9:18 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Group Seeks Tax Incentives for Ark Park


The group seeking to build a proposed Noah's Ark theme park in Grant County is once again seeking approval of tax incentives.

The Courier-Journal reports Ark Encounter is expected to return to Frankfort on Tuesday to seek the incentives.

Three years ago, the group won approval of incentives for its entire $172.5 million project. But because of funding problems, it withdrew that application and now is seeking approval for a $73 million first phase of the biblical theme park.

Ark Encounter is applying to participate in a program that allows eligible tourism attractions a rebate of 25 percent of the sales tax they collect on admission tickets, souvenirs, food and other things over 10 years. For this application, the rebates would be as much as $18.25 million.

8:38 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Bill Clinton to Join Grimes at Kentucky Campaign Rally

Bill Clinton will be in eastern Kentucky on Aug. 6 to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes.

U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign says former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to join her at a campaign rally in eastern Kentucky next month.

In a statement, Grimes' campaign says Clinton will appear with her at an event on Aug. 6.  The campaign did not disclose the city where the event will take place, saying additional details will be provided in coming days.

Clinton's visit will be his second in support of Grimes, a Democrat who the daughter of longtime Clinton friend Jerry Lundergan.

Kentucky's Senate race is one of the nation's most closely watched. The outcome could help determine which party controls the Senate after November.

Grimes is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell. Grimes is in her first term as Kentucky's secretary of state.

6:46 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Lawmakers Reach Deal Intended To Fix VA System In Crisis

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 9:14 am

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have reached a deal to overhaul the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, multiple news organizations are reporting.

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Kentucky Retirement Systems
6:39 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Despite Calls for Openness, Struggling K.R.S. Keeps Some Investments Secret

Tommy Elliot, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Executive Director Bill Thielen listen to a presentation during the meeting of Kentucky Retirement Systems on May 15, 2014.
Credit Alix Mattingly/KyCIR

Reporter Jim McNair talks to Kevin Willis about his investigation into the use of hedge funds by Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Kentucky's underperforming retirement system for state employees keeps secret details of its so-called "alternative investments," and critics are calling for more transparency so the risks and potential pratfalls can be fully assessed.

In its latest story, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting looks at the secrecy behind where the Kentucky Retirement Systems makes its alternative investments—and the concerns it raises.

You can read the full story here.

The KyCIR's James McNair reports that KRS "only has enough assets to cover about 45 percent of its obligations to its current and future retirees."  That's a $17.6-billion shortfall as of mid-2013.

Kendrick Mills, a former city of Louisville firefighter,  relies on a 26-year pension for two-thirds of his household income. He's also a retired investment adviser.

“I want to know what’s in the funds. I want to know the cooking,” Mills told the KyCIR. “It amazes me that the secrecy doesn’t cause an uproar.”

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5:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Cuts Will Be Restored to Child Care Program for Kentucky's Working Poor

Kentucky is restoring cuts to a program that helps low-income parents work by providing them with affordable daycare for their children. 

The childcare assistance program has been closed to new applicants since April 2013 because of a budget shortfall.  Eligibility guidelines were also dropped, which cut several thousand kids from the program and closed some daycare centers. 

Terry Brooks with Kentucky Youth Advocates told WKU Public Radio the cuts were counter-intuitive.

"The folks who felt the pinch were hard-working Kentuckians in low-income jobs, and the reason they were able to take those jobs was becauseof  these child care supports which allowed them to put their children in high-quality daycare centers and have some government support," explained Brooks.

Starting August 4th, new applications will be accepted and eligibility will increased from 100 percent of the federal poverty level to 140 percent. 

Brooks said restoring the cuts will be good for the economy.

7:26 pm
Sun July 27, 2014

General Burnside Island State Park to Lead Way For Park Privatization in Kentucky

General Burnside Island State Park
Credit Commonwealth of Kentucky

The Kentucky Department of Parks is poised to allow private corporations to develop at, or even operate aspects of, state parks, and expansion of previous efforts permitting commercial activity.

Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker suggested to a state legislative committee Thursday that General Burnside State Park, a 400-acre park 10 miles south of Somerset, could serve "as a potential pilot" for the effort.

Walker briefed the committee on the park system's fiscal outlook amid efforts to control growing operating costs—which have prompted some lawmakers to consider privatization efforts on their own—and offered a broad outline of the department's plans.

"I'm not sure I'm a big fan of the term 'privatization,'" Walker said. "What we're looking at is public-private partnership."

Walker said that the department is in the process of drafting a request for proposals from private companies to build and operate commercial facilities, including a new lodge. The requests could potentially include permitting a company to take over Burnside Island's 18-hole golf course and to perform maintenance duties, Walker said.

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4:13 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

House Ethics Committee To Investigate Rep. Whitfield

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield

Kentucky Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield will be the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation. The committee announced the investigation today, but, per usual did not say what it would be looking into.  Two recent investigative reports have examined Whitfield’s dealing with lobbyists through the years. One was reported by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, the other was featured in Politico.   

In a statement obtained by the Associated Press, Whitfield said the complaint pertains to his work on behalf of animals. Whitfield's wife is a lobbyist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

The Ethics Committee says the results of the inquiry will be released no later than Nov. 10.

2:24 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Kentucky Lawmakers Head To Little Rock For Southern Legislative Conference Meeting

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers
Credit Kentucky LRC

Tomorrow marks the start of the Southern Legislative Conference’s annual meeting in Little Rock, Ark. and Kentucky will be front and center. 

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers is expected to be nominated chair-elect, setting the stage for the Manchester Republican to be nominated as chairman of the SLC in July 2015. 

The following summer, in July 2016, representatives from the Southern Legislative Conference’s 15 states will meet in Lexington. That event is expected to bring 1,200 guests and generate $2 million in economic impact. 

This year's conference continues through Wednesday in Little Rock.

1:36 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

WKU Working Toward Enrollment Rebound

Credit WKU

WKU’s fall semester is still about five weeks away, but enrollment numbers are on pace to increase over last year.  The WKU Board of Regents was told Friday that a 100 to 250 increase in students is expected, reversing last fall’s decline. 

"The full-time students in Kentucky are going up, the out-of-state students are increasing, the international students across the globe are looking strong, so I think it's in a healthy place," said Dr. Brian Meredith, WKU's Chief Enrollment and Graduation Officer.

A drop in tuition revenue in the fall 2013 and spring 2014 semesters contributed to a $3.1 million revenue shortfall.  The university is making up for the loss, partly, by privatizing health services on campus.

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12:01 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Indiana's Right-To-Work Law Suffers Second Legal Defeat; Heading For State Supreme Court

Another judge has ruled against Indiana’s two-year-old right-to-work law.

Lake County Judge George Paras ruled this week the law forcing unions to provide services for workers who don’t pay dues, is against the constitution. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that led Indiana’s attorney general to request a stay of that ruling until the State Supreme Court takes up another judge’s ruling at a September 4th hearing. 

The right-to-work legislation was passed in 2012 by a Republican-dominated legislature.

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