FRANKFORT – House Speaker Greg Stumbo filed a constitutional amendment Tuesday to allow expanded gambling in Kentucky.
It is the third bill filed in this year’s legislative session to ask voters whether they want casino gambling in Kentucky.
Stumbo’s House Bill 584 simply says the General Assembly should not be precluded from authorizing other forms of gambling by general law.
It does not specify how many casinos may be built or where proceeds from them should go.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he notified Gov. Steve Beshear about his bill but did not talk to track officials about it.
House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, has filed a bill that calls for a constitutional amendment to let Kentucky voters decide in November whether they want casino gambling in the state and an accompanying bill that outlines a plan to license and regulate casino gambling at five horse racetracks and three standalone casinos.
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, has a proposed amendment that would allow casino gambling at no more than seven places in the state, with 10 percent of the revenue guaranteed “to promote equine interests” and the state’s share dedicated to “job creation, education, human services, health care, veterans bonuses, local governments and public safety.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky’s top two legislative leaders — Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo — pledged support Thursday for measures to create a registry of caregivers with records of adult abuse, neglect or exploitation.
“I have long advocated for legislation to protect not only our vulnerable adults but also their families,” Beshear said at a news conference at the Capitol. “The family members who hired these caretakers have a right to know whether potential employees have a documented history of hurting, neglecting or exploiting the elderly. This registry provides a simple, reliable check to give families and our senior citizens good information when hiring caregivers.”
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the registry “will go a long way in protecting some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens while giving their families greater peace of mind.”
Stivers said the support for the registry shows what bipartisanship can produce.
Later Thursday, the Senate approved the registry issue in Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, on a 36-0 vote. A similar measure, House Bill 256, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, is to be heard next Thursday in the House Health and Welfare Committee.
The registry would be maintained by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Beshear said the 2012-2014 state budget contained $2.2 million to support creation of the registry, but the enabling legislation was not enacted.
If the legislation is enacted this year, he said, that funding would be used to pay for the registry.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo has filed a bill that he hopes will allow candidates running for governor and other state constitutional offices to compete on a more level financial playing field.
Stumbo’s bill, House Bill 366, makes changes to Kentucky’s campaign finance law in order to help candidates who are unable to finance their own campaigns compete in a statewide election.
Under Stumbo’s plan, once a candidate for governor or his or her running mate donates $1 million or more to their own campaign committee, it requires that slate to file a “Notice of Self-Funding” with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
Upon receiving the notice, the registry will notify, within two business days, all other candidates who have filed for governor that they would now be able to accept $2,500 per individual instead of the current $1,000 limit.
The changes would apply to primary and general elections. However, if a self-funding candidate fails to advance out of a primary election, the $1,000 donation cap would be reapplied through the remainder of the general election or until another notice is filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
Candidates for Kentucky’s other statewide constitutional offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, Auditor of Public Accounts, State Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture – would all have to follow similar procedures if a candidate for these offices chooses to self-fund his or her campaign.
However, for these offices a notice would have to be required once a candidate or his immediate family donates $500,000 to the campaign.
“In Kentucky if you want to run for governor, you have to be at least 30, have lived here for six years and, famously, have never fought in a duel,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “However, we are at risk of making being independently wealthy and having access to millions of dollars an unofficial qualification for statewide office.
“Well, our statewide offices in Kentucky belong to the people and it’s in the best interest of our state and our people if we make sure that every qualified Kentuckian willing to jump in the arena has a shot at having their voice heard.”
Stumbo said the legislation does not punish wealthy individuals who choose to seek statewide office in Kentucky nor does it place them at any competitive disadvantage.
“Any candidate is freely allowed to spend as much or as little of their money on their campaign as they see fit,” Stumbo said. “But being able to write a check shouldn’t allow one candidate to drown out the voices of people who have ideas to share with the people of Kentucky about the future of our commonwealth.”
Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic nominee in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race, declined Friday to condemn Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s comparison of the election to the liberation of Europe from Nazi control in World War II.
In a brief interview with the Herald-Leader, Grimes said she did not want to speak for Stumbo, who said Grimes’ announcement that she was entering the race “reminded me of the feeling that our troops must have had when they liberated the European nations following World War II.”
Stumbo, who introduced Grimes as she rolled out her jobs plan Thursday night in Prestonsburg, was describing the scene when Grimes announced her candidacy in Lexington last summer.
“Can you imagine what it felt like to know that you were liberating a country?” Stumbo told the crowd in his hometown of Prestonsburg. “Well you are about to liberate your state. You are about to liberate your state, from the worst reign of misabuse that we’ve seen in the last thirty years. You are about to give us hope.”
Shortly after Stumbo made his remarks, the Republican Party of Kentucky issued a statement blasting Stumbo for “comparing Sen. McConnell to the Nazis.” The party called the remarks “appalling” and “completely inappropriate.”
Grimes, who sat down for the interview after giving luncheon remarks to the Women Mean Business Conference in Lexington, declined to parse Stumbo’s meaning.
Do not adjust your television.
The 60-workday legislative session that begins this week in Frankfort will still deal with state issues, but Kentuckians can be forgiven if at times they think the statehouse is doing its best impression of Washington as federal issues and politics play major roles in the upcoming session.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election efforts will cast a shadow over almost everything in Frankfort as Democrats push issues that either hurt McConnell, help likely Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, or both. Meanwhile, Republicans will invoke the name of President Barack Obama at almost every turn.
The length and depth of the Senate race’s shadow started to come into focus Friday when Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo nonchalantly announced during a meeting with reporters that House Bill 1 would mirror federal legislation aimed at raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over a three-year period.
Stumbo joked Friday that he didn’t want to speculate on how the issue dovetailed with the Senate race, where Grimes and national Democrats hope to make raising the minimum wage a central agenda item in 2014. On Monday, Stumbo told the Herald-Leader he had “never ever” discussed the issue with Grimes.
Republicans have so far just rolled their eyes at Stumbo’s decision to push the matter in Frankfort. Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said Monday that the speaker is “taking a page from the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda in a state that has overwhelmingly rejected those policies in multiple elections.”
FRANKFORT — Raising Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will be the top priority of House Democrats in the legislative session that starts Tuesday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday. He also is mulling a possible constitutional amendment that would ask voters to approve raising the state’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny to provide more money for education.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said House Bill 1 would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour over three years and deal with pay equity problems. It would mirror a bill now under consideration in Congress, Stumbo said.
His comments received no support from Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, as the legislature’s top two leaders talked to reporters Friday about the upcoming legislative session.
“My initial reaction is that it seems to be a typical ploy of his party,” Stivers said of Stumbo’s consideration of raising the sales tax. “It’s that they just think that throwing money at an issue is the solution.”
Stumbo said the idea to create an “educational excellence fund” is “in its infancy” but could raise $500 million a year for education. He did not know if it would be for higher education as well as primary and secondary education.
Stivers also questioned the wisdom of raising the minimum wage.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s lawmakers can’t decide who they represent.
Legislative leaders debated for nearly an hour Wednesday without any resolution on what to tell constituents about who actually represents their districts in the Kentucky General Assembly.
The complex question stems from last summer’s special legislative session, in which lawmakers drew new boundaries for the House’s 100 districts and the Senate’s 38 districts.
The new maps passed legal muster in the courts but created a problem for legislative staff when constituents asked which lawmaker represents them: the legislator who was last elected by the constituent or the legislator who lives in the constituent’s newly-drawn district.
Staff also said they need to know how they should list legislators and their districts on the legislative website and in 2014 legislative directories.
Acting Legislative Research Commission director Marcia Seiler asked legislative leaders at their monthly meeting Wednesday to provide guidance on the issue.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, made a motion that the LRC give constituents the names of legislators from the newly-drawn districts. He said the new redistricting law had an emergency clause, meaning it took effect immediately upon its passage.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, agreed with Thayer, noting a 1982 opinion from then-Attorney General Steve Beshear, who is now governor, that said a legislator represents the people of the new district in which he or she is placed in redistricting.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said constituents expect their representative or senator be the ones they elected.
Thayer maintained that Stumbo’s approach is based on politics.
He claimed that several House Republican members have been denied messages from constituents in the newly-drawn districts, which could hurt their re-election efforts as the GOP attempts to gain control of the House in next year’s elections.
Stumbo denied the accusation and Thayer declined to provide any names of affected lawmakers to reporters.
Thayer’s motion failed. It needed nine votes for a majority. It garnered seven votes from Republican leaders in the Senate and House. The five House Democratic leaders voted against it, while the three Senate Democratic leaders did not vote. House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, was absent.
Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, said after the vote that legislative leaders did not have enough time to consider the issue before Wednesday’s meeting.
“We’re going to have to have more time to fix problems between the speaker and the Senate president,” he said without elaboration.
Asked after the meeting to describe the working relationship between House and Senate Democratic leaders, Stumbo said, “we’re working on it.”
Some leaders suggested that legislators be allowed to receive messages from constituents in any county they choose.
Stivers and Stumbo said they would try to find a resolution before the leaders’ December meeting.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — A judge decided Wednesday to hear requests on Nov. 18 to dismiss House Speaker Greg Stumbo and the state of Kentucky as defendants in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by two legislative staffers against a former Western Kentucky lawmaker.
Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate was scheduled to hear a motion Wednesday from Attorney General Jack Conway’s office to dismiss the state as a defendant, but Wingate gave lawyers representing the two staffers until Nov. 18 to file written responses to Conway’s motion.
The motion to dismiss Stumbo from the lawsuit already had been set for a Nov. 18 hearing. Stumbo said he acted promptly when he heard about the harassment allegations by referring the matter to the Legislative Research Commission for investigation.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 1 by Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper, named former state Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis, the state, the LRC and Stumbo as defendants.
The two women allege that state government failed to protect them after they complained in February that Arnold inappropriately touched them and made lewd and vulgar comments to them in numerous incidents over several years.
Arnold has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the claims by the women are barred by statute of limitations. His motion is pending.
Arnold has denied the harassment allegations and has resigned from the state legislature.
Thomas Clay, an attorney for the women, has said there is no problem with the statute of limitations.
Assistant Attorney General Nicole Pang told Wingate Wednesday that the state should be dismissed as a defendant in the suit because the women have named both the LRC, an agency of the state, and the commonwealth as defendants.
Leslie Vose, a Lexington attorney for the LRC, said the LRC employed the women and that she did not object to the attorney’s general’s motion.
By John Cheves — email@example.com
House Speaker Greg Stumbo has accepted a position as partner at Morgan & Morgan, a Florida-based personal-injury law firm whose founder, John Morgan, is a major financial backer of the movement to legalize medical marijuana.
In September, Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, announced that he wants a debate in Kentucky about legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.
“I am open and leaning toward supporting the use of medical marijuana as I read more and more research,” Stumbo said on Sept. 24.
Through a spokesman, Stumbo this week said he came to his stand on medical marijuana after speaking to Floyd County constituents who support it.
“There is no correlation between Morgan & Morgan and the medical marijuana,” Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson said.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Three legislative leaders called Friday for a meeting of all legislative leaders on Wednesday to deal with “a leadership vacuum” caused by the resignation of Legislative Research Commission director Robert Sherman.
Sherman abruptly resigned as director of the LRC, the administrative agency for Kentucky’s legislative branch of government, on Sept. 20. His departure came a day after he said an LRC investigation of two staffers’ sexual harassment complaints against former Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, showed that the LRC thoroughly investigated the complaints and implemented protective measures for the women.
In a letter to all legislative leaders Friday, Senate President Robert Stivers, Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover identified two items concerning legislative leadership that they said require the immediate attention of all leaders.
The three leaders said there are four people currently with the title of “deputy director” of the LRC, none of whom have authority to take over for Sherman. They said that Sherman designated Robert Jenkins as the administrator in charge, but that the designation was temporary until all leaders could meet.