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Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has appointed a special prosecutor to handle the case against his former deputy.

Former Deputy Attorney General Tim Longmeyer pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge last month. Last week, Beshear announced he would file state charges against Longmeyer. At first, Beshear said he would prosecute the case himself. But Thursday he said he would hand the case to Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland.

Cleveland said the attorney general's office asked him to take the case on Wednesday, citing a conflict of interest.

Longmeyer pleaded guilty to using his influence as the state Personnel Cabinet secretary to steer contracts to a public relations firm in exchange for kickbacks. He also directed some of that money to Beshear's 2015 campaign for attorney general.

Lisa Autry

When Kentucky voters head to the polls Tuesday, May 17, for the sstate's primary election, they’ll help choose the Democratic presidential nominee. 

While Hillary Clinton is ahead in the delegate count, she doesn’t have enough to lock up the nomination yet. Both Clinton and Sanders are battling for Kentucky’s 60 delegates at stake. 

On a weekday afternoon, Michelle Thomas and a few of her girlfriends get together at Thomas’ Bowling Green home, which has turned into a makeshift campaign headquarters for Hillary Clinton.

“We have yard signs and some bumper stickers and buttons," Thomas said.

The ladies were phone banking, trying to drum up support for Clinton ahead of Tuesday’s primary.  It was the middle of the day and Janet Gouvas has been getting lots of answering machines.

Ryland Barton

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is suing Gov. Matt Bevin, saying that he improperly vetoed several bills passed during this year’s legislative session.

Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, questioned the validity of vetoes to six bills, including line-item vetoes to the state budget, which he says were improperly delivered and signed.

He also says Bevin violated the constitution by not including “veto messages” that explain the rationale for several line-item vetoes to the state budget.

“The constitution clearly states that the message shall be accompanied with the veto so that people understand why or what his reasoning was when vetoing that particular part or parts of the appropriation bill,” he said.

If Stumbo’s suit is successful, Bevin’s line-item vetoes to the state budget would be reversed, meaning free preschool would be expanded from 160 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and $840,000 would be set aside for the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation and $7.5 million for indigent care in Jefferson County.

Richie Farmer Files for Bankruptcy

May 9, 2016

Former state agriculture commissioner and University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer, who went to prison for violating state ethics and campaign finance laws, has filed for bankruptcy.

Farmer filed a Chapter 7 petition May 4 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Farmer indicated he is unemployed and living on $194 in monthly food stamps. The petition also noted that his parents give him an estimated $400 each month.

The petition listed assets of about $24,000, most of it in his state pension, and liabilities of about $386,000.

Farmer left a federal prison in West Virginia in December after serving a 27-month sentence for misappropriating government resources while in office, including having state workers build a basketball court at his house.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

Kentucky's Democratic attorney general, Andy Beshear, says he will prosecute his former chief deputy in state court following his guilty plea to federal bribery charges.

Newly released court documents show that former Personnel Cabinet Secretary Tim Longmeyer, who pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge, arranged for illegal campaign donations to Beshear, who was elected attorney general, and Jack Conway, who lost his bid to become governor.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports a judge unsealed the records Tuesday at the newspaper's request.

After he won the election, Beshear hired Longmeyer as deputy attorney general. Longmeyer resigned a few days before the federal charges became public.

Beshear noted federal authorities have said no political candidates were aware of Longmeyer's illegal activities. Beshear said he would follow the same process that resulted in the prosecution of former Republican Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, who went to prison for violating state ethics and campaign finance laws.

Ethics Commission Says It Can’t Stop Bevin’s Inquiry

May 3, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says it cannot stop Republican Gov. Matt Bevin from investigating whether his Democratic predecessor violated state ethics laws.

Bevin says he will hire a private law firm to investigate whether former Gov. Steve Beshear coerced state employees to donate to political campaigns.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, Steve Beshear’s son, asked the ethics commission to tell Bevin he does not have the authority to conduct such an investigation. Commission Executive Director Kathryn Gabhart wrote back on Monday saying the commission does not have the authority to stop Bevin.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the commission was right to reject Andy Beshear’s request. She said Bevin welcomes the commission to conduct its own investigation.

Andy Beshear said any investigation by Bevin would not be credible.

Thinkstock

With the first three months of lobbyist reports in for this year’s legislative session, it looks like total spending will easily surpass the previous record.

According to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, business, organizations and legislative agents spent $7.5 million lobbying lawmakers in the first quarter of this year.

The spending pattern is on track to exceed the previous record of $8.8 million set in 2012, once totals from April are accounted for.

The top spender was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $120,426 pushing issues like the local option sales tax, public-private partnerships, tort reform and felony expungement. The organization also spent $9,202 on radio advertising in favor of a pension transparency bill that did not pass.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Among Gov. Matt Bevin’s line-item vetoes in the state budget earlier this week was $400,000 that would have gone to the Arc of Kentucky, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The money was set aside to help fund the nonprofit’s leadership program, which trains people with disabilities and supporters in civic engagement.

Patty Dempsey, Arc of Kentucky’s executive director, said the $200,000 per year was in the budget to return the program to its original funding level.

“Without the funding, we are faced with that possibility of losing it,” Dempsey said.

Bevin vetoed all or part of 14 bills this legislative session, including several line-item vetoes to the $21 billion two-year state budget.

Arc of Kentucky’s Advocates in Action program trains up to 24 participants each year and pays for travel expenses to two events in Frankfort.

Screenshot from website

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is bringing 91 field workers from around the state, to Frankfort, to help deal with the backlog of applications in Benefind, the new umbrella portal for Kentucky’s welfare programs.

Since the February rollout of Benefind, people trying to get benefits have had to deal with long wait times at local Department for Community Based Services offices and over the phone. The system also erroneously sent out notices to some people that their benefits had been canceled.

Brandon Carlson, the project manager for the initiative, said the group had already processed over 9,000 cases this week.

“By focusing our efforts here on those cases, we were able to free up our workers at all the local DCBS offices to address the lobby traffic and the high volume of calls and the new applications,” he said.

The cabinet estimates it now has a backlog of 16,000 cases, down from 30,000 at the beginning of the week.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed legislation that allows mental health counselors and therapists to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections or personal beliefs.

Critics of the law say it could result in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As Nashville Public Radio reported earlier this month:

"A group representing gay and lesbian Tennesseans [asked Haslam] to veto the legislation. ...

"The Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBT advocacy group, says the measure will make it harder for gays and lesbians to find counseling — particularly in rural parts of the state where religiously conservative therapists are common."

Haslam, however, said in a statement that he decided to sign the bill because it addressed two of his concerns. He said:

WFPL News

Gov. Matt Bevin has issued seven more vetoes, delaying a free community college scholarship program, cutting out parts of the state budget and killing a new driver’s license bill.

Bevin has now vetoed all or part of 14 bills in the wake of his first legislative session as governor.

“Today’s action will create economic opportunity and provide benefits to generations for years to come,” Bevin said in a statement.

In line-item vetoes of the state budget, Bevin eliminated funding for the first year of the “Work Ready” free community college tuition program. He also eliminated a bill that contained operating language for the program and other education initiatives, saying they were “hastily written.”

“Developing and implementing a properly functioning Work Ready Scholarship program will take a great deal of time and effort,” Bevin said.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

Former Gov. Steve Beshear has accused Gov. Matt Bevin of coercing state employees into helping pay off his campaign debt.

The allegations come a week after Bevin claimed that members of Beshear’s administration coerced state employees into making campaign contributions to Democrats.

Beshear said Bevin “started this food fight.”

“… By calling us liars, by criticizing my wife, and now by ginning up a political investigation to try and sully our reputation,” he said.

The feud extends back to when Bevin criticized Beshear’s appointment of then-First Lady Jane Beshear to the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.

Since then, the two governors have lobbed accusations at one another. Bevin has blamed Beshear for leaving the state in a “financial crisis,” creating the glitches in the new health benefit portal Benefind and shaking down state employees for campaign contributions.

Thinkstock

County officials have asked Gov. Matt Bevin to veto language in the state budget bill that would allow three private prisons to reopen in Kentucky.

The budget language would allow the state to recommission private prison contracts in Floyd, Marion and Lee counties if those counties’ jails become overpopulated.

The state already pays county jails to incarcerate some inmates who would otherwise go to state penitentiaries.

Renee Craddock, executive director of the Kentucky Jailers Association, said the private prison policy would shift that money away from counties.

“They are pulling revenue from counties at a time when counties don’t have a lot of revenue to spare,” she said.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Wednesday is the last day for Gov. Matt Bevin to veto all or part of bills that passed on the final day of the legislative session, including the state budget.

Bevin’s spokeswoman Jessica Ditto declined to comment on possible vetoes, saying “everything will be filed accordingly” on Wednesday.

Bevin has already vetoed seven bills, including portions of the Judicial Branch operating budget.

Lawmakers will not have an opportunity to override any potential vetoes since they pushed the legislative session up to its constitutionally-required deadline of April 15.

Lawmakers arrived at a budget compromise that cuts most state spending by 9 percent over the next two years and puts $1.2 billion into the state’s pension systems.

Kentucky governors are allowed to line-item veto parts of bills, meaning Bevin could eliminate parts of the budget while leaving the rest of the document intact.

Bevin Traveling to Germany, France, Belgium This Week

Apr 26, 2016

Governor Matt Bevin is traveling to Germany, France and Belgium this week as part of his first overseas trip as governor.

Bevin is scheduled to arrive in Hannover, Germany, on Tuesday to attend the Hannover Messe Fair, a trade show of industrial technology. A news release from the governor's office says Bevin will meet with prospective businesses and companies that already have Kentucky facilities.

He will spend the rest of the week meeting with executives in Germany, France and Belgium. Bevin says the trip is an "incredible opportunity" to sell the benefits of Kentucky to manufacturers.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the governor's trip will not prevent him from issuing vetoes of the state's two-year operating budget. State lawmakers approved the budget on April 15. Bevin has until Wednesday to issue vetoes, if any.

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