Political news

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear plans to issue an executive order on Wednesday that confirms the state’s existing policy toward arming National Guard members. 

The order comes nearly a week after five servicemen were shot to death in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Through the executive order, Governor Beshear will reiterate that Kentucky already has security procedures in place to protect guard members at armories, recruiting stations, and training facilities. 

"We anticipated these kinds of possibilities, and some time ago, we already instituted the protections that states like Indiana and others just created," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.

Before the Chattanooga shootings, Kentucky already allowed Guard members to carry weapons while on duty with approval from their commanding officer.  In addition, Guard members are allowed to carry concealed weapons as long as they have a state permit. 

While Governor Beshear is confident of the measures already in place, his executive order instructs Kentucky’s adjutant general to take whatever steps he feels are needed to secure military facilities.

Abbey Oldham

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell will headline a Republican fundraising event in late August for gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin, who last year launched a primary challenge against the longtime senator.

The event will be hosted by Alliance Coal CEO Joe Craft and former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Knight, both of whom chaired the Kentucky fundraising committee for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

McConnell, Craft and Knight’s presence at the event shows a measure of unity among establishment Republicans, who some had speculated wouldn’t aid Bevin after last year’s contentious GOP Senate primary.

Bevin was the benefactor of infighting between two GOP establishment candidates during the primary. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Louisville businessman sparred during the race, which led to a narrow Bevin victory and speculations about a fractured Republican party.

But Bevin and McConnell have repeatedly assured Kentuckians that the GOP is united around Bevin, despite snubs between the two men after McConnell trounced Bevin in last year’s primary last year.

In an invitation sent out on Tuesday morning, attendees are asked to donate $1,000 to Bevin’s campaign for the general election as well as $1,000 for his primary campaign. According to June campaign finance records, Bevin still had almost $111,000 in outstanding debts for the primary, which was in May.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has announced that he will infuse the state’s rainy day fund with $82.5 million, raising the fund’s balance to $209.4 million, the highest it’s been since 2008.

The cash comes from $165.4 million in excess revenue generated in the last fiscal year. The rest of the surplus went to pay necessary government expenses like corrections, fire suppression and disasters.

Beshear applauded the state for increasing revenues “the old fashioned way” by growing the economy instead of raising taxes.

“Finishing this fiscal year with a significant surplus better positions our next governor to build on our successes in energizing our economy and improving life for our families for generations to come," Beshear stated in a news conference Tuesday.

Despite the state’s progress, Kentucky is still in the midst of a pension crisis in which the main retirement fund for state workers, Kentucky Retirement Systems, only has 22 percent of the money it needs to make future payments, and the teacher pension system is 54 percent unfunded.


U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell says he will be at the Fancy Farm picnic next month.

Kentucky’s senior senator talked about the event during a stop in Bullitt County Monday.

McConnell said he plans to attend---and take part---in Kentucky’s biggest political event of the year.

"I'm looking forward to being there," McConnell commented.

Other years, he’s missed it, but McConnell explained that’s only when there isn’t a big state race in play that year.  This year, Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway are squaring off for the Governor’s office. So, McConnell says he will be making a speech at the picnic.

McConnell—who is one of the most prominent Republicans in the state and country—says he will also help craft the message for other members of his party making a speech that day.

"We are talking to other people that are participating and hope to make it interesting," McConnell added.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul recently announced he won’t attend Fancy Farm and will be campaigning for president in New Hampshire instead.

Indiana Attorney General Enters Congressional Race

Jul 20, 2015
Indiana Attorney General's Office

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is looking for a return to Washington by seeking the congressional seat that Republican U.S. Representative Todd Young is giving up to run for the U.S. Senate next year.

Zoeller announced Monday in Jeffersonville his bid for the 9th District congressional seat, joining two state senators in the race for the Republican nomination.

Zoeller says he has fought what he calls the overreach of the federal government during his two terms as state attorney general but that changes needed to come from Congress.

Zoeller was first elected state attorney general in 2008. He worked in Washington as an aide to Dan Quayle as senator and vice president.

State Senators Brent Waltz of Greenwood and Erin Houchin of Salem are the other hopefuls in the district.

Two state lawmakers have pre-filed legislation for the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly session that provides protections for anyone who removes a child from a locked car due to extreme heat. 

State Representative David Hale of Wellington says the legislation would treat people as Good Samaritans and give them civil immunity from damage done to a vehicle.

"In about the last 20 years, there's been over 700 children that have died in automobiles across the United States.  That's a terrible tragedy and we need to education people on the dangers of this."

The bill also encourages the Kentucky Department of Highway Safety to create an educational campaign called “Look Before You Lock” to focus on the importance of checking the backseat before exiting a vehicle. 

State Senator Danny Carroll of Paducah is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Robertson Stepping Down as Kentucky GOP Executive Director

Jul 16, 2015

Steve Robertson is stepping down as executive director of the Republican Party of Kentucky and a staffer for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is taking his place.

Robertson will join public affairs firm CivicPoint as a senior vice president. His last day as executive director will be Aug. 15. He will remain the party's chairman through the November elections.

Mike Biagi will be the party's new executive director beginning Aug. 1. He is a field representative for McConnell in Louisville.

Robertson was elected chairman in 2007. Since then, Republicans have added more than 183,600 registered voters in Kentucky while Democrats have added 23,957. Republicans have won five of the six congressional seats and both U.S. Senate seats. But Democrats still hold five of the six statewide constitutional officers and a majority in the state House of Representatives.

Presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Rand Paul says he won’t attend the Fancy Farm political picnic next month. 

Paul is also running for re-election to his Senate seat next year, and some analysts say this could prompt future challengers to criticize Paul for not paying attention to his home state while he runs for two offices simultaneously.

Al Cross with the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues says Fancy Farm is a must stop for any politician in Kentucky running for statewide office.

"People in far western Kentucky who are very isolated from the rest of the state expect statewide politicians to come ask for their votes," Cross noted.

But Rand Paul is also battling it out for the Republican Presidential nomination in a very crowded race. So, even though he’s also running for his Senate seat next year—Paul recently told the press he won’t be going to Fancy Farm.

"I think right now they have me in New Hampshire that weekend," explained Paul.

Cross says it’s not surprising Paul is focusing on looming presidential primaries. There are more than a dozen people running for the Republican nomination.  Paul doesn’t have any challengers yet for his Senate seat. Cross says if he does get an opponent, missing Fancy Farm could become a campaign issue.

"I think it does provide an opening for people who want to criticize him for not concentrating on his Senate job," stated Cross.

Rand Paul attended the picnic last year and says he plans to be there in 2016.

Six state lawmakers are being tasked with finding solutions to Kentucky’s under-funded retirement system for public school teachers. 

Legislators debated a plan in this year’s General Assembly session that would have borrowed more than $3 billion in bonds to shore up KTRS. 

State Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro was among Republicans who objected to taking on more debt.

"Our opinion was that it was a huge risk to do this and if things didn't work out we stood the chance of jeopardizing the plan even further," Bowen said.

Senator Bowen is one of the appointees of the committee that will offer new recommendations to the governor by December 1.  The panel will have its first meeting on Friday. 

Bowen told WKU Public Radio that new money must be found to invest into KTRS and structural changes are required that will likely affect new hires.

"They're going to be looking at a new retirement plan," stated Bowen.  "We not talking about going from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.  That's never been part of the conversation, but what we are saying is that new hires will probably have to work longer."

Bowen says the KTRS work group will also have to address pension spiking and cost of living adjustments in order to bring a long-term impact to the pension system. 

KTRS, which covers about 120,000 active and retired members, has an unfunded liability of $14 billion.

Rand Paul Doesn't Know if Clerks Can Deny Gay Marriages

Jul 14, 2015

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul doesn't know whether county clerks in his home state have a constitutional claim to religious liberty in defense of their refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Paul said he is "not a legal authority on that" and isn't sure whether the clerks have a legitimate objection in their defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing gay marriage.

He is one of 15 Republicans campaigning for the presidential nomination. Paul stopped at a summer camp in Louisville Monday, just as a federal court hearing began in Ashland over whether clerks can claim a religious exemption to issuing same-sex licenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who has stopped issuing licenses altogether to avoid issuing them to gay couples.

Rep. Young Joins Indiana Senate Race for Coats' Seat

Jul 13, 2015
Office of U.S. Congressman Todd Young, R-IN

U.S. Representative Todd Young has announced he will run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Republican Dan Coats.

Young, a three-term congressman from southern Indiana, made the announcement Sunday in a video released by his campaign. U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and former Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb previously announced they were seeking the GOP nomination, while former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill is the lone Democrat to announcer. Hill defeated by Young for the 9th District seat in 2010.

Young said he is running for Senate on the ideals of limited, effective government and individual liberty. In the House, he has worked to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

He says in the video he wants to ensure that every Hoosier family has a better future.

Same-Sex Marriage Back in Court in Kentucky

Jul 13, 2015

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments about a county clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is one of a handful of local officials across the country who has refused to comply with the court's order because she says it violates her religious beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Davis on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples who were denied marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, son of former Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, is scheduled to hear arguments about the case on Monday at noon in Ashland.

Republican leaders in Kentucky are still figuring out whether a presidential caucus next year is feasible.

The vote allowing Senator Rand Paul to run for both his seat in the Senate and the White House is less than two months away, but many details still need to be hammered out.

Scott Lasley is the chair of a special committee created by the Republican Party of Kentucky. The group is working to plan how a presidential caucus in 2016 would work. Lasley’s plan will eventually need approval from state party leaders, and he says it’s not a sure thing yet that this idea will get approved.

"I think a lot of people are still waiting to hear the details in terms of what the process is going to look at and what it's going to entail," comments Lasley.

Among those Republican state leaders waiting for details is Jim Skaggs.

"The two things I am most concerned with is that we make it fair and accessible to all registered Republican voters and that the cost is somehow covered," Skaggs states.

The whole effort is aimed at coming up with a system that would allow Senator Rand Paul to run for both president and his current seat in the U.S. Senate next year, but the state party would have to foot the bill for a caucus. So far, Paul’s campaign has said it would help defray the costs if the caucus is approved.

There’s also the issue of getting county party chairs around the state to agree to this plan. County chairs would be in charge of carrying out the caucus.

Both Lasley and Skaggs say there is support among party leaders to figure this out, though. For one, a caucus would make Kentucky stand out during the election, and it could possibly help get one of the state’s most prominent politicians in the White House.

Bevin: Kentucky Should Stop Issuing Marriage Licenses

Jul 10, 2015

Kentucky's Republican nominee for governor says the state should stop issuing marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Matt Bevin said in a news release the government should be out of the marriage business altogether, saying two consenting adults should not need to ask for permission to enter into a contractual relationship. In the meantime, he said state officials should take steps to protect local officials who object to same-sex marriage for religious reasons.

At least two county clerks in Kentucky have stopped issuing marriage licenses after the ruling because they say issuing a license to a same-sex couple violates their religious beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis over the issue, and a hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Kentucky County Judge Executive Association

In the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide, some county judge-executives in Kentucky have stopped presiding over marriages altogether rather than perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. 

John Settles, president of the Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association, estimates about half of the state’s county leaders have turned away same-sex couples while the other half have not.

"One in particular said we all have sinned, even heterosexuals," Settles commented to WKU Public Radio.  "He figures that everyone he marries is a sinner anyway, and he can't discriminate between the sins."

As judge-executive of Washington County, Settles has performed about 350 marriages in his 16 years in office, but since the Supreme Court ruling, he has stopped the practice due to his religious beliefs. 

"I have a strong belief in the Bible as the word of God and I believe the Bible states that marriage is to be between one man and one woman," Settles states.  "It's my firm belief that that's the way it was intended to be from the very beginning."

While county clerks are bound by state law to issue marriage licenses, judge-executives are not required to perform marriage ceremonies.