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Elaine Thompson/AP

Texas, joined by a number of other states, has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in response to its directive that public schools allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

The plaintiffs include Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, the governor of Maine and the Arizona Department of Education.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, says the federal government has "conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights."

The LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign called the move a "shameful attack on transgender youth."

Julian Castro to Speak at Wendell Ford Dinner in Kentucky

May 26, 2016
Creative Commons

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro will be the featured speaker at the annual Wendell Ford dinner sponsored by the Kentucky Democratic Party.

The June 3 dinner at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville is the official start of the Kentucky Democratic Convention, where party leaders will select delegates to the national convention this summer.

Castro is the former mayor of San Antonio. He was the keynote speaker for the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Hillary Clinton, who leads Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, is considering Castro as a potential running mate in the fall.

The sponsor of a resolution to require Tennessee to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program is unhappy with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for refusing the sign the measure.

Haslam last week allowed the resolution to go into effect without his signature, saying that he had concerns about one branch of government telling another one what to do. The governor also asked the state attorney general for a legal opinion on whether the Legislature has the power to hire its own attorney to sue over the matter.

Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville in a letter to Haslam on Tuesday said the governor had mischaracterized the resolution and that the federal government has not provided enough information to determine whether refugees could be linked to terrorism.

J. Tyler Franklin

Bernie Sanders has requested a recanvass of votes cast in Kentucky’s Democratic presidential primary, narrowly won by Hillary Clinton.

The recanvass is essentially a retabulation of results from each precinct.  It will be conducted on Thursday by the Secretary of State’s office.

University of Kentucky election law professor Joshua Douglas says recanvasses are a vestige of the time before electronic voting machines.

“When you have humans counting the votes, then certainly there’s a chance for greater changes in the vote-counting process," states Douglas.  "With electronic voting machines, a recanvass is really just pressing the button and it’ll spit out the vote totals again. The likelihood of change at least in those counties is pretty small.”

There are still many counties that have paper ballots.

The last recanvass conducted in the state was of the 2015 Republican gubernatorial primary, which James Comer requested after losing to then-candidate Matt Bevin by 83 votes. The recanvass did not change the outcome of the primary election.

KRS

The debate continues over whether Gov. Matt Bevin has the authority to replace the chair of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board before his term expires.

Last week, Bevin sent Kentucky State Police troopers to a KRS board meeting in order to arrest board chair Tommy Elliott if he participated. Bevin issued an executive order removing Elliott nearly a month before, but Elliott defied the order and continued presiding in a subsequent board meeting.

Bevin’s office said Elliott “voluntarily elected not to participate” in last week’s meeting.

Bill Thielen, executive director of KRS, said Monday that top officials in Bevin’s administration threatened to have Elliott arrested if he participated in the meeting.

“He decided he would not take part in the meeting,” Thielen said. “He sat in the audience. Police officers were there in the boardroom at both doors.”

Trump Meets with Tennessee Senator Bob Corker

May 23, 2016
Office of Senator Bob Corker

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has met with Bob Corker in New York.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting Monday, Corker, the U.S. senator from Tennessee, said he has no knowledge of whether he's being considered for Trump's running mate or for a Cabinet position should Trump win the general election.

"I have no reason whatsoever to believe I am being considered for a position like that," Corker told reporters who pressed him about various possible positions.

Corker is currently the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He also serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

No one from Trump's campaign immediately responded to a request for comment on the meeting with Corker.

Alix Mattingly, WFPL News

News of the $815,741 paid last year to retired Kentucky Community & Technical College System President Michael McCall has drawn expressions of outrage from lawmakers, college employees, citizens and the state’s secretary of education.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration said Thursday it will conduct a comprehensive review of KCTCS, which announced the elimination of 506 jobs earlier this week. The review will be done by the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet under Secretary Hal Heiner and the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education.

As reported Thursday by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, McCall retired Jan. 15, 2015, but was given a consulting contract that paid him $300,965 till year-end. KCTCS also gave him $352,066 for 261 unused vacation days and a $124,249 deferred incentive payout.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL News

Despite his failed presidential run, Sen. Rand Paul easily won the Republican nomination for reelection to his Senate seat last week.

Paul said he would support his former rival in the presidential race — Donald Trump — in the likely case that the New York businessman is the party’s nominee. But during an interview at last week’s NRA conference in Louisville, Paul said Trump “has a ways to go” to unite the Republican Party behind him.

“But I think he’s heading in the right direction,” Paul added.

Trump is the only candidate remaining in the Republican nominating contest. He’s been working to unite GOP leaders who have been skeptical of his candidacy and conservative credentials.

Some Republicans have questioned Trump’s support of gun rights; he worked to solidify his qualifications at the Louisville NRA event, calling for the elimination of gun-free zones and bashing likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s record on guns.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL News

During a speech at the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville on Friday, Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton the most “anti-gun” candidate to ever run for president.

Trump said that Clinton wants to “abolish” the Second Amendment and, if elected, would appoint anti-gun Supreme Court justices.

“The Second Amendment is under a threat like never before,” he said. “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate ever to run for office.”

Clinton has never called for abolishing the Second Amendment but has pushed for increased background checks and closing the “gun show loophole.”

Trump called for the elimination of gun-free zones, saying that if concert-goers had been armed during November attacks on the Bataclan Theater in Paris, not as many people would have died.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Top Republicans including Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gov. Matt Bevin will all speak at the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Louisville Friday.

In a conference call on Thursday, Congressman John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, criticized Trump’s attendance at the event, saying that he was “one of the most incredible panderers.”

“Pandering to the worst instincts of America — xenophobia, anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-immigrant sentiment, misogyny — this is why I think he is singularly unqualified to be president of the United States,” Yarmuth said. “I hope that during his appearance in Louisville there is an enormous outpouring of opposition.”

The NRA convention is expected to draw more than 70,000 people over the weekend and features 8,000 exhibitors.

KRS

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin used state police officers to prevent the ousted chairman of the retirement system board from participating in a meeting Thursday.

Governor Matt Bevin removed chairman Thomas Elliott from the board last month.

But Elliott had refused to vacate his seat, saying Bevin could not remove him before his term expires.

Elliott attended Thursday's board meeting, but sat in the audience while state police officers stood nearby.

Elliot said the governor's office told him he would be arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting if he participated.

Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said Elliot was not threatened with arrest. She said he was reminded he is not a board member and would be disrupting the meeting if he tried to participate, which is a misdemeanor under state law.

Judge Rules Bevin Can Cut College, University Budgets

May 19, 2016
WFPL News

A Kentucky judge has ruled Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate says two state laws allow Bevin to reduce allotments for public colleges and universities. Wingate ruled while the governor’s powers are usually confined to the state constitution, the legislature can give the governor additional powers by passing laws. He said Bevin’s cuts of nearly $18 million to colleges and universities this year are not improper.

Bevin proposed the cuts in January. The state legislature did not approve them. Bevin ordered the cuts anyway. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him.

Wingate ordered Bevin to leave the $18 million alone until the case has been resolved.

In a statement, Beshear said his office would appeal.

Cheryl Beckley, WKU PBS

Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator says he supports the idea of having women register for a potential military draft.

The Courier-Journal reports Republican Mitch McConnell said he thinks it would be appropriate, given that women in the military are already performing many different functions.

The Selective Service System currently registers men ages 18 to 25 only.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have recently passed defense policy bills that include  a registration requirement for women.

Some Democratic lawmakers have said adding women to the Selective Service list would help achieve gender equality for women in the military.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is questioning the need for a special legislative session related to the bathroom use of transgender public school students.

Some Republican state lawmakers have called for a special session after a directive issued by President Barack Obama's administration that public schools must allow students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Haslam told reporters Wednesday that it's unclear what the strategy or purpose of a special session would be. GOP lawmakers have engaged in a letter-writing campaign since the Obama directive was issued, demanding that the state join lawsuits challenging their implementation.

A Tennessee  bill seeking to require students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates was withdrawn in the waning days of the legislative session last month.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

A Kentucky attorney general's advisory opinion says the governor isn't allowed to remove a trustee from the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems before the trustee's term has expired.

The opinion was requested by the systems' executive director, William A. Thielen, after Gov. Matt Bevin removed board Chairman Thomas K. Elliott last month. Elliott's term didn't expire until 2019. After removing Elliott, Bevin appointed Madisonville dermatologist William F. Smith to replace him.

The attorney general's opinion, issued Tuesday, also said Smith isn't qualified as a professional with 10 years of experience in public or private finances.

Bevin's press secretary, Amanda Stamper, said in a news release that the governor's office believes Smith is qualified to serve on the board. The release also said the attorney general's opinion differs from state Supreme Court precedent and a previous attorney general's opinion.

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