Political news


The chairman of the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees is presiding at a meeting in defiance of Gov. Matt Bevin’s order removing him from the board.

Thomas K. Elliott took his seat at the head of the board table at Thursday’s regularly-scheduled board meeting, a day after Bevin issued the executive order to oust him. The board was scheduled to elect its leaders, but delayed that vote until the next meeting.

KRS Executive Director William Thielen said Bevin does not have the authority to remove Elliott. Board members voted to request an attorney general’s opinion on whether Bevin exceeded his authority by removing Elliott.

In removing Elliott Wednesday, Bevin said KRS needs a “fresh start” and said the board was opposed to transparency under Elliott’s leadership. Elliott was reappointed to the board by former Democratic Governor Steve Beshear last year and his term does not expire until 2019.

Kentucky Retirement Systems is among the worst funded systems in the country. It has an unfunded liability of more than $19 billion.

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In the wake of former Kentucky official Tim Longmeyer’s admission of accepting bribes while running a state agency, one central question remains unanswered:

Who paid the bribes?

His guilty plea in federal court Tuesday in Lexington, before U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell, was perfunctory and did not shed light on other possible targets of the federal investigation. Afterward, U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey didn’t rule out charges against others, but he would not say if Longmeyer is cooperating with authorities.

Still, the nine-page guilty plea offers a deeper glimpse into the bribery scheme and offers some new details.

The plea notes that the bribes — about $212,500 — were paid by a “private consultant” not named in court papers but referred to as “S.M.” The initials happen to match those of Sam McIntosh, whose MC Squared Consulting offices in Lexington were raided by the FBI on the same day that Longmeyer was charged. McIntosh has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with Longmeyer. MC Squared has not reopened since the raid.

Ex-Kentucky Personnel Secretary Pleads Guilty to Kickbacks

Apr 19, 2016

A former official whose case was an embarrassment for Kentucky's former Democratic governor and the current attorney general has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge.

Tim Longmeyer pleaded guilty Tuesday to using his influence as head of the state's Personnel Cabinet under former Gov. Steve Beshear to steer contracts to a public relations firm in 2014 and 2015. The 48-year-old Longmeyer appeared before U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell and acknowledged receiving more than $200,000 in kickbacks from the public relations firm.

He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled Aug. 18.

Beshear's son, current Attorney General Andy Beshear, hired Longmeyer as his top deputy earlier this year. Longmeyer abruptly resigned the post two days before his indictment was announced in March.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Gov. Matt Bevin has launched an investigation into potential corruption under former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration.

In a press conference Tuesday, Bevin alleged state employees were coerced into contributing to Democratic political campaigns, including those of Attorney General Andy Beshear and Bevin’s opponent in the governor’s race, former Attorney General Jack Conway.

Bevin said employees have come forward and said they were “essentially coerced” into making contributions and “they complied of fear of loss of their jobs or other retribution.”

“We have learned from many rank-and-file employees of closed-door demands by high level Beshear administration officials that they make contributions to Democratic candidates in the last election,” Bevin said.

Former Gov. Beshear’s secretary of the Personnel Cabinet, Tim Longmeyer, is currently under investigation for a kickback scheme that allegedly directed state contracts to a consulting firm in exchange for campaign donations and cash.


A bill that would have enacted transparency measures for Kentucky’s ailing pension systems failed to pass this legislative session, despite a last-minute push.

Some lawmakers say the systems need more scrutiny from the legislature. They’ve criticized hefty fees paid to investment managers and devotion to so-called “alternative investments,” which they’ve said are too risky.

Chris Tobe, a former Kentucky Retirement Systems trustee who has been critical of the system, said investment managers should compete to manage Kentucky’s pension assets in public view.

“We need to have open contracts and some kind of documentation and bidding process. Secret backroom deals is not good government,” he said.

The bill would have revealed how much and to whom the pension systems pay to invest pension funds. Kentucky law exempts the investments from open records laws.

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The sponsor of bill seeking to designate the Bible as the official book of Tennessee has formally announced his bid to override Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's veto of the measure.

Haslam last week vetoed the bill over constitutional concerns of a government endorsement of religion and because he believes it "trivializes" the Bible. Supporters argue that measure seeks to honor the historic and economic significance of the Bible in Tennessee.

Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station filed notice of his intention to re-pass the bill during Monday night's House floor session, setting up a vote Wednesday.

The bill received 55 votes when it passed the House and 19 in the Senate. A veto override would require 50 votes in the 99-member House and 17 votes among 33 senators.

Federal prosecutors have replaced the type of criminal charge against former state Personnel Cabinet Secretary Tim Longmeyer, a legal maneuver that suggests he is cooperating with the government.

In documents filed Monday, the government withdrew its criminal bribery complaint against Longmeyer and indicated it would soon be filing a bill of information.

A bill of information, unlike a grand jury indictment, is usually a sign that a defendant is cooperating and intends to plead guilty. Prosecutors can choose to file an information when a defendant waives indictment by grand jury and agrees to cooperate.

The move was approved Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier, according to court records.

The order does not say when the new charge will be filed. Longmeyer is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court in Lexington on Wednesday.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The 2016 General Assembly achieved its main goal—passing a two year state budget—at the last minute of the session, but the legislature also passed well over 100 laws that have been signed by Gov. Matt Bevin so far.

Bevin has ten days to veto bills once they’ve reached his desk. He also has the power to strike out portions of bills through his line-item veto power.

Unless they’ve been designated “an emergency,” new laws will take effect 90 days after Bevin signs them–mid-July for most.

Here’s a rundown of some of the major bills that passed this session, and some that didn’t make it.

Passed Into Law

Budget: The $21 billion plan cuts state spending by about 9 percent over the next two years. Several programs are exempted from the cuts including the Department of Veterans Affairs, public school funding, Medicaid and financial aid for higher education. State troopers get a pay raise under the bill and funding to state colleges and universities will be cut by 4.5 percent.

LRC Public Information

10:40 p.m.: The state legislature approved a two-year, $21.5 billion budget that delivers deep cuts to state programs while putting more than $1.2 billion in savings into the pension systems.

The spending bill now heads to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk. He’ll have until April 27 to veto all or parts of the budget.

“This budget sends a strong signal to the financial and business communities that we take our financial obligations seriously,” Bevin said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing the details of the final bill over the coming days and signing a fiscally responsible budget into law.”

The legislature will not be able to override any vetoes because they ran out the clock on the legislative session. They normally have two legislative days to override.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

On Friday, lawmakers have one last opportunity to approve bills, override vetoes and — most importantly — pass a state budget before the legislative session gavels out midnight Friday night.

Gov. Matt Bevin has signed more than 100 bills into law, vetoed six and line-item vetoed parts of a seventh. If the governor vetoes a bill, lawmakers can override the decision with a majority vote in each chamber.

On Friday, lawmakers will have the opportunity to override vetoes Bevin has made so far, but once the legislature adjourns, they won’t be able to override.

Both chambers gavel in at noon on Friday. The General Assembly will end at the stroke of midnight.

Bills In Striking Distance:

Needle Exchange Regulations: Would require the department for public health to establish guidelines for disposing needles. The bill unanimously passed the House, but the Senate amended it to require exchanges to only hand out as many needles as they take in. The House is now considering the changes.

LRC Public Information

State lawmakers have come to an agreement on a budget that makes nearly across-the-board spending cuts, enacts performance funding for higher education and puts more money into the ailing state pension systems.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo called it “an adequate and effective blend” of the House, Senate and Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget priorities.

Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill was ready for a vote.

“I believe we have an agreement on all issues related to the budget,” Stivers said.

The final document is expected to be approved by both legislative chambers on Friday, the last day of the General Assembly.

Grant Short

An Owensboro man who hopes to replace Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator says lawmakers need to do more to strengthen working-class families. 

Grant Short is seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Republican incumbent Rand Paul. 

In Bowling Green on Wednesday, Short talked about his Family Values Plan that calls for child care subsidies, federal sick days, and universal Pre-K, among other things.  Short added that he has a plan to pay for it all.

"I've high-balled this at $1.8 billion to implement over ten years," Short told WKU Public Radio.  "The way you pay for it is by subsidizing human beings the same way as subsidized global oil companies.  We subsidize them on a rate of a trillion dollars, so I think we can find one-tenth of that to subsidize the American family who is struggling."

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Budget negotiations are scheduled to resume in Frankfort this afternoon. Lawmakers have only hours to hammer out a final compromise in time for the end of the legislative session.

Legislators have to come to an agreement by early Thursday morning to get a budget document prepared for a vote in both legislative chambers sometime on Friday, when the General Assembly officially ends.

Budget talks are expected to go into the early morning.

The stakes of meeting the deadline are high: Yesterday, Gov. Matt Bevin announced he would not call a special legislative session to give lawmakers more time to negotiate.

If lawmakers don’t reach an agreement by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the state will be thrown into a partial government shutdown, with only necessary government services staying open.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed a bill that will allow some Class D felonies to be cleared from criminal records five years after a sentence is completed.

The felony expungement bill failed in the legislature for more than a decade largely because of Republican opposition from the Senate. But Bevin, a Republican, said he would support the bill on the campaign trail last year and has now followed through on the promise, signing it into law on Tuesday.

“It is critical that there is an opportunity for redemption, that there is an opportunity for second chances, because America is a land that was founded on these principles,” Bevin said.

The new policy would apply to 61 Class D felonies, which constitute about 70 percent of Class D felonies committed. Some of the most frequently committed offenses are failure to pay child support, possession of a controlled substance and theft.

LRC Public Information

If lawmakers fail to pass a state budget by the end of the legislative session on Friday, Gov. Matt Bevin says he won’t call a special legislative session to give them more time.

If a two-year budget doesn’t pass by June 30, the state will be thrown into a partial government shutdown. Nonetheless, Bevin is adamant that he won’t give lawmakers more time.

“I will not reward the inability to do the job that people were sent here for by paying them extra money,” Bevin said. “The job can get done. I believe the job will get done because the job should get done.”

The Legislative Research Commission estimates that it costs about $63,000 each day the legislature meets.

Only the governor can call a special session.

Lawmakers have been deadlocked over the budget for weeks and have now run into a hard deadline: The constitution won’t allow the legislative session to go past April 15.