Political news

A state lawmaker is calling for a refund of all but $10,000 of the $46,000 paid for development of a new Tennessee state logo.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Rep. Martin Daniel made the request in a letter sent last week to executives of GS&F, the Nashville advertising firm that developed the logo, with copies to Gov. Bill Haslam and state General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby, whose department oversaw the firm's contract with the state.

In his letter, the Knoxville Republican said the company was "substantially over-compensated for its work on the project."

GS&F official Gregg Boling says the agency presented multiple concepts and stands behind its work. Haslam spokesman Dave Smith says the governor's office is aware of Daniel's concerns.

The square logo featuring the white letters TN on a red field above a blue bar has drawn criticism for its price tag and for being simplistic.

Critics Blast Hiring of Cabinet Official's Husband

Jul 6, 2015

The hiring of a Kentucky cabinet official's husband has been questioned by critics who say the hiring represents a conflict of interest and a misuse of funds that could be better spent on helping overworked and underpaid social workers.

The Courier-Journal reports that Bob James, the husband of Teresa James, the commissioner of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services' social service agency, has been hired for the new role of assisting the cabinet's Inspector General's office.

Cabinet spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said in a statement that officials see no conflict in having Bob James work at the same cabinet as his wife.

Julie Denton, a former state senator from Louisville, says Bob James' $50,000 salary should instead be going toward fixing the problem of high turnover among state social workers.

Two women are running this year for Kentucky’s second-highest office.  Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green is the lieutenant governor nominee on a Republican ticket headed by Matt Bevin. 

Hampton ran unsuccessfully for State Representative Jody Richard’s seat in 2014. 

Hampton touts her private sector experience and says she and Bevin will focus on making Kentucky a right-to-work state and addressing the state’s pension shortfall, which she believes threatens economic development.

"It could have a dampening effect on everything we do," Hampton told WKU Public Radio.  "Let's say we do everything else right.  We get our tax code revamped and we become a right-to-work state.  If a company is looking at our balance sheet and sees that we do not have a viable plan to address our $34 billion shortfall, they still may not come."

Hampton is a former businesswoman and Air Force veteran.  If elected, she would become Kentucky’s first African American statewide officeholder. 

On the Democratic side, State Representative Sannie Overly is on a ticket headed by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.

Lightning Strikes Monument Honoring Confederate President

Jul 3, 2015
Kentucky Department of Parks

As Kentucky officials began considering what to do with a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol, lightning struck a concrete obelisk that stands at his birthplace in Western Kentucky.

WHAS-TV reports chunks of the obelisk went flying when it was struck in Fairview, about 200 miles away from Frankfort.

Spokesman Gil Lawson of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said the monument had minor damage from the strike Friday but no structural damage. No injuries were reported.

A day earlier, the state Historic Properties Advisory Commission agreed to seek input from the public and art and history experts about the fate of the Capitol statue.

Several state leaders have endorsed moving the Davis statue in response to a shooting rampage that killed nine black people in a South Carolina church.

Kentucky's two major party candidates for governor are not taking a day off for Independence Day.

Republican nominee Matt Bevin and Democratic nominee Jack Conway will be traveling the state on Saturday to participate in a variety of Independence Day celebrations as both seek to become Kentucky's next governor. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Bevin and Conway are scheduled to participate in the Campbellsville Fourth of July celebration, which includes speeches and a parade. Bevin will then walk in the Fort Mitchell Parade at noon while Conway will walk in the Lexington Fourth of July parade at 2 p.m.

The two candidates are scheduled to appear together on July 23 at the Measure the Candidates forum at the Kentucky Farm Bureau.


U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell weighed in on the 2016 presidential race at a luncheon in downtown Lexington Thursday. 

The Senate Majority Leader warned against the crowded field of Republican candidates getting too contentious. There are fourteen politicians jockeying to secure the Republican nomination for president next year.

McConnell warned against the race becoming unnecessarily brutal.

“You saw in the Kentucky governor’s primary if you get into a fight with somebody else in a multi-field candidate you could end up taking yourself down and whoever you’re feuding with down and somebody else benefits from it.”   

Former Republican candidates for governor Hal Heiner and James Comer launched attacks at one another, and on Election Day got bested by Matt Bevin, who stayed out of the fight for the most part. McConnell never made an official endorsement in the primary. It was widely speculated he and Bevin didn’t get along-- Bevin never endorsed McConnell after getting beaten by him in last year’s U.S. Senate race.


Campaign finance records filed last week reveal a late burst of six-figure donations to James Comer in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor last month, with similar sums going to a political organization aiming to defeat the eventual primary winner, Matt Bevin.

These latest records shed light on so-called “unauthorized campaign committees,” which can raise and spend money to support or oppose candidates — without the authorization of candidates themselves. Unlike personal donations that are capped at $1,000 in Kentucky, the committees can donate as much as they’d like.

According to candidates’ reports filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, two of these committees spent $743,250 during the period May 6-June 18, about half for Comer, half against Bevin.

Last month Bevin defeated Comer by 83 votes to win the Republican nomination to oppose Democrat Jack Conway in the Nov. 3 election for governor. A millionaire businessman from Louisville, Bevin received no support from unauthorized committees in the May-June reporting period.

omer’s 11th-hour boost came from Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity & Prosperity, a committee headed by investment adviser and Republican fundraiser Richard Knock of Union, in Northern Kentucky. It gave Comer $315,000, mostly in the week before the primary. The money helped Comer pay for more than $300,000 in TV ads in May.

When President Barack Obama visits Nashville to tout his health care law, he's unlikely to say much, if anything, about a failed plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told The Associated Press ahead of Obama's visit on Wednesday that he's expected to discuss building on the progress made under the Affordable Care Act.

When asked about Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to expand Medicaid, Burwell said Insure Tennessee "isn't the focus of the visit."

The plan sought to extend coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans. The proposal failed in a special legislative session in February, was then revived during the regular session -- only to be killed again in a Senate committee.

Supporters held a news conference earlier this week to renew an effort to try to pass the plan.

With a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected any day now, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says state agencies are making preparations should the justices vote to allow gay marriage. 

"One area would be in taxation," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.  "Our revenue department is looking at that in terms of filing a joint married return."

The wording on marriage license forms would also have to change to accommodate same-sex couples. 

Beshear said his administration has anticipated the ruling going each way and have steps in place to comply if the nation's highest court orders the commonwealth to allow and recognize same-sex marriages.

Many legal scholars expect the Supreme Court to strike down Kentucky’s prohibition on gay marriage.  A federal judge last year struck down the ban, but a federal appeals court reversed the ruling.

LRC Public Information

Former Democratic state Rep. Keith Hall is scheduled to testify in his own defense Thursday during a federal corruption trial.

Hall is accused of paying a state mine inspector tens of thousands of dollars to overlook safety violations at coal mines Hall owned. That mine inspector, Kelly Shortridge, has pleaded guilty to soliciting a bribe.

On Wednesday, Shortridge told a federal jury Hall paid him $25,000 for favors and he expected Hall to use his position on the House Natural Resources Committee to get Shortridge promoted.

Hall's attorney, Brent Caldwell, acknowledged that Hall paid Shortridge. But he said the payments were legitimate business transactions because Hall paid Shortridge as a consultant to help find people to work his coal mines. He said Hall never once asked Shortridge for favors.