Political news

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is calling for a "fair and flat tax" that he says would "blow up" the nation's tax code.

The first-term Kentucky senator on Thursday released the outline of a plan to institute a 14.5 percent income tax rate on all individuals and on businesses. His campaign says the proposal would cut taxes by $2 trillion over the next decade.

It's among the first detailed policy proposals released by his presidential campaign.

Paul calls for the elimination of the payroll tax on workers. He also eliminates corporate subsidies and personal deductions, except those for mortgage interest and charitable donations.

He's also promising deep spending cuts to ensure revenue losses don't explode the national deficit.

Independent candidate for Kentucky governor and internet pioneer Drew Curtis needs to get 5,000 signatures by August 11th in order to appear on the ballot in November’s general election.

But Curtis won’t be allowed to gather signatures online.

Drew Curtis says he has 50,000 loyal readers from Kentucky on the news aggregation website he founded, Fark.com.

He was hoping to have supporters sign a petition online to support his candidacy, but secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes says officials wouldn’t be able to compare signatures online to voter registration cards, so Curtis is stuck gathering signatures on paper.

University of Kentucky election law professor Joshua Douglas says that there hasn’t been much of a precedent for allowing e-signature petitions across the country.“Traditionally you always get a decent number of signatures more than what’s needed but for major party candidates that’s rarely a problem because the party apparatus helps them. They know how to do signature drives.”

Curtis announced his candidacy in January along with his wife, Heather, who is running for lieutenant governor.

The Obama administration finds itself in the rare position of fighting alongside House Republicans this week as it tries to overcome Friday's stinging defeat to its massive trade package, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

LRC Public Information

A state lawmaker from Pulaski County will not seek re-election next year. 

Republican Senator Chris Girdler of Somerset said he never intended to serve multiple terms in the legislature and wanted to focus more on his family and career.

WKU Public Radio was unable to reach Girdler for comment on Friday.  He told CN-2’s Pure Politics he chose to announce his decision early to give prospective candidates time to consider running for the seat which covers Pulaski, Lincoln, and Boyle counties. 

Girdler was elected to the state Senate in 2012.  He said he may make another run for public office in the future.

Kentucky’s coal industry still has political influence in the state, even as production declines. That’s illustrated by a closed-door debate hosted by the industry earlier this month. Both of Kentucky’s gubernatorial candidates were there.

The Coal & Investment Leadership Forum was part of a golf and fly fishing retreat attended by industry executives in Virginia. As first reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, candidates Jack Conway and Matt Bevin answered questions posed by Kentucky Coal Association president Bill Bissett and rebutted one another.

Nick Surgey of the Center for Media and Democracy obtained a copy of an invitation to the retreat. He says the event boasted about time for one-on-one conversations between politicians, investors and coal executives. “So there’s a lot of social time, a lot of time for potential candidates and potential major funders of campaigns to be talking one on one and presumably to be making promises about what they would do to support the coal industry.” he said.

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush also spoke at the retreat, which invitees paid $7,500 to attend.

A Minnesota congressman is calling for a hearing into how the Red Cross spent millions of dollars donated for disaster relief in Haiti, following the devastating 2010 earthquake there.

The subject of a joint NPR/ProPublica investigation, the Red Cross raised nearly $500 million and promised to provide housing for more than 130,000 people, yet built just six homes.

Democratic nominee for governor Jack Conway has agreed to six appearances with Republican nominee Matt Bevin in the months before the November 3 general election.

The appearances are:

-A forum in Louisville on June 19 before the joint convention of the associations of county judge-executives, magistrates and commissioners.

-A forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau on July 23.

-Political speaking at the St. Jerome's Fancy Farm Picnic on Aug. 1.

-A debate at Centre College on Oct. 6 to be broadcast statewide.

-A debate at Eastern Kentucky University on Oct. 25 to be broadcast statewide

-An appearance on KET's "Kentucky Tonight" program on Oct. 26.

A spokesman for Bevin said the campaign has already accepted numerous debate invitations and will continue to accept them.

LRC Public Information

A legislative leader wants Kentucky to establish a debate commission before the November 6 gubernatorial election.

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said the commission would be in charge of organizing a series of debates across the state.  The goal, he said, is to make voters better informed.

"Our political system and our campaigns have evolved into 30 second sound bites more than I think most of us would want," Hoover told WKU Public Radio Friday. 

Representative Hoover said it may be too late to get a debate commission going before this year’s race, but he hopes one can be in place for the 2019 gubernatorial election. 

Hoover plans to meet soon with leaders of the state Democratic and Republican parties to begin discussions.

He suggested the commission be modeled after the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

Kentucky LRC

Analysts say Kentucky will need to hire more state employees or have them pay more into the retirement system in order to reverse the state’s pension crisis, painting a grim portrait of Kentucky’s main public pension system.

Ryan Sullivan says the state will not be able to “invest its way out” of the pension crisis.

“The unfunded liability will actually increase for the first couple of years until salaries can grow fast enough to where this payment grows larger and actually starts to pay down this unfunded liability," Sullivan said.

State Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro, says that there aren’t many solutions to the crisis.

“There’s obviously only two ways we can do that: employ a bunch more people or require our current employees to pay more,” Bowen said.

In order to remain financially solvent, the state’s annual contribution will have to increase from $560 million in 2015 to $1.4 billion in 2034.

In 2013, lawmakers passed pension reforms which moved new state workers onto 401(k)-style plans and tweaked the tax code to generate more money for the system.

But pension officials say the system still needs more money.

The state has hired another firm to conduct an actuarial audit of Kentucky Retirement Systems.

On Saturday, members of the Kentucky Republican Party met in Lexington for a “unity rally” to show support for their slate of candidates for statewide public office. None of the former Republican candidates for governor showed up.

The rally was requested in April by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul and most of Kentucky’s Republican congressional delegation—who had asked Republican candidates for governor to unite around the ultimate nominee.

Matt Bevin became the nominee after beating out Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by just 83 votes in the primary election.

However, former candidates Comer, Hal Heiner and Will T. Scott did not attend the event and McConnell backed out in order to prepare for a last-minute debate on the expiration of the Patriot Act in Washington.
Sen. Paul did show up and provided his endorsement, saying, “And I’ve told Matt that I will do everything humanly possible in between a few other things to try to help him win and I mean that.”

Using humor to try and tamp down rumors of bad blood with McConnell, Bevin presented a tongue-in-cheek video in which he got a “Team Mitch” tattoo. The six-term senator handily beat Bevin in a U.S. Senate Primary last year.