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Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin used state police officers to prevent the ousted chairman of the retirement system board from participating in a meeting Thursday.

Governor Matt Bevin removed chairman Thomas Elliott from the board last month.

But Elliott had refused to vacate his seat, saying Bevin could not remove him before his term expires.

Elliott attended Thursday's board meeting, but sat in the audience while state police officers stood nearby.

Elliot said the governor's office told him he would be arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting if he participated.

Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said Elliot was not threatened with arrest. She said he was reminded he is not a board member and would be disrupting the meeting if he tried to participate, which is a misdemeanor under state law.

Judge Rules Bevin Can Cut College, University Budgets

May 19, 2016
WFPL News

A Kentucky judge has ruled Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate says two state laws allow Bevin to reduce allotments for public colleges and universities. Wingate ruled while the governor’s powers are usually confined to the state constitution, the legislature can give the governor additional powers by passing laws. He said Bevin’s cuts of nearly $18 million to colleges and universities this year are not improper.

Bevin proposed the cuts in January. The state legislature did not approve them. Bevin ordered the cuts anyway. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him.

Wingate ordered Bevin to leave the $18 million alone until the case has been resolved.

In a statement, Beshear said his office would appeal.

Cheryl Beckley, WKU PBS

Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator says he supports the idea of having women register for a potential military draft.

The Courier-Journal reports Republican Mitch McConnell said he thinks it would be appropriate, given that women in the military are already performing many different functions.

The Selective Service System currently registers men ages 18 to 25 only.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have recently passed defense policy bills that include  a registration requirement for women.

Some Democratic lawmakers have said adding women to the Selective Service list would help achieve gender equality for women in the military.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is questioning the need for a special legislative session related to the bathroom use of transgender public school students.

Some Republican state lawmakers have called for a special session after a directive issued by President Barack Obama's administration that public schools must allow students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Haslam told reporters Wednesday that it's unclear what the strategy or purpose of a special session would be. GOP lawmakers have engaged in a letter-writing campaign since the Obama directive was issued, demanding that the state join lawsuits challenging their implementation.

A Tennessee  bill seeking to require students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates was withdrawn in the waning days of the legislative session last month.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

A Kentucky attorney general's advisory opinion says the governor isn't allowed to remove a trustee from the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems before the trustee's term has expired.

The opinion was requested by the systems' executive director, William A. Thielen, after Gov. Matt Bevin removed board Chairman Thomas K. Elliott last month. Elliott's term didn't expire until 2019. After removing Elliott, Bevin appointed Madisonville dermatologist William F. Smith to replace him.

The attorney general's opinion, issued Tuesday, also said Smith isn't qualified as a professional with 10 years of experience in public or private finances.

Bevin's press secretary, Amanda Stamper, said in a news release that the governor's office believes Smith is qualified to serve on the board. The release also said the attorney general's opinion differs from state Supreme Court precedent and a previous attorney general's opinion.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has appointed a special prosecutor to handle the case against his former deputy.

Former Deputy Attorney General Tim Longmeyer pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge last month. Last week, Beshear announced he would file state charges against Longmeyer. At first, Beshear said he would prosecute the case himself. But Thursday he said he would hand the case to Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland.

Cleveland said the attorney general's office asked him to take the case on Wednesday, citing a conflict of interest.

Longmeyer pleaded guilty to using his influence as the state Personnel Cabinet secretary to steer contracts to a public relations firm in exchange for kickbacks. He also directed some of that money to Beshear's 2015 campaign for attorney general.

Lisa Autry

When Kentucky voters head to the polls Tuesday, May 17, for the sstate's primary election, they’ll help choose the Democratic presidential nominee. 

While Hillary Clinton is ahead in the delegate count, she doesn’t have enough to lock up the nomination yet. Both Clinton and Sanders are battling for Kentucky’s 60 delegates at stake. 

On a weekday afternoon, Michelle Thomas and a few of her girlfriends get together at Thomas’ Bowling Green home, which has turned into a makeshift campaign headquarters for Hillary Clinton.

“We have yard signs and some bumper stickers and buttons," Thomas said.

The ladies were phone banking, trying to drum up support for Clinton ahead of Tuesday’s primary.  It was the middle of the day and Janet Gouvas has been getting lots of answering machines.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is suing Gov. Matt Bevin, saying that he improperly vetoed several bills passed during this year’s legislative session.

Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, questioned the validity of vetoes to six bills, including line-item vetoes to the state budget, which he says were improperly delivered and signed.

He also says Bevin violated the constitution by not including “veto messages” that explain the rationale for several line-item vetoes to the state budget.

“The constitution clearly states that the message shall be accompanied with the veto so that people understand why or what his reasoning was when vetoing that particular part or parts of the appropriation bill,” he said.

If Stumbo’s suit is successful, Bevin’s line-item vetoes to the state budget would be reversed, meaning free preschool would be expanded from 160 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and $840,000 would be set aside for the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation and $7.5 million for indigent care in Jefferson County.

Richie Farmer Files for Bankruptcy

May 9, 2016

Former state agriculture commissioner and University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer, who went to prison for violating state ethics and campaign finance laws, has filed for bankruptcy.

Farmer filed a Chapter 7 petition May 4 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Farmer indicated he is unemployed and living on $194 in monthly food stamps. The petition also noted that his parents give him an estimated $400 each month.

The petition listed assets of about $24,000, most of it in his state pension, and liabilities of about $386,000.

Farmer left a federal prison in West Virginia in December after serving a 27-month sentence for misappropriating government resources while in office, including having state workers build a basketball court at his house.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

Kentucky's Democratic attorney general, Andy Beshear, says he will prosecute his former chief deputy in state court following his guilty plea to federal bribery charges.

Newly released court documents show that former Personnel Cabinet Secretary Tim Longmeyer, who pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge, arranged for illegal campaign donations to Beshear, who was elected attorney general, and Jack Conway, who lost his bid to become governor.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports a judge unsealed the records Tuesday at the newspaper's request.

After he won the election, Beshear hired Longmeyer as deputy attorney general. Longmeyer resigned a few days before the federal charges became public.

Beshear noted federal authorities have said no political candidates were aware of Longmeyer's illegal activities. Beshear said he would follow the same process that resulted in the prosecution of former Republican Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, who went to prison for violating state ethics and campaign finance laws.

Ethics Commission Says It Can’t Stop Bevin’s Inquiry

May 3, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says it cannot stop Republican Gov. Matt Bevin from investigating whether his Democratic predecessor violated state ethics laws.

Bevin says he will hire a private law firm to investigate whether former Gov. Steve Beshear coerced state employees to donate to political campaigns.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, Steve Beshear’s son, asked the ethics commission to tell Bevin he does not have the authority to conduct such an investigation. Commission Executive Director Kathryn Gabhart wrote back on Monday saying the commission does not have the authority to stop Bevin.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the commission was right to reject Andy Beshear’s request. She said Bevin welcomes the commission to conduct its own investigation.

Andy Beshear said any investigation by Bevin would not be credible.

Thinkstock

With the first three months of lobbyist reports in for this year’s legislative session, it looks like total spending will easily surpass the previous record.

According to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, business, organizations and legislative agents spent $7.5 million lobbying lawmakers in the first quarter of this year.

The spending pattern is on track to exceed the previous record of $8.8 million set in 2012, once totals from April are accounted for.

The top spender was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $120,426 pushing issues like the local option sales tax, public-private partnerships, tort reform and felony expungement. The organization also spent $9,202 on radio advertising in favor of a pension transparency bill that did not pass.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Among Gov. Matt Bevin’s line-item vetoes in the state budget earlier this week was $400,000 that would have gone to the Arc of Kentucky, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The money was set aside to help fund the nonprofit’s leadership program, which trains people with disabilities and supporters in civic engagement.

Patty Dempsey, Arc of Kentucky’s executive director, said the $200,000 per year was in the budget to return the program to its original funding level.

“Without the funding, we are faced with that possibility of losing it,” Dempsey said.

Bevin vetoed all or part of 14 bills this legislative session, including several line-item vetoes to the $21 billion two-year state budget.

Arc of Kentucky’s Advocates in Action program trains up to 24 participants each year and pays for travel expenses to two events in Frankfort.

Screenshot from website

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is bringing 91 field workers from around the state, to Frankfort, to help deal with the backlog of applications in Benefind, the new umbrella portal for Kentucky’s welfare programs.

Since the February rollout of Benefind, people trying to get benefits have had to deal with long wait times at local Department for Community Based Services offices and over the phone. The system also erroneously sent out notices to some people that their benefits had been canceled.

Brandon Carlson, the project manager for the initiative, said the group had already processed over 9,000 cases this week.

“By focusing our efforts here on those cases, we were able to free up our workers at all the local DCBS offices to address the lobby traffic and the high volume of calls and the new applications,” he said.

The cabinet estimates it now has a backlog of 16,000 cases, down from 30,000 at the beginning of the week.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed legislation that allows mental health counselors and therapists to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections or personal beliefs.

Critics of the law say it could result in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As Nashville Public Radio reported earlier this month:

"A group representing gay and lesbian Tennesseans [asked Haslam] to veto the legislation. ...

"The Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBT advocacy group, says the measure will make it harder for gays and lesbians to find counseling — particularly in rural parts of the state where religiously conservative therapists are common."

Haslam, however, said in a statement that he decided to sign the bill because it addressed two of his concerns. He said:

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