Kentucky's highest-ranking Republican lawmaker says he will oppose any expanded gambling measure that uses political patronage to garner support.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers says while he is not opposed to gaming if it has unified support, he doesn’t want the issue to be advanced by a trade of votes for pet projects.
“I’m not talking about anything that’s illegal. It’s part of the process that somebody gets a road, or if you do this, we think we can do this, you know, the promising of these things in exchange for a vote. That puts us in a worse fiscal position, has the potential to put us in a worse fiscal position than we’re in now. And if that happens I’ll do everything from a policy standpoint to try to stop it.”
Two sets of expanded gaming bills have already been pre-filed in the legislature. Supports say gambling could raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue for the state.
Kentucky’s budget priorities for 2015 could require nearly $1 billion in revenue that the state doesn’t have.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo told a group of business leaders earlier this month that the cost of funding priority issues like education, public employee raises and more could total an estimated $800 million.
“It would probably be more of a number like $700 to $800 million--and some would argue larger than that. It just depends upon how big a bite of the apple you want to take, but I don’t think we can do that.”
Stumbo says the recession is the driving force behind the shortfall, and Kentucky’s economic growth rate will return to pre-recession levels in about two to three years in the absence of tax reform.
Gov. Steve Beshear will submit his budget proposal to the General Assembly next month.
A lawmaker from western Kentucky thinks state leaders should visit the far ends of commonwealth, areas he believes, are sometimes overlooked.
State Representative Kenny Imes has pre-filed legislation for the 2014 session that would require certain non-merit employees, including the governor, to visit two of the most western and most eastern counties before they take office or be appointed to a position.
“Our Commissioner of Agriculture, James Comer, made a pledge to visit all 120 counties in the Commonwealth after taking office. My bill would only require people like the Governor and his staff, his cabinet secretaries, and others to visit two: Fulton and Pike,” said Rep. Imes in a news release. “They represent the people of Fulton and Pike County as equally as they do those living in Fayette and Jefferson, so it’s only right we require they make the effort to visit these regions.”
The leaders would have to get a certificate from the county clerks of Fulton and Pike counties as proof they physically traveled there.
The legislation also requires travel for cabinet secretaries, commissioners, employees of KET, the state highway engineer, and employees of the Council on Postsecondary Education. Those individuals would be required to travel on their own time and could not be reimbursed for travel expenses.
A conservative group is planning to blanket Kentucky in coming weeks with TV ads defending Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. The ad buy will also link McConnell with his fellow Kentucky Republican, Rand Paul.
The website Politico says it’s learned that the nonprofit group Kentucky Opportunity Coalition will spend nearly $400,000 over the next week on the ads. According to a script shared with Politico, the ad will tell viewers that Senators McConnell and Paul are “working together to stop Obamacare.”
The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is a 501 (c) (4) group aligned with the SuperPAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership. That group has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on commercials attacking Kentucky Senate Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Democratic groups have also jumped into the fray, with Senate Majority PAC and the group Patriot Money labeling McConnell as an obstructionist who should be retired from office after nearly three decades in the U.S. Senate.
The Kentucky Secretary of State has certified the results of last week's special election.
Official certificates of election were awarded by the office to Democrat Reggie Thomas, who won a race for Lexington's 13th Senate District, and Republican Suzanne Miles, who narrowly bested Democrat Kim Humphrey for the state House's 7th district seat.
Thomas got over 4,000 votes in his bid to replace Sen. Kathy Stein, who was appointed to a judgeship earlier this year. Miles, who is replacing former Rep. John Arnold, received nearly 3,550 votes—just 112 votes more than her opponent
Both elections were marked by low voter turnout, with 22 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot in the 13th District Senate race, and just 11 percent in the 7th House District race.
Republican Brett Guthrie has filed papers to run for re-election next year as representative from Kentucky’s 2nd District.
Guthrie has held the seat since 2009. He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Education and Workforce Committee.
He said in a statement after filing papers Monday with the secretary of state’s office in Frankfort that he is working to reduce the national debt and for policies that help create jobs and opportunity.
Guthrie had been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2015 but announced in July he intended to remain focused on congressional work.
Democrat Ron Leach, a retired Army major and Brandenburg farmer, launched a campaign for Guthrie’s seat during the summer.
A Kentucky lawmaker thinks if Kentucky’s online health exchange is good enough for citizens, it should be good enough for the state’s leaders.
Representative Robert Benvenuti has pre-filed a bill for the 2014 legislative session that requires Governor Steve Beshear, members of his cabinet, and all 138 state lawmakers to obtain health coverage through the exchange or purchase insurance on their own.
"The initial feedback from the folks I care about, the citizens of the commonwealth, has been very positive. They think this is only right, that the folks that make the rules live by the rules they make," stated Benvenuti. "We've heard a great deal from the governor's office and from Democrats in the General Asssembly that the exchange is a wonderful opportunity for Kentuckians, and yet the Kentuckians I talk to strongly disagree."
Benvenuti, a Lexington Republican, points to the estimated 280,000 Kentuckians that will lose their current insurance plans because they don’t comply with mandates of the federal health care law.
Governor Beshear has dismissed naysayers, saying the exchange is allowing the uninsured to get coverage that, in the long run, will reduce medical costs and create a healthier population.
Kentucky’s exchange has been touted as a national model, and the state says about 1,000 people per day are enrolling in coverage.
After nearly four months of meetings and without interviewing a single witness or examining any evidence, the special House committee tasked with investigating claims of sexual harassment against a former state lawmaker voted Thursday afternoon to end its operations.
This summer, female staffers with the Legislative Research Commission say former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, sexually harassed and assaulted them.
Democratic committee chair Jeff Donohue of Louisville made the motion to disband the panel. He cited an opinion drafted by legal counsel that said lawmakers could not discipline Arnold because he resigned in September.
“Despite the committee’s lack of jurisdiction and as a member of the House of Representatives, I’d like to work with my colleagues to develop stronger policies and laws to prevent sexual harassment. And that is what I plan to do. And I thank you all for your time today.”
Donohue says he doesn't know how much the committee has cost taxpayers.
The Legislative Ethics Commission has postponed a hearing that had been set for Thursday in the case of a former lawmaker accused of sexually harassing Capitol staffers.
Former state representative John Arnold of Sturgis has been rescheduled to appear before the ethics panel on Feb. 25.
Commission Chairman George Troutman said in a written order last week that the delay will allow time for Arnold to undergo a neurological exam that could help determine whether he's competent to participate in his defense and whether he's competent to testify.
Arnold resigned from the Legislature in September after the sexual harassment allegations were made public. Legislative staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper say Arnold had touched them inappropriately and made vulgar comments. A third woman also has filed a complaint.