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Democratic state Sen. Parrett eyeing possible run for state farm commissioner

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Dennis Parrett, a Democratic state senator from Elizabethtown, is “definitely considering” running for state agriculture commissioner in 2015.

He said Wednesday that he will decide within the next few weeks whether to enter the race that already has attracted a Democratic candidate.

“I have an interest in seeing agriculture move forward in this state,” Parrett, a farm supplier who has represented the 10th Senate district of Hardin and part of Jefferson County since 2011, said in a telephone interview.

Parrett, who will turn 55 on Oct. 30, had no opposition in this year’s primary and general elections for his legislative seat. He
is a farmer and the co-owner of Cecilia Farm Service in Hardin County. He is a former agriculture extension agent in Hardin and Nelson counties and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Kentucky.

Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, a Democrat who is the host of a weekly radio show about farm news in Kentucky, announced her plans in June to run for state agriculture commissioner next year.

She is vice president of marketing for Lawson Marketing Inc. and a former vice president of marketing for Hartland Equipment in Bowling Green.

Asked about running against Lawson Spann, Parrett said, “I would not be running against her. I would be running for the office.”

Lawson Spann said in an email that she is focused on running her campaign.

“I have a plan to recruit and grow markets for our farmers’ products, to grow jobs and to improve Kentucky’s economy,” she said. “I do not think it is appropriate for me to comment about someone who is not officially committed to running for the office.”

The current state agriculture commissioner, Republican James Comer, has decided to run next year for governor. He is to officially announce his candidacy and running mate Sept. 9 in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

Centre College drops efforts to host U.S. Senate debate

McConnellGrimes
By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Centre College has hosted two vice presidential debates this century but could not get the U.S. Senate campaigns of Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes to agree over details for a debate between them this year on the Danville campus.

Centre College President John A. Roush said there did not appear any willingness by any campaign to come to an agreement.

Centre College’s website announced Monday that the liberal arts college has canceled efforts for a U.S. Senate debate on Sept. 3.

The decision came after weeks of planning and several conversations with the two candidates’ campaign officials following a July 17 announcement by AARP, WAVE3 News in Louisville and Centre proposing a debate on the same stage as the 2000 and 2012 vice presidential debates.

Centre originally requested that the candidates respond to the invitation by Aug.1, but college officials discussed and met with campaign representatives after that date in an effort to come to agreement over details regarding format and structure.

“My disappointment runs deep for the citizens of Kentucky, who deserve to make an informed decision on election day,” said Centre President Roush. “We had every indication early on that agreement could be reached, but as time wore on, compromise on the part of both campaigns simply didn’t occur.”

“Campaigns have differences and the stakes in any race are high,” Roush said. “However, at the end of the day, I am more inclined to believe that there was really no willingness on the part of either campaign to come to agreement.”

The final attempt to receive a “yes” or “no” took the form of an open letter by Roush on Aug. 20 to “Fellow Kentuckians,” asking for support via social media.

In his letter, Roush expressed an interest in putting “in place a format for a civilized, meaningful discussion between the candidates to learn more about them and their aspirations for serving the Commonwealth and to get past the carefully rehearsed, contrived, and sometimes mean-spirited advertising that increasingly characterizes political campaigns these days.”

While this did prompt a few last-minute conversations over the weekend with campaign officials, none were substantive enough to prevent cancellation, Roush said.

The two candidates appeared on the same stage earlier this month at the Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County and at a forum last week at the Kentucky Farm Bureau headquarters in Louisville.

Their only remaining scheduled joint appearance is Oct. 13 on the Kentucky Educational Television network.

‘Comment’ focuses on U.S. Senate race; ‘KY Tonight’ will discuss energy

The latest in the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky between Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes will be discussed on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show on the Kentucky Educational Television network.

Joining interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV will be three journalists — Phillip M. Bailey of WFPL in Louisville, Amanda Van Benschoten of The Kentucky Enquirer and Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.

On the Monday, Aug. 25, edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss energy policy.

Scheduled guests are Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council;
Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association; Sarah Lynn Cunningham, an environmental engineer and educator and director of the Louisville Climate Action Network; and Steve Gardner, president and CEO of ECSI and president-elect of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration.

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 @BillKET 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 available online at KET.org and are rebroadcast on KET, KET KY, and radio.

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

–Jack Brammer

PolitiFact: McConnell ad about violence against women ‘mostly false’

McConnellGrimesBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign ad that says he supported a “stronger” Violence Against Women Act than President Obama is “mostly false,” a fact-checking news agency said Wednesday.

The ad, released Aug. 5, features McConnell’s wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

“Have you ever noticed how some liberals feel entitled to speak on behalf of all women? As if every woman agrees with Barack Obama,” Chao says.

A narrator then adds: “Mitch McConnell co-sponsored the original Violence Against Women Act – he’s always supported its purpose. Mitch voted for even stronger protections than Obama’s agenda will allow.”

PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, said the ad is mostly false.

“Perhaps McConnell could argue that the mandatory minimum sentences Republicans required in their alternative made for a ‘stronger’ bill, but advocates of domestic abuse awareness opposed this measure as unnecessary,” PolitiFact wrote. “And the Republican measure was absent several protections for certain groups that were included in the bill Obama signed. McConnell is within his right to oppose those provisions, but it makes it hard for him to prove that he supported ‘stronger’ legislation.”

PolitiFact recently gave a “half true” rating to an ad by McConnell’s Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, that said McConnell voted “two times against the Violence against Women Act.”

Politifact cited McConnell’s history of voting in favor of the law at times, but against it at others.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul plays word association game on political figures

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul mostly used short words and phrases in playing a word association game in a recent interview on Kentucky Educational Television but his answers said a lot.

Paul, being interviewed Sunday by Bill Goodman on KET’s “One to One” program, was asked what first came to his mind when he heard certain names.

Several of them turned out to be potential rivals in the 2016 race for president.

When asked about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Paul simply replied, “Bridges,” and chuckled.

That was a reference to the controversy in which former aides and appointees of Christie created a traffic jam on a bridge apparently for political retribution.

Paul also was ready to respond quickly with comments about former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (“Yesterday’s news”) and President Barack Obama (“Affable but often ineffectual”).

The interview has drawn national media attention, getting write-ups in publications such as The Washington Post and Business Insider.

Libertarian David Patterson files to run for U.S. Senate in Kentucky

David PattersonBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Harrodsburg police officer David Patterson will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot for U.S. Senate in Kentucky as a Libertarian.

Patterson, 43, turned in more than 9,100 signatures Monday to the secretary of state’s office in hopes of challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is Kentucky’s secretary of state.

At least 5,000 valid signatures of registered voters are needed to get on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Grimes’ office took about two hours Monday afternoon to determine that Patterson had provided an adequate number of valid signatures.

The Libertarian Party in Kentucky has about 4,500 members.

Three write-in candidates have also filed for the race, although their names will not appear on the ballot: Mike Maggard of Richmond, Robert Edward Ransdell of Florence and Shawna Sterling of Sharpsburg.

Cha-Ching! State begins new fiscal year on positive note

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s new fiscal year is getting off to a positive start.

State budget director Jane Driskell reported Monday that Kentucky’s General Fund, which pays for most programs, saw its receipts total $705.9 million in July, a 2.2 percent increase over the same month last year.

July was the first month of the state’s new 2015 fiscal year.

When the last fiscal year ended June 30, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear had to plug a $91 million shortfall in the state’s $9.5 billion budget after a year of sluggish collections on state income taxes.

He did that by dipping into budget accounts of several state agencies, taking $21.2 million from the state’s $98.2 million” rainy day” or emergency fund and cutting $3 million in state spending.

Driskell said the General Fund growth of 2.2 percent in July is “a positive sign – especially since our two largest taxes – individual income and sales tax – grew at robust levels of 5.9 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively.

“Our expectations are that the underlying economic momentum continues to build.”

The official revenue estimate for fiscal year 2015 calls for revenue to increase 3.6 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.

Based on July’s results, General Fund revenues need to increase 3.7 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year to meet the official estimate.

Among the state’s major accounts in July, individual income tax receipts rose 5.9 percent, sales tax revenue grew 7.6 percent, cigarette tax collections rose 2.3 percent and the payment to the state from the lottery increased by 3.1 percent.

But corporation income tax collections fell 64.6 percent. The state attributed that to a large one-time payment received in July 2013.

In July 2014, coal severance tax revenues declined 14.8 percent and property tax receipts fell 45 percent. Driskell noted that a small share of property tax receipts is received in July.

Driskell also announced that Road Fund revenues for July totaled $125.4 million, an increase of 5.1 percent compared to last July.

“Growth in the important Road Fund accounts was small but positive in July,” she said. “That is good news given that the forecast for fiscal year 2015 has Road Fund receipts declining slightly.”

For July, motor fuels tax receipts rose 2.8 percent, motor vehicle usage tax jumped 1.4 percent and license and privilege taxes grew 36.3 percent. Non-tax receipts dropped 30.9 percent.

The official revenue estimate for this new fiscal year calls for revenues to decline 0.9 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.

Based on July’s receipts, revenue can fall 1.4 percent for the rest of the fiscal year and still meet budgeted levels.

Kentucky shows deep drop in uninsured adults under federal health law

Gov. Steve Beshear delivers his 2014 State of the Commonwealth speech on Jan. 7, 2014, in Frankfort. Photo by Mark Cornelison | StaffBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

The percentage of adults without health insurance in Kentucky has dropped to less than 12 percent, the second largest decline among the states since the federal Affordable Care Act took effect in January, a new poll shows.

Kentucky’s uninsured rate dropped from 20.4 percent last year to 11.9 percent halfway through 2014, a decline of 8.5 percentage points, according to a Gallup Poll released this week.

Only Arkansas saw a larger decline.

“From day one, Kentuckians swarmed our exchange, kynect, eager to gain health insurance coverage, some for the very first time in their lives,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement Wednesday touting the new poll. “To see this steep decline in the uninsured rate in such a short period of time reaffirms that kynect is working and we made the right decision for the health and well-being of our citizens.”

President Barack Obama and others have hailed kynect as a national model since it was launched Oct. 1.

At the close of open enrollment on April 15, more than 413,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in health care coverage through kynect. The majority received Medicaid, the government-funded insurance program for the poor and disabled, but more than 82,000 purchased a private insurance plan. Of those, the state said 74 percent qualified for some level of financial assistance to help with their premium costs.

Surveys of kynect enrollees revealed that about 75 percent of applicants who signed up during the initial open enrollment period reported they did not have health insurance prior to signing up for coverage through kynect.

As of July 31, more than 521,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in health care coverage through kynect, Beshear said.

Individuals who qualify for Medicaid may visit kynect to enroll in coverage at any time. Only those individuals who experience a qualifying event, such as the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, may purchase a private health insurance plan outside of the open enrollment period.

The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15, for coverage effective Jan. 1.

Gallup’s poll is the first nationwide survey of the uninsured in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Results were based on telephone interviews with a random sample of more than 178,000 adult Americans.

Libertarian plans to join U.S. Senate race

ken4ky_logo

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Harrodsburg police officer David Patterson said he will file Monday to join Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race as a Libertarian.

Patterson, who will turn 43 on Aug. 9, must present at least 5,000 signatures of registered Kentucky voters by Aug. 12 to get on the statewide Nov. 4 U.S. Senate ballot with Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Ken Moellman, state chairman of the Libertarian Party, said Tuesday that a signature drive for Patterson has collected more than 9,000 signatures. He said they are reviewing each signature and already have more than 6,000 that are valid.

The Libertarian Party had planned to have a candidate in place by July 31, Moellman said, but decided not to rush the process after being told Patterson would be excluded from speaking at last weekend’s Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County.

Patterson said in a news release that he will be in the race to win and not to take votes from any particular candidate. “A vote for Patterson is for Patterson. Period,” he said.

His campaign website said he is an “aspiring author, political activist and lifelong, multi-generational Kentuckian. He is an outspoken activist for equal rights for minorities and LGBT persons, and for his strong opposition on violence against women and children.”

A native of Louisville, Patterson is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. He and his wife, Ashley Nicole Davis Patterson, have two children.

Founded in 1973, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky promotes individual liberty through free markets and social tolerance. Its website claims about 4,500 members. More information about the party can be found at www.LPKY.org.

3 evangelical leaders ask McConnell and Grimes to participate in forums

McConnellGrimesBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Three Kentucky evangelical leaders are inviting Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates – Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes — to participate in three forums “to explore matters of concern to evangelical Christians.”

A news release Monday about the forums said McConnell has accepted the invitation and Grimes is reviewing it.

The two candidates appeared together over the weekend at the Fancy Farm political picnic in Graves County and have agreed to appear at a forum hosted by Kentucky Farm Bureau on Aug. 20.

Grimes has also accepted an invitation to debate on Kentucky Educational Television in October. McConnell has not yet said whether he will attend that debate.

McConnell offered a day after the May primary elections to participate in three “Lincoln-Douglas-style” debates with Grimes before Labor Day with no audience. She declined the offer, but challenged McConnell to debate her on KET and in Beattyville and Pikeville during a speech Saturday at the Fancy Farm picnic in far Western Kentucky.

“We’ve had discussions with multiple outlets about debates and some are more advanced than others,” Josh Holmes, an advisor to McConnell, said Sunday.

The issues forums offered Monday will be hosted by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention; and Bob Russell, retired senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville.

They will be held Aug. 14 at Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Aug. 20 at Highview Baptist Church’s East Campus in Louisville and Aug. 28 at Somerset Christian School in Somerset.

“The purpose of these forums will be to consider the urgent issues now presented to evangelical Christians in American society and in the engagement with our culture,” Mohler said in a news release.

Topics for discussion mentioned by Mohler included “family, marriage, the sanctity of life and religious liberty.”

Russell also mentioned “the freedom to evangelize, racial equality, the persecution of Christians in foreign countries, caring for the poor, justice in the courtroom, defining a just war and the proper treatment of immigrants.”

Each event will begin at 11 a.m. The hosts will moderate an hour of questions and answers with the candidates, who are expected to appear separately. The public is invited to attend the events, which are free.

McConnell is a member of Southeast Christian Church and Grimes is a member of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington.