Matt Bevin

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Bevin administration says it has met the June 1 deadline of demonstrating that it’s made adequate progress in Kentucky’s transition from the state health insurance exchange Kynect, to the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.

Doug Hogan, communications director for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the state has “met milestone requirements ahead of schedule,” but refused to comment on details of what criteria the state has accomplished.

According to a March 15 letter sent to state officials by Kevin Counihan with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government has to “determine whether sufficient progress has been made to proceed with leveraging the federal platform” for the upcoming year.

CMS officials refused to comment on details of Kentucky’s transition to the federal exchange.

KRS

The debate continues over whether Gov. Matt Bevin has the authority to replace the chair of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board before his term expires.

Last week, Bevin sent Kentucky State Police troopers to a KRS board meeting in order to arrest board chair Tommy Elliott if he participated. Bevin issued an executive order removing Elliott nearly a month before, but Elliott defied the order and continued presiding in a subsequent board meeting.

Bevin’s office said Elliott “voluntarily elected not to participate” in last week’s meeting.

Bill Thielen, executive director of KRS, said Monday that top officials in Bevin’s administration threatened to have Elliott arrested if he participated in the meeting.

“He decided he would not take part in the meeting,” Thielen said. “He sat in the audience. Police officers were there in the boardroom at both doors.”

KRS

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin used state police officers to prevent the ousted chairman of the retirement system board from participating in a meeting Thursday.

Governor Matt Bevin removed chairman Thomas Elliott from the board last month.

But Elliott had refused to vacate his seat, saying Bevin could not remove him before his term expires.

Elliott attended Thursday's board meeting, but sat in the audience while state police officers stood nearby.

Elliot said the governor's office told him he would be arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting if he participated.

Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said Elliot was not threatened with arrest. She said he was reminded he is not a board member and would be disrupting the meeting if he tried to participate, which is a misdemeanor under state law.

Judge Rules Bevin Can Cut College, University Budgets

May 19, 2016
Alix Mattingly

A Kentucky judge has ruled Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate says two state laws allow Bevin to reduce allotments for public colleges and universities. Wingate ruled while the governor’s powers are usually confined to the state constitution, the legislature can give the governor additional powers by passing laws. He said Bevin’s cuts of nearly $18 million to colleges and universities this year are not improper.

Bevin proposed the cuts in January. The state legislature did not approve them. Bevin ordered the cuts anyway. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him.

Wingate ordered Bevin to leave the $18 million alone until the case has been resolved.

In a statement, Beshear said his office would appeal.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

A Kentucky attorney general's advisory opinion says the governor isn't allowed to remove a trustee from the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems before the trustee's term has expired.

The opinion was requested by the systems' executive director, William A. Thielen, after Gov. Matt Bevin removed board Chairman Thomas K. Elliott last month. Elliott's term didn't expire until 2019. After removing Elliott, Bevin appointed Madisonville dermatologist William F. Smith to replace him.

The attorney general's opinion, issued Tuesday, also said Smith isn't qualified as a professional with 10 years of experience in public or private finances.

Bevin's press secretary, Amanda Stamper, said in a news release that the governor's office believes Smith is qualified to serve on the board. The release also said the attorney general's opinion differs from state Supreme Court precedent and a previous attorney general's opinion.

Ryland Barton

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is suing Gov. Matt Bevin, saying that he improperly vetoed several bills passed during this year’s legislative session.

Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, questioned the validity of vetoes to six bills, including line-item vetoes to the state budget, which he says were improperly delivered and signed.

He also says Bevin violated the constitution by not including “veto messages” that explain the rationale for several line-item vetoes to the state budget.

“The constitution clearly states that the message shall be accompanied with the veto so that people understand why or what his reasoning was when vetoing that particular part or parts of the appropriation bill,” he said.

If Stumbo’s suit is successful, Bevin’s line-item vetoes to the state budget would be reversed, meaning free preschool would be expanded from 160 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and $840,000 would be set aside for the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation and $7.5 million for indigent care in Jefferson County.

Erica Peterson, WFPL

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says the commonwealth has a lot in its favor when it comes to attracting manufacturers.

But in a speech and question-and-answer session at the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers’ annual energy conference Wednesday, Bevin also spoke about the importance of planning for the future of workforce development.

Sometimes, he stressed, that includes making sure there are alternatives to four-year degrees available for high school graduates.

“As a kid who grew up poor in the country, I was blessed by opportunities that came my way to go to and graduate from college. But this idea that every kid needs to get on a fast track to some college degree, no matter what it’s in, is nonsense, it really is,” Bevin said.

“There are certain degrees that are frankly not applicable in your world, or frankly, in a lot of other worlds, either,” he said, jokingly using French Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies as examples.

Ethics Commission Says It Can’t Stop Bevin’s Inquiry

May 3, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says it cannot stop Republican Gov. Matt Bevin from investigating whether his Democratic predecessor violated state ethics laws.

Bevin says he will hire a private law firm to investigate whether former Gov. Steve Beshear coerced state employees to donate to political campaigns.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, Steve Beshear’s son, asked the ethics commission to tell Bevin he does not have the authority to conduct such an investigation. Commission Executive Director Kathryn Gabhart wrote back on Monday saying the commission does not have the authority to stop Bevin.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the commission was right to reject Andy Beshear’s request. She said Bevin welcomes the commission to conduct its own investigation.

Andy Beshear said any investigation by Bevin would not be credible.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Among Gov. Matt Bevin’s line-item vetoes in the state budget earlier this week was $400,000 that would have gone to the Arc of Kentucky, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The money was set aside to help fund the nonprofit’s leadership program, which trains people with disabilities and supporters in civic engagement.

Patty Dempsey, Arc of Kentucky’s executive director, said the $200,000 per year was in the budget to return the program to its original funding level.

“Without the funding, we are faced with that possibility of losing it,” Dempsey said.

Bevin vetoed all or part of 14 bills this legislative session, including several line-item vetoes to the $21 billion two-year state budget.

Arc of Kentucky’s Advocates in Action program trains up to 24 participants each year and pays for travel expenses to two events in Frankfort.

WFPL News

Gov. Matt Bevin has issued seven more vetoes, delaying a free community college scholarship program, cutting out parts of the state budget and killing a new driver’s license bill.

Bevin has now vetoed all or part of 14 bills in the wake of his first legislative session as governor.

“Today’s action will create economic opportunity and provide benefits to generations for years to come,” Bevin said in a statement.

In line-item vetoes of the state budget, Bevin eliminated funding for the first year of the “Work Ready” free community college tuition program. He also eliminated a bill that contained operating language for the program and other education initiatives, saying they were “hastily written.”

“Developing and implementing a properly functioning Work Ready Scholarship program will take a great deal of time and effort,” Bevin said.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

Former Gov. Steve Beshear has accused Gov. Matt Bevin of coercing state employees into helping pay off his campaign debt.

The allegations come a week after Bevin claimed that members of Beshear’s administration coerced state employees into making campaign contributions to Democrats.

Beshear said Bevin “started this food fight.”

“… By calling us liars, by criticizing my wife, and now by ginning up a political investigation to try and sully our reputation,” he said.

The feud extends back to when Bevin criticized Beshear’s appointment of then-First Lady Jane Beshear to the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.

Since then, the two governors have lobbed accusations at one another. Bevin has blamed Beshear for leaving the state in a “financial crisis,” creating the glitches in the new health benefit portal Benefind and shaking down state employees for campaign contributions.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Wednesday is the last day for Gov. Matt Bevin to veto all or part of bills that passed on the final day of the legislative session, including the state budget.

Bevin’s spokeswoman Jessica Ditto declined to comment on possible vetoes, saying “everything will be filed accordingly” on Wednesday.

Bevin has already vetoed seven bills, including portions of the Judicial Branch operating budget.

Lawmakers will not have an opportunity to override any potential vetoes since they pushed the legislative session up to its constitutionally-required deadline of April 15.

Lawmakers arrived at a budget compromise that cuts most state spending by 9 percent over the next two years and puts $1.2 billion into the state’s pension systems.

Kentucky governors are allowed to line-item veto parts of bills, meaning Bevin could eliminate parts of the budget while leaving the rest of the document intact.

Bevin Traveling to Germany, France, Belgium This Week

Apr 26, 2016

Governor Matt Bevin is traveling to Germany, France and Belgium this week as part of his first overseas trip as governor.

Bevin is scheduled to arrive in Hannover, Germany, on Tuesday to attend the Hannover Messe Fair, a trade show of industrial technology. A news release from the governor's office says Bevin will meet with prospective businesses and companies that already have Kentucky facilities.

He will spend the rest of the week meeting with executives in Germany, France and Belgium. Bevin says the trip is an "incredible opportunity" to sell the benefits of Kentucky to manufacturers.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the governor's trip will not prevent him from issuing vetoes of the state's two-year operating budget. State lawmakers approved the budget on April 15. Bevin has until Wednesday to issue vetoes, if any.

Ex-Kentucky Personnel Secretary Pleads Guilty to Kickbacks

Apr 19, 2016
WFPL News

A former official whose case was an embarrassment for Kentucky's former Democratic governor and the current attorney general has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge.

Tim Longmeyer pleaded guilty Tuesday to using his influence as head of the state's Personnel Cabinet under former Gov. Steve Beshear to steer contracts to a public relations firm in 2014 and 2015. The 48-year-old Longmeyer appeared before U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell and acknowledged receiving more than $200,000 in kickbacks from the public relations firm.

He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled Aug. 18.

Beshear's son, current Attorney General Andy Beshear, hired Longmeyer as his top deputy earlier this year. Longmeyer abruptly resigned the post two days before his indictment was announced in March.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Gov. Matt Bevin has launched an investigation into potential corruption under former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration.

In a press conference Tuesday, Bevin alleged state employees were coerced into contributing to Democratic political campaigns, including those of Attorney General Andy Beshear and Bevin’s opponent in the governor’s race, former Attorney General Jack Conway.

Bevin said employees have come forward and said they were “essentially coerced” into making contributions and “they complied of fear of loss of their jobs or other retribution.”

“We have learned from many rank-and-file employees of closed-door demands by high level Beshear administration officials that they make contributions to Democratic candidates in the last election,” Bevin said.

Former Gov. Beshear’s secretary of the Personnel Cabinet, Tim Longmeyer, is currently under investigation for a kickback scheme that allegedly directed state contracts to a consulting firm in exchange for campaign donations and cash.

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