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U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell says he will be at the Fancy Farm picnic next month.

Kentucky’s senior senator talked about the event during a stop in Bullitt County Monday.

McConnell said he plans to attend---and take part---in Kentucky’s biggest political event of the year.

"I'm looking forward to being there," McConnell commented.

Other years, he’s missed it, but McConnell explained that’s only when there isn’t a big state race in play that year.  This year, Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway are squaring off for the Governor’s office. So, McConnell says he will be making a speech at the picnic.

McConnell—who is one of the most prominent Republicans in the state and country—says he will also help craft the message for other members of his party making a speech that day.

"We are talking to other people that are participating and hope to make it interesting," McConnell added.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul recently announced he won’t attend Fancy Farm and will be campaigning for president in New Hampshire instead.

A county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal, testified in federal court Monday.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said her decision to refuse marriage licenses is based on her religious beliefs and therefore protected by the first amendment.

Davis told the court she fasted and prayed about her decision to refuse marriage licenses. Her lawyers argued that since her decision was made for religious reasons she should be protected by religious freedom laws.

Davis is being sued by four Rowan County couples who were denied marriage licenses; they are represented by the ACLU of Kentucky. The ACLU says that it was unconstitutional for Davis to adopt an official policy of refusing marriage license based on her religious beliefs.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning said he’ll have a ruling on case on August 11.

Indiana Attorney General Enters Congressional Race

Jul 20, 2015
Indiana Attorney General's Office

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is looking for a return to Washington by seeking the congressional seat that Republican U.S. Representative Todd Young is giving up to run for the U.S. Senate next year.

Zoeller announced Monday in Jeffersonville his bid for the 9th District congressional seat, joining two state senators in the race for the Republican nomination.

Zoeller says he has fought what he calls the overreach of the federal government during his two terms as state attorney general but that changes needed to come from Congress.

Zoeller was first elected state attorney general in 2008. He worked in Washington as an aide to Dan Quayle as senator and vice president.

State Senators Brent Waltz of Greenwood and Erin Houchin of Salem are the other hopefuls in the district.

Two state lawmakers have pre-filed legislation for the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly session that provides protections for anyone who removes a child from a locked car due to extreme heat. 

State Representative David Hale of Wellington says the legislation would treat people as Good Samaritans and give them civil immunity from damage done to a vehicle.

"In about the last 20 years, there's been over 700 children that have died in automobiles across the United States.  That's a terrible tragedy and we need to education people on the dangers of this."

The bill also encourages the Kentucky Department of Highway Safety to create an educational campaign called “Look Before You Lock” to focus on the importance of checking the backseat before exiting a vehicle. 

State Senator Danny Carroll of Paducah is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Four Roses Names Owensboro Native Master Distiller

Jul 20, 2015
Brent Elliott

Owensboro native Brent Elliott didn’t realize where his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Kentucky might take him. 

For a while, it led him to laboratories, analyzing soil and water samples for agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ten years ago that chemistry degree led him to Four Roses Distillery, where he’s most recently held the position of director of quality.

Elliott has just been named master distiller at Four Roses. He said it’s his dream job.       

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is holding a series of public meetings around the state to gather input on a new five-year plan for higher education.  On Monday night, a meeting will take place at Somerset Community College. 

CPE President Bob King says affordability remains a key area of concern.  Because of higher tuition and tighter state funds, public universities now get more money from their students than from the state.

"Not that long ago, the state contribution to the universities on a per-student basis picked up about two-thirds of the cost of educating a student and tuition picked up about one-third," King told WKU Public Radio.  "That has completely reversed in about a ten-year period."

University presidents will lobby the General Assembly next year to increase higher education funding for the first time since 2008. 

Lawmakers will also be asked to switch to a performance funding model which would administer state funds based on the number of graduates or degrees that a school produces.

The remaining public meetings will be held from 6-8pm at these locations:

  • Monday, July 20: Harold Rogers Student Commons, Community Room, Somerset Community College, Somerset.
  • Tuesday, July 21: Collins Industry and Technology Center, Freed Curd Auditorium, Murray State University, Murray.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Rieveschel Digitorium, Griffin Hall 201, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.

Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant Opening in Danville

Jul 17, 2015
Grace Cafe

A non-profit, pay-what-you-can community restaurant opens this weekend in Danville. Officials say it’s the first such establishment in Kentucky. 

Grace Cafe will offer a locally sourced brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday accompanied by an exhibition of local artists. A  portion of the proceeds from sold artwork will help support the restaurant. 

Executive Director Rochelle Bayless says that the menu will include donation recommendations, but each customer is asked to pay only what he or she can.

"If your pockets are full, we ask that you pay and pay it forward," comments Bayless.  "If your pockets are light, pay what you can, and if your pockets are empty, enjoy a meal in exchange for an hour of volunteer time."

Bayless says she was working on her master's thesis in food insecurity when she realized the need for assistance in the community.  The non-profit organization Feeding America reports that one-fourth of Danville residents fall below the poverty line, and more than 20% of children in the Boyle County are food insecure. 

After this weekend, the cafe will be open from 11-2 on Wednesday through Sunday, and hopes to expand to offer family dinners in the fall.

Robertson Stepping Down as Kentucky GOP Executive Director

Jul 16, 2015
LinkedIn

Steve Robertson is stepping down as executive director of the Republican Party of Kentucky and a staffer for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is taking his place.

Robertson will join public affairs firm CivicPoint as a senior vice president. His last day as executive director will be Aug. 15. He will remain the party's chairman through the November elections.

Mike Biagi will be the party's new executive director beginning Aug. 1. He is a field representative for McConnell in Louisville.

Robertson was elected chairman in 2007. Since then, Republicans have added more than 183,600 registered voters in Kentucky while Democrats have added 23,957. Republicans have won five of the six congressional seats and both U.S. Senate seats. But Democrats still hold five of the six statewide constitutional officers and a majority in the state House of Representatives.

Report: Kentucky Drug Overdose Deaths Rose in 2014

Jul 15, 2015

A new report shows the number of people who died from drug overdoses in Kentucky jumped 7 percent last year while the number of deaths attributed to heroin stayed about the same.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy issued the report Wednesday and said it illustrates the persistent challenge the state faces in combating drug abuse.

Louisville had the most overdose deaths with 204, an increase of 12 from 2013. Floyd County in eastern Kentucky had the highest number of overdose deaths per 100,000 people with 55.1.

Autopsies from the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office indicate the majority of people who died had multiple drugs in their system. Morphine accounted for the most deaths, showing up in more than 40 percent of all cases.

The state legislature overhauled its drug treatment and sentencing laws earlier this year.

Flickr/Creative Commons/RA Torsten Kellotat

A recently launched website, SurgeonRatings.org, lists surgeons who have been identified as having better than average outcomes based on an analysis of more than four million surgeries by more than 50,000 surgeons.

People can locate a surgeon for a specific surgery using their zip code. A list of surgeons will appear along with the surgeon’s hospital, board certifications, outcomes and recommendations from other doctors.  The listings have been compiled by Consumers’ CHECKBOOK/The Center for the Study of Services.

But people need to proceed with caution when using such websites, said Patrick Padgett, executive vice president at the Kentucky Medical Association.

“It’s really difficult to know exactly what would be an accurate measurement because there are so many different websites and there’s so many different ways of rating physicians,” he said.

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