Jonathan Meador en Fancy Farm Chairman Thinks 2014 Edition Could See Largest Crowd Ever <p>This Saturday the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic will feature thousands of pounds of barbecue, and even spicier political rhetoric. In addition, the event’s chairman anticipates this year’s political gathering to be the largest ever.</p><p>Mark Wilson and his wife, Lori, have directed the political happenings at the Fancy Farm picnic for the past eight years. Mark anticipates this year’s crowd will be the largest since 1992, when Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Al Gore spoke at the event.&nbsp;</p><p>“It’s a ballpark, 15 to 20,000. And that’s what we anticipate this year, the same type of crowd.&nbsp;</p><p>A lifelong congregant of the stump speech mecca’s St. Jerome Catholic parish, where the event is held alongside raffles and bingo, Wilson says local and state officeholders, as well as both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senators, will be present at Fancy Farm.</p><p>He says he anticipates Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner James Comer to keep with a tried and true Fancy Farm tradition and announce his rumored gubernatorial candidacy.&nbsp;</p><p>“There’s speculation that he’s going to announce his intentions to run for governor on the Republican side of the aisle, and we think there’s a very good possibility he will make that announcement on our political platform on Saturday.”</p><p>Wilson says the event will also feature its other signature offering: Several thousand pounds of barbeque mutton, chicken, and pork to aid the digestion of what could be the biggest Fancy Farm ever. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:19:10 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51739 at Fancy Farm Chairman Thinks 2014 Edition Could See Largest Crowd Ever General Burnside Island State Park to Lead Way For Park Privatization in Kentucky <p>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.</p><p>Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker&nbsp;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.</p><p>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.</p><p>"I'm not sure I'm a big fan of the term 'privatization,'" Walker said. "What we're looking at is public-private partnership."</p><p>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.<br /> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:26:00 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51655 at General Burnside Island State Park to Lead Way For Park Privatization in Kentucky Beshear Says Mountain Parkway Expansion Still Possible, Despite Highway Trust Fund Problems <p></p><p>Gov. Steve Beshear says that despite a lagging federal response to fixing the insolvent Federal Highway Trust Fund, the state will still pursue an expansion of Eastern Kentucky’s Mountain Parkway.</p><p>The governor says he hopes that the U.S. Senate will pass legislation passed by the House that will patch up the rapidly depleting fund through March.</p><p>“The Mountain Parkway project will continue as originally passed by the legislature in our transportation budget, and at least at this point, it’s not going to be affected adversely by any action or lack of action," Beshear said.</p><p>But the Mountain Parkway is slated to be largely paid for with federal highway reimbursement funds, and is a key component of the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region,” or SOAR, initiative championed by Beshear to revitalize the Eastern Kentucky economy.</p><p>The highway trust fund has been used to help states pay for road projects since the 1950s by collecting a gas tax, but it has spent more than it has taken in for nearly 20 years. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:56:55 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51537 at Beshear Says Mountain Parkway Expansion Still Possible, Despite Highway Trust Fund Problems $1.3 Billion In State Contracts Not Unusual, Says Lawmaker <p>Amid a $91 million state revenue shortfall, the Kentucky legislature’s Government Contract&nbsp; Review Committee approved $1.3 billion worth of contracts this month. Outgoing Republican Sen. Sara Beth Gregory is a co-chair of the committee. She says the high dollar figure comes at the beginning of a new fiscal year, when&nbsp; large numbers of contracts are typically renewed -- about 1,700 contracts in July alone.<br /><br />But Gregory says that there are still contracts that creep into the committee that warrant more scrutiny from the public and the media.<br /><br />&nbsp;“It is somewhat surprising how much is overseen by this committee and how much comes before this committee or has the potential to come before this committee with relatively little press coverage,” said Gregory.</p><p>Gregory&nbsp; says&nbsp; the committee’s decisions can be overruled by the secretary of the finance cabinet, and that the best they can do is try to draw attention to contracts that award more money than they should.</p><p>The Legislative Ethics Commission reports that despite a reduction in contracts for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the amount swelled to $3.4 billion from 2007 to 2011.<br /> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:23:05 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51474 at $1.3 Billion In State Contracts Not Unusual, Says Lawmaker Alltech Expanding To Pikeville Hoping to Play Role In Revitalizing E. Kentucky <p>Alltech is investing about $24 million in a new Eastern Kentucky facility to help shore up economic development in the area.</p><p>Touted by Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers, the development will expand Alltech’s distillery operations on a 380-acre reclaimed surface mine, and will grow to include aquaculture fish farms and an &nbsp;egg laying operation.</p><p>Deirdre Lyons is director of corporate image for Alltech. She says Eastern Kentucky brings back memories &nbsp;of her native homeland.</p> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:46:51 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51411 at Alltech Expanding To Pikeville Hoping to Play Role In Revitalizing E. Kentucky Anti-Smoking Campaign Gears Up for 2015 Push <p>Anti-smoking advocates are gearing up for another push to pass a statewide smoking ban with a statewide tour leading up to August’s Fancy Farm political picnic.</p><p>The Smoke-Free Coalition announced that it will make several stops across Kentucky to rally supporters and engage legislators to help pass a statewide smoking ban during the 2015 General Assembly.</p><p>A previous effort sponsored by Lexington Democrat Rep. Susan Westrom died in the House amid speculation that tobacco lobbying and election year concerns contributed to its demise.</p><p>Kentucky is one of 26 states that lacks a statewide smoking ban, which polls show has a plurality of support in the state.</p><p>The tour begins July 28 in Ashland and features stops in Campbellsville and Bowling Green July 31 and Owensboro Aug. 1.<br /> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 21:55:44 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51301 at Anti-Smoking Campaign Gears Up for 2015 Push Beshear Cuts Kentucky Budget to Balance $90.9-Million Shortfall <p>Gov. Steve Beshear&nbsp;issued a pair of executive orders this week reducing state spending levels to plug a $90.9-million hole in Kentucky's budget.</p><p>The Office of the State Budget Director announced the shortfall last week, which is due largely to an unexpected&nbsp;$63-million&nbsp;decline in income related to capital gains.&nbsp;</p><p>Beshear's&nbsp;cuts cover the $90.9-million gap.</p><p>In a statement released Wednesday night, Beshear said the state was "somewhat limited" in its approach to filling the budget hole.</p><p>“But as in previous reductions, two goals guided our decisions—to take steps to make government as efficient and as lean as possible, and to protect as best we can the core services that offer help and hope to our people and represent important long-term investments in Kentucky’s future: education, health care and public safety," Beshear said in the released statement.<br /> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 23:13:24 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51255 at Beshear Cuts Kentucky Budget to Balance $90.9-Million Shortfall Letcher County Farmer's Market Designated USDA “Summer Feeding” Site, Becoming First in State <p>An Eastern Kentucky farmer’s market has become the first in the state to be &nbsp;designated a “Summer Feeding Site” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.<br /><br />As part of a joint effort led by the Community Farm Alliance, the program will provide farm-to-table meals free of charge to children under the age of 18 &nbsp;during summer break.</p><p>The program also aims to shore up business among local farmers by providing them with a steady source of income, and to improve community health.</p><p>According to U.S. Census data, about a quarter of Letcher County’s 23,600 residents live below the federal poverty line.</p><p>The CFA will celebrate the announcement July 26.<br /> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 23:56:00 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51183 at Letcher County Farmer's Market Designated USDA “Summer Feeding” Site, Becoming First in State Kentucky Retirement Systems Pension Seeks to Dismiss Ft. Wright Lawsuit <p>The troubled Kentucky Retirement Systems pension is firing back at a lawsuit filed by a small Northern Kentucky town over what it alleges are “high risk investments” made by KRS.</p><p>In June, the city of Ft. Wright -- population 5,700 -- filed a civil suit against KRS over risky investments into Wall Street hedge funds with public money, seeking $50 million to cover the losses and to divorce its city and county employees from the state system.</p><p>KRS fired back with a motion last week claiming that the city lacks the proper legal standing to do so, and is asking Kenton Circuit Court to dismiss the claim.</p><p>Specifically, KRS argues that the types of alternative investments it makes into hedge funds are allowed by state law, and that circuit court is an improper venue for the suit because it is an administrative agency.</p><p>KRS’ motion will be heard Monday in Kenton Circuit Court.<br /> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 23:42:00 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51122 at Kentucky Retirement Systems Pension Seeks to Dismiss Ft. Wright Lawsuit Laws Impacting Everything From Kudzu to Lobbyists Become Official This Week in Kentucky <p></p><p>A bevy of new state laws passed this year by the Kentucky General Assembly is going into effect this week. The legislation ranges from dealing with invasive plant species to tougher ethics laws governing the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists.</p><p>The state constitution stipulates that laws without an “emergency” clause go into effect 90 days after the adjournment of a legislative session. Since the last day was April 15, many new laws are going into effect this week.</p><p>Senate Bill 170 grants the state expanded powers to combat invasive plant species like kudzu, which can quickly overtake other plants by drowning them in shade.</p><p>Similarly, House Bill 28 will make it tougher for lobbyists to invade the decision-making process in Frankfort by restrict their ability to pay for a legislator’s expenses.</p><p>Other laws taking effect this week include a streamlined concealed carry permitting process for victims of domestic violence; expanded prescription-writing authority for registered nurses; leniency on lesser crimes for victims of human trafficking; and permitting by-the-drink alcohol sales at state parks, if&nbsp; nearby residents approve it. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:28:08 +0000 Jonathan Meador 51104 at Laws Impacting Everything From Kudzu to Lobbyists Become Official This Week in Kentucky