Political news

111 of 120 Kentucky Counties to Hold Caucuses on March 5

Dec 16, 2015

All but nine of Kentucky's counties will hold a caucus on March 5 as the state divides its delegates for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Republican Party of Kentucky announced 111 of the state's 120 counties will hold caucuses on March 5. Registered Republican voters in the other nine counties can participate in neighboring county caucuses or vote by absentee ballot.

Kentucky Republicans are holding a presidential caucus for the first time so that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul can run for president and re-election without violating a state law banning candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election.

Only registered Republicans can participate. The deadline to register is Dec. 31. Eight candidates have filed for the Kentucky caucus so far, including front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Richie Farmer to Move to Kentucky Halfway House

Dec 15, 2015
Kentucky News Network

Former state agriculture commissioner and University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer is scheduled to leave a federal prison in West Virginia for a halfway house in Kentucky.

Farmer is serving a 27-month sentence for misappropriating government resources while in office, including having state workers build a basketball court for him at his house. Farmer was a member of the 1991-92 University of Kentucky basketball team nicknamed "The Unforgettables."

Farmer's father told WLEX-TV his son will go to a halfway house in Lexington on Friday. Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Ed Ross confirmed Farmer is transitioning to a halfway house. Ross said Farmer will be under strict supervision but will be allowed to go out into the community to work or find a job.

Farmer is scheduled to be released in March.

Glasgow Businessman Chosen as Public Protection Secretary

Dec 15, 2015

Governor Matt Bevin has appointed a Glasgow businessman and former judge-executive to be secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet.

Bevin said David A. Dickerson of Glasgow is "a proven business leader and a trusted friend."

Dickerson was Barren County judge-executive from 1994 to 1999.

He started working in his family lumber business right out of high school and was most recently the company's corporate officer. He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University.

The Public Protection Cabinet oversees the Department of Insurance, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Department of Financial Institutions and Department of Charitable Gaming, among others.

Kentucky LRC

In appointing Democratic Rep. John Tilley as secretary of the Justice and Public Protection Cabinet, Gov.

Matt Bevin simultaneously gained a knowledgeable mind in his cabinet and delivered a surgical strike at Democrats.

Tilley was of one of the Democrats’ most influential policymakers in the state House.

The move on Thursday also reduces Democrats’ House majority for the upcoming legislative session to 52 of 97 seats. A total of three seats will soon be empty.

Republicans have made a goal of flipping the House, which is the last Democratic-controlled legislative chamber in the South.

The top Democrat in the Kentucky state legislature reacted angrily to the departure of Tilley and the party-switch by another House Democrat.

At least six House Democrats have told Speaker Greg Stumbo they’ve been approached by Republicans urging them to switch their party affiliation, he said.

“They want to know what we want, what’s our price?” Stumbo said, adding that promises of appointments, campaign contributions and jobs for family members have been put on the table.

Editor's Note: Some readers might find some of the language below offensive.

This post was updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

Donald Trump has made his most outrageous statement yet in a string of beyond-the-pale utterances.

Bevin Appoints Democrat to Lead Justice Cabinet

Dec 10, 2015
LRC Public Information

Republican Governor Matt Bevin has appointed an influential Democratic lawmaker to be the next secretary of the Justice and Public Safety cabinet.

State Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville is a former prosecutor and the first Democrat Bevin has appointed to his administration. The move gives Tilley a significant salary increase while damaging Democrats' efforts to keep control of the House of Representatives.

Republicans are just four seats shy of a majority in the House after Democratic state Rep. Denver Butler switched parties last month. The appointment will trigger a special election in Tilley's district, where Republicans have a good chance of winning.

In a news release, Tilley said he was "honored" to serve in Bevin's administration.

As his term ends, Gov. Steve Beshear has issued 201 pardons to people convicted in Kentucky of a variety of offenses, including several sent to prison for drug crimes or for committing crimes against abusive partners.

Beshear also granted six commutations, reducing a sentence to time already served in jail.

He leaves office at midnight, when incoming Gov. Matt Bevin officially takes office. Bevin will be ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday.

Beshear said he received more than 3,400 requests for pardons that he and his staff reviewed for several months.

Matt Bevin has taken the oath to become the 62nd governor of Kentucky during a private ceremony just after midnight in the state Capitol.

Bevin succeeds Democrat Steve Beshear, who could not seek re-election because of term limits. Bevin is only the state's ninth Republican governor in its 223-year history and the second since 1971.

In brief comments after taking the oath of office, Bevin said, "It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to be the tip of the spear for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, it really is. If Republican and Democrat alike, if we rise to the occasion that has been presented to us for a fresh start, for a new day then the greatest days of the Commonwealth of Kentucky are yet to come."

A full day of events is scheduled for Tuesday, including a worship service, a parade and a public swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps.

An investment manager from Louisville, Bevin has never held public office. He started his political career by losing badly to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Senate primary.

But Bevin came back to win the Republican primary for governor by just 83 votes. He defeated Democrat Jack Conway in November.

Kentucky Governor's Office

After eight years, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear leaves office next week.  In this interview with WKU Public Radio's Lisa Autry, the two-term Democrat talks about his accomplishments, regrets, and future plans.

The country was in a recession when you took office in 2008.  Are you satisfied with how you are leaving Kentucky's economy?

I'm very excited about where we are from an economic standpoint in Kentucky.  As you mentioned, when I came into office, the Great Recession had just hit us in the face.  All our families and state government were suffering, but we worked through it, and look today at just how far we've come.  We got up to 11% unemployment during the recession.  We're now at 4.9%.   That's lower than the national average and it's lower than most states.  We have created a lot of jobs and more are coming online.  We just announced 2,000 more jobs at the Ford plant in Louisville.  Our economy is beginning to boom.  It's not all over the state.  In our coalfields, we've got some issues, but overall, I feel very good about the economy.

As you leave office, tax revenue is expected to grow in coming years and the state is expected to have a budget surplus at the end of this fiscal year, but your successor has said the state is in a "financial crisis" considering the $500 million in additional expenses in the next budget in areas like pensions and Medicaid.  How do you respond?

The incoming administration is going to start off with a better financial picture than I've had for eight years.  They ought to be excited about that because the economy is booming and they're going to have a lot more revenue to deal with in terms of what they want to do for Kentucky.  There are always more demands for money than there is money, but that's what leadership is all about.  You have to make tough choices and decide what your priorities are.  You have to move the money around to where you think it will do the most good.  They're going to being able to support education, they'll be able to continue the health care advances we've made, and they'll be able to come up with a long-term solution for the teacher's pension system.  We did that during my eight years with KERS, and they'll be able to do that for this too.  So, they're in good shape and they're in a lot better shape than I ever was.

Kentucky LRC

Galvanized by Republican Matt Bevin’s election as governor and a dwindling Democratic majority in the state House, Senate Republicans will this week decide 10 bills to prioritize during the upcoming legislative session.

The GOP has a 27-11 majority in the state Senate.

Though the official shortlist of bills hasn’t been made, on Wednesday GOP leaders said they’ll be pushing for a familiar collection of legislation for right-to-work policies, charter schools and tort reform. The 2016 session starts next month.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, said the election of Bevin bodes well on his caucus’ priorities.

“Now having a governor who won by nine points last month, we think that validates the policy stance that the Kentucky Senate has taken on so many issues for so many years,” Thayer said.

Senate Republicans will still have to contend with a six-seat Democratic majority in the House, which could prevent any bill from being sent to the governor’s desk.

Governor Steve Beshear will leave office with tax revenue expected to grow in the coming years and the state is predicted to have a budget surplus at the end of this fiscal year, but ooming expenses will likely cloud those sunny projections.

A report from outgoing State Budget Director Jane Driskell shows that the state will have to find another $500 million to help pay down additional expenses over the next two fiscal years. 

Among those expenses are $1 billion in contributions to the teacher pension system over the next biennium. Also, the state is facing $575 million in additional Medicaid expenses, which includes $212 million to cover the cost of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The budget will play a dominant role in the General Assembly session starting in January. Incoming Governor Matt Bevin has already suggested spending cuts, though he has offered few specifics on what programs or departments could lose funding.

Bevin has named Louisville accountant John Chilton as the state's next budget director.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul is moving forward with his dual campaigns in Kentucky.

On Monday, Paul filed to run in both the Kentucky Republican presidential caucus on March 5 and for re-election to his current seat in the U.S. Senate.

Kentucky’s presidential caucus is being held by the state Republican Party in an effort to help Paul skirt a state law prohibiting candidates from appearing twice on a ballot. The caucus allows him to run for re-election to the Senate while also drawing home state support in his bid for the White House.

ACLU Sues Indiana Gov. Pence For Blocking Syrian Refugees

Nov 24, 2015
Office of IN Governor

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is being sued for blocking Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana.

The Indianapolis Star reports that the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit Monday night on behalf of Indianapolis-based nonprofit Exodus Refugee Immigration. It accuses Pence of violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by accepting refugees from other countries but not from Syria.

The lawsuit comes about a week after Pence objected to plans for refugees to arrive in Indiana following the deadly attacks in Paris. A family that fled war-torn Syria was diverted from Indianapolis to Connecticut on Nov. 18 when Pence ordered state agencies to halt resettlement activities.

Pence has said that he opposes the resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state until he can be assured that proper security measures are in place. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week calling for stricter security measures for Syrian refugees to enter the U.S.

An official from Pence’s office didn’t return the newspaper’s request for comment late Monday.

Office of Ky Governor

Gov. Steve Beshear will sign an executive order restoring voting rights to non-violent felons in Kentucky who have completed their sentences.

Beshear made the announcement Tuesday in Frankfort. The executive order excludes people convicted of bribery, sex crimes or treason, he said.

“The right to vote is one of the most intrinsically American privileges, and thousands of Kentuckians are living, working and paying taxes in the state but are denied this basic right,” said Beshear, a Democrat. “Once an individual has served his or her time and paid all restitution, society expects them to reintegrate into their communities and become law-abiding and productive citizens. A key part of that transition is the right to vote.”

Beshear said the executive order will make about 180,000 Kentuckians eligible to vote.

Democratic Kentucky House Member Switching Parties

Nov 20, 2015
LRC Public Information

A Kentucky state House representative says he has switched parties and will run for re-election as a Republican.

Rep. Denver Butler filed for re-election on Thursday as a Republican, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State's office. His switch means Republicans are just four seats short of a majority, something they have not had in nearly a century. Kentucky is the only southern state to have a Democratic controlled House of Representatives.

But Republicans are losing two members who won statewide election earlier this month. State Rep. Ryan Quarles will become agriculture commissioner and Rep. Mike Harmon will become Auditor in January. Their seats will be filled after a special election sometime next year.

Butler is a former police officer who was first elected to the House in 2012.