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A federal judge has blocked a new Indiana law that bans abortions sought because of a fetus’s genetic abnormalities.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt released a ruling Thursday that grants the preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. The law was to set to take effect Friday.

Pratt said the state doesn’t have the authority to limit a woman’s reasons for ending a pregnancy. She said the Indiana law would go against U.S. Supreme Court rulings that states may not prohibit a woman from seeking an abortion before fetal viability.

Indiana and North Dakota are the only states with laws banning abortions that are sought due to fetal genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, or because of the race, sex or ancestry of a fetus. The Indiana law also requires that aborted fetuses be buried or cremated.

Ryland Barton

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo is suing Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, saying the governor didn’t properly deliver vetoes to the Secretary of State at the end of this year’s legislative session.

At stake in the lawsuit is Bevin’s line-item vetoes to the state budget, which could be reversed if Stumbo is successful.

Bevin’s office says the vetoes were delivered to House Clerk Jean Burgin’s office, who Bevin’s attorney says promised to properly deliver the documents to the Secretary of State’s office, as required by law.

The documents never wound up in the Secretary of State’s office, though copies of them were delivered — a move that Bevin’s office says was necessary because Burgin’s office was locked at the end of the day on April 27, the last day vetoes could be filed.

Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, accused Stumbo of obstructing the proper delivery of the vetoes, saying he had “unclean hands.”

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Kentucky’s restrictions on women seeking abortions and providers could be challenged now that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas abortion law for putting an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to the procedure.

State law requires women to have “informed consent” meetings with a doctor 24 hours before the procedure and also requires abortion clinics to have a “transfer agreement” with an ambulance service to take patients to a hospital in case of a medical emergency.

Elizabeth Nash, an associate with the abortion rights group Guttmacher Institute, said the ruling opens the door for people to challenge abortion laws if they limit access.

“When there is evidence that shows the harms to women in accessing services, either because the restriction makes it more difficult to access abortion or because the clinic shuts down, then those burdens can be weighed against any sort of potential benefit the law may have,” she said.

The state legislature recently passed a law that revamped Kentucky’s “informed consent” policy — women are now required to have an in-person or video conference meeting with a doctor 24 hours prior to the procedure. Previously abortion-seekers could have the meeting over the phone.

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The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission has ruled that political candidates are allowed to use crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter to raise money for their own political campaigns.

Crowdfunding websites help people raise money for projects or causes in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.

In its formal opinion, the commission warned against promoting crowdfunding webpages on social media accounts maintained by legislative caucuses.

“A bright line should be maintained between informational, non-political activities that can properly be carried out using public resources, and partisan political activity for which public resources cannot be used,” the opinion stated.

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State prisons are at capacity, county jails are overcrowded and the state is recommending transferring about 1,600 inmates to private prisons that have been shuttered for the past several years.

Officials ended the state’s last private prison contract in 2013, partly as a cost savings measure and also in response to scandals at privately owned prisons in the state.

John Tilley, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said that it was “critical” that the Kentucky consider reopening the private prisons. He said past efforts to reduce the prison population haven’t panned out.

“Parole grant rates are not where we thought they would be,” Tilley said. “Revocations of those on parole are higher than they were projected. And generally there’s so much discretion built into the court system.”

Tilley said that many judges throughout the state haven’t bought into prison reforms, instead sentencing convicted criminals to incarceration over diversion or treatment programs that would keep people out of prison.

Sen. Rand Paul stopped at a Louisville Goodwill on Friday to talk about ways to help people with criminal records return to the workforce.

Paul has made criminal justice reform a key initiative during his time in Washington, though the Senate hasn’t passed any major proposals.

Goodwill operates programs that help people with criminal records enter the workforce. On Friday Goodwill and KentuckianaWorks presented their “Re-Entry By Design” program, which helps people on probation or parole put together resumes, prepare for interviews and ultimately find a job.

At the event, Paul said family values-oriented Republicans should logically support legislation that helps people find work despite their criminal records.

Ryland Barton

The latest legal challenge against Gov. Matt Bevin had its first hearing Thursday — Attorney General Andy Beshear is attempting to join a lawsuit contesting Bevin’s reorganization of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board, which manages retirement funds for state workers.

Beshear is also trying to challenge Bevin’s overhaul of the University of Louisville board of trustees in the same move, arguing that both reorganizations should be tried at the same time.

During the hearing, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shephard voiced appreciation of the governor’s desire to fix problems, but cautioned against overstepping legal bounds.

“It’s incumbent on the governor to take action, to do something about, to take leadership on,” Shephard said. “But it’s also important that the methods that are used are in compliance with the statutes and with the Constitution.

John Yarmuth is sitting down on the job.  
 
 The Third District Democrat is participating in a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House in an effort to force the Republican majority to skip a week long recess and take up gun control legislation.  
 
Yarmuth says between 50 to 75 democrats are participating in the sit-in that prompted the Speaker Pro Tem to call the chamber out of order.

He says as the minority, this is the only option available to them to force action on the legislation.  
 
Yarmuth says the plans for the sit in started Monday night and wrapped up Tuesday afternoon. 

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

At a news conference Wednesday morning in Frankfort, Gov. Matt Bevin announced his much-anticipated plan to remake the state’s expanded Medicaid system.

Under the plan, which would require federal approval, Kentuckians who earn between 34 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty line would be required to pay fixed premiums for the insurance. The premiums will range from $1 to $15 for “able-bodied adults,” according to Mark Birdwhistell, University of Kentucky HealthCare’s vice president for administration and external affairs who is heading up the state’s waiver process

Bevin said requiring users to pay premiums would give them “dignity and respect.”

Bevin also said the changes would save the state $2.2 billion.

The program will be called Kentucky H.E.A.L.T.H., which stands for “Helping to Engage and Achieve Long-Term Health.”

Bevin Claims 'Absolute Authority' to Disband State Boards

Jun 21, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky's governor says he has "absolute authority" to disband any of the states' nearly 400 boards and commissions.

Tuesday’s comments by Republican Matt Bevin come as the state's Democratic attorney general hints at possible legal action.

Bevin last week abolished the board of trustees at the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Retirement Systems, only to recreate them with some new members.

Attorney General Andy Beshear has called Bevin's actions "unprecedented."

He has scheduled a news conference Wednesday to discuss Bevin's decisions, potentially announcing a lawsuit against the state's highest elected officer.

Beshear and Bevin are already in court, fighting over whether Bevin has the authority to cut $18 million from college and university budgets that were approved by the state legislature.

Gov. Bevin Forms Criminal Justice Task Force

Jun 21, 2016
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Gov. Matt Bevin says he wants Kentucky to “lead the way” on criminal justice reform and has appointed a council tasked with producing legislative ideas for next year’s General Assembly.

The 23-member committee includes state officials, legislators and advocates from around the state.

Bevin says the state’s laws need to be changed to save money and allow those convicted of crimes to more effectively rejoin society.

“…Because to not do so comes at a burden and a cost economically, emotionally, behaviorally, criminally that we frankly cannot afford to bear,” Bevin said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Though Bevin and other speakers didn’t have any specific proposals for legislation, several broad concepts were mentioned including sentencing reform, finding alternatives to incarceration and devoting more resources to combat drug addiction.

J. Tyler Franklin

Only six months into his first term in office, Gov. Matt Bevin is involved in an array of lawsuits, some of which may have ramifications long beyond his administration.

Executive orders made by Bevin have raised legal questions about the limits of the executive branch’s power in the state — power that has been flexed more by some governors than others.

Former Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson said Bevin is set on reestablishing the “preeminence” of the governor’s office.

“He seems to be trying to assert power in a way that the last couple governors didn’t,” said Grayson, now CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

That assertion of executive power has drawn plenty of critics, some of whom are suing the administration.

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While Republicans and Democrats differ wildly on firearms issues in Congress, opposition to gun control measures transcends political parties in Kentucky.

Like most mass-shootings in recent history, the Orlando rampage that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub provoked cries for limiting access to guns.

In Kentucky, State Rep.-elect Attica Scott called for a ban on assault weapons, registering firearms and allowing local governments to pass their own gun laws.

But House Speaker Greg Stumbo — the leader of the Democratically-led chamber that Scott is about to join — opposes the proposals.

“After 36 years in public office, I still have a 100 percent voting record in support of the Second Amendment and the NRA,” Stumbo said in a statement provided to Kentucky Public Radio. “As tragic as the events in Orlando were, I think these changes would be an over-reaction.”

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Former Louisville Metro Councilwoman and state Representative-elect Attica Scott said Kentucky needs to do more to combat gun violence in the wake of the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that killed 49 people.

Scott called for having gun owners register their guns, increasing the $60 application fee for concealed carriers and banning assault weapons like the one used in the Orlando shooting.

“That is not something that somebody should be able to purchase and use here in the state of Kentucky,” Scott said. “It’s unnecessary. Absolutely unnecessary. We should have a ban on certain types of guns.”

Scott recently won the Democratic primary for the 41st House District in West Louisville, defeating 35-year incumbent Rep. Tom Riner. She has no challenger in the general election.

Scott previously served for three years on Louisville Metro Council. The city is currently experiencing a spike in gun violence, with shootings up about 40 percent compared to this time in 2015.

J. Tyler Franklin

Over the past few days, top Republicans have given hints that they are considering some gun control measures in the wake of the mass-shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. That’s a sea change for GOP leaders who have typically blocked any new restrictions on gun ownership, citing Second Amendment rights.

The chief proposals include gun-purchasing restrictions for those on the FBI terrorist watch list and expanding background checks for gun buyers.

On Tuesday, several media outlets quoted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he was “open to serious suggestions from the experts as to what we might be able to do to be helpful.”

And on Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted: “I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.”

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