State Representative Jim Glenn of Owensboro is one of 29 Democratic incumbents trying to hang on to his seat as Republicans work to seize control the Kentucky House for the first time since 1921.
Glenn’s race is one of the more closely watched races since he won each of his last two elections by just over 200 votes.
"I won. All you need is one vote more than 50 percent and you've won," Glenn remarked. "Some people want to focus on that, but that's not something I want to focus on. The people have elected me and if they don't want me, then they'll vote me out of office."
Glenn is a business professor at Owensboro Community and Technical College. He was first elected in 2007 and told WKU Public Radio he’s seeking another term because he’s not finished with the work he set out to do.
"My job when I first ran was to improve the lives of the working middle class families in my district and I'm still working on that," commented Glenn. I'm still looking for better paying jobs for people in my community, educational opportunities, as well as improved infrastructure and economic development."
Glenn has bought television advertising while his challenger Alan Braden has been doing a lot of grassroots campaigning, estimating he’s knocked on 4,000 doors.
State lawmakers will return to Frankfort on January 6th following the November elections for a legisltive sessionn that will last 30 legislative days.
Lawmakers will elect leaders and organize committees until January 9th before returning February 3rd to consider legislation. Republicans are expected to retain control of the state senate but Democrats hold a narrow majority in the House, where Republicans hope to take control for the first time since 1920.
State legislators are scheduled to adjourn for the year on March 24th. Lawmakers will take a two week break beginning March 10th while Governor Beshear considers possible vetoes.
The legislature will meet for 30 legislative days instead of 60 because they don't have to pass a budget.
Amid a $91 million state revenue shortfall, the Kentucky legislature’s Government Contract 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 large numbers of contracts are typically renewed -- about 1,700 contracts in July alone.
But Gregory says that there are still contracts that creep into the committee that warrant more scrutiny from the public and the media.
“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.
Gregory says 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.
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.
The $20 billion budget passed by Kentucky lawmakers underfunds teachers’ pensions, giving the system hundreds of millions of dollars less than requested to keep it afloat.
Public school teachers in Kentucky don’t get Social Security benefits. They can’t even claim their spouses’ either. So that makes their pensions all the more important.
But the already tight-as-a-snare-drum budget passed by lawmakers continues to underfund the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System by about half the amount they need to bring the system -- which is currently about $13 billion short -- into the black.
Beau Barnes is general counsel for the KTRS. He says that changes in federal accounting laws will only compound the problem.
“The sooner the funding issue can be addressed, the better, because the longer it takes, the more difficult it’s going to be to address because the funding status will continue to decline,” said Barnes. “The GASB accounting measure of unfunded liability would have the pension fund running out of money in about 2036.”
Barnes says he’s optimistic the situation won’t come to that, and is looking forward to working with the governor and the legislature to address a problem to which, so far, they’ve given little more than lip service.
The sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses in Kentucky says House Democratic leadership has killed the measure.
Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, says a combination of pressure from lobbying groups and political concerns of colleagues with tobacco farms in their districts were behind the bill's failure.
“Some of our leadership polled here on the floor, they weren’t convinced that we had the votes," Westrom said. "And, quite frankly, I just don’t think they wanted to risk it in case it was an uncomfortable vote for somebody.”
Westrom says some lawmakers were likely “scared” by lobbyists.
Tobacco companies have spent handsomely this year, at $70,000 in lobbying expenditures in the first month of the session.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo denies that leadership killed the bill. He says support for it dwindled as the session continued.
A bill that would modify student assessments in Kentucky public schools has unanimously cleared a House committee.
The measure would permit schools under the Kentucky Department of Education’s districts of innovation to implement new testing methods to assess student performance.
Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Donna Hargens testified before the House Education Committee Tuesday, saying that alternative assessments won’t be any less rigorous than current ones.
“I want you all to know that this will require more from the districts of innovation including additional development for teachers, more time to prepare assessments, more time to conduct authentic performance assessments, and require students to demonstrate mastery," explained Hargens.
The bill, filed by Louisville Rep. Larry Clark, would permit those schools to apply for waivers of current testing methods set forth by the innovation plan as long as they meet college and career-readiness requirements for students.
Seven school districts across the state participate in the plan, which was passed in 2012 by the General Assembly to give educators greater flexibility in turning around struggling schools.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul will make an appearance Wednesday before a state Senate committee to support a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights for some felons.
The proposal has won House approval and is being considered by the State and Local Government Committee. Paul's office said Republican Joe Bowen, the committee chairman, invited Paul to testify.
Paul, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016, has urged passage of the measure, saying voting rights are "sacred."
If approved, the measure would go on Kentucky's November ballot. Voters would decide whether to amend the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights for some felons who completed their sentences and terms of probation.
Felons now can have their right to vote restored in Kentucky by petitioning the governor.
Law enforcement officers on Kentucky's waterways would have to meet tougher standards to justify stopping and boarding boats under a bill making headway in the Legislature.
The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Sen. Chris Girdler says his bill is aimed at reining in overzealous officers. He says the new standards would put more of the burden on officers to justify inspecting boats.
Boating is a big business in Kentucky, which is home to many lakes and rivers. Girdler says unreasonable searches are bad for business and raise civil and property rights issues.
The acting commissioner for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Matt Sawyers, says that provision would send a strong message to officers that "discretion and respect" is a key part of their job.