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McConnell, Paul, Rogers support Obama plan to help southeast Ky.

By Bill Estep
bestep@herald-leader.com

Echoing President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call 50 years ago for a bipartisan attack on poverty, President Barack Obama on Thursday sought support from both parties for efforts to boost economic opportunity, as he announced an initiative aimed at doing that in southeastern Kentucky and four other places.

Obama identified the first sites chosen for his Promise Zones program, which will give the areas priority in getting federal money for education and other needs.

An area made up of Harlan, Bell, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, and Knox counties, along with much of Whitley County, was one of two rural zones Obama announced. The Lexington Herald-Leader first reported Obama’s plans Wednesday.

Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, whose district includes the eight-county area, attended the announcement in the East Room of the White House.

All have been critical of Obama on a range of issues, including his health-care overhaul.

Obama noted the country has had a “rancorous political year,” but said he believes that making sure all Americans have a “fair shot” to succeed should not be a partisan issue.

“This should be a challenge that unites us all,” said Obama, specifically acknowleding Paul’s attendance. “I don’t care if the ideas are Democrats or Republican. I do care that they work.”

Shutdown brings D.C. fundraising to halt for most of Ky. delegation

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

WASHINGTON — With few exceptions, Kentucky’s federal lawmakers have scrambled to cancel fundraisers after the government shut down midnight Monday.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, still planned to attend a high-dollar event at the Four Seasons hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., with optional golf for attendees beginning Thursday, according to a fundraising schedule obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Whitfield’s event, planned to raise money for his Thoroughbred Political Action Committee (PAC), included suggested contributions of $2,500 per PAC and $1,500 per individual. Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus was scheduled to join the Kentucky congressman.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the event was still on, but a statement from Whitfield spokesman Chris Pack indicated that might change.

“The congressman’s sole focus right now is getting Harry Reid and the Senate to negotiate with the House to reopen the federal government,” Pack said in an email. “The congressman will assess his schedule as the week progresses.”

U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, both canceled fundraising events planned for Wednesday, and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell canceled a fundraising breakfast scheduled for Thursday morning.

Barr, Guthrie, Whitfield and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, all canceled fundraisers that were scheduled for Tuesday, the first full day of the government shutdown.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, managed to attend a fundraiser on Monday at the GOP’s Capitol Hill Club in Washington after a meeting of the House Republican Conference and just hours before the shutdown began.

Beshear says lawmakers may redraw Kentucky’s congressional districts

Gov. Steve Beshear

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

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.

Beshear signs into law new boundaries for Kentucky’s congressional districts

UPDATED AT 5:12 P.M.

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Friday a compromise plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts after the plan rocketed through the General Assembly on Friday.

The new map in House Bill 302 moves part of Jessamine County, including Wilmore, and all of Garrard, Mercer and Boyle counties from Central Kentucky’s 6th District to the 2nd District, which extends west to Owensboro. Lincoln County was moved to Eastern Kentucky’s 5th District.

The 6th District gained the remaining portion of Scott County, a southern strip of Harrison County, and all of Robertson, Nicholas, Fleming, Bath, Menifee and Wolfe counties.

Those changes are expected to make it tougher for Republican Andy Barr to successfully challenge U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles.

Legislators may finally be ready to approve congressional redistricting

By Jack Brammer and Janet Patton
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — After weeks of contentious negotiations, the state legislature is expected to produce a map Friday that redraws boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said late Thursday there will be a vote Friday on a congressional redistricting map.

Stivers declined to say what the map will look like, “but we believe it will be a plan that will pass both chambers.”

He said the Senate has made no changes yet in a map the House sent it earlier this week, but “there’s always the possibility. Because of the sensitivity of the issue in discussions that will continue tonight and tomorrow, it probably will be premature to comment on what we have discussed with leaders of both houses.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this week that the latest map proposal basically protects incumbents.

No compromise on congressional redistricting; issue probably headed to court

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers failed to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts before Tuesday’s candidate filing deadline, which means the issue probably will end up in court.

House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, told House members about 20 minutes after the 4 p.m. filing deadline that a compromise agreement between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate could not be reached.

The House and Senate had delayed the original deadline from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7 to give the two sides more time to reach an agreement.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had worked with members of congress on a possible compromise that late last week looked promising, House leaders said. But Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers said Tuesday afternoon that the two sides appeared to “agree to disagree.”

Stumbo said congressional candidates will run in the state’s existing districts. That means someone — either a candidate or a national political party — will probably challenge the constitutionality of Kentucky’s districts.

House, Senate appear close on congressional redistricting plan

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — House and Senate negotiators appear close to an agreement on new boundaries for Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

“We have a map that shows great promise,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo said late Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate has had “little time to analyze anything” from the House, but “hope springs eternal.”

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the staff of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, has been instrumental in helping the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate come to a consensus after weeks of negotiations.

Senate leaders were looking at a proposed map after the chamber adjourned Thursday evening. If the Senate agrees to the new map, it’s possible for the legislature to approve the plan before the Feb. 7 filing deadline for congressional candidates.

‘Some movement’ on congressional redistricting

FRANKFORT – The state House and Senate still have not reached a compromise on the redrawing of boundaries for Kentucky’s six congressional districts, but House Speaker Greg Stumbo appeared more optimistic Thursday that the two sides could reach an agreement.

“I think there’s at least some movement,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

He said the House has offered another compromise plan to Republican Senate leaders. That plan specifically addressed some concerns of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, Stumbo said. Rogers’ district includes most of Eastern and Central Kentucky.

The filing deadline for candidates is Jan. 31, but lawmakers could extend the deadline to give the two sides more time to hammer out an agreement.

Stumbo said he met and talked with Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers about the congressional map on Thursday morning, although no meeting has been set between leaders of the two chambers to produce a new congressional map.

Stivers, R-Manchester, said negotiations are “going slowly.”

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

Battle over redrawing Kentucky’s congressional districts on hold until Monday

UPDATED AT 1:13 P.M.

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – The state House and Senate adjourned Friday until Monday without approving a bill to redraw boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

The lack of action means the Jan. 31 filing deadline for candidates for U.S. Congress may have to be extended.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he thinks Monday would be the last day for the legislature to act on House Bill 2, the congressional redistricting bill, without changing the filing deadline.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the Jan. 31 filing deadline for legislative and state Supreme Court candidates should stay in effect if Gov. Steve Beshear signs into law on Friday a bill already approved by the legislature to redraw those districts.

House gives final approval to controversial legislative redistricting bill

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The state House sent to Gov. Steve Beshear a controversial legislative redistricting bill Thursday that would move the district of Democratic State Sen. Kathy Stein from Lexington to northeastern Kentucky.

House Bill 1, approved on a 58-39 vote, redraws the boundaries of all 100 House districts and 38 Senate districts. It also redistricts the state’s seven Supreme Court districts.

Beshear is expected to sign it into law, though Stein’s supporters were lobbying for a veto. The Democratic governor had nothing to say about the bill on Thursday.

The House did not agree with the Senate on a plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts. A conference committee made up of representatives from both chambers started meeting Thursday afternoon to negotiate a compromise on House Bill 2 but finished about 5 p.m. without any resolution. It is to resume negotiations Friday.