Politics

Political news

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex-marriage bans.

Less than a month shy of the primary election, three of Kentucky’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates debated Tuesday night in Bowling Green. 

The event at WKU featured Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, and former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner. 

If elected, all three pledged to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange known as Kynect. 

Comer said the state took on a lot of responsibility that it can’t afford.

"Eighty-two percent of the people who got on Kynect ended up on Medicaid," Comer explained.  "What Kynect became for Governor Beshear was a way to greatly expand Medicaid to the point to where we have 25 percent of the state on Medicaid, one out of four people.  That's not sustainable."

As governor, Comer said he would get more Kentuckians into private health coverage while changing eligibility requirements for Medicaid. 

Matt Bevin said he would transition those who signed up on Kentucky’s exchange to the federal exchange.

"Frankly, it's a level of redundancy we can't afford.  It's as simple as that," Bevin suggested.  "We were lured into participation through the use of federal dollars."

Starting in 2017, the state must begin bearing a share of the cost of expanding Medicaid.  Currently, the federal government is picking up the entire tab.

Hal Heiner suggested tying the Medicaid expansion to workforce training so people could get a job, get off of Medicaid, and obtain private insurance.  He criticized the Medicaid expansion for lacking any level of personal responsibility.

"It doesn't have what you're seeing conservative governors in other states adopt in their plans which build in incentives to use preventive care, to use primary care providers rather than emergency care, and to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the overall cost," Heiner stated. 

The candidates were mostly in agreement on range of economic topics from making Kentucky a right-to-work state to protecting the coal industry. 

The other GOP gubernatorial candidate, Will T. Scott did not attend the debate, citing a scheduling conflict.

Of the 138 members of the Kentucky General Assembly, 107 have signed a brief in support of Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage, which is part of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court today.

The amici curiae, or “friends of the court,” brief is signed by 76 of 100 members of the Democrat-led House and 31 out of 38 members of the Republican-led Senate.

The legislators argue that states have the right to define marriage as being between one man and one woman and that heterosexual married couples are optimal for raising children.

“Raising of children by same-sex couples, who by definition cannot be the two sole biological parents of a child and cannot provide children with a parental authority figure of each gender, presents an alternative structure for child rearing that has not yet proved itself beyond reasonable scientific dispute,” the lawmakers argue in the brief.

The brief is signed by 37 out of 65 Democrats in the legislature—a reminder that Kentucky Democrats often skew socially conservative, even in the Statehouse.

University of Kentucky political science professor Donald Gross said the brief could help Democrats who fear the political perception of being “anti-family values.”

“If you’re a pro-choice, pro-gay rights Democrat, that can be a very significant issue in the general election,” Gross said.

WKU

Three of Kentucky’s four GOP gubernatorial candidates are in Bowling Green Tuesday night for a debate at WKU.

Matt Bevin, James Comer, and Hal Heiner are scheduled to attend the event, which will focus on economic issues such as healthcare, taxes and spending, and job creation. Will T. Scott was also invited to attend, but has a scheduling conflict.

The debate at WKU is sponsored by the group Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by the conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch, as is co-sponsored by the WKU Political Science Department and National Review.

The debate begins at 7 pm Tuesday. The website handling the free tickets for the debate says they have all been given away.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Geoff Young says he is being unfairly slighted in Kentucky's primary election. The retired state engineer appeared Monday on KET'S Kentucky Tonight. Young is suing his opponent Attorney General Jack Conway and other powerful state democrats, claiming he is illegally being dismissed as a candidate before voters have a chance to make their choice. "I just strongly disagree with that idea," said Young. "It's not democratic. It resembles more like an organized crime operation than it does a political party."

Young was in court Monday before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate. He says the judge plans to rule Wednesday on motions to dismiss his suit.

Young's running mate, Jonathan Masters, also appeared on 'Kentucky Tonight.' Afterward, Masters said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage could place the Commonwealth as one of the leading southern states on the issue. "I think by being a pro friendly (state), it changes the culture, it changes who we are," Masters said. "Instead of saying we're going to be discriminating and bigoted, we're going to embrace people. So, I think we would see more gay people here and gay establishments."

Kentucky's primary election will be held on May 19.

Ashley Lopez, WFPL

Kentucky’s case before the Supreme Court started with a conversation between attorneys Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliott.

As they chatted in Fauver’s Louisville office, the U.S. Supreme Court was considering a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a piece of legislation that was an obstacle to same-sex marriage being made legal in the U.S.

“We were waiting actually for the Supreme Court on the Windsor case and at that point we didn’t know what the ruling was going to be—and they kept postponing,” Fauver said.

“And we were talking about what would happen next, like would be the next steps for anybody to take,” she said. “And we were talking about the fact that someone should file a lawsuit here, and we checked around and no one was talking about it.”

That conversation would lead to lawsuits that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kentucky State Capitol Evacuated for Possible Fire

Apr 24, 2015

The Kentucky state Capitol was evacuated Friday morning for a possible fire.

Firefighters searched the building before allowing people back inside. State workers and several elementary school tour groups huddled outside under clear skies while emergency crews showed up in one fire truck and two ambulances.

The Capitol reopened after about 15 minutes. Fire officials said it was a false alarm.

James Comer leads all Republican candidates for governor with more than $800,000 raised from individual donors in the first four months of 2015.

But the state agriculture commissioner has been outspent nearly 3 to 1 by Hal Heiner, the former Louisville Metro councilman who loaned his campaign more than $4 million last summer. Louisville businessman Matt Bevin has also been a big spender, loaning his campaign $1.25 million after filing for office in January and spending more than $1 million, mostly on TV commercials.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott's report was not available.

Both Comer and Heiner have more than $1 million in the bank less than a month before the primary. Bevin has just over $286,000. The candidates are scheduled to appear together at the Rotary Club of Louisville on Thursday.

Rand Paul's Son Cited for DUI After Car Crash in Kentucky

Apr 22, 2015

A son of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol in Kentucky.

Police in Lexington say William H. Paul was driving a 2006 Honda Ridgeline at 11:24 a.m. on Sunday when he crashed into the back of an unoccupied parked car. Some people nearby heard the crash and alerted authorities.

Lexington Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Paul was treated at the University of Kentucky hospital for minor injuries to his face. She said a police officer cited Paul for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and failure of a nonowner/operator to maintain insurance.

Paul was alone at the time of the crash. He was not arrested, which Roberts said is standard for this type of case.

A campaign spokesman said Sen. Rand Paul does not comment on any private matters in regards to his family.

Pointing to strong tax collections, state budget officials say Kentucky will likely avoid another budget shortfall. 

Revenues are expected to increase more than three percent in the budget year that ends June 30.  The state ended the 2014 budget year $90 million shortfall. 

While the revenue picture this year is much brighter, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards of Bowling Green says there are a lot of pent up needs.

"We've not be able to fund public education properly and we certainly haven't been able to fund our universities properly," Richards tells WKU Public Radio.  "The retirement systems are very challenging."

Starting in 2017, the state must also start contributing to the cost of expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law. 

Despite more revenue, Richards says it will be difficult to balance all the needs as lawmakers form a new two-year budget next session.

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