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"People Over Politics" : How to make government work again

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Former Gov. Steve Beshear’s book “People Over Politics” isn’t a chronological memoir on his former administration, but a body of work on how to make government work again.

At a time when almost 500,000 Kentuckians or more could lose their health care by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act or the current governor’s Medicaid waiver, the state and nation has seen the impact of divisive government.

With a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic majority in the House, Beshear took office facing not just a politically divided General Assembly, but The Great Recession’s imposing financial challenges on the state’s resources demanding about a $400-million cut from the state budget.

But Beshear’s governing strategy encouraged productivity not partisanship.

“I think most Kentuckians and most Americans agree that our governmental system right now is broken. Particularly, in Washington D.C. and to some extent right here in Kentucky,” Beshear said.

“All of the rank partisanship and gridlock is slowly eroding our democracy and it does not have to be that way. I governed for eight years. When we would get past elections, most of the time I was able to convince them (the legislature) that we were Kentuckians first and Democrats and Republicans second. Because of that, we were able to accomplish a lot of good things for the people of this state.”

By putting people first and political ambitions second, Beshear said, good things happened.

On Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 5:30 p.m., Beshear will discuss with attendees his book at the 21c Museum Hotel Lexington.  Tickets can be purchased here.  Proceeds will support the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Expanding Medicaid within the state, setting up a state-run health benefit exchange and insuring Kentucky’s most vulnerable and impoverished population brought political opposition.

Ironically,  Beshear’s first breakthrough with Senate Republicans came from another health care front — the growing opioid crisis.

With the help of Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, then majority floor leader, Beshear said they were able to get legislation passed requiring prescribers participate in the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system, run pill mills out of the state and provide more treatment options for state residents in reaction to the large amount of prescription drug abuse sweeping across Kentucky.

“People Over Politics” doesn’t demand the reader start at the beginning chapters, as it isn’t chronological, but more categorical.

Beshear and his speech writer Dan Hassert authored the book so a reader could delve into his administration’s efforts in regards to education, the economy, politics and health care.

Beyond policy and politics, the book has a section dedicated to memories from his time in office.

While governor, Beshear met many celebrities in the sports world, international leaders like Queen Elizabeth, famous actors and actresses, he unabashedly confesses  in the book one of his most treasured memories was meeting Sir Paul McCartney in 2010 at White House during Beshear’s reelection campaign. If it hadn’t been for First Lady Jane Besher’s insistence, the meeting may have never happened.

Another recollection involved the ice storm.

During the 2009 ice storm that left many in Kentucky without power, Beshear called the White House to get an emergency disaster declaration as soon as possible to free up FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal resources.

“In the early evening, the phone rings and I pick it up and they said ‘governor, this is the White House calling can you hold for the president?’ I said ‘yes mam.’

“I waited for 30 seconds. She came back on the line and said ‘governor, can you hold for the president?’ I said ‘yes mam.’ Another 30 seconds goes by and she finally comes on the phone and says ‘governor,’ and before she could say anything else, I heard a voice say ‘oh, just hand me the phone,’ and it was the president (Obama).”

The funny thing, Beshear said, was it was the first 10 days of the Obama Administration and the staff hadn’t figured out how to transfer calls inside the White House. The president called to let him know the declaration had been signed.

When asked what impression he hoped the book would leave on readers, Beshear first mentioned its relevance for elected officials.

“I hope that politicians will learn that if you put the people first, you not only help them, but you help yourselves politically,” Beshear said. “Good government is good politics. If you put people first, the politics takes care of itself and we need to get our officeholders back to thinking that way.

“I hope that the public, in reading this book, will reengage in the political process. We need families to become active again in holding their public officials accountable for their actions. When public officials see that, they will respond appropriately. When they see no one is watching, they tend to put their own selfish interests above the people’s interest.”

For those attending the event, the admission price includes a signed copy of “People Over Politics.”

The book can also be found at most online retailers or at astrongerkentucky.com where all proceeds of the sale of the book will go to charitable and educational causes.