Auditor Adam Edelen, visibly frustrated at the lack of progress in the Senate for a cyber security bill he backs, pressed Senate Republican leaders — specifically Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer — to lift the political blockade on House Bill 5 during a press conference Thursday.
Edelen said his office has “exhausted diplomacy” regarding HB 5, calling Thayer “the chief obstructionist” in the path of the cyber security legislation. Edelen said he sent a letter last week to Thayer, R-Georgetown, and Republican Sen. Joe Bowen, chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, asking for a commitment that the bill be heard in Bowen’s committee.
They haven’t responded to his request, he said.
Edelen, a possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate, cited a report by cn|2 Pure Politics in which Thayer said politics plays a role in the consideration of any legislation, though he called the auditor’s potential candidacy “a legitimate point” in regard to HB 5.
Edelen said the GOP representatives who co-sponsored the legislation did not endorse the bill in hopes of sending Edelen to the Governor’s Mansion.
“If the issue is me, I’m happy to do whatever I need to do to get this bill passed, but we’re not having those conversations,” he said. “We can’t even get a damn hearing, and the notion that I was elected to come to Frankfort and sit like some kind of lap dog and wait for things to happen is just foreign to who I am.”
Thayer, about half an hour after Edelen’s remarks, called Edelen’s insistence on moving HB 5, which would require public agencies to report any breaches of personal information, “comical” with 20 days remaining in the legislative session.
He denied that the legislation’s lack of movement is directly tied to Edelen’s potential gubernatorial campaign. Some senators have expressed concerns that the bill could place an unfunded mandate on municipal governments, he said, adding the General Assembly should be “cautious and contemplative” in matters pertaining to private information.
“We’ve got a lot on our plate right now, and if we determine that the bill’s going to move forward on its merits, it will at the appropriate time,” Thayer said. “But I can tell you one thing: We’re not going to be bullied by Adam Edelen.”
Thayer said the Senate is more concerned with the biennial budget and statewide road plan.
When asked for his thoughts about Edelen’s characterization of him as an obstructionist, Thayer said he would not step into such a war of words.
“I think his (Edelen’s) vitriolic response has diminished his stature, and I’m not going to respond in-kind with that sort of name calling,” he said. “I really think this whole exercise is much ado about nothing. He just needs to calm down, relax, maybe take a deep breath and let the process work.”
HB 5 unanimously passed the House Jan. 30, a fact that should prod the Senate toward swift action on the legislation, Edelen said.
“Let me be crystal clear: Obstruction for its own sake is the reason why good people hate politics,” Edelen said.
Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause Kentucky, said during Edelen’s press conference Thursday that he is befuddled by the cyber security bill’s delay in the Senate.
“It’s a good government issue,” Beliles said.