By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – A “deeply frustrated” state Auditor Adam Edelen accused Senate Republican leaders, especially Majority Leader Damon Thayer, of blocking for political reasons a cyber security bill he is pushing.
Edelen, frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, said at a news conference Thursday that Thayer is preventing a bill that had near unanimous support in the House from moving forward.
House Bill 5 would require most state and local government agencies to notify citizens of any electronic breaches of personal information within 35 days. Almost 30 groups have endorsed the bill, including AARP of Kentucky, Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Thayer, at a news conference an hour after Edelen called him “the chief obstructionist” to HB 5, said he finds “it kind of comical that the auditor has become so hysterical about the fact that his bill hasn’t moved yet.”
Spring remains elusive, but the 2015 race for governor has arrived early.
The battle officially kicks off Tuesday morning, when former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner announces his bid for the governor’s mansion in Lexington.
Former Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilwoman KC Crosbie is widely expected to be Heiner’s choice as a running mate. Crosbie is one of Kentucky’s three members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and serves as finance chairwoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky.
Allies of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is considering a run for governor but repeated this week that he will not make an announcement until after this year’s elections, welcomed Crosbie to the race Monday by calling for her resignation from the RNC and state GOP finance committee. They also raised questions about her husband’s work lobbying on behalf of pro-gambling interests.
The tensions between Heiner and Comer have simmered behind the scenes for months as both have made their interest in the race known. With Heiner about to make things official, those tensions appear ready to boil over.
Comer told the Herald-Leader Monday that Heiner, who appears hopeful of selling himself as the social conservative in the race, would have to explain the “inconsistencies” of seeking support from anti-gambling groups while putting Crosbie on the ticket.
A Republican polling memo obtained by the Herald-Leader shows Agriculture Commissioner James Comer with a commanding early lead over former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner in the 2015 gubernatorial primary.
While neither man has announced a run for governor, both have indicated they’re likely to do so.
The poll, conducted by Robert Blizzard at Public Opinion Strategies, found Comer leading Heiner 42 percent to 14 percent among 400 Republican primary voters between Feb. 26-27. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Blizzard and Public Opinion Strategies have done polling for a number of Kentucky Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and state Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer.
Comer and other would-be candidates are prohibited from polling before officially launching a campaign, but Blizzard said in an email that “the poll was not paid for by any candidate, prospective candidate or political action committee.”
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday to allow persons who obtain a court-issued emergency protective order or a domestic violence order to obtain more quickly a license to carry a gun.
Senate Bill 106, sponsored by Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, would let the Kentucky State Police issue provisional concealed deadly weapons licenses to such persons for 45 days.
After that, the affected person would obtain a permanent license if he or she got the required training to carry a gun.
State police expect it would take three business days for them to issue a provisional license, since a background check would be needed.
SB 106 now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.
Three journalists will host Bill Bryant on this weekend’s edition of “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.
They are Miranda Combs of Lexington’s WKYT-TV, Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader and Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service Inc.
The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Senate President Robert Stivers raised questions Tuesday about Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget proposal to use agency bonds to upgrade facilities on the 16 campuses of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
Beshear’s budget calls for issuing $145.5 million in agency bonds to KCTCS to provide infrastructure at each of its campuses.
The bonds will be supported by KCTCS revenue and student fees. The bonds will be used to fund up to 75 percent of the projects. At least 25 percent of the remaining cost will come from local communities and other public and private sources.
Students will have to pay an $8-a-credit-hour fee to help pay for the bonds. That might be $4-an-hour in the fall semester this year and be in addition to a tuition increase.
The presidents of the 16 KCTCS campuses said last month they are confident they can raise money from their communities and other public and private sources to help pay for the bonds.
But Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate will want to know what will happen if the campuses cannot raise the 25 percent match from the local level.
Told that the presidents have expressed confidence they can raise the money, Stivers said, “I don’t think you would expect them to say no.”
Stivers also said he is concerned that the student fee may be applied to students who never will get the opportunity to use one of the new buildings.
“Is that fair?” he asked.
Stivers said the Senate will give “a hard look” at the KCTCS proposal after the chamber receives the House budget plan in a few weeks. The House is now deciding what changes to make in the budget plan Beshear presented to lawmakers in January.
A conference committee made up of both chambers will try to iron out in the final days of this year’s legislative session the differences between the two chambers’ budget plans.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Ferrell Wellman announced Friday that he is retiring immediately as host of Kentucky Educational Television’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a weekly public affairs show that focuses on political and government news in the state.
Wellman, a veteran broadcaster, educator and Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame member, was named host of the program in 2008. It is the longest running public affairs series on KET.
“Over the last few months, I had been considering when would be a good time to leave the moderator’s chair,” Wellman said in a release. “I’m a firm believer in leaving a position a little too early rather than a little late.”
Wellman cited a recent knee injury and the need to be away from the program for an extended time while he goes through the rehabilitation process as influencing the timing of his decision.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Jacob Tamme, a Danville native and former University of Kentucky football player who now is a tight end for the Denver Broncos, will be the guest speaker at this year’s Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, Gov. Steve Beshear said Friday.
The event, hosted by Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear, will be held at the Frankfort Convention Center on March 13.
The breakfast dates back to 1965 and includes representatives of all three branches of government. It is a non-denominational event, according to a news release from Beshear’s office, to give thanks for blessings and to ask for strength to lead the state toward a better future.
“For decades, the prayer breakfast has provided the opportunity for people to slow down for a moment, take a deep breath and reflect on how to personally grow and serve during the upcoming year,” Beshear said in a statement. “I encourage Kentuckians to join us for this year’s breakfast and share a renewed commitment to our faith and working together to make Kentucky a better place now and for generations to come.”
Tamme has played in two Super Bowls and has received many athletic and academic accolades throughout his career, including the prestigious Bobby Bowden Athlete of the Year Award from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2007.
In addition to Tamme, the prayer event will feature music, special readings and a Kentucky Proud breakfast including bacon, sausage, eggs, grits, hash brown casserole and biscuits.
Doors will open at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time and the program will begin at 8 a.m. Eastern time.
Tickets are $10 each at the door or $125 in advance for a reserved table of 8.
For more information about tickets or to a reserve table, go to http://governor.ky.gov/prayerbreakfast.
FRANKFORT — Calling the overall health of Kentuckians “dismal,” Gov. Steve Beshear unveiled a program Thursday involving public and private strategies to improve the health of the state’s people.
The program, called “kyhealthnow,” sets seven major health goals to be met by Jan. 1, 2019, and urges state agencies, local governments, businesses, schools, non-profits and individuals to take steps to improve health.
Beshear noted that Kentucky is among the national leaders in cancer diagnoses, smoking rates, diabetes, heart disease and other maladies.
“Many individuals and groups in Kentucky are working on ways to make Kentuckians healthier, whether through improving access to trails, providing smoking cessation tools or expanding availability of cancer screenings,” Beshear said in a Capitol news conference with various state officials. “Through kyhealthnow, we will finally monitor and measure all those efforts against seven major health goals, and every Kentuckian can help.”
Beshear appointed Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson to be chairman of the kyhealthnow working group to oversee the health goals. It is to meet every three months and report its progress to the governor every six months. The state’s public health commissioner, Stephanie Mayfield, will serve as vice chairman.
The group will contain leaders from every state cabinet and will invite input and partnerships from various non-profit and private agencies.
These are the group’s seven goals:
- Health insurance: Reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured individuals to less than 5 percent.
- Smoking: Reduce Kentucky’s smoking rate by 10 percent. Beshear noted that he hopes this year’s legislative session will approve a statewide smoking ban and raise the state cigarette tax from 60 cents to $1 a pack.
- Obesity: Reduce the rate of obesity among Kentuckians by 10 percent.
- Cancer: Reduce Kentucky cancer deaths by 10 percent.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Reduce cardiovascular deaths by 10 percent.
- Dental Decay: Reduce the percentage of children with untreated dental decay by 25 percent, and increase adult dental visits by 10 percent.
- Drug Addiction: Reduce deaths from drug overdose by 25 percent, and reduce the average number of poor mental health days of Kentuckians by 25 percent.
Beshear said each goal has “multiple strategies” to meet it. They can be viewed at http://kyhealthnow.ky.gov
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.