guy-this is something else I should've challenged; knowing today, I should have done it but- he voted people all the way to seven. The law says that if people are in line at six, they can vote 'til seven. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: They supposedly ran out of ballots, which they should not have done. But people went home and came back. I heard later, that there were people arriving at seven o'clock and voting. That precinct voted heavier than ever. If I had gone to court and had that precinct thrown out, I would've been the winner. TUTTLE: Shady deal. NETT: But at that point in time, my attitude was, if I don't win as big as usual, I don't deserve to win. TUTTLE: No. NETT: I'd been a fool with it. Have to excuse me a second. TUTTLE: All right. [pause in recording] NETT: -with the opposition. TUTTLE: Oh, yeah, and you said that there was some political muscle that was aligned against you. NETT: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. TUTTLE: Okay. Go ahead. I got to. It's- NETT: Well, that basically was the big difference. Yeah, it wasn't just two good candidates, door knockers. But I did not have time to knock the doors. I did not work the district like he was working it like I used to do it. Then I had all of this opposition out there from the movers and shakers. You see, in the primary, the parting faithful always votes. The machinery always votes. And a lot, I'd been in so long. I've had so many people who would see me in church, you know, and in gatherings afterward. "I didn't know you were trouble. I wished I'd known it." I said, "Hey, I don't want to hear that." (both laugh) My voters just weren't there. I'm convinced I've got the support in the district even today. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But my voters just didn't show. Doesn't matter how many people are for you if you don't get them to the polls. That's something else, in that one precinct I was talking about earlier. The other candidate, actually personally hauled old people out of that district to the polls all day long. He worked that precinct. It was his home precinct. He was new in my district. He knew he could get a lot of votes out of it. He milked it for all he could do. All the way up to seven o'clock. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Even though they weren't in line, from six to seven. They were letting them go home. The fact that they were letting them go home tells me that they were still bringing in new people who hadn't even been there at six o'clock. I should've filed suit and tried to have that precinct thrown out. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But, he's only had mild opposition since. A number of times been un-opposed. You know, it's strange that nobody's interested in running. TUTTLE: Did you have a relationship with him before the race? NETT: No, never heard of him. Never heard of him. He'd never called on me. Never asked me to vote this way or that way. Nothing. Just came out of the blue. TUTTLE: Oh, so he was already in the legislature before that then? NETT: No, no. No. TUTTLE: Oh, okay. When you said you had- NETT: No, I'd never heard of him before. No. He's just a citizen. He's a child psychologist, so he's into a lot of schools. He's in a lot of school bulletins and all. He gets his name around that way. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But when he and I were invited to address the party leadership, the district chairmen and all committee people, and the precinct chairman, I knew I was in trouble. Why would they invite my opposition? TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But just talking to him that day, and then the Congressman Mazzoli, wishy- washy Ron-I love him but Ron always takes care of himself. You help him but he never helps you-and he was there at meeting, he and his wife. He'd already heard the talk and knew the waters. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And I asked him. I said, "Ron," so and so, and this guy just told me, "If Ron's gonna vote to vote for you, I'm for you." And I said, "What does that have to do with it? You've known me all these years. You've always supported me. Why aren't you still with me?" He says, "I'm, I've never said I'm not with you." He says, "Tell you what, if Ron Mazzoli is for you, I'm for you." So I went over and told Ron. And Ron looks (??) him up, "Sure I'll talk to him." He went over and talked to the guy. He came back, I said, "Well did you get him?" He said, "Well" he said, "I didn't hurt you." What does that tell you right there? Ron, you went along with the crowd. (laughs) TUTTLE: When you first came in to the legislature, was there anyone who sort of acclimated you to what was going on, sort of like a mentor type? NETT: No. TUTTLE: Anybody like that? NETT: No, no. You're new, and the more ignorant you were, the better they liked it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And you were just expected to go along. Oh, no, the new lawmaker, when he goes in he's given a training session. He gets meeting after meeting. He gets all kinds of materials. He gets all of these technical things. He gets his office. He has a year to learn the business. We were elected in November, sworn in January, and expected to know all about everything. Well, not really. (Tuttle laughs) You were expected to go along. But with the people who did know it all. That would be the Governor. So it's-and I really didn't fit in there in the beginning. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I've always been independent, and yet I learned collegiate respect for that. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: There are a number of what I call white hats in Frankfort, or were when I was there. Some real idealistic people who would do the right thing. One guy, I'll single him out that I had the utmost respect for, was Hank Hancock, the lawmaker from Frankfort. He's out now, but I've always admired Hank. And, of course, Joe Clarke was a good friend. He was chairman and I was vice chairman for nineteen years of appropriations. Twice I turned down chances to become chairman of cities or education to stay as vice chairman of appropriations. The thing was Joe had gotten me one time to nominate him for speaker of the House. So I had my speech all written. I was ready to do it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And he backed out. And I said, "Joe, what are you doing?" He said, "Well,"- I know what happened, they got to him-but he said, "I just thought I could probably do a better job staying where I am as chairman of appropriations." Of course, he had long regarded me as his successor in Appropriations. Well, he stayed chairman until the Blanford scandal, then he became speaker of the House. Well, that was the term I was out. (Both laugh) Just missed it. Actually, Blanford's people had approached me. One of them had said that, "We're needing somebody to replace Joe Clarke." And I said, "It won't be me. I won't." In fact, I'd gone to Kenton earlier when he was making noises that he might replace Joe. And I said, "I'm gonna support you, provided you leave Clarke as chairman of appropriations." I never did ask for myself. Which was kind of strange, I guess. But anyway, the Blanford people actually said that they were looking for somebody. Then, later on, it was in the paper, somebody asked Blanford why he didn't replace Clarke because Clarke had stayed with Richardson as speaker. Blanford said, "We didn't have anybody else that could do the job." (laughs) TUTTLE: You submit or filed briefly in 1995 for the mayor's race. NETT: Where you been nosing around, man? TUTTLE: (laughs) Yeah, I know. Just in the newspaper. So can you say a little bit about that. Why you were interested and then why didn't fall through? NETT: Oh, yeah. Oh, well, I'd been interested for a long time. And considered it several times. I just thought I could do a good job. And I had people telling me, you know, "Why don't you run for it? We'll help you. We'll do this and we'll do that." But the short time I was into it, when I started calling on these people who had promised this and promised that, they were saying, "Well, it's a bit early," and, "Well, we like you but we like Jerry Abramson, too." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: My thought was Jerry Abramson gave up the alderman job because he couldn't take the stress of fighting with the Mayor Bill Stansbury. Those two didn't get along. So Abramson just didn't run again. Well, I don't run from problems. I try to solve them and try to work with people. And I thought I would be a better candidate. So I went ahead and got in, but as I started making their rounds, the hands came out. "Well, we got to do this." The bankers, well, you know, "we need to see those city assets put in our bank," or "we need at least a certain percentage of those assets in our bank." The labor people wanted a labor liaison. And different people, the tobacco people wanted me to take an oath in blood that I would always support the tobacco interest. (Tuttle laughs) It was-everybody was making demands. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: And there was no money coming in. I'd already invested twenty- five thousand. I had another billboard payment coming up. Which was-I had billboards rotating around the county, just to get that first initial name up. I had another payment coming due, and if I didn't stay in the race, they could cancel the contract and I could spare that next charge. But I was counting on the Catholic vote, the black vote, the labor vote. The labor vote did the song and dance with me. "Well, we like Abramson too." Then later, I chastised them for it, after I got out, and he says, "Well, Carl you didn't give us a chance. You got out too quick." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Yeah but I needed the money then. But anyways, so the labor vote was dancing. The Catholic vote, Bill Ryan jumped into it-former party chairman, I thought he would be strong. And drain a lot of my Catholic vote. Big Irish Catholic, loud mouth, white in the head, but, you know, Joe bill (??), and as it turned out, he got practically nothing from the vote. I overestimated him. And Commissioner Dale Owens got in. I'd gone to visit him and told him some of the things that I'd done for the black community, and that I would appreciate his endorsement, et cetera, et cetera. He got into the race right there at the end. He filed. So I thought, There it goes. He's playing the race card. The three white guys and me. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: As it turned out, the blacks didn't vote, anymore than they always do. I don't think he would've-it's white people that have elected him. But I didn't want to be a party to that. So for a number of reasons, I just went ahead and got-I thought I had a good package. I'd just come off a successful legislative trip. I was chairman of delegation. I had been a strong advocate for non-public school tax credits, which would be strong with Catholic voters. I thought I had a good shot-but I didn't have what proverbial was referred to as "the fire in the belly." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: You got to have it. And I was married with children and I thought, Can't do it. Just can't do it. You have to put too much up front, too early. And then wait for people to jump on your bandwagon, as it looks like you've got a chance to win. But I was already seeing a difference in Frankfort. Some of the lawmakers, particularly a couple of black lawmakers, on the city's committee, were deferring to my judgment on votes. They would watch me and they would ask me, "Hey, this being a candidate," and this was before I'd really gone public, you know. I was just rumored. I thought, This has got some clout to it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But anyway, I decided, I couldn't pay the price. So I got out. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I had some good friends. Jerry Kleier and Frank Quickert, and-oh, it escapes me-Michael Wooden, these were all former legislators. We had a little club, a stock buying club, along with some alderman, but that's just another story on that. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: We met once a month and talked about it and their consensus was, I was going to be the spoiler. They didn't think that I would win, but they thought I would take away too many votes for Abramson to win. And he was the one they thought would be a good mayor. So I was disappointed in their position. The only faithful one, the loyal one was Jerry Kleier. He stayed with me 'til the end. He says, "As long as you're in the race, I'm for you." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But at the time he was an alderman and encircled by the Abramson camp. I thought, I've got to be guarded in what I even say to Jerry. Cause Jerry is a good friend but he's a loose talker. And he's surrounded by the other camp, so. TUTTLE: Sounds like you may have had more support than you thought you did. NETT: Well, there again, looking back I think Abramson's been a very popular mayor. The man walks on water. But as his opponent is now saying, and as Francine, the radio talk show host from WHAS is saying, aside from his pep-rallies and his back slapping, what really has the man accomplished? On big issues, he waits to see where it's going. Then he'll jump on. He's not a leader. He's a lot like what Representative Bob Hughes once said, "I have to do what my people want me to do because I'm their leader." (both laugh) TUTTLE: Very nice. In the past-well, I mean, there's been a lot of national theorizing that started in 1980. But in Kentucky, it's been a lot more recent. With Republicans really coming into power, whereas-or not into power, I guess into power now-but actually being a real party, whereas before- NETT: We thought they were dead. TUTTLE: Yeah. NETT: Yeah. TUTTLE: What do you think about all that? Like in terms of Kentucky, what brought that about? NETT: Oh, I think it's very easy to see. They jumped on the moral issues. They jumped on tradition, family values. They are no more moral than Democrats. They are no more family valued people than Democrats. But publicly, I guess, because of the national party planks and the platform, basically, the Democrats have taken positions on public issues that seemed detrimental to family interest, family values. Democrats are the party of abortion. Democrats are the party of the single mother. The Republicans smelled the blood and jumped on it. I think the majority of people are more attuned to Republicans now for that reason. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: We have a number of Democratic lawmakers who while in office have changed positions. That's how David Williams got to be president of the Senate. Danny Seum (??) from Louisville changed his party. He's now running as a Republican and has been elected. Tom Kerr in the House, I think he's in the Senate now, from Northern Kentucky, he switched parties. That happened before. There was a fellow from Northern Kentucky who was a Democrat who changed his party in deference to his constituents. They were Republicans that voted for him. He switched to Republican and got beat. That was years ago, but nowadays, it's quite common for a Democrat to switch to Republican and still get elected. There are a lot of-I know Tom Kerr talked about it for several years about it. There are a number who vote Republican on a lot of issues but who are still appreciative of the contributions the Democratic Party have made to the general public's welfare over the years. They're not about to switch. But the Republicans have found a train and they've jumped on it for the ride. TUTTLE: A lot of people give Mitch McConnell a lot of credit for this new Republican upswing. NETT: Part of that is substance, part of it's myth. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: You know, you grow bigger than life. TUTTLE: Yeah. NETT: You keep the thing flowing. He is a great political strategist. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: He seems aloof and cool and all that but when you get to talking to him-I haven't talked to him for years now-but he's a very, very keen fellow. He's a very warm person. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: He's a caring person. You know, when you think of political strategists, you almost think in Machiavellian terms. I don't think he's that at all, but I think he can certainly cut a throat if he needed to along the way. Yeah, I think he has been worth an awful lot to Kentucky. [Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins] TUTTLE: I mean, you were finishing your thought, I can't remember what it was though. Oh, you said, "He's done a lot of good things." Before we were talking about, the Democratic party would have your head for it. NETT: Oh, yeah, they will-they, well, party people don't like to hear any particularly public persons say nice things about somebody in the other party. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: This is sort of like Abramson had to give Anne Northup credit for something or other here a while back. It's almost like somebody must've yelled at him or something. He said, "Well, let's face it. She did do it." (both laugh) "And she deserves the credit." TUTTLE: You said you were in there how long? Twenty? NETT: Twenty-one years. TUTTLE: In the twenty-one years, what are you most satisfied with as an accomplishment? NETT: My work in the appropriations committee, and some of the specific things here in Louisville, here that I've worked on was the new hospital, Louisville Hospital, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, the Hall of Justice, which is now obsolete. (both laugh) It was a poor design when they built it. That was Todd Hollenbeck's monument, I guess. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: But those would be three big things. The consolidation of the public school districts, there's one. I would say those would be the big things. Then there's a lot of little stuff. You know, the appropriate things being the Brown Cancer Center. I helped them get started and get the money. The Louisville Zoo, we didn't give money while I was there but we made them the state zoo and set them up to receive funds. Just about anything that went on in downtown Louisville over the twenty-one years, I had a hand in, somewhere because of the appropriations committee. I was chairman of the Budget Subcommittee on Education and the Arts, which took care of things like actors-well, the arts crossed the state. In addition to education, all the money that was spent in the public schools came to my budget subcommittee for six years. And then when we put the budget together, Joe Clarke, who liked things to be out in public, would always have his private meeting. He would bring in the budget chairman, and we would put all pieces of the puzzle in. We had the votes on the committee then, and we had enough chairmen to control the vote. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Then we would have our public appropriations meeting, and if anybody else wanted to put an amendment on it, we'd vote no. Anything one of our members, our chairmen wanted to stick on it, we'd vote yes. Actually the decision was made behind closed doors on a Sunday every year. Or, every two years, in Frankfort, by the budget subcommittee chairman. That's one thing that Blanford did after I got in, because I stayed with Richardson. He took me, he told Clarke, "Carl cannot be budget chairman." They left Joe on as chairman but where his own people had come to me to be Joe's replacement as chairman of the full committee, he had me removed as budget chairman. This was my last term there. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: So it wasn't at first. It was later because of my hostility to the young Turks. Roger Noe and Harry Moberly. Harry Moberly now has my job that-no, no, Harry Moberly now has Joe's job. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: When Blanford took me off of the budget chairman of education, he gave it to Moberly. They changed the rules because they said that in order to give enough jobs out there for the membership, you couldn't be on appropriations committee, if you were a sitting chairman. But Roger Noe is, chairman of education, was put on the appropriations committee that same year. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: A number of little things happened-but those are the stories. (laughs) TUTTLE: Just two more questions I've got. You mentioned two or three times, about the guys that came in with your class that would buck the system, and the guys that came in and a couple times later, after that. Then early on, when we were talking and you said, "I don't know what brought that about." But it seems like that during the seventies, that, that happened a couple times, and it didn't really happen after that that much. Do you think that, well, what do you think caused that? I mean, do you think it was just coincidence that? NETT: I don't get the question. Yeah, coincidence that there were so many young mavericks there? TUTTLE: Yeah, that they came in successive order? NETT: Well, that was something. I think it was a phenomenon in 1970. If you look at the median age of the lawmakers, I think there was a big shift from older people down to younger people. And I think part of it was because more and more young people were getting out there and campaigning. Enlisting folks rather than relying on a machine to pick one of its own and put in place. [Nineteen] seventy seemed to be a turn. I think the McCarthy campaign might have influenced that, really. The Kennedys take, given a lot of credit for inspiring young people, motivating youngsters to go into politics, but I think Gene McCarthy was ahead of the game in doing that very same thing. There were just a number of reasons that and the opposition to the war. Other things caused young people to just get more involved, more interested, and the age of lawmakers came down. And as it came down, as they became more independent, they became more inclined to pick up this opportunity with the interim committee system and run with it. Lawmakers finally wanted to know what, what was going on. They wanted to know what other states were doing. They wanted to know how we could cure this problem. Rather than just taking the attitude, as I've heard some older lawmakers say, "Well, you know, the Governor has his staff. He can work this out. He was elected by all the people. We'll just do what he wants." TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Now each lawmaker, hopefully, thinks that, Well, I was elected by my people to do what I think is best for them and for the state. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Lawmakers will ask questions now. In the case of Abramson, that's one reason why he would not make a good Governor for Kentucky. Even though we've heard rumors that certain congressmen may want to use him as a running mate for lieutenant Governor. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: You can't ask Abramson a question. If you do, you're branded as the enemy. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: I remember this from the airport days. That's-I don't want to get into all that but there was a long struggle with all that. But when you ask questions of something Abramson's for, you're the enemy. That doesn't work well in Frankfort. TUTTLE: Yeah. Over twenty some years, I guess there's some changes in your political thoughts and philosophy. Were there any of those, and if so, what were they? NETT: Oh, I think I've just generally become more conservative. TUTTLE: Um-hm. NETT: Less willing to turn loose of taxpayers' dollars. I drifted more towards some of the Republican aspects, I guess, of self-reliance, self-independence. Don't wait for the state to pick up your problems and solve them for you. Yet, I'm still very much appreciative of what the Democratic Party has done for the so-called 'little man.' And when you see the way some of the Republicans do, like the big end of the death tax and all this stuff, they're definitely helping big guys and not helping the little guys. (pause) I've become more moderate, I think, a whole lot more thoughtful and more interested in really in seeing all sides of an issue. I've learned that for every one solution you put forth, you may be creating other problems to follow. (laughs) TUTTLE: Well, I believe that's it. Or, otherwise we would go on to a big long, marathon session. [Tape 2, side 1 ends.] [End of interview.] Nett (House 1970-1990, 35th district; Democrat) talks about his decision to run for office, working for Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign, social life in Frankfort in 1970, legislative independence, the difference in legislators' term lengths when he entered and left the legislature, the 1970 freshman class of legislators and their resistance to gubernatorial control, the evolution of the role of lobbyists, his opposition to the Toyota plant and the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), and his campaign philosophy. Nett describes the race that ended his service in the legislature, his run for Mayor of Louisville and the rise of the Republican Party in Kentucky. Nett devotes considerable time discussing his views about Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson. insert here