by Bruce Feustel
As a former state attorney general, Speaker Greg Stumbo of Kentucky has an unusual perspective of having moved from elected executive branch official to the legislature. "When I was the AG, everyone believed me, but as a legislator, nobody believes me." He was exaggerating for effect, but his point was that the public tends to give the benefit of the doubt to executive branch officials, but be highly skeptical of legislators.
In giving advice to his legislative colleagues about budgeting for the legislature in hard times at NCSL's Fall Forum in Tampa last week, Speaker Stumbo said that legislators need to stand up for their branch of government. "[Legislatures] have traditionally underfunded themselves because of the intense public scrutiny," he said. He believes that legislatures should take a fair share of cuts, but should also assert the need for funding the legislative branch.
He helps Kentucky legislators prepare to explain the case for legislative expenditures. He advises them to be clear and honest in making explanations and to use common sense reasoning to explain decisions. He sends out talking points for legislators for conversations with their constituents about the cost of the legislature. Speaker Stumbo urged legislators to take on the challenge of high public scrutiny for legislators, continue to fund the legislature at fair levels, and be prepared to tell constituents why the legislature needs to be strong.
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