Inside the General Assembly: It's not easy being a state Senate Democrat

04/06/2011 07:11 PM

As the state Senate returned to Frankfort Wednesday to officially end the special session, Senate Democrats tried in vain to stop the majority from taking symbolic votes on overriding Gov. Steve Beshear’s vetoes.

Efforts by Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington to use procedural votes were met with … well, yawns by the Republican majority. In fact, they simply changed the subject as Senate President David Williams announced a recess instead of hearing out Stein’s request.

Such is life in the political minority.

It was that kind of session for the 15 Senate Democrats, whose ranks were down from 17 after last November’s elections. Senate Republicans, with their 22 members plus independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah, had the numbers to easily pass most of whatever they wanted.

Meanwhile, Stein and Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, a Louisville Democrat, took on the roles of outspoken objectors, relying on fiery and sometimes inflammatory speeches and tactics.

Here’s a look back at what it was like for Senate Democrats to be in a shrunken political minority:

The question now is whether any of the more outspoken Senate Democrats find themselves vulnerable as legislative leaders redraw district lines based on the 2010 Census data.

In the past, former legislative leaders were known to move lines to punish incumbents that had annoyed the leaders for one reason or another, as former state representative and former congressman Mike Ward said last month on Pure Politics.

As for the special session, the Senate adjourned shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday after returning to Frankfort for the day to consider overriding vetoes the governor made on the Medicaid budget fix.

But the 19 votes Senators took to override the vetoes were only symbolic because the House already had adjourned two weeks ago. Majorities in both chambers are needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

- Kenny Colston

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