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Kentucky Republicans are hoping for a big turnout for the party’s inaugural presidential caucus on Saturday, even though the event isn’t generating as much excitement locally with the absence of Sen. Rand Paul in the race for the White House.

Last year, Paul convinced his home state’s party to switch from a primary to a caucus format. At the time, Paul was simultaneously running for Senate and president — but state law barred him from appearing twice on the May primary ballot. Paul also argued that the earlier election date would make Kentucky more relevant in the presidential nomination process.

Scott Lasley, the Warren County Republican Party chairman who helped engineer the caucus, said the effort has been partially successful.

“We’re more important than we were, but it’d still be nice to be more important,” Lasley said.

The contest comes just four days after Super Tuesday, when 12 states hold primary elections, monopolizing the attention of the five candidates vying for the Republican nomination.

With every state that voted in February, the contours of the 2016 presidential election changed. Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada all transformed the landscape in both parties.

On Saturday night, in South Carolina, the Earth moved once again. Hillary Clinton won, as expected, but the breadth and depth of her victory were breathtaking. She prevailed by more than 47 percentage points in the most populous state to vote thus far, winning by more than twice the margin of her loss to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire on Feb. 9.

Everyone's talking about "Super Tuesday," what it means and that it's such a big deal in this presidential campaign. But why? Here's a quick explainer. Think of it as a frequently asked questions for Super Tuesday:

What is Super Tuesday? It's when more states vote and more delegates are at stake than on any other single day in the presidential primary campaign.

It's big.

The five remaining candidates for the Republican presidential nomination meet tonight in Houston, Texas, the biggest city in the biggest state holding a primary on March 1, which is Super Tuesday, which is the biggest voting day so far in 2016 – and the biggest all year besides election day in November.

Whoever prevails tonight gets a long leg up toward being the biggest vote-getter on Tuesday. And whoever sits on top after Tuesday is going to be increasingly hard to deny.

Kentucky Public Radio

Leaders from the state’s coal-producing regions want counties to receive a greater share of coal severance tax revenue.

Funds from the severance tax are split evenly between the state and counties. They have declined in recent years as a result of Kentucky’s flagging coal industry. Webster County Judge-Executive Jim Townsend said his county’s severance tax revenue has declined from $6 million per year in 2011 to $300,000 last year.

“If something isn’t done, our county’s going to go out of business, it’s just that simple,” Townsend said.

Counties often use their shares of the funds for local projects such as parks, senior centers, rescue squads, and industrial parks.

Miners are extracting less coal from the mountains of Kentucky and companies are selling it for cheap, leading to massive declines in severance tax revenue going to county coffers.

Statewide, coal severance revenue dropped from $20.5 million per month in January 2011 to $8.9 million last month.

Any doubt that Senate Republicans would hold the line behind their leader's decision to block President Obama's Supreme Court nominee has been erased.

"I can now confidently say the view shared by virtually everybody in my conference, is that the nomination should be made by the president the people elect in the election that's underway right now," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters.

In any ordinary year, Donald Trump's big win in South Carolina on Saturday night would all but anoint him the Republican presidential nominee. That's especially true after his big win in New Hampshire, where he won with support across various age and income groups in the party.

Donald Trump posted a decisive victory Saturday night in South Carolina, a conservative state that on its face should have been inhospitable to the New York billionaire, but was anything but when voters went to the polls.

And Hillary Clinton pulled off a badly needed win in Nevada, besting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with an older, more diverse electorate in the state's caucuses.

As we dive into the entrance and exit polling data, here's four takeaways from the results.

1. Evangelical voters have faith in Donald Trump

Ryland Barton, Kentucky Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says that the Senate shouldn’t confirm an appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama because it amounts to a “conflict of interest.”

The president has said he’ll nominate someone to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last week.

This spring, the Supreme Court will take up a case concerning the legality of Obama’s executive orders that granted legal status to about 5 million people who entered the U.S. without documentation as children.

Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green, is crisscrossing Kentucky to drum up support for his reelection bid. On Friday, he stopped at Tonya’s Hometown Buffet in Lawrenceburg to speak to a crowd of about 50 supporters.

Citing the recent 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that halted Obama’s Clean Power Plan, Paul said that with the absence of Scalia, a sympathetic appointee would tip the scales in favor of the president’s immigration policies.

Kentucky Republicans have until Friday to request an absentee ballot for the March 5 presidential caucus. 

Ballot applications must be requested by February 19 and can be found on the state GOP website.  Absentee ballots must be returned to the Kentucky Republican Party headquarters by March 4.  Since this is the first caucus in Kentucky in more than three decades, Warren County Caucus Chairman David Graham says turnout is a concern.

"I think statewide we had only around 30 percent in our gubernatorial election, and sad to say, we'd be tickled to have 30 percent turnout at the caucus, but that's why we're getting out the word the best we can to make sure everyone's aware of it," Graham told WKU Public Radio.

Eleven GOP presidential candidates qualified for the Kentucky caucus, though several have already dropped out of the race, including Senator Rand Paul.  Their names will still appear on the pre-printed ballots.

The last time that Kentucky held a presidential caucus was in 1984 when both the Republican and Democratic parties participated.  This year, Kentucky Democrats will pick their presidential nominee in the regular May primary.

Health Care, Economy Focus Of Paul’s Town Hall Events

Feb 15, 2016
Ashley Lopez, WFPL

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says he will help Gov. Matt Bevin get a waiver from the federal government this summer to begin charging Medicaid recipients for their health insurance.

That will be part of Paul’s message this week as he visits 18 Kentucky cities in four days, his first major trip in the Commonwealth since ending his presidential campaign.

The town hall-style events begin in Scottsville on Tuesday and end in Radcliff on Saturday. Paul has had similar trips in recent months, but this time he won’t be dogged by questions about his other campaign.

Paul is favored to again win the Republican nomination, where he could face Democrat Jim Gray in the fall. The Lexington mayor is the most well-known of the seven Democrats vying for the nomination.

Paul may also discuss the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the increasingly charged political debate about how to replace him on the court.

In Thursday night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — each with one nominating contest victory — looked ahead to the upcoming primaries in Nevada and South Carolina. Here are a few of the big takeaways from the debate.

1. A focus on African-American issues

Governors across the country are issuing their state budget plans and outlining policy proposals. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson checks in with reporters in Kentucky, Wyoming and Connecticut, where the governors recently gave their State of the State addresses, to discuss some of the top issues in those states.

(Note: Tonight's debate, moderated by PBS NewsHour anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, will be simulcast on CNN and NPR and streamed live on NPR.org. NPR's Tamara Keith will be part of the debate broadcast, providing analysis during and after the event.)

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton meet Thursday night on a debate stage in Milwaukee. It's their first face-to-face matchup since Tuesday's New Hampshire primary where Sanders beat Clinton by more than 20 points.

LRC Public Information

A state House committee has passed a bill that would extend protections to victims of “revenge porn” in Kentucky.

The legislation would prohibit distributing pornographic images or video without the consent of the person or people depicted.

Jeff Metzmeier, an assistant Jefferson County attorney, said the issue isn’t covered by current law.

“One of the problems that I saw early on is there’s no statute to cover that act, that act of maliciously distributing those materials,” Metzmeier said.

The bill would charge a Class A misdemeanor to those who distribute pornographic images with the intent to “harm, harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the person depicted.”

Those who distribute the images or video for profit would be charged with a Class D felony.

State Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Louisville Democrat and the bill’s primary sponsor, said the bill doesn’t just apply to “revenge porn.”