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Lawmaker takes issue with Stumbo’s comments on Ark park

State Rep. Brian LinderBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — State Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, expressed disappointment Thursday over House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s comments this week that the state should not provide tax incentives for a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.

Linder, who represents Grant, Gallatin and Owen counties in the House’s 61st District, said in a news release that Stumbo’s comments “appear to tell those who want to bring economic opportunity to the commonwealth that Kentucky is closed for business, which only serves to further drive other businesses out of our state.”

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this week that Grant County needs more economic development but that the use of tax incentives for the park is unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s mandate for separation of church and state.

He predicted that the incentives will be challenged in court and the state would lose.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Authority has given its preliminary approval for as much as $18.25 million in tax incentives for the $73 million first phase of the biblical theme park. It is to consider final approval after a feasibility study is conducted.

The park is to open in two years and will feature a wooden ark 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 55 feet high. It is affiliated with Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum in Boone County. The museum follows a literal interpretation of the Bible and the belief, contrary to science, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

Linder said the proposed Ark Encounter theme park is a tourism-based economic development project that qualifies to receive tax incentives from the state. He said millions of dollars have already been allotted for highway improvements in the area of the proposed theme park’s location

“While Kentucky continues to lose jobs to places like Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas, Speaker Stumbo chooses to attack an economic development project in my community by encouraging lawsuits on tax incentives,” Linder said.

Linder said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and others are supporting the project “because they understand the huge economic benefits it can bring to the Commonwealth, yet Speaker Stumbo would rather stir up issues instead of considering the opportunities this project will provide to Kentucky families.”

Linder called Stumbo’s comments about the park and religion disingenuous.

“While the Speaker has an issue with a religious theme park receiving tax incentives to provide jobs, he apparently has no problem occupying a chair in the House chambers that has, in large letters, the motto ‘In God We Trust’ behind it,” he said.

Stumbo criticizes use of state tax incentives for Noah’s Ark theme park

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-PrestonsburgBy Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Wednesday that it’s not appropriate for the state to provide tax incentives for a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.

He said he expects that the practice will be challenged in court and that the state will lose because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s mandate for separation of church and state.

Stumbo’s comments came during a wide-ranging news conference in his Capitol office, during which he also contended that Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, was “hand-picked” for the job by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and that he has decided not to make an expanded gambling bill the highest-priority measure in the 2015 General Assembly, because Churchill Downs has contributed heavily to House Republican candidates.

The Democrat from Prestonsburg predicted that Democrats will pick up at least three to five seats in the state House in November to keep control of the chamber. Democrats now have a 54-46 advantage in the House.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, called Stumbo’s news conference “a dog and pony show.”

Jack Conway raises $750,000 in seven weeks for gubernatorial campaign

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 AlcalaBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Attorney General Jack Conway continued his effort to lock up the Democratic nomination in next year’s governor’s race with an overwhelming show of force, announcing Tuesday that his campaign has raised more than $750,000 since entering the race in early May.

Conway and his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly, reported having more than $700,000 in cash on hand.

While a number of other Democrats are considering a run for governor after this year’s elections are over, Conway has moved quickly to consolidate Democratic support, announcing his large fundraising haul after rolling out a series of major endorsements.

“Sannie and I are honored by the bipartisan support we’ve received from friends across Kentucky who believe in our vision of creating better jobs, building infrastructure and investing in early childhood and higher education,” Conway said in a statement. “We have a proven record of experience and following through on the commitments we’ve made to the people of this state. We are uniting Democrats and hard-working Kentuckians who believe that together we can build a better commonwealth to live, work and raise our families.”

When Conway first entered the race, a number of Democrats worried that his early entry might distract from the attention and resources Alison Lundergan Grimes will need to defeat U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this November.

In Tuesday’s news release, the campaign said it had held two fundraising events, “keeping the commitment to avoid fundraising conflicts with Alison Lundergan Grimes and the Kentucky House Democratic Caucus.”

No ‘Comment’ this weekend; ‘KY Tonight’ will discuss state budget

“Comment on Kentucky,” a public-affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network, will be preempted this weekend because of the Fourth of July.

On the Monday, July 7, edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss the state budget and tax reform.

Scheduled guests are state Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee; state Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee; Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy; and Bryan Sunderland, senior vice president of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

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 archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET and KET KY. Archived programs, information about podcasts, and broadcast schedules are available at KET.org/kytonight.

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

–Jack Brammer

Judge dismisses lawsuit seeking reappointment to Fish and Wildlife Commission

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT —A judge granted Senate President Robert Stivers’ request Friday to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state Senate’s failure to vote on a reappointment to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd said in a four-page order that the court lacks the constitutional authority to direct the Senate on how to consider such nominations and nothing in the lawsuit filed by Campbellsville doctor Jim Angel supports any allegations that the Senate failed to follow its own rules.

Neither Angel nor his attorney, C. Thomas Hectus of Louisville, was immediately available to comment on Shepherd’s order.

Beshear calls for more investments in education

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear told a group of educators and students Tuesday that this year’s legislative session made strides in education “but we have a long way to go.”

At a reception in the Capitol put on by several education organizations called Kentucky Education Action Team to thank Beshear and the 2014 General Assembly, Beshear said he is thankful that lawmakers “overcame a tough budget and made significant investments in our schools and children.”

Former Rep. Arnold appeals ethics decision against him

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Former state Rep. John Arnold asked Franklin Circuit Court Monday to dismiss the Legislative Ethics Commission’s decision that found him guilty of three ethics charges in a sexual harassment case.

Arnold, D-Sturgis, asked the court to set aside the commission’s fine and reprimand against him.

He claimed the commission did not have any jurisdiction over him as a former legislator and had no say over any sexual harassment regulations.

The commission had no immediate comment on Arnold’s lawsuit.

Candidate for state House seat claims fraud in GOP primary election

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Richard Treitz, a candidate in last month’s Republican primary election in the state House’s 24th District that covers Marion, LaRue and Green counties, is legally contesting the results of the election.

Treitz, in a lawsuit filed May 30 in Green Circuit Court, claims that election officials allowed a third candidate’s name – Amber Roger Dones –to appear on the ballot even after she had withdrawn from the race on Feb. 28.

The election results showed Treitz of Greensburg losing to J. Alex LaRue of Hodgenville by a vote of 1,400 to 1,166.

In his lawsuit, Treitz claimed that the county clerks in the district “failed and refused to inform the voters” during the election that Dones had withdrawn from the race and was not a valid candidate.

He said Dones got about 343 votes, which would have gone to him.

“The intentional and pervasive failure to inform the voters of the defective ballots amounts to perpetrating a fraud on the voters and unjustly and unlawfully influencing the outcome of the election,” the suit said.

Treitz is asking the court to set aside the election. He also wants the court to declare him the winner or allow all the voters who voted for Dones to vote again in a special election in the district.

Election officials have not yet replied to Treitz’ lawsuit.

Democratic incumbent Terry Mills of Lebanon will face the Republican nominee for the House seat in the Nov. 4 general election. Mills had no opponent in the May Democratic primary election.

Chris McDaniel confusion: Kentucky and Mississippi politicians share same name

Kentucky state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor MillBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Come Tuesday night, cable news might be a confusing place for voters in Northern Kentucky.

No, you didn’t miss an election. And no, your state senator didn’t move to Mississippi.

With Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel running as the Tea Party favorite to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in Tuesday’s primary election, Kentucky’s state Sen. Chris McDaniel said there has been plenty of confusion.

McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said more than a few people have confused him for the candidate farther south on Facebook, Twitter, and letters to the state Capitol and his personal mailbox.

When Mississippi’s McDaniel first got in the race, his tech staffer reached out to the Kentucky name twin in hopes of buying his Internet domain — www.chris-mcdaniel.com — but nothing ever came of it.

Kentucky’s McDaniel said the letters are coming from “both sides — love and hate.”

“His friends have found me. His enemies have found me,” the Bluegrass McDaniel said Monday. “I’m just waiting for his donors to find me, and then we’ll be even I guess.”

Legislative leaders make joint appointment to ethics panel after two-year wait

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers filled a position Monday on the Legislative Ethics Commission that has been vacant for two years.

The two legislative leaders jointly appointed Henry Stephens, a professor at Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law, to fill out the nine-member commission that came under fire recently for not having a majority of members present to hear sexual harassment complaints against a former legislator.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Monday that the apppointment took such a long time because it was “an ongoing process, but we are pleased to have found such a well qualified person to serve.”

Stivers’ spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said he has “been vetting a number of individuals” who would be acceptable to both Stumbo and him.

The other commission appointments are split evenly between them.