Political news


Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on Wednesday said legislation wouldn’t help reduce surging gun violence in the state’s urban centers.

In response, Mayor Greg Fischer said he would continue pushing for state legislation that would allow cities like Louisville to adopt their own gun laws.

Speaking at a press event in Louisville Monday, Bevin said people who think “more government rules” can help put an end to shootings in Lexington and Louisville “are delusional,” according to a report from the Lexington Herald Leader.

Instead, Bevin said communities need to do “some serious soul searching” and “ask hard questions” to “heal [themselves] from within.” He declined to offer specific thoughts on what can be done to address gun violence in Kentucky’s largest cities but said it concerns him.

“This has to be addressed, it will be addressed, one way or the other,” he said. “This is something we will get to.”


An organization of current and retired Kentucky public school teachers has filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. Matt Bevin and legislative leaders for underfunding the teacher pension system, which lost $1.2 billion last year.

The Teachers Retirement Legal Fund says leaders violated state law as well as the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions by not setting aside enough money for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which manages the pensions of about 141,000 school system retirees.

Randy Wieck, a history teacher at DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, said teachers have dutifully contributed to the pension system from their paychecks but the state hasn’t kept its side of the bargain.

“We don’t want to retire into poverty because we don’t have Social Security. So this is all most teachers have,” said “The end result we hope will be the saving of our retirement.”

Kentucky’s troubled pension systems continue their downward slide. Plans covering teachers and state employees lost $1.8 billion this year, bringing the total unfunded liability to more than $32 billion.

David Eager, interim executive director of KRS, addressed the Public Pension Oversight Board this week.  Co-Chairman Joe Bowen, a state senator from Owensboro, says the news isn’t all bad.

"What folks need to understand is that we have seven retirement systems that are publicly funded, and there's actually only one that you would consider to be in dire straits," Bowen told WKU Public Radio.

That pension plan is the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, or KERS, which has only 16 percent of the funds needed to pay the benefits of future retirees. That makes it among the worst-funded public pension plans in the country.

Other retirement plans covering teachers, judges, and lawmakers are in much better shape.

Wikimedia Commons

President-elect Donald Trump has named Elaine Chao to be secretary of the Department of Transportation. Chao previously served as secretary of the Labor Department under President George W. Bush and is married to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.

The position could be prominent in the first months of the new administration, when Trump has said he will make a major infrastructure proposal, including $1 trillion for roads, bridges and other public transportation projects.

Chao met with Trump last week in Trump Tower, at which time they “conversed about labor and transportation issues” according to the president-elect’s transition team. She was a member of Trump’s Asian Pacific Advisory Council during his campaign.

Chao is the first Asian-American appointed to a U.S. president’s cabinet; she was the only cabinet official to serve with President George W. Bush during all eight years of his tenure.

During her time as secretary of the Labor Department, Chao updated the rules that designate which workers are eligible for overtime pay, and tightened financial reporting requirements for unions.

Alix Mattingly

A state senator is planning to once again propose a bill during the upcoming legislative session that he says will protect religious freedoms.

The bill would nullify local “fairness” ordinances across the state that protect Kentuckians from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Though it has failed in recent years, the measure will have a better chance during the upcoming General Assembly when both the legislature and governor’s office will be controlled by Republicans for the first time in state history.

Sen. Al Robinson, a Republican from London and sponsor of the “religious freedom” bill in previous years, said he’s not concerned with backlash like North Carolina has seen after passing similar legislation.

“There’s more people that are backing down when they should not be backing down for the sake of the threats and the financial threats,” Robinson said. “And to me there’s some price that’s just not worth paying.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

Some Democratic lawmakers in Kentucky want the legislature to allow Lexington and Louisville to pass gun control ordinances to help curb gun violence in the cities. State law currently bans cities from passing any type of law regulating guns or gun accessories.

Democratic Sen. Reggie Thomas filed a bill earlier this month to allow Lexington and Louisville to pass their own gun laws after the accidental shooting of 15-year-old Trinity Gay, daughter of Olympic track star and Lexington native Tyson Gay.

“Something has to be done to stop this. And my bill gives communities like Louisville and Lexington the opportunity to address this rampant and senseless gun violence,” Thomas said in a video promoting the legislation.

Over the years, legislators have passed several laws banning local governments from passing any type of law regulating firearms sales or possession restrictions.

Alex Brandon/AP

One way Republicans on Capitol Hill say they know becoming the vice president-elect hasn’t changed Mike Pence: He hasn’t changed his phone number.

Pence recently met with House Republicans in a closed door session where, “He said, ‘Most of you have my cell phone,’ which he found out after the election,” laughed Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., one of Trump’s earliest allies in Congress. “He wants to encourage us to continue to reach out to him,” Barletta added.

Pence’s accessibility is a comfort to Republicans, who still view President-elect Donald Trump as a wild-card. When he takes the oath of office in January, Trump will be the most politically inexperienced man to ever enter the Oval Office. Trump has never served in government or had to cut a legislative deal.

But Pence is a familiar face on Capitol Hill, where he served for 12 years before becoming Indiana governor. At the same meeting, Pence told Republicans that while his role in Congress is now as president of the Senate, his heart remains in the House.


A judge says Gov. Matt Bevin can appoint six administrative law judges to help deal with a backlog of workers’ compensation cases while a lawsuit over whether the governor can reorganize the board that nominates new judges continues.

The same judge has ruled against Bevin in several decisions, drawing the ire from the governor.

Bevin reorganized the Worker’s Compensation Nominating Commission in May, dismissing seven members appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear before their terms ended. He later replaced it with a five-person board that he named the Worker’s Compensation Nominating Committee.

A group of labor unions, injured workers and a former commissioner sued Bevin for the move.

And over the summer, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked the move, calling it a “wholesale firing of duly appointed state officials” and putting the old version of the board back in place.

J. Tyler Franklin

After Gov. Matt Bevin appealed a ruling that blocked his overhaul of the University of Louisville board of trustees, Attorney General Andy Beshear has requested that the case be fast-tracked to the state’s highest court.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled in October that Bevin’s reorganization of the U of L board was illegal, saying that the governor didn’t have the authority to unilaterally dismantle a public university board and remove all of its members in the process.

Bevin’s appeal would send the case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, but Beshear asked that the case go straight to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

In his motion, Beshear said the case needs to be resolved because Bevin has refused to fill vacancies on the board while the case is on appeal. He also cited concerns that U of L could lose its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for “undue political influence.”

GOP Keeps Same Leadership Team in Kentucky Senate

Nov 22, 2016
Kentucky LRC

Republicans are keeping their same leadership team in the Kentucky Senate as the GOP prepares for a new era of complete control of the General Assembly.

Senate President Robert Stivers of Manchester was re-elected by his fellow Republicans for the chamber's top position as leaders for the next two years were announced Monday.

Sen. David Givens of Greensburg was re-elected as Senate president pro tem.

GOP dominance in the chamber guarantees both will be officially chosen for the posts at the start of next year's legislative session.

Members of the Louisville Tea Party are excited after Republican victories up and down the ticket on Election Day. But they also expressed a need for vigilance to make sure elected officials follow through on campaign promises.

At a Tea Party meeting last week, the group’s president, Michael Brown, said he was especially concerned about the legislature passing a bill to bring the state into compliance with federal driver’s identification card requirements. “Now our governor is a Republican and our governor was the only person who stood between us and the REAL ID surrender last year," he said,  "It was a big deal, it was a huge deal. It took a lot of guts.”

Kentucky is out of compliance with federal REAL ID standards, which require the state to centralize its driver’s license issuing system and crosscheck license applications with a federal database.

Bevin vetoed a REAL ID bill that passed the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House during this year’s legislative session.

Kentuckians won’t be able to use their driver’s licenses to get into military bases starting January 7th. A passport will be needed to board flights starting January 2018 if stricter standards still aren’t met by then.

J. Tyler Franklin

House Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover has recruited four Democrats and four Republicans to serve on his transition team as political control of the House changes for the first time in 95 years.

The team will help Hoover tweak the procedural rules of the House, which Hoover said marginalized the minority party when Democrats controlled the chamber.

“Just because you’re in the minority doesn’t mean you don’t have good ideas or can’t contribute,” said Hoover. “I believe very strongly that you can have good ideas and you can contribute. And it’ll be my goal at every opportunity to be inclusive and to allow the process to work and that’s something I look forward to doing.”

Democrats controlled the House starting in 1922, but their majority dwindled in the chamber as the state turned increasingly Republican.

Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

Congressman John Yarmuth and more than 140 other Democratic representatives are calling on President-elect Donald Trump to rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist.

In a letter, the Democratic lawmakers accuse Bannon of being anti-Semitic and racist, citing his time as chief executive of Breitbart.com, a website that has increasingly been associated with the so-called “alt-right.”

“We strongly believe that Mr. Bannon’s appointment will not allow the country to heal and come together as one,” the letter states. “As one of your top advisors, the White House chief strategist will help set the tone for your administration. The person in this role must be prepared to serve the interests of all Americans, not those of a select few.”

Bannon has served in the Navy, worked for Goldman Sachs and was Trump’s campaign chief from August through Election Day. He also ran Biosphere 2, an experimental sustainability project based outside of Tucson, Arizona.

Michael Conroy/AP

President-elect Donald Trump’s victory on election night over Democrat Hillary Clinton isn’t sitting well with some Louisville residents.

About two hundred people gathered in downtown Thursday night to peacefully protest Trump’s presidency. Similar protests have occurred in cities across the country since the final votes were tallied.

Twenty-six year old LaSue Karneh  is a Liberian refugee now living in Louisville. She said Trump is a misogynist and a racist." He’s going to have to learn some sensitivity and learn how to work with other people and other races and creeds and nationalities and unless he can actually do that he’s not going to succeed. He might have the senate and might have the house but he doesn’t have the people."

Clinton won 53 percent of the vote in Jefferson County. Statewide, Trump won 62 percent of the vote.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Erin Pettigrew

A recanvass of votes has not changed the outcome of a district judge race in Barren and Metcalfe counties. 

Gabe Pendleton will remain in the judgeship after narrowly defeating Kathryn Thomas in Tuesday’s election.  Thomas requested a recanvass after losing to Pendleton by 36 votes.

The clerks' offices in Barren and Metcalfe counties conducted the recanvass Thursday morning and reported no change in vote totals.

In March, Pendleton was appointed by Governor Matt Bevin to serve as the 43rd District judge until the election.  Based on the outcome, Pendleton will finish  former District Judge John Alexander's four-year term that began in January 2015.  Outgoing Governor Steve Beshear appointed Alexander as a circuit judge last December after Judge Phil Patton retired.