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‘Comment’ features 3 veteran journalists; ‘KY Tonight’ will discuss 2012 elections

Three veteran journalists will join host Ferrell Wellman on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.

They are Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky; Ronnie Ellis, Frankfort reporter for CNHI, Inc.; and Jack Brammer, political writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The show airs live at 8 p.m. Friday EDT on KET1.

On the Monday, Aug. 20, edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. EDT on KET1 and at, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss the 2012 election.

Scheduled guests are State Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville; Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville; House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown; and Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton.

Viewers with questions and comments may send email to or use the message form at

Viewers also may submit questions and comments on Twitter @BillKET, #kytonight, or on KET’s Facebook page. 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

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

–Jack Brammer

General Assembly must pay legal bills of plaintiffs in redistricting lawsuit

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — The Legislative Research Commission must pay the legal fees of House Republicans and Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein, who successfully challenged the redrawing of legislative district boundaries earlier this year, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd granted the plaintiffs’ motion for attorney fees in a six-page order.

Shepherd ordered negotiations over the amount of the legal bills to be completed by Aug. 30. If the parties can’t reach a resolution, they must file documents in support of their request for legal fees by Sept. 14, he said.

Bobby Sherman, director of the administrative arm of the Kentucky General Assembly, could not immediately be reached for comment.

House Republicans and Stein, of Lexington, successfully challenged redistricting maps approved in this year’s state legislative session.

Beshear creates health benefit exchange; legislative panel rejects rental space for it

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday to create an online marketplace offering health insurance plans for Kentuckians, as called for in the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

Shortly afterward, the Kentucky General Assembly’s Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee rejected, on a 3-4 partisan vote, a proposal by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to spend $294,540 for rental space to accommodate 210 employees associated with the health insurance exchange.

Despite the vote, Finance Secretary Lori Flanery has the authority to override the oversight committee’s decision and let the rental project proceed. Beshear said late Tuesday that Flanery will sign the lease “in order to make sure that we don’t fall behind on implementation and run the risk of a federal takeover of our health benefits exchange.”

Sen. Bob Leeper, an independent from Paducah who usually sides with Republicans, said he could not support the rental lease because he was reluctant to put his name on anything related to “Obamacare.”

Stumbo, Williams approve $19,758 payment for redistricting legal bill

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – The legislature’s top two leaders have decided the General Assembly will pay a $19,758.94 legal bill for its representation in a lawsuit over the redrawing of state legislative district boundaries.

The action by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, ignores a vote earlier this month by the 16-member Legislative Research Commission against using tax dollars to pay the bill.

“The decision to pay legal fees and to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars, without any accountability to other members of the General Assembly, is plain wrong, and under Kentucky law, it is illegal,” House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Thursday in a statement.

Hoover said state law says the commission, not individual lawmakers, may contract for services needed by the General Assembly and that approval is needed by a majority of the LRC to spend any funds to defend a lawsuit.

Special session ends after pain pill bill, transportation budget win approval


By Jack Brammer and Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — A five-day special legislative session that cost taxpayers more than $300,000 ended late Friday afternoon after Kentucky lawmakers approved a transportation budget and a bill aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse.

The contentious session wrapped up quickly after leaders in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House begrudgingly accepted compromises on both bills, which they had failed to approve in the final hours of the regular legislative session on April 12.

The Senate backed off a proposal to restore about $50 million worth of road projects in and near Senate President David Williams’ Southern Kentucky district that Gov. Steve Beshear had vetoed earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the House accepted an anti-drug abuse bill that keeps the state’s electronic prescription monitoring system in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services — and out of the hands of law enforcement agencies eager to investigate doctors who over-prescribe addictive medications.

Senate committee puts Williams’ vetoed projects into road budget

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — The $50 million in road projects that Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed in or near the Southern Kentucky district of Senate President David Williams are back — for now.

In a surprise move Thursday, the fourth day of a special legislative session, the Senate budget committee added the projects to a bill containing the Transportation Cabinet’s operating budget.

The panel adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by committee Chairman Bob Leeper, I-Paducah, that restored the projects. The committee then approved the amended House Bill 2 on a 14-0 vote and sent it to the Senate, which is expected to consider it Friday.

If the changes become law, which seems unlikely, they would reverse Beshear’s decision on Wednesday to veto the road projects from the state’s two-year road plan. That bill was approved on April 12, the last day of the regular legislative session.

Leeper said he introduced the amendment “as a matter of principle” because it was not fair for the governor to direct his vetoes at one legislator.

Money for roads in Williams’ district pales in comparison to House leaders

By John Cheves

Gov. Steve Beshear blamed Senate President David Williams’ “greed” last week after Williams added tens of millions of dollars in spending for his district to the state’s two-year road plan. Meanwhile, Williams criticized Beshear for not signing the plan into law hours after legislative leaders hammered out a compromise version and delivered it to the governor.

A week after the regular legislative session ended in failure because of this impasse, the facts don’t entirely support either man.

Though Williams, R-Burkesville, did try to fatten short-term road spending in his district, which includes six rural counties along the Tennessee state line, what he awarded himself pales in comparison to the asphalt anticipated by House Democratic leaders, who get first crack at the governor’s road plan and share the governor’s party affiliation.

From 2012 through 2014, the road plan the legislature approved last Thursday would have spent $115 million in Williams’ district, or $1,017 per person. Floyd County, home of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would get $95 million, or $2,411 per person. Elliott County, home of House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, would get $41 million, or $5,259 per person.

Beshear vetoes $50 million of road projects in or near Williams’ district

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Senate will approve a $4.5 billion operating budget for the Transportation Cabinet on Friday and end a special legislative session that began Monday, Senate President David Williams said late Wednesday.

The announcement came after Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law a two-year road plan, but not before vetoing about $50 million in funding for road projects in or near Senate President David Williams’ Southern Kentucky Senate district.

Williams said he was “very pleased” that the governor finally signed the road plan, “and we will proceed now to pass the operating budget” for the Transportation Cabinet.

He said Beshear’s vetoes were “vindictive and unconstitutional. But since he just directed them at me, we will proceed.”

The Senate GOP leader said per capita spending in the road plan for his district after Beshear’s vetoes is about $700, compared to about $2,400 in House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s district. Williams’ district includes Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Monroe, Wayne and Whitley counties.

House approves road budget, pain pill bill


By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — The two major bills of the special legislative session cleared the Democratic-led House on Wednesday and now head to the Republican-led Senate, where they face an uncertain future.

The measures — an operating budget for the Transportation Cabinet and a bill aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse — won approval from the House on the third day of the session, which costs taxpayers about $60,000 a day.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Gov. Steve Beshear told him Wednesday morning that he is close to finalizing his review of the state’s two-year road plan. Senate President David Williams has said he will not allow the Senate to vote on the transportation operating budget until Beshear signs the two-year road plan, which details more than 1,000 transportation projects, into law.

If Beshear signs the road plan by the end of this week, the special legislative session could conclude on Friday, the earliest day a bill could complete the law-making process.

Shaughnessy, Williams spar in Senate

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — Democratic Sen. Tim Shaughnessy of Louisville and Republican Senate President David Williams of Burkesville participated in a sharp exchange Tuesday morning in the Senate about the agenda of the special legislative session.

Shaughnessy arose from his chair during the Senate’s proceedings and said he was “confused” about why the Senate is considering bills that don’t relate to Gov. Steve Beshear’s agenda for the special session.

Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. The legislature determines when the session ends.

Beshear put on the special session’s agenda a state road budget bill and a bill to curb prescription drug abuse.

Senate Republicans on Monday added to that a new road construction plan in case Beshear vetoes the one the legislature sent him last Friday and a bill to stop the per diem salary for legislators when they do not meet in chambers during a session.