What a disappointing vote yesterday in the Kentucky Senate: citizens will not get to vote on whether Kentucky should expand gambling to aid the horse industry.
At least there was a vote; last go round, Senate President David Williams killed the bill in committee, in an alarming lack of transparency. Yet many are left with the nagging suspicion that this was a rigged vote -- timed to ensure defeat.
David Williams opposes gambling in Kentucky, although it is well known that he personally likes to gamble: gambling for me, not thee. He has no credibility on the issue and should have just let Sen. Damon Thayer handle the whole thing. Indeed, given Williams' resounding defeat in his bid for governor, he has little credibility on any issue. Why is he still Senate President? Are people still afraid of him after that disastrous election? Sure, he's a brilliant man, but wouldn't a less polarizing leader be more effective?
What is discouraging about the Senate vote is that it is anti-democratic. Ordinary Kentuckians deserved a chance to have their say on the issue. All senators, regardless of their personal position, therefore should have voted to put the issue on the ballot. A vote against the amendment is parternalistic; it says that voters cannot be trusted to make the right choice. The only way this issue can be put to rest is by allowing voters to address it directly.
There should be bipartisan support for our horse industry. As an out of state transplant, I can testify that bourbon and horses do more for Kentucky's image than anything else. That add an allure to the state and do much to counterbalance the notion that we all have meth mouth and run around barefoot. Moreover, the horse industry is a huge employer, offering jobs for a wide range of skill levels, It is a tourism magnet. It is a counter-weight to the dreaded Urban Sprawl. It is a green industry. Really, there are any number of constituencies, otherwise odd bed-fellows, that should be banding together to save it.
The reality is that other states, like New York, are gunning for our horse industry -- successfully. Those who oppose gambling need to identify an alternative to prevent the horse industry from becoming a vestige of Kentucky's past.