RSSAuthor Archive for Beth Musgrave

Three-judge panel to rule soon on legislative redistricting case

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — A panel of three federal judges will decide soon if two federal lawsuits that ask the judges to redraw Kentucky’s legislative district boundaries should continue.

Pierce Whites, a lawyer for Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, argued that the court should stay the lawsuits until after lawmakers have had a chance to redraw the boundaries themselves in a special legislative session scheduled for August 19.

Chris Wiest, a lawyer representing several Northern Kentucky citizens, encouraged the judicial panel to proceed in case the legislature does not come to an agreement during the August special session.

After Friday’s hearing in Lexington, U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman said the judicial panel will make a decision as soon as possible.

Duncan to be in Louisville on Thursday

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — The country’s top education official will be in Louisville Thursday to make an announcement about early childhood education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will participate in a roundtable discussion and a press conference on Thursday, according to Gov. Steve Beshear’s Office of Early Childhood Education. Duncan will also visit a classroom at St. Benedict Center for Early Childhood Education in Louisville.

Kentucky to get $6 million from online gambling websites

Gov. Steve Beshear

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s General Fund is getting an unexpected $6 million windfall from the online gambling industry.

Two gambling websites, PokerStars and FullTilt Poker, will pay the state $6 million in a legal settlement that stems in part from the state’s ongoing effort to crack down on online gambling, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday.

The extra money will give the state a cushion if General Fund revenue does not meet projections in June, the last month of the fiscal year.

In 2008, the state sued to take over more than 140 gambling websites, saying the companies were operating illegally in Kentucky. It was the first lawsuit of its kind in the country.

Jensen names team for 6th District race

Elisabeth Jensen

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — A Democratic candidate for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District announced Wednesday that she has hired a team of consultants to help her try to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington.

Elisabeth Jensen, who filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission last week to run in the 19-county district that includes Lexington, has tapped some well-known Democratic operatives to help with her campaign.

Jensen, who runs the Lexington-based Race for Education and is a former Walt Disney executive, has scheduled her first fundraiser for July 8. Jensen, 48, is the first Democratic candidate to announce that she will challenge Barr in the 2014 race.

Barr, a Lexington lawyer, unseated Democratic Congressman Ben Chandler in 2012 after losing to Chandler in the 2010 race.

Jensen’s team includes:

  • Celinda Lake and Daniel Gottoff of Lake Research Partners, which will conduct polling. Lake worked with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, former Auditor Crit Luallen and House Speaker Greg Stumbo when he was attorney general.
  • David Eichenbaum of Struble Eichenbaum Communications, who produced Gov. Steve Beshear’s campaign advertisements.
  • Carol Andrews, Matt Bricken and GregTalmage of Grindstone Research LLP, a research and strategy consulting firm. Andrews worked for former Finance and Administration Secretary Jonathan Miller during his run for governor in 2007.
  • Laura D’Angelo, a partner at Dinsmore & Shol, will serve as campaign treasurer

Education advocate Elisabeth Jensen to challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Barr

Elisabeth Jensen

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — Longtime education advocate Elisabeth Jensen has launched a campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep Andy Barr in Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.

Jensen, a Democrat and director of the Lexington-based Race for Education, said she decided to challenge Barr, a freshman congressman who faces re-election in 2014, because she thinks young people and families need better representation in Washington.

The 19-county district includes Lexington.

“I think Congress is not working and we need something different,” Jensen said. “I think we need a voice for families and children and I don’t think we have that right now. I think I can be that voice.”

Jensen, a Lexington resident who has one son, is making her first run for public office. She is a 2011 graduate of Emerge Kentucky, a leadership class designed to encourage more Democratic women to run for public office.

Beshear says lawmakers may redraw Kentucky’s congressional districts

Gov. Steve Beshear

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers may have to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts later this year when they meet in a special session to remake state legislative districts, Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday.

Beshear said he expects to announce the date of a special legislative session by Friday, when a hearing is scheduled in a federal court case filed by northern Kentucky officials and residents who say they are disadvantaged by the legislature’s inaction on redistricting.

The House and Senate passed new boundaries for congressional districts and state legislative districts in 2012, but the maps for state districts were ruled unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed that seek to force lawmakers to create new boundaries for legislative districts or allow a federal court to draw the boundaries. Lawmakers are required to set new boundaries once each decade to account for shifting populations.

A key point of contention between House Democrats and Senate Republicans has been whether to include federal prisoners in their population counts when redrawing district boundaries.

Legislative panel declines to approve fish and wildlife commissioner’s contract

By Beth Musgrave —

FRANKFORT — A legislative oversight committee did not vote on the contract for the head of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Tuesday after questions arose about other possible investigations into the department that oversees hunting, fishing and wildlife management in Kentucky.

The Government Contract Review Committee voted to table the contract for Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jonathan Gassett after it was revealed that some members of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, the department’s oversight board and Gassett’s employer, had not voted on the contract that included $134,000 base pay, an additional $50,000 in benefits and other payments not to exceed $218,000.

Legislators expressed frustration and confusion on why the committee had never approved or even seen Gassett’s contract before Tuesday and questioned if the department was under investigation by other agencies.

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, said Fish and Wildlife only provided the contract to the Government Contract Review committee because the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee, which was authorized to start a review of Fish and Wildlife in December, had asked for a copy of Gassett’s contract and it was never produced. Yonts said after Tuesday’s meeting that he understood two other agencies — including the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the Office of Inspector General for the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet — could also be looking into possible improprieties at the department. Fish and Wildlife is attached to the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

John Steffen, executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, attended Tuesday’s Government Contract Review Committee but said he could neither confirm nor deny that the ethics watchdog agency was investigating Fish and Wildlife. Officials with the Tourism Cabinet did not return phone calls.

Kentucky Lottery expects to offer keno in hundreds of locations later this year

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — Kentuckians could be playing keno, a continuous bingo-style lottery game on an electronic terminal, in hundreds of restaurants, bars and bowling alleys as early as October.

The legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee on Tuesday voted 4-3 along party lines to approve a $635,000 contract amendment for lottery vendor GTECH to provide keno in Kentucky by October 19. The vote was along party lines with Democrats voting for the contract and Republicans voting against the measure.

The Kentucky Lottery Corp. board voted to offer keno in March when the legislature was debating whether to use proceeds from new lottery games — including keno — to shore up the state’s ailing pension system. The legislature ultimately approved changes to the tax code to help fund the pension system and did not rely on expanded lottery games.

Still, the Kentucky Lottery pushed ahead with plans to add keno.

Judge: State must explain why it removed info from child abuse case files

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — The state will have to show at a hearing in the next two months why it removed information from social worker case files about children who have been killed or nearly killed as a result of abuse and neglect.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd said after an almost one-hour court hearing Monday that he expects the hearing to be set in the next 60 days. At the hearing, Cabinet for Health and Family Services officials will have to explain why they removed the names of parents, grandparents and other key information from more than 140 case files.

What information can be removed from the case files is at issue in a long-running legal battle between the cabinet and the state’s two largest newspapers. The newspapers asked for all case files of children who have been killed or nearly killed as a result of abuse and neglect in 2009 and 2010.

Shepherd has ruled twice in the past two years that when a child is killed or nearly killed the records can be reviewed by the public and are subject to the Open Records Act. Social worker files on abused and neglected children typically are not open to public inspection.

State revenue increases 8.3 percent in May

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — The state collected more revenue than expected in May, causing officials to say they are cautiously optimistic the state will meet its budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The Office of State Budget Director released numbers Monday showing General Fund revenue of $793.9 million for May 2013, up nearly $60.8 million, or 8.3 percent, from May 2012.

The state budget calls for revenue growth of 2.4 percent for the fiscal year. Receipts grew 2.7 percent in the first 11 months of the year. To meet the revenue estimate of $9.3 billion, June receipts must equal $917.2 million. In June 2012, the state collected $918.5 million.

“While it is tempting to assume that June receipts will build on the slight momentum from May, the receipts from June 2012 present a very high benchmark and receipts have declined in three of 11 months this fiscal year,” said Jane Driskell, the state budget director.

If revenues do not meet budgeted estimates, the state will have to find money or make cuts.

Road Fund receipts, which are used to pay for transportation projects, declined 0.1 percent in May from the previous year. The state’s Road Fund budget calls for 3.9 percent growth for the fiscal year. To meet that projection, June receipts will have to grow 5.2 percent from the previous June.