Anti-VLT Senator Takes Kentucky Appointment

There is one less Republican in the Kentucky Senate pending a special election.

A Republican Kentucky senator who chaired the committee that killed legislation to authorize video lottery terminals at the state’s racetracks has been appointed as commissioner of the Kentucky Public Service Commission by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Sen. Charlie Borders chaired the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which in June voted along party lines not to move the racetrack VLT proposal to the Senate floor. Since then, the governor and Kentucky horse industry interests have said they would push strongly to have Democrats elected to office in November 2010.

Borders’ seat, however, will be filled this year. Beshear set a special election for Senate District 18 for Aug. 25. Democratic Rep. Robin Webb, who supported racetrack VLTs in the House of Representatives, could run for the seat.

There were 21 Republicans in the Senate versus 16 Democrats; it’s now 20-16. Earlier in July, Kentucky Roll Call speculated that Republican Sen. Dan Kelly, a member of the Appropriations and Revenue who also voted against the VLT bill, could be named to a judgeship this year.

Beshear, in a statement, indicated the move was about Borders’ qualifications, not attempting to remove Republicans from the Senate.

“Sen. Borders’ long history of leadership and deep commitment to public service are unmatched,” Beshear said. “I welcome his knowledge and experience to one of Kentucky’s largest and most wide-reaching commissions.”

The Kentucky Public Service Commission is a three-member administrative body with quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial duties and powers regulating more than 1,500 utilities.

It remains to be seen whether the General Assembly will tackle the issue of racetrack gaming when it convenes in January 2010.