Federal officials say Kentucky could have to return more than $57 million in unused grant money because of Republican Governor Matt Bevin's decision to dismantle Kynect.

The federal government gave Kentucky a $289 million federal grant to plan and establish kynect, a health exchange where Kentuckians can purchase private insurance plans with the help of a federal subsidy. State officials have spent all of it except for $57.5 million.

A letter from Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt of the federal Department of Health and Human Services to Bevin last month says state officials cannot use that money to move the state to the federal exchange. The money would have to be returned.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said state officials would return any unused money.

New Hampshire voters go to the polls Tuesday, and they will resolve a lot of questions. Here are four things the first-in-the-nation primary will tell us:

1. How much damage did the last debate do to Marco Rubio?

Rubio came into New Hampshire with a head of steam. He quickly moved into second place in the polls, and there was even some hope he could overtake Donald Trump in the Granite State. But then, the needle got stuck on his talking points in the ABC debate on Saturday, earning him the worst reviews of his — until now — charmed presidential run.

After Paul Bows Out, Some Kentucky Supporters Go To Rubio

11 hours ago
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Some of Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s top supporters in the state legislature are endorsing Marco Rubio ahead of the state’s Republican presidential caucus next month.

State party leaders scheduled a presidential caucus for March 5 so that Paul could avoid a state law banning candidates from running for two offices at the same time.

But Paul ended his presidential campaign last week after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses and will instead focus on his Senate re-election.

NPR: Five Things to Know Ahead of the New Hampshire Primary

Most of Kentucky’s Republican elected officials had not publicly supported a candidate out of respect for Paul. On Monday, Rubio’s campaign announced 24 state lawmakers endorsed him.

They include state Rep. Jeff Hoover, the top Republican in the Kentucky House, and state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, who introduced Paul at his presidential campaign kickoff rally last year.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Robert Nelson

Kentuckians with concealed carry permits could bring firearms into schools, college halls and government offices where they may currently be banned under a bill proposed recently in the state House.

Under the proposal, any Kentuckian with a valid concealed deadly weapons license or a temporary permit could bring a concealed gun onto public elementary and secondary school property. Licensees and permit-holders could also bring concealed weapons to public universities and colleges, state and locally controlled government buildings, and to meetings of the state’s legislative body.

Courtrooms and detention facilities would be exempt under the bill.

The legislation was proposed last month by Republican state House members Diane St. Onge of Lakeside Park, Kenny Imes of Murray, Richard Heath of Mayfield and Tim Moore of Elizabethtown.

Moore said the bill is an anti-terrorism measure.

“I just want to eliminate soft targets,” he said.

Laura Ellis

Three advocates for LGBT rights who were arrested last year at the state fair’s Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast & Auction have filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky State Police.

The suit was filed Monday evening in Jefferson Circuit Court. The plaintiffs are arguing false arrest, First Amendment free speech violation, First Amendment retaliation and malicious prosecution. The suit also seeks punitive damages.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, and fellow activists Sonja de Vries and Carla Wallace, were arrested in August while protesting at the annual breakfast event, which is considered a staple of the Kentucky State Fair.

The charges were eventually dropped.

Hartman speculated last year that the group may eventually file suit against the state police. In an interview with WFPL Monday evening, he said the lawsuit is a vindication.

Hartman said he’s looking for the suit to send a message that “you really do have to follow the law and practice the law or else there will be penalties involved.”

Farm Contractors Balk At Obamacare Requirements

12 hours ago

Obamacare is putting the agricultural industry in a tizzy.

Many contractors who provide farm labor and must now offer workers health insurance are complaining loudly about the cost in their already low-margin business.

Some are also concerned that the forms they must file with the federal government under the Affordable Care Act will bring immigration problems to the fore. About half of the farm labor workforce in the U.S. is undocumented.

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A diverse group of education, economic, and health organizations is banding together to push for tax reform in Kentucky. 

The Kentucky Together Coalition was formed days after Governor Matt Bevin proposed steep budget cuts to many state agencies.  Coalition Spokesman Kenny Colston said the commonwealth currently loses more in tax breaks and loopholes than it receives in revenue.

"Many of these tax breaks were set up years or decades ago without any sunset provisions, and it's really a drain on the state budget," Colston told WKU Public Radio.  "It's not necessarily raising taxes on people.  We think these special interest tax breaks should be one of the first things looked at."

Governor Bevin’s administration has said it would consider tax reform after the current legislative session. 

A commission established by former Governor Steve Beshear presented a plan in 2012 to modernize Kentucky’s tax system and generate nearly $700 million a year.  However, state lawmakers didn’t act on the plan.

With proposed budget cuts to offset a major pension shortfall, the coalition argues tax reform is needed to protect the state’s vital public services.

The Nature Conservancy

A Spanish energy company is considering a site in Kentucky for a hydroelectric power project. Energy Resources USA has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study a site in Warren County as a possible location for a hydropower plant. 

The location of the project would be at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Green River Lock and Dam No. 5. The application is for a preliminary permit.

“The sole purpose of a preliminary permit, if it’s issued, is to grant the holder of the permit priority over the site that they’re studying,” said Celeste Miller, a spokeswoman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “It does not authorize any type of construction or operation of a project. It solely gives them priority over the site so they can do feasibility studies to determine if they want to develop a project.”

Kentucky is one of several locations being considered by Energy Resources USA. The company has already been issued two preliminary permits for sites on the Mississippi River. One is in Wisconsin and one is in Missouri. Energy Resources USA also has eight additional pending applications in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio. 

Flickr/Creative Commons/Ed Schipul

The majority of Kentucky adults favor raising the legal age to buy tobacco products, according to a poll released Monday morning.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, shows 60 percent of Kentucky adults support raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said raising the age would serve as a deterrent for young people starting to use tobacco products.

“If the shopkeepers are doing their jobs, it would mean that the only way a younger person could get cigarettes would be if an older person would either give them to them or buy them for them,” she said.

Kentucky’s smoking rate is 30.2 percent, the highest in the U.S., according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report.

Kentucky LRC

The state House is poised to take up a bill to defund Planned Parenthood this week, amid a rightward swing in Kentucky politics in which long-awaited legislation limiting abortion rights has already been signed into law.

The bill to divert funds from Planned Parenthood clinics in the state has already passed the Senate. A pro-life contingent in the Democratic-controlled House has already helped get the legislation a first reading; the bill needs three readings before a vote by the full House.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved the legislation, which would block Planned Parenthood from getting about $331,000 in federal Title X funding. The vote is largely symbolic; Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced last month that it would stop accepting Title X funds when it began providing abortion services in Louisville.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, said he’ll continue to push the Democratic leadership to take up the bill.

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WKU Public Radio | Arts & Culture

WFPL News

When Gov. Matt Bevin offers his first state budget proposal on Tuesday, it’s unclear how much money — if any — will be set aside for the Kentucky Arts Council, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Rumors have swirled on social media and in arts social circles during the past couple days concerning the future of the state agency.

Arts Council board member Wilma Brown of Frankfort sent an email to friends and supporters on Thursday, saying Bevin would seek to eliminate funding for the agency and asking recipients to contact their state representatives in protest.

“It is not clear whether an alternative agency will be formed or whether the arts will be folded into another agency,” Brown wrote. “In either case, oversight of the arts will become political with changes in personnel and programs with each election.”

Requests for information from Bevin’s office went unanswered. Lori Meadows, the Arts Council’s executive director, directed inquiries to the governor’s office.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Piano! Piano!

David Bowie is being remembered by a Kentucky guitarist as one of the most influential and innovative rock stars ever.

Bowie died at the age of 69 Sunday after a bout with cancer.

Kentucky Headhunters guitarist Greg Martin told WKU Public Radio he’s been in awe of Bowie’s music for decades. But Martin admitted he didn’t immediately understand everything Bowie was doing musically.

"There were some things that just went over my head early on,” Martin said. “But there's been some times in the past ten years, when my mind was a little more open like it should be, and I'd catch some things on the radio, and I’d think this guy is right up there with the Beatles."

NPR: Bowie Wrote Anthems for the Alienated

Martin says he and his band mates were honored to meet Bowie at a record convention in the early 1990s.

“I'm happy to say we did have a brush with him early on in our career, and that's something we will always cherish, getting to talk to him."

Bowie passed away just two days after releasing a new album called Darkstar.

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