Associated Press

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has appointed a special prosecutor to handle the case against his former deputy.

Former Deputy Attorney General Tim Longmeyer pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge last month. Last week, Beshear announced he would file state charges against Longmeyer. At first, Beshear said he would prosecute the case himself. But Thursday he said he would hand the case to Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland.

Cleveland said the attorney general's office asked him to take the case on Wednesday, citing a conflict of interest.

Longmeyer pleaded guilty to using his influence as the state Personnel Cabinet secretary to steer contracts to a public relations firm in exchange for kickbacks. He also directed some of that money to Beshear's 2015 campaign for attorney general.

Two billboard companies have refused to display an advertisement by an atheist group to protest the Ark Encounter amusement park in northern Kentucky.

Tri-State Freethinkers president Jim Helton says the group recently raised $10,000 for a billboard. The proposed design depicts Noah's Ark with people drowning around it and the words, "Genocide and Incest Park: Celebrating 2,000 years of myths."

The advertisement has been turned down by billboard companies Lamar and Event Advertising and Promotions LLC.

Helton says the group is considering erecting the billboard outside of Kentucky, if it can find a taker.

The Ark Encounter, a 510-foot wooden ship as described in the Old Testament, is under construction. It's a product of Answers in Genesis, which also owns the Creation Museum.

In March, Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham called the billboard campaign an attack on Christianity.

Funtown Mountain Facebook

A south-central Kentucky country music radio station owner has bought a closed recreational park in Cave City.

The Courier-Journal said David Froggett Jr. purchased the two tracts of land and buildings for $295,000 at auction Wednesday.

Froggett, of Edmonton, owns WHSX-FM. He told the Daily News of Bowling Green last week that he plans to turn the attraction into a "resort park-nature park combination."

The park started as the Western-themed Guntown Mountain in 1969. It was purchased in May by a Louisville businessman who planned to turn it into a Kentucky-themed park, but he was unable to follow through due to health issues.

Dana Corp. employees in Glasgow have learned the plant will close by mid-2017.

The Glasgow Daily Times reports the company plans to reduce employment by half by the end of the year. The plant employs 203 people and produces gear sets, shafts and secondary gearing components for commercial vehicles.

Dana Holding Corp. spokesman Mark Burd said the reason for the closure is deterioration of the commercial vehicle market.

A notice filed with the state on Tuesday said Dana will let 191 employees go as a result of the plant closure. Burd said the facility employs 186 hourly workers and 17 salaried workers, though some are currently laid off.

Burd said employees will be eligible for severance pay, and some may relocate to other Dana facilities.

The plant was built in 1972. Dana acquired it in 1998.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has thrown out evidence gathered during a traffic stop, ruling that a man who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug trafficking and other charges had been improperly detained.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer  reports 50-year-old Thomas J. Davis was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014 after having been pulled over by McLean County Sheriff's Deputy Tim McCoy, who stopped him in 2010 on suspicion of driving under the influence. McCoy says after Davis failed field sobriety tests, a K-9 sniffed the vehicle, detecting drugs. McCoy found methamphetamine inside the vehicle.

The Supreme Court justices ruled Davis had been lawfully stopped but there had been no valid reasons to conduct the drug searches. The justices ordered a new case hearing to be conducted.

Kentucky News Network

Communities across Kentucky and  Tennesseeare reeling from the news that two young natives were among those killed in the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week.

Stephanie and Justin Shults were confirmed dead Saturday, ending their families' agonizing international search for the young couple living abroad.

Vanderbilt University, where the couple met while attending the Owen Graduate School of Management, issued a statement that said the "bright young couple chose, in the spirit of discovery, to become global citizens in order to grow, to learn and to broaden their perspective."

"They represented the very best of Vanderbilt and Owen," the University wrote.

President Barack Obama called their parents to share a similar message, that the couple epitomized all that is great about America.

Justin Shults was originally from Gatlinburg,  Tennessee, and his wife, Stephanie, was a native of Lexington, Kentucky.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Kentucky House of Representatives has officially rejected the state Senate's budget proposal and appointed a conference committee to work out a compromise.

The Democratic majority of the state House did not concur with the Senate's changes to the more than $65 billion two-year state spending plan. House Speaker Greg Stumbo appointed six Democrats and three Republicans to the conference committee. Senate President Robert Stivers appointed six Republicans and four Democrats to the committee.

The key difference between the two sides is the $650 million in proposed spending cuts from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Senate Republicans mostly support the cuts while House Democrats mostly oppose them.

The committee met Thursday night and is scheduled to meet again on Friday. Leaders from both parties say they hope to have a compromise by Wednesday.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has launched a new website, Benefind, for Assistance Programs.

Media outlets report that the service launched Wednesday. Benefind can be used to apply for Medicaid, the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program and Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program. Those applying for SNAP and KTAP are required to complete an interview with the Department of Community Based Services to receive assistance.

Residents can also use the website to renew benefits, check benefit amounts, report changes, upload verification documents, check claim status, make claim payments and receive electronic notices.

Benefind replaces Kynect, the state health insurance exchange, as the portal to enroll in some of the state's assistance programs. Gov. Matt Bevin has plans to dismantle Kynect by the end of the year.

Tennessee voters are heading to the polls to make their choices in the state's Super Tuesday presidential primary.

The primary comes after several days of spirited campaigning around the state by all five candidates seeking the Republican nomination and by one of the two Democrats remaining in the race.

Sixty-seven delegates are up from grabs in the Democratic primary, while 58 Republican delegates will be split up among any candidates that reach a threshold of 20 percent of the vote.

While Tennessee Republicans have given the nod to religious conservatives in the last two presidential primaries, Donald Trump has drawn huge crowds and widespread support in this year's campaign.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander have endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

International Bluegrass Music Museum

Organizers of the International Bluegrass Music Museum's annual concert fundraiser say Old Crow Medicine Show, Lee Ann Womack and Marty Stuart have been added to the show's lineup.

The annual ROMP Festival will be held at Owensboro's Yellow Creek Park in June. It's the festival's 13th year.

Other additions to the lineup include Billy Strings, a reunion of Louisville-based group, 23 String Band, and Nashville bluegrass band, Sheriff Scott & the Deputies.

The Del McCoury Band, Sam Bush Band and Steep Canyon Rangers are already signed up to play at the event.

LRC Public Information

Supporters of legislation to push back the opening date for many Kentucky school districts are pointing to a study claiming the early return to school costs the state millions of dollars.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the travel industry commissioned the study to support a bill to prevent districts from starting classes before late August. Many districts resume school in early August, cutting nearly of month of potential business for the travel industry.

The study says the state lost $432 million in lost tourism-related business between July and August 2014.

Sen. Chris Girdler of Somerset is sponsoring the bill, which would set the opening date for schools no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26.

Some groups are opposed to the legislation. Kentucky Education Association spokesman Charles Main says the bill would take away the flexibility for school districts to set their own dates for starting school.

WKU Athletics

Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm has agreed to a four-year contract extension through 2019 that boosts his base annual salary from $600,000 to $800,000.

Brohm is 20-7 in two years at WKU after last fall's 12-2 finish that included a Conference USA championship, second straight bowl win and No. 24 ranking. He's the only Hilltoppers coach to win 20 games his first two seasons and one of just four with double-digit victories.

Brohm's success led to him being mentioned as a possible candidate for other coaching vacancies, but he reiterated his desire to stay at WKU. Athletic director Todd Stewart said it was "imperative that we reward that loyalty" in Wednesday's statement announcing the deal.

The coach added that he believes, "We can do special things on The Hill."

One of Kentucky's top elected Democrats said Monday he is concerned the struggling party will not be able to field a viable candidate to challenge U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in November.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville said he has been working with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to recruit potential candidates. He said some viable candidates are thinking about running for the seat but would not say they were likely to run. He said Democrats would have to nominate someone who is already well known to voters and has the ability to raise lots of money.

Former Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen was the most likely Democrat to challenge Paul. But Edelen lost his re-election campaign to Republican Mike Harmon in November.

The filing deadline is Jan. 26.

The Kentucky Republican Party's presidential caucus next year will not be the first in state history.

State records unearthed by Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes show both parties held presidential caucuses in the 1984 presidential election cycle. State party officials had previously said the 2016 caucus would be a first for the party.

A 1989 report from the Legislative Research Commission noted the caucuses were "met with dissatisfaction among the voters" and the state returned to a presidential primary in 1988.

Kentucky Republicans are holding a caucus to allow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to run for president and re-election at the same time without violating a state law banning candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election.

Kentucky ranks in the top 10 nationally for its high school graduation rate.

The state's 2013-14 graduation rate of 87.5 percent ranks Kentucky ninth overall and beats the national graduation rate of 82.3 percent.

The figures come from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says a culture has taken hold that a high school diploma is "absolutely necessary" to achieve success.

The statistics show there are gaps in graduation rates among various student groups.

But for the most part, the gaps in Kentucky are smaller than in many states and in the nation as a whole. State education officials say the gaps narrowed and improvement occurred in graduation rates among black and Hispanic students and those who qualify for free/reduced-priced meals.

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