Monday is day one of what Kentucky lawmakers hope will be a quick special legislative session devoted to creating new redistricting maps.
Both Republicans and Democrats have unveiled proposed maps, and lawmakers from both parties have said they believe an agreement can be reached by Friday.
The latest redistricting effort has dragged on over a year, with one set of maps being thrown out by the state supreme court in 2012. That's leading some to wonder if Kentucky should consider creating an independent, non-partisan committee that would be in charge of drawing new legislative maps every ten years.
Daviess County Democratic Representative Tommy Thompson told WKU Public Radio it's an idea he'd consider.
"I certainly would not be opposed to looking at the possibility of having an independent commission actually do the redistricting itself, and I'd be surprised if we didn't have some bills that came up when we go back to the regular session in January that propose that," said Rep. Thompson.
Edmonson County Republican Representative Michael Meredith has said he would also consider the creation of an independent redistricting commission. But he says he would want lawmakers to ultimately have an up-or-down vote on any maps such a commission produced.
Tennessee Tea Party activists are actively vetting potential candidates who would challenge Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from the right.
Later this month, those wanting to take on Alexander in next year’s GOP primary will address tea party activists in Nashville. The Tennessean reports that Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham says a “very serious process” is underway to find a consensus Tea Party challenger to take on Alexander in 2014.
It’s the latest example of the Tea Party challenging GOP incumbents it believes are not sufficiently conservative. The tactic has backfired in some states, including Indiana, where the Tea Party-backed Richard Mourdock knocked off longtime Republican moderate Richard Lugar in the 2012 primary, only to lose to Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election later that year.
Some potential Tea Party challengers to Alexander are former GOP state representative and senator Tim Burchett, former chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party Kevin Kookogey, and Brenda Lenard, who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Republican Sen. Bob Corker last year.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says while he wants Republicans to continue fighting for changes in the President’s health care plan, he doesn’t support a shutdown of the federal government.
Some member of the GOP say they’re willing to risk a shutdown in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Paul told reporters in Louisville that he’s in favor of Republicans using “leverage” to make the federal health care law “less bad.”
Some conservatives say they won’t vote for any spending measure that provides funding for the President’s health care plan. That’s leading to speculation over a possible government shutdown at the end of September.
The Courier-Journal reports Sen. Paul said that while he would like to see the Affordable Care Act defunded, the Bowling Green Republican added "I know that we don’t control all of the government, so we fight for what we can get.”
Democrats say the controversy over the federal health care law was settled when its legality was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have warned Republicans that they’ll face a public backlash if they try to shut down government operations in an effort to defund the program.
Crews are cleaning up after a train derailed in Hardin County, sending 15 cars carrying coal off the tracks.
The News-Enterprise reports that no injuries were reported when the Paducah & Louisville train derailed early Thursday morning in northern Hardin County. The train had a total of 88 cars. No hazardous materials were involved.
The newspaper reports crews from R.J. Corman were cleaning up the site.
A 26-person National Transportation Safety Board team is in Birmingham, Alabama, to investigate the crash of a UPS plane that took off from Louisville. The Wednesday morning crash killed the pilot and co-pilot, who were the only two people aboard the plane.
NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the freighter struck trees on the way down and broke apart upon hitting the ground, with part of the plane catching fire.
The part of the plane containing the flight data recorder is still smoldering as first-responders continue to put flame retardant on it. Sumwalt says an NTSB representative is at UPS headquarters in Louisville looking into the plane’s maintenance records, something he says is routine during these types of investigations.
An aluminum smelter in Hancock County will be supplied with electric power purchased on the open market under a plan announced Wednesday by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
Century Aluminum of Hawesville says it needed the arrangement in order to remain open. The smelter employs 700 workers and has traditionally purchased power generated by Big Rivers Electric Corporation in Henderson. But Century officials say using electric power purchased on the open market by Kenergy Corporation will be much cheaper.
The PSC said in a statement that the plan tries to achieve a “delicate balance” between keeping the Hawesville smelter open and not imposing high costs on Big Rivers customers beyond those that would occur if Century Aluminum closed.
A prestigious summer arts residency program for Kentucky high-schoolers is relocating to Centre College in Danville. The Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts has been held at Transylvania University for the previous fourteen years, but will move to Centre next summer.
The program hosts over 200 Kentucky high school sophomores and juniors for three weeks in the summer, offering master-classes, lectures, and hands-on workshops in nine disciplines, including creative writing, dance, instrumental music, and visual art.
Nearly 5,000 Kentucky high-schoolers have attended the GSA summer program since 1987, and 23 colleges and universities offer scholarships to program alumni.
Some big changes could be in store for the federal criminal justice system. In a speech to the American Bar Association Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder said some of the changes include scaling back the use of harsh prison sentences for certain drug-related crimes and diversion of low-level offenders to drug treatment and community service.
Kentucky already has experience with what Holder is proposing. The General Assembly passed a law in 2011 to reduce the prison population using some of the same methods. Kentucky Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown talked about the law's impact as a guest on NPR's Here and Now.
"A year ago, our prison population was 22,118. Today it was 19,899," explained Brown. "When you estimate a little over $20,000 a year, and that's a conservative estimate, to house each inmate, that starts adding up to real dollars."
Despite concerns by opponents of early release, Secretary Brown said recidivism is down and Kentucky's crime rate has remained virtually flat since the law took effect two years ago.
A liberal Super PAC being investigated for bugging Senator Mitch McConnell’s Louisville office is shutting down. The website Politico reports documents filed late last week with the Federal Election Commission show the agency approved a request by Progress Kentucky to close its operations.
The Super PAC was aiming to knock off Kentucky’s senior Senator, who is one of the top targets in the cross-hairs of Democrats in the 2014 election cycle.
Ultimately, the group raised just over $14,000, with only $1,000 in the bank at the end of June.
Curtis Morrison, who was serving as spokesman for Progress Kentucky, is accused of secretly recording a strategy session attended by Senator McConnell and re-election staffers. The FBI is reportedly investigating how the recording was made. The Kentucky Democratic Party has distanced itself from Progress Kentucky and Morrison, who has taken to the internet to solicit money for his defense fund.
The recorded McConnell strategy session contains audio of staffers discussing tactics they would use against actress Ashley Judd, had she challenged McConnell in the 2014 Senate race. At least one staffer talks about using Judd's history of depression against her.