Political news

Presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Rand Paul says he won’t attend the Fancy Farm political picnic next month. 

Paul is also running for re-election to his Senate seat next year, and some analysts say this could prompt future challengers to criticize Paul for not paying attention to his home state while he runs for two offices simultaneously.

Al Cross with the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues says Fancy Farm is a must stop for any politician in Kentucky running for statewide office.

"People in far western Kentucky who are very isolated from the rest of the state expect statewide politicians to come ask for their votes," Cross noted.

But Rand Paul is also battling it out for the Republican Presidential nomination in a very crowded race. So, even though he’s also running for his Senate seat next year—Paul recently told the press he won’t be going to Fancy Farm.

"I think right now they have me in New Hampshire that weekend," explained Paul.

Cross says it’s not surprising Paul is focusing on looming presidential primaries. There are more than a dozen people running for the Republican nomination.  Paul doesn’t have any challengers yet for his Senate seat. Cross says if he does get an opponent, missing Fancy Farm could become a campaign issue.

"I think it does provide an opening for people who want to criticize him for not concentrating on his Senate job," stated Cross.

Rand Paul attended the picnic last year and says he plans to be there in 2016.

Six state lawmakers are being tasked with finding solutions to Kentucky’s under-funded retirement system for public school teachers. 

Legislators debated a plan in this year’s General Assembly session that would have borrowed more than $3 billion in bonds to shore up KTRS. 

State Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro was among Republicans who objected to taking on more debt.

"Our opinion was that it was a huge risk to do this and if things didn't work out we stood the chance of jeopardizing the plan even further," Bowen said.

Senator Bowen is one of the appointees of the committee that will offer new recommendations to the governor by December 1.  The panel will have its first meeting on Friday. 

Bowen told WKU Public Radio that new money must be found to invest into KTRS and structural changes are required that will likely affect new hires.

"They're going to be looking at a new retirement plan," stated Bowen.  "We not talking about going from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.  That's never been part of the conversation, but what we are saying is that new hires will probably have to work longer."

Bowen says the KTRS work group will also have to address pension spiking and cost of living adjustments in order to bring a long-term impact to the pension system. 

KTRS, which covers about 120,000 active and retired members, has an unfunded liability of $14 billion.

Rand Paul Doesn't Know if Clerks Can Deny Gay Marriages

Jul 14, 2015

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul doesn't know whether county clerks in his home state have a constitutional claim to religious liberty in defense of their refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Paul said he is "not a legal authority on that" and isn't sure whether the clerks have a legitimate objection in their defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing gay marriage.

He is one of 15 Republicans campaigning for the presidential nomination. Paul stopped at a summer camp in Louisville Monday, just as a federal court hearing began in Ashland over whether clerks can claim a religious exemption to issuing same-sex licenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who has stopped issuing licenses altogether to avoid issuing them to gay couples.

Rep. Young Joins Indiana Senate Race for Coats' Seat

Jul 13, 2015
Office of U.S. Congressman Todd Young, R-IN

U.S. Representative Todd Young has announced he will run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Republican Dan Coats.

Young, a three-term congressman from southern Indiana, made the announcement Sunday in a video released by his campaign. U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and former Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb previously announced they were seeking the GOP nomination, while former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill is the lone Democrat to announcer. Hill defeated by Young for the 9th District seat in 2010.

Young said he is running for Senate on the ideals of limited, effective government and individual liberty. In the House, he has worked to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

He says in the video he wants to ensure that every Hoosier family has a better future.

Same-Sex Marriage Back in Court in Kentucky

Jul 13, 2015

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments about a county clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is one of a handful of local officials across the country who has refused to comply with the court's order because she says it violates her religious beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Davis on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples who were denied marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, son of former Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, is scheduled to hear arguments about the case on Monday at noon in Ashland.

Republican leaders in Kentucky are still figuring out whether a presidential caucus next year is feasible.

The vote allowing Senator Rand Paul to run for both his seat in the Senate and the White House is less than two months away, but many details still need to be hammered out.

Scott Lasley is the chair of a special committee created by the Republican Party of Kentucky. The group is working to plan how a presidential caucus in 2016 would work. Lasley’s plan will eventually need approval from state party leaders, and he says it’s not a sure thing yet that this idea will get approved.

"I think a lot of people are still waiting to hear the details in terms of what the process is going to look at and what it's going to entail," comments Lasley.

Among those Republican state leaders waiting for details is Jim Skaggs.

"The two things I am most concerned with is that we make it fair and accessible to all registered Republican voters and that the cost is somehow covered," Skaggs states.

The whole effort is aimed at coming up with a system that would allow Senator Rand Paul to run for both president and his current seat in the U.S. Senate next year, but the state party would have to foot the bill for a caucus. So far, Paul’s campaign has said it would help defray the costs if the caucus is approved.

There’s also the issue of getting county party chairs around the state to agree to this plan. County chairs would be in charge of carrying out the caucus.

Both Lasley and Skaggs say there is support among party leaders to figure this out, though. For one, a caucus would make Kentucky stand out during the election, and it could possibly help get one of the state’s most prominent politicians in the White House.

Bevin: Kentucky Should Stop Issuing Marriage Licenses

Jul 10, 2015

Kentucky's Republican nominee for governor says the state should stop issuing marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Matt Bevin said in a news release the government should be out of the marriage business altogether, saying two consenting adults should not need to ask for permission to enter into a contractual relationship. In the meantime, he said state officials should take steps to protect local officials who object to same-sex marriage for religious reasons.

At least two county clerks in Kentucky have stopped issuing marriage licenses after the ruling because they say issuing a license to a same-sex couple violates their religious beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis over the issue, and a hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Kentucky County Judge Executive Association

In the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide, some county judge-executives in Kentucky have stopped presiding over marriages altogether rather than perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. 

John Settles, president of the Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association, estimates about half of the state’s county leaders have turned away same-sex couples while the other half have not.

"One in particular said we all have sinned, even heterosexuals," Settles commented to WKU Public Radio.  "He figures that everyone he marries is a sinner anyway, and he can't discriminate between the sins."

As judge-executive of Washington County, Settles has performed about 350 marriages in his 16 years in office, but since the Supreme Court ruling, he has stopped the practice due to his religious beliefs. 

"I have a strong belief in the Bible as the word of God and I believe the Bible states that marriage is to be between one man and one woman," Settles states.  "It's my firm belief that that's the way it was intended to be from the very beginning."

While county clerks are bound by state law to issue marriage licenses, judge-executives are not required to perform marriage ceremonies.

Kentucky Clerk says Governor Told Him to Issue Licenses or Resign

Jul 9, 2015

A Kentucky county clerk said the state's Democratic governor told him he should either issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or resign from office.

Casey Davis met with Governor Steve Beshear Thursday.  Following the meeting, Beshear issued a statement saying he respected Davis' personal beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.

"However, when he was elected, he took a constitutional oath to uphold the United States Constitution. According to the United States Supreme Court, the Constitution now requires that governmental officials in Kentucky and elsewhere must recognize same-sex marriages as valid and allow them to take place," wrote Beshear.  "While there are two or three county court clerks still refusing to perform their duties, the rest of the county court clerks are complying with the law regardless of their personal beliefs. The courts and the voters will deal appropriately with the rest."

Davis said he would go to jail before he resigned and vowed he would not issue any marriage licenses in Casey County after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in all 50 states.

Davis is one of several local officials across the country that have refused to comply with the court's decision, citing religious objections. The American Civil Liberties Union has already sued Rowan County Clerk of Court Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses. A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments in that case on Monday.

On a 3-2 vote, the Owensboro City Commission has approved a measure that does away with primary elections for city offices.  Mayor Ron Payne says city primaries are unnecessary in non-partisan races.

"With a two-year city commission term, under the present system, you're elected one year and you're filing in January and starting to run again," Payne tells WKU Public Radio.  "You spend one year devoted to city business and the other year campaigning."

Opponents of the new Owensboro ordinance argue that primary elections allow candidates to interact more with voters. 

A state law that took effect in January allows cities to eliminate primaries. The law does not affect primaries for county, state, or federal offices.

Bowling Green voted last year to eliminate primary elections for city offices.