Bill to make Corvette Kentucky’s state car hitting skids

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- In the new supercharged version, the 620 horsepower Corvette ZR1 has a top speed of more than 200 mph, rivaling even the fastest, most expensive European sports cars.

So when state Rep. C.B. Embry Jr. introduced legislation two months ago to make the Kentucky-made Corvette the official state sports car, he expected it to speed through the General Assembly.

Instead, Embry's proposal has been stalled in a committee, badly in need of a jump-start. Embry, a Republican in the Democratic-controlled House, said the measure is languishing with a number of other bills being ignored by legislative leaders who say they're working on more pressing issues.

If the Corvette bill fails, Embry, of Morgantown, fears that his well-intentioned attempt to honor General Motors' pre-eminent speedster will instead prove a source of embarrassment for an automaker that's vital to the state's economy. GM employs 960 people at its Bowling Green plant, which manufactures about 35,000 of the sports cars each year. The company, which will begin producing the ZR1 model later this year, has plans to add two additional vehicle lines at the plant by 2012, creating an additional 2,000 jobs.

"It could have passed a long time ago," Embry said.

The Corvette legislation is among a group of "feel-good bills" that state Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, chairman of the House Committee on State Government, says he doesn't plan to try to advance. Other pending legislation would make cornhole the official state game, burgoo the official state dish, and Kentucky Fried Chicken the state's official picnic food.

"Quite frankly, I haven't considered any of them because the press of other business has pushed them to the back of the list," Cherry said.

Shortly after Embry filed his bill, House Speaker Jody Richards, a Bowling Green Democrat, filed one of his own that also would make Corvette the official state sports car. And, while Embry struggles to get his bill approved by House Democrats, Richards may have an even tougher time getting his proposal through the GOP-controlled Senate. The last time a bill listing Richards as the primary sponsor passed the Senate was in 2005.

University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck said the Corvette issue shows that even simple, costless bills can easily get bogged down in the legislative process. The Corvette bill, she said, could clear the necessary committees, pass both the House and Senate, and be signed into law by the governor without taking more than a few minutes of the 60-day legislative session.

"There are more pressing issues, and I would buy that as an excuse if they focused only on the more pressing issues," Rhodebeck said.

Although Corvette didn't seek the honor from the legislature, Corvette spokeswoman Andrea Hales said it would be welcomed.

"I understand that there are other pressing matters that need to be attended to," Hales said, "but I sure hope that this bill receives the attention that it needs to pass."