Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Berry, Jr., October 27, 1988

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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BREAUX: Let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to be with us today and to share some of your experiences in the legislature in Frankfort. Let me ask you just for a brief account of your career in the legislature. For example, when were you first elected, the years you served, what leadership positions you may have held and so forth.

BERRY: I was elected in the Democratic primary in 1973 from the 26th Senatorial District, and was sworn in in January of 1974, and actually never held any position in the 00:01:00General Assembly until the special session of 1979, and I'll explain that to you in a little while.


BERRY: And at that point, I was elected Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, and then in 1980, I was elected majority leader, majority floor leader.

BREAUX: Democratic governors, let's talk about leadership for a minute, Democratic governors in this state, before 1980 in particular, governors like Wendell Ford, Julian Carroll, worked closely with the legislature in picking the leaders. I guess we could almost say that they handpicked people they wanted to see in various leadership positions. But when you came into the leadership in 1980 that was under Governor 00:02:00Brown, right?

BERRY: That's correct.

BREAUX: And what type of leadership selection process was there under Governor Brown? Did he take a more hands-off approach?

BERRY: I think Governor Brown had advice from a number of prior governors that he should select the leadership the same as they had done it. And he told me that he was advised by a number of them that he should do whatever was necessary to keep me from being selected majority floor leader. And Governor Brown was elected in 1979 in the Democratic primary. And after that, he had some of his people do a head count in the 00:03:00Senate to determine what the possibility was of controlling that selection process. And he found that I had a sufficient number of commitments to get elected from people who could not be swayed, people who could not be changed. And at that time, he took a hands-off position and adopted the position of encouraging legislative independence, in contrast to the way previous governors had done it. But the notion that Governor Brown came into office as a governor who was not only committed verbally to legislative 00:04:00independence, as a number of them had been in the past, but also committed philosophically to it, and therefore the reason that the legislature became inde--, or came to act independently, is not correct. That is, that's something that has been taught in the media, it's something that Governor Brown himself said. And I'm not saying that he deliberately misrepresented that, but I do know that he took the headcount first, and this process was already in place before he was ever elected in the primary.

BREAUX: So in your opinion then, there was a general orientation or a general 00:05:00mood of reform within the legislature that would have carried itself out, regardless of the position of whoever was elected governor.

BERRY: The legisla--, the Senate, not the legislature, the Senate in the special session in 1979 under Governor Carroll had already taken the first positive, clearly or definitive step, and had acted. It was already a fact. It was already done before Governor Brown was elected or was involved in his campaign, in fact. He didn't come into, he 00:06:00didn't begin to campaign until February of 1979, and it was already a fact before that.

BREAUX: What type of actions, specifically, are you referring to that the Senate undertook?

BERRY: When the, when Governor Carroll left the state in late 1978, Lieutenant Governor Thelma Stovall called a special session that she denominated a tax-cutting session, in his absence. And that was done as a political move by her, on the advice of some of her close friends in Frankfort, to set the stage for her run for governor. And at that point she asked me if I would take the lead for her, in the Senate, to see that this 00:07:00move that she had made was successful. And the "Black Sheep," the "Black Sheep Squadron" in the Senate, agreed to do that. And the session couldn't be called because of weather in December of `78, so it was postponed until January of 1979. And the "Black Sheep" came up with the idea that if the session was to succeed on the question of appropriations and revenue, that the jurisdiction for that subject had to be taken away 00:08:00from the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which was stacked by Governor Carroll, as all of the committees were, to do what he wanted. And so to accomplish that, it was decided that we needed to convene the Senate into a Committee of the Whole, which is authorized by the constitution, never had been done before I don't think, and as the Committee of the Whole, to assume jurisdiction of all appropriations and revenue matters. And so on the first day of the session, of that special session, we had been able to align twenty-three votes out of thirty-eight for the Committee of the Whole and for the 00:09:00election of me as the chairman. I had never been permitted to have a chairmanship prior to that. I probably was the only Democrat who ever served in the Senate for that long without being a chairman of a committee, but I never would agree to do what the governor insisted that a chairman do. And as a result, they wouldn't permit me to be a chairman. And so that was my first official position in the Senate, was the chairman of the entire Senate in sitting as a Committee of the Whole. And we effectively took control of that session away from the governor by taking the jurisdiction for all of the items on 00:10:00the agenda for that session away from his committee. His committee at that time was chaired by Senator Stamper, I can't think of his-Woodrow Stamper. And the committee was set up so that a majority of its members and its chairman, when called upon by the governor, would respond. That's the way they were all set up. And we took jurisdiction of the subject of the session, and in effect, took the ball out of his court. And I understood later, in a conference between him and his leadership, those were the words that he used, "How do we get the ball back in our court?" But they never were able to do 00:11:00it. And after that session was over, or toward the end of that session, I solicited and, solicited votes, and obtained sixteen firm Democratic commitments for majority leader. I had those by the end of that special session. And by the time the selection of leadership rolled around the next fall at Kentucky Dam Village, I still had the same sixteen. Nobody had ever been able to take a vote away from me. And that's, that's the way it happened.

BREAUX: You referred to something a few minutes ago I'd like to sort of follow up on, and that's this idea of a "Black Sheep Squadron." When I was looking back at 00:12:00newspaper accounts of legislative procedures and things happening during this period, I kept running across that term. And I was wondering if you could just explain how the "Black Sheep Squadron" came about, and specifically, you know, what was the "Black Sheep Squadron?" Was it just a group of legislators that were in opposition to Julian Carroll?

BERRY: No, no. No, they weren't opponents of any particular governor. They were people who felt that the legislature had a specific role that it was constitutionally designed to play in the system, and who felt that it was not playing that role, because it acted as nothing more than the constitutional stamp for the governor. A governor could 00:13:00not enact law, the legislature had to do it. But the governor was telling the legislature exactly what to do. And so in 1974, Senators John Lackey, Nelson Allen, Tom Easterly, Tom Ward, and I, I believe that's five, decided that we would oppose that practice. Not that we would oppose Wendell Ford, but that we would oppose that practice. And we stuck together throughout that session on all issues that we felt went to that basic issue. 00:14:00Now, that we didn't always vote the same, but we refused to be a part of the governor's team. And that's the way they defined it: "you must be a team player, and the governor can do things for you, and you can do things for him." And really, because of the way our constitution is written, he has the whip hand, and nobody ever comes here and opposes the governor and succeeds. Your political future will be ruined if you don't go along, and a favorite term was "you go along to get along," or favorite expression. And 00:15:00you won't be respected by your colleagues, you won't be reelected, you won't be able to do anything for your constituents, and so you should get on the team. And we refused to get on the team. Then in, following the 1974 session, or in 1975, we decided that after the Democratic primary, or after the primaries were over, that before anybody could get to the new members, that we should go to them and tell them what we stood for, and what we were trying to do, and in effect tell them that they had a choice. And so elected at that time were Lowell Hughes, Joe Wright, and Rick Weisenberger. There was one 00:16:00other freshman senator, a Democratic senator, who wouldn't go along with us, but, and he didn't, he got defeated the next time he ran. At that time, Lowell Hughes was a very close friend of Terry McBrayer, a very close friend of Julian's. And I talked to Lowell shortly after he was nominated and he told me that he was a friend of theirs, and that he wanted everybody to know that up front, and he was going to keep an open mind, but that's as far as he would go. We then had a gathering at Senator Tom Ward's home and had Rick Weisenberger and Joe Wright, and they decided, at that point, to opt for an 00:17:00independent legislature. Shortly after the session began in 1976, I was talking with Lowell Hughes one day, and Lowell had been there long enough to observe what was going on, how the leadership had been selected, how the committees were set up, how a bill got out of committee and why. And he came to me one day and he said, "It's time to do something about this, and so I want to get together with you." So that made three additions, in effect making eight in the "Black Sheep Squadron." Now, it hadn't been called the "Black Sheep Squadron" at that point. And there were eight Republicans, I believe, either eight or nine. And so the "Black Sheep," or that group, combined with the 00:18:00Republicans at that point, posed the potential of being a roadblock to legislation, because all it, all that we needed were two or three defecting Democrats in order to control the vote on an issue. However, we didn't really win any big battles that time. There weren't enough of us. The only thing that we accomplished in that session that worked toward this ultimate independence of the legislature were some changes in the rules. And we did that on a threatened walkout of the Democratic caucus. And we weakened the Rules 00:19:00Committee so that it could not hold a bill until it just died, and so that it could not refer a bill back to the same committee that it had come from. And in effect, what we did by that was to weaken the governor's control over the movement of legislation. And then in 1977, Ed Ford, Ed O'Daniel, there was one other-at any rate, there were some new Democratic senators, freshmen. And the group that had gotten together hosted a meeting 00:20:00for them shortly after the primary. We once again went through the process of explaining that there was a choice, and there were two ways to do it, and how it had always been done, and why it had been done that way. And we were able to bring enough new people on board that, on a given issue, when coupled with the vote, with the Republican vote, we actually had a majority at times. And so we won several floor battles during the 1978 session and were very close to the point of accomplishing this end result of having the Senate, at least, operate independently of the governor. And I think it was during that 00:21:00session that Sy Ramsey of the Associated Press named us the "Black Sheep Squadron."

BREAUX: The Republican senators who joined-

BERRY: I might want to, let me add something there.


BERRY: Bill Sullivan and Ken Gibson had come on board during this period of time. Bill Sullivan had been the president pro tem of the Senate under Wendell Ford. He was defeated by Joe Prather when Julian Carroll became governor, after his election. And Ken Gibson became a close friend of mine and others, and simply philosophically was sympathetic with us. So in addition to those people that we added from the freshman 00:22:00class in 1978, we also had Bill Sullivan and Ken Gibson. And we also had an older, a senior senator in Gus Sheehan. And when you put all of those votes together, even though we had lost John Lackey in the meantime, and we'd lost Tom Ward in the meantime, we had picked up far more than we had lost, and we became a formidable group. The "Black Sheep" were made up of liberals and conservatives, rural and urban senators. About every political philosophy and political leaning that exists in Kentucky 00:23:00was represented among the members of the "Black Sheep." And it was not a movement to elect somebody governor. Most of the coalitions that had sprung up in the past had been for some political purpose. It was a very unusual political coalition because it had no particular political objective in common, it had no philosophical position that predominated. It was a group of people who were bound together simply on a matter of principle, who were determined that-to change a situation that had been abused by 00:24:00governors and by the people who contributed to gubernatorial campaigns for almost a century. We simply saw that as an abuse of power, an abuse of the political or legislative process, and we were committed to change that.

BREAUX: As far as the Republican members who joined the "Black Sheep"-

BERRY: They never joined the "Black Sheep" because they weren't invited to join the "Black Sheep." They were Republicans.

BREAUX: Okay. I may have been mistaken then, because I thought you said there were a few-

BERRY: Well, they voted-

BREAUX: Republican senators who-

BERRY: they voted with us, but they voted with us not because they were committed to the same principles that we were.

BREAUX: That's what I was trying to-

BERRY: They voted with us because they voted against any Democratic governor. Now, we weren't voting against a particular governor. Legislative independence does not 00:25:00mean that you whip the governor every time you can get the votes to do it. There were a lot of people who, after the bandwagon began to move, jumped on board and perceived legislative independence to mean nothing more than the ability to whoop up on the governor, and that's not true. We supported the governor, strongly supported the governor every time we thought he was right. But we insisted that he stay in his place. And I always defined legislative independence as when the will of the legislative branch and the will of the executive branch come into conflict over a matter of policy, this is policy now, the will of the legislature should prevail, and it had never done that before. 00:26:00The will of the governor had always prevailed on matters of policy, which were the exclusive prerogative of the General Assembly. And that's all legislative independence is. It's not the ability to beat the governor anytime you don't like the governor. And my sense of the Republicans, although there were some fine people and some very qualified people and some very bright people in that caucus, I think their principal motivation was to advance the Republican Party by using the "Black Sheep" to embarrass a Democratic governor. That's the difference. But we used them just as well. It was a mutual use.

BREAUX: Why do you think that effort toward independence took shape and 00:27:00came together in the Senate and didn't materialize in the House? Wasn't there sort of a general mood of reform in the House as well? It just didn't take shape or-

BERRY: You had always had renegades. You had always had people who were considered to be-how did they classify them, "mavericks," people who came to the General Assembly very idealistic, who got there and were shocked at what they found and who began to speak out about it. And those people generally went one of two directions. They either quit out of frustration, and I can name people who did that, or 00:28:00they ultimately were brought into the governor's fold by the use of the budget. They were quieted in one way or another. The "Black Sheep" probably were able to define the proper role of the legislature better than it had been before, but I think the thing that distinguished the "Black Sheep" was courage. The "Black Sheep" refused to believe, first, that the legislature could not operate independently. That was a myth that had been passed down throughout almost a century, that it was impossible for that legislature to act 00:29:00intelligently and effectively out from under the governor's thumb. We refused to believe that. And secondly, we refused to believe that the governor could carry out those threats of seeing to it that you were never reelected, that you were not respected by your colleagues, that you were not effective, that your constituents would be punished because of you. We refused to believe that because in the first place, we knew that back home, people liked what we were doing. And we also knew that the governor had many, many strong loyal supporters in our district who sure were, would not be punished because we went up there and did something. So I think we had a, maybe a better practical 00:30:00understanding of what opposing the governor would cause, would do to us in our district, but we also had the courage to simply say, "This is the way it's going to be with us." There were members of the "Black Sheep Squadron" who were taken to the so-called "top of the mountain" at Kentucky Dam Village, and, as I was, and in effect told that their political careers were over if they joined up with that bunch of renegades and mavericks, they could mark it down, they were through in politics. Well, these people were just elected, they thought, they had all of those dreams and illusions that newly 00:31:00elected politicians have. And to all of a sudden be told by this very powerful man that you're through, buddy, and I'm going to take everything out of the budget that helps your district, and I'm going to see to it that you're not reelected, it was a terribly frightening thing. And I've seen them come back to the cabins as white as that piece of paper, tears in their eyes, choked up till they couldn't talk, and yet they stood committed. And that happened time and again through the building of this coalition. So I think the thing that distinguished the "Black Sheep" more than anything else was courage. And when they talk about why there's legis--, why the legislature is acting independently-of course, we didn't create legislative independence, that's a concept that's as old as the 00:32:00constitution, and older than ours. That's as old as the democratic process. But when you talk about how that came about, that didn't come about because there were more employees of the LRC. You could have had a thousand employees of the LRC, and bless their hearts, they do a great job, but that didn't make the legislature become independent. What made the legislature become independent-and it wasn't the governor like John Y. Brown and it wasn't the leaders over in the House who ultimately took credit for it because they had gotten appropriations for more space for the LRC. It came about on the day that more than twenty members of the General Assembly said, of the Senate, said, "We are." Just that simple. When twenty members of the Kentucky State Senate had the 00:33:00courage to stand up to the governor and say, "We are an independent branch of government, we will make the policy decisions. We invite your input, but we will be the final deciders of all matters of policy." When that occurred, the legislature functioned as an independent branch of government. And it was just that simple. It's no more or no less than that. I know what all the commentators say, and the observers say, and the folks on the other side say about how it came about, how Julian Carroll had helped and Wendell Ford had helped and Bobby Richardson had helped and Bill Kenton had helped. Legislative independence never had stronger opposition than in Wendell Ford. And I love 00:34:00him. I support him. But Wendell Ford, Julian Carroll, Bill Kenton, and Bobby Richardson were enemies of legislative independence. Year after year they saw to it that the legislature and the leadership and the committees were set up so that the governor could absolutely dominate every move of the General Assembly. Bobby Richardson and Bill Kenton delivered the General Assembly to Julian Carroll in return for his support for them for leadership, and that's the way it had been done for years. Julian Carroll gave a lot of lip service to legislative independence. But when it came down to his being the governor, he was probably the most dominating governor that had ever served when it came to the General Assembly. He wanted absolute control of everything that went 00:35:00through that General Assembly, even more than Wendell Ford. Wendell Ford took the position that if it's a significant thing that I want, then I want to have the ability to pass it. If it's something significant that I don't want, I want to have the ability to stop it. Julian Carroll wanted the say-so of every single piece of legislation that came through, and Bobby Richardson and Bill Kenton and Terry McBrayer saw to it that he had that in the House. Now, that's the truth. Legislative independence happened in the Senate when one day twenty-three votes said, "We are the Committee of the Whole, the governor's handpicked Appropriations and Revenue Committee will not decide what we consider on 00:36:00the floor of this Senate and what we don't. We are going to take that responsibility away from them, and away, and the control of it away from the governor, and we're going to make those decisions." And that happened in the special session in 1979.

BREAUX: Let me just follow up with one more, I guess, question about this idea of legislative independence. We talked about Julian Carroll, when he was in the legislature and when he was lieutenant governor, making some efforts in terms of the LRC, in terms of establishing the interim committee system and so forth, as working toward legislative independence. Yet when he became governor, we've just discussed how that became a 00:37:00contradiction almost. Do you think it's because when he was lieutenant governor he was simply on one side of the fence, and when he became governor he jumped to the other? Or did he not realize what legislative independence really meant in terms of the legislative process?

BERRY: I think it's a combination of those things. I don't think, and I haven't discussed this with Julian and so I don't want to presume to know what was on his mind, but there's a reason that the legislature makes policy. We believe in this country that if people act collectively, they will act in the best interest of the whole, and through a 00:38:00collective process of all the people, that there will be developed a consensus that will achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. Now, to expedite that, we elect the legislature, and so the legislature acts collectively then. And it's believed that, collectively, we will tend to act less in our own self-interest. Collectively, we will act more morally. And so the legislature becomes the collective conscience, or the collective morality, and no one person can formulate the consensus of the people. A governor is one person, he has one background, he has one professional occupation, he has one religion, 00:39:00he went to one school, he has one family, he came from one area of the state, and so he cannot be the consensus of anything. And yet he is the one that set the policy of this state under the 1891 Constitution, from that point until 1979. Now, it's important to a democratic system that things work like they're supposed to. You can't leave that element out and have it work or have it be worth anything. Now, I don't believe that Julian Carroll ever thought about legislative independence in those terms. I don't believe that anybody else ever thought about legislative independence, except in terms of, "I 00:40:00have a right as an elected representative or senator to have a voice in this. And when you bring a bill to the floor and you already have fifty-one votes in the House and twenty votes in the Senate to pass it, then my voice doesn't count. Or when you refuse, because you control the committees, to let a measure come to the floor so that I have-can speak to it, then my voice doesn't count." And I think that's as far as they ever got. Now, that's my opinion. I don't know what's in their heads.

BREAUX: Let's change the topic, I guess, for a minute, and talk again about Governor Brown and your leadership position in 1980 as floor leader. How did you view 00:41:00that role? What did you view as your job, being floor leader under the Brown administration?

BERRY: Well, first, the, I think the most significant change that we made was to, was to say that it's not the decision of leadership that determines what happens in the Senate.

BREAUX: Excuse me. I'm going to have to change tapes.

BERRY: Well, you want a cup of coffee?

[End of Tape #1, Side #1] [Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

BREAUX: Okay, we were talking about your role as floor leader, and we were coming up on how you would describe your responsibilities.

BERRY: As I said, the first thing that we did was say that the Democratic caucus 00:42:00was really the body that would determine what the Democratic position would be on issues. It would not be the governor, and it would not be the leadership, it would be the caucus. And so whereas in the past, the governor would send his legislation to the majority floor leader, the majority floor leader then would see to it that that legislation was sent to the committees where they had the votes to do with it as the governor wanted, and then see to it that it got to the floor and got passed. I took that legislation, and I first examined it in terms of whether I could support it or I couldn't. And if it was 00:43:00significant legislation, whether I could support it or whether I couldn't, I took it to the caucus. And I said to the caucus, "Here's what the legislation is. Let's debate it in here and decide whether this will be administration legislation, Democratic Party legislation." If we decided not to do it, I said to the governor, "You'll have to find a sponsor. I won't sponsor it." And I probably only sponsored about maybe 50 percent or less of the legislation that the governor sent to be introduced. So initially, the caucus would make 00:44:00the decision about whether a particular piece of legislature was going to be labeled as the, as a program of the Democratic Party. So I think that was a significant change, and that had never occurred before. The only thing the caucus had ever done in the past was get together and agree that they wouldn't expose the governor, they wouldn't debate the issue, that they might get a motion passed for the previous question so that there would be no debate, and to be sure that everybody was going to stick together so that we wouldn't be embarrassing the sponsor. That's the only thing the caucus had ever done in the past. We decided, as a caucus, what was going to be the policy or the program of the 00:45:00Democratic Party. I also had a commitment to myself and to the members, that it didn't matter whether they were Republican or Democrat, it didn't matter whether I was for the legislation or against it, if it had a significant public interest, that it would come to the floor, that we would not hide things in committee, we would not hide from the public, that there would be public debate, and everybody in the Senate would have an opportunity to say on the Senate floor what their position was on these significant issues, and we did that. We never hid anything in committee. We debated a lot of these issues 00:46:00on-I saw to it that the Rules Committee was never used to kill a bill. And when bills would come from committee to rules, Rules Committee would meet, and if there was no problem in the drafting or no appropriation problem, I put those bills on the orders of the day. Now, a lot of them I opposed, but then when I would get to the floor, I would move in motions, petitions and communications, to take those bills off of the orders that I had put on and send them back to a committee. And we would debate the merits of that bill on that motion. But it was done in public, it was done for the press, it was done for the folks back home, it wasn't hidden from anybody. And that's the first session that I ever 00:47:00served in when I never heard anybody take the floor and condemn the leadership or condemn the system or the process. And it's the first session I ever served when there was never the mention of the word "turkey."

BREAUX: How would you, (clears throat) excuse me, how would you characterize Governor Brown's leadership style in terms of working with the legislature? Again, I think the general perception is that he had sort of a hands-off approach. But what type of contact did you have with Governor Brown? And, you know, in your opinion, was he involved in trying to get his programs adopted?

BERRY: Very much involved. It was a hands-off approach in the sense that it 00:48:00wasn't like it had been in the past. He didn't undertake to meddle in the legislature's business. If it was something that he thought was bad for Kentucky, he would call in the legislative leaders, and he would use his powers of persuasion, just pure reason and logic, or he would say, "This is what they tell me over in the Cabinet of Human Resources will be the effect of this legislation." And he would seek the input of people who knew the subject. And if it was something he was for, he would use those same powers of persuasion. For instance, he had two commitments that he made during his campaign. 00:49:00One was to the teachers on collective bargaining, or PN, they call it, and another was to the firefighters. And when it came time-and he and I had discussed that, even before he was elected in the general election. He said, "You're, you obviously have the votes, you're going to be the majority leader. What kind of an understanding can we have?" He said, "I don't want to fight with you." And he said, "They tell me that all you're going to do is to interfere with what I want to do." I said, "No, that's not the case. Nobody's justified in saying that." I said, "There will be times when I can't support your legislation, but I will not use my power as majority leader to keep it from coming to the floor. You take your best hold, and I'm going to take mine when we're opposed to each other. And 00:50:00if I can beat you, I'm going to do it. If you can beat me, do it. But I want you to commit to me in return that you won't use the budget to buy votes the way they've always done in the past. You use your powers of persuasion, and I'll use mine, and we'll deal fairly with each other." And he beat me on the firefighters, I beat him on PN, but he never went back on his commitment. He served as governor in the executive branch as a governor should serve. He was an administrator who took public positions on issues, but he didn't undertake to dictate to the General Assembly and use all of these, I don't want to say 00:51:00illegal, the, all of these underhanded ways of buying legislative votes, either by threatening a legislator with opposition in his next election or threatening to take the funds away from his library or offering him a road: "If you will be my man on appropriations and revenue, I will give you this road that you want, whether it's needed or not." And that's the way they had done it for years. John Y. Brown did not do that. He kept his end of the deal, and I kept mine. He got 95 percent of what he really wanted, going that route, and he did it in a totally ethical way.

BREAUX: If it's not too personal, I was wondering if you could comment on why 00:52:00you decided to not seek reelection after you had been floor leader?

BERRY: Well, the legislature extracts a pretty high price. I had five children. Several at that time were teenagers. And that's a fulltime job. I had two law offices and a farm and some business interests, and a ten-county district, and the job of majority floor leader. And obviously, there were some things that had to be sacrificed in order to do that. And I just felt like it was-this is one reason, I felt like that I ought to get back 00:53:00home and get my law practice back together, which had all but vanished because of my absence, and support my family, and also be there to raise my children and tend to my farm and tend to my business. And in addition to that, we had accomplished-I made a commitment when I ran in 1973 to work to make the legislature independent of the executive branch, and I committed to my people that there would never be a governor who would tell me what to do. And if I had anything to do with it, there would never be another governor who would tell the legislature what to do. And I kept that commitment, fulfilled it. So that, added to the fact that I was overtaxed and doing so many things 00:54:00halfway in order to do all this, led me to the conclusion that I ought to quit. I'd been there for two terms. I had, I also was accused, all through this whole process, of doing all this for my own political expedience and advancement. And it was a great satisfaction to walk away from it and say to those people who had accused me of that, "You're wrong. I didn't do it for myself."

BREAUX: Do you think that legislative independence, as we've talked about it, has 00:55:00become sort of cemented into place in Frankfort? Or do you think that there's a risk of the process sort of going back to the good old days where you have a strong governor who can just impose his or her will on the legislature?

BERRY: Well, I think those who think that the legislature, having begun to function independently, will always do so, are suffering from an illusion. I think that's a myth. Legislative indepe--, an independent legislature depends upon having a majority of the 00:56:00members of both houses in any given session who are willing to say, "We are independent. We are not going to be bought with the budget, and we are not going to be intimidated by the power of the executive." And anytime you don't have that, you can have the same situation. It's just, it would be a little harder now because the legislature has now demonstrated that it can function independently, so that myth is not there anymore. And also, legislators like the "Black Sheep" served in opposition to the governor as the dominating force for years, and none were ever defeated, so that myth is 00:57:00gone. So I think it would be harder now for the governor to intimidate or persuade the General Assembly to go along. But to say that a governor who was adept at dealing with people, adept at getting along with people and in the use of the budget, could never take control of that General Assembly again, anybody that believes that is about ready to get whipped, you know, because it's possible, very possible.

BREAUX: To what extent do you think that some of the, I guess, deadlocks or stalemates that we see going on currently in Frankfort is due to the trends that we talked 00:58:00about in terms of independence? I mean we have virtual stalemates on issues like taxes and what to do about education in the state. There seems to be some basic conflicts there between the executive branch and the legislative branch. In your opinion, did those come about primarily because the legislature decided to exercise independence and the governor wasn't willing to let them do so?

BERRY: No, I think the present stalemate is the result of the fact that the present governor doesn't understand what his role is and doesn't understand what the legislature's role is, and refuses to allow the legislature to do what it's supposed to do. He 00:59:00wants to dictate policy, but he's dealing now with a legislature that is saying, properly, "We determine policy." Now, he hasn't undertaken to advise with them, and to have input, and to persuade. He's undertaken to dictate and say, "It's either going to be my way or not at all." Well, this legislature is saying to him, "No, Governor, that's not the way it's going to be. We're going to make the decisions. We'll listen to you if you want to talk, but we're going to be the ultimate decider of policy." And he won't accept that. Now, the legislature, in my judgment, has fallen down on the job, because if they're going to decide policy, they ought to go on and do it. They ought not permit a stalemate 01:00:00over policy because it's their responsibility. If they think taxes ought to be increased, to increase them, and not to sit back and say, "Well, we're not going to do that because the governor will criticize us, and it'll hurt us politically." And that's what they're doing. So I think it's the fault of both of them.

BREAUX: So maybe a question of exercising their independence, but not carrying it out to its normal ends.

BERRY: Well, it's a little, it's a little bit more critical than that. It's exercising legislative independence when you can do it comfortably, and when you can do it in a way that is politically safe, but not biting the bullet and doing it if there are risks 01:01:00involved, and if you're afraid that the governor is going to go out and criticize you. That's what's wrong. The governor's wrong in threatening the legislators, he's wrong in not talking with them, he's wrong in not recognizing that it's their prerogative and not his. They're wrong in not taking the bull by the horns and getting on the floor and saying what the, telling the people what the governor's doing, and justifying through leadership their position, and making policy decisions that need to be made.

BREAUX: You just, I guess, brought up one of the last points I was hoping to talk about today, and that's this idea that legislators are concerned, to a great extent, about 01:02:00taking risks, especially when it comes to their electoral safety. There seems to be more and more legislators, not only in Kentucky but in other states as well, tending to make careers out of serving in the legislature. The legislator who gets elected for one or two terms and then returns home to his previous occupation seems to be less and less. You tend to see more and more full-time, professional legislators. Do you think that trend is a good sign? Is it good to have that legislature that's made up of careerists? Or should we be looking at more of a citizen-based type legislature?


BERRY: Well, the first thing, and I've heard David Thomason, for instance, from down in western Kentucky advocate that legislators ought not be permitted to serve for more than one or two terms, that we needed more citizen involvement. And that seems to be what you're asking, and I think that's a bad mistake. There must be continuity in the policy-making process. And new legislators are relatively worthless because they don't know what's going on. They think they know, they think everything's black and white, just like I did. They think there's only one side to every issue, and that everything they 01:04:00believe is the way it ought to be. And they go to Frankfort and then they begin to hear the other side. And they really don't know enough about the other side or about government itself to have sound positions on a lot of issues. Now, there are a lot of moral issues that, you know, that they're on one, that are either black or white, but most of the issues that come before the General Assembly have valid arguments on both sides, depending on where you come from and what kind of a constituency you represent, and whether you're a professional or a laborer or are engaged in some kind of business or occupation. And until you hear those viewpoints, and until you hear what is involved in 01:05:00implementing a particular program in terms of cost and cost/benefit, you really aren't able to make sound judgments. And so if you put a bunch of freshmen up there to try to deal with all of the issues that are confronted by legislators anymore, I think it would be disastrous. I think you need experience. Now, if you've got people who are serving who are doing nothing more than sending out a questionnaire and then voting however the majority of your people say you ought to vote, then you've got the same situation. All 01:06:00you've got is a freshman up there who's-and you could just hire somebody to send out a poll. And it's the same in Washington. We've got members of our Congressional delegation from Kentucky who do nothing more than reflect the opinion polls. They provide no leadership. Now, if they're people who are making a career out of it, and who are willing to accomplish that by just doing always the popular thing and never taking a position of leadership, that's bad. That's bad. But at the same time, the only way you could stop that would be to cut off the opportunity to have experience. And there are people, many, many people up there, who have been there a long time because they do a good job, they provide leadership, they stick their neck out when they think they're right, 01:07:00but their constituents, for the most part, appreciate that. And I think they're necessary.

BREAUX: Yeah. Again, the only reason I was bringing that issue up was because of this, I guess we'd call it, sort of stalemate we see today, with the legislature not being willing to take charge and show any real leadership, that maybe, you know, a lot of that is due to them being scared of taking that risk electorally. Like, for example, the tax issue. You know, what would showing leadership on something like taxation mean for them when they run for reelection? So again, I was, you know, interested in just finding out your opinion on whether or not you think, you know, that's become sort of an 01:08:00overwhelming type of consideration for legislators, that drive for reelection and not getting elected and showing leadership.

BERRY: I don't think it's any more now than it ever was.


BERRY: You're not going to take the human element out of our system. And our system is not perfect. It's a system where people, human beings, do the governing. And so there are errors built into it. We know, going in, that our system is imperfect, that there are going to be people in there who have wrong motives and who cast votes for wrong reasons. We know that there are going to be some incompetents in there. We just believe that over the long haul, the majority will do the right thing the majority of the time. And 01:09:00that means that those-human factor has always been there. Errors are built into the system, so you can't devise a system that accomplishes the ends that, the ultimate ends that we want in this country, and at the same time, design it in such a way that you're only going to have people in there who are willing to run one term and get beat and go back home, as a matter of principle. That just isn't going to happen when you're dealing with human beings, so it can't happen in America.

BREAUX: Well, I think we've talked about a lot of different topics today, about some of your experiences in the legislature, and some of the ideas on independence that I 01:10:00think is a key issue to talk about. Is there any other topic or issue concerning legislative independence or anything that you would like to mention before concluding?

BERRY: I think we've pretty well covered it. I would like to say that the system does work. I think since 1980, people are far more satisfied, and there's less cynicism about the legislature than there was before that. I think the legislature has been able, in, for the most part, to measure up to its responsibility. And I think the people have a sense of having their property and their rights in better hands than when a governor was using 01:11:00their tax money to pay off contributors indirectly. So I think it's worked. It's not perfect. You can look at it right now and see that it's not perfect, but it's better than it was.

BREAUX: Okay. Again, let me thank you for taking the time to talk with us today and share some of your experiences.

BERRY: You're entirely welcome.

[End of Interview] 1