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LRC Public Information

Hours after Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced its Louisville clinic had begun providing abortions, the state House approved a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to meet — in person or via video conference — with a doctor at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The bill, which passed 92-3, is a victory for Republicans who have failed to pass so-called “informed consent” bills through the Democratic-led House for more than a decade.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, called it a “historic day.”

“The informed consent law was something that many of us have long fought for, many members of our caucus, and we knew members of our majority caucus would vote for it if we could ever get it there,” Hoover said.

The bill originally required the meetings to take place in person, but the video conference option was added during an unposted committee hearing that took place in an office during the middle of the day’s proceedings.

In just over a month, Kentucky Republicans will hold a presidential caucus for the first time in more than three decades. Republicans in the past have joined Democrats in holding a May primary election for president. But this year is different.

Warren County Caucus Chairman David Graham spoke to WKU Public Radio about the differences between a caucus and primary.

Graham:  Caucuses can be very different, but in our case, it's going to be very much like a primary, only it will be at a different date, and it will be run by the party and not the county or state.  Our caucus will be March 5.  Most every county will have one voting location and voters can come in anytime between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and vote very much like they would in a normal primary.

Abbey Oldham

As U.S. Senator Rand Paul prepares for a Republican presidential debate Thursday night, a former Kentucky House Speaker says Democrats could benefit from Paul’s White House bid.

Glasgow attorney Bobby Richardson was a state Representative from 1972-1990, and served as House Speaker during the 1982 and 1984 General Assembly sessions.

Richardson says whoever emerges as the Democrat’s nominee for U.S. Senate should remind voters Paul is seeking two offices at the same time.

“I think he needs to say he’s running for the United States Senate, and I’m going to be a Senator. I’m not going to be running for President, and I’m not going to be running for anything else. I’m going to be there taking care of business.”

The Kentucky Republican Party is holding a presidential caucus March 5 so that Paul can run for re-election to the Senate and seek the White House simultaneously.

Kentucky LRC

A top state pension executive told legislators on Wednesday that a bill requiring greater transparency of the pension systems for Kentucky’s public employees would be harmful to his agency.

Regardless, a Senate committee unanimously approved the bill.

The bill would make the pension systems for state workers, teachers and state officials subject to open records requests. Pension managers would also have to disclose investment holdings, fees and manager commissions.  Investment contracts would be subject to review by the state auditor and legislative committees.

State Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro, said the changes have been demanded by Kentucky residents.

“They want accountability, they want transparency and they want us to have the capacity to be proactive on these challenges that we’re facing in today’s world, as opposed to being reactive,” Bowen said.

Rob Canning, WKMS

Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed 9 percent cuts to most state government agencies over the next two years in an effort to reduce state spending by $650 million.

Bevin proposed his first budget on Tuesday evening in an address to the Kentucky General Assembly, which will use much of the 2016 session to forge a state spending plan based, at least in part, on Bevin’s proposal.

Bevin, a Republican, entered office last month promising to put Kentucky’s “financial house in order.” His Democratic predecessor, Steve Beshear, offered an optimistic outlook of Kentucky’s fiscal shape before he left office. But Bevin has taken a dimmer view, citing underfunded pension systems and a $250 million payment for expanded Medicaid.

Bevin said Tuesday he would also issue an executive order to cut state spending by 4.5 percent across the board during the current fiscal year, which ends in June.

During a meeting with reporters Tuesday before his formal budget address, Bevin said individual cabinet secretaries would responsible for cutting the budgets of state agencies they oversee.

LRC Public Information

Kentucky voters have a clear idea of their options for state legislature this year.

The filing deadline for candidates to run as a Democrat or Republican in all 100 state House seats and half of the state Senate seats passed on Tuesday afternoon. The deadline has also passed to run in a special election in March for four vacant state House seats.

Since the GOP’s strong showing in statewide elections in November, Republicans have set their sights on taking the House, the last Democratic-controlled state legislative body in the South.

Democrats currently hold a 50-46 control of the House.

Here’s a rundown of the legislative elections.

The special elections for four vacant seats in the state House could have profound implications for the control and political makeup of the chamber.

The GOP at best even the House at 50-50 if Republicans with a sweep of the races, sending the House into uncharted territory in terms of who leads the chamber.

The winners of the elections will only hold the seat through the end of 2016. All 100 House seats will be up for grabs in the general election in November.

The special elections will take place on March 8 in the following districts:

Office of Lexington Mayor

Lexington Mayor and Democrat Jim Gray is running for U.S. Senate.

Gray, 62, told the Herald-Leader that he decided last week that he would challenge incumbent Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green.

Gray is a Barren County native and chairman of Gray Construction. He's in his second term as mayor of Kentucky's second-largest city.

Gray posted a video on YouTube announcing his Senate bid.

Gray isn't the only Democrat who has filed to run against Paul.

Phelps manufacturing worker Jeff Kender, retired navy officer Tom Recktenwald of Louisville and Owensboro business owner Grant Short are also seeking the Senate seat.

Paul also has two Republican challengers for the May primary election — Lexington financial analyst James Gould and Stephen Slaughter, an engineer from Louisville.

WFPL News

Gov. Matt Bevin unveils his proposal Tuesday night for how Kentucky state government should spend a little more than $20 billion over the next two years.

The much-anticipated budget address will provide a granular glimpse into the new governor’s priorities and just how he plans to put the state’s “financial house in order,” as he’s promised.

Last month, Bevin became only the second Republican governor of Kentucky in more than 40 years, and his stances during last year’s campaign pointed to a strong preference for fiscal thriftiness.

Kentucky’s revenues are growing — the state is estimated to rake in about $900,000 more over the next two years.

But so are costs.

WFPL News

Kentuckians seeking to run for Congress or Senate as a Democrat or Republican have until this afternoon to officially declare a candidacy.

Through Monday afternoon, only a handful of Kentuckians were vying for the jobs.

Five of Kentucky’s incumbent U.S. House members are seeking re-election, and so is U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. So far, none of them are facing high-profile challenges.

There’s always the potential for a strong candidate to enter just before the deadline passes — that’s precisely how Matt Bevin launched his successful bid for governor a year ago.

Here’s a rundown of who is running with one day to go.

U.S. Senate

Despite rumors that Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will make a bid for the U.S. Senate, Rand Paul still doesn’t have any prominent challengers.

Bevin: Kentucky Budget Must Go 'Beyond Break Even'

Jan 25, 2016
Rob Canning, WKMS

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin says Kentucky two-year state spending plan must go beyond break even, calling for the state to generate more money to fix the multi-billion shortfalls that threaten to collapse its public retirement systems.

Bevin said in an interview with The Associated Press that his plan to fix the retirement systems will not raise taxes. But it will rely on scooping up any and all excess state revenue to devote to the pension crisis. That means other programs might not get the increases they requested or, in some cases, could have their budgets cut.

Bevin is scheduled to unveil his first budget proposal to the state legislature in a televised speech Tuesday. The teachers' retirement system alone needs an extra $1 billion over the next two years.

WFPL News

A day after declaring a state of emergency due to a winter storm, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin was in New Hampshire to speak at a Republican forum.

Media reports say Bevin was guest speaker at a Saturday luncheon during the New Hampshire GOP's "First in the Nation Presidential Town Hall." Bevin, who took office last month, grew up in the Granite State.

His administration defended his decision to leave Kentucky while it was under a state of emergency.

His spokeswoman, Jessica Ditto, says the governor has been "directly involved in the management of this snow storm."

She says Bevin decided the weather situation was well-in-hand and that he would honor his commitment to speak in New Hampshire. She says the governor also was meeting with companies interested in Kentucky.

LRC Public Information

A senate committee on Thursday passed a bill that would allow the state to reduce funding for Planned Parenthood in Kentucky.

State Sen. Max Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, said until the U.S. has a pro-life president, states have to restrict funds to Planned Parenthood in order to restrict abortions.

“We’ve got a large number of constituents that want to see something done with Planned Parenthood,” Wise said.

Planned Parenthood in Kentucky do not provide abortions, but can refer women to abortion providers.

The bill would restrict Planned Parenthood’s Title X funding, federal grants that go to family planning and reproductive health programs.

WFPL News

Less than a week before Gov. Matt Bevin gives his formal state budget proposal, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, Bevin’s ally, gave an ominous prediction.

“I think this budget that will be introduced and proposed by the executive branch will be one of the most austere budgets that I’ve seen in my 20 years in the General Assembly,” Stivers said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Bevin, a Republican, suggested just as much when he was campaigning, saying that the state would have to undergo “belt-tightening across the board” during a debate on KET.

At issue are mounting obligations in the state pension systems and Medicaid program. The Kentucky Teacher Retirement Systems has requested about $1 billion in additional contributions from the state to meet its obligations to retirees. Meanwhile, the state will have to start paying an increased share of a Medicaid program that was expanded and now covers an additional 400,000 Kentuckians. That’s expected to cost $250 million in 2017.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo took a slightly more optimistic position, saying that the state is predicted to rake in more revenue over the next two years.

LRC Public Information

The Kentucky Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would require a woman seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor at least 24 hours prior to the procedure.

The bill now moves on to the House, which has refused to take it up in the past, although support has been growing in the chamber.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said it’s important for women to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor prior to an abortion.

“The essence of it is you can have better understanding, watch body language and the personal effects when you have that type of personal interaction,” Stivers said. “I think it brings more to light what the implications of the decision are.”

Kentucky already has an “informed consent” law on the books, but currently abortion-seekers can receive the information over the phone.

LRC Public Information

A legislative panel has approved a bill that would protect a landlord from liability if a tenant’s dog attacks another person.

Under current law, a landlord can be held responsible if a tenant’s dog attacks someone on property owned by the landlord.

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a Republican from Winchester who sponsored the bill, said landlords are “strictly liable” for dog attacks even if they don’t know a tenant has a dog.

“Without this fix, landlords can expect to be sued in more cases of dog bites without regard to the landlord’s knowledge,” Alvarado said. “This, in turn, will increase the cost of liability insurance and, consequently, prohibit tenants from having dogs on rental properties.”

A 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court decision expanded the definition of “dog owner” to include landlords in dog attack cases.

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