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Judge recuses herself from hearing defamation lawsuit in state Senate race

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com WINCHESTER — State Senate candidate Ralph Alvarado’s defamation lawsuit against his Democratic opponent, state Senate Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer, has to wait another day for a hearing. A hearing was scheduled Wednesday afternoon before Clark Circuit Judge Jean Logue to hear Alvarado’s request that Palmer’s campaign stop a TV ad […]

New poll shows strong support for lawsuit reforms

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANFKORT — A new statewide poll shows a majority of Kentucky registered voters supports reforms in personal injury lawsuits.

The poll, commissioned by the non-partisan Partnership for Commonsense Justice, was conducted Oct. 13-17 among 500 registered voters. Its margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points and its partisan breakdown is 39 percent Republican, 54 percent Democrat and 6 percent independent.

“Kentucky’s legal system is fraught with problems that put our Commonwealth at a severe competitive disadvantage with surrounding states and contributes to our well-known health care provider shortage. It has become increasingly difficult for Kentucky businesses and caregivers to operate when hesitancy from our lawmakers to enact meaningful legal reform and a bias toward personal injury lawyers has been the pervasive policy for decades,”said Dave Adkisson, president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Some highlights from the poll include:

*A majority of Republicans and Democrats are more likely to vote for a candidate favoring legal reforms.
Seventy-six of Kentuckians believe that “Kentucky’s medical malpractice climate increases health care costs for consumers and raises liability insurance premiums of health care providers.”

*Sevent-seven percent of voters believe that the Commonwealth “needs to reform the state’s legal climate to enhance our economic competitiveness with other states.”

For more information on the poll, go to KYcommonsense.org.

State offers rewards in hopes of curbing copper wire theft

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Kentucky State Police are offering a reward of up to $2,500 to attack a crime they say is costing taxpayers millions of dollars – theft of copper wire from highway lighting systems.

“The crime of copper wire theft from lights that illuminate our roadways is literally highway robbery of Kentucky drivers,” state police Major Mike Crawford said Monday in a release. “This type of theft results in damage that far exceeds the salvage value of the wire.”

Nancy Albright
, deputy state highway engineer in charge of operations and maintenance, said such copper thieves have caused at least $2 million in damages in the last four years.

So far this year, the thieves have pillaged entrance and exit ramp lights on Kentucky interstate highways at least 37 times, she said.

She also expressed concern that motoristsmay be left in the dark on the highway when such damage occurs.

GOP state House candidate in Jefferson County withdraws from race

FRANKFORT — In their efforts to take over the state House this year, Republicans have lost a candidate.

Mark Wilson of Louisville has withdrawn from the race against Democratic incumbent Jeffery Donahue of Fairdale in the 37th House District in south-central Jefferson County.

Wilson could not be reached for comment but Jefferson County GOP Chairman Nathan Haney said Thursday that Wilson expected to come off military active duty at the end of this year but recently learned that he would not.

“The military had other orders for him that would prohibit him from being in the legislature,” Haney said.

Donahue joined the House last year.

Reublicans hope to gain control of the state House for the first time since 1921 at the Nov. 4 polls. Democrats now control the chamber with 54 members, compared to 46 for Republicans.

–Jack Brammer

Memorial service set for Larry Van Hoose, aide to GOP leaders

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

A memorial service in Lexington has been scheduled for Larry Van Hoose, a gubernatorial press secretary, aide to congressmen and director of the state Republican Party who died last month in Cape Coral, Fla. He was 76.

The service will be Nov. 1 at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home at 3421 Harrodsburg Road.

Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m. and a memorial program will start at 10:30 a.m.

Van Hoose, after working as a stringer for Sports Illustrated, was press secretary and aide for Republican Louie B. Nunn, who was governor from 1967 to 1971.

After working in the Nunn administration, Van Hoose was executive director of the Kentucky Republican Party before becoming chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Larry Hopkins of Lexington. He later worked for other Republican congressmen, including Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, Martin Hoke of Ohio and J.D. Hayworth of Arizona.

Van Hoose was preceded in death by his wife Martelle. He is survived by two sons, Todd and Howard, and two grandchildren.

Conway’s campaign for govenor rakes in about $400,000 for quarter

Attorney General Jack Conway, who is seeking re-election, touted his record at the Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. Photo by Pablo Alcala

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s campaign for governor raised $397,539 in the last three months, bringing his total fundraising to about $1.15 million since entering the Democratic primary earlier this year.

Conway’s campaign also reported late Monday that it had about $1 million on hand.

“Great results for two straight reporting periods show the strength of our campaign and that we are uniting Democrats behind our ticket for the 2015 governor’s race,” Conway said in a statement.

Conway said he and his running, state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, “remain focused on the Kentucky House races and Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign for U.S. Senate” this fall.

He added: “Sannie and I will begin the process of building out our campaign after the November elections.”

Conway’s campaign noted that Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, as an incumbent in 2009, raised a little more than $1 million during his first two reporting periods and had $784,054 on hand.

National GOP group gets involved in KY House races

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A national group focused on electing Republican state legislators has started sending out hard-hitting mailers to help the GOP try to gain control of the Kentucky House for the first time since 1921.

Jill Bader, communications director for the Republican State Leadership Committee, said in an email Monday that the group has “consistently named the Kentucky House as top of our targets for a pick up this year.”

Republicans now control 60 of 99 legislative chambers in the country, including the Kentucky Senate.

Bader also said the RSLC, based in Washington, D.C., has begun “a significant six-figure multi-platform independent expenditure, starting with mail, that began this weekend in support of gaining the House majority” in Kentucky.

Democrats now control the Kentucky House with 54 members, compared to 46 for Republicans.

The RSLC has spent more than $1 million on legislative races in Kentucky since 2008. It spent more than $400,000 in Kentucky during the 2010 election cycle and more than $355,000 in 2012. The group spent more than $200,000 in Kentucky last year and expects to top its previous spending record this year.

The first two mail pieces from the RSLC in Kentucky House races this fall involve two tough races in Western Kentucky.

Beshears and Abramsons urge Kentuckians to donate used cell phones to fight domestic violence

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear is suggesting that Kentuckians curb domestic violence by donating their used cell phones and accessories.

Beshear, first lady Jane Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson and his wife, Madeline Abramson, kicked off a monthlong drive Wednesday to collect the old phones.

Verizon Wireless has agreed to turn the devices into a cash grant for WorkSafe, a collobarative program of the Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Commission on Women and The Mary Bryon Project, to provide domestic violence prevention training for businesses.

WorkSafe will distribute restored phones to domestic violence clients and give each up to 3,000 free minutes of usage.

At news conferences in Lexington, Frankfort and Louisville, the Beshears and Abramsons said the drive will run Oct. 1 through Oct. 31.

Special collection boxes marked HopeLine will be available at 18 state agencies throughout the state, at University of Kentucky sororities and Verizon stores. Phones from any provider will be accepted.

So far this year, Verizon has given grants of more than $108,000 for domestic violence prevention in Kentucky.

Beshear seeks federal aid for four flooded E. Ky. counties

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear has asked President Obama to issue a major disaster declaration and provide emergency assistance to four Eastern Kentucky communities recovering from recent flooding.

Strong storms from Aug. 19 to 23 caused heavy rain and flash flooding, which washed out roads and forced people from their homes throughout the eastern part of the state. Communities in Floyd, Knott, Johnson and Pike counties were the hardest hit.

“These severe storms and subsequent flooding caused widespread destruction to the state and community infrastructure in Floyd, Knott, Johnson and Pike counties, as well as to private homes,” Beshear said in his letter.

“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments. Federal assistance is necessary to supplement the efforts and available resources of the state, local governments, disaster relief organizations and compensation by insurance for disaster-related losses.”

Beshear is seeking the declaration “so that the requested federal assistance programs will be available to meet the needs of the communities in the affected areas.”

A preliminary damage assessment by the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated that the damages exceed $6 million for this disaster.

This is the first disaster declaration request Kentucky has made since a swath of tornadoes caused heavy destruction in eastern Kentucky in March 2012.

Kentucky has had 11 federal disaster declarations since 2008.

–Jack Brammer

Japanese metalworking company plans to open facility in Corbin

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com
FRANKFORT — A Japanese metalworking company is to open its first North American plant in Corbin, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday at a Capitol news conference.
Kowa Kogyosho Co., based in Nagoya, Japan, plans to create 30 jobs by April 2018 and invest $8.3 million into the project at the Corbin Regional Speculative building in the city’s Southeast Kentucky Business Park.
It will provide metal surface treatment for automotive suppliers, through a highly advanced process known as electroless nickel plating.
“Kentucky welcomes Kowa as its newest corporate citizen, one that will significantly enrich the southeastern Kentucky region as well as the entire state,” Beshear said with several Kowa and state and local officials.
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has preliminarily approved tax incentives of up to $600,000 for the company through the Kentucky Business Investment program.
The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
The finance authority also approved the company for tax benefits up to $50,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act. It allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on constructions cots, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing equipment.
Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes said Kowa Kentucky Inc. will have to meet certain standards to get the incentives but he said all of them – like wages paid – have not yet been determined.
He said Kowa wants “to grow their business in the United States.”
The company hopes to begin commercial production in January 2016 with about 10 employees and then grow.
Company officials stressed that it is a clean company and will cause no pollution.
Knox County Judge-Executive J.M. Hall, Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney and Bruce Carpenter, executive director of the Corbin Economic Development Agency, said they welcome Kowa to southeast Kentucky.
The area is hungry for jobs. The unemployment rate in Knox County is 10.7 percent.
Toshio Muguruma, president of Kowa Kogyosho Co., Ltd., said the company was looking in the Knoxville, Tenn., area to build its first North American plant and selected Corbin.