Jack Conway

Kentucky LRC

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear had a vision of bringing casino gambling into Kentucky to generate new revenue for state coffers, as he has often said. But the issue has never taken hold in the legislature.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, reignited the expanded gambling debate on Tuesday, announcing that during next year’s legislative session he would propose a constitutional amendment to allow as many as seven casinos to open in the state. Counties would have to approve new casinos in a local option vote before they could be built.

But after voters elect a new governor in November, advocates of expanded gambling will lose their biggest ally. And it’s unclear whether Beshear’s replacement will support the cause — at least as forcefully as he has.

Last summer, Democratic candidate for governor Jack Conway said he would campaign for expanded gaming, but the issue hasn’t become a major point of contention during the gubernatorial race so far. Spokesman Daniel Kemp said Conway still supports the policy.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin won’t say whether he plans to attend a private meeting hosted by the Kentucky Coal Association and representatives of the energy industry.

KCA President Bill Bissett said Monday that Bevin and Democratic candidate Jack Conway were invited to speak at the group’s annual meeting, which is scheduled for October.

Conway’s campaign told Kentucky Public Radio he would attend. But in an interview on Tuesday, Bevin refused to give a straight answer about whether he would go to the closed-door retreat.

“There’s things that are on my agenda and there’s things that are not on my agenda, and things that will be made aware to the outside world and some that won’t,” Bevin said when asked if he would attend.

In June, Bevin and Conway both appeared at a private event in Virginia attended by luminaries of the nation’s coal industry. The media was not made aware of that event, where the two candidates took questions from Bissett and audience members and sparred with one another, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

US Geological Survey, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The Kentucky Coal Association is under fire for again planning a closed-door meeting with the state’s leading gubernatorial candidates.

KCA President Bill Bissett told CN2 last week that the major party candidates for Kentucky governor — Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway — would be speaking during private events at the association’s annual meeting in October.

This would be the second private meeting between energy industry representatives and the state’s leading gubernatorial candidates. Bissett moderated a secret debate this summer in Virginia between Conway and Bevin before coal industry leaders.

The closed-door meetings have drawn criticism from media outlets. In a recent column, Courier-Journal political reporter Joseph Gerth wrote that open discussions are especially important in the close gubernatorial election “because neither of the candidates has been terribly accessible.”

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway leads Republican Louisville businessman Matt Bevin by a slight margin in the race for governor according to the latest Bluegrass Poll.

Conway leads Bevin 45 to 42 percent according to the survey, which is conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the Herald-Leader and WKYT in Lexington and The Courier-Journal and WHAS in Louisville.

When the survey factored in potential independent candidate Drew Curtis, he took 8 percent of the vote.
Among the 863 registered voters polled, Bevin and Conway fared equally well with male voters, each taking 44 percent. Conway does better among female voters, taking 46 percent to Bevin’s 39 percent.

The poll also indicated that current Gov. Steve Beshear has a positive rating in his final year in office, with 51 percent giving him a favorable rating.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway and Republican rival Matt Bevin once again clashed over the expansion of Kentucky's Medicaid system and state-run health exchange, Kynect at a debate held by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday in Louisville.

Bevin has pushed for dismantling Kynect and moving recipients onto the federal health exchange.

“We have a governor who has uncorked a disastrous package of cost on us that we’re going to have to deal with," Bevin stated.

Bevin has argued for the elimination of the state’s expansion of Medicaid, which makes eligible all Kentuckians with incomes at or below 138 percent of the poverty line, and scaling it back to pre-expansion levels.

Conway said if elected he would continue the expansion of Medicaid and state run exchange, saying Kentuckians get better rates through Kynect than on the federal exchange.

“It’s a cheaper, more efficient way to allow people to purchase health insurance,” Conway said.

Conway and Bevin also exchanged a few barbs during the debate—Bevin pointed out that Conway graduated from Kentucky basketball rival Duke University. Conway noted several times that Bevin was not born in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s coal industry still has political influence in the state, even as production declines. That’s illustrated by a closed-door debate hosted by the industry earlier this month. Both of Kentucky’s gubernatorial candidates were there.

The Coal & Investment Leadership Forum was part of a golf and fly fishing retreat attended by industry executives in Virginia. As first reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, candidates Jack Conway and Matt Bevin answered questions posed by Kentucky Coal Association president Bill Bissett and rebutted one another.

Nick Surgey of the Center for Media and Democracy obtained a copy of an invitation to the retreat. He says the event boasted about time for one-on-one conversations between politicians, investors and coal executives. “So there’s a lot of social time, a lot of time for potential candidates and potential major funders of campaigns to be talking one on one and presumably to be making promises about what they would do to support the coal industry.” he said.

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush also spoke at the retreat, which invitees paid $7,500 to attend.

Republican candidates for Kentucky governor say presumptive Democratic nominee Jack Conway isn’t fit to serve because he would not fight a challenge to the state’s same sex marriage ban.

Conway refused to defend the ban last year, saying the law is discriminatory. Gov. Steve Beshear hired outside counsel to defend the law.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, one of four Republicans seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination, said not wanting to defend a law shouldn’t matter.

“It doesn’t matter if you agree with the constitution or not. When you take that oath to uphold the constitution, you represent the people of Kentucky,” Comer said.

Louisville businessman and Republican frontrunner Hal Heiner said that Conway should have been required to defend the constitutional amendment.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway won’t attend President Obama’s visit to Louisville on Thursday.

He’s instead scheduled to be in Eastern Kentucky for meetings about heroin and prescription drug abuse. But a political scientist says it’s unsurprising that a Kentucky Democrat would skip a visit to the state by the party’s national leader.

Obama, who will talk about the economy in Kentucky’s largest city,  has been unpopular in Kentucky and state Democrats have distanced themselves from the president in recent years.

State politicians distance themselves from the president to avoid losing favor with more conservative Democrats across the state, said Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville.

“If you’re trying to attract them then clearly you’re going to have to portray a face to them that’s not cozying up to the so-called liberal bastions in the party starting with President Obama,” Clayton said.

Obama overwhelming lost to his rivals in Kentucky in the last two presidential elections. The state tends to skew toward the GOP in federal elections and elects mostly Democratic candidates in statewide races. The state’s governor is a Democrat and the state House is controlled by the party, but Republicans make up seven of eight members of the state’s federal delegation.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

On the last day of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 session, Attorney General Jack Conway called on legislators to pass a bill to deal with the state’s growing heroin problem.

“I hope here on the final day of the legislative session that the legislature gets its act together,” Conway said during a news conference.

So far, lawmakers have been squabbling over differing versions of the bill. A heroin bill died in the final minutes of last year’s session.

Conway, a Democrat who is also running for governor, said the bill should include tougher penalties for major heroin traffickers and more funding for treatment. He also called for a bill that would make an overdose-reversing drug called naloxone more available. His stance is the same as House Democrats.

“Four simple provisions that are relatively non-controversial that need to be passed, that need to be passed by midnight tonight because people are dying, because law enforcement officials are having trouble dealing with the problem and prosecutors need help in trying to rid our streets of this scourge,” Conway said.

A committee headed by Conway and First Lady Jane Beshear has distributed 2,000 naloxone kits to the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Northern Kentucky.

The total cost for the kits is over $100,000. The kits were funded as part of a $32 million settlement between the state and two pharmaceutical companies. The settlement money has also gone to fund nonprofit treatment programs across the state and provide users with “scholarships” to treatment programs.

Kentucky has joined a multi-state and federal fraud lawsuit against Cincinnati-based Omnicare Inc., alleging that the company billed the state’s Medicaid program almost $6 million over nine years for drugs that were given to nursing home patients for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to papers filed by Attorney General Jack Conway in federal court in Abingdon, Va., Omnicare received “millions of dollars” in kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories for promoting the use of Depakote, an anti-seizure and mood-disorder drug, for dementia patients who were agitated or aggressive. The suit says Omnicare defrauded state Medicaid programs by billing for the illegally administered drugs.

The complaint is Conway’s third kickback case against Omnicare, which moved its headquarters from Covington in 2012. Omnicare spokesman Patrick Lee did not return a phone call Monday.

The company paid $98 million in 2009 to settle claims it took kickbacks from drug makers Johnson & Johnson and IVAX. It paid $8.2 million in 2014 to settle claims it paid kickbacks to nursing homes in return for their pharmacy business.

Abbott Labs settled the Virginia case by paying a $1.5 billion settlement in 2012, about $3 million of which went to Kentucky. Another institutional pharmacy operator named in the case, Louisville-based PharMerica, has agreed to settle out of court for an unspecified amount.

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