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Pointing to strong tax collections, state budget officials say Kentucky will likely avoid another budget shortfall. 

Revenues are expected to increase more than three percent in the budget year that ends June 30.  The state ended the 2014 budget year $90 million shortfall. 

While the revenue picture this year is much brighter, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards of Bowling Green says there are a lot of pent up needs.

"We've not be able to fund public education properly and we certainly haven't been able to fund our universities properly," Richards tells WKU Public Radio.  "The retirement systems are very challenging."

Starting in 2017, the state must also start contributing to the cost of expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law. 

Despite more revenue, Richards says it will be difficult to balance all the needs as lawmakers form a new two-year budget next session.

Kentucky's four Republican candidates for governor will meet on statewide television one week before the May 19 primary.

KET's "Kentucky Tonight" program will host the four Republican candidates for governor at 8 p.m. EDT May 11 for what could be the only statewide televised debate before the primary. Host Bill Goodman will quiz Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner and former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott.

The candidates' running mates will debate on a separate program one week earlier.

Democratic candidate Geoff Young will appear on the program next Monday along with running mate Jonathan Masters. Attorney General Jack Conway will not participate. Conway leads Young by a wide margin in fundraising and public polling.

Kentucky’s Republican elected officials in Washington are asking Republican candidates for governor to unite behind whoever’s elected in the primary next month.

The GOP nominee will likely face off against Attorney General Jack Conway, who doesn’t have serious competition in the Democratic primary.

In a letter signed by Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul as well as four Republican members of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation, the candidates were asked to show up to an event in Lexington a week and a half after the May 19th primary.

Louisville businessmen Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin as well as Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott are all seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

The candidates are working to set themselves apart from one another ahead of the primary election, which historically has low voter turnout.

Kentucky’s May 19 primary is a few weeks away, but for some, voting is already underway. 

Eligible voters can cast mail-in absentee ballots anytime between now Election Day.  Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says absentee voters must have an excuse to vote early.

"We have absentee voting available for individuals who are going to be out of the county on election day because of work, military and overseas voters, individuals who need to vote because of age, disability, or illness," Grimes tells WKU Public Radio.

A complete list of eligible absentee voters is available at elect.ky.gov.

Voters can request an absentee ballot application from their county clerk in person or by phone, fax, or email.  Applications must be received by May 12 and the completed absentee ballot must be received by the county clerk's office by 6:00 p.m. local time on election day.

Under a new law, the identities of absentee voters will not be disclosed until after the election.  In the past, absentee ballot application were subject to open records requests, making those voters susceptible to attempts to purchase their votes.

Photo by WKU Public Radio photojournalist Abbey Oldham

Kelley Paul says she'll use her background as a political consultant to provide behind-the-scenes support to husband Rand's 2016 Republican presidential bid.

She said in an interview in South Carolina on Thursday she doesn't plan to have a front office at campaign headquarters but to help her husband with speechwriting and getting his message out.

Kelley Paul sat down with The Associated Press in Charleston during her first solo campaign swing to early-voting South Carolina. She's also promoting her recent book.

The mother of three has long supported Rand Paul's political operation in significant if not always visible ways. But in recent months she's been thrust into a far more public role.

Rand Paul, a Kentucky senator, announced his candidacy last week.

Kentuckians have only a few more days to register to vote in next month’s primary election. 

Voters will pick the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor, as well as the other constitutional offices. 

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says Monday, April 20 is the deadline to register to vote in the May 19 primary.

"Go online to elect.ky.gov.  There, you can check your registration status to make sure you are registered," Grimes told WKU Public Radio.  "If you aren't registered, you can download the registration form to make sure you have that sent in time for our deadline."

Kentucky has 3.1 million registered voters.  Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by nearly 450,000.

Kentucky LRC

A Franklin Circuit Court judge on Wednesday granted a motion filed by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and The Courier-Journal to intervene in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Legislative Research Commission.

The media organizations want access to depositions of former Legislative Research Commission director Bobby Sherman and state Rep. Sannie Overly, a Paris Democrat.

Judge Thomas Wingate is still considering Overly and Sherman’s requests to have their depositions sealed.

On Wednesday, Wingate signed an order denying requests by Overly and Sherman to have their depositions sealed, but the court soon after update that order and rescinded that decision. “It was brought to Court’s attention that there had been a mistake,” Wingate’s office said in an email.

Wingate will decide later whether to seal part or all of Sherman and Overly’s depositions.

Overly, who is running for lieutenant governor on a slate with Attorney General Jack Conway, is scheduled to be deposed by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Thomas Clay. Clay said that he deposed Sherman for five hours last Wednesday.

Kentucky LRC

A Franklin County judge has denied the request of lieutenant governor candidate Sannie Overly to seal her deposition in a legislative sexual harassment case.

The Lexington Herald-Leader said Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate on Wednesday also denied a similar request by former Legislative Research Commission director Bobby Sherman and granted  motions by The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting to intervene.

Louisville lawyer Thomas Clay, who represents two women who brought the harassment case against a former lawmaker, has said he wants to ask Overly about any sexual harassment she might have experienced in the legislature.

Overly is running on a ticket with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway. Her lawyer, Anita Britton of Lexington, has said if the deposition became public, Overly's words could be taken out of context for political reasons.

Republican Senator Rand Paul is now the first presidential candidate to accept contributions in the form of Bitcoin. The digital currency is new territory for campaign finance law.

Richard Hasen is a law and political science professor at the University of California-Irvine.
He says he doesn’t think Bitcoin will provide a significant source of funding for Paul’s campaign, but he’s not surprised the Republican candidate has chosen to accept Bitcoin. "I think it’s more of a novelty and it certainly fits in with Senator Paul’s image to try to be tech-savvy and there is a kind of a libertarian edge to Bitcoin. So, I think it is quite a natural fit for him to be the one to do it." he said.

But, there are some issues. Bitcoin makes it easier to contribute to a political campaign anonymously and
Hasen says Paul’s campaign will have to rely on donors to provide information, since Bitcoin is an untraceable and unregulated currency.

Hasen says Paul’s campaign is also going to have to make sure contributions aren’t from foreign countries.
The Paul campaign is only accepting up to 100 dollars in Bitcoin contributions per individual.

Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and The Courier-Journal have filed a motion to intervene in an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the Legislative Research Commission by two former staffers of the agency.

The media organizations are trying to bring to light depositions of former Legislative Research Commission director Bobby Sherman and state Rep. Sannie Overly, a Paris Democrat.

Overly is scheduled to be deposed on Monday and Sherman was deposed on Wednesday. They have tried to keep the depositions sealed, citing privacy concerns.

Sherman announced his resignation from the LRC in September 2013, following the conclusion of an internal probe into allegations that former state Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, sexually harassed statehouse employees.

According to documents filed in the lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court, Arnold also inappropriately touched Overly, who is currently running for lieutenant governor on the ticket headed by current state Attorney General Jack Conway.

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