politics

Kentucky Needs $700 Million More Per Year for Pension Debt

May 23, 2017
J. Tyler Franklin

Independent consultants say Kentucky taxpayers need to spend an extra $700 million each year to keep their troubled public pension systems afloat.

That's on top of the nearly $2 billion taxpayers are scheduled to spend on all of the state's retirement systems in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

State lawmakers were briefed on the report Monday. It's the second of three commissioned studies of the state's pension system. The final report will detail recommendations about how the state can raise the necessary funds.

President Trump will try to leave his troubles behind as he departs on the first foreign trip of his presidency. It's an ambitious itinerary with stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican and two meetings with European leaders.

Here are five objectives to watch for as Trump goes overseas.

1. Will the cloud of controversy follow?

There has been one "bad news" headline after another involving the Trump administration breaking every day this week. But if the president is looking for a reprieve, recent history indicates he might be disappointed.

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None of Kentucky’s Republican senators or congressmen responded to requests for comment on allegations that President Donald Trump gave classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister last week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell briefly addressed the issue during an interview on Bloomberg TV Tuesday morning.

“I think we can do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda,” McConnell said.

The elephant in the room whenever talking about President Trump and the Russia investigation is the big I-word — impeachment.

The word had been in the not-so-far reaches of liberal conspiracy talk since Trump was elected. There is a website with more than 976,000 signatures on a petition encouraging Congress to impeach Trump. There is even an "Impeach Donald Trump" Twitter handle.

Addiction experts are up in arms over remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as "substituting one opioid for another."

Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to "set the record straight."

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A liberal group has come out against President Donald Trump’s nomination of a Louisville lawyer to a federal appeals court, criticizing him for opposing a landmark ruling dealing with freedom of the press.

John Bush is currently a partner at the Louisville law firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll, and according to his website practices complex litigation dealing with financial institutions, intellectual property and product liability disputes.

He is also an influential member of the Federalist Society, a conservative group that advocates for the literal interpretation of laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning.

During a Federalist Society event in 2009, Bush said that a landmark Supreme Court ruling that strengthened press protections from libel claims was probably “wrongly decided.”

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In the wake of President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a special prosecutor is not needed to investigate Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.

Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky — ramped up calls for an independent investigation into Russia’s meddling after Comey’s abrupt removal.

On the Senate Floor, McConnell dismissed the requests.

“Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done,” McConnell said.

As soon as the House approved the GOP health care bill on Thursday, Democrats were working on using it against Republicans in next year's midterm elections.

"They have this vote tattooed on them. This is a scar they carry," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared just after the American Health Care Act passed the House.

Here’s How Kentucky’s Reps Voted On The GOP Health Care Bill

May 4, 2017
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The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon to approve a Republican-led plan that would eliminate many of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This marks a victory for Republican lawmakers — who have long vowed to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature health care law — and for President Trump.

With the 217-213 vote, the measure now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to undergo intense debate and major revision.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers were forbidden from increasing costs or denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But under the GOP replacement bill, states would be able to apply for waivers that would allow insurers to set premiums based on individuals’ medical backgrounds.

House Republicans approved their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act on Thursday.

Here's a rundown of key provisions in the American Health Care Act and what would happen if the Senate approves them and the bill becomes law.

Buying insurance

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As House Republicans work to garner support for the revised American Health Care Act — the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — we’re finding out where Kentucky representatives stand.

President Donald Trump said the AHCA would keep in place protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But recent changes to the proposal include an amendment that would give Kentucky and other states the ability to opt-out of those protections, allowing insurance companies to charge higher rates and deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Vice President Mike Pence went to Capitol Hill Monday afternoon to meet with lawmakers, a sign that the White House is still drumming up votes.

NPR

Earlier this week President Donald Trump released a blueprint for changes he’d like to make to the country’s tax code. Though specifics are still unclear, under one portion of the new plan, corporations–including Kentucky’s most profitable companies—would get a tax break.

Trump’s proposal would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, reducing tax revenue into federal coffers by an estimated $2 trillion over 10 years, according to the Tax Foundation, a D.C.-based think tank.

Tyler Houlton, director of federal affairs at libertarian-leaning Americans for Prosperity, said the move would spur economic growth.

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Indiana state lawmakers have returned to their districts after adjourning the 2017 General Assembly early Saturday.

The Republican-led legislature met a goal set by GOP leaders to pass an ambitious plan to improve Indiana’s roads and bridges.

Indiana Public Broadcasting Statehouse reporter Brandon Smith said the plan will eventually raise $1.2 billion annually through an increase in the fuel tax and motor vehicle fees.

Coal-State Lawmakers Push To Extend Retired Miners’ Benefits

Apr 24, 2017
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Lawmakers from coal-mining states are pushing to extend health benefits for more than 22,000 retired miners and widows whose medical coverage is set to expire at the end of April.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and other coal-state Democrats threatened to shut down the government over the issue in December, but they retreated after winning a four-month extension that preserves benefits through April 30.

As lawmakers return to the Capitol following a two-week recess, Manchin says the time for extensions is over.

“We will use every vehicle we can, every pathway we can, to make sure we do not leave here … until we have our miners protected,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor before the break.

Kentucky Democrats Hire Sanders' Alum as Party Director

Apr 21, 2017
Twitter

The Kentucky Democratic Party has hired a former team leader of Bernie Sanders presidential campaign as its new executive director.

The party announced Mary Nishimuta of Frankfort as the new executive director on Friday. She will serve under state party chairwoman Sannie Overly, a state representative from Paris.

Nishimuta was a national team leader for Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign and was a delegate for him to the Democratic National Convention. Sanders narrowly lost Kentucky's Democratic presidential primary to eventual nominee Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote.

A graduate of Georgia Tech, Nishimuta has worked for various Fortune 500 companies and is the co-owner of the Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe in Frankfort. She said her goal is to build a strong party in all of Kentucky's 120 counties.

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