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Sarah Jackson to retire as head of election finance registry

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Sarah M. Jackson, who has been head of the state agency that enforces state campaign finance laws since 1999, is to retire Nov. 1.

Craig C. Dilger, board chairman for the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, announced Jackson’s retirement Thursday at a board meeting.

“Sarah has been a tremendous asset to the agency and a true professional as executive director. The agency is stronger for it,” Dilger said in a release.

Jackson, 57, was general counsel for the state Cabinet for Workforce Development from 1998 to 1999 and was director of the Division of Charitable Gaming in the Justice Cabinet from 1996 to 1998. She was the division’s assistant director when it started in 1994.

Jackson was an assistant attorney general from 1982 to 1986 before joining the law firm of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland in its Frankfort office.

The registry board appointed Rebecca Feland of Lawrenceburg, the agency’s budget analyst, to be interim director until a permanent director is hired.

Dilger said the search process will take several months.

–Jack Brammer

Ethics commission: Former wildlife official mistreated women employees

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A former official of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources created an oppressive work environment for women by telling them what clothes to wear and asking one to show her breasts, according to an ethics settlement released Monday.

In a settlement approved by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission Monday, Kenneth “Scott” King of Frankfort did not contest charges that he violated state ethics laws by using his position as the department’s assistant administrative services director to “create an oppressive and hostile atmosphere in his division to suit his own prurient, personal interests.”

The agreement said King told subordinate employees to wear certain articles of clothing he favored and to wear short skirts and high heels to meetings, and on one occasion told an employee to allow him to see her breasts in exchange for favorable treatment at work.

Also, during staff meetings, King would tell women employees which of their body parts he and other male supervisors preferred.

In the agreement, King also admitted using the department’s John Deere tractor for personal use.

‘Comment’ will discuss Comer’s bid for governor

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s announcement this week that he is an official candidate for governor will be one of the topics on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television Network.

Joining interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV, will be Adam Beam of the Associated Press, Lawrence Smith of Louisville’s WDRB-TV AND Scott Wartman of The Kentucky Enquirer.

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

“Kentucky Tonight’ on KET will be preempted on Monday, Sept. 15, by “Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”

–Jack Brammer

Funeral arrangements set for Charlann Harting Carroll

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU Visitation and funeral arrangements for Charlann Harting Carroll, the wife of former Gov. Julian Carroll who died Wednesday at the age of 81, have been set. Both visitation and the funeral will be held at the Forks of Elkhorn Baptist Church at 495 Duckers Road off U.S. Highway 421 near Frankfort and […]

State General Fund gains while Road Fund dips a bit in August

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – The state’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs, improved in August while the state Road Fund dipped ever so slightly.

State budget director Jane C. Driskell said Wednesday that General Fund receipts increased 1.2 percent in August compared to the same month last year.

Total revenues for the month were $671.9 million, compared to $663.7 million during August 2013.

So far this fiscal year 2015 that began July 1, General Fund receipts have increased 1.7 percent.

The official revenue estimate for the fiscal year calls for revenue to increase 3.6 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.

Based on August results, General Fund revenues need to grow 3.9 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year to meet the official estimate.

Despite the low rate of growth, there were some encouraging undertones reflected in the monthly numbers.

Driskell said she was “pleased to see two solid performances from our largest revenue sources, the individual income tax and year-to-date sales tax revenues.”

On the income tax side, growth in withholding payments (payroll taxes) grew 9.7 percent, following growth of 6.5 percent in July.

The growth rate on sales tax receipts was only 1.1 percent for the month, but 4.4 percent year to date.

Driskell said potential weakness in the corporate income tax continues to be a concern.

“September corporate income receipts will be a more appropriate barometer, as it is the first month in fiscal year 2015 where estimated quarterly payments are due. We’ll be in a better position to reexamine the fiscal year projections once the first quarter is complete.”

Among the major General Fund accounts:

● Individual income taxes increased 9 percent almost entirely due to withholding

● Sales tax revenues rose 1.1 percent and have increased 4.4 percent through the first two months.

● Corporation income tax collections declined $11.4 million as both declarations and net

payments. Collections year-to-date are up 7.5 percent.

● Cigarette taxes fell 0.3 percent but have grown 0.9 percent for the year.

● Property taxes grew 30.3 percent (timing issues) but have decreased 7.0 for the fiscal

● Coal severance tax collections increased 5.9 percent in August but are down 4.9 percent

● Lottery revenues grew 6.3 percent on the basis of a $17.0 million dividend payment.

Receipts for the Road Fund fell 0.1 percent in August with revenues of $141.1 million.

The official Road Fund revenue estimate calls for a 0.9 percent decline in receipts for the entire fiscal year

Based on year-to-date collections, revenues can decrease 1.5 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year and still meet the estimate.

Among the accounts:

• Motor fuels fell 0.7 percent in August but have increased 0.9 percent for the year.

• Motor vehicle usage collections decreased 0.9 percent for the month but have grown

0.2 percent for the first two months of the fiscal year.

• License and privilege tax fell 4.4 percent.

• Nont-tax receipts increased $2.4 million and are up $2.1 million for the fiscal year.

Senate President seeks legal opinion on ‘right-to-work’ option for counties

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers asked for an attorney general’s opinion Monday on whether Kentucky counties can adopt so-called ‘right-to-work’ provisions that let employees work in unionized businesses without joining the union or paying dues.

Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said in a news release that he is seeking the opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway because Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell recently opined that the Louisville Metro Government has the authority to require a higher minimum wage than the minimum wage established by federal or state law.

“Using Mr. O’Connell’s analysis, a county should also be able to establish itself as a right-to-work county,” said Stivers.

The Senate leader noted that he sought the request as legislators prepare for the 2015 General Assembly that begins in January. Republicans in the state Senate have pushed the issue for years, but House Democrats oppose the measure.

Many Republicans say such a state law is needed to spur economic development while many Democrats argue it would lower wages by weakening unions.

A recent Bluegrass Poll found that 55 percent of Kentuckians favor changing state laws to allow people to work in businesses that have unions without joining the union or paying union dues. Twenty-eight percent of those polled were opposed.

Stivers said the issue “will be of continuing interest to localities that are looking for innovative ways to attract new businesses.”

He noted that 24 states have enacted “right-to-work” laws that are not pre-empted by federal law.

Stivers was not immediately available to take questions about his request. O’Connell, a Democrat, was not immediately available for comment.

Conway spokeswoman Allison Gardner Martin, said the attorney general’s office will review Stivers’ request.

Oct. 6 is deadline to register to vote in fall elections

Alison Lundergan Grimes

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Oct. 6 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reminded eligible Kentuckians Monday.

County clerks’ offices throughout Kentucky will accept voter registration cards until the close of business on that date, she said in a statement. Mail-in voter registration applications must be postmarked by Oct. 6.

Under the Military Heroes Voting Initiative, new legislation proposed by Grimes, qualified military and overseas voters may now register to vote and update their registration information electronically through the State Board of Elections’ new Federal Post Card Application Wizard.

The application, along with other resources for military and overseas voters, is available at www.elect.ky.gov. Applications submitted electronically must be received by the county clerk by close of business on Oct. 6.

“Military voters often move from place to place, which can make it hard for them to maintain accurate voter registration records,” said Grimes. “I’m excited that, for the first time in Kentucky, they can complete essential voter registration functions electronically. This initiative provides them valuable tools that will help ensure they have a meaningful opportunity to participate in elections back home.”

To be eligible to vote, you must meet the following criteria: be a U.S. citizen; be a Kentucky resident for at least 28 days before Election day; be at least 18 years old by the date of the next general election; not be a convicted felon, or if convicted of a felony offense, must have obtained a restoration of civil rights; not have been adjudged “mentally incompetent;” and not claim the right to vote anywhere outside Kentucky.

Voters who have recently moved need to update their voter registration information no later than Oct. 6.

Persons who move from one county to another county while the voter registration books are open and fail to update their registration information before the voter registration books close are not permitted to vote in the election.

Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can register and update their registration while keeping their names and addresses out of publicly available voter records.

“The future of Kentucky and our nation depend on all eligible voters participating in the process,” said Grimes. “Registering to vote is the first step in being a part of the 2014 elections, and I hope that as many Kentuckians as are able will make their voices heard.”

You can check your current registration status on the Voter Information Center, https://cdcbp.ky.gov/VICWeb/index.jsp.

To obtain a registration card or for more information about registering to vote, visit www.elect.ky.gov or contact your county clerk or the State Board of Elections at (502) 573-7100.

Country ham, redeye gravy and political speculation

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James ComerBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

LOUISVILLE – Political talk spiced up the 51st annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast early Thursday morning at the Kentucky State Fair.

Dozens of politicians gave as many media interviews as possible and circulated among the 1,600 early risers to feast on country ham, redeye gravy, scrambled eggs, grits, hot biscuits and political speculation.

Republican candidates for governor

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he has chosen his running mate in next May’s Republican primary election for governor, but would not announce his choice until he officially declares his candidacy at a Sept. 9 news conference in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

Widespread speculation has focused on state Sen. Christian McDaniel of Kenton County.

Comer repeated his belief that a millionaire Republican from Jefferson County – a reference to Louisville businessman Hal Heiner – will not be the next governor of Kentucky.

He said he is “strong” in the state’s largest city, noting that state Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, is supporting him.

“After Sept. 9, you are going to see a steady stream of key endorsements from Republicans leaders in Jefferson County,” Comer said.

Heiner, who announced his candidacy in March, dismissed Comer’s prediction.

“What I am hearing is that the Democratic candidate (Attorney General Jack Conway) is from Jefferson County and that the Republican nominee had better be able to hold it close in Jefferson County,” said Heiner, a former Louisville mayoral candidate. “I know from my past involvement in Jefferson County, I’m the candidate who could do that.”

Heiner said he is traveling “full-time” across the state, visiting 60 counties in the last five months.

Heiner said he will be a governor who will create jobs, protect the state’s “best natural resource – coal,” and be as transparent as possible.

Conway, the only other announced candidate for governor, did not attend the breakfast. He was in Washington for a news conference with five other state attorneys general and U.S. Department of Justice officials to announce a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America Corp. to resolve federal and state claims about mortgage-backed securities.

2016 race for U.S. Senate

Two prominent Democrats have been mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

That’s when the seat now held by Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green is up for election. Paul is considering a possible run for the U.S. presidency in that year that could take him out of the U.S. Senate race.

State Auditor Adam Edelen of Lexington said before Thursday’s breakfast that “Rand Paul is in the business of running for two jobs at once. I’m not. I’m looking forward to being a candidate for state auditor (in 2015).”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, “I’m hearing a lot of people tell me that’s a good idea for me to do. But what I’m telling them is that I am awfully happy being mayor of Louisville and we have a lot of work left to do.”

For the health of it

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who arrived early at the breakfast, said he was prepared for all the political talk that accompanies one of the state’s premier political events.

“I had to take two Pepto-Bismol this morning so I wouldn’t get sick over breakfast hearing (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell and Jamie Comer brag about themselves about all the things they have done,” Stumbo said.

Cha-Ching! State begins new fiscal year on positive note

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s new fiscal year is getting off to a positive start.

State budget director Jane Driskell reported Monday that Kentucky’s General Fund, which pays for most programs, saw its receipts total $705.9 million in July, a 2.2 percent increase over the same month last year.

July was the first month of the state’s new 2015 fiscal year.

When the last fiscal year ended June 30, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear had to plug a $91 million shortfall in the state’s $9.5 billion budget after a year of sluggish collections on state income taxes.

He did that by dipping into budget accounts of several state agencies, taking $21.2 million from the state’s $98.2 million” rainy day” or emergency fund and cutting $3 million in state spending.

Driskell said the General Fund growth of 2.2 percent in July is “a positive sign – especially since our two largest taxes – individual income and sales tax – grew at robust levels of 5.9 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively.

“Our expectations are that the underlying economic momentum continues to build.”

The official revenue estimate for fiscal year 2015 calls for revenue to increase 3.6 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.

Based on July’s results, General Fund revenues need to increase 3.7 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year to meet the official estimate.

Among the state’s major accounts in July, individual income tax receipts rose 5.9 percent, sales tax revenue grew 7.6 percent, cigarette tax collections rose 2.3 percent and the payment to the state from the lottery increased by 3.1 percent.

But corporation income tax collections fell 64.6 percent. The state attributed that to a large one-time payment received in July 2013.

In July 2014, coal severance tax revenues declined 14.8 percent and property tax receipts fell 45 percent. Driskell noted that a small share of property tax receipts is received in July.

Driskell also announced that Road Fund revenues for July totaled $125.4 million, an increase of 5.1 percent compared to last July.

“Growth in the important Road Fund accounts was small but positive in July,” she said. “That is good news given that the forecast for fiscal year 2015 has Road Fund receipts declining slightly.”

For July, motor fuels tax receipts rose 2.8 percent, motor vehicle usage tax jumped 1.4 percent and license and privilege taxes grew 36.3 percent. Non-tax receipts dropped 30.9 percent.

The official revenue estimate for this new fiscal year calls for revenues to decline 0.9 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.

Based on July’s receipts, revenue can fall 1.4 percent for the rest of the fiscal year and still meet budgeted levels.

Bevin blames voters for loss to McConnell

It wasn’t that he praised bailouts, fudged his online résumé or even that he got caught appearing at a pro-cockfighting rally.

No, according to Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, the blame for his loss in the May 20 Republican primary to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell belongs squarely with the voters.

bevin_mcconnell

“We have increasingly less courage in our country, and that’s something we suffer from,” Bevin told Politico. “It’s disappointing to me not even as much as a candidate but as an American, how apathetic and timid we have become as a nation.”

Bevin, who is said to be considering a run for governor, told the Washington, D.C. publication that voters backed McConnell over him because of the senator’s ability to “bring home the bacon.”

“There is still the perception, even though deep down everyone knows the federal government is broke, they think, ‘Well, we might get some goodies,'” Bevin said.