politics

Ryland Barton

After his first year in office, Gov. Matt Bevin says Kentucky is more united now than ever, pointing to Republicans’ recent dominance in elections across the state. “If you don’t think we’re uniting Kentucky, there’s never in the history of Kentucky been a Republican House, Senate and governor’s seat,” Bevin said.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Fresh off their historic wins in the General Assembly, Kentucky House Republicans are strategizing this week at a retreat in Bowling Green. The GOP caucus has 23 new members heading into the 2017 legislative session.  Republicans control thestate House for the first time since 1921, and maintain a comfortable majority in the Senate.

Kentucky LRC

The incoming GOP majority for the Kentucky House of Representatives has chosen 13 men and four women to lead standing committees that will decide what bills will be heard when the legislature convenes in January. Republicans won a majority in the state House last month for the first time in nearly 100 years.

McConnell Press Office

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has found a way to protect health care benefits for thousands of retired coal miners whose benefits are set to expire at the end of the year. But Democrats say the solution offered by the Kentucky Republican is only temporary and does not protect pension benefits that also are at risk.

J. Tyler Franklin

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has become an outspoken assessor of President-elect Donald Trump’s potential nominees for secretary of state, going out of his way to criticize several candidates for their hawkish foreign policy views.

Paul, a non-interventionist who has clashed with his party on foreign policy issues during his first term in office, is in a rare position to influence who Trump taps to be the next secretary of state.

A nominee would have to be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, with 10 Republicans and 9 Democrats on the panel, Paul represents a key swing vote.

So far, Paul has publicly stated that he would not support the nomination of former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, citing his support of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He’s also cast doubts on the prospects of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, questioning the candidates’ views on foreign intervention.

becca schimmel

Congressional leaders have included short-term funding for health care benefits for retired miners in a must-pass spending bill this week. If approved that would buy some time for thousands of miners in the Ohio Valley region whose benefits would otherwise expire at the end of the year.  

Lawmakers have already pre-filed scores of bills ahead of the 2017 legislative session, though likely priorities like anti-abortion legislation, permission for charter schools and tort reform have not yet been filed.

Instead, a mix of familiar proposals, like transparency measures for the state’s pension systems, and a handful of new ones, like removing the $500 filing fee to clear a criminal record, have been suggested for the next session, which begins Jan. 3.

Republicans will have supermajorities — more than 60 percent of the seats — in both legislative chambers as well as control of the governor’s mansion for the first time in state history.

Senate President Robert Stivers said last week that the legislature might not have time for “broad-based social issues” during the session and would instead focus on economic initiatives.

Creative Commons

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, has been elected to be the ranking minority member on the House Budget Committee, putting him in line to chair the powerful committee if Democrats ever take control of the chamber again.

The position will be in the limelight as the committee will likely consider measures to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act early next year — a concept supported by Republican President-elect Donald Trump and Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Yarmuth said he would use the position to promote Democratic stances on health policy and tax reform.

“We will be able through the debate on that budget to discuss the impact of Republican factions on the American people,” Yarmuth said. “Unlike in prior years when this was basically just kind of an academic exercise because the Republican budget was never going to be approved, this time it will have a real impact on the American people and that’s going to be our responsibility.”

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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.”

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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.

Creative Commons

The Kentucky Board of Education is holding a special meeting Monday morning to study charter schools.

Such schools are similar to public schools in that they use public dollars and are funded based on student enrollment. They’re also controversial because they can be operated by nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies or groups of parents and teachers.

Kentucky is among a handful of states that don’t have charter schools.

But with Republicans now in full control of the state legislature that could change.

Legislation favoring charter schools has faltered in the state House, which was long-controlled by Democrats.

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.

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.

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