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New Bevin ad gets his kids involved; McConnell’s portrays him as ‘workhorse’ for Kentucky

By Sam Youngman

syoungman@herald-leader.com

Matt Bevin is making it a family affair, and Mitch McConnell wants Kentucky to think of him as a conservative “workhorse.”

With one month to go until the May 20 Republican primary, both candidates released new ads Monday, although Bevin appears to be running out of time to find traction against the incumbent U.S. Senate minority leader.

Winter weather wallops state tax dollars

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT –The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spent more than $68 million on snow and ice removal this past winter – about 1.5 times more than a typical winter in the BluegrassState.

“This was an extraordinary year — requiring extraordinary measures — in terms of the amount of salt used on state roadways and the challenges the cabinet faced as the winter pressed on,” Nancy Albright, deputy state highway engineer for project delivery and preservation, said Monday in a release.

The amount of money used to combat snow and ice will result in fewer funds to do some spring maintenance work on state roadways, Albright said.

Maintenance issues that could create hazards on roads if not repaired – such as guardrail replacement, striping and pothole repair – will be top priority, she said.

But maintenance issues such as tree trimming, pavement patching, panel sign repairs and some drainage structure issues may be deferred until funds become available.

“If it’s not critical, it may have to wait,” Albright said.

During the 31 snow and ice events this season, the state’s nearly 2,000 maintenance crew employees worked to keep more than 60,000 lane miles of roads open, the cabinet reported.

The cabinet’s vehicle and equipment fleet includes 1,065 snowplows. In addition, the cabinet can call on 382 contracted snowplow trucks to assist with snow and ice removal.

To keep roads clear, the state spread more than 438,000 tons of salt – compared to 194,000 tons state crews put down on roads last year during a mild winter season.

On average, crews spread between 200,000 and 250,000 tons of salt in a year and spend between $40 million and $45 million. Last year’s snow and ice removal costs were about $42.4 million.

The past winter saw high demands for salt across the country and supplies low at times, which required the cabinet to exhaust its reserve salt pile at the Mega Cavern in Louisville, introduce conservation efforts to preserve salt supplies for an emergency and encourage the 12 Department of Highways districts to share salt supplies as stockpiles dwindled.

While severe, the winter of 2013-2014 fell short of being a record setter in state costs. The winter of 2010-2011 cost $74 million and 450,000 tons of salt.

–Jack Brammer

‘Comment’ will discuss legislative session; ‘KY Tonight’ will feature U.S. Senate GOP candidates

Kentucky’s 2014 General Assembly will be discussed on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” while “Kentucky Tonight” will feature seveal candidates in this spring’s U.S. Senate Republican primary election. Both are public affairs shows of the Kentucky Educational Television network.

Joining host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV on “Comment” will be three journalists — Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal, Ryan Alessi of CN2′s “Pure Politics,” and Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.

On the Monday, April 21 edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman will discuss issues in Kentucky”s U.S. Senate Republican primary with candidates in the race.

Scheduled candidates are Matt Bevin, Brad Copas and Shawna Sterling

Viewers with questions 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. Goodman is host and managing editor.

–Jack Brammer

State opening office in Pikeville to help startup companies

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT –The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development is establishing an office on the University of Pikeville campus to provide assistance to startup companies in the Appalachian region.

“By adding the new office in Pikeville, we will be better able to serve the rapidly growing number of entrepreneurs and small businesses in Eastern Kentucky,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a release.

“Innovation is key to changing the economic landscape in Appalachia and we need to offer small businesses encouragement, guidance and a blueprint for success. I look forward to seeing positive results and hearing more success stories as a result of this new location.

The Pikeville office will operate in the university’s Community Technology Center and will serve nine counties, including Pike, Martin, Johnson, Floyd, Knott, Letcher, Perry, Breathitt and Magoffin.

“Small businesses are the backbone of a sustainable economy,” said UPIKE President James Hurley. “We are excited to participate in this public-private partnership to extend and offer opportunity for economic development. Eastern Kentucky is full of great entrepreneurial leaders and the innovation center provides the platform for ideas to be developed and cultivated.”

The opening of the new office comes weeks after Beshear, Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, community leaders and local residents announced their action plan for eastern Kentucky’s Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Initiative.

Among the initiative’s main goals is to increase business recruitment and incubation in the region.

With the Pikeville location, the Kentucky Innovation Network provides business assistance to entrepreneurs from 13 locations across the state. Formed in 2002 by the Cabinet for Economic Development, the network serves all 120 counties throughout the state from offices in Ashland, Bowling Green, Covington, Elizabethtown, Lexington, London, Louisville, Morehead, Murray, Owensboro, Paducah and Richmond.

Last year, the Kentucky Innovation Network helped support 240 new companies create more than 1,000 jobs and assist businesses in raising more than $100 million in private investments.

The Office of Entrepreneurship within the Cabinet for Economic Development oversees the Kentucky Innovation Network and other services, programs and initiatives to encourage small business growth. The goal of the office is to create and promote a strong culture of entrepreneurship statewide.

For more information on the Kentucky Innovation Network,visit www.kyinnovation.com.

–Jack Brammer

Treasurer Hollenbach returns more than $100M in unclaimed property

State Treasurer Todd Hollnebach announces that his office has returned record $100 million of unclaimed property to rightful owners.

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Kentucky Treasurer Todd Hollenbach has returned more than $100 million in unclaimed property to its rightful owners in his six years in office.

That is more than all the state treasurers combined returned in the 60 years before his administration, he said at a Capitol news conference to celebrate his goal of surpassing $100 million in returned property.

He also announced a new goal of “120 in 120.” He plans to visit all 120 counties in Kentucky and return $120 million before his term as treasurer ends in 2015.

Each year, the state treasury collects million of dollars from property holders, such as banks and insurance companies, that must transfer assets of inactive accounts to the state.

In 2013, the state treasury collected a record $53 million in unclaimed property.

Hollenbach said his office holds about $104 million in total unclaimed property.

He attributed his office’s success in finding many owners through a volunteer-based program called “Treasure Finders.”

In it, Hollenbach works with local volunteers to establish a phone bank, review property listings and call residents to inform them of potential unclaimed property.

Claimants are then assisted in claiming their property from the treasury.

Money not returned goes to the state’s General Fund to pay for education and most other state programs as determined by the legislature.

“In effect, the Treasure Finders program benefits all Kentuckians, whether they have a claim or not,” Hollenbach said.

People who want to see if they have unclaimed cash or family valuables in the treasurer’s office can search a database at missingmoney.com.

They also can call the treasury’s unclaimed property office toll-free at 800-465-4722.

‘Comment’ will discuss ethics hearing; ‘KY Tonight’ will focus on 2014 General Assembly

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

The Legislative Ethics Commission’s hearing on former state Rep. John Arnold will be among the key topics discussed on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.

Joining host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV will be three journalists — Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Jonathan Meador of Kentucky Public Radio and Mike Wynn of The Courier-Journa.

The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.

On the Monday, April 14 edition of “Kentucky Tonight at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss the 2014 General Assembly.

Scheduled guests are Dave Adkisson, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates; Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; and Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Viewers with questions and comments may send email to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form at KET.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions and comments on Twitter to @BillKETor 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 KET.org/kytonight.

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

–Jack Brammer

Beshear signs marijuana oil, tax breaks and e-cigarette bills into law

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law several major bills Thursday, including limited use of marijuana oil for people with seizures, tax breaks for a proposed 21c Museum Hotel in Lexington and the state’s bourbon and beer industries and a ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Beshear has not yet vetoed any legislation sent to him by this year’s General Assembly. Lawmakers are to return to Frankfort on Monday after a two-week recess to consider any gubernatorial vetoes. The legislative session cannot run any longer than April 15.

Beshear put his signature Thursday on Senate Bill 124, which allows the hospitals at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville to provide oil derived from marijuana and hemp to children who suffer from certain severe seizures. The benefits also could apply to adults. The substance would be allowed when recommended by doctors practicing at the research hospitals. The bill also would allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with the oil.

The measure was one of the most emotional discussed in this year’s legislative session. Several parents with children who suffer with seizures lobbied for it.

The legislation marks the first time Kentucky has used any extract from marijuana plants for medicinal purposes.

Tax receipts jump in March for state General Fund and Road Fund

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Revenue for the state’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs, and the Road Fund showed growth in March, the state budget director’s office reported Thursday.

Receipts for the General Fund in March increased 2.4 percent compared to March of last year, an increase of $17.7 million. Total revenues for the month were $753.5 million, compared to $735.8 million in March 2013.

Receipts have grown 1.5 percent for the first nine months of fiscal year 2014, which began last July 1.

The official revenue estimate calls for 2.1 percent revenue growth for the entire fiscal year, which ends June 30. To meet the estimate, receipts must grow 3.9 percent over the last three months of this fiscal year.

State budget director Jane Driskell noted that General Fund revenues have rebounded in recent months.

“After growing 3.3 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year, General Fund receipts declined 0.7 percent in the second quarter and increased 2.1 percent in the third quarter,” Driskell said. “We remain confident that the official estimate is within reach but revenues in excess of the official projection are becoming less likel.”

For March, sales and use tax receipts increased 5.6 percent and have grown 3.1 percent year-to-date.

Corporation income tax receipts grew 49.1 percent and have increased 17.8 percent for the year.

Individual income tax collections grew 2.7 percent in March, while property tax collections decreased 4.9 percent and cigarette tax receipts fell 2.9 percent.

Coal severance tax receipts declined 7 percent in March and have decreased 14.9 percent through the first nine months of this fiscal year.

Road Fund receipts jumped 19.9 percent in March with collections of $137.1 million. That is $22.8 million more than last March.

The official Road Fund revenue estimate calls for an increase in revenues of 6.1 percent for the fiscal year. Based on year-to-date tax collections, revenues must increase 2.7 percent for the remainder of this fiscal year to meet the estimate.

–Jack Brammer

Roy Butler, ‘Father of Medicaid’ in Kentucky, dies at age 86

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — A memorial service will be held Thursday at a Frankfort funeral home for Roy Butler, known as the “Father of Medicaid” in Kentucky who died Monday of complications with Parkinson’s. He was 86.

Butler, of Shelby County, worked 42 years in state government under the administrations of 11 governors. From the late 1980s until 1992, he was state Medicaid Services commissioner in the Cabinet for Human Resources.

Last October, Butler was inducted into the University of Kentucky College of Public Health’s “Hall of Fame” for “exceptional contributions to the health and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

A Celebration of Life Memorial is to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the LeCompte Johnson Taylor Funeral Home in Frankfort. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Ashes will be interred at a later date in a private ceremony at the Lebanon Baptist Church in Bald Knob.

–Jack Brammer

Grimes ‘disappointed’ by ethics panel’s decision to forgo punishment of former lawmaker

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes said Wednesday she was disappointed that former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, won’t be punished by a state ethics panel for his alleged sexual harassment of three legislative aides.

After refusing Tuesday night to take questions about Arnold from reporters for the Herald-Leader and cn|2 Pure Politics, Grimes released a statement Wednesday that said she is glad Arnold resigned last September.

The Legislative Ethics Commission fell one vote short of punishing Arnold Tuesday. The deciding vote was cast by Elmer George, who has contributed $5,200 to Grimes’ campaign and was appointed to the commission in January by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has played a major role at several campaign events for Grimes.

“As I have always said, I will never tolerate discrimination or workplace harassment,” Grimes said in her statement. “Though I am disappointed in yesterday’s decision, I am glad that the representative resigned. Protecting women from violence and harassment is personal to me. As secretary of state, I led the effort to shield domestic-violence victims, and my support for Kentucky women is unmatched in this race. I am the only candidate for U.S. Senate who supports the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay for equal work, and raising the minimum wage.”

When the Arnold scandal erupted last summer, the only statewide elected Democrat to call for his resignation was state Auditor Adam Edelen.