Casino measure falls seven votes short in Senate; Beshear blames Williams for 'sabotage'

02/23/2012 02:52 PM

(UPDATED WITH VIDEO) The state Senate rejected the measure that would have allowed casinos in Kentucky by a 16-21 vote — seven away from the total needed for a constitutional amendment to pass the upper chamber.

Within minutes of the vote, Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement expressing his disappointment that some senators “who had publicly said they would support letting the people decide did not follow through on their commitment to our citizens.”

Beshear also blamed Republican Senate President David Williams for pressing forward with the vote when one Democratic senator, Gerald Neal, was absent. However, Williams had said he would let the bill come back up on Friday if it came within one vote of passing.

In the end, it wasn’t nearly that close.

Voting yes: Republican Sens. Tom Buford, Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Jimmy Higdon, John Schickel and Damon Thayer.
Democratic Sens. Walter Blevins, Perry Clark, Denise Harper Angel, R.J. Palmer, Dennis Parrett, Joey Pendleton, Jerry Rhoads, Dorsey Ridley, Tim Shaughnessy and Kathy Stein.

Voting no: Republican Sens. Joe Bowen, Jared Carpenter, Julie Denton, David Givens, Paul Hornback, Tom Jensen, Alice Forgy Kerr, Vernie McGaha, Dan Seum, Brandon Smith, Katie Stine, Robert Stivers, Jack Westwood, David Williams, Mike Wilson and Ken Winters.
Independent Sen. Bob Leeper
Democratic Sens. Julian Carroll, Ray Jones, Johnny Ray Turner and Robin Webb

“I am also disappointed that Sen. Williams chose to sabotage the chance for our citizens to decide by scheduling the vote for today, when he knew that a Senator who planned to vote ‘yes’ would not be in town,” Beshear said in a statement.

A statement from Williams’ office shot back that “from the beginning, the governor has had trouble counting votes in either the House or the Senate.”

“It is unfortunate that the governor continues to personally disparage the Senate president while Sen. Williams continues to hope that the governor will engage in a positive and productive manner,” the statement said.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, who worked with Beshear to push for the bill, told reporters after the vote that he won’t try again this session.

But the governor said the debate did offer a silver lining.

“For the very first time, we were able to get this issue considered by the state Senate, and I appreciate the bipartisan cooperation of Sen. Thayer and others, which allowed that to happen,” Beshear said. “This is a good omen for the future of expanded gaming in our state, and I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to address this issue.”

Before the debate, Thayer, sounding as if he knew defeat was on the way, told his colleagues that he had wanted to have the bill passed over but realized after a one-hour Senate Republican caucus meeting that it didn’t have the votes.

Thayer and other supporters of the measure argued on the floor that most Kentuckians want to vote on the issue. Voters get the chance to ratify a constitutional amendment if it is approved by three-fifths of each legislative chamber.

But opponents, such as Bowling Green Republican Sen. Mike Wilson, rejected the argument of letting the people decide. They argued that the constitution requires legislators to “agree” to the wording of the amendment, which in this case would be agreeing to casinos.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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