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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.

WFPL

Kentucky’s Junior U.S. Senator has attracted some competition, among both Democrats and Republicans, as he tries to hold on to his seat.  

While seeking the Republican nomination for president, Rand Paul is also working to win a second term in the U.S. Senate.  According to the Secretary of State’s Office, five candidates have filed to challenge Paul. 

To win re-election, Paul will have to get through a Republican primary with candidates James Gould and Stephen Slaughter.  Gould is a financial analyst in Lexington and Slaughter is a Louisville engineer. 

On the Democratic side are candidates Jeff Kender, Tom Recktenwald, and Grant Short.  Kender is a manufacturing worker from Phelps, Kentucky.  Recktenwald is a retired union officer at the Naval Ordnance in Louisville.  Short is a pilot and small business owner from Owensboro. 

Candidates have until January 26th to file for office.

LRC Public Information

A bill filed this week in the Kentucky General Assembly seeks to increase accountability for the state’s no-jail jailers.

The proposal by Republican Sen. Danny Carroll of Paducah would require each jailer without a jail to submit quarterly reports to his or her county’s fiscal court, listing, among other things, “a summary of all official duties performed” by the jailer and any deputies.

“So that way the public knows, it’s open records, it’s very transparent on what the jailers are actually doing and making sure that the public is getting its money’s worth in those counties and that the tax dollars are being spent efficiently,” Carroll said Friday. “It just builds some transparency and accountability. That’s the main goal.”

Carroll said these reforms make “common sense” after reading media reports last year about no-jail jailers.

WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that a third of the elected jailers in the state’s 120 counties had no jail to run, yet earned annual salaries ranging from $20,000 to nearly $70,000.

The no-jail jailers’ pay, coupled with that of their nearly 100 deputies, cost taxpayers approximately $2 million annually. (Read: “Only in Kentucky: Jailers Without Jails”)

KyCIR found that many of the no-jail jailers had few if any regular responsibilities except transporting prisoners, and some did little or none of that. Fiscal courts’ oversight of those jailers often had been lax, and nepotism pervaded the century-old system of county jailers, which is the only one of its kind in the United States.

LRC Public Information

The state House on Friday passed a bill that would allow people to clear class D felony convictions from their criminal records five years after they’ve completed their sentences.

The Senate Republicans’ leader took little time to begin critiquing the proposed legislation.

The bill’s sponsor, Louisville Democratic Rep. Darryl Owens, said the bill is about redemption and second chances.

“It’s about acknowledging that but for the grace of God could go each of us. But we got lucky,” Owens said.

Those convicted of sex offenses, crimes against the elderly, crimes against children, abuse of public trust, human trafficking, and possession of child pornography would be excluded from the bill.

Similar legislation has passed the Democratic-led House in recent years, but the Republican-led Senate has remained reluctant to follow.

The House passed the bill Friday by a vote of 80-11.

Kentucky LRC

A state Senate committee has passed a bill that would crack down on habitual drunk drivers.

The bill would double the five-year “look-back period” for driving under the influence, meaning someone convicted of the charge multiple times in 10 years would face increased penalties.

Kentucky’s current law imposes escalating fines, license suspensions and possible jail time for each DUI offense within five years. The fourth offense is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

State Sen. Dennis Parrett, a Democrat from Elizabethtown, says he sponsored the bill after a woman was killed by a drunk driver in his district.

“A young lady a week after high school graduation, was killed by a drunk driver that had already had several DUIs and another one pending,” Parrett said. “But because of the five-year look-back period, those had been wiped off. I believe five years is not enough.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/JoshuaMHoover

A federal judge awarded a team of Kentucky attorneys more than $1 million for their role in the landmark United States Supreme Court case that struck down bans on same-sex marriage.

The state will have to pick up the $1.1 million tab.

The lawsuit was initiated by Louisville couples at first seeking the state to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Later, same-sex couples seeking the ability to be married in Kentucky joined the suit.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Attorney General Jack Conway refused to appeal. But former Gov. Steve Beshear hired outside attorneys to continue defending the ban.

The case, and others like it, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage last summer.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson ordered Wednesday that the losing party, the state, will have to pay the fees and expenses for attorneys who fought successfully on behalf of Kentucky gay couples.

The plaintiffs attorneys included Laura Landenwich, Dan Canon, Dawn Elliott, Joe Dunman and Shannon Fauver, all based in Louisville.

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