A new statewide poll has good news for Kentucky’s Democratic Senate candidate.
While the general election is still nine months away, the poll shows Alison Lundergan Grimes with a four-point lead over five-term incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell.
The Bluegrass Poll was conducted for four Louisville and Lexington news outlets by Survey USA. It shows 46 percent of respondents favored Grimes in a matchup with Senator McConnell, while 42 percent supported the GOP incumbent.
The poll also reveals McConnell received just a 27-percent favorability rating. He still faces a primary battle against Republican Matt Bevin, who trails McConnell in the poll by 26 points.
Despite the poll results, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore says the campaign is “very comfortable about where this race stands.” Grimes said she is “humbled” by the numbers.
The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would amend the state constitution and remove the governor's ability to implement regulations.
The measure passed by a contentious 24-14 vote that fell along party lines. Republicans support the bill because they say it would give them the authority to create and repeal regulations. That power currently resides within the governor’s office.
Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer says the legislature should be able to review regulations like the Affordable Care Act and Common Core school standards.
“I don’t ever remember voting on Common Core standards here," Thayer said. "When we passed Senate Bill 1 in 2009, the main crux of it was eliminating the CATS tests and replacing it with standardized testing, and I believe that intent has been perverted somewhat with the implementation of these Common Core standards.”
Democrats call the measure unconstitutional, and say it would give too much power to the legislature.
The bill now heads to the House, which has a Democratic majority.
A Kentucky House committee has approved a ban on indoor smoking in public places and private businesses across the commonwealth.
The House Health & Welfare Committee voted 10-3. It would provide an exemption for open spaces, and will also apply to e-cigarettes.
Sponsor Susan Westrom says the ban is needed to improve the health of all Kentuckians regardless if they smoke, and will affect a variety of workplaces.
“What they haven’t considered is, we’re not just talking about restaurants and bars. We’re talking about people who work in manufacturing companies, who work in law practices, who work in insurance companies. It’s amazing, the different types of places people work. It’s not just restaurants and bars.”
Dissenting Republicans questioned what the ban would mean for personal freedoms.
The bill now heads to a floor debate in the House.
Senator Julie Denton, who testified in support of the bill, has filed companion legislation in the Senate.
After more than two-and-a-half hours of debate, the Kentucky House passed a bill Thursday afternoon that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.
The issue drew impassioned speeches from supporting lawmakers.
The debate’s most incendiary comments came from Rep. Jim Wayne. The characteristically soft-spoken Louisville lawmaker criticized what he called an economic caste system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
“The free market system will guarantee everyone a quality job. Not so; a big lie," argued Wayne. "The only way capitalism works if for government to step in and set the rules. Now you don’t wanna hear that, but it’s the truth. And that’s what the New Deal was all about.”
Opponents said the higher wage would force some employers to cut jobs. They said it would add costs for school districts and local governments to pay low-wage employees.
The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory ultrasound.
The measure passed 33-5 Wednesday with wide Republican support. This is the tenth year the bill has cleared the Senate. All previous efforts have gone on to die in the Democratically-controlled House.
The bill does not provide an exemption for victims of rape. Bill sponsor Whitney Westerfield acknowledges that transvaginal ultrasounds could be traumatic for rape victims.
“I’m not compelling that particular use, and I think that probably would be traumatic and I don’t know, I don’t presume to know what a woman would be thinking in that position, but I think it probably would be," the Hopkinsville Republican said. "They oughta have the option of which ultrasound. That’s why I didn’t write it so it’d be compelled.”
Dissenters say the bill is degrading to women, and similar laws in other states are costing taxpayers money as a result of legal challenges.
Westerfield said he had not had a chance to review those cases.
Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator is expressing doubts on the prospects of major immigration law overhaul this year.
Republican Mitch McConnell told reporters he doesn’t believe House and Senate leaders will be able to overcome their differences. Senator McConnell describes the differences between the House and Senate as an “irresolvable conflict.” The website Politico reports the Louisville Republican says the problem isn’t specific policy differences between the two chambers, but rather how each side wants to move forward procedurally.
Some Senate Democrats have said they want to tackle immigration overhaul in a comprehensive fashion, by putting all changes in one massive bill.
House Republicans have spoken in support of taking on the issue step-by-step, and passing several smaller bills along the way. While President Obama and some Congressional Democrats have recently indicated they’d be willing to look at piecemeal reform, McConnell says the gulf between the two parties is too great to get reform passed this year.
McConnell is facing a Senate primary challenge this spring by Tea Party activist Matt Bevin, who says he’s opposed to any measure that offers amnesty to illegal immigrants in the U.S.
The Kentucky Senate has passed a proposed ballot measure seeking to abolish the state treasurer's office. The proposal would amend the Kentucky constitution to allow the treasurer's duties to shift to the state finance cabinet.
The measure cleared the senate on a 23-15 vote Tuesday. It now goes to the state House.
Republicans backing the measure say it could save the state $1.4 million each year. State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach disputed that, saying his abolishing his office wouldn't save any money. Democrats opposing the bill said the treasurer's office provides needed oversight of state finances.
Minority floor leader R. J. Palmer said the treasurer's office generates more revenue than other state constitutional offices. Republicans said the state auditor would provide needed oversight of executive spending.
Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes says increasing the federal minimum wage would be at the top of her agenda if she's elected to the U.S. Senate.
Grimes said in a release that a higher minimum wage would raise the income and spending power for tens of thousands of Kentucky families.
The issue presents a stark contrast between Grimes and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who is seeking a sixth term this year.
McConnell says a higher minimum wage would force businesses to reduce jobs.
A Democratic push to boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is seen as a long shot in Congress this year. President Barack Obama made a push for the increase in his State of the Union speech.
Grimes is the Democratic front-runner for the seat held by McConnell.
Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee is giving his fourth State of the State address on Monday evening.
The governor will unveil details of his annual state spending proposal and lay out some of his top legislative priorities for the year.
Haslam has warned that flagging state revenues combined with growing health care costs will put the squeeze on other programs the state would like to spend money on.
State lawmakers expect the governor to emphasize his goal of improving Tennessee's graduate rates from colleges and universities from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025. Haslam calls the initiative "Drive to 55."
Other items on the governor's agenda include creating prescription requirements to purchase large amounts of cold medications used to make illegal methamphetamine.