8:53 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Kentucky's Senate Republicans File Amendment to Curb Governor's Power

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester (left), converses with Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, on the floor of the Kentucky Senate.
Credit Legislative Research Commission

Democratic Governor Steve Beshear created Kentucky’s health exchange and expanded Medicaid without legislative approval, but if Senate Republicans have their way, the governor will not have that luxury in the future. 

The GOP this session plans to push a constitutional amendment that would curtail the governor’s power to issue administrative regulations.  The legislation would keep a regulation from taking effect if lawmakers declared it deficient. 

A legislative subcommittee currently reviews regulations, but has no power to stop them from taking effect.  When asked if regulations should be implemented with full approval from the General Assembly, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he agreed with the concept.

"Allowing seven or eight people that authority is a bit problematic," Stumbo replied.  "Allowing the entire General Assembly that authority gives all of us a better sense of balance."

Governor Beshear told WKU Public Radio that he and future governors need to keep that power.

Read more
2:47 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Should Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Marital Fidelity When Hiring Next LRC Director?

A Kentucky Representative wants to address the moral character of a top state employee.

The Legislative Research Commission provides a variety of services to the General Assembly. The agency's previous director retired last fall amid reports by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that he was having an extramarital affair with a subordinate who had received substantial pay raises.

Currently, lawmakers are considering a measure that would offer LRC employees a portion of any savings they can generate in the agency. But Representative Tom Riner has amended the legislation to address the moral character and marital fidelity of the next director of the LRC, who has yet to be hired.

Rep. Steve Riggs, the bill's original sponsor, says he agrees with the intent of Riner's amendment, but it can't be enforced as written.

“That one I told him we couldn’t do, cause we can’t prove or disprove fidelity," Riggs said. "We don’t have an investigation team to do that. His has been narrowed down to just deal with morality and ethics.”

The amended bill now awaits a second reading on the House floor.

2:03 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Former Aide to Tennessee Senator Hangs Himself

The Maryland medical examiner's office says a former aide to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander hanged himself in his parents' home, just weeks after his arrest on child pornography charges.

Spokesman Bruce Goldfarb says Ryan Loskarn was pronounced dead in Sykesville, Md., shortly after noon Thursday.

The Carroll County Sheriff's Office says family members reported finding Loskarn unresponsive in the basement where he had been living.

Loskarn had been allowed to live with his parents while awaiting trial on charges of possession and attempted distribution of child pornography. The 35-year-old also was required to be electronically monitored.

Loskarn had been the chief of staff for Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, for two years before his arrest. Loskarn was fired immediately after his arrest.

11:30 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Indiana Lawmakers to Weigh in on Industrial Hemp Crops

Hemp plants could start appearing in Indiana fields if a state Senate bill to allow growing the crop gains support from lawmakers.  The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will discuss the bill Friday afternoon.

Indiana would need to apply for a federal permit to grow the crop that’s used to make paper, clothing and building materials. 

Hemp is similar to marijuana but has a much smaller amount of the latter’s psychoactive compound.  The bill also would declassify industrial hemp as marijuana in Indiana. 

Kentucky passed similar legislation to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp crops last year.

9:55 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Ex-Secretary of State is Finalist for Transy Post

Trey Grayson
Credit Harvard University Institute of Politics

Transylvania University has chosen four finalists for the school's presidency, including former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Also named as finalists Thursday are Sacred Heart University Arts and Sciences Dean Seamus Carey, University of Montevallo Senior Vice President for Administrative Affairs Michelle Johnston and American University Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Thomas Minar.

Grayson told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Transylvania alumni contacted him last year after Owen Williams announced he would leave at the end of this school year. University faculty overwhelmingly approved a vote of no confidence in Williams' leadership last June.

Grayson has been at The Institute of Politics at Harvard University since 2011 and says he has begun to realize that higher education is a passion for him.

The finalists will visit campus starting Sunday.

Kentucky's Troubled Pensions
3:17 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Like "The Walking Dead": Kentucky's Pension Liabilities Creating Nightmare Scenarios

A look at the realities facing Kentucky's underfunded pension plans

AMC’s hit zombie-apocalypse-drama ‘The Walking Dead’ is a story about a shambling mass of the undead that brings civilization to its knees.

Chris Tobe says the show is an apt metaphor for what will happen if Kentucky lawmakers don't get serious about funding the state’s pension systems.

“I think we’re going to be ‘The Walking Dead’ for a long time,” Tobe says. “We’re all gonna keep saying, ‘oh, we’re just fine,’ and we’re gonna be ‘The Walking Dead’ for a long, long time.”

Tobe is a former trustee of the Kentucky Retirement Systems turned whistleblower who has over 30 years of public and private experience in financial investments. He's also a private consultant for pension funds elsewhere.

He says that for over a decade, legislators and governors from both parties have underfunded the Kentucky Employee Retirement System, or KERS, which provides pensions to state employees.

Currently, there's only enough money in the fund to pay about a quarter of the liability, which is what it will need to pay out in benefits.

Tobe says it's one of the worst in the nation.

Read more
11:32 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Filing Deadline Nears for Kentucky's Primary Election

People interested in running for public office have a few more days to file paperwork to be placed on the May 20 primary election ballot in Kentucky.

The secretary of state's office says almost 4,000 candidates have already filed for more than 300 offices on this year's ballot. The deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Candidates who are required to file with the secretary of state's office are those running for U.S. senator, U.S. representative, state senator, state representative, Supreme Court justice, Court of Appeals judge and circuit and district judge. Candidates for city and county office file with the county clerk in the county of service.

Filing forms for candidates who must file with the secretary of state and a list of candidates who have already filed is available in the related links section.

3:44 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Abortion Measure Requiring In-Person Meeting With Medical Professional Passes KY Senate

Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, debates an informed consent bill up for consideration in the Kentucky Senate as Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, the bill's sponsor, looks on.
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill to require any woman seeking an abortion to have a "face-to-face" meeting with a medical professional before the procedure.

The measure seeks to update the state's informed consent law. It requires women to receive counseling and then wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

The bill passed the Senate on a 33-5 vote Wednesday and now goes to the House.

Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, the bill's lead sponsor, says abortion providers have "found a way around" the law's intent by providing the information through recorded telephone messages.

Gregory, R-Monticello, says in-person meetings would ensure women are fully informed before making a potential "life-ending decision."

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, says the bill is intended to cause a "guilt trip" for women seeking abortions.

Read more
1:04 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Gambling Opponents: Increased Gaming Will Mean More Addiction and Crime

Opponents of expanded gambling in Kentucky are focusing on the social costs of casinos.

Testimony from anti-gaming groups in Frankfort Wednesday connected expanded gambling with increases in crime and gambling addiction.

Former Representative Stan Cave is now with the anti-gaming Family Foundation. He says in addition to the vices associated with gambling, he’s concerned with a lack of transparency governing gambling interests.

“The gambling bill enables concealment, and licenses secrecy," he said. "For example, section four expands the exceptions to the open records law, to whatever the new gambling commission considers, quote, ‘confidential, proprietary information of the commission.’”

Legislation has been filed to amend the state constitution to allow expanded gambling and to put the issue before voters on the November ballot.

The legislation in the House includes funds for treating gambling addiction.

Neither chamber has taken up the issue for a vote on their respective floors.

10:37 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Beshear Optimistic Coming Off Budget Speech

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear

In his budget speech Tuesday night, Governor Steve Beshear told Kentucky lawmakers to expect in the coming days his plan for reforming the state’s tax code.  It's a perennial issue that's seen little movement in the General Assembly. 

However, the term-limited governor told WKU Public Radio that not being up for re-election is an asset.

"Members of the legislature, particularly in the other party, don't view me as a threat in the upcoming statewide elections in 2015 and I think that helps them sit down and work with me in a more productive way," said Beshear.

On the other hand, all of the House is up for re-election this year and half of the Senate.  Still, Beshear said he is sensing a willingness to take a hard look at the tax structure.

Read more