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Beshear to choose among 3 attorneys to fill Supreme Court seat

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT —The names of three attorneys were presented to Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday from which he is to choose a replacement to fill the Kentucky Supreme Court seat held by Justice Will T. Scott.

Scott, of Pikeville,stepped down from the state’s highest court Jan. 2 to run as a Republican for governor.

The three attorneys selected by the seven-member Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., are David Allen Barber of Prestonsburg, Roger Donald Riggs of Mount Sterling and Janet L. Stumbo of Van Lear.

James Comer’s first TV ad for governor to begin airing Wednesday

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will begin running his first ad in the Republican primary for governor on Wednesday, touting his record as commissioner and proclaiming himself “a blue-collar guy.”

The ad, shared first with the Herald-Leader, features video clips from Comer’s entrance into the race last September at an event in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

“I represent the farmers, the teachers, the factor workers, all the hard-working middle-class Kentuckians,” Comer says in the introductory ad.

He pledges to run state government efficiently, making reference to his decision to shut down the state-run fuel testing lab established by his predecessor, Richie Farmer.

“After conducting an efficiency audit, Comer found that a previously established fuel lab project was costing Kentucky taxpayers $900,000 per year,” Comer’s campaign said in a news release. “He immediately privatized the project, sold the testing equipment and returned $1.65 million back to Kentucky taxpayers.”

The newspaper headline “Comer returns $1.65 million to state” appears on the screen as Comer says people want leaders who will “actually achieve.”

“You can operate government more efficiently,” Comer says. “We’ve proven that at the department of agriculture.”

Comer’s first ad comes about a year after Republican Hal Heiner, a former Louisville councilman, aired his first introductory ad. Heiner returned to the airwaves several weeks ago with ads that tout him as a “Frankfort outsider” and blast career politicians, who Heiner says “don’t have a clue” about how to create jobs.

Two other GOP contenders, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin and former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott, have not yet begun airing ads ahead of the May 19th primary election.

Group seeks end of controversial campaign finance measure

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court shook up the world of campaign finance by ruling that corporations and unions may spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

Since then, a very small part of the American public –0.01 percent — has donated 40 percent of all the contributions.

That needs to be stopped, said a small group in front of the Capitol Wednesday that offered the statistic to reporters.

They were in support for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to do away with the 2010 high court ruling called “Citizens United.”

A tiny portion of this country is funding elections and, in effect, controlling their outcome, said Richard Beliles, a Louisville attorney who is chair of Common Cause of Kentucky.

The group is part of the national Common Cause organization that advocates open, honest and accessible state and local government.

Common Cause held rallies across the country Tuesday similar to the one at the Kentucky Capitol and urged members of Congress to join the efforts in curbing campaign spending.

Joining Beliles in Frankfort were Louisville retired attorney George Schuhmann with Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.; Amy Waters of Louisville with 350.org, a global climate movement; and Jan Christensen of Louisville with 350.org and the environmental group, Sierra Club.

State Democratic Party mails out first family’s Christmas cards

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Democratic Party has mailed out about 1,200 Christmas cards that feature Gov. Steve Beshear and his family. For this year’s Christmas cards, all Beshear family members are decked out in casual attire. “Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season,” say the cards that the state Democratic Party has […]

State receipts show ‘strong’ jump in November

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT – The General Fund, which pays for most state programs, took in 12.8 percent more money in November than it did in November 2013, state budget director Jane Driskell said Wednesday. Driskell, in a news release, said sales and individual income taxes accounted for much of the gain. “We are […]

Official list of KY Senate GOP committee appointments

Here’s the official list of all Republican appointments made to the Kentucky Senate standing committees Monday by Senate Republican leaders.

Attorney General Conway has back surgery

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, underwent successful back surgery Wednesday in Louisville, his office said in a release.

The release said Conway, 45, had a minimally-invasive, microdiscectomy to relieve persistent pain caused by a herniated lumbar disc impinging on his sciatic nerve root.

The procedure was performed at Baptist Health Louisville by neurosurgeon Steven J. Reiss.

Doctors anticipate a complete recovery, and Conway is expected to keep a full schedule for all of calendar year 2015, the release said.

He will have a limited public schedule for the next couple of weeks while he recovers, it added.

Conway thanked the doctors and medical staff for their care and all those who have sent prayers and well wishes.

“He looks forward to hitting the ground running in 2015,” the release said.

Conway is running for governor of Kentucky next year with state Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, as his running mate.

Lexington attorney Luke Morgan considering GOP bid for attorney general

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT – Luke Morgan, a Lexington attorney with experience in trial court and state administrative hearings, is considering a possible run as a Republican for state attorney general in 2015. Morgan, 51, said Tuesday he has not yet made a decision on whether to run to be the state’s chief law-enforcement […]

Phil Huddleston chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Luallen; Shannon Tivitt deputy chief for Beshear

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT – Veteran state employee Phil Huddleston of Frankfort will be chief of staff for newly appointed Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen.

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that Shannon Tivitt, who had been chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, will be his new deputy chief of staff.

Luallen said Wednesday in making the annoucement about Huddleston that his appointment is effective immediately.

“Phil’s extensive work in state government in both the executive and legislative branches will serve the administration well,” Luallen said in a statement.

“He understands how to best navigate the hurdles that can slow progress on needed policies, and he will make sure that our office continues to carry out Gov. Beshear’s vision of a healthier, more prosperous Kentucky.”

Beshear recently appointed Luallen to be his lieutenant governor to replace Abramson, who departed to take a job at the White House.

Huddleston, a native of Albany, has served more than 30 years in state government in a variety of roles, including as a legislative and policy analyst as well as chief of staff to the president of the state Senate.

Most recently, he served as chief of staff to the House majority whip.

“I am excited to join the administration and to help continue the strong initiatives of this office,” said Huddleston. “I thank Lt. Gov. Luallen for giving me this opportunity, and I thank Gov. Beshear for his continued leadership.”

Huddleston has served on the board for the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, the Kentucky Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Human Services Coordination Alliance and the Frankfort Salvation Army.

He and his wife, Pat, have been married 43 years.

In a release, Beshear said Tivitt “has been an indispensable asset to my administration as the lieutenant governor’s chief of staff, overseeing policy efforts such as kyhealthnow and ‘Close the Deal,’” said Beshear.

“Her long history of work in city, county and state government operations gives her a valuable and practical understanding of what makes policies work. She is an ideal choice to serve on my senior staff.”

Tivitt succeeds Jamie Link, who resigned to become the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Prior to joining the Beshear administration, Tivitt served as chief of staff to Abramson for four years when he was mayor of Louisville.

She also led administrative efforts for the Louisville Development Authority for Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong and Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator Denise Harper Angel.

She began her career in public service as a legislative coordinator with the City of Louisville’s Board of Aldermen.

“I have spent the last 20 years working in various agencies in city, county and state government because I have a deep appreciation for and devotion to public service,” said Tivitt. “I’m very grateful to Gov. Beshear for this opportunity to serve as his deputy chief of staff, and I look forward to helping continue the good work of this administration.”

Tivitt is a native of Breckinridge County and graduated from the University of Louisville. She resides in Louisville. Her appointment is
effective immediately.

–Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – Veteran state employee Phil Huddleston of Frankfort will be chief of staff for newly appointed Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen.

Luallen said Wednesday in making the annoucement that his appointment is effective immediately.

“Phil’s extensive work in state government in both the executive and legislative branches will serve the administration well,” Luallen said in a statement.

“He understands how to best navigate the hurdles that can slow progress on needed policies, and he will make sure that our office continues to carry out Gov. Beshear’s vision of a healthier, more prosperous Kentucky.”

Gov. Steve Beshear recently appointed Luallen to be his lieutenant governor to replace Jerry Abramson, who departed to take a job at the White House.

Huddleston, a native of Albany, has served more than 30 years in state government in a variety of roles, including as a legislative and policy analyst as well as chief of staff to the president of the state Senate.

Most recently, he served as chief of staff to the House majority whip.

“I am excited to join the administration and to help continue the strong initiatives of this office,” said Huddleston. “I thank Lt. Gov. Luallen for giving me this opportunity, and I thank Gov. Beshear for his continued leadership.”

Huddleston has served on the board for the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, the Kentucky Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Human Services Coordination Alliance and the Frankfort Salvation Army.

He and his wife, Pat, have been married 43 years.

–Jack Brammer

Big dip in KY’s gasoline tax means less money for road projects

Transportation Secretary Mike HancockBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Kentucky motorists will pay less taxes for gas starting New Year’s Day, but the change will mean fewer road improvements, state officials warned Wednesday.

Kentucky’s tax on sales of gasoline, diesel and ethanol motor fuels will drop by 4.3 cents per gallon on Jan. 1, resulting in a loss to the Kentucky Road Fund of about $129 million on an annualized basis, according to the state Transportation Cabinet.

Kentucky’s gas tax fluctuates with the average wholesale price of gas, which has dropped in recent months.

“The gas tax accounts for more than half of the revenue in the Kentucky Road Fund,” state Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said in a news release. “A loss of revenue is always concerning, but a revenue impact of this magnitude is crippling. It means less money for building, improving, maintaining and repairing our roads, streets and bridges.”

A loss of $129 million would amount to about 6 percent of Kentucky’s highway funding, which was forecast to collect $2.25 billion in the current fiscal year from all revenue sources, including state and federal motor-fuels taxes and a state usage tax on motor vehicles.