Politics

Political news

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin has abolished and reorganized the Workers’ Compensation Nominating Commission for the second time in just over a month, as a court decides whether he has the power to do so.

The commission nominates administrative law judges to the governor, who then appoints them to oversee workers compensation cases throughout the state.

Bevin abolished the panel in early May, terminating seven commissioners appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear before their terms ended. In response, a group of labor unions, injured workers and a former commissioner sued Bevin.

Last week, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin’s initial reorganization, forbidding the governor from appointing any new judges unless they were nominated by the old commission.

Shepherd called the executive order a “wholesale firing of duly appointed state officials” and that the move has “never been upheld by case law, even if such a tactic has been commonly employed by past governors.”

Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

An effort is underway in Kentucky to replace a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Capitol Rotunda with a tribute to boxing legend MuhammadAli. 

Lexington attorney and former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller has begun an online petition seeking the change.  Miller says Ali’s recent death has more people talking about his place in history. 

"People have been reminded that he wasn't just a boxer, but indeed made a profound influence on American policy," Miller told WKU Public Radio.  "They've also been reminded that he's a Kentuckian.  He was born here, grew up here, and will rest in peace here."

So far, about 600 Kentuckians have signed the petition which Miller plans to deliver to Governor Matt Bevin and legislative leaders. 

While several lawmakers supported an attempt to remove the Davis statue from the Capitol last summer, the state Historic Properties Commission voted to leave the statue in place.

WKU Public Radio is carrying live coverage of Ali’s memorial service in Louisville Friday. You can hear that coverage from 1:00-3:00 p.m. central, 2:00-4:00 p.m. eastern time.

Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gay and lesbian activists gather at the White House on Thursday for a celebration marking LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride Month. It's become an annual event, tied to the monthlong commemoration of the Stonewall riots, which helped launch the modern gay liberation movement.

President Obama's years in office have seen a flowering of gay and lesbian rights, culminating a year ago when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

"Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back," Obama said during a Rose Garden celebration hours after the high court's decision was announced. "And then sometimes, there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."

Cheryl Beckley, WKU PBS

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has followed through on some principles laid out in his recent autobiography — rebuking GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump for comments made against a federal judge of Mexican descent.

In his book “The Long Game,” McConnell underscores his support for civil rights, saying he withdrew his support for Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election because of the Arizona senator’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

At a Washington press conference on Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that he disapproved of Trump’s comments against the judge.

“It’s time to stop attacking various people that you competed with or various minority groups in the country,” McConnell said.

The number of Kentucky families receiving cash assistance has declined dramatically since federal welfare reform was enacted twenty years ago.

According to a study conducted by Marketplace and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2014 there were 29,034 households utilizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, compared to 66,664 in 1997.

Meanwhile the number of families with children in poverty decreased by only about 6,000 over the same period — from 131,326 down to 124,420.

The 1996 welfare reforms created limits for how long people can receive cash assistance and also required beneficiaries to look for a job or go to school. Before the reforms, states gave cash assistance to most who were eligible.

Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says the steeper requirements have reduced the number of people using the program.

WFPL News

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is one of many high-profile Republicans who are either uncommitted or say they won’t attend their party’s national convention this summer.

Paul and presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had several intense exchanges during presidential debates earlier this year. Paul is one of Kentucky’s convention delegates, but hasn’t committed to attending the Cleveland event.

A spokesman for the Bowling Green Republican told the New York Times the Senator’s schedule was “still being firmed up.”

Two leading GOP politicians from the state hosting the convention, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Senator Rob Portman, haven’t committed to attending the convention.

Senator John McCain of Arizona is one of four living former Republican presidential nominees skipping the event.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

While some of Washington's most prominent Republican leaders are still struggling over whether to endorse Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the call to do so last month — as soon as Trump became the likely nominee.

In fact, for all the talk of the GOP's upheaval, the Kentucky Republican says he doesn't think a Trump nomination will redefine the Republican Party in any substantial way. The party is now at "an all-time high," he said.

McConnell spoke to Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition about what he sees for the future of the GOP — as well as why he approves of Trump's Supreme Court picks and stance on border security, but thinks the candidate's proposed Muslim ban is a "very bad idea."

Interview Highlights

On Trump's picks for the next Supreme Court nominee

The single most important thing I would remind right-of-center voters in suggesting that they vote for Donald Trump is: Who do you want to make the next Supreme Court appointment? Donald Trump has already put out a list of 10 or 11 right-of-center, well-qualified judges, a list from which he would pick. I think that issue alone should comfort people in voting for Donald Trump for president.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Kentucky’s Medicaid commissioner says the state’s plan to scale back the expanded Medicaid system will not require beneficiaries to pay premiums, according to an Associated Press report.

In the report, Commissioner Stephen Miller goes on to say that Medicaid recipients could receive fewer benefits, including reduced vision and dental services.

Late last year, Gov. Matt Bevin announced that he would by 2017 “transform” the state’s expanded Medicaid system into one where recipients have “skin in the game” by paying for benefits.

Doug Hogan, communications director for Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that the state couldn’t comment on the proposed changes or negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“Everything is on the table and no decisions have been finalized. We are continuing to engage stakeholders and CMS in good faith,” Hogan said.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

In his attempt to maintain control of the U.S. Senate and send a Republican to the White House this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is walking an awkward line when talking about presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, McConnell was asked if Trump’s nomination would help Republican candidates for Senate during the November general election.

“I think we don’t know yet,” McConnell said. “What I do think is that Senate races are big enough to where you can paint your own picture. And all of our candidates are going to be in a good position to run.”

Republicans are defending 24 of their 54 seats in the Senate and Democrats are defending 10 of their 44 seats.

Steve Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, says it’s unclear if Trump will ultimately hurt the GOP’s chances further down the ballot because he both energizes new voters and disenfranchises established ones.

Six months after being elected, a poll gives Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin one of the lowest approval ratings in the country. 

The survey by Morning Consult shows Republican Governor Matt Bevin with a 33 percent approval rating.  Bevin is ranked in the bottom ten among the nation’s governors.  That’s a stark contrast to former Governor Steve Beshear’s approval rating of 57 percent before he left office. 

Job performance ranking vary in surrounding states.  Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam enjoys 63 percent approval among respondents in his state.  Indiana Governor Mike Pence has a 48 percent approval rating among Hoosiers, and 61 percent of Ohio voters approve of the job Governor John Kasich is doing. 

Morning Consult is a non-partisan media and technology company.  Its survey on the job approval of governors was taken between January and early May.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Bevin administration says it has met the June 1 deadline of demonstrating that it’s made adequate progress in Kentucky’s transition from the state health insurance exchange Kynect, to the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.

Doug Hogan, communications director for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the state has “met milestone requirements ahead of schedule,” but refused to comment on details of what criteria the state has accomplished.

According to a March 15 letter sent to state officials by Kevin Counihan with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government has to “determine whether sufficient progress has been made to proceed with leveraging the federal platform” for the upcoming year.

CMS officials refused to comment on details of Kentucky’s transition to the federal exchange.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has joined 11 other states suing the federal government over its transgender bathroom policy.

The policy requires local school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity and not their birth gender.

In a statement Friday, Bevin said the federal government has “no authority to dictate local school districts' bathroom and locker room policies.”

He also criticized Attorney General Andy Beshear for not joining the lawsuit.  In an email Thursday, Beshear didn’t rule out joining the lawsuit, but said at this point “any decision is premature.”

Beshear said neither the federal government nor Bevin had clearly articulated their legal positions on the issue.

Bevin cited the 10th Amendment in his statement, saying that the state would fight “federal overreach into state and local issues.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The outcome of last Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary in Kentucky is unchanged after a recanvass of votes in the state.

The recanvass was requested by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the race by fewer than 2,000 votes to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In a statement, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said the review ensures the result was right all along.

“I’m grateful to our county boards of elections for their work today. Their efforts help ensure confidence in the primary election results for both candidates and the electorate,” Grimes said.

A recanvass is essentially a re-tabulation of votes in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Historically, the process hasn’t yielded enough votes to change the outcome of elections in Kentucky.

With One Delegate at Stake, Kentucky Re-examines its Vote

May 26, 2016
Bernie Sanders campaign

State election officials will re-examine vote totals from the Democratic presidential primary on Thursday at the request of Bernie Sanders' campaign.

At stake is one delegate in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders and Hillary Clinton both picked up 27 delegates after the May 17 Kentucky primary. But one delegate is yet to be awarded from the 6th Congressional District.

Sanders trails Clinton by 500 votes in that district. State officials review absentee votes and totals from electronic voting machines on Thursday. If the recanvas shows Sanders earned more votes than Clinton in the district, he could win that delegate that would otherwise go to Clinton.

The recanvass begins at 9 a.m. local time, with results expected by mid-afternoon. Overall, Sanders trails Clinton by 271 pledged delegates.

Elaine Thompson/AP

Texas, joined by a number of other states, has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in response to its directive that public schools allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

The plaintiffs include Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, the governor of Maine and the Arizona Department of Education.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, says the federal government has "conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights."

The LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign called the move a "shameful attack on transgender youth."

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