8:59 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Kentucky Senate President Has Budget Cuts in Mind, But Won't Name Specifics Yet

Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky’s highest ranking Republican lawmaker says he has identified areas of the budget he would like to cut, but he isn’t going to share them just yet.

Senate President Robert Stivers says he has some cuts in mind, but he hasn't discussed them with Gov. Steve Beshear or House Speaker Greg Stumbo. He and Stumbo have also downplayed the issue of structural imbalances in the state budget, which cause recurring shortfalls of millions of dollars.

“You can get into some more esoteric-type things where programs don’t get ramped up as fast, vacancy credits, things of that nature, personnel don’t get brought on as fast. And so there’s monies always captured in those areas," Stivers said. "And we are talking about substantial individuals, or substantial debt services, comes in to some pretty decent money sometimes.”

Stivers says that he will wait and see what Gov. Beshear will suggest next week before he discusses what programs he is willing to cut.

The State Office of the Budget Director has projected an estimated $3.6 billion spending gap between budget requests and the state’s general fund.

8:09 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Adds Language to Bill Defining Abortion as Form of Domestic Violence

A Republican lawmaker has amended a bill expanding domestic violence protections for dating couples to include language limiting abortions.

Rep. Joe Fischer of Ft. Thomas says he believes abortion is a form of domestic violence.

“The most brutal form of domestic violence is the violence against unborn children," the northern Kentucky Republican said. "And, this particular bill would prohibit abortions after the fetus feels pain, which is 20 weeks and older.”

The amendment will have to come up for inclusion on the House floor. It's likely to attract criticism from Democrats who will say it isn’t germane to the legislation.

The bulk of scientific literature on the subject suggests that fetuses do not feel pain before 24 weeks of gestation.

The United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a similar case today Monday regarding an Arizona law that would ban abortions at 20 weeks. That effectively preserved a previous ruling that the Arizona law was unconstitutional.

3:35 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Conservative PAC Opens Offices in Kentucky Ahead of Bevin-McConnell Contest

A national conservative group is opening five field offices in Kentucky in an effort to help Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin defeat incumbent U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in the May primary election. 

The Madison Project will staff Get Out the Vote offices in Louisville, Florence, Owensboro, Glasgow, and Bowling Green.  In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, the group’s political director Drew Ryun said those cities have traditionally been strongholds for Senator McConnell. 

Acknowledging that McConnell will have a powerful financial advantage over the Tea Party’s Matt Bevin, the PAC says it will rely more on a ground game.  The Madison Project played in a role in Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s upset win in 2012. 

A McConnell spokesperson the PAC had a failing strategy if its plan was to attack the five-term incumbent.

12:27 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

Yonts Expressing Dissatisfaction with TVA's Decision-Making Process

Kentucky state Rep. Brent Yonts (D-Greenville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

Greenville Representative Brent Yonts has sent a letter to the President of the Tennessee Valley Authority voicing his dissatisfaction with the transparency of the company’s decisions. 

Yonts attended a November meeting of TVA board members to give testimony on the then-proposed closure of two units at the Paradise Steam plant in Muhlenberg County.

Yonts says as the meeting proceeded, it quickly became apparent board members only read from prepared motions and neglected to listen to or debate public comments before voting to close the plant.

“I just want to articulate to them that, as a representative in the Kentucky General Assembly, that I’m not happy with the way they treat such an important issue in Kentucky sort of in an isolated vacuum where they’re not sensitive to what the public thinks or the impact on the public which in this case will cause 2,700 jobs unless they’re absorbed into the regional economy," the Greenville Democrat said.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has also questioned the transparency of the TVA board meeting and sent his own letter last month.

Yonts says he’s requested data the board members reviewed as well as minutes from past meetings under the Freedom of Information Act and will decide if further action needs to be taken.

12:04 pm
Sat January 11, 2014

Miller Seeks to Increase Diversity of Kentucky Legislature

Black women haven’t been represented in the Kentucky legislature since 2000.

Louisville Democrat Ashley Miller wants to  change that.

The 30-year-old nurse practitioner is running for the House  seat held by Republican Julie Raque Adams, who’s running for state Senate.

“In a body that’s supposed to represent the people, we should truly represent the people," Miller said. "And I think the fact that there’s not a minority woman in the House at this moment changes the demographic, changes the perception of things when they come before the floor. So I think that’s important. It is important to have every voice heard.”

Miller has filed her papers with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office,  joined by members of the House Women’s Caucus, which intends to help Miller in her fundraising efforts, and Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson.

Republicans Phil Moffett and Shellie May are also running for the seat , and will face each other in the May primary.

3:13 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

State Senator from Western Kentucky Announces Retirement

Kentucky State Senator Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville
Credit Legislative Research Commission

A state senator from western Kentucky plans to make the current legislative session his last.  Jerry Rhoads announced his retirement Friday. 

“Serving the people of the 6th District in the State Senate these past 12 years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I will treasure the many friendships I have made throughout the counties I have represented in my three terms of service in the State Senate," said Rhoads in a written statement.  "After careful reflection, I have decided that with eight young, energetic grandchildren, it is time to step away from the hectic pace and demands of public service in order to spend more time with my family and pursue other life goals.”

Rhoads said he planned to remain active in his Madisonville law practice.

Rhoads’ announcement creates an open seat in Kentucky’s 6th Senate District, which represents Hopkins, Muhlenberg, Ohio and Butler counties. 

Rhoads’ retirement leaves Morgantown Republican State Representative C.B. Embry the only candidate so far to file for the seat. 

The filing deadline is January 28th.

11:12 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Embattled Kentucky Lawmaker Faces Challenge for Seat

A Republican challenger has emerged to face embattled 6th District State Representative Will Coursey.  

Keith Travis is the Vice President of Development for the  Murray Calloway County Hospital.  He is also a former state board of education chairman and has been named citizen of the year in Marshall County.

Coursey, the incumbent democrat, is facing charges that he retaliated against a state staffer when she complained about Coursey’s inappropriate behavior toward female interns.  Coursey has filed a counter-suit.

Coursey is in his third term and and had no primary or general election challenger in his last bid for re-election.  

Travis says he wants to see more economic growth with less governmental intervention in Kentucky. He plans to file his papers with the Secretary of State on January 15.

8:12 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Medical Marijuana Backers Making Another Pitch to Kentucky Lawmakers

Supporters of medical marijuana in Kentucky are once again taking their efforts to Frankfort.

Advocates briefed lawmakers in the House Health & Welfare Committee Thursday on the medical benefits of marijuana. They say it can alleviate symptoms of multiple illnesses.

Josh Stanley works at the Colorado-based “Realm of Caring,” a non-profit that cultivates strains of marijuana for medical use. He told lawmakers that his company has developed a low-potency strain that can be used to treat epilepsy in children, and that Kentucky families have moved to his state to use this product.

“For a parent to stand across an invisible border and a boundary that we call a state and watch other children get well, and know that there’s nothing they can do for their child because they live in Kentucky, or they live in Kansas, it’s unacceptable. Something has to happen in that regard.”

Committee member Rep. Robert Benvenuti voiced opposition to the idea, saying that he was skeptical of the science.

6:55 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Military Veteran to Launch Democratic Challenge Against GOP Rep. Guthrie

A retired U.S. Army medical officer has filed to run against U.S. Congressman Brett Guthrie of Kentucky.

Democrat Ron Leach says Kentucky and the nation suffer from rampant income inequality, and a growing dependence on the social safety net is a symptom of that problem.

“Do you call the cost of that safety net, you know, food stamps, SNAP, Medicare, Medicaid, the problem and you just simply cut it? Or do you realize it that it is the symptom. It is a symptom of an economy that simply doesn’t work for most people anymore," the Democratic candidate said.

Rep. Guthrie has supported SNAP cuts in the past. Guthrie has held Kentucky’s 2nd Congressional seat since 2009.

Leach has spent two decades in the military. The district is home to Fort Knox, as well as other parts of the WKU Public Radio listening area, including Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, and Owensboro.

3:05 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Seeks Less Prison Time

Richie Farmer
Credit Kentucky News Network

The attorney for former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer is seeking a shorter prison sentence for the ex-University of Kentucky basketball star, saying any time in prison beyond 21 months serves no purpose.

In a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday, J. Guthrie True says the 27 months prosecutors are seeking is excessive and will only hurt Farmer's three sons.

Farmer pleaded guilty in September to two counts of misappropriating government resources while overseeing the Agriculture Department. Before becoming a two-term commissioner, Farmer was a sweet-shooting guard for the 1991-92 University of Kentucky basketball team dubbed "The Unforgettables" for their gutsy play.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove is scheduled to sentence Farmer on Tuesday in federal court in Frankfort.