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State receipts show ‘strong’ jump in November

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT – The General Fund, which pays for most state programs, took in 12.8 percent more money in November than it did in November 2013, state budget director Jane Driskell said Wednesday. Driskell, in a news release, said sales and individual income taxes accounted for much of the gain. “We are […]

Official list of KY Senate GOP committee appointments

Here’s the official list of all Republican appointments made to the Kentucky Senate standing committees Monday by Senate Republican leaders.

Attorney General Conway has back surgery

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, underwent successful back surgery Wednesday in Louisville, his office said in a release.

The release said Conway, 45, had a minimally-invasive, microdiscectomy to relieve persistent pain caused by a herniated lumbar disc impinging on his sciatic nerve root.

The procedure was performed at Baptist Health Louisville by neurosurgeon Steven J. Reiss.

Doctors anticipate a complete recovery, and Conway is expected to keep a full schedule for all of calendar year 2015, the release said.

He will have a limited public schedule for the next couple of weeks while he recovers, it added.

Conway thanked the doctors and medical staff for their care and all those who have sent prayers and well wishes.

“He looks forward to hitting the ground running in 2015,” the release said.

Conway is running for governor of Kentucky next year with state Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, as his running mate.

Lexington attorney Luke Morgan considering GOP bid for attorney general

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT – Luke Morgan, a Lexington attorney with experience in trial court and state administrative hearings, is considering a possible run as a Republican for state attorney general in 2015. Morgan, 51, said Tuesday he has not yet made a decision on whether to run to be the state’s chief law-enforcement […]

KY Senate Dems pick new leadership team

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Senate Democrats are going with an entire new leadership team for the next two years.

Members of the minority party in the Senate selected in a unanimous vote Monday Ray Jones of Pikeville to be the Democratic floor leader.

Also named to the leadership team were Gerald Neal of Louisville as caucus chair and former Gov. and now state Sen. Julian Carroll of Frankfort as caucus whip.

Jones, who has been in the Senate since 2001, replaces R.J. Palmer of Winchester, who lost a re-election bid last month to Republican Ralph Alvarado of Winchester.

Neal, a senator since 1989, replaces Johnny Ray Turner of Prestonsburg, and Carroll, a senator since 2005, replaces Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville, who did not seek re-election.

Republicans have controlled the Senate since 2000. They now outnumber Democrats in the Senate, 26-12.

That may change after a special election will be held to replace Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Morehead, who won an election last month for Rowan county judge-executive.

Senate Republicans chose their leaders last week. House and Senate Democrats will pick their leaders when the 2015 General Assembly begins Jan. 6.

An organizational session will run through Jan. 9.

Legislators then will return to Frankfort Feb. 3 to continue the 30-day, 2015 law-making session.

Justice Scott will decide by early January whether to run for governor

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott of Pikeville said Monday he will decide by early January whether to run for governor next year.

If he decides to enter the Republican primary election to be held next May, Scott said, he will step down immediately as a justice on the state’s highest court.

Scott, 67, emphasized during an interview in Lexington that he has not yet decided whether to enter the race.

He acknowledged that he has had “informal discussions” with potential running mates and that whoever might be his running mate for lieutenant governor is “a major factor” in his decision whether to seek the governor’s office.

He said it would be “a ticket for promise.”

If he runs, Scott said, his campaign would be based on ideas to improve the lives of Kentuckians.

The filing deadline to run for governor in 2015 is Jan. 27.

Two Republicans already have said they will run for governor – state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Tompkinsville and Louisville businessman Hal Heiner.

Attorney General Jack Conway of Louisville, a Democrat, also has entered the race, as well as Democrat Geoff Young, a retired engineer from Lexington who lost a bid in this year’s Democratic primary election for Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District seat.

Scott was elected to the Supreme Court, the state’s highest court, in November 2004 to represent the 7th District. It consists of 22 counties in Eastern Kentucky. He served as deputy chief justice from 2006 to 2010.

Scott was a circuit judge from 1984 to 1988. Before being a judge, he practiced law as a trial attorney from 1975 to 1980 and was an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Pike County from 1981 to 1982.

He has made unsuccessful runs for Congress and state attorney general.

Scott, a native of Pike County, attended Eastern Kentucky University for a year before volunteering for service in the Army in 1966. He was a first lieutenant in Vietnam.

After his military service, Scott received a bachelor’s degree from Pikeville College and a law degree from the University of Miami in Florida.

Phil Huddleston chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Luallen; Shannon Tivitt deputy chief for Beshear

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT – Veteran state employee Phil Huddleston of Frankfort will be chief of staff for newly appointed Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen.

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that Shannon Tivitt, who had been chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, will be his new deputy chief of staff.

Luallen said Wednesday in making the annoucement about Huddleston that his appointment is effective immediately.

“Phil’s extensive work in state government in both the executive and legislative branches will serve the administration well,” Luallen said in a statement.

“He understands how to best navigate the hurdles that can slow progress on needed policies, and he will make sure that our office continues to carry out Gov. Beshear’s vision of a healthier, more prosperous Kentucky.”

Beshear recently appointed Luallen to be his lieutenant governor to replace Abramson, who departed to take a job at the White House.

Huddleston, a native of Albany, has served more than 30 years in state government in a variety of roles, including as a legislative and policy analyst as well as chief of staff to the president of the state Senate.

Most recently, he served as chief of staff to the House majority whip.

“I am excited to join the administration and to help continue the strong initiatives of this office,” said Huddleston. “I thank Lt. Gov. Luallen for giving me this opportunity, and I thank Gov. Beshear for his continued leadership.”

Huddleston has served on the board for the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, the Kentucky Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Human Services Coordination Alliance and the Frankfort Salvation Army.

He and his wife, Pat, have been married 43 years.

In a release, Beshear said Tivitt “has been an indispensable asset to my administration as the lieutenant governor’s chief of staff, overseeing policy efforts such as kyhealthnow and ‘Close the Deal,’” said Beshear.

“Her long history of work in city, county and state government operations gives her a valuable and practical understanding of what makes policies work. She is an ideal choice to serve on my senior staff.”

Tivitt succeeds Jamie Link, who resigned to become the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Prior to joining the Beshear administration, Tivitt served as chief of staff to Abramson for four years when he was mayor of Louisville.

She also led administrative efforts for the Louisville Development Authority for Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong and Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator Denise Harper Angel.

She began her career in public service as a legislative coordinator with the City of Louisville’s Board of Aldermen.

“I have spent the last 20 years working in various agencies in city, county and state government because I have a deep appreciation for and devotion to public service,” said Tivitt. “I’m very grateful to Gov. Beshear for this opportunity to serve as his deputy chief of staff, and I look forward to helping continue the good work of this administration.”

Tivitt is a native of Breckinridge County and graduated from the University of Louisville. She resides in Louisville. Her appointment is
effective immediately.

–Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – Veteran state employee Phil Huddleston of Frankfort will be chief of staff for newly appointed Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen.

Luallen said Wednesday in making the annoucement that his appointment is effective immediately.

“Phil’s extensive work in state government in both the executive and legislative branches will serve the administration well,” Luallen said in a statement.

“He understands how to best navigate the hurdles that can slow progress on needed policies, and he will make sure that our office continues to carry out Gov. Beshear’s vision of a healthier, more prosperous Kentucky.”

Gov. Steve Beshear recently appointed Luallen to be his lieutenant governor to replace Jerry Abramson, who departed to take a job at the White House.

Huddleston, a native of Albany, has served more than 30 years in state government in a variety of roles, including as a legislative and policy analyst as well as chief of staff to the president of the state Senate.

Most recently, he served as chief of staff to the House majority whip.

“I am excited to join the administration and to help continue the strong initiatives of this office,” said Huddleston. “I thank Lt. Gov. Luallen for giving me this opportunity, and I thank Gov. Beshear for his continued leadership.”

Huddleston has served on the board for the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, the Kentucky Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Human Services Coordination Alliance and the Frankfort Salvation Army.

He and his wife, Pat, have been married 43 years.

–Jack Brammer

Big dip in KY’s gasoline tax means less money for road projects

Transportation Secretary Mike HancockBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Kentucky motorists will pay less taxes for gas starting New Year’s Day, but the change will mean fewer road improvements, state officials warned Wednesday.

Kentucky’s tax on sales of gasoline, diesel and ethanol motor fuels will drop by 4.3 cents per gallon on Jan. 1, resulting in a loss to the Kentucky Road Fund of about $129 million on an annualized basis, according to the state Transportation Cabinet.

Kentucky’s gas tax fluctuates with the average wholesale price of gas, which has dropped in recent months.

“The gas tax accounts for more than half of the revenue in the Kentucky Road Fund,” state Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said in a news release. “A loss of revenue is always concerning, but a revenue impact of this magnitude is crippling. It means less money for building, improving, maintaining and repairing our roads, streets and bridges.”

A loss of $129 million would amount to about 6 percent of Kentucky’s highway funding, which was forecast to collect $2.25 billion in the current fiscal year from all revenue sources, including state and federal motor-fuels taxes and a state usage tax on motor vehicles.

State Rep. Quarles may run for ag commissioner; Sen. Hornback says he will not

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Republican state Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown said Tuesday he is “strongly considering” running next year for state agriculture commissioner.

“I plan to talk to family and friends about this over Thanksgiving and have a comment about it Dec. 1,” said Quarles, who easily won re-election to the state House on Nov. 4.

Quarles’ comments about came after Republican state Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville said Tuesday he will not run for the office and will support Quarles for it.

Hornback, a farmer who has been in the Senate since 2011, said the timing was not right for him and his family.

Quarles, who has represented the 62nd House District since 2011, said he appreciated Hornback’s comments. The district includes Owen County and parts of Scott and Fayette counties.

Quarles, 31, is a farmer and attorney. He has been a target of Democrats since he defeated Charles Hoffman in 2010.

Quarles defeated Chuck Tackett, a magistrate on the Scott County Fiscal Court, in his Nov. 4 re-election bid, capturing nearly 59 percent of the vote.

He noted in the campaign that he is one of a few legislators to pass bills in his first two terms in office. One clarified voter instructions and another dealt with youth referees.

Farm radio show host Jean-Marie Lawson Spann is the only person so far to file to run for agriculture commissioner in 2015. She made her Democratic bid official last Wednesday.

Lawson Spann had announced in June that she would be seeking the office now held by Republican James Comer of Tompkinsville. Comer is running for governor next year.

New energy conservation plan for KU and LG&E means higher customer bills

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A new energy efficiency plan for Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric will mean an increase in customers’ bills, an end to free compact fluorescent bulbs mailed to residential customers and a pilot test for “smart” meters.

The plan, approved by the state Public Service Commission Friday, means that a KU or LG&E customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month will see a 29-cent increase in their monthly surcharge for the conservation program, to $3.78 a month for KU customers and $4.68 a month for LG&E customers.

In its order, the PSC authorized KU and LG&E to continue or expand 10 existing programs for residential or commercial customers. Four programs will be dropped and one limited program will be started on a trial basis.

The PSC also ordered the two utilities to study the potential for energy efficiency programs for industrial customers.

The discontinued programs include:

• Mailing free compact fluorescent bulbs to residential customers;

• Incentives to encourage the incorporation of energy efficient features in new home construction;

• Discounts for residential and commercial customers to check and tune up their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to optimize efficiency;

•A web-based referral network for energy efficiency services.

Portions of the efficiency plan that will be continued include:

• Providing incentives to residential customers to install high-efficiency air conditioners, heat pumps and appliances, and to replace windows or add window films that reduce air conditioning usage.

• An energy audit program available to all residential customers.

• A program that provides high-usage residential customers with an energy usage profile and suggestions for reducing usage.

• Energy audit, energy efficiency and weatherization programs specifically tailored to the needs of low-income customers.

• Bill credits to residential customers who allow the utility to remotely turn off air conditioners for brief periods during times of peak demand.

• Cash incentives for residential customers who recycle inefficient and old, but functioning, refrigerators and freezers.

• Financial incentives for commercial customers to reduce energy usage through installation of energy-efficient equipment, through new construction that exceeds building code requirements for energy efficiency and through measures that reduce energy usage during times of peak demand.

•Public education efforts, including programs in schools and for teachers.

A new program approved by the PSC involves the use of advanced “smart” electric meters that can track the details of a customers’ usage. KU and LG&E are planning to provide the meters to as many as 5,000 customers per utility on a first-come, first-served basis.

Customers who receive the meters will have access to a website that allows them to see their own hour-by-hour usage within 48 hours of the time the data are collected.

PSC Chairman David Armstrong and Commissioner Linda Breathitt supported the advanced meter program. PSC Vice Chairman Jim Gardner did not. He said the companies did not apply a cost-benefit analysis to the program.

KU and LG&E are ubsidiaries of PPL Corp. LG&E has 397,000 electric customers and 321,000 natural gas customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties. KU serves 543,000 customers in 77 Kentucky counties.