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Madison Brady was a fourth grade student at St. Joseph Elementary in Bardstown. We first met when I was in Betty Carol Riley’s classroom last fall talking about America’s system of government — representative Democracy. Madison listened closely, especially when I said that any of them could come up and be a page in the Capitol during a legislative session.
She told her parents, Charles and Pamela Brady, that she’d like to try that out. And it happened that the day in 2009 that Miss Brady came to Frankfort was a day that she got to see representative Democracy in a very personal way. It was Tuesday, when the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee voted to double the taxes that we pay on package liquor and cigarettes. It was made more personal because the Capitol was swarming with folks from Nelson and Bullitt Counties who were lobbying to stop the tax increase.
After committee meetings on Tuesday, I went to the third floor of the Capitol into the House Chamber and met Madison and Mrs. Brady. On that day, Madison would be my personal page. I introduced her to some of the other members of the House, and each commented that she had a beautiful smile, which she certainly does. While Mrs. Brady sat in the gallery, Madison sat in my chair on the House Floor. When it was time to vote she pressed the voting buttons for me. She carried messages for me to other legislators.
Before we got started, though, there was a good bit of noise coming from the Rotunda. It was a rally of people who work in the Bourbon industry. Industry leaders were taking turns at the microphone, talking about the potential impact of the tax increase. We made our way down to the rally.
Bourbon industry leaders from Jim Beam, Barton’s, Heaven Hill, and Brown-Forman were making their comments to a loud and supportive audience. Beer wholesalers also spoke. Madison and I sat among Nelson and Bullitt County people. The noise was at times so thunderous that I leaned over to Madison and asked if she was okay. She smiled and nodded. I confirmed with her mom that it was genuine – Madison was just fine.
I’ve seen and attended many rallies in the Capitol Rotunda. Some are more meaningful than others because of the passion I feel for the cause. For example, I usually speak at pro-life rallies. On that day, at that rally, I was surprised at my reaction. For weeks I’d been calmly explaining to other legislators the history of liquor taxation and the unfairness of the proposal. I’d written and argued as best I could the potential impact on Kentucky and on my district if we passed harmful legislation. I’d fielded over a thousand calls, letters and emails on the subject from folks back home.
On that day, there in our Capitol among other leaders and friends I was struck by an overwhelming sense of common cause. Here was the political passion that might persuade. Here were letters and emails made human, appearing at the place where laws are enacted. And we were together, lobbying the legislature and the governor on matters of great importance to us. As a result, I had greater hope that we might succeed.
Time for convening was near so I took Madison’s hand and we left the rally, heading with her mom back up to the House Chamber. Pride rarely comes to mind when I’m in Frankfort but that day I felt proud of our people, our business and community leaders. I felt honored to be their representative. It was made more intense because right beside me the whole time was Madison Brady. This young citizen was learning more than I could ever teach in a classroom.
Here in action was representative Democracy, where power rests with the people through their elected representatives. We might be disappointed in our struggle, but our voices will be heard. And there is always the next election.
If you have a child who wants to page, call me, send an email, or leave a message in Frankfort by calling 1-800-372-7181. Or come see me Saturday at the High Grove Grocery Store at 10 a.m. I’ll buy the coffee, and hope to see you there.