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KET schedules programs for May primary candidates

“Kentucky Tonight,” a weekly public affairs show on the Kentucky Educational Television network, will start on March 30 its candidate programs for the May 19 primary elections.

Hosted by Bill Goodman, the programs will begin at 8 p.m. on KET and will also stream live at KET.org/live and be archived online.

The scheduled candidates are:

March 30
Republicans for State Treasurer
– Allison Ball
– State Rep. Kenneth Churchill Imes

April 13
Democrats for State Treasurer
– Neville Blakemore
– State Rep.Rick Nelson

April 20 (two-part)
Republicans for Attorney General
– Lawrence County Attorney Michael T. Hogan
– State Sen. Whitney H. Westerfield

Republicans for Commissioner of Agriculture
– State Rep. Richard Heath
– State Rep. Ryan F. Quarles

KET plans to announce its programs for candidates for governor and lieutenant governor after April 10.

KET said candidates appearing on these programs have “demonstrated satisfaction of KET’s candidate invitation criteria, published at www.KET.org/candidate-invitation-criteria-2015.”

Live primary election night coverage from KET begins at 7 p.m. on May 19.

Prior to that, additional election coverage and analysis continues on “Comment on Kentucky,” and the topic of the May 18 Kentucky Tonight program will be the election.

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

KET serve more than one million people each week via television, online and mobile.

–Jack Brammer

Beshear signs bill authorizing state bonds for UK medical research center

photo (39)By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Monday a bill that will provide the University of Kentucky with $132.5 million in state bonds for a six-story medical research center.

“This projects represents the potential to improve the lives of so many, both within Kentucky where our health outcomes are so poor, and beyond,” Beshear said at a Capitol news conference with several legislators and Lisa Cassis, UK’s vice president of research.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto was not able to attend because of a stomach virus.

House Bill 298, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, authorizes spending $5.6 million on debt payments for the bonds this year and $11 million in subsequent years.

UK will provide another $132.5 million for the project through research contracts and private donations.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the project is personal to him since he has had many relatives and friends treated at UK for cancer.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the ramifications of the center are “wide-ranging.”

Stumbo also apologized to Capilouto, saying he initially thought Capilouto was “not up for the job” to be UK president but that Capilouto has proved him wrong.

The center, which would house researchers from several disciplines, is to be built on UK’s campus near South Limestone and Virginia Avenue.

UK plans to begin construction by the end of the year.

The health challenges those researchers will address include cancer, heart and pulmonary disease, stroke and other preventable illnesses.

Beshears invite Kentuckians to March 17 prayer breakfast

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear invite Kentuckians to attend the 2015 Governor’s Prayer Breakfast March 17 at the Frankfort Convention Center.

Dr. Matthew Sleeth, author and executive director of Blessed Earth, will deliver the keynote address.

The breakfast dates back to 1965 and includes representatives of all three branches of government.

The nondenominational gathering provides Kentuckians an opportunity to give thanks for blessings and ask for strength to lead Kentucky toward a better future, said a release from the governor’s office.

“For decades, the prayer breakfast has provided people the opportunity to slow down for a moment, take a deep breath and reflect on how to grow and serve during the upcoming year,” said Beshear.

Sleeth heads Blessed Earth, an educational non-profit that inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth.

He is a former emergency room physician and chief of hospital medical staff who resigned from his position to teach, preach and write about the biblical call to be good stewards of the earth.

Recognized by Newsweek as one of the nation’s most influential evangelical leaders, Sleeth has spoken to more than 1,000 churches, campuses, and events, including serving as the monthly guest preacher at The Washington National Cathedral.

The 2015 Prayer Breakfast also wil feature music from Larnelle Harris, special readings and a breakfast including bacon, country ham, eggs, grits, hash brown casserole and biscuits.

Doors will open at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time and the program will begin at 8 a.m. Eastern time.

Tickets are $10 each at the door or $125 in advance for a reserved table of 8.

For more information or to a reserve table, go to http://governor.ky.gov/prayerbreakfast.

Beshear to choose among 3 attorneys to fill Supreme Court seat

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT —The names of three attorneys were presented to Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday from which he is to choose a replacement to fill the Kentucky Supreme Court seat held by Justice Will T. Scott.

Scott, of Pikeville,stepped down from the state’s highest court Jan. 2 to run as a Republican for governor.

The three attorneys selected by the seven-member Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., are David Allen Barber of Prestonsburg, Roger Donald Riggs of Mount Sterling and Janet L. Stumbo of Van Lear.

State House not to meet again until Monday, Senate will reconvene Thursday

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT —The Kentucky House has called off meeting for the rest of this week and not reconvene until 4 p.m. Monday.

Meanwhile, the state Senate will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. Friday this week and be back at it next week.

If either chamber meets, that constitutes a legislative day. The House has 100 members and the Senate 38, with one vacancy.

So far, legislators have met 13 days this year. The 2015 General Assembly session is to run for 30 working days, with completion scheduled for March 24. The Kentucky Constitution requires 30-day sessions in odd-numbered years to run no longer than March 30.

Lawmakers have not actually met since last Friday. They were off Monday for Presidents’ Day and have been off Tuesday and Wednesday due to the inclement weather.

House Democratic leaders said in a release Wednesday that the combination of record cold temperatures and this week’s heavy snowfall is the reason for their decision for the chamber not to meet until Monday.

“Several members have expressed concern about leaving their families in these conditions, and major highways like I-65 have seen closures because of accidents,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said.

“Therefore, we think it is more prudent to be safe than sorry.”

Stumbo said it would be up to the individual committee chairmen to decide whether to meet prior to the legislative session on Monday, but “the other leaders and I do not recommend any meetings before we gavel in.”

He added that, at this time, they do not expect this decision to alter the session calendar. “We have more than enough time to complete the work before us,” he said.

Senate Republican leaders met Wednesday afternoon in Frankfort and decided to reconvene this week.

“The majority of our caucus members were here on Wednesday prepared to do the people’s work and the rest are on their way,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said in an email. “We understand the hardships associated with current weather conditions, but there are plenty of businesses staying open throughout the Commonwealth and the Senate feels inclined to stay open for business as well.”

By convening on Thursday the Senate will not lengthen the 2015 legislative session, but the House will have two less days to consider legislation, said the Senate GOP release.

House panel approves elections bills at Grimes’ urging

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — At the urging of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a House committee unanimously approved legislation Tuesday to modernize voter registration.

House Bill 214, sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville would allow voters to register online to vote and update their voter registration

“Electronic voter registration is more convenient and secure, saves our county clerks time and money, and results in more accurate voting records,” said Grimes, who noted that it already is in use for military personnel overseas.

She added that 20 other states already use electronic voter registration.

The House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs also unanimously passed HB 212, legislation sponsored by Owens and proposed by Grimes to allow voters who are unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to age, disability or illness to vote in the county clerk’s office prior to the day of the election.

“Under current law, these voters may vote only by casting a mail-in absentee ballot,” said Grimes. “But many people cherish the experience of voting in person, and this bill would preserve that opportunity for them.”

The committee also approved two elections bills.

HB 150, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, would make any candidate for county government who is defeated in a primary election ineligible to run as a write-in candidate for the same office in the general election.

HB 203, sponsored by Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-Greenup, raises the threshold for campaign finance reporting from $1,000 to $3,000.

All the bills now go to the House for its consideration.

State treasurer, lawmaker propose retirement savings plan for private employees

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach and state Rep. Martha Jane King, D-Lewisburg, unveiled legislation Tuesday designed to help Kentuckians who lack access to a retirement saving plan at their workplace.

The state official and lawmaker said at a Capitol news conference that 786,000 Kentucky workers could take advantage of the so-called Kentucky Retirement Account Program.

“KYRA will provide an opportunity for them to insure they have enough income to support themselves when they retire,” said Hollenbach.

Group seeks end of controversial campaign finance measure

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court shook up the world of campaign finance by ruling that corporations and unions may spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

Since then, a very small part of the American public –0.01 percent — has donated 40 percent of all the contributions.

That needs to be stopped, said a small group in front of the Capitol Wednesday that offered the statistic to reporters.

They were in support for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to do away with the 2010 high court ruling called “Citizens United.”

A tiny portion of this country is funding elections and, in effect, controlling their outcome, said Richard Beliles, a Louisville attorney who is chair of Common Cause of Kentucky.

The group is part of the national Common Cause organization that advocates open, honest and accessible state and local government.

Common Cause held rallies across the country Tuesday similar to the one at the Kentucky Capitol and urged members of Congress to join the efforts in curbing campaign spending.

Joining Beliles in Frankfort were Louisville retired attorney George Schuhmann with Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.; Amy Waters of Louisville with 350.org, a global climate movement; and Jan Christensen of Louisville with 350.org and the environmental group, Sierra Club.

Alvarado is pursuing defamation lawsuit against Palmer in state Senate race

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Republican state Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester is pursuing his defamation lawsuit against R.J. Palmer, the Democratic incumbent he ousted in last November’s election.

Alvarado’s attorney, Christopher Hunt, of Lexington, said Tuesday that even though Alvarado won the election, Alvarado wants to defend his reputation not only for himself and his family but to make sure others will not be discouraged from running for office who face similar tactics.

During the election campaign last October, Alvarado, a medical doctor, sued Palmer and Palmer’s campaign consultant, Dale Emmons, for defamation involving a campaign ad.

Alvardo also sought a restraining order to stop the television ad. However, a Scott circuit judge a few days before the election refused to grant the order.

Alvarado contends that the ad uses spliced courtroom footage to cast him as a drug dealer.

The ad implies that he unlawfully prescribed $3,000 worth of oxycodone to a criminal defendant, Alvarado said. Video from the court hearing is clear that the defendant had a valid prescription for OxyContin, Alvarado said.

Palmer, who had been the Senate minority leader, said Alvarado’s claims had no merit.

Baptist leader blasts Stumbo’s medical marijuana bill

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The leader of the state’s largest religious organization voiced opposition Tuesday to a proposal in the state legislature that would make it legal for people to use marijuana in Kentucky for medical purposes.

“The very idea of thwarting the authority of the Food and Drug Administration and allowing Kentuckians to smoke marijuana under the guise that it is somehow medically beneficial is absurd,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention.

“Just because other states have taken this step doesn’t mean we should legalize another intoxicant, especially one that has been proven to be the first step toward abusing the hard drugs that are claiming so many lives through overdoes,” Chitwood said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, filed a bill in this year’s legislative session that would allow trained doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients for 21 “debilitating medical conditions,” ranging from “severe” nausea to post traumatic stress disorder. The state would have a strict oversight system in place to make sure prescriptions were not abused, Stumbo said.

“I understand this is a learning process, but I hope people will listen to the debate before making up their minds,” Stumbo said Tuesday in an email. “This is not recreational marijuana; it is medical marijuana, and they should hear the stories from people who say it has benefitted them and their families. My bill is one of the strictest among the states, too; it does not allow smoking, nor does it let individuals grow their own.”