Thursday, January 16, 2003

N. Ky. Rep. Lucas: 1 bill in last session

Lawmaker authored fewest in Congress

By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Northern Kentucky's Rep. Ken Lucas introduced only one bill during the previous session of Congress.

And it didn't even get a committee hearing.

No other lawmaker who lived through the full two-year session offered fewer bills, according to an analysis of all bill introductions.

"The number of bills a member introduces is not always the best indicator of what a member does in Congress," said Mr. Lucas' spokesman, Joe Clabes. "There's a lot of bills out there that get introduced and go nowhere. A better gauge is their work on bills that become law."

Mr. Lucas, the lone Democrat representing Kentucky in Washington, has not announced whether he will break his self-imposed term-limits pledge and seek a fourth term.

If he does, his lack of legislation will "absolutely" be an issue in the 2004 campaign, said Justin Brasell, a spokesman for Republican Geoff Davis, who lost a close election to Mr. Lucas in 2002 and has announced plans to run in 2004.

"Geoff thinks a congressman's level of activity should certainly be an issue in a campaign," Mr. Brasell said. The Davis campaign tried to make it an issue in the last campaign, but the issue got lost amid the nasty climax to a campaign marked by charges of spying and lying.

"If he's not introducing bills and producing for his constituents in the 4th Congressional District, he's not working very hard for the people who put him there," said Ed Moore, chairman of the Boone County Republican Party.

During the 2001-02 congressional session, House members introduced 7,049 bills and resolutions, an average of about 16 per representative. One New Jersey Democrat, Rob Andrews, introduced 107 bills, the most in the House.

Senators introduced 3,762, or about 36 per member. Senators represent whole states, so they tend to introduce more legislation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., topped the list with 112 bills introduced.

Congress passed 377 laws. Most bills die before becoming law.

There's no comprehensive way to figure out how many of each member's bills become laws.

Some get rolled into larger bills, which are then listed as sponsored by the author of the larger bill. Some get rewritten as a different bill. Members often introduce similar bills. Often a committee chairman is listed as sponsor.

Amendments, changes proposed to a bill already on the floor of the House or Senate, often are just as effective a way to legislate. For example, the Senate approved 25 amendments from Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and nine from Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio.

The number of bills each member of the Tristate congressional delegation introduced during the 107th session of Congress in 2001 and 2002:

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio: 34

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: 29

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.: 26

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio: 26

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.: 23

Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: 22

Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky.: 14

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio: 11

Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind.: 10

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio: 9

Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio: 7

Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky.: 1

Enquirer Washington Bureau

A conservative Democrat, Mr. Lucas is known in Washington for his close elections and for crossing party lines; he voted with President Bush more than any other Democrat last year, according to the Congressional Quarterly.

This month he was one of only three Democrats who declined to vote for liberal San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi as his party leader. He voted "present" instead.

Mr. Lucas was on a congressional trip to China this week and could not be reached.

Mr. Lucas' legislative volume is not that important to businesses in Northern Kentucky, said President Gary Toebben of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Local businesses care more that Mr. Lucas votes pro-business in Washington - which he generally does - and that he brings home roads, bridges, sewers and aviation improvements. He could be more aggressive on getting money for infrastructure, Mr. Toebben said.

"Whether or not they introduce legislation or not is probably not the highest priority for members," Mr. Toebben said.

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, led the Tristate delegation with 34 bills and resolutions. In the most recent two-year session of Congress, Mr. DeWine introduced bills on children's health, crime and smaller items such as declaring National Parents Week and American History Month.

"It's a way to express what's important to him by being legislatively active on those issues," said his spokeswoman, Amanda Flaig.

He introduced four bills Jan. 13 in the new session of Congress, including one to include the new secretary of Homeland Security in the presidential line of succession.

No one in the Tristate delegation is a particularly prolific bill-dropper. Mr. DeWine's total of 34 bills and resolutions was slightly below the Senate average of 36 bills introduced. House members introduced about 16 bills on average.

Mr. Lucas introduced the 10-page 21st Century Teacher Training Act in March 2001. While it didn't pass, similar legislation was included in the major education reform law.

Mr. Clabes argued that Mr. Lucas made his mark on several major pieces of legislation through building coalitions with conservative Democrats, offering legislative changes in committees and working out of the spotlight.

Mr. Lucas spoke to conservative Democrats about insurance issues when they were working on a bill to help pay for terrorism insurance, Mr. Clabes said. He headed a conservative Democratic task force on reforming the way campaigns are paid for. And he offered two small changes to the corporate accountability law that were accepted in committee.

Mr. Lucas, along with a Georgia Republican, also formed the Cement Caucus, to "promote and expand the economic viability of the American cement industry and the jobs of its workers."

"Just because his name's not on every bill doesn't mean he's not actively working with other members of Congress to further the agenda of 4th District," Mr. Clabes said. "It's the stuff behind the scenes where he makes the difference in Congress here."

Mr. Lucas was one of nine members who offered only one bill.

Special circumstances were involved for the only three congressmen who offered no bills:

Julian Dixon, D-Calif., died just before the session began.

Norm Sisisky, D-Va., died two months into the session.

Ed Case, D-Hawaii, won a special election and took office only after Congress already had left town.

Members also can mold bills by introducing amendments on the House floor, but Mr. Lucas didn't offer any of those either, congressional records show.

First elected in 1998, Mr. Lucas introduced six bills in his first term. He hasn't introduced any bills in the new session, which began Jan. 7.


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