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Jurors, elected officials are similar

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By The Staff

With the filing deadlines still seven months away, those running for office on both a state and local level must determine one thing - is it my goal to regulate morality?

And the electorate must decide whether it expects its leaders to provide the rules of morality to the masses.

It has often been said that one doesn’t talk politics or religion. Let’s try to do both.

While I don’t drink, go to the casino boat and seldom purchase a lottery ticket, that doesn’t mean my role is to stop people who do. And it doesn’t mean that I can tell others to stop when they do too much.

Being an elected official should be much like being selected to serve on a jury.

You should go into the process with no bias or preconceived notions about the guilt or innocence of a defendant or an issue.

Attorneys will ask members of the jury pool about their views on certain things. If they have a hint of bias with a particular issue, they are normally struck from the panel before being selected.

Elected officials need to be the same way. They should not run for office with an agenda in mind and they should be open to all viewpoints.

Their role, like the juror, should be to listen to the evidence and then make the best decision possible.

Sometimes, the legislative bodies, like the jury, will be hung up.

Unlike a criminal jury, the legislative bodies don’t have to be unanimous. A simple majority will do.

In reality, I know that whether you serve on a jury or on an elected board, each person will bring certain opinions to the table. That’s human nature.

The problem is that in politics, those opinions are not as well hidden as in the courtroom.

It is bad enough that officials have to take campaign contributions to win a seat in office. But that’s the way the game must be played.

Estimates are that to fill Gary Tapp’s seat in the state senate, candidates might be willing to spend over $200,000 for a job that pays much less.

Think of the money spent on the presidential elections and how much good those funds could have done for our schools, health services, the  horse industry or a hundred other worthy causes.

All governmental agencies are facing funding losses. Some situations are worse than others.

Government agencies, much like those in the public sector, are looking for ways to generate more revenue and cut expenses.

Could expanded gaming be a key?

The lottery, although it has been disappointing to many, does generate a lot of money for the general fund. It has also supplied valuable dollars for the KEES scholarship fund to all those who graduate and attend a Kentucky college.

The question before legislators over the past few weeks has been whether to expand the current gaming options in Kentucky. The main benefactor would be the horse tracks, where these video lottery terminals would be allowed.

Going into the courtroom, or the capital chambers in this case, few legislators could enter without some type of opinion.

Some were pressured by their own moral believes. Still others probably had a little political party pressure. And then were are the lobbyists. And how about the rallies outside the capitol?

There’s party leadership in the House and the Senate applying a little extra pressure.

Jockey Calvin Borel has also gotten a chance to use his fame to influence the legislators.

The officials have had no shortage of advice being offered.

Since the measure wasn’t  approved, the question is what happens next.

Getting the issue on the fall 2010 ballot would be the next opportunity. This would allow the public to vote and I believe the measure would have a good chance at passage.

Which leads me to another aside...aren’t legislators supposed to do what the majority of their constituents want?

It is much like the often attempted ordinance to allow liquor by the drink at Shepherdsville restaurants on Sunday.

The matter is not going to be approved without some major changes.

No one can bring hard facts - on either side of the coin - about the ills or advantages of Sunday sales hours. Nelson County has recently gone even farther allowing package beer to be sold on Sunday.

Once again, don’t drink so I doesn’t matter. Instead, councilmembers should be looking at whether the community supports the possibility and what proof if available to support either side of the argument.

We all have certain values and beliefs. This is what makes us who we are.

This is also why it would be almost impossible to find a  juror who is totally unbiased.

They all pledge their objectivity but that is not possible.

From the halls of Frankfort to the courtrooms in Bullitt County, it is difficult to set aside our feelings.

Getting issues like the expanded gaming and Sunday liquor sales in Shepherdsville, need to go on the ballot. Unfortunately, that is not always the easiest thing to do and it may not be allowable.

There are no easy answers.

That may be one reason you see less and less people want to run for political office.

Even with just about every race on the ballot next year, don’t look for a magisterial race to over a dozen candidates, which has happened in the past.

Don’t look for every race to be contested by Democrats and Republicans in the fall.

Don’t look for two dozen candidates want to do battle for six city council seats.

These are tough jobs. There isn’t a lot of glory in holding an elected office. Those who run do so for the proper reasons - to help their constituents.

But like a good juror, our elected officials must do their best to weigh all the facts, forget what particular side of the aisle they are sitting and make the best decision possible.