BOHL: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former StateRepresentative William I. "Bill" Donnermeyer who represented Campbell County and parts of Bracken and Pendleton counties in the Sixth-Eighth District from 1970 to 1994. The interview was conducted by Christy Bohl for the University of Kentucky Library, Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project on Tuesday, July 25, 2006, in the home of Bill Donnermeyer in Bellevue, Kentucky, at 10:30 AM.
[Pause in recording.]
BOHL: Okay, this morning I'm talking again with Bill Donnermeyer. Lastweek after I turned off the recorder, you were talking to me again a bit about Vic Hellard.
DONNERMEYER: Um-hm. Yes, Vic Hellard, I, I don't know if you, we didn'thave that on tape, I guess.
DONNERMEYER: Well, Vic was, uh, a legislator. And, and I think he00:01:00came from Versailles at the time. Well, I know he did. And he had actually, uh, lost his bid for reelection. And, uh, he had worked for, uh, uh, as an attorney for, uh, the, uh, uh, floor leader's office and the speaker's office in one or two of the sessions. And so naturally, he was back around. And he had had, I think, two terms, I'm not positive of that. But he had had the experience as a legislator. And, uh, we were having problems with the head of the Legislative Research Commission. Uh, we had some problems that had to do with, uh, oh, various things, but the LRC was, uh, looking for a new person. And, uh, I came walking out of my office one day, and here's Vic walking up the steps, and saying, "How are you doing?" Back and forth, and he said, uh, I said to him, "What are you doing?" He said, "Well I'm not doing much of anything right now. We're in-between." And I said, "Well, why you don't, uh, you see about, uh, they, they're looking for somebody for LRC. We need a new director." And his remark was, "Well, 00:02:00I don't know anybody there." I said, "Well, you know all of us. You know me; you know the, the speaker; you know the, uh, floor leader." "Why, I don't know anybody in the Senate." I said, "Well, I know the guy that's the, the, uh, president over there, Joe Prather. And, uh, at, at least you could put your name in and, and let them interview you, and see, see what they think." And that was the beginning of him becoming the, uh, uh, in charge of the LRC. And he'd done a wonderful job, cause his background was, was, was great for us, and he knew about legislators, and, and, uh, and he was very, uh, particular about the fact that, "Okay, I'm, I have to look out for all legislators, House and Senate, but I also have to look out for the people out there," and, and it really worked well. He did a tremendous job with the Legislative Research Commission. And I think what you have today is a, uh, is proof of that, that, you know, that his guidance and so forth. And then he retired, and course he passed away. But, uh, and his wife was very instrumental; she was a teacher and worked in libraries. 00:03:00I think she, I think she might've retired too, but she was very instrumental in having a background of things like that. So, that's just, uh, where he came in at. (both laugh)
BOHL: Okay, last time you talked a bit about, uh, the Northern KentuckyRegional Caucus.
BOHL: What do you remember about how that came to be?
DONNERMEYER: Well I, I remember that, uh, I was, I was in leadership.And being in leadership, you had a lot to say about where bills go and where they don't go and sometimes whether they pass or not. It's a lot of responsibility. And, and it would always end up that, uh, in talking to, uh, the senators and representatives from northern Kentucky, they'd say, "Well, you go see about that. You take care of it." And which I would because, uh, and it would be for both sides, House Democrats and Republicans. And it just got, I got to thinking about it and brought it up to them, you know, we ought to have a caucus, we ought to have, we ought to get together as a group as 00:04:00opposed to, uh, having a Campbell, Canton, and Boone by themselves. And at the time, Boone was very small; it wasn't as big as it is now. It's, it's, which is normal, it's transferred to be a larger place. But at that time, it was really Kenton was predominant and then Campbell was then and then Boone. And it was like a little bridge over the top, Campbell and Kenton--or Boone kinda went together, and Kenton was there, and we would have some little arguments back and forth, which was normal. But the, the thing would've been to get together and talk and try to work them out, and there were enough, uh, people in, in Kenton County that, yes, they felt the same way, and so we did decide to do that, and we set it up to where we would have, uh, a, a caucus, including all of our House and Senate people, and, uh, and the three counties, and call it the Northern Kentucky Caucus. And in, uh, uh, order to make it fair, I came up the idea that each session, uh, for each two years, we would have a person from, we would rotate, one 00:05:00from Campbell would be the chairman, and then the next time it'd be, uh, uh, Boone and then Kenton and back and forth. And we drew lots as to who would start off, and then we just did that, and it's been that way to this day. And we let that particular area decide who they want as chairman. Like, uh, Campbell County would get together and Say, ", "Well, if it's our turn, we want so and so to be, for whatever reason it'd be up to us." We'd vote on it. And, uh, that would still mean if Campbell wanted somebody and Boone and Kenton didn't, they could outvote them and they'd have to come up with another name. And it happened once or twice but very seldom. It happened once or twice where the person that, uh, uh, the county was putting up was not, uh, agreeable to all the rest of them. I, I guess because maybe they weren't as amiable to working with people. But for, for the most, it's worked out and you can very well see why to this day now all the rest of your areas have come up with the same type of thing, caucuses. Uh, some, and what we, what we've, uh, gotten into now in 00:06:00Campbell County since we've, especially the Democrats, since we've, now that Republicans are now more predominant, we, uh, uh, you could see down there that they're now moving into some of the other caucuses saying, "Yeah, we're, we're, we got the same things they need." And it is happening that way. You can see our caucus really encompassing, uh, the Carrollton area, and places like that in, in, uh, the state saying(??), "That's northern Kentucky." And, uh, and you, you tend to, to try to go with people that have the same needs and wants that you do, like, uh, Louisville, Jefferson County. The only one that was always friends with us and worked with us, which is unusual, would've been eastern Kentucky. We've always gotten along real well with them. They've seemed, uh, to, uh, uh, be very, uh, amiable to being for things that we needed. And we were the same way with them. So it was kinda a good match, even though we're far apart as far as our areas, but we're all part of Kentucky. And, uh, and I think you'll 00:07:00find out in the legislature that you have to do, you, you represent everybody. The senator and the representative represent the whole state, the commonwealth, but you still have to kind of look out for your particular individual area. And if you can, if you can do that in, in the proper and responsive way, that's great. And some can and some can't, but I think for, uh, I guess the way some people always put it, it, it's our, it might not be the best but it's the best we, in, in the world right at this point, so. And it's worked out real well.
BOHL: Okay. Some of the other legislators that were talking to thistime, uh, were parts of groups, uh, things like the Young Turks or the Black Sheep Squadron. Uh, what do you remember about these groups, even though you weren't part of them?
DONNERMEYER: No, I remember them well though. I think that the, the,uh, Black Sheep was the, uh, was the, uh, senators. Uh, Senator Barry, 00:08:00uh, Senator Higdon, uh, and, and what that was in the Senate at the time, they were kind of, uh, they were all Democrats incidentally. (coughs) Excuse me. They, they were, uh, uh, well, they weren't really happy with their particular, uh, leadership, but they weren't unhappy enough to, to try to overthrow them, but they wanted to have more say. So they were trying to, to use their, their background to push the people, which is really a good way to do it, instead of saying, "Well, we're gonna bring(??) revolution." Say, "Well, we're gonna push it and we're, you're gonna at least listen to us and give us a little say, as opposed to, 'No, this is it, and that's the way it's always been. And, you know, whoever's in charge runs with an iron hand.'" That was in the Senate. And they did a pretty good job cause I remember they, there was a little change in some of the leadership. Uh, I, I imagine people know that you have to ----------(??) you vote your peer, those of the, uh, caucus, the House, and the Senate, uh, 00:09:00would vote for the Democratic leadership. And if they had the, uh, most senators, then the Democrats prevailed. But if it was most, it was Republicans, the other way around. But unwritten rule, I don't know where it ever came from, but they had the same for the minority, whoever it might be. And up until this last, uh, what three years, it's always been the Democrats in control. ------------(??) in the Senate changed before that, but as far as the governor and, and the House is still, uh, about, not quite 2-to-1 Democratic, but it, it always goes by that. Then, in the House, uh, the Young Turks were just, uh, there was only about three or four of them, maybe six of them at the most. Lawyers, young attorneys. Uh, all but one ---------- (??)--------- was attorney, and they had just come in, and they were a lot younger than most of the other legislators. And it was the same thing. They want at least be heard. And there was a couple more, but 00:10:00they weren't associated with them. They were from eastern Kentucky, and they kinda, would at the caucus, would come up with ideas, and try to push them, and then put, ask for a vote in the caucus. And, uh, as caucus chairman, I always felt like, "Hey, we're gonna hear them." And sometimes I'd have to tell the rest(??) of our leadership, they didn't want to do that, say, "No," I said, "No, that's not the way to do it. If you want to do it right, you lead by saying, "Okay, we're gonna hear what you have to say. If we agree, we're gonna work with you; if not, we're gonna say no." Don't just say, "That ain't, no, you're, you're not gonna have, be allowed to voice your opinions. Let everybody do their, have, voice their opinions." And we did that. It worked real well for a long time, because they, they had their voice but they've never really caused any problems or caused anything to be a complete turnover or anything. Uh, I think one of the bottom lines was they realized that in, in elections, they could make a little bit of a difference. If they could get their people to stick together and say, "Okay, uh, we might not, we're gonna say we're gonna be for so and so 00:11:00or two people or three people in leadership,"--but if you remember, I keep saying three beats two.
DONNERMEYER: So you could always get three votes, you can control theleadership to a certain extent as to who they're gonna put in as , uh, chairman of the different , uh, part-, uh, committees and that's what they were after.
DONNERMEYER: Or the choice committees. And the choice committees alwayshad been appropriations and revenue and state government. Not that the other ones aren't important, but there's where the money was. Number one was A & R. And, uh, that was, that was the reason behind it. And they, they again, they did, they really were, uh, it was a good thing to have somebody always out there saying, "Hey, wait a minute, let's have, let's look, relook at some of these things." So we, we used to have some very, I wouldn't say, uh, tumultuous caucuses but we had caucuses that we, everybody had a chance to say, and, and you had back and forth, back and forth that people got a chance to get up and argue. And, and, uh, then we'd have to sometimes recess and go into 00:12:00session and come back and have another one and thrash things out. And it got to the point where we also were using that ---------(??), uh, you would, uh, if there was some controversial bills, that rather than just so, "No, we're not gonna hear them." Say, "We'll bring them up in caucus and see what the majority of caucus feels like and then that would be direction for the leadership as to how to handle them." Um, and you had to watch yourself, because that could lead to, uh, not being able to let the people's business being done openly because our caucuses were always closed.
DONNERMEYER: And, and I, I, it was hard for us, because most of us wouldlike to had them open, but there was, there was really, um, uh, and I believe in the openness, but there is a reason for it when you, if you're the ones that have to make the final decisions, you have to be able to argue back and forth with each other without other stuff coming up. I found that sometimes when you have these big open meetings, instead of getting to the core of what you're there for, it gets off on 00:13:00an tangent, and let somebody get up there, and instead of talking just about what you're, we're trying to work with, they're talking about some other things that, they might be problems, but that would have to come at another time with that problem being the issue, not just that, uh, you'd get out of, out of hand in that respect. You wouldn't get anything accomplished. And so, we always kept it closed. Republicans would always, well, that was their thing, "Oh, we're always open." We'd say, "Well, goodness you could meet"--and at that time--"you could meet in the phone booth. (Bohl laughs) You didn't have that many of them. So, sure you're open. But now that they've become the thing in the Senate, they have closed caucuses. So, you know. And then there's, then there's, there's things just like through the ethics committee, you can see in the, in the state and the, and the counties and the cities, they get around it. They're not even supposed to be talking about anything when, when there's more than three, I think it is, the way it reads, they're not supposed to talk business. Well, they do. You know, and that, how do you, how you gonna be every place? And we 00:14:00don't need to police people, we don't need that. We do need openness, I believe in that. And, uh, I think it's worked really well. Sure you've had some problems, but that's why we have the open meetings, open records. And that's why the attorney general, you can, you can appeal to them. But, uh, we said, "You have the, uh, uh," right now the way we set it up is the attorney general's opinion is takes, is the force of law, and if you want to challenge it, then your only resource is to go to court, which you should have that resource, you know. And it's worked real well, so. Although now we're coming in some gray areas that we didn't foresee when we did all this. Uh, you now got your bloggers, uh, which you never had before. And that's the only reason we never address it because we didn't have them. (laughs) We did try to address everything. Uh, but, you know, the open meetings as far as, uh, and the, and the records and the, and actually, the one thing we didn't do, uh, whether they should've been, I think one of the people tried to do it in this last session. We had said, you know, 00:15:00it's the law of the, the state that you're supposed to have these, uh, regulations posted at each city and county as to what their regulations are, which they had to be within the state law. Uh, how do you go about getting open meeting, open records? How do you get records and what can they, how do you, you should have that all posted there, so people can see it. And a lot of the times, you go into a place and ask for a record, they look at you like you have two heads, and they want to say, "Oh no, you got to pay a dollar for every time you print it." And we had all that spelled out in a law. I think it was ten cents a copy, uh, and only things they could tell you, "No, we won't let you have right now, or you gotta come back," that was all supposed to be there, how they would handle that. And that would, if they, if they did that, that would seem like it was a lot better to keep controversy down. People wouldn't, both sides of that, of that desk would know, those who, who kept the records would know that, yes, they have to do certain things; people on the other side would know that you can't ask for only so much stuff. You can't go over that and insist on it. So, actually 00:16:00they're breaking the law in a lot of cases. And there, there was a bill came out this, trying to reiterate that. And, uh, address some of the problems and that's the way you should do with bills. There's a lot of times that after a certain length of time, you find out that there's, there were problems that you didn't foresee that cropped up, or ways to get around things, you got to close those loopholes.
BOHL: About how frequently would you meet in the big caucus like that?
DONNERMEYER: Well, what we tried to do was, uh, during the session, wewould meet in our local caucus at least, uh, uh, well, when we came back from the session we would, we would try to be open. And we would set up meetings in our district, so that people in that area would have a chance to come before you and bring their, their complaints or their, whatever they're trying to, to ask you to consider. And we would meet, uh, every week. We'd come home and then we'd have a meeting. And, uh, 00:17:00like you'd get home and on Saturday morning, you'd have maybe from 10 to 12 or 10 to 1, you'd have a meeting at Northern Kentucky University. And most of them were there and then maybe in, in a couple of the, uh, other areas. But now they're starting to go into each one of the districts, which is fine. And they, they, the paper, uh, uh, does a lot in help to getting the word out that there are meetings and people can come to them. Uh, I, I think it's evolved to more of as listening sessions than anything, which isn't bad either. The more you can help people take part in it, the better off you're gonna be. And, uh, but then during the session at various times, uh, we, we would try to meet there if there was issues came up of certain bills. Uh, we'd call the, the different ones could ask for the, the chairman, the chairperson to go ahead and call the meeting, and you could meet in one of the rooms down there and say, "Well, here's what's going on. How do we want to do as a caucus, or do we want to do it as a caucus or individually?" And 00:18:00that's, so it, it would be, the instance down there would be according to what, how many controversial bills you had, and, and whether we felt, uh, uh, that we needed to do that as a group. Where, uh, up here, it was almost every week, when we came home during the session that we'd have a--and then in between, we'd try to set up different, uh, meetings. And we had to watch there was what was happening sometimes that you were just setting up for a certain group, which is not good either, just to say, "We're gonna have a special meeting in the caucus just so this group can come to the caucus instead of the general public." And we'd try to do that also and we also tried to push the, uh, the interim committees into going out into the different parts of the state and, and meeting, have their meetings there, so you'd get more people input, which worked pretty well. I don't know if they're still doing that, but that's one of the things we really tried to push. And we would take our committees and, and, uh, city committee, and we'd go into various areas. And have your, your joint meetings 00:19:00or, and in the interim, your House and Senate meets together as joint committees. And, uh, you didn't actually, uh, pass laws but, what you did do was consider subjects that were controversial or, or new things, and do it together, so that when you got into session, you could actually pre-file a bill, uh, that you wanted to have considered. And that way you got the, um, you got the, uh, used your in-between time to get your arguments back and forth, and have people come in and talk about them. So, you know, you were actually doing your legislative work without saying that, you know, that it was, it would still have to be brought up again and, when your session was on. I mean, even though you pre-filed the bill, it still would come up. A lot of times where it worked really well would be that, uh, you'd have that as an interim committee meeting and have a, uh, pre-filed bill. As soon as the session start, it would give something for that, each in the House and Senate committees to have a meeting as soon as possible. They could say, "We got two or three pre-filed bills that we're done in the 00:20:00interim." And so to make them conform to the constitution, as soon as your, you went into the session you could, the chairman could call the meeting for what-, whatever time they wanted to. And, and the House and Senate, and then bring up that pre-filed bill, and pass it out, and get it into the ses-, into the, uh, system. And get bills, uh, uh, introduced immediately and committee meetings that's already taken care of, so you can already get bills out on the floor and get, you know, get some, some, uh, uh, action instead of waiting three or four weeks before you do anything. So, it's, it's really, if it's done properly, it can be a good thing. I always thought like anything you can do to have more input from the people in the commonwealth, the better off we're gonna be. The more, the better, uh, the better, uh, service you're gonna get, the better, uh, government you're gonna get.
BOHL: I, last time you talked about, uh, you decided to run for state00:21:00representative because you were getting frustrated with a lack of response from Frankfort. What was the local party organization's response to your candidacy?
DONNERMEYER: Well, uh, back then, they, the local party wasn't thatactive, uh, as far as I could tell. Uh, I, I, you know, it's still that way regardless of what they say, you could still run. You know, if they didn't give you their blessing and, uh, but it still worked that way where you had, uh, your local, uh, Republican, Democratic parties and they would try to get candidates. And, and at that time when I ran, there were, uh, there was a candidate. He, he was running all the time and it was Republican candidate. And they, actually they just traded times. One of them would run and win, and, and then they'd be there for the two years. And then the next time, they got the same person would run against him and, and he might beat them and he would be there for two years. And it just so happened at the time I decided to run, the Republican had won the two terms in a row. 00:22:00He had beat the Democrat. And it was, didn't seem like there was any Democratic challengers that had not already run. Uh, so I ran on the Democratic side against the person that got beat two times in a row and I won that Democratic, uh, election. And then(??) I was in the, uh, actually it was the, uh, second year of that, second term of that incumbent Republican under, under Governor Nunn. And I won it, beat him by, uh, how many votes it was. It wasn't very many. Uh, because, uh, he called me up the night of the election and conceded and thanked me because he had been, I knew he was ill and I never said a word about that. Uh, didn't say anything about his problem, and I, I didn't think it was no-, proper to do that. I just ran that, that, I wasn't nasty, I just said, "I felt like we had, we had, should have more communications," and then said how, "What I would like to try to do is to, to further that and, and bring more of state government back 00:23:00to the city government, and, and what, how it could help the cities and counties." Not be controversial but how we could work together, so that we would know more of what's going on, more openness. And, uh, uh, they had, he had called a few nights later and said "Well, the state party, the governor wanted him to have a recount." Said, "I didn't want to do that, but I'm being forced to it and I want you to know that." Well, the, the recount like, came out with a couple extra votes anyway, so I still won. But he was very nice about it. And he was really a nice guy. I never had any problems with him personally. None whatsoever. Uh, but, uh, and then that was the first time I won and stayed here all that time. But that, that's the way it was then, and now actually we have problems now to try to find somebody that wants to run. The, the costs is so off(??), I can't believe it. It's just, to me it's a sin that there's that much money has to go into an election, 00:24:00uh, because, uh, you're certainly not gonna make the money there. The money's not there for it especially if you, uh, if you're a workman, like I was in construction, and you, you, when you went down there, you lost that pay. Some people were lucky enough to have a job where they got paid, which was no prohibition against that where you could still get your salary and, and then still get your salary as a state legislator. But, uh, I, I wasn't. (laughs) And I guess there's a lot of them that way. And the intent was that we're part-time. And I think I talked to you about that. I, I thought maybe for a while we ought to be full time, but then when I see how the full-timers work, they don't put as much time as the part-time because they're always recessing.
BOHL: Okay. In the 1970s, there were some national issues that alsoaffected Kentucky. Things like the energy crisis, uh, environmentalism, 00:25:00how did you see those going on in the General Assembly?
DONNERMEYER: Uh, you mean, how did, did we handle them, or, well, Ithink we tried to address them. Uh, but we didn't, we always would seem like most all these things which we tried(??) address them but we would look to the federal government to, to lead the way. And actually they would by putting certain, uh, things up there. Uh, I don't think we, we worked together enough the way we should have, but, uh, we tried to address them as best we could with, uh, us being a coal-producing country--
DONNERMEYER: --and, and the environment being a big problem. Uh, andthen with our mining, that was another thing, with mining, and mining regulations, cause we did produce the coal. And, and there was always an argument there as to how that worked. And, and then it tied into, uh, uh, and rightfully so, the, the miners and the people in that 00:26:00area not getting enough of the money back for what was extracted from underneath the ground. And I think I told you about how we were trying to--it was kind of, to me it was a sin to say that, uh, somebody, someway got it put in that, they knew it was unconstitutional, so to try to make it constitutional--and incidentally, anything's, any bill that you pass is always subject to being, to somebody saying it's, it's not constitutional. If they don't do that, then it is until somebody brings that question up. Something, the supreme court does not go out, that's not their job to go out and look for things, so that somebody has to bring that question to them. And this, this thing evidently had been there and somebody found a way to get around it by saying, "One- tenth of 1 percent would be put on the un-mined minerals." And so, for years that satisfied nobody doing anything about it, but that didn't help the people. They were pretty poor that lived there. The coal was 00:27:00underneath there or the other type of minerals were there. And then them being as poor as they were, they would just, uh, uh, sell that to anybody that came around and give them, sell them that, and they made, they got a little extra money, which they needed for their living, for their eating, for everything. And that, to me was quite an injustice. And there was a few people from eastern Kentucky that would always fight that. And I always was, was right with them, trying to fight it, saying that was, that was just a sin, that, uh, it should've have been a fair tax, and then that money, at least a big part of it, going back to that area cause that's where it came from. And so, actually that's where, uh, where, uh, I think it was, uh, Governor Ford, uh, and then Julian as lieutenant governor, Julian Carroll, and then as governor keeping that same thing, formula following up. I told you about the formula how it got started and the guy with the big gun. (laughs) But that's, that's where that really came from, with that, uh, we created the severance tax. And how they're gonna use it. And then, uh, Jul-, 00:28:00Julian expanded on that, keeping that, but also adding your economic development districts, and, and trying to work where the, the fair part would, uh, sure, the state would get some, but some would also go back to that area. But we never could, we'd, we'd get the bill out of the House and the Senate, and it would always end up at the last minute going back to appropriations and revenue, and we never get it passed, where we could do something about that one-tenth of 1 percent. And finally, this one young lawyer that was one of the activists on, uh, for this type of thing, came up with the idea of taking to the Supreme Court. And that's how it actually got done; not by legislation, but he went to the supreme court, and then they said, "Okay." And, and, you know, what really made it worse is, since we had advanced so much in geological, uh, computerism and using the, the, uh, geographic to find out where the coal was, they'd say, "Oh, we don't know what's 00:29:00under there. How do we know that?" Well, years ago, that might've been, but not anymore; they knew exactly what was down there and what it was worth, because they used these pictures that they could take. So, that was, that was one of the biggest impacts that I can remember. Uh, the coal and, and, uh, and then today, we still got the problem with the mining. And, and the, uh, the, uh, it seems like if you try to, to be safe, uh, sure, there's a cost to it, but at what cost for somebody's life? And then they say, "Well, you know, you can't just do that. They have enough going out(??) of business." Well, that, I, I have a, kind of a problem if it gets that bad, then maybe they ought to go out of business, if they can't keep people safe. So it, it gets to be quite a problem. And we've had a couple of bad disasters in a row. And they're finding out after, after the fact that they could've been averted to a certain extent, if they would live up to the, to the, uh, safety things that were recommended.
BOHL: Okay, another big issue that, uh, you became very associated with00:30:00is the debate over legalized abortion.
BOHL: And you were known as being very strongly anti-abortion.
BOHL: How did you get so involved with that issue?
DONNERMEYER: Well I, I've had a personal experience and, uh, seen alot of personal experience, and I felt that was, uh, to me it was, it was the right thing. And, uh, at the same time, I respect people's opinion and try to get people not to just argue about it, but let's talk about this, let's try to work it out. And that was always the, what we would try to do. -----------(??) sometimes I guess it seems like they're saying, "Well, you know, you, you're, uh," I have them tell me, "Well, you're a man; what do you know about having a baby?" Well, they're right, except I'm, I'm a father. I do know that. And, and to me, there's, it's, it's part of my Catholic teaching, that there's a life at conception. And, and that, uh, you should take care 00:31:00of that life all the way through. And, and there's on the other side, some of these people said, "Well, do you let that life come out if they, they know there's certain problems?" Well, that's not up to us. I mean, we should, we should work to help take care of those problems when they do happen with Down's syndrome, or what they might be. Uh, to me you don't just throw them away. You work with them and try to help them, and try to eradicate that. That's, but, uh, I became very passionate about it, but I tried as hard as I could to not get to the point where I didn't try to see the other side. Uh, and I, so I, I, I was, and, and I guess one of the reasons that, that I was, uh, if you want to say successful with some of the passages of some of the bills was because of my leadership role. Being in leadership. Uh, and then, then as it evolved on both sides, uh, I think the, the biggest thing 00:32:00was the, the Roe v. Wade thing that, that really got people started on all this. And, and unfortunately, now we realize that that actually was a big hoax the way that, that, that, uh, was, was done. That is the, taking it to the Supreme Court, that lady really comes out now and she's now, she's now on the pro-life side. And she said, you know, that is what she did back then was kind of a hoax. And, and I, I think that's what's happening on both sides; you got people that are extremists, unfortunately, which is not good either. I mean, you know, we've had people that torched the, uh, but I guess if people would think about it's, it's just like some of Islamic over there. They, they really believe they're right and it's hard for somebody to tell them they're not, because they, they don't care, they'll die for it, you know. But, uh, my, my zeal was the fact that I, I honestly believe that, that life begins at conception and there is a life there and 00:33:00we're not to take it. And that's, that's where I was always at. But then, then you got into the other issues, which were controversial, like, uh, how, how far do you do with that when, when near the, uh, death of people. Do, do you feed them? Do you give them water? What do you do, you know. And, uh, my, my teaching as a Catholic was that you treat everybody in, uh, life as the Lord's only can, can take care of life as far as I was concerned. But you got to watch out you don't put your religion into something that's, that's there too, and that was the hard part. But, uh, there's no doubt in my mind the reason that, that, that, uh, I was successful in the, the bills I did have, it was because I was in leadership. There's no doubt about that. Because when leadership would come up, and it would happen more and more each time, each two years, there'd be, uh, since the other side, if you want to call it that, was getting more people involved in it, they would say, "Well, you know, if you're gonna do this, we're not gonna be for you." That became an issue at some time in my leadership 00:34:00race. And I'd always say, "Look, I respect your right." And the only thing, uh, that I always try to tell them was, "Look, you got a right to bring bills out and I do too." And, and I would say that, "All I ask you to do is not that you got the vote for it but bring it up for a vote in the committee and bring it up for a vote on the floor, if it gets that far. And if it doesn't, well, then you have to do your work in that committee to bring your people there and, and, and get the various legislators to, to feel the way you do, and either vote for or against it." And that was all I ever asked of them. And it worked for quite a while. I never did try to tell somebody, "Look, I'm not gonna be for your bills. I'm not gonna do this. I'm not gonna let your bills out." I never would do that. And if you weren't for, uh, my, if I had a, a bill that was considered pro-life. So, uh, I, I, at least I hope that they respected the fact that I proved that by not doing anything like that. I only had one instance where I got accused 00:35:00of doing it. And I, it was wrong. The, uh, uh, the, uh, uh, chairman of the health and welfare, there was a bill there and they wanted to bring the bill out and the chairlady was, was not pro-life. She was from Louisville. And, you know, if, if I were gonna use my office; I would let her be chairlady. Cause it was against my, what I wanted, I didn't do that. She was chairlady. She didn't want to let them hear the bill. And my argument was, "Well, let them hear the bill." "Well," she said, "you know they got the votes." I said, "Well, I, I, I'm, I'm sorry; somebody on that side should have to do something to change it. That's not up to me." I want any bill to be heard properly, not just these, any bill, I think there should be, in the committee, within the realm of that committee chairman's trying his business, how many he had, to bring them up and let the people have the chance to express their opinions on it. That's what you're here for. (coughs) Excuse me. And he, she wouldn't do that. Uh, and I didn't do a darn thing in the committee. They took it on themselves, which they could do. The committee outvoted the chairlady when she refused that, they 00:36:00made a motion and seconded it, they're gonna hear the bill at the next meeting, whether she liked it or not. And they did that. Well, she accused me and I said I didn't do it. I had a heck of a time. I know if she ever realized or not and we had been friends. We were, I told you that we didn't have much to do back then. We, sometimes we eat at that pizza parlor and sing. She was one of the people that I enjoyed singing with all the time. But, uh, uh, that's, I, I, I got sued a couple of times. (laughs) And, and, and with the, those who were, uh, the actually the, uh, abortion clinics in Lexington were the ones that were more forceful in doing that. They would always come forth with suits. And, uh, they would, they would, they would sue me, they would sue the, uh, uh, the LRC, they'd sue anybody and everybody. I was included in all. So, I've been sued a couple of times but I never had to go to court. -----------(??) in fact, they took my deposition once as to what was the intent. Uh, I think it had to do with the, uh, 00:37:00uh, parental consent, uh, the idea of, uh, and, and what we tried to do was have a, an opening there, which, uh, the incident-, the, in supreme court of the state and, uh, of the United States had, had okayed this where you have a, a, what you call a safety valve where the, the young lady could go to the judge, uh, all completely private, and explain her side. And if he agreed, then, then he could, he would go around, what they called(??), you know, you could that, uh, you, you could go around it that way, but it just always seemed to me kinda silly that you'd, uh, a young lady under eighteen couldn't get their ears pierced or anything like that but yet they could just go do this without them, parents knowing about it. And, uh, I, I and, you know, and then, then, sometimes you have some parents are just, uh, they're not doing their duty either. And to me when that time came, I even had(??) a daughter. 00:38:00And so you, you, you want the love to, to work with them to try to help them, not, not to do something else. You'd want them to come to you and think they can respect, uh, and, and you would respect them enough that you would work with them and give them all the love they need. We all make mistakes. And that was the, uh, but that, that's where I, I, I think it, it came from, uh, uh, they, mostly(??). I did, I had most of the bills for quite a while. They and actually they'd want you to do it because I guess because you were in leadership and so forth. And I, it, it, uh, we used to have, we had quite a few hearings and I know a lot of times the people from the pro-life would say, "Why would you have a hearing?" "Well, because that's the way it has to be. You got to have a hearing. Let, they have a right to come and, and say they don't agree with you." And, uh, I was always for that. So I tried to be as fair as I could.
BOHL: How did you get into leadership? Is this something that you00:39:00campaigned for?
DONNERMEYER: Uh, well, uh, knowing that, that you do have the, uh,power, you might as well say, uh, that's something you would want to be in. And, uh, the way it was when I first came in there, it was controlled by the governor. The governor controlled that party, the controlling party controlled who was gonna be in that leadership, cause they would be, uh, pushing their agenda, et cetera, et cetera. And at that time, it was, uh, Wendell Ford was governor and I, uh, I became a chairman. and then after Wendell Ford became senator and Julian Carroll became governor, uh, then after he, he became governor because he was lieutenant governor and then after had his first election, he came and asked me, actually came and said, uh, "I would like for you to be in my leadership, would you be interested?" "Certainly. Absolutely." And 00:40:00off course not just to me did he ask that; he did that through, uh, our judge exec. Who at that time, well, you know, you, you were, if you were the judge exec. In that county, you were kinda the higher part of that party. And, uh, so when we were all, uh, got along real well. And, uh, "Absolutely, yes, I'd like to be." So he said, "Fine, you are." That's it, it's over. There ain't no election, see. But there is an election. So then it was funny how this happened. They had, the governor always had the big Derby parties. And you would, you know, protocol was that you would go there, and it was really nice back then when they had it. Women would have their big hats on, and it was really a nice thing. And, and, uh, I was getting, uh, uh, orange juice to take back to our table. And one of the other fellows, a legislator was there, and he said, uh, "You're gonna be in leadership." -------- --(??) you were told, not to say anything to anybody. And I just said, "What are you talking about?" He said, "You're gonna be in leadership." 00:41:00And I said, "Well, I don't know what you're referring to." He said, "Oh, I know." He said, "I am too." Well, here what it was, this fellow was from down in western Kentucky and the governor had asked him to be the whip. So he was already knowing it and he evidently knew I was, cause he let me know that. And I never did say, "Yes." I said, "Well, if that's the case, I'll be happy, you know." And it was the case and he was the whip and, and I was the caucus chairman for a long time, and then they picked the floor leader and then pro-temp and then the, the, really the biggest pick for them, I guess, was the speaker and the, and the floor leader. Cause they would be the, the leading people, the speaker's in charge of everybody, floor leader was gonna push everything. And, and, of course, the pro-temp can take the speaker's place. But actually the, it goes, uh, and the, for the, the minority party also. It's the speaker, speaker pro-temp, that's the ascendancy in order, and then the, uh, floor leader, then the majority caucus 00:42:00chairman, and the whip is the fifth, so you're, you're fourth in, in line. So, uh, I was anointed. And then after that, we, I was one of them kept saying, "We ought to be doing this through ourselves, not the governor pushing it." And, uh, it, it worked that way kind of. Uh, but some of the governors still act like they weren't involved cause, but they, they might've been a little bit. And my, uh, then, then it got to when Governor Brown was there, he just openly come out and says, "I'm not involved. I'm not gonna be involved." And he wasn't. And I, I think it happened before that, but, uh, some of the people never believed it, but then the elections took place. And, and, uh, as caucus chairman, I had to set up the elections. Actually. That's the, in the, in the House and we tried to set it up and I know the one time, of course, uh, speaker, uh, pro-temp, uh, we had a problem 00:43:00where we had about, uh, four or five people running. And I tried to talk the caucus with coming up a process where you would eliminate so many. They didn't want to do that. So it so happened, the first time we ran, the, the caucus had spoken, they didn't want to do it, so we had, we had, got a fellow elected as speaker pro-temp and they(??) only had like, uh, maybe fifteen or twelve votes instead of majority. So after that, they, they went along with my idea of saying, "Look, if there's more than, than two running, one of them, one has to get the majority before they can elect or there's a run-off of the top two," and that's the way they've done it to this day, which is the more fair way. Not, not saying that they guy might not have won, but he had the higher votes but he didn't have very many. It wasn't near a majority at all. And I think that out of the top two, that way, and it works better, it's a little more politics cause it gives the chance that some of the other guys that were running that didn't get enough votes go with either one of them, just secure their being elected. They do that 00:44:00in federally, too, now. So, but yes, you were anointed. That was the word, anointed. (both laugh) The Holy Ghost. (both laugh) Yeah.
BOHL: Okay. You mentioned that you were made a chair in the mid-seventies, uh, of the business and organizations and professions committee? Uh, uh, that deals with issues like horse racing, is that something that you had had a previous interest in?
DONNERMEYER: Not really, no. Uh, my, I, I, I really, uh, became thatchairman because you, I could see there was a really good change as far as I could see that from, I think I told you that, where the, it was run years ago when I first got in with the committees and how they 00:45:00tried to change it. Uh, starting with Wendell Ford, which included Governor Carroll, cause he was his lieutenant governor, and they were still all involved Norb Blume, uh, Terry, uh, McBrayer, they were all involved with, with the setting all these things up. And some of the rest of us saying, "You know, we need to have more of a committee system that, that is open to people attending and so forth." And it, it wasn't(??) easy to do that because that ain't the way the legislature worked before that. But there was enough people that they did push it. They came up, they had meetings, they wanted to set this all up. And so, that they would also use the areas. And try to say, "Okay, we want people to be chairman from different areas." And some people, and it never did work, they would say, "We want the committee to elect the chairman." That sounds good, but then it gets away from being able to, to, to be more fair about it. So, we had it, you know, I mean, Jim Murphy was chairman of BOP, business, organizations and professions, for some time when I first came in, he was there. And then when he decided 00:46:00that he was gonna leave and become, uh, uh, get out of the General Assembly and become a police judge, that was open. And, and, uh, I, I guess the governor felt like, hey--it was Governor Car-, uh, Governor, uh, Ford. He, uh, he felt like that was fine for me to take his place cause I was from up here. And, and, uh, so that's how I ended up being chairman there. But you, uh, my, my interest might necessarily not been with just horse racing, but, uh, the idea of any kind of business or profession. And, uh, and the opening was there. (laughs) You know, you're a chairman, that, that, that meant it too, you know, so.
[Pause in recording.]
DONNERMEYER: Even the chairperson has its, uh, uh, perks and so forthtoo. You know, that does give you a, a, a certain amount of, uh, uh, well, you know, your, your bill, some people, gonna be for their bills, get people to be for you because you're chairman of that committee. And so you want to be a chairman. And, and again, we, we kept adding 00:47:00onto those things, like, for instance, uh, as caucus chairman, I insisted that I thought that the, the, uh, we ought to have meetings of all the chairmen and the leadership to see how we're running these things, not just to say, to that chairman, "You're not dealing with the leadership once you're out," but see that things are being run properly. And, and if not, come up with, uh, uh, changes, which would go through the caucus. The caucus would vote on them, so everybody that was a Democrat, and the Republicans do the same thing, they would vote on how they would want those to run. And we, there's a lot of things to this day that, that they still do that way and, and because they're right. Like, for instance, I think I mentioned to you that, uh, people wouldn't agree(??), they couldn't get their bills heard cause nobody would say anything about them. Well, we instituted the idea that, that the, uh, you would, you would have a paper, you'll fill out, and request, request to have your bill heard. It would go to that committee. And then, then you would have to keep track of that, keep a 00:48:00record. And, uh, it's, it's the right way to do things. So, uh, that, that's there's been a lot of changes in that respect.
BOHL: You also were known for supporting the homeless. How did you getso interested in helping out the homeless?
DONNERMEYER: Well, it ties in with, uh, with, uh, uh, life itself. Imean, I believe that life begins there and I think it should, you just don't forget about somebody that, that, uh, they need a helping hand up too. And that's part of, that's part of, uh, uh, my bac-, uh, my background and upbringing, that, uh, uh, everybody has a right to, uh, to things and, and we should see that they get a hand when they're hurting, for the worse when they're down. And, uh, so I, I guess that just falls right in with that. Uh, and that's, and that's where it 00:49:00came from. But yes, I, I did have some bills like that. In fact, I think we did some things with housing, the same way. I can't remember all the things we did. I was shocked when I seen that paper. (both laugh) Then they come back, yeah, I remember that, we did that. I remember doing some things with Governor Brereton Jones's wife to, to, uh, they were trying to find money and, and it's hard in the budget, everybody wants to get something out of it. And we did something with some of the money from the tracks, the backstretch and put it into, to housing. The Kentucky Housing Authority was the, the beginning of that. And it's, to this day, still going on and on. And, uh, these are, these are good things. Its things, ways to, you know, why should, the state is us. That's the way I've always looked at. The state is the people, the counties are people, the cities are people, the government are, it's all of us. And it always blows my mind when you'd say, "Oh, look what they brought back here," either from federal or state, "Well, that's our money." 00:50:00
BOHL: Okay, another controversial issue that came up while you were inthe General Assembly is the idea of gubernatorial succession.
BOHL: What do you remember about that kind of debate and where did youfall?
DONNERMEYER: Well, let's see. Uh, let me think here for a minute aboutgubernatorial succession. I, I know, uh, we were trying to decide who would take the place of the governor when something would happen to them.
BOHL: Oh, when I'm using the term, I'm meaning the idea the governor canbe reelected.
DONNERMEYER: Oh, reelected!
DONNERMEYER: Well, I was involved with the, with the, on, on, as stategovernment, that was some of the things that we, we had, uh, in our committee. And, uh, same way with some of the elections and setting up the elections and the dates and, and the primaries and so forth. And, uh, uh, I, I always felt like, uh, uh, the governor ought to at least be able to serve three terms. (laughs) They kept it to two. 00:51:00And, you know, I, that's, that's okay. You, you could, you got to have a happy median. But, uh, uh, because you, you tend to find the longer someone's at that job, the more they forget where they came from. And, at least, I think that happens. And, uh, there, there's such as a thing, uh, since you said succession about term limits. Well, I, first, my first reaction would be term limits would be the people who want you anymore. They can limit you by not voting for you. But then I understand that, especially in this day and age, the way it is with money and how it's, uh, the percentage of the people that are incumbent get reelected, reelected, and reelected, that some way something's gonna have to be done to, to address that. I don't know if term, term limits is, is it. And, and that falls in with governors and succeeding themselves too. But something some way has to, to be there to say, "Wait a minute, you only go so long and that's it." So I always felt like, uh, three terms would be better because you think about it, 00:52:00if, if you've never been governor before, even if you were Lieutenant Governor, it isn't the same. The buck stops here and you're the person that's gonna be, uh, creating the, the, uh, decisions and how you're gonna go about things and how you're not gonna about them. You know, right now, here's a governor that says, "I'm pardoning people." And it blows my mind, I don't care what religious faith he'd been, whether it been Democrat, Republican, Independent, how can you pardon people when they haven't done anything yet. Or how can you pardon them--I don't think the constitution says that. I'm getting off a little bit, but how can you pardon them when they, they haven't been proven guilty yet? I don't think that was the intent at all of that. But, uh, the succession, I, I, I really, I think it, uh, that two is okay, I think it should've been three. And that would've been, would've been enough to say, "Okay, you got three terms in, now you have to get out." And they did that with, uh, nationally too. So, uh, uh, it, it's always comes down to being fair. And, and then using common sense. So, 00:53:00that's where I was with that.
BOHL: Okay. You've talked quite a bit about your relationship withgovernors you've work with while you were in leadership. What about the governors you worked with before and after?
DONNERMEYER: Well, um, there wasn't very many before. It would've beenGovernor Nunn.
BOHL: Right. (both laugh)
DONNERMEYER: And, and Governor Ford. And, of course, uh, uh, I workedreal well with him because I became a chairman under him. And, and, uh, he was really a, a fair, wonderful person. And, uh, I got to tell you a story. When, when he first ran for Governor against, uh, uh, Bert Combs, uh, Jim Murphy and I, be-, well, I didn't know him that well, but since we were legislators from the same area and districts right next to each other, he, he took me under his wing but he did it in a, in a kind of a funny way. It was kind of, I was, I didn't know him, even though he was commissioner there, and I think he was kinda aloof at first, and then we kind of sat like one seat away from each 00:54:00other, and I'd ask him some things in a little bit. And next thing you know, got a little closer and closer, and then we got pretty darn close as far as being good friends. And he helped me quite a bit. Well, when this came up, I was always labor oriented and Governor Combs was definitely labor. Uh, Wendell was too, but not he didn't have the actually background that Governor Combs did yet. He, uh, he was actually a, a, a fair, fair labor person but Governor Combs was governor and he'd been there and done that. He was strong labor. So our, our, I had, our allegiance had to be with him. And we talked about it two or three times, uh, Representative Murphy and I, and said, "You know, how do we do this? Here, Wendell is our friend. Uh, you, you're a chairman under him and blah, blah, blah. I', I've gotten a, a, a, they appointment me to a couple of things." I don't know whether he did it or the Speaker Norb Blume did it but they were like committees that, that gave you a little bit of credence back home, where you were put 00:55:00on this committee or that sub-committee. And so, uh, we decided, well, the best thing would be to be honest. Go to him and tell him that we can't support him. And so, we, uh, made up our mind and we set up a meeting with the governor, and we went into see him, said, "Governor, we've got to tell you, we can't be with you. We want to tell you right(??) face-to-face, but we, we think you're great but we, we, we owe him that allegiance and that that respect that we have to be with Governor Combs." And, uh, he was very nice about it. He looked at us, and said, uh, we're sitting in his office, him and the two of us. He said, "Fellows, there ain't no problem." He said, "I'll tell you what; just, uh, call me an SOB but don't call me a dirty one." (both laugh) And I thought that was pretty good. And he won and, uh, he was very nice. He wasn't vindictive at all. I became chairman right after that and Murphy didn't lose his chairmanship, so he was very nice about it. But I think the fact that we were honest with him, openly, not letting him think, you know, where you gonna be, where you gonna be, and then 00:56:00trying to give him a song and dance, and we just said, "No, I'm sorry, we're not gonna be able to. And, uh, we won't go out and shout and holler but we're gonna have to say we're with him." So it worked out that way. And then as far as, uh, uh, after, uh, when I lost, uh, my leadership role, uh, they, I had governors come and ask me if I'd help them with a, say, a certain type of a bill. Uh, the biggest one was the, uh, uh, where Governor Wilkinson used the, uh, lottery. And, uh, I, I know Greg had something to do with it. I know also the governor knew enough that knew enough people, so hey he had this years and years ago, and, and he's always been trying to push it and, and be nice to have him on one of, one of the chief sponsors of the bill and part of it. And, uh, but he, they would come and talk to you about different things. Governor Jones, the same way. So, uh, it was more or less if, uh, if, if, uh, they were open enough to come and talk to you about it, you know(??), I'd be open enough to talk to them. And work with 00:57:00them. And, and I think that's what you're there for. You're supposed to work with, uh, them as long as you feel they're doing things that's good for your area and for the whole state. So it worked out well all the way through, even through, uh, uh, uh, the last, uh, couple of governors. Paul Patton, uh, he ran for governor for years as lieutenant governor. He would, uh, have people come in and, and, uh, meet with him and tell him, he had different areas come in each time, meet with him and his wife. And then his wife would leave after a few minutes and, and he'd talk to you about what in your area is important. What are you looking for, you know, what, what do you need. And, uh, of course, after you'd tell him all that, he'd say, "You know, I'm," "Well, we knew that." "I'm gonna be running for governor and I just wanted to get your ideas." Well, I thought was a really good way to do it. Not only does he get a lot of information. and see, he came about, uh, he, I think he was, uh, touted by governor, uh, uh, 00:58:00Brown brought him more or less in, and had him as a, I think it was transportation, one of the, one of his, uh, uh, key people there. And then they did ---------(??) Hall just right, and, and he kinda got out of it. But that was his first taste, and then he seemed like he wanted to keep getting involved. And he became lieutenant governor. And even though he really didn't get along with, uh--I forget who it was, was governor at the time. He didn't cause any problems, you know. And then they did change some things as far as how the governor runs with the lieutenant governor. Uh, and how they had to run as a team, like right now, you know, they, uh, they can't start getting any campaign money until he runs a team. You know, there's something that, that that was really done in the wrong way and gave the wrong impression. You, they, they used these buzz words now. And too many people don't look behind them and find out what's going on when they advertise them. Uh, what they call, uh, uh, when, when we came up with the idea of trying to get a lot this money out of politics. And we came up with 00:59:00the idea that, if you want to get public funding, you had to do certain things, and then you could get that. Uh, you know, that wasn't limited to Democrat or Republican; both sides had that opportunity. Well, once the Republicans got control of the Senate, they had decided they don't want them anymore. Welfare for the, for the, the politicians. That that was bull. Actually, it worked real well to try to keep a lot of monies up. I don't care whether it was labor's money, whether it was, whose money it was. The, so that it, you didn't get the, the inference, which is there. The only difference, it's actually there. Uh, you know, they say like in BOPTROT, quid pro quo, you had to do something to, uh, and then they gave you something. Well, if people can't look past their nose, and see what's happening, all these big donations going to the, to the President's reelection fund. And, again both sides, then there's something wrong and, and magically things 01:00:00happen. Uh, you've seen that in all these things that have been coming out now unfortunately where now they look back and they found out under Tom Raney(??) and some of these other people all this money is going there and things happen. That's quid pro quo. Well, poor old Don Blandford got, he got zapped with it. And, uh, uh, I don't know that there was that much there. And I'm a little prejudiced because I felt he was a wonderful speaker and he was a wonderful guy and he, and, and what, what was involved there was nothing like happening with all this kinds of money. So, uh, I just, I guess I felt like, uh, you, you supposed to work with these people. And, you know, everybody wants a pat on the back. The governor's gonna call you and say, "I need your help." Well you're gonna be there, unless you think, you know, you're not gonna do it, at least do some of the things you want to do, it's gonna help you too. And when it helps you, it helps your area.
BOHL: I know you were one who was not investigated at all during BOPTROT.
BOHL: But with the FBI investigating several of your colleagues, it must01:01:00have made getting things done very difficult. What do you remember about that period?
DONNERMEYER: Well, it, it, what it really did do, it put everybodyon edge. You know, what, what can we supposed to do? How do we do, what's going on? What is all this? And there was so much hearsay. You, you know, you didn't know what was going on. And, uh, what actually happened was we, we decided you know, we need to get together as the leadership and caucuses and say, "We got to try to turn this around, so let the people out there know that, no, if, if, if there's a problem here and they take the court may show it, it's not prevailing in state government. We're not for, we're not for sale. And that's what we try to do was, uh, create, just to change the image completely. Let people know that, actually it wasn't as perverse as they thought it was and it 01:02:00was proof of that. They only had a certain group of people were doing things. And, you know, the lobbyists were one of the worst.
DONNERMEYER: Even though they got off a little, they were involvedreally bad. So, when they set that thing up down there at the, uh, at the hotel where they had cameras and everything, and I remember this one lobbyist--(laughs)--coming to me and Representative Callahan. When, see when you go back when you were in session, you eat in the back where you had a chance to come in and have a separate line and you could get through. And the reason was you couldn't get back to your, to your meeting--
DONNERMEYER: --and, and there was a meeting in the afternoon up totwo o'clock before you went into session. So you had a chance to get some lunch, if you had that meeting at twelve, you'd get a chance of getting there and go out through your meeting at twelve o'clock. And so you'd go in the back, and then those that didn't have, they could still have time to go back, and take a leisurely lunch, and sit back there either with constituents or whoever. They would let them back with you, you know. They couldn't come in on their own. And, uh, uh, this one person was always back there. Uh, it seemed like nobody told 01:03:00him he wasn't allowed to come back in there. And any number of times, they'd say, "Why don't you guys come out and have lunch or dinner? We got steaks up here, wonderful steaks, come on up." "No," we'd always kept away from it. And then when we found out cameras and everything up there, wow. (both laugh) You know, and we weren't worried about doing anything wrong, but just, just the idea that that was happening. But the, the intent, I, I was kind of proud of the whole leadership. They were saying, "Hey, we got to get together and we gotta, we gotta try to do everything we can to show that that's not the true image of our state government, House and Senate." And I, I thought we did do that. And one of the main reasons, Joe, Joe Clarke was, was Mr.-, Mr.-, Mr. Clean. He was a wonderful guy. And very well respected, by everybody. And so was Mr. Moloney and there was a lot legislators were the same way, but these were guys that were leaders and they were with the, the biggest committees in the House and Senate, Appropriations and Revenue. And they worked quite well together, as, 01:04:00uh, co-chairs of, of that. And, uh, they, we, we picked Joe to become our leadership. Unfortunately, that caused a problem, evidently, that, uh, drinking, which we didn't know was there. And I don't know that it was there until that might've exacerbated it because there's a lot of stress. If you'd do that job right, uh, my wife knows, there's a lot of stress of the time you have to put in. Uh, I think that led to my getting beat by one vote because, uh, I, I just, you know, I didn't like to be away from home that much. And what you would've to do, I'd have to travel different parts of the state whenever we would've some kind of little function. And you're, you're, you're running for election. And that's what you would do. Just like we'd do if I was running for reelection in my district. And, uh, I just didn't go to a lot of them places. So, I still only got beat by one vote, but that's the way it was. And it was kind of a relief in a way. (laughs) It felt, you know, you, everybody, uh, now I don't have everybody pushing 01:05:00and pulling on me. I can just be a legislator and relax. (both laugh) It's the best job in there is being the chairman, chairperson, really. So you got a certain responsibility but nothing like the leadership, if they do it in fairness to everybody.
BOHL: Okay, you had been interested in ethics legislation for quite sometime even before that.
DONNERMEYER: We started it--
DONNERMEYER: --Art Schmidt and I, uh, got together and we decided thatwe ought to have some rules that tell people, here is what you can or can't do, cause it was getting more and more problems. And, you know, that wasn't all bad. I, I think it came about because of a lot of people out there starting to get more involved in government and we were making it more open to them. Uh, meetings, scheduling for the meetings, letting them know ahead of time, uh, through computerism, things like that. And they were getting more involved. So, they would bring things up, you know. And, uh, there's, there's a lot of things 01:06:00that, that, that just didn't look right, whether there was a, there was a problem or not, well, you know, was not relevant at the time. If they didn't look right, then you needed to look at them. So we decided that one way to do it was to, to start having an ethics, uh, rule and, and, uh, actually a law and, and citing things they could do. So we did do that. And, uh, that's another interesting thing. Uh, we had, we seemed like we never got anybody on as attorneys for different groups from our area. And when we'd come up with this ethics thing and it passed the General Assembly, that meant that the House and Senate agreed, and we, we're gonna set it up, then we were on the committee, Art and I, and I don't know who else was on there. But then we were gonna start out with a small staff to start it up and that would meant we would needed an attorney. So we pushed to get an attorney from up here. A fellow by the name of Paul --------(??) was, uh, really a smart young commonwealth attorney, uh, here, a county attorney rather. 01:07:00And, uh, well, he wasn't at that time, he was just a really, nice, smart young attorney that was very active in our party. And, uh, we suggested him and they interviewed him and he got the job. And he had up until he resigned, you know, until he retired. And the irony of it was that it, it was starting in the other parts of the country too. And since we had set ours up and it was working real well, where you had, uh, you could complain to them, and we had, uh, hearings about ethical problems that came up, and then it would issue statements as to here's how you handle this, or there weren't very many, uh, actual complaints where somebody did wrong, but there were a couple. And, uh, we evidently got recognized as one of the leaders in the, in the states in starting something. So they were having a, a, uh, uh, thing in Washington. And we were invited to come to it and we stayed, we stayed in the hotel where the break-ins took place. It was ironical. (laughs) Uh, what did they call that, did they-- 01:08:00
BOHL: --the Watergate--
BOHL: The Watergate?
DONNERMEYER: Yes! The Watergate. (both laugh) And it was, I thought Icouldn't believe this. Here we are, we're staying in the Watergate, and this is where all this took place. You know, uh, but, yes, we did start that. And, uh, stayed on it for some time, uh, until it got to the point where it was time for other people to get involved. And it's still there. In fact, it's, it's evolved into, uh, ethics for the, the, uh, uh, not only for us but also for the, uh, the governor, for the executive. Uh, and the only thing I think they did do is, after BOPTROT, then more of it came out, and I think they got really got too extreme with it, which you can do. I mean, common sense has to prevail. I think I told you where I know a couple of times where they had different meetings someplace and the guy might had a ride and something came up and this really happened where I think it was up in Maysville, or, or someplace up there, where the fellow had rode with somebody and he had to leave because of something at home with 01:09:00his, with his family. He had no(??) way home, and well, the lobbyists was gonna ride him but he couldn't do that. That was not legal. Things like that. And, uh, now it's gotten to where they can't have any individual things unless they include, that they did say to the caucuses. Now, they could have something for our caucus alone, as long as they invited everybody. And then they could do that. And that's okay because it did take away that, that being bought mentality--
DONNERMEYER: --you know. Although(??) wished they had it in Washington.(both laugh)
BOHL: So, were you involved really with this development of the campaignfinance and the ethics reform after BOPTROT or just ---------(??)--
DONNERMEYER: --it was before that even.
DONNERMEYER: Yeah, it was even before that. And, of course, uh, then were-looked at BOPTROT, and they tried to, to, uh, strengthen it, but no, it was actually before that.
BOHL: Okay, another issue that came up around the same time was health01:10:00care reform. Uh, were you involved in that? What memories do you have of that--
DONNERMEYER: --well, I, I, I was to the extent that, that we all were.It, it became a real problem. And it, it gotten worse just as we predicted it would and we tried to come up with, with different, uh, plans that would make it work. And that's where we were using the caucus--
DONNERMEYER: --to, to try to, uh, uh, come up with plans. I rememberthe speaker had one, and his was, was, uh, was kind of, it was Jody Richards at the time. He had just become speaker, and his was the kind of one that, that would, uh, was governed after something in Tennessee. And I don't know that it worked out all that well at that time, but it seemed pretty decent. But our problem was that, that, as a fringe benefit, we, we give all state government workers, which includes legislators, uh, a health care plan. And, uh, uh, it's gotten very, very expensive. Uh, I don't use it. I'm fortunate enough that, uh, 01:11:00uh, I only used it one little short time, uh, as a legislator, that, you were, you're considered an employee.
DONNERMEYER: And they, they would give you that, even when you retired.But then, and what it is, it was a minimum plan, and then you paid extra if you wanted to include your family, which is a fair way. But, but it's also all teachers, all bus drivers, all, everybody that works for state government. And it's a, it's a, they don't pay the kind of money some of the private firms did, so that was a, a way to help make up for it. But it's gotten so that it's, it's really, uh, uh, an awful, an awful, uh, uh, debt on the general fund. And it's gotten worse and worse. So, I don't know what they're gonna do about it and we tried to come up with plans. And we, we had some really drawn out arguments about it. A couple of them to the very last days of trying to get something passed in the House and the Senate, both knowing that we, it would be on what we called the fast track. That, if we came up 01:12:00with a plan, even though we had some there that weren't what everybody agreed to, we could, we could still have enough time to pass it cause we take it right into--everybody knew what was going on, we take it into health and welfare, and they'd pass it out. And, and there's a way you can, by, uh, uh, you can have the bill come out and still have the, the General Assemble stay in session recess. And you could bring the bill out of committee meeting and, and automatically take it to the floor. You know, you'd go out of recess and go in on the floor and say, "Okay, we're turning it over to the rules committee," and then recess again while the rules committee brings it back out. And you can, you can get a bill and have it on the floor within no time at all. But that's not the normal way to do it. The proper way is the, through the channels, but if you had to, you could do that. And, uh, so we, we were trying to do it at a couple of different sessions and never did get it accomplished. I know we ended up, I know that two sessions we ended up with big meetings and nothing. We ended up, 01:13:00no, just leaving it the way it was. And, of course, that doesn't help anything cause it still got worse and worse and worse now. I don't know what they're doing with it now, but it sure a, uh, big problem. And that's the same way federally.
BOHL: Hm. You dealt with a lot of legislation involving police andfirefighters.
BOHL: I know you mentioned your brother was a police officer--
DONNERMEYER: --right, right--
BOHL: --uh, so is that part of the reason you were so--
DONNERMEYER: --well, not just that my brother was, I think it goes tomy, my feeling that you try to help people no matter who they are. And I've kind of always went with the underdog and then, with the fireman, I was a fireman, volunteer, since I was sixteen years old. So I was always involved in that. And, uh, uh, so, it, it just seemed the logical thing to be involved with those kinds of things, and to get-- see, most of your, your cities, you didn't have a city's, uh, league of cities back then.
DONNERMEYER: Everybody's got their own lobbyist groups now. Even, evendown to your, your, uh, not only do your teachers have it, not only do 01:14:00your school board members have it, your, your, uh, principals and your superintendents. The only thing that bothers me there is instead of them paying for it themselves, we pay for it out of our tax money and I don't think that's right. I think if they want to have it, just like, uh, if you want to belong to a union, you pay dues to maintain your, and they ought to be doing that too, but that's another side. But I, I always felt like, uh, uh, there was different things that came up that the cities couldn't afford them because, number one, it all goes back to, we, years ago, they had counties that, because that's the way they did it way back then. Now we got too many counties. There are so many counties and there's some of them are so small that, it isn't that you don't like the idea of having them, but they can't pay for themselves. So it ends up the state, as a whole, the whole area, we, you pay for a lot of that. And, uh, uh, some little counties can't afford a county judge and all that, but then they get money from the state to do it, whereas other counties have to pay for it out of your, your tax monies. 01:15:00And it got the same way with various things for, uh, police and so forth. See, you, we tied it in with like the law enforcement thing at, at, uh, Eastern. That was the beginning of it. And it worked really well, and it's still working real well. Training policeman. And, and in, in order to do it, the cities couldn't afford to send them there without somebody helping to pay for it. So we would, we started doing things like that, and it would follow, we would do the same for fireman. Training, which really meant instead of, somebody being a, a policeman just putting a gun on, no, no, uh, no training whatsoever, to really getting trained. And course there you had to watch, too, so you didn't get over trained. (Bohl laughs) Or some of them use it to the, uh, you know, go out, I'm a policeman, I got a gun now, I can do what I want. So, but the better, more, the more and better training you had, the better off everybody would be, whether it was policeman, fireman, or whatever. And with that, you got to have, uh, just like we talked about fringe benefits for state workers, same way with them. Uh, their, their insurance, and, uh, we pushed for, uh, uh, you know 01:16:00policemen and firemen when they, as soon as they go on duty, they're putting their life on, on the line, more so than anybody else, because they're, you, you're just because you're off duty doesn't mean you're, you aren't still a policeman or a fireman. But when they are on, they can get killed just like that, so we had to have hazardous pay. Some of the cities didn't like that. Uh, we didn't have, uh, uh, a lot of the cities couldn't afford having, uh, pensions and we created the cities and counties pension things, and, which is better for everybody concerned, but that, that costs money. And so, and the only bad thing is we ended up, I was talking to somebody yesterday about that, the, uh, we used to have police judges. And at least when they find you, some of that money came back to the city. Well, then we did the judicial -----------(??), which never intended to get as expensive as it is, and, and all this money gets away from the cities, but not only that happened, look at the cost of it, the cost to create a 01:17:00judge, and, and the people to support that judge. And then what we're doing now, the mentality in the General Assembly is that, if you have a speeding ticket, or whatever it might be, when you, and they keep adding different things on there. And your, the court costs, it's, it's just a sin anymore. It's just getting up into the three-, four-, five hundred dollars for get fined for speeding. I mean, you're wrong in doing that, but not that, that the actual cost, speeding cost was minimal compared to what the court costs are. So, but they do have to pay for that some place, too.
BOHL: What do you think about the concealed carry law?
DONNERMEYER: Uh, I had a little problem with it. Uh, but there's goodthings about it. You know, if, if people were trained and, and, and they, they got, uh, background checks and they, they, um, had to, had to go, uh, uh, have to, you know, show all that before they got that, 01:18:00that's okay. But I was always concerned about, uh, are we creating a, uh, wild-west type mentality where everybody carried a gun, and, and it just, well, if they didn't like what they did, just start shooting each other. And, uh, it really hasn't come to all that. And, of course, what they'd do this last session, they created a law where, uh, you have a right to shoot somebody if they come in your house. I always thought you had that right, I don't know, maybe you didn't(??), cause sometimes they would sue. But, uh, I, that was, uh, kind of, not a hard one, not real hard, but I, I, I could see part of it, but I thought we should control it, uh, more by the background checks and different things they had to do. And, boy, that's proven out with, uh, with your terrorism situation, but it goes back to your driver's license. I think, uh, we have a gentleman here that's our county, uh, circuit court clerk and he came up with the idea and I think they're pushing that right now, how they're gonna make you get certain types of license, so that they can control it better. You know, you just can't get a license 01:19:00just by going down there and filing, you're gonna have to show your birth certificate and all different things like, which you should have to. The biggest thing we did was do away--and the federal government ought to start doing it too--do away with putting your doggone social security number on everything. Um, that, you know, they talk about people stealing your identity, duh, they can get it, it's any place. But, uh, yeah, I, I had a little problem with concealed weapons.
BOHL: Okay, you also passed a lot of bills dealing with alcohol. Uh,making alcohol more available to people, that sort of thing. Did you face, uh, pressure from dry counties when you were doing things like that--
DONNERMEYER: --well, you see, we did, uh, but where I, well, my areahere is more of a, we're wet, and there's no problem with it. And I always felt like the problem's there, and it's not gonna go away and it's been there for a long, long time, so you better control it. And that's what we always tried to do, control it the best you can. 01:20:00And, and our, our proof was, we could show that, that there were more accidents caused by drinking in dry areas than there were in wet areas. And the reason had to be, uh, was kind of obvious that what would happen would, they'd get, they'd get the, whether it be beer or regular alcohol, and the alcohol in the, in the wet area, and, and, or, or either from a bootlegger, and then they'd consume it all one time instead of using common sense. And, uh, we didn't try to force them to becoming wet. We'd always let them do that under the basis of, of, uh, election. But what we did try to do, because in, most of the time it came from them, somebody in their group, their, their Chamber, people like that, where the interstate system created, uh, uh, the roads going through their area. And then to take advantage of the taxes and so 01:21:00forth, they would want to have motels come there. Well, the motels, they weren't able to go there unless they can have a restaurant that's got, uh, has, uh, alcohol, uh, when you're eating. And so, we would use that as, as a basis, you had to have so many, uh, seats and you had to, only, only buy the drink, not by the package. And, uh, but now they're, they're even limiting that, or they're opening some of that up, uh, by, uh, uh, precincts in, in an area, which I was surprised to see them do that. We had one situation, I don't know if I told you, where I had a bill where, uh, it was coming out of the House going into the Senate. And I knew I didn't have a problem with the Senate with the bill but I had to go through the BOP in the Senate, and it had to deal with the size of these liquor bottles on the airplanes. They, you know, they have, the airplanes would have, they'd sell these small bottles of liquor and that to the people. And I'm forgetting how we were, what the bill was completely about, it had to do those and the size and maybe how much was in them. And, uh, this one fellow from, 01:22:00uh, the House, Albert Robinson, Representative Albert, we always, he called it, uh, the Devil's Brew and it was, uh, alc-key-hall, he called it. He was, anything had to do with it, he'd be against it. Well, we always, him and Senator Huff, he was a representative at the time and then he became a senator, always would took the tact of gonna them, saying, "Yes, we have this bill and here's what it does. Now, we want you to know ahead of time. We know you're probably gonna be against it, but we want you to know the whole facts about it." And then we'd go ahead and work the bills. And this one came to the Senate and much to my surprise, Albert was gonna be there and oppose it. And his opposition was that the airplanes were flying over the dry areas and they would be--(laughs)--and they would be, they would be breaking the law. And I thought, Oh, Albert, I can't believe you're saying this. (both laugh) But the committee listened to him diligently, and then when he got done, they voted the bill out five to nothing. (both laugh) But it was so, it was, I, I just couldn't believe that he was there. I knew he would, would be against the idea but I, when he got up and said, "Well"--they asked him, the chairman asked him what was 01:23:00his problem, he said "Well, they're flying over these dry areas." (both laugh) "But they're way up here, Albert." (both laugh) Incidentally, he, he became, uh, more infamous for his, uh, uh, pushing of, uh, uh, pensions. He was the one that had all these little quirks(??) he put in all the time. He became a senator, you know. He came back and he got elected as a senator. And he put the little things in there about trying to get difference in change of pension for retirees, cause he was gonna be one, that's why he--(both laugh) Well, he got to be funny. Um, redistricting too, he, we, uh, tried to do redistricting, like I told you, but getting somebody from that area to take care of their group. Well, then the leadership then, if there was any controversies, uh, we would always sit down, say, "Okay, now that we got, the bills are ready to go," we would say, "We're gonna have a, a hearing, anybody that's got a problem in their area that they didn't feel they, they 01:24:00got addressed properly, they could come to the leadership, and tell us what it was," and then we'd, you know, say, "Okay," or, "No," whichever thing might be if they had a good reason to be against that person in that area that said they didn't want to do it, we, we would try to work it out. Well, we could work it out cause we were the leadership, yeah, you could say, "That's it, we're gonna put that in the bill." Well, we would hold these hearings. And I won't forget, Bobby Richardson was speaker. And, uh, uh, there was about, oh, eight or ten different things in the areas of the state where a couple of them wanted to come at least voice their opinions what happened in their area. And Albert was one of them but he didn't go out front and sit there and wait to come in to see us. He came in through the back way, through the speaker's office, and talk to us about it and say, "Don't tell them I said that." And then he'd leave. (laughs) And that was funny because we'd say, "Oh, okay," and then we'd have the, I'd come in and listen to them, say, "Oh, Albert Robinson said this." (both laugh) He was a nice 01:25:00guy but he, he had his ways.
BOHL: (laughs) Okay(??), as a member of leadership for so long, tenyears, uh, you were a pretty, prominent lightening rod, I would imagine, for a lot of things. You mentioned last time about, uh, one of the, uh, representatives who had a drinking problem and was coming up and saying things to you. Were there times that you felt threatened because of your position?
DONNERMEYER: Felt what?
DONNERMEYER: No, not really threatened, but, uh, that was kind of,uh, whether you was in leadership or not, that was kind of a, a, you know, a thing that, here's a, a fellow that has a real problem and, and didn't take care of it and then he's gonna tell me I can't bring a bill up for a vote, which it's a democratic vote, you know. And, uh, actually, the reason it was still there is, like I told you, you, you, you learn to bring it up when you think you got the votes. And-- (laughs)--and that's why it was sitting up there waiting.
DONNERMEYER: But no, I never, I never really felt, uh, threatened atall. Uh, uh, I did know that, uh, as times go on, there were different areas and different peoples that would say, you know, "Well, we're friends, I like you, but I'm not gonna be able to vote for you," cause, uh, they thought you were doing some, some things. And, the, the main one was respect life. And it wasn't that many; it was only a couple. But they, they would just be adamant about it and I, uh, I know the one time that, uh, uh, it, it, and then it seemed like it changed things. The fellow's still there. And he's, he's a really a good legislator. And this is the only thing we ever had a disagreement on. And I told him that I respect it, but every year they had the, uh, uh, same as they had nationally, they'd have this, uh, near the anniversary date, of Rowe v. Wade, they'd always have a, a rally. And everybody has a right to have a rally. All you do is go down and do the proper procedures, you know, get, uh, permission and everything. And for some reason or other, the people forgot, the people that run this, forgot to 01:27:00get, uh, resolution with the House usually did and the Senate usually did, and we didn't make them vote on it, uh, by, by turning the elec-, the, uh, yes and no on; it was a voice vote. So that it was either, it passed or it didn't, and usually it passed. Well, it so happened that, uh, they forgot to do this. And they came to me and said, "Oh my gosh, how are we gonna do this?" And I said, "Well, I'll bring it up under petitions and communications. And I'll tell the speaker ahead of time. And, and, uh, by voice vote, either vote for it, yes or no." Well, he got all bent out of shape and accused me of all kinds of things because I thought that up, like I was trying to sneak something through, and I'm thinking, We've done this every, all the time, what am I sneaking through. And it wasn't open the machine up, and put yes or no, red light or green light, so you would be on open record. I mean, well, they should've really, I mean, that's the honest way to do it. If you got, if you can't stand up for what you believe in, but we never put, 01:28:00we never put people in that position and I didn't there. So, we're going down through the tunnel after the sessions over with, walk in there, and he's giving me what for about this. And I kept listening to him, finally I said, "You know, I gotta tell you something. I, number one, I didn't do anything other than do what we've always done, bring it up like that. And I know where you're at and I respect that. I respect you more than you realize because I know where you're at and you know where I'm at. It's these people that lie to you that you have a problem with." I said, "So, you know, I, I don't want you to be angry at me and I'm not angry at you but I just want to tell you I respect your right to be opposed to what, to what I believe in. And I just ask you to give me that same respect. Give me that respect, let me, and I'm, I'm not doing anything wrong with you, not pushing you, and making you do anything." From that time on, we got along fine. I guess it's just the idea that, uh, uh, he was fervent about his ideas about it. And, and, you know, sometimes I think sometimes it's your, the people 01:29:00around you, I know his, I don't know that he was that strong, but I know his wife at the time was very much, uh, believing in the fact that she had her right as a--and I respect that, you know. That's, but, uh, that would be the only time I even, that, that wouldn't be threatened, but that, that's the only time I had a little confrontation about it. That and with Gerta, Gerta Bendl, she had her problems with it, and I always tried to talk to her about it. And unfortunately, I never did get a chance to, to prove to her that, I, I don't know how I could've prove that, I didn't, didn't set this thing up in her committee. She said "Well, you're in leadership." I said, "Well, that ain't nothing to do with it; I didn't go there, I didn't even come there." (both laugh) Uh.
BOHL: One of the things that the Northern Kentucky Regional Caucus isknown for is getting the convention center approved. Uh, I know that took some time and effort. What do you remember about that effort?
DONNERMEYER: Well, it was unfortunate because, uh, the ones that were01:30:00opposed to it should never have been. And, and, uh, they finally came around and acted like they did it, you know. That's, but that's the way things work. But, uh, we tried to get it early on and it was, uh, some of the Kenton County people that, I don't know why they kept saying they were opposed to, opposed to it, opposed to it. And, uh, actually you find out real fast who is labor-oriented, who is chamber-oriented, and so forth. I've always tried to be open to both because people have to be, make money as a business or you don't have people, you don't have jobs. So, you gotta have both, but you gotta have the happy medium, but you got to be fair with people. Well some of these people don't want to do that. They're just, labor's no good. And I don't know why because you have to have laborers. You gotta have somebody do the work. And they seemed like they were the ones opposed to it, and we'd always tell the Chamber, "Hey, you gotta get these people. This is good for all of us here. When you got 01:31:00the convention"--and, and I've been on the convention business bureau forever. And, uh, I was on it then, I still am. And that's the, that was the irony of this thing is that two or three of them that were opposing it from up here. And, and that was the sad thing because it was for our area. And we finally got that thing set up down there by having our caucuses, said, "Look, if you get together and come down as an unified," then we can be for it. Well that always gives somebody else a chance that, that, that may be trying to help their area, and I'm not opposed to them doing that, but use that as saying, "Well, I can't be for it. You, you can't even get your people to be for it." That was their excuses. And it took, it took about at least one or two extra sessions that didn't have to take; we should've had it. It's the same way with the university and Northern Kentucky University's, uh, ---------(??) out there. We would have had that too. That really hurt on, on the one session had to do with the, uh, uh, their educational 01:32:00act. Uh, they said, "Well, you know, if you ain't gonna be for that," and I thought that was wrong because we had a right to say that we didn't agree with it, but nothing we could do about it because that's the way it worked. I was a part of it, I know, that's the way it worked, and we got zapped. Uh, and it went to, uh, it went down to, uh, what the heck is the name of that, Murray.
DONNERMEYER: Yeah. Unfortunately, but maybe it's better in the long runcause it got bigger and better, now. (both laugh)
BOHL: How did your experience in the legislature compare with, uh, theideas you had before you got in?
DONNERMEYER: Well, that's kind of hard to answer because the ideas I hadbefore, I really didn't know how it worked because nobody did. They, it was, it was not, it was so closed. I mean, when I say that, it just it, the interest wasn't there. Uh, and they sure weren't gonna let you 01:33:00know about it. And, and they just did what they pleased, more or less. And you never, you didn't have the, the change in things. Uh, but it's, it's evolved into, into, uh, what I think it should be in, in, in, uh, a lot of ways--
[Pause in recording.]
BOHL: You were saying it's evolving.
DONNERMEYER: It's, it's evolved in a way that, that it's, it's been goodfor, uh, the commonwealth, good for, uh, things that have happened. Uh, that we, we have, uh, I think a very open government, more so than people realize. And they, they can affect their, their, uh, their legislators a lot more. Uh, and I think people are learning how they, they can do that and we've created so many things, uh, as far as like, uh, uh, before computers even, just the various lines we opened up that you can call and find out where your, the bills are, when the meetings are. Uh, you can contact your legislators, you can leave them 01:34:00a message, these types of things. And then, then with computers, it's gotten more open. And, and it's to the point where you can get online and get, uh, copies of anything you want. And before it used to be, you had to get, which it evolved into it, you had, you had to send down and pay so much for each copy or have us pick them up and get them for you if you wanted a copy of bills. But that, that gets more people involved in what, what's going on and, and knowing what's going on and how to, how to work within the system to get something done and, and, uh, for the good of everybody. So it's, it's been a, a really good process. And, uh, I could never envision it being at that much. My idea originally was basically to open it up. And, and to, to be more, uh, state government be more open and be more responsive to our local government. And, and it's there. And, of course, with that, I always keep saying this, you got to safeguard that it doesn't get too, uh, 01:35:00you got cities committee and, and, uh, uh, the, the lady there is, I think she does a great job, Sylvia Lovey(??). I've worked well, very, very well with her. And when I became city committee chairman after I was out of leadership, and they, uh, uh, do a lot of good things. And they've, they've helped a lot of city governments with, with, uh, how they need to operate, how they should operate openly. And set up procedures for that. So it's helped everybody. I mean, the city governments and the county governments and the state governments. So we've come a long way and that doesn't mean you can't go a lot further. And I don't know what they are gonna do with all these blogs. I, that blows my mind, these bloggers. (laughs) But I guess that's, uh, that's another part of it. I was just seeing again last night where, uh, one of our, uh, uh, state senators, or, uh, US rather senators in trouble because of bloggers.
DONNERMEYER: And the blogger's in California and he's on the other, in01:36:00the, he's over in Connecticut. (both laugh)
BOHL: How would you describe your political philosophy?
DONNERMEYER: Always be with the underdog. Always be with somebodythat, uh, and, and I think I told you that, it, it always made me feel good to see somebody down, and you could tell they were, they were confused. There's nowhere to go and say, "What's the problem?" And then, "Oh, we can take care of that, come on, follow me." And they think, Hey, how can he do that? Well, because you, you knew how to work it, and they didn't, and that would be. And I've done that any number of times. In committee meetings, uh, listen to somebody that might have said something and afterwards go and tell them and say, "You know what? Why don't you come over, if you got enough time, stay and come over the other side and come to my office and, uh, let me, let me get you with somebody that can help you." And the, that's what you're there for really. But see, a lot of times, uh, I think some of, some 01:37:00of our legislators--hopefully I've never done it--got to the point they thought, Hey, I'm pretty big stuff, and, you know, you don't, you don't question me or you don't, you know, you, that's really what, what worries me with some of our people. Whether(??) they get full of themselves and they don't realize that, hey, you work for them, they don't work for you. And the idea is you're supposed to try to help them and, and make it as, as, as comfortable and as easy as you can for them to be able to at least find out what's going on and how they can, even if you don't agree with them. Even if you don't agree with them. But it is, it is a really good feeling to be able to help people, uh, give you a call and, and I've always felt good that people would, would say, to me, "You know what? You might not helped but you listened to me. Or you, you helped me by listening to me, or you, you told me where, where I needed to go. You, you might not have been able to 01:38:00solve it, but you have helped there." And, you know, that's worked in a lot more ways than just state government as far as laws are concerned. I, I had people call about, uh, some problems they might have with workman's comp, or various things like that, and you're able to say them, "Here, why don't you contact this person." And, uh, or if people come up with a, a problem and I'd tell them to get hold of, uh, worked real well with, uh, like, Jim Bunning, even though he's Republican. I've sent people to his office and tell them, tell them I asked you to go there and not in a confrontational way, but in a try to help them.
DONNERMEYER: And, uh, it's worked that way. People, they have sentpeople to me. Same way, that, you know, you're in the state government, contact him, they'd say, "Well, Senator Bunning's office said to contact you." And, uh, and it works that way, which's good; that's what we're there for. You know, we're supposed to be the, the, uh, uh, free arm of state government, I guess--(both laugh)--and city and, and, uh, 01:39:00federal government and everything. So, it, it makes you feel good, at least it did me, to help people. And I've always felt that way.
BOHL: How long did it take you to feel like you knew how to work it?
DONNERMEYER: I think I started realizing it when I, when I first becamea chairperson, uh, a little bit, but then after being in leadership, uh, at least one time, uh, you realized then, you know, like I told you, Governor Carroll and I had a lot of bills. And, you know, a lot of the bills were not just from this area; they were bills for the whole state. Uh, I had bills that had to do with, uh, sprinkler systems cause we had the problem with, uh--
BOHL: --Beverly Hills, right.
DONNERMEYER: Yes, and, uh, I worked with them to try to, to, uh, getpeople together where they had differences and, uh, maybe the builders didn't want this, and some of the others, say, "Hey, you know you got to come up with a happy median that's good for both of you." And the same way with, uh, with, uh, fireworks, I had somebody come to me about 01:40:00fireworks. And I realized what was going on and we were able to get together and come up with a, with something that was--that's what you have to do, get both sides together. They're not gonna completely agree, but you gotta to get them to come together and, and work with them(??). And that's where, as a legislator, you could work out real good with, uh, any things like that. Like, for instance, uh, Highlands out there, they were trying to get, when we had certificate of needs, they changed some of that, but you could call for a meeting, get them together, and then have them sit down, uh, both sides, air their dirty wash, and back and forth, and say, "Okay, now why, why do you have to this? Why can't you do this? And you why can't you accept this part of that because it's, it's right. And forget being mad, and just try to work together." And it worked real well. Did that with that and with, uh, uh, various police issues, various fire issues where you might have, uh, like, really, you have the constitutional -----------(??) down, like the fire marshal's office. And then you'd have people out 01:41:00in the field saying, "Well, they're trying to do this," by, uh, them saying, "This is what we're gonna do through regulation, and it's not working right." "Well, let's get you two together and, and make you understand that, hey this, this is supposed to work for everybody. And wanting, we're not enemies to you and you're not enemies of us, let's get together." And I think that's what you're supposed to do. And it seemed like it worked out real well. And in any-, anything, I've done it in transportation where we had problems with them, and with our creek down here, nobody would do anything. Finally got Governor, uh, Brown, I said, uh, "The, the, the, the department of, uh, transportation was gonna do it, but they said, 'Oh, we only got one set of equipment and it's, we got jobs in so many places, it'll take a year to get up there.'" So, you know, in the meantime, we got flooding because the creek needed to be cleaned out. And the, and the local governments can't afford to do it, and it's, it's in between, you don't know who's responsible. It goes through all these different 01:42:00local governments. Went in there and talked to the, uh, guy that Brown put in--he died since then--his name was Metz out of Louisville and he used common sense. And he was transportation secretary and went in and talked about it. He came up here and took one look at it and says, "We'll take care of that." And what he did, he got hold of Car-, uh, Carlisle who was, got involved in politics a little bit. And he had equipment. And he said, "How about, what would you charge me to clean this thing out with your equipment?" And they came to an agreement, and man, we got it done within two weeks. (laughs) That's not a year. It was all done, everything's fine. So, you know, that just, you, you don't always have to use the state government, as, as far as using the, the, uh, their equipment and all that, so it worked out. But I think that's what you should do as a legislator. Sometimes you get your nose where they don't like to see it, but. (laughs) I've always kid people, I say, "Get my big nose in there and I'll"--(laughs)--that's where you 01:43:00gotta worry about so you thing that, you know, you're invincible, that you can do this or you can do that, but, uh, sometimes you have to be the arbitrator. And if, if you got a big enough stick, you can say, "Well, now why don't you consider this and you consider this," and get together and everybody's happy. And, you know, once you do that, then I think they work better together too. They realize, hey, we are not enemies, we're supposed to be trying to help each other. You know, when you got a problem, to me, you try to solve the problem, not try to make it worse. And sometimes we all end up doing that. They, uh, get, get you head on, say, "Hey, I'm, I'm wrong. And we gotta change that." And if more of our, our, uh, more of our people that are in position to have to make decisions, would start doing that, we'd all be better off. Look at things and say, "Well, you know, let's, let's step back and say, uh, oh, maybe they're right about that one part of it. We need to take a look at that." 01:44:00
BOHL: You were in office for so long, clearly you had a pretty strongbase and were a popular legislature--legislator, at least of they kept reelecting you. Did you ever consider running for anything else?
DONNERMEYER: At one time, I was asked to run for, uh, uh, House, USHouse district, and I did consider that. And I talked it over with my wife and, and the, the thing that really scared me was the, the amount of money they would have(??). And back then, it was nothing like it is now. Boy(??), it's really bad now. But that kind of scared me. And, uh, uh, the other part that kinda scared me was going to Washington, if you were, if you were successful. Uh, I just didn't like to be away from, you know, here. And, uh, uh, then the other part of it, I always talked-- Wendell Ford, I always thought was a great senator. And he tried to work with the people, all kinds of people, whether, no matter 01:45:00what side they were on. And talking to him, he told me one time, uh, that it was right before this, that, uh, uh, he felt like he was able to do more as a governor than there because you had to work through this system, it takes so long to get involved, and to get so far. And, and, uh, you, I could see that. You could just see that it's, it's different. And, uh, I didn't want to get out of my league. I felt like this, I was out of my league being a state rep., much less gonna Washington. (both laugh) And there was, there was enough things that I were, I was not happy with that I thought, No, I'm not gonna do that. And what, what I, I was, I was ready to go down and file for it, and we had this, like, a hurricane, not a hurricane, but what do they call it? Came through a tornado--
DONNERMEYER: --or whatever it was and we had the, the, the, uh, I wasactually getting ready to leave, actually getting to ready to leave and go down to Frankfort to file. And, uh, even though I had all those 01:46:00doubts and talked to my wife and back and forth, and, you know, and you know, there is such as a thing as feeling, hey, you know, they, they feel enough that they're asking me to do this. And I did get asked from people in Louisville, Jefferson County, and other areas, and was being pushed to, to run. And it was against Congressman Gene Snyder was a formidable person. And, uh, you know, I, I had my doubts, and I was getting ready to go down there, and when this thing came up, that was, that was a good excuse to say, "Hey, I ain't gonna leave this house. I'm gonna stay here." (laughs) "We got problems, I'm not gonna get blown away." So I just didn't do it. But now, I, I, that's the only time I considered running for something different. The only other time would be running for Senate and, uh, the State Senate. And I thought about that. And then after I thought about it a couple of times, I thought, Well, Art Schmidt was the guy I'd have to run against. He was a friend of mine, number one. And number two, it would be, you know, he, he would have a built-in thing, saying, "Hey, 01:47:00you're in leadership in the House." Of course he knew what that meant cause he was the minority, even in minority leadership, he, he still had a certain amount of, of perks, or whatever you want to call it, be able to get things done. And I felt like, I've even, look what I would be giving up because I'm in leadership in the House. And evidently I'm, I'm in good enough shape that I gonna be, be there for at least another time. Uh, nobody seemed like they were gonna run against me. I was, they were happy and I was happy, so why should I give that up and go over there. Uh, so I never did do that either, but that'd be the only two. That be the only two and they weren't big enough to make me change my mind, so I stayed where I was at.
BOHL: Okay, you decided to retire in 1994. How did you make yourdecision?
DONNERMEYER: Very hard. (laughs) It wasn't easy at all. Um, for sometime, I'd been wanting to do that. Uh, I had some problems, I was 01:48:00starting to have some problems with my hearing, and which wasn't all that bad, but, uh, then I ended up, I ended up with a detached retina in my right eye and that bothered me. And it didn't go well. Uh, they promised that, that I'd get 85 to 95 percent of my sight back. And after the operation, when I, uh, it just, uh, uh, if I closed my good eye, I could be that far away from you, I can, I can see your shoulders, but I can't make you out. I drive okay, it's fine, I, I, but I ended finding out I had glaucoma. And it, and I'm being, being treated for it with, uh, drops, and it worked real well. And, uh, excuse me. I still drive; I've driven to Florida twice this year already. But it just got to be that, and then I, then the other thing that really, I think the main reason was there was new people coming in, and I seen that. And I had no ideas of wanting to run for, uh, leadership or anything like that. But still and all, I felt like, you 01:49:00know what? You've been here a long time and, and I don't know some of these people. I'd get to know them but I don't them like those who were there before, and they're all going their ways. And, and maybe it's time for me to, to let somebody else come in here. And, uh, just get out of it and relax and enjoy your--you do miss your family. You know, there's a lot of time away. And while I still have a chance, I'd like to be able to, to do that and that's one of the reasons.
BOHL: What was the story with the Patton sign in your yard? I read a fewarticles--
DONNERMEYER: --oh yeah--(laughs) That had to do with Right to Life.
DONNERMEYER: Uh, they, when Patton ran, I told him that I couldn't, I,I, I wasn't gonna go out and jump up and down but I couldn't openly support him. And I left that open, I didn't say I wouldn't support him and I didn't, I didn't, and I'm not that way. If I was gonna support you, I told you. You know, I'm gonna, I'm, I'm gonna be with you, 01:50:00and I would be with you. And that meant you could use my name, if it meant anything to you, whatever. I'd go out and campaign for you; we could take pictures, whatever you wanted. And I just told him, no, I couldn't do that, because he had his opinions and I did too, but I was just gonna, I was gonna sit it out. I told him that. So, "I was asked a couple of times about the sign and said, "No, I don't want none." And the lady that--we used to have legislative district chair-people. Each district had a chairperson. We had three district here, and this was throughout the state too, and they did away with it, but then that person was, uh, it didn't mean anything--it, it did to a certain extent. That meant they were backing you, they would help you and all that and people could call them, if they didn't call you, but most of them called me direct anyway. But, uh, she was very active in the Democratic Party too, and of course so was I. And, uh, she, they were putting signs out, she was strong for Patton. And she knew where I 01:51:00was at. I just said, "No, I'm not gonna get involved in the campaign. And, uh, no, don't put no sign in my yard." So, what happened was evidently, uh, on a, on a kind of a, she was finishing up with her signs at the end of the campaign. And they had one or two of them left. And I got a dead-end street anyway. To me, it, it, I don't know if it means that much putting a sign in my yard--(both laugh)--some people they think so, fine, go ahead and do it. But this one, I said, "No, I don't want it." So, she, uh, was coming home, I, I found out afterwards that she did it. I didn't know it at the time. And she said, "We're coming home and we'd been putting signs out and they had one or two left and I said I'm gonna put one in anyway." Well, I didn't know it. And it's, at that time, you know, the, the, uh, uh, the hours are different and, and it's dark and everything. And we'd gone to church and come back. And I don't know if it was in there then or not because I didn't see anything, at least, I, my wife didn't say anything 01:52:00about it either. And, uh, that was a Saturday and we went on, uh, at, uh, 5:30 mass on Saturday at noon, and it's dark.
DONNERMEYER: And we'd come home. And come in the house and didn't payany attention. Sunday morning, I get up and go out and get my paper. And there's a sign there. That's the only sign that was in the yard, didn't have any other signs. I said, "Doggone," I come in and my wife gets up and says, "What's the matter?" "Well, somebody put that Patton sign in the yard." "Well," said, "just take it and put it in the garage." So I said, "Okay." And I go out and pick it up and put it in the garage and don't say nothing, let it go. About two nights later, either Monday or Tuesday, about 10:30 at night, there's a knock on my door. And it's dark again, so I open the door up, and here's the lady that I knew who it was, secretary of the Northern Kentucky Right to Life. And I said, "Hey, how you doing? What are you doing here?" "Oh, Bob ----------(??) told me to come over here and give you this letter." I said, "Oh, okay." I took it. I didn't know what it was about. So I started to say, "Fine." She said, "Oh, you got to read it in front 01:53:00of me." "What?" Said, "You have to read it in front of me." I said, "I do!" Well, she's a nice lady, I'm not gonna argue with her. I said, "Okay." So I opened it up and read it. And he's taking me to task for being with him. And I said, "Well, he don't understand." She said, well, she gave me this picture. He took a picture of it. Somebody had to go up and down the street taking pictures, cause they had a picture of it in my yard, see. So I said, "Well, tell Bob to call me, I would like to meet with him and explain it to him." Well, she was real kinda, you know, being pushy and being, uh, uh, confrontational. And I said, "Well, tell him to call me." And she said, "Well, you call him he said." So I said, "Okay." So I did. I called, and said, "Bob, I'd like to explain it to you." He said, "I don't think you can explain it." He was real nasty about it. I said, "Well, I didn't ask for that sign there, I didn't want that sign there, I did not, didn't condone putting it there. I took it out when I found out." "Well, you didn't take it 01:54:00out soon enough!" I said, "Well, Bob, I didn't find out until that next morning and that was Sunday and I took it out then." Said, "Well, they took a picture of us." "Well, I don't know when they took the picture, but I took it out that Sunday morning and it had only been there Saturday night, and the first part of Sunday." Well, that wasn't good enough for him so what does he do naturally, because he gets the paper out. He goes to the papers about it. I didn't. He went to the papers about it. And he really takes me to, called me Judas, everything.
DONNERMEYER: Takes me to task in the papers. So, naturally the papersare gonna call me and say, "What do you think?" And I said, "Well, off the record, I will tell you what happened." So I told them. And, and I've always got along with reporters that way. Said, "What happened?" I said, they said, "What about on the record? What do you want to say?" I said, "Well, let me think. Uh, I'm pro-life. I've always been pro- life. I respect those that are not, I pray for both the pro-life and the non pro-life, and I especially pray for Bob ---------(??)." That's 01:55:00all I told said. And let it go at that and they'd call back, call back. Boy, did he get mad! (both laugh) Cause I'm praying for him, I said, "I meant it. I really meant it." (both laugh) Well that's what happened but I had an awful lot of people that just said, "Bob, that's wrong. As much as he has done for pro-life, and then you take him to task without even." Why would he even make a big deal out of it, cause I mean it didn't help anything.
DONNERMEYER: Truthfully, if you really think about it, they didn't(??),there's were any side, and not just in this issue, any issue, why would I want to make enemies of people when they know the, the guy's gonna win? I mean, the candidate they had wouldn't even close whatsoever. Patton just walked away it. And you could see the polls that was there. He was the winner. Uh, but I still didn't jump on his side. I mean, I could've said, "Hey, I'm with you, I'm with you." But I didn't and, and, uh, uh, got a lot of kidding about it more than anything. To this day, I have people say something about it. But I had more people 01:56:00tell me that, that he was wrong then that I was wrong. And a lot of them, -----------(??) you don't have a chance to go tell everybody what happened. And I didn't feel like I really needed to, to be honest with you. I thought if he wanted to make a big thing, let me. And the more you make out of something like that, it's like any other issue, the more you do that, this one gentleman was very astute. He told me when you shovel, you know what, it gets on you, too, so don't do it. The only thing that bugs me is that when, when, when you're talking about negative campaigning and people say it's wrong--and I think it is too-- but it seems to work and that's unfortunate.
DONNERMEYER: That's the unfortunate about it. That you can say somethings without having to, uh, be a real grey area, and you'll see it on TV now. Uh, you see these things they come up with and you say, "Well, this guy voted for this, he voted," you can't prove they did or didn't and just that little blurb doesn't tell you nothing. People need to get out and find out for themselves. So that was the issue. (Bohl laughs) I've, I've got a clock in there, I don't know if you 01:57:00noticed it. I got, uh, I guess I'm considered to, ought to feel pretty good about being in some pretty good, uh, uh, big league people. Jim Bunning got one, uh, Gene Snyder got one, uh, I don't know of any other state people, but I got one from the state association with a nice big plaque saying they appreciated what I've done for the, the, uh, all walks of life, so. But I guess people have to do what they think they, you know, he, he has toned down somewhat, but it's gotten to the point where he thought that they were so strong in getting people elected, or defeated. And I don't think that's the issue. I mean, he's, he's turned a lot of people that are pro-life off because, again, I think even, even your priesthood, you got to work with people. You know, you just can't be, uh, tell people they got to, uh, believe what you believe. That's, you can say, "I believe this," but don't say, "You have to." No, that ain't the way it is. 01:58:00
BOHL: Okay, another thing that I read about that sounds kinda off is,uh, that there was some kind of debate about dog control and you were saying that you were going to bark at the committee? (laughs)
DONNERMEYER: No, I don't know anything about that. The only thing thateven comes close to, to, uh, the, uh, the situation, we had, they, there was, uh, there was some, uh, I didn't have any problem with it. There was a bunch of people that had, uh, uh, controversies about hunting dogs. And I remember, uh, the one legislator walked around the Capitol with a bunch of people with their hunting dogs. Um, I'm trying to remember how the issues was. I had nothing to do with it the darn issue. (laughs) It, it had to do with, with, uh, cruelty with, uh, uh, chasing these, these, uh, what were they? Squirrels or something 01:59:00up the trees. And, and the hound dogs there, you know, jumping up trying to get them and all that. Uh, that's one issue that I remember, but I had nothing to do with--(both laugh)--barking at them. And the only other thing possible was, uh, there was an issue. Clay Crupper was the chairperson. There was an issue, something about dogs being able to come into, uh, oh, like, restaurants and things like that, and I'm trying to remember what it was all about. And I was not involved directly, but I was involved some way or another but I never said anything about barking at them. (laughs)
DONNERMEYER: And, and I, I brought in as my, uh, uh, I wanted to beable to allow, like, on planes or anything, people and guide dogs, dogs that were, would help people. Uh, and I brought this Bob Arnold who was the, uh, he was, he's been very active, his dad was very active in transportation cabinet. And then he was as a, uh, when he was in 02:00:00college and after he got out of college. And then he was a, uh, county judge at one time down there and he was also in state government. And he's been blind, legally blind all his life, and he had black lab that he always had with him and I had him come in to the committee and had his dog testify, so to speak, by being there, and even had him jump up and look at the chairman and the committee--(laughs)--members -------- ---(??) Bob sat there and discussed the, uh, I didn't know what it was, but I never said I was gonna bark at somebody.
DONNERMEYER: (laughs) I never heard of that before. (both laugh)
BOHL: Yeah, I heard that and I thought that sounds very strange. (bothlaugh)
DONNERMEYER: Yeah, yes, what, what am I gonna do? (both laugh) Youknow, sometimes, I like to joke a lot. If, if, if I could've said to somebody, "Well, maybe I oughta bark instead of talking, maybe that'll do something," I don't know. But I don't remember that. (both laugh) That's pretty good. I know I used to listen to the, uh, Christmas songs, and they got some guys that, that, some had, had these dogs 02:01:00barking Christmas songs, "Jingle Bells," I think that's funny. (both laugh) I don't think I would do that in a committee.
DONNERMEYER: The biggest thing I ever done was get up on the floor, Idon't know if I told you about that, with, with Bill Kenton, where we had this motherhood and apple pie, and it went on and on and on, and with, uh, with our TV on, you know, now and everybody's there. And, and, uh, everybody knew which way the bill was gonna go. But, uh, then when it got to the floor, uh, they, they, we allotted so much time and the speaker let everybody get up and have their say about everything. It must went on for forty-five minutes and everybody's getting up and giving their "Yes, I'm voting because of this or that," or, "I'm"--very few voted "no." And it kept on going and McBee's there and we're in the back row and Gerta Bendl is sitting next to me. And she had these big hats. And, uh, McBee's sitting there and sitting there and finally he said, uh, I said, "Somebody ought to get up and sing something," I said, "because this is all apple pie and motherhood." And he said, "You 02:02:00ain't got enough guts to do that." I said, "I haven't?" He said, "No," and Gerta said, "I don't think you have either." So I jumped up, stood there, the speaker looks down at you, it was Bill Kenton and he says, "For what purpose does the gentleman with Campbell Sixty-Eight rise?" And then, you would say, "Mr. Speaker, I arise to, to bring my vote." And it was just in the vote, see. And ever-, every-, everybody's happy that it was over with. (Bohl laughs) And I get up, he said, uh, "Gentleman may proceed. Uh, according to House rules, you have three minutes." So I said, "Okay, Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, I'd like to explain my vote this way and ask that you please join in with me." Well I started singing, "GOD BLESS AMERICA." (laughs) And it went over big, except the speaker didn't like it. He chased me down the hall cause he didn't want anybody doing things like that. (both laugh) And he didn't know I was gonna do and I didn't either. (both laugh) And it was funny cause he was kind of heavy set. When it was all over with and we adjourned, and everybody was clapping their hands, "HEY!" Everything was fine, you know. Go out, 02:03:00I go out the back door, and I see him come out that side door and he said, "REPRESENTATIVE DONNERMEYER!" Man, I took off. (both laugh) And he's chasing me. I ran down by the Senate. He couldn't catch me if he had to. Come back up around this way and finally I stopped and waited for him right by his door there. (huffs) "You shouldn't of done that, you should've told me." I said, "I didn't know I was gonna do it, Mr. Speaker, let's go inside and talk about it." So we went in and he was okay after I explained it to him. I said, "If he wouldn't have dared me, I would never have done it." I said, "We're sit and listened to all this stuff, all the while everybody getting up, and I finally said okay, I thought it was a good way to end it." (both laugh) I forgot(??) I got a couple of offers to sing incidentally. (both laugh) Vic Hellard used to love to do that. And, uh, I tell you who else liked to sing was Gerta and then, uh, Hank Hancock. And there were some, a few others that liked to do that. And then what we would do, we'd, when-, whenever they had, uh, uh, like at the end of the sessions, 02:04:00different committees might, uh, have a little party, and it got to the point where everybody wanted to go to them. So instead of just having them separately, they would kind of have someplace. And finally Vic came up with, "Let's have a big party for everybody down at the hotel." And we all put in X number of dollars and, and got a thing down there. We gonna head out, we got a piano down there, and his wife actually played the piano for us, and we all sang and drank a couple of beers, and just had a nice time relaxing. And so, and I love to sing. I'm, you know, I'm not that good at it, but I still like to sing. In fact, uh, uh, Terry Mann would always tell you and so would, uh, Jim Callahan that, uh, they would drive a lot of times. And, if we would go to any of these different functions, they, they'd have a hard time getting me away cause we'd start singing, that was it. They couldn't get me to go. (both laugh)
BOHL: Who would you say were your political heroes?02:05:00
DONNERMEYER: Oh, well even though I didn't know him that well but I knewhis, his, what he had done, I'd say Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because I think he was one of the greatest presidents we've had. And right on his heels, much to everybody's surprise, was Truman. Even though I had to go back into the Korean War because of him, but he still was, "Give 'em hell Harry." He, and, you know, back then they, they said the way it was, and I'd say they were, they were really yep, but statewide, Jim Murphy, uh, a lot of people didn't realize the knowledge that he had and how he used it quietly without bells and whistles. That's another thing I learned, you don't make a lot of noise about things; just, just get it done. Just go to people and, and, um, uh, rather than have them fighting you, and the press is always wanting that kind of thing, uh, work with them quietly and then, and, uh, do it that way. I'd say that would be it, uh. 02:06:00
BOHL: This morning as I was coming over, I was driving along Donnermeyer----------(??)--
DONNERMEYER: --yeah, sure.
BOHL: Is that named for you?
DONNERMEYER: Yes, it is.
BOHL: Oh, when did they do that?
DONNERMEYER: Huh--(laughs)--I can't remember, it was during MarthaLayne's, when she was governor cause she couldn't come. She sent, uh, uh, one of her people up to, uh, to do it. It had to do with, uh, uh, that stretch used to be called the Sixth Street Fill. And, uh, we had a hard time maintaining it as a city. I, you know, I just, uh, as city council person, I knew very well what our problems were, and Newport had some problems with them too. We tried to maintain the lights and everything on, we tried to get the state to do it, and they did it, and then they finally said, "We ain't doing it anymore." And we're stuck with it. And then it was, that, that's the time when we were starting to come up with the strip mall type things were starting to take hold throughout the areas. And, uh, we had a chance to get that, uh, get 02:07:00one there and we had, uh, we had a Rinks that was gonna go in there, uh, where, uh, Sav-A-Lot is now, and, uh, there was an IGA there, and there was other stores in that area, say, Big Lots. And then on the other side was Krogers and all that. That used to be a big hole, I'd play ball down there when I was a kid, and when I was older too. And they filled that all in, and that was developing. And, uh, in order for it to develop, we needed that street and the ones on the side to be upgraded completely. And so I was instrumental in getting, uh, talking to, I worked with the cities, like I told you, on all these different things. And they, uh, they asked about doing that and I said, "Well, I'm gonna see what I can do about getting that done." And, uh, talked to the, uh, people in the, in the, uh, transportation cabinet, and incidentally we lost our--I know why we lost the guy that was, that was the, uh, uh, secretary, but then, uh, the other fellow took over, 02:08:00Martha Layne brought him in as, to take over as the, uh, secretary. And I met with him a couple of times, and finally was, convinced him to, to give us a grant to get that done. And they had said, I thought was jokingly, said if you, I kept them informed and said, "You know, we can get this done now, why we'll be able to do this, this, and this. Is that okay or what else do we need?" And so, I got them a little more than what they needed so we could really do it right, sidewalks and everything. And, uh, they jokingly said, "Well, if you ----------(??), we're gonna name a street after you." And I just, "Don't worry about that. Just let's get it done." So we got it done, and lo and behold, I didn't pay any attention, and, uh, one of the councilman is good friend of mine, called and said, "Well, we're gonna name that street after you." And I said, "No, don't do that." I said, "I'm not dead, don't even worry about that." "Oh, we're gonna do that." So I still never paid no more attention. And next thing you know, my, my brother said to me, "Did you know that they're gonna name that street after you?" I said, "They said that but I told them I didn't 02:09:00want it. And he said, "Oh, they had to be proud of you. You ought to let them." I said, "No, that, I'm not dead, I ain't, I told them I didn't want it." Next thing you know, well, they tell me, "We got a big thing going on, we got the band gonna be there, and you're supposed to be down there in such and such a time, and, uh, we're gonna have you drive back and forth on it, and cut a ribbon." And I said, "Doggone." They said, "Look, we went to a lot of meetings, we went to all these property owners and told them, got them convinced that we're gonna do this, so we're gonna do it. You better be there." I said, "Wow." So, they notified the governor and next thing you know, why, it, it was set up and that's exactly what they did. Yeah, I've got a picture downstairs, shows my wife and I cutting the ribbon and everything. And then, uh, we had a beer distributor here named Jack Snodgrass, was well known, for Bluegrass, or, uh, Pabst Blue Ribbon and he used to always fly these planes with a trailer behind it, you know, Pabst Blue Ribbon. And that was something that I couldn't, oh, it almost made me cry. I'm down there, and we're doing all this, they got the band, 02:10:00and they're, there was no great big amount of people, there was people there you know. And, uh, the band's playing and all of a sudden, I said, "Hey, look up." I look up, here's this plane goes by and says, "Thanks, Bill. Good luck". (both laugh) "Jack Snodgrass." (laughs) "Pabst Blue Ribbon." (both laugh). So I thought that was pretty good. So that's where that came from. You know, I kid these people down there a lot. I'll go down, I'll go to Kroger's or someplace, and, and they'll say something and I'll say, uh, "Do you haven't paid your dues? You're supposed to pay me a nickel every time you're on that street." They say, "What do you mean?" And I'd say, "That's my street out there." Most of them don't believe you. (laughs) They'd say, "No, you're not dead." And I'd say, "I know that"--(both laugh)--"I tried to them that"--(both laugh)--but they don't believe it. But yeah, that's, that's my street. For what it's worth. (both laugh)
BOHL: Uh, did you have an opportunity to meet any US Presidents?
DONNERMEYER: Um, no, I met, I met, uh, Kennedy. (laughs) That was when02:11:00we were up there for the, uh, ethics. I didn't think my wife was gonna wash her hand for a week. (both laugh) He kissed her hand. (both laugh) But no, I never met--oh, I, I met, uh, what's his name before he became President? Carter.
DONNERMEYER: In campaigning. He went to Carrollton for the whole areahere and, and he came by and met his wife, but not as the President, no.
BOHL: Okay. How have you seen your district change over time?
DONNERMEYER: Uh, well, I think the biggest thing is we lost people inthe river cities and that's hurt us. And then, uh, I guess the biggest change, which after I retired was, uh, the Sixth and Seventh District, which had Jim Callahan and the next chance they redistrict, he took 02:12:00my district into his district, cause he was born and raised there too, but he didn't want to do it while I was still here. So it changed that way. Other than that, it's just the, a lot of people that moved out. And made a lot less people here, but that's about it.
BOHL: Okay, what would you consider your greatest accomplishments fromyour time in public life?
DONNERMEYER: Oh, that's awful hard. I'd say just being there and, and,and getting the opportunity to, to be able to do some of the things that I did do. And, uh, I don't, I don't mean, uh, just being able to be a legislator and, and helping people and then passing some of these laws. I didn't realize that there was that many laws that were passed that actually became law. And they're still there. That's, that's what's impressive. I mean, that yes, you, you can just be a little, old pipefitter, whatever, and still, uh, be involved. And you don't have to be an attorney, you don't have to be, uh, anything other than 02:13:00just interested and involved. Um, I guess that's about it. I, I just, uh, feel strongly that, you, by helping people, you help yourself, I really believe that.
BOHL: Okay, what advice would you give to someone who is consideringgoing into politics?
DONNERMEYER: First of all, if you're married, make sure your family'saware of it, and that they understand all the parts of it. Uh, cause sometimes, it, it, uh, it can, it can get involved in your family life. You know, you, especially if you're out campaigning, I know many, many of a time, I, now I make it a point that, uh, when I go to any kind of political functions that I, my, my wife's right there with me. Usually she would be there but you end up leaving her. And I always kid people about it and, and I like just joke and say, whenever I introduce her, "This is my wife, Saint Mary. She has to be a saint to put up with 02:14:00me." (both laugh) But, uh, and, you know, and, and it's by nature, cause you have to do that, if you're gonna go out and meet with people and I, Wendell Ford did it better than anybody. Gosh, he used to come early to everything you had. Wendell Ford, your state, your state, uh, your governor, then your US senator. He'd be there walking around and you'd come in and somebody was gonna try to introduce him, he's already introduced himself, he's there. And, uh, that's, that's something I always tried to do. I'd go try to talk to everybody. People accuse me now, say, "What're you running for?" (laughs) Said, "I'm not running for anything. I just like to talk to people." And, uh, I'd, I'd say to them, make sure you talk to your family, and make sure you understand what it is, whether it's council, whether it's, uh, uh, commissioner, whether it's, uh, any local, uh, races or whether it's state races. But get involved. You know, and be involved. And I think you should 02:15:00do that ahead of time. I, I think that, if you're interested in that, by running for like either city or county or school boards, which is very important, then, then that'll give you a little taste of it, to see whether you really like the idea of getting involved and, and more at, uh, but, uh, just to try to jump in and, and, uh, you ain't, you're not gonna be successful. And, and also realize that you might not win right away. You know, you might not and you might. But, uh, you gotta be open to the people and you gotta be willing to say, "I'm wrong. Uh, I made a mistake," or, um, be real honest with people; never, never lie to them.
BOHL: This tapes about to run out, so I'm just gonna flip it.
[Pause in recording.]
BOHL: --starting over now, would you want to be in office?
DONNERMEYER: Yes, I would, yes. Because some of the reasons I retired02:16:00for, I would be becoming a part of that. And, uh, uh, I, I enjoyed it so much. And, and I got so much out of it by being, helping people and wanting to help them, that yes, I would, I definitely would.
BOHL: That's the set questions that I had. Is there anything that Ihaven't asked about that you want to talk about?
DONNERMEYER: Well, I can't think of anything. (both laugh) No, Ican't. You pretty well covered a lot of stuff and, uh, I can't think of anything. Uh, I guess, there is one thing maybe. And, and, uh, I'm remiss, I didn't go to it this year, but, uh, I think the, uh, uh, way, the true way people on both sides of the political spectrum should act, as you got this, uh, oh, what's his name? He's our, uh, treasurer. And he's Democratic, and you got the secretary of state, and he's 02:17:00Republican; both young, very nice people, good people. And they seem to have gotten together for a couple of different things in the state, not worrying about whether they're Democratic or Republican, but working together. And they've been pushing this, uh, Kids Voting Kits and that's just one of them. Uh, and I think that's a great idea where they get young kids involved and going to vote, and they let them vote in the voting places. I think that's, that's good. I supported that. In fact, I had this time, I didn't go to the luncheon, but I supported it. And I still do, and I think that's something good. And I think the more people we, the more we do that, you have a right to disagree but disagree together, and, and then try to work things out. And, uh, uh, that's, uh, that's, that's really something that, uh, a lot of people don't realize is going on. I think it makes it better for, uh, uh, that we help people that will do something like that, instead of being vindictive and teach each other right away, you're a Republican, 02:18:00you're a Democrat, you're no good. So, that's not true, so.
BOHL: Okay. Thank you very much
DONNERMEYER: Well, thank you. (both laugh)
[End of interview.]