politics

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With the first three months of lobbyist reports in for this year’s legislative session, it looks like total spending will easily surpass the previous record.

According to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, business, organizations and legislative agents spent $7.5 million lobbying lawmakers in the first quarter of this year.

The spending pattern is on track to exceed the previous record of $8.8 million set in 2012, once totals from April are accounted for.

The top spender was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $120,426 pushing issues like the local option sales tax, public-private partnerships, tort reform and felony expungement. The organization also spent $9,202 on radio advertising in favor of a pension transparency bill that did not pass.

Darron Cummings/AP

Ahead of the potentially pivotal Indiana primary Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced he will be voting for Republican candidate Ted Cruz.

"This is a time for choosing," Pence said on WIBC radio in Indianapolis. He called Cruz, a senator from Texas, a "principled conservative" who "stood up for taxpayers" in fighting spending in Washington, said he was "very impressed" with his "knowledge and devotion" to the Constitution and his "strong, unwavering stand" against abortion rights.

But Pence seemed to go out of his way to praise Republican front-runner Donald Trump. He also stressed that his endorsement was not intended to sway the votes of Indiana Republicans.

"I respect the right of every Hoosier in making their determination," Pence said, adding, "I encourage everyone to make up their own mind."

In fact, Pence mentioned Trump before mentioning his endorsement of Cruz.

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The daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has plans to visit Kentucky this week.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Chelsea Clinton will visit Lexington to help open the Hillary for Kentucky Lexington office in her mother's Democratic presidential campaign.

The event is to start at 10:15 a.m. Friday at 1301 Winchester Road.

She is attending a private fundraiser later Friday at the Frankfort home of former Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and her husband, Lynn Luallen.

Kentucky's primary election is May 17.

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.

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A crowded field of Democrats wants to unseat Republican Sen. Rand Paul this fall, even though Kentucky hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992.

During an hour-long debate hosted by Simmons College and WHAS-11 Tuesday evening, the six candidates weighed in on how Democrats could turn the political momentum around in Kentucky and declared why they were the best man to beat Paul in the general election.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, owner of Gray Construction, said Democrats need to rally around broad economic policies that create jobs.

“The Democratic Party has been at the front edge of raising the economic boat, always,” Gray said, highlighting New Deal-era polices like the Works Progress Administration and infrastructure projects like the interstate highway system.

Gray said Kentuckians would come out to vote for him over Paul because people are tired of “politics as usual.”

“Citizens are tired of the gridlock in Washington, and there is a lot of economic anxiety. All of that translates into a high turnout in the fall,” he said.

LRC Public Information

State lawmakers have come to an agreement on a budget that makes nearly across-the-board spending cuts, enacts performance funding for higher education and puts more money into the ailing state pension systems.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo called it “an adequate and effective blend” of the House, Senate and Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget priorities.

Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill was ready for a vote.

“I believe we have an agreement on all issues related to the budget,” Stivers said.

The final document is expected to be approved by both legislative chambers on Friday, the last day of the General Assembly.

Donald Trump Is Coming Back To Louisville

Apr 13, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and controversy magnet Donald Trump is due back in Louisville next month.

He’s scheduled to join Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, Gov. Matt Bevin and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association.

The meeting is set for May 19 through May 22 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Trump is scheduled to speak on Friday, May 20, according to a tweet from the NRA.

Trump’s previous visit to Louisville earlier this year for a campaign rally sparked protests and led to several alleged assaults. Three people who attended the rally have since filed a lawsuit against the business mogul, alleging he incited and encouraged violence.

LRC Public Information

After hours of negotiations on Sunday, state lawmakers once again failed to agree on a budget, halting their meeting abruptly at about 11:30 p.m.

The failure raises doubts about whether the House and Senate can agree on a budget by the end of this year’s General Assembly on Tuesday. Lawmakers will likely have to adjust the legislative calendar to approve a budget bill before the legislature is scheduled to disband for the year.

“It appears to be at a complete stalemate,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones, a Democrat from Pikeville.

Lawmakers had planned to come to an agreement on Sunday to have a budget bill ready for votes in the House and Senate on Tuesday. While it appears the budget conference committee will not have an agreement in time, lawmakers had no plans to alter the official calendar.

Sellus Wilder campaign

When they’re running for statewide office, Kentucky Democrats and Republicans usually have something in common: They embrace the state’s coal culture and attack federal regulations of the signature industry.

But Sellus Wilder, a Democrat running a longshot campaign for U.S. Senate this year, wants his party to stop pandering.

“We never have honest conversations on the state of the coal industry,” Wilder said. “Environmental regulation has contributed to the decline of the coal industry, but it’s hardly the most important factor.”

Wilder is running in the crowded seven-person field for the Democratic Senate nomination. The winner will face Sen. Rand Paul in November.

The man to beat in the primary is Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who, according to his campaign, raised $1.75 million in the first quarter of this year — $1 million of which he loaned to the cause.

Cheryl Beckley, WKU PBS

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell makes no secrets about his desire to block President Barack Obama’s agenda at almost every turn.

The latest flashpoint is the President’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

McConnell says the Senate won’t hold hearings for Garland. It’s a position McConnell took almost immediately after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The senior Senator from Kentucky believes Mr. Obama should let the next President fill the high court vacancy.

That position has been blasted by Democrats, who say McConnell is ignoring the president’s constitutional obligation to put forth a nominee, and the Senate’s obligation to provide advice and consent.

McConnell sat down with WKU Public Radio Monday to discuss the Supreme Court and the presidential contest.

LRC Public Information

Some Kentuckians with felony convictions would be eligible to have their voting rights restored under a bill that a Senate committee approved on Wednesday.

The bill would allow Kentuckians to vote on whether to give the legislature authority to determine which felony crimes would be eligible.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester and sponsor of the bill, said previous attempts to restore voting rights have gone about the process wrong.

“The bills that I felt had come before us about restoration of civil rights were not appropriately taken because we, as the General Assembly, did not have the authority per our constitution to do that,” he said.

Currently, only the governor can restore voting rights to those with felony convictions.

Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons

Businessman Donald Trump narrowly won Kentucky’s Republican Presidential Contest on Saturday, beating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 4 percent statewide.

The caucus was originally designed so Rand Paul could run for the White House and Senate re-election at the same time; of course, after a disappointing national run, Paul dropped out of the presidential race last month.

On Monday, Capitol reporter Ryland Barton talked with Warren County’s GOP Chair Scott Lasley, who helped organize the caucus.

Lasley said despite some concerns from voters about access to polling locations and electioneering, the caucus was “definitely more positive than negative at the end of the day.”

Listen to the interview in the player above.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The outcome of four special elections in Kentucky today could change the political control of the state House of Representatives, the last legislative chamber in the South run by Democrats.

If Republicans win all four elections, they would tie the political makeup of the chamber, where Democrats hold 50 seats and Republicans 46. Democrats have held a majority in the House since 1921.

A Republican sweep would put the party within one vote of controlling both chambers and the governor’s mansion for the first time in state history.

“This would be a fundamental change in the way that Kentucky government operates,” said Al Cross, a Courier-Journal columnist and director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

The elections take place in two districts (near Hopkinsville and South Shore) vacated by lawmakers who Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to new positions. Also at stake are two districts (around Danville and Georgetown) where representatives stepped down after being elected to statewide offices.

The winners of the special elections will start immediately and serve out the last 17 days of the legislative session.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Saturday was the first time Kentucky held a presidential caucus in more than 30 years.

The contest, which New York businessman Donald Trump narrowly won, was designed so Rand Paul could run for Senate and the White House at the same time. But according to state Republican officials, it was also intended to get Kentuckians more excited about the nominating process.

Did it work?

Jefferson County resident Lacy Little caucused at Louisville’s Zachary Taylor Elementary. He was furious about the new format.

“I shouldn’t have to wait in these lines and stuff,” Little said. “I should be able to go to my same poll, my voting post that I do every year, that I’ve done for 30-some years in this neighborhood.”

Reports of long lines and traffic jams across the state helped hype up the caucus on Saturday, but in reality, voter turnout for the election was average at about 18 percent.

More than 1.2 million registered Republicans in Kentucky have the chance to take part in the state’s Republican presidential caucus on Saturday.  At stake are Kentucky’s 46 delegates to the national convention. 

Some are predicting only a fraction will turn out to cast their ballots.

"I’m telling you, across the state I’ve talked to any number of Republicans who don’t even know there is a caucus," said Scott Hofstra of Elizabethtown.

Hofstra chairs the Central Kentucky Tea Party and is the volunteer chairman for the Ted Cruz campaign in Kentucky.  He says the voters who are going to the caucus are excited, but a little apprehensive.

"Even if they’re aware of it, they’ve not been very well-informed about what the caucus is all about and how it’s going to work," Hofstra added.  "The state just has not done a good job of getting the word out.”

The Kentucky Republican Party set up a website and telephone hotline for voters to get more information ahead of Saturday.  State GOP Chairman Mike Biagi says he feels good about the public’s awareness of the caucus.

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