RSS

‘Comment’ will air live Friday night from Fancy Farm

“Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network, will air live Friday night from the grounds of Saturday’s Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County.

The picnic traditionally kicks off fall political campaigns in Kentucky.

The guests for this weekend’s TV show with interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV will be Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service, Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal and Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The show will air live at 8 p.m. EDT.

The Monday, Aug. 4 edition of Kentucky Tonight at 8 p.m. on KET will be preempted by Fancy Farm 2014, a special highlights program.

–Jack Brammer

Lawmaker takes issue with Stumbo’s comments on Ark park

State Rep. Brian LinderBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — State Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, expressed disappointment Thursday over House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s comments this week that the state should not provide tax incentives for a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.

Linder, who represents Grant, Gallatin and Owen counties in the House’s 61st District, said in a news release that Stumbo’s comments “appear to tell those who want to bring economic opportunity to the commonwealth that Kentucky is closed for business, which only serves to further drive other businesses out of our state.”

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this week that Grant County needs more economic development but that the use of tax incentives for the park is unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s mandate for separation of church and state.

He predicted that the incentives will be challenged in court and the state would lose.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Authority has given its preliminary approval for as much as $18.25 million in tax incentives for the $73 million first phase of the biblical theme park. It is to consider final approval after a feasibility study is conducted.

The park is to open in two years and will feature a wooden ark 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 55 feet high. It is affiliated with Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum in Boone County. The museum follows a literal interpretation of the Bible and the belief, contrary to science, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

Linder said the proposed Ark Encounter theme park is a tourism-based economic development project that qualifies to receive tax incentives from the state. He said millions of dollars have already been allotted for highway improvements in the area of the proposed theme park’s location

“While Kentucky continues to lose jobs to places like Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas, Speaker Stumbo chooses to attack an economic development project in my community by encouraging lawsuits on tax incentives,” Linder said.

Linder said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and others are supporting the project “because they understand the huge economic benefits it can bring to the Commonwealth, yet Speaker Stumbo would rather stir up issues instead of considering the opportunities this project will provide to Kentucky families.”

Linder called Stumbo’s comments about the park and religion disingenuous.

“While the Speaker has an issue with a religious theme park receiving tax incentives to provide jobs, he apparently has no problem occupying a chair in the House chambers that has, in large letters, the motto ‘In God We Trust’ behind it,” he said.

Beshear sets up group to help communities hit by natural disasters

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear, by executive order Wednesday, created the Council for Community Recovery and Resiliency or CCRR, a new group that will provide support, leadership and guidance to Kentucky communities drastically impacted by natural disasters.

“Kentuckians have faced an unparalleled number of natural disasters in the past several years – from devastating storms and tornadoes, to dilapidating droughts, to extreme snow, ice and flooding,” Beshear said in a release.

“Through coping with these terrible disasters, Kentucky has developed strong and effective response systems and implemented quality preparedness measures across the state. This new council is another way for Kentucky to stay ahead of the game in natural disaster response.”

The council will be a main resource for communities before, during and after they are affected by disasters – helping them employ the best our state can offer in preparedness, response and recovery, Beshear said.

It also is to serve as an advisory and resource board for Kentucky communities, providing them with technical and financial expertise in preparing and responding to natural disasters.

The group is to be attached to the Department for Local Government and include representatives from several state agencies, including Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Cabinet for Economic Development, Division of Emergency Management, Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Association of Counties, Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association, Kentucky Association of Area Development District Directors and Kentucky Office of Homeland Security.

During Beshear’s administration, Kentucky has had 11 federally declared natural disasters that have caused deaths, injuries and extreme financial loss and destruction to communities across the state.

–Jack Brammer

Stumbo criticizes use of state tax incentives for Noah’s Ark theme park

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-PrestonsburgBy Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Wednesday that it’s not appropriate for the state to provide tax incentives for a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.

He said he expects that the practice will be challenged in court and that the state will lose because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s mandate for separation of church and state.

Stumbo’s comments came during a wide-ranging news conference in his Capitol office, during which he also contended that Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, was “hand-picked” for the job by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and that he has decided not to make an expanded gambling bill the highest-priority measure in the 2015 General Assembly, because Churchill Downs has contributed heavily to House Republican candidates.

The Democrat from Prestonsburg predicted that Democrats will pick up at least three to five seats in the state House in November to keep control of the chamber. Democrats now have a 54-46 advantage in the House.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, called Stumbo’s news conference “a dog and pony show.”

Republicans seize on Iron Dome comment by Alison Lundergan Grimes

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republicans took to the Internet Wednesday morning to assail Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes after she said Tuesday that Israel’s missile defense system had helped prevent terrorist attacks from Hamas’ tunnel network.

“Obviously, Israel is one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, and she has the right to defend herself,” Grimes said. “But the loss of life, especially the innocent civilians in Gaza is a tragedy. The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in.”

By Wednesday morning, allies of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and conservative commentators had jumped on the remark as evidence that Grimes lacks policy knowledge.

State gives preliminary approval to tax incentives for Ark Park

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A group that wants to build a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County won preliminary approval Tuesday of state tax incentives to keep the controversial project afloat.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority unanimously voted to give preliminary approval for tax incentives for a $73 million first phase of the biblical theme park.

An independent consultant for the state now will take about six to eight weeks to review the project. It then will come back to the state panel for final consideration of tax incentives.

Three years ago, the group – Ark Encounter — won approval of incentives for its entire $172.5 million project. But because of funding problems, it withdrew that application and now is seeking approval for $73 million.

Ark Encounter is applying to participate in a program that allows eligible tourism attractions a rebate of 25 percent of the project’s investment. For this application the rebates would be as much as $18.25 million.

The park is expected to open in the summer of 2016.

How beautiful is Rand Paul?

RandPaulFelonVotingBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, known for his unwieldy curls, has been named the ninth most beautiful person on Capitol Hill by The Hill newspaper.

Paul, 51, told The Hill about his sense of fashion, which he described as “unconventional or uncoordinated.” He said his wife, Kelley, would describe it as “none at all.”

“Typically, I come out in things, (and) I’m made to re-dress on occasion at home,” said the Bowling Green Republican who is considering a run for president in 2016.

The congressional newspaper and website has annually compiled a 50 Most Beautiful list for 10 years. The highly-subjective list covers members and employees of Congress, the White House, executive branch employees and members of the political press.

The Hill accepts nominations from its “loyal fans” to come up with the list. The list puts the “Top Ten” in order, but does not rank numerically the bottom forty.

Paul said he tries to stay fit by doing various outdoor activities — usually doing laps in his Endless Pool (sort of like “swimming on a treadmill,” he says,) golfing, picking up sticks to make a bonfire with his kids or tending to his lawn at home.

“I have to have time to mow my grass on the weekends. You’ll see me mowing if you come in my neighborhood,” he told The Hill.

Paul acknowledged he does not always keep a good diet and said he can’t avoid a post-Capitol pretzel binge.

“The worst thing I probably do is I go home, eat some chips, or eat some snacks,” he said. “I’m not the best after work. If I would just avoid that, I’d probably be better off.”

McConnell’s latest ad targets Obama, Grimes over coal

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his latest re-election ad Friday morning, focusing his fire on President Barack Obama and Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes over coal.

The ad, titled “Different Direction,” features McConnell and a number of coal workers blasting Obama for the administration’s so-called “war on coal.”

“Mr. President, you said you wanted to change America,” McConnell says in the ad. “Well by golly, he has.”

While repeatedly assailing Obama as harmful to the state’s coal economy, the ad portrays McConnell as someone who is standing up to the president, using his seniority for leverage.

“Mitch McConnell does have the experience. You go up there with no experience, you go up there with nothing,” says Brandon Stamper, who was identified as a coal worker in the ad.

Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst responded by accusing McConnell of failing to save coal jobs for three decades.

“No matter how many ads Mitch McConnell runs, he can’t hide from the fact that he has failed to save a single coal job in his 30 years in Washington.”

In writing on the screen, McConnell’s ad claims that “Alison Lundergan Grimes supports Barack Obama’s anti-coal environmental platform.”

To support that claim, McConnell’s campaign relies on the fact that Grimes was a delegate who voted for Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and said she supported his re-election platform.

However, Grimes has made clear in recent months that she objects to actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon-dioxide pollution from new and existing power plants.

“When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority,” Grimes said last month after the EPA issued new pollution regulations for existing power plants.

Although many Republicans blame Obama for the coal industry’s decline in Eastern Kentucky, where half of coal jobs have disappeared since 2011, industry analysts point to a number of factors.

Environmental policies have played a role, but so have competition from low-priced natural gas and from coal from other parts of the country; the depletion of easy-to-reach reserves in Eastern Kentucky after a century of mining; and higher mining costs in the region.

McConnell’s ad will air statewide, according to the McConnell campaign.

‘Comment’ will discuss budget shortfall; ‘KY Tonight” will focus on economy

Gov. Steve Beshear’s handling of the state budget shortfall will be one of the topics on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.

Joining interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV to discuss recent news in Kentucky will be three journalists — Tom Loftus of The Courier-Journal, Phillip Bailey of WFPL in Louisville and Nick Storm of cn|2 in Louisville.

The show airs live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.

On the Monday, July 21 edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Renee Shaw (substituting for Bill Goodman) and guests will discuss jobs and the economy.

Scheduled guests are John Garen, economics professor at the University of Kentucky; Chris Phillips, economics professor at Somerset Community College; Tom Dupree, member of the board of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; and Anna Baumann, research and policy associate with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form at KET.org/kytonight.

Viewers may also submit questions on Twitter @ReneeKET or on KET’s Facebook page, facebook.com/KET. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

“Kentucky Tonight ” programs are archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET and KET KY. Archived programs, information about podcasts, and broadcast schedules are available at KET.org/kytonight.

“Kentucky Tonight” is a weekly KET production, produced by Deidre Clark. Goodman is host and managing editor.

–Jack Brammer

Independent Ed Marksberry stops gathering signatures for U.S. Senate run

Ed MarksberryBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Ed Marksberry announced Wednesday that he will no longer try to get on the ballot in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate election as an independent.

Marksberry, an Owensboro contractor, said in a statement that he had collected only half of the 5,000 signatures needed to run as an independent. With the Aug. 12 deadline looming to submit the signatures, Marksberry said his health has prevented him from getting the full amount.

“I was not successful in raising the funds needed to hire others to help me collect the signatures, and there is a lesson there,” Marksberry wrote in an email.

Marksberry previously sought the Democratic nomination in the race, but withdrew last year. He accused representatives of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign of trying to bribe him to withdraw from the race, which the campaign has denied.

Marksberry has been intensely critical of Grimes’ efforts to portray herself as conservative on issues such as coal and guns, bemoaning the absence of a true liberal in the race to unseat U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“My campaign was never about winning,” Marksberry said. “It was about the lack of a progressive voice that is needed to move Kentucky forward (so far this conservative-mindset hasn’t served the majority of Kentuckians very well).”

When asked by text message if he plans to support Grimes’ campaign, Marksberry responded: “Absolutely not.”