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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.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he will introduce a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling when the General Assembly convenes next year. 

Outgoing Governor Steve Beshear has pushed casinos as a way to generate revenue throughout his two terms in office. 

He blames the failed attempts on the Republican-led Kentucky Senate and infighting in the horse industry.

"Many in the horse industry want it limited only to racetracks and they're afraid free-standing casinos will somehow make the racetracks less profitable and there would be less people who would want to go to them," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.

Beshear is hopeful the question of whether to allow casinos will be placed on the ballot for voters to decide in November 2016.  Casino legislation must first clear the Kentucky House and Senate. 

Under Stumbo’s proposal, seven casinos could open statewide and 70 percent of proceeds would benefit education.  Twenty percent would go to the state retirement system, and the remaining 10 percent would go to racetracks.

Flickr/Creative Commons/DL Duncan

Kentucky lawmakers are criticizing the federal Clean Power Plan, which will place the first-ever national carbon dioxide restrictions on existing power plants.

Released earlier this month, the federal plan orders Kentucky  to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 31 percent by 2030. The EPA’s final rules were much more stringent than the 18 percent reduction outlined in a previous draft version.

The Environmental Protection Agency predicts Kentucky will meet the standards a decade early due to market pressures and current regulations on the coal industry. But Eastern Kentucky lawmakers on Monday said the new regulations would cripple the already ailing coal industry in the region.

“It infuriates me what’s happening to our people in East Kentucky,” said House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, a Democrat from Sandy Hook, at a legislative committee meeting in Frankfort.

Because of the limits on carbon emissions, the plan will require the state to turn to new forms of power generation, especially natural gas and renewable energy.

Ami Brooks

An attorney from Logan County plans to challenge Democratic State Representative Martha Jane King. 

Republican Ami Brooks has filed a letter of intent to seek the 16th District House seat next year. 

"I think it's important for there to be a change of leadership in Frankfort," Brooks told WKU Public Radio.  "I think the Republican party has a good shot at taking the House this next term and I'd like to be a part of that."

Brooks, a proponent of a statewide right-to-work law, believes the cost of doing business in Kentucky is too high.

"I have an office in Tennessee and I see how things are conducted differently and how laws affect small businesses because I have a small business in both states," Brooks said.

Much of her work is devoted to juvenile and family law.  

Brooks is a Bowling Green native who has lived in Logan County for nearly 20 years.  

The 16th District seat covers Logan, Todd, and a portion of Warren County.

Attorneys who successfully challenged Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage have submitted a bill for more than $2 million in legal fees, court costs and related expenses. Under federal civil-rights law, the state of Kentucky gets stuck with the tab as the losing party in the case.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the private attorneys hired by Governor Steve Beshear to handle the state's appeals have a $260,000 contract. According to state records, $231,348 had been paid by July 20.

The newspaper reports the total cost to Kentucky taxpayers is $2,351,297.

Beshear said Monday he will challenge the plaintiffs' legal bill as "unreasonable."

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III gets the final say on the matter.

The governor acknowledged the state must pay "reasonable attorneys' fees" to the winning side.

Over the weekend, Kentucky Republican Party leaders made a big decision.

GOP voters will pick their presidential nominee in a caucus next March, instead of the usual primary election in May. It was done mostly to help Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is also running for the White House.

But as WFPL's Ashley Lopez reports, Republicans also hope this will give the party some added attention and excitement.

WFPL News

The Kentucky Republican Party has approved a presidential caucus for March 5, allowing Rand Paul to run for president and re-election to his U.S. Senate seat at the same time without running afoul of state law.

State law bans candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election. Paul tried without success to convince the state legislature to change the law. But a presidential caucus, it allows voters to vote for Paul for president on March 5 and then vote for him again for re-election to his Senate seat during the primary election on May 17.

Committee members said their vote was motivated not by Paul's candidacy but by a desire to make Kentucky relevant in presidential politics. Paul's campaign has faltered in the polls recently.

Democratic nominee for governor Jack Conway says he supports drug testing some welfare recipients in Kentucky.

He joins his Republican opponent Matt Bevin in advocating for some drug testing of those who receive public benefits in order to save money and help get people to get off drugs.

Michael Aldridge, executive director of ACLU Kentucky, says such a policy directly targets low-income communities.

“We’re not requiring drug testing for any other community that receives government benefits," noted Aldridge.  "We don’t require senior citizens before they get Medicaid to be drug tested and we don’t require executives in banks to be drug tested before we bail out their bank system.”

Legislation calling for drug testing welfare recipients has been proposed in recent years, but failed to win passage in the Kentucky General Assembly.

There are 13 states that already drug test welfare recipients, most recently Arkansas and Wisconsin.

Kentucky LRC

In November, Ohioans will vote by public referendum whether to legalize marijuana in the state.

But in Kentucky, where statewide ballot initiatives are not permitted, the path to legalization must run through the state legislature. And while recent efforts have coalesced behind legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, lawmakers haven’t exactly been forthcoming with their support.

Jaime Montalvo, founder of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana, said most state lawmakers are reluctant to have their names tied to the cause, which can be easily muddied in attacks from opponents.

“They know something has to happen, but they don’t know how. It’s just overwhelming to them, I think,” he said. “We’re trying to get them to, when they hear the words ‘marijuana’ or ‘cannabis,’ they think of somebody that is really sick and out of options and needs a better quality of life, instead of somebody wearing bell bottoms and a tie-dye shirt, smoking a joint [and] walking down the street.”

During this year’s legislative session, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, proposed legislation that would have legalized some forms of marijuana for medical use. The bill never made it out of committee.

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.

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