Six state lawmakers are being tasked with finding solutions to Kentucky’s under-funded retirement system for public school teachers. 

Legislators debated a plan in this year’s General Assembly session that would have borrowed more than $3 billion in bonds to shore up KTRS. 

State Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro was among Republicans who objected to taking on more debt.

"Our opinion was that it was a huge risk to do this and if things didn't work out we stood the chance of jeopardizing the plan even further," Bowen said.

Senator Bowen is one of the appointees of the committee that will offer new recommendations to the governor by December 1.  The panel will have its first meeting on Friday. 

Bowen told WKU Public Radio that new money must be found to invest into KTRS and structural changes are required that will likely affect new hires.

"They're going to be looking at a new retirement plan," stated Bowen.  "We not talking about going from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.  That's never been part of the conversation, but what we are saying is that new hires will probably have to work longer."

Bowen says the KTRS work group will also have to address pension spiking and cost of living adjustments in order to bring a long-term impact to the pension system. 

KTRS, which covers about 120,000 active and retired members, has an unfunded liability of $14 billion.

Rand Paul Doesn't Know if Clerks Can Deny Gay Marriages

Jul 14, 2015

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul doesn't know whether county clerks in his home state have a constitutional claim to religious liberty in defense of their refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Paul said he is "not a legal authority on that" and isn't sure whether the clerks have a legitimate objection in their defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing gay marriage.

He is one of 15 Republicans campaigning for the presidential nomination. Paul stopped at a summer camp in Louisville Monday, just as a federal court hearing began in Ashland over whether clerks can claim a religious exemption to issuing same-sex licenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who has stopped issuing licenses altogether to avoid issuing them to gay couples.

Funds Awarded to Expedite Cases Through Judicial System

Jul 14, 2015

Prosecutors' offices throughout Kentucky are receiving funds to help expedite cases through the judicial system.

The Prosecutors Advisory Council awarded the grants with funds from the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Attorney General Jack Conway's office announced the awards on Monday.

Of 35 applications, 18 were approved for funding. They cover 26 counties, including Anderson, Ballard, Boone, Bracken, Breathitt, Bullitt, Campbell, Carlisle, Christian, Daviess, Fleming, Fulton, Gallatin, Hardin, Hickman, Jefferson, Jessamine, Kenton, Laurel, Letcher, Madison, Mason, Pulaski, Shelby, Spencer and Warren counties.

The awards for the "Rocket Docket" program range from $19,000 to $108,000.

City of Bowling Green

The mayor of Bowling Green says he is going to look at the hiring practices of every department in the city.  The decision follows notification of a Department of Justice investigation into the police department. 

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson will meet with a federal investigator in August, and by then, he hopes to have in place in place to examine every city department.  While the probe will be across the board, he says the city will not lower its standards to hire more minorities.

"We're going to aggressively recruit in those areas, but we will look for people who, in the motto of the police department, 'We hire for character but we train for skill,''' Wilkerson told WKU Public Radio.

Mayor Wilkerson says he will also push for hiring an affirmative action employee for the city who will actively recruit minorities. 

The changes come as the Department of Justice looks into whether the city discriminates against African Americans with respect to employment opportunities in the police department. 

According to the DOJ, the city should have more black officers based on its population.

A preliminary hearing for the lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was held in Ashland Monday, but there was no ruling.

Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, saying her religious convictions prevented her from doing so. She is being sued by two same-sex and two opposite- sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Rowan County two weeks ago.

The plaintiffs allege that Davis is violating the establishment clause of the constitution by refusing to perform her duties on religious grounds.

Davis did not appear at the hearing; her attorneys said that she had not been properly notified of the lawsuit.
Another evidentiary hearing will take place once Davis is officially served.

Rep. Young Joins Indiana Senate Race for Coats' Seat

Jul 13, 2015
Office of U.S. Congressman Todd Young, R-IN

U.S. Representative Todd Young has announced he will run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Republican Dan Coats.

Young, a three-term congressman from southern Indiana, made the announcement Sunday in a video released by his campaign. U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and former Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb previously announced they were seeking the GOP nomination, while former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill is the lone Democrat to announcer. Hill defeated by Young for the 9th District seat in 2010.

Young said he is running for Senate on the ideals of limited, effective government and individual liberty. In the House, he has worked to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

He says in the video he wants to ensure that every Hoosier family has a better future.

Same-Sex Marriage Back in Court in Kentucky

Jul 13, 2015

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments about a county clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is one of a handful of local officials across the country who has refused to comply with the court's order because she says it violates her religious beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Davis on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples who were denied marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, son of former Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, is scheduled to hear arguments about the case on Monday at noon in Ashland.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it is investigating hiring practices at the Bowling Green Police Department.

The Daily News reports the Justice Department has sent a letter to Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson saying it is looking into whether the city "is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against African-Americans with respect to employment opportunities."

The letter says the city should have more black officers based on its population. Out of 113 sworn police personnel, six, or 5.3 percent, are black. The 2010 U.S. Census showed the city is made up 13.9 percent black residents.

Wilkerson says the department has used a pre-employment exam from McCann Associates since at least the 1970s. He says the city "clearly thought we had a colorblind hiring process at the police department."

Republican leaders in Kentucky are still figuring out whether a presidential caucus next year is feasible.

The vote allowing Senator Rand Paul to run for both his seat in the Senate and the White House is less than two months away, but many details still need to be hammered out.

Scott Lasley is the chair of a special committee created by the Republican Party of Kentucky. The group is working to plan how a presidential caucus in 2016 would work. Lasley’s plan will eventually need approval from state party leaders, and he says it’s not a sure thing yet that this idea will get approved.

"I think a lot of people are still waiting to hear the details in terms of what the process is going to look at and what it's going to entail," comments Lasley.

Among those Republican state leaders waiting for details is Jim Skaggs.

"The two things I am most concerned with is that we make it fair and accessible to all registered Republican voters and that the cost is somehow covered," Skaggs states.

The whole effort is aimed at coming up with a system that would allow Senator Rand Paul to run for both president and his current seat in the U.S. Senate next year, but the state party would have to foot the bill for a caucus. So far, Paul’s campaign has said it would help defray the costs if the caucus is approved.

There’s also the issue of getting county party chairs around the state to agree to this plan. County chairs would be in charge of carrying out the caucus.

Both Lasley and Skaggs say there is support among party leaders to figure this out, though. For one, a caucus would make Kentucky stand out during the election, and it could possibly help get one of the state’s most prominent politicians in the White House.

As part of its efforts to get Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill, the U-S Department of Transportation has released an “infrastructure snapshot” that paints a grim portrait of Kentucky’s roads and bridges.

According to the fact sheet, more than 31% of Kentucky’s 14,000 bridges are considered structurally deficient or obsolete. The snapshot also highlights a report that says driving on roads in need of repair costs Kentucky drivers $543 million a year in vehicle repairs and operating costs.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe says Kentucky is not unique in its problem of having more infrastructure needs than money to pay for them.

“The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is daily in the position of having to manage its money and be keenly aware of its priorities - and priorities can change," adds Wolfe.

The federal Highway Trust Fund expires at the end of this month. The U-S Department of Transportation is championing its GROW America Act – a six-year, $478 billion spending plan.