As new voter ID laws take effect across the county, U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is maintaining his position that asking voters to produce identification before casting their ballot has no racial overtones. Paul told WKU Public Radio that voter ID provisions are needed to combat voter fraud and not doing so is a disservice to those who fought for the right to vote.
"Forty, 50 years ago when people were fighting for the right to vote, there were people beaten with clubs, there were people who fought for the Voting Rights Act, and at that time, African Americans weren't voting and weren't allowed to vote," said the Bowling Green Republican.
More states are enacting voter ID laws since the U.S. Supreme Court in June gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that gave the federal government oversight of states with a history of voter discrimination. Sen. Paul says he hasn't seen any evidence that minorities are facing obstacles in voting. In fact, he says in the last election, African Americans voted at a higher percentage than White Americans in states that were under special provisions of the federal government.
His comments come as he urges the GOP to do more to attract minorities, and as opponents of the Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act point to various voter ID laws they say are designed to discourage election day turnout in minority communities.
A Butler County state Representative says he's strongly considering a run for a Senate seat following today's signing of new redistricting maps. The newly drawn boundaries place Morgantown Republican C.B. Embry, Jr., in the same district as Warren County Republican Jim DeCesare.
Embry gave his reaction to WKU Public Radio earlier Friday afternoon.
"Now I'm not fixing to announce or anything, but I'm leaning toward running for the sixth Senatorial district next year. That would be Butler, Ohio, Muhlenberg, and Hopkins counties," said Embry.
The sixth Kentucky Senate district is currently represented by Madisonville Democrat Jerry Rhoads. Embry admits it would be a tough challenge to take on Rhoads, given that the voter registration in the sixth Senate district is majority Democratic.
Warren County Representative Jim DeCesare told WKU Public Radio today that he plans to run for the 17th District House seat.
**UPDATE: Gov. Steve Beshear has signed new legislative maps into law. The Kentucky House voted 79-18 to approve new redistricting maps. It follows a 35-2 approval by the Senate earlier Friday morning. The bill took five days during a special session to pass.
A legislative redistricting bill that steamrolled through the House is scheduled for a Senate vote Friday morning.
Gov. Steve Beshear said he stands ready to sign the measure into law on Friday, after lawmakers finish up their work of redrawing boundary lines around House and Senate districts.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee unanimously approved the proposal Thursday.
Redistricting is undertaken every 10 years to account for population changes recorded by the Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring reconfiguration of legislative districts in both the House and Senate to comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate. The state's overall population rose from 4 million to 4.3 million while shifting largely from rural communities to urban areas.
Kentucky House lawmakers would have to undergo annual sexual harassment sensitivity training under a resolution approved Thursday after three legislative staffers filed sexual harassment complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission.
The allegations against Democratic state representative John Arnold of Sturgis triggered a public outcry, forcing House Speaker Greg Stumbo to address the matter on the floor Thursday evening. He assured angry colleagues the matter "will be dealt with responsibly" and that Arnold could be expelled from the House if the charges are proven to be true.
Arnold, who represents parts of Union, Daviess and Henderson counties. refused to answer questions about the allegations Wednesday and was absent from the legislature on Thursday.
In the complaints, first reported by Louisville public radio station WFPL-FM, the staffers alleged that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments over a period of years.
Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gov. Steve Beshear squared off in a heated debate about the federal health-care law at the Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast.
The Democratic governor said Thursday the Affordable Care Act will work in Kentucky.
Beshear said the law will improve Kentucky's health problems, which include some of the nation's worst rates for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
McConnell, the Senate's top-ranking Republican, said the law is driving up health insurance premiums and forcing employers to reduce working hours for many employees. McConnell said the law should be repealed.
Pork and politics will be on the menu at the Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast and Auction at the state fairgrounds in Louisville.
A sellout crowd of 1,600 will be served 450 pounds of country ham along with other fixings at the Thursday morning event. They'll then hear speeches from some of the state's political leaders including senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Governor Steve Beshear.
For some, the main event will be an auction of the state fair's grand champion ham. The prize ham will be garnished with roses on a silver platter held by Miss Kentucky while the auctioneer calls for bids. Last year's 17.6 pound ham fetched a winning bid of $300,000. All the money raised from the auction is donated to the charity of the winning bidder's choice.
The Kentucky House has adopted new boundaries for its 100 members, but not without some lawmaker grumbling.
The bill to redraw legislative boundaries passed the full house 83 to 17. Before the votes were cast, House Speaker Greg Stumbo told colleagues there was no intent to punish anyone or either political party.
“Everyone agreeing that it has to be done, it’s required, and this is a fair way to do it," said the Democratic House Speaker.
While several lawmakers argued these new boundaries are fairer than their earlier attempts, many still voiced concerns. Most came from individual lawmakers, upset over seeing their counties divided between several districts.
Two longtime Kentucky statehouse employees have filed ethics complaints against Democratic state Rep. John A. Arnold Jr., alleging a pattern of sexual assault and harassment dating back to early 2010.
Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, in separate complaints, allege the Union County lawmaker inappropriately touched them and made lewd and vulgar comments in numerous incidents over several years. Arnold is a veteran legislator from Sturgis.
Cooper and Costner filed their complaints Friday with the Legislative Ethics Commission. They are employed by the state Legislative Research Commission—a nonpartisan agency that provides the legislature with staff and research support. Cooper is assigned as an aide to House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins. Costner is assigned as an adviser to House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson of Owensboro.
(From left) Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown; Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington; Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville; and Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, discuss legislation prior to the start of the day's legislative session in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
A House committee in Frankfort passed the chamber's redistricting plan Tuesday on a 25-4 vote with the support of many Republicans. The lone Democrat who voted against the bill was Representative Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown.
The proposed map splits Hardin County among six districts, with only Lee's district--the 25th--remaining entirely within Hardin County.
"With the other counties involved, someone that would seek the seat living in Hardin County in these various districts will never have enough votes in Hardin County to ever win an election," explains Lee. "Basically, this map has precluded the northern end of Hardin County from ever having someone who lives there serve as their representative."
The bill is expected to easily win approval from the full House on Wednesday.
The House map pairs eight incumbents, four Republicans and four Democrats, against each other in elections next year. It varies quite a bit from a 2012 House proposal that pitted nine incumbents against each other, eight of them Republicans. That plan was thrown out by the Kentucky Supreme Court.