Politics

Political news

Kentucky LRC

The state House is poised to take up a bill to defund Planned Parenthood this week, amid a rightward swing in Kentucky politics in which long-awaited legislation limiting abortion rights has already been signed into law.

The bill to divert funds from Planned Parenthood clinics in the state has already passed the Senate. A pro-life contingent in the Democratic-controlled House has already helped get the legislation a first reading; the bill needs three readings before a vote by the full House.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved the legislation, which would block Planned Parenthood from getting about $331,000 in federal Title X funding. The vote is largely symbolic; Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced last month that it would stop accepting Title X funds when it began providing abortion services in Louisville.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, said he’ll continue to push the Democratic leadership to take up the bill.

LRC Public Information

The top Kentucky House Republican says GOP-backed legislation to ban labor unions from requiring employees to join them is unlikely to get a House vote this year.

House GOP Leader Jeff Hoover said Friday that right-to-work legislation isn't among the top priorities for House Republicans. Senate Republicans have identified it as one of their main priorities.

Hoover's announcement comes two days after a U.S. District Judge in Kentucky ruled that local right-to-work ordinances passed by 12 counties in the commonwealth are illegal.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says right-to-work legislation doesn't have "a snowball's chance" of passing the Democratic-controlled House.

But House Republicans have been using procedural motions to try to force House votes on some bills. Hoover is downplaying the chances of such maneuvering for the right-to-work bill.

Hoover says he plans to keep pushing for an eventual House vote on legislation to put Planned Parenthood clinics last in line for family planning funds.

LRC Public Information

A bill that would eliminate the prevailing wage on public school projects on Thursday failed to pass a House committee.

The prevailing wage is the pay rate for construction workers on public works projects and is set by the state Labor Cabinet.

State Rep. Regina Bunch, a Republican from Williamsburg, argued that the wage is artificially high and drives up costs in public school budgets.

“To me it is simply just bad public policy for government to assist any group and guarantee wages and stifle competition,” Bunch said

Republicans in the state legislature have for years proposed bills to repealing parts or all of the prevailing wage.

U.S. Congress

Former U.S. Sen. Marlow Cook of Kentucky, a moderate Republican and one of the first GOP senators to call for the resignation of Richard Nixon, has died at age 89.

Cook was part of a Republican resurgence in the 1960s, returning the GOP to the Jefferson County judge-executive office in 1961 and winning a Senate seat in 1968. He also influenced future Kentucky leaders; Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth interned for Cook in Jefferson County and served as an aide in his Senate office.

“I remember him not only as my first boss, but also as someone who directly and significantly shaped my life and the lives of so many in public life,” Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth later switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Another of Cook’s notable hires was Mitch McConnell, who chaired Cook’s youth campaign in Kentucky when he ran for U.S. Senate in 1968 and then worked as Cook’s aide until 1970. McConnell would follow Cook’s steps, serving as judge-executive and then in the Senate, where is the majority leader.

LRC Public Information

The state Senate on Tuesday approved striking from the budget a portion of the state’s contribution to Planned Parenthood, with the bill’s supporters pointing to the Louisville branch’s recent efforts to begin providing abortions.

The bill is largely symbolic. The state gets about $5.6 million in federal Title X funds, which are supposed to go to family planning and reproductive health programs. About $331,000 of that went to Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. But in December, the Louisville Planned Parenthood branch opted out of Title X funding.

State Sen. Max Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, said he introduced the bill in reaction to undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

“Until more significant changes can be made at the federal level, we must do what we can to keep public funds from groups like Planned Parenthood, which callously profit from death,” Wise said.

Kentucky Lawmakers Form Bipartisan Automotive Caucus

Feb 3, 2016
Flickr/Creative Commons

Kentucky lawmakers are banding together to promote the state's automotive industry.

Dozens of lawmakers from both political parties on Tuesday started an Automotive Caucus to work with an industry that officials say employs more than 136,500 people in Kentucky.

The Bluegrass State ranks third nationally in car production and second in light truck production.

Caucus members have pledged to work with the automotive industry in coming years on such key issues as workforce training, tax policies and technology development. Auto manufacturers say they're especially interested in developing the next generation of manufacturing workers for their plants.

LRC Public Information

Kentucky jailers who don’t have a jail to run would have to file quarterly progress reports with their county fiscal courts under a bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday.

In 41 Kentucky counties, local jails have closed for budgetary or compliance reasons since the 1970s. All of those counties still have a jailer — a constitutionally required office in Kentucky — but many of those jailers don’t do much, according to a 2015 report from WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

The bill passed the Republican-led Senate 32-5.

State Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican from Paducah, proposed the bill, which would also require fiscal courts to outline no-jail jailers’ duties every year.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Adrian Sampson

State legislators are once again being called upon to allow casino gambling in Kentucky as a way to pump revenue into the ailing pension systems for public employees.

Expanded gaming has been pushed during legislative sessions for years as an answer to Kentucky’s financial woes, but it’s never gotten enough traction to pass.

That doesn’t mean the supporters will stop pushing. On Tuesday, Greater Louisville Inc. announced its support for a bill proposed by two Louisville state senators. In a news release, GLI noted that Kentucky loses tax revenue each year to casinos in bordering states.

“These are dollars that could be going toward our state deficit and our significant pension obligations,” GLI President Kent Oyler said in the news release.

Here’s what you should know about the new gambling bill:

Lisa Autry

An attorney for the father of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says a federal grand jury has subpoenaed him and two of his businesses for records relating to his daughter's political campaigns.

Grimes, a Democrat, was re-elected in November. She lost a race for U.S. Senate against Republican Mitch McConnell in 2014. Her father, Jerry Lundergan, has been heavily involved in her campaigns.

Attorney Guthrie True said the subpoenas were issued last week. Grimes' attorneys, David Guarnieri and Jason Blandford, confirmed the U.S. Attorney's Office has requested "certain documents" from Grimes' campaigns.

U.S. Attorney spokesman Kyle Edelen said he could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

Grimes' attorneys said she was not the target of an inquiry. Lundergan's attorney said prosecutors indicated he wasn't either.

LRC Public Information

The “informed consent” abortion bill is heading to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk, and he’s expected to sign it.

The state Senate concurred on Monday with the House’s version of the legislation, which would require women seeking an abortion to meet with a doctor 24 hours in advance of the procedure in person or over live video

The bill, which passed the Senate 33-5, would be Bevin’s first signed into law.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer applauded the bill, which he says will make women think more carefully about getting an abortion.

“It is my hope and my fervent prayer that they will think twice about the action that they are about to take,” said Thayer, a Republican.

Kentucky already has an informed consent law on the books, but it allows women to have the meetings over the phone.

Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Former Kentucky state Sen. Georgia Powers has died.

Powers was the first African American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate, where she served for 21 years beginning in 1968.

She was 92.

Powers was born in Springfield in Washington County, but she grew up in Louisville. She became involved in social justice work during the Civil Rights Movement and helped organize the March on Frankfort in 1964.

The first bill she sponsored as a state senator was to provide equity in housing.

Powers lived most of her life in West Louisville and was a champion of its neighborhoods. A portion of Interstate 264 is named for her.

LRC Public Information

Hours after Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced its Louisville clinic had begun providing abortions, the state House approved a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to meet — in person or via video conference — with a doctor at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The bill, which passed 92-3, is a victory for Republicans who have failed to pass so-called “informed consent” bills through the Democratic-led House for more than a decade.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, called it a “historic day.”

“The informed consent law was something that many of us have long fought for, many members of our caucus, and we knew members of our majority caucus would vote for it if we could ever get it there,” Hoover said.

The bill originally required the meetings to take place in person, but the video conference option was added during an unposted committee hearing that took place in an office during the middle of the day’s proceedings.

Abbey Oldham

As U.S. Senator Rand Paul prepares for a Republican presidential debate Thursday night, a former Kentucky House Speaker says Democrats could benefit from Paul’s White House bid.

Glasgow attorney Bobby Richardson was a state Representative from 1972-1990, and served as House Speaker during the 1982 and 1984 General Assembly sessions.

Richardson says whoever emerges as the Democrat’s nominee for U.S. Senate should remind voters Paul is seeking two offices at the same time.

“I think he needs to say he’s running for the United States Senate, and I’m going to be a Senator. I’m not going to be running for President, and I’m not going to be running for anything else. I’m going to be there taking care of business.”

The Kentucky Republican Party is holding a presidential caucus March 5 so that Paul can run for re-election to the Senate and seek the White House simultaneously.

Kentucky LRC

A top state pension executive told legislators on Wednesday that a bill requiring greater transparency of the pension systems for Kentucky’s public employees would be harmful to his agency.

Regardless, a Senate committee unanimously approved the bill.

The bill would make the pension systems for state workers, teachers and state officials subject to open records requests. Pension managers would also have to disclose investment holdings, fees and manager commissions.  Investment contracts would be subject to review by the state auditor and legislative committees.

State Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro, said the changes have been demanded by Kentucky residents.

“They want accountability, they want transparency and they want us to have the capacity to be proactive on these challenges that we’re facing in today’s world, as opposed to being reactive,” Bowen said.

Rob Canning, WKMS

Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed 9 percent cuts to most state government agencies over the next two years in an effort to reduce state spending by $650 million.

Bevin proposed his first budget on Tuesday evening in an address to the Kentucky General Assembly, which will use much of the 2016 session to forge a state spending plan based, at least in part, on Bevin’s proposal.

Bevin, a Republican, entered office last month promising to put Kentucky’s “financial house in order.” His Democratic predecessor, Steve Beshear, offered an optimistic outlook of Kentucky’s fiscal shape before he left office. But Bevin has taken a dimmer view, citing underfunded pension systems and a $250 million payment for expanded Medicaid.

Bevin said Tuesday he would also issue an executive order to cut state spending by 4.5 percent across the board during the current fiscal year, which ends in June.

During a meeting with reporters Tuesday before his formal budget address, Bevin said individual cabinet secretaries would responsible for cutting the budgets of state agencies they oversee.

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