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Conway criticizes bill approved by Senate dealing with settlement funds

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT – The Senate approved Tuesday a bill sponsored by Sen. Robin Webb that would require any funds recovered by the attorney general’s office in a legal case to be deposited into the General Fund, which pays for most state programs.

Some lawmakers have claimed that $32 million Attorney General Jack Conway has collected from lawsuit settlements with two drug companies should have gone into the General Fund.

Conway decided to use the money to expand substance abuse treatment in Kentucky. He said court orders filed in both settlements required that the money be spent on drug treatment programs.

Conway, who is considering a run for governor in 2015, said in an email Tuesday that the bill is unconstitutional. “It is a violation of the separation of powers and a violation of legal ethics to negotiate settlements while bringing in legislators,” said Conway.

He noted that Webb’s district in northeastern Kentucky is receiving an adult substance abuse treatment center “thanks to the settlement negotiated by my office, so it frankly surprises me that she would file such legislation when there is such a need in her area and throughout our commonwealth.”

Since taking office in 2008, Conway said, his office “has returned more than $260 million to state coffers, which is a 400 percent return on its investment.”

–Jack Brammer

Senate approves bill giving top lawmakers power to defend state laws in court

Attorney General Jack ConwayBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – With no discussion, the Senate approved a bill Monday that would allow the Senate president or House speaker to intervene in a court case when the attorney general fails to defend a state law or part of the Kentucky Constitution.

The vote on Senate Bill 221, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, was 31-6, with one Democrat passing. Six other Democrats cast the “no” votes.

Gregory said the bill was filed in part due to Attorney General Jack Conway’s recent decision not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. Gov. Steve Beshear is appealing the ruling using outside attorneys. He and Conway are Democrats.

SB 221 also would allow the top two legislative leaders to intervene in court cases in which attorneys general submit an order to the court giving them sole discretion to spend funding from a legal settlement.

That provision stems from Conway’s decision earlier this year to use more than $32 million collected from lawsuit settlements with two drug companies to expand substance abuse treatment in Kentucky and not put the money in the state’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs.

Conway, who is frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, has dismissed SB 221 as unconstitutional.

Senator files bill to let legislative leaders intervene when attorney general does not defend state law

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A state lawmaker has filed a bill to allow the Senate president or House speaker to intervene in a legal action when the attorney general fails to defend a state law or provision of the Kentucky Constitution.

Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, said Tuesday she filed Senate Bill 221 in part due to Attorney General Jack Conway’s decision last week not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages from other states and countries.

Gov. Steve Beshear has said he would appeal the ruling by U.S. District John Heyburn.

Gregory also said her bill would allow the top two legislative leaders to intervene in court cases in which attorney generals submit an order to the court giving them sole discretion to spend funding from a settlement.

Senate President Robert Stivers, who supports Gregory’s bill, said the provision dealing with funding stems from Conway’s decision earlier this year to use more than $32 million collected from lawsuit settlements with two drug companies to expand substance abuse treatment in Kentucky.

Stivers said the money should have gone to the state’s General Fund, which provides money for most state programs.

Kentucky spending $32 million from settlements on drug treatment programs

Attorney General Jack ConwayBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — More than $32 million collected from lawsuit settlements with two drug companies will be used to expand substance abuse treatment in Kentucky, Attorney General Jack Conway said Monday.

Conway, at a Capitol news conference with Gov. Steve Beshear, First Lady Jane Beshear and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, said the money will expand treatment for youth and adults statewide.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the planned uses of the money are worthwhile but he had concerns that it was not put in the state’s General Fund for lawmakers to decide how to spend.

About $19 million will be used to start a grant program to finance juvenile abuse treatment programs, Conway said. Other expenditures include $2.52 million for scholarships to seek treatment at the state’s 17 Recovery Kentucky Centers; $560,000 to help create 14 drug-free homes for people making the transition out of residential drug treatment programs; and $500,000 to complete construction of a treatment center in Boyd County.

It also will provide $6 million to administer KASPER, the state’s electronic prescription drug monitoring program; $1 million to support drug programs for pregnant women at Chrysalis House in Lexington and Independence House in Corbin; $1.5 million to the University of Kentucky to help treatment providers; $1 million for a school-based substance abuse screening tool with the state Department of Education; and $250,000 to create a database to evaluate outcomes of juvenile treatment.

Andy Beshear raises more than $220,000 for attorney general race

Andrew Beshear

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Andy Beshear, a son of Gov. Steve Beshear, said Monday in a news release that his 2015 campaign for Kentucky attorney general raised $221,962 in the last quarter of 2013.

Beshear, a Louisville attorney, announced his Democratic candidacy to be the state’s chief law enforcement official on Nov. 14.

“Britainy and I are deeply humbled by the outpouring of support we have received since announcing my intention to run for the office of attorney general,” Beshear said.

Beshear said his more than 250 contributors included former Govs. Paul Patton, John Y. Brown Jr. and Wendell Ford.

The current attorney general, Democrat Jack Conway of Louisville, can’t seek re-election because of term limits.

Other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates for attorney general in 2015 include former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Jennifer Moore and state Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville.

Beshear is an attorney with Stites and Harbison in Louisville. He lives in Louisville with his wife, Britainy, and their two young children, Will and Lila.

Court orders National College to pay $1,000-a-day fine

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT – Franklin Circuit Court ordered National College Wednesday to pay a $1,000-a-day fine from July 1 to the present for failing to respond to a subpoena from Attorney General Jack Conway in his investigation of some for-profit colleges.

As of Wednesday, that amounts to $126,000 in fines.

In addition to the penalty, the court ordered National’s attorneys to pay $10,000 to the attorney general’s office after the court determined that National College has “repeatedly abused the legal system to obstruct a valid investigation by the attorney general.”

National College had no immediate comment.

Conway said he hopes National College “will stop the games, turn over all of the documents requested and pay.

“If National has nothing to hide, the time is now to comply with the court order.”

The attorney general issued a subpoena to National College in December 2010.

National refused to respond to the subpoena and filed suit to block the attorney general’s investigation.

In March 2011, the Franklin Circuit Court ruled in Conway’s favor, finding that the subpoena was reasonable and supported by valid concerns under the Consumer Protection Act and that Conway was lawfully acting in the public interest.

National College appealed that decision to both the Court of Appeals and the Kentucky Supreme Court, but the appeals were denied.

In a separate action in September, 2011, Conway filed suit against National College in Fayette Circuit Court, alleging that National violated the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act by posting false job placement rates for National graduates on its website.

That litigation is pending.

Judge to hear requests by Stumbo, state to drop out of sexual harassment lawsuit

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

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.

Conway announces scholarship program for students affected by prescription drug abuse

conwaysetup

FRANKFORT — A special college scholarship program has been set up for Kentucky students whose lives have been impacted by prescription drug abuse, Attorney General Jack Conway announced Monday.

The program, which uses no state funds, will provide two $1,500 scholarships this school year to graduating high school students in Kentucky, Conway said at a news conference in his Capitol office.

He said he is reviewing the legality of whether a foundation can be set up to expand the program.

Funds for the launch of the program, Conway said, come from the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators and parents of two young people who died of prescription drug abuse. The Prosecutors Advisory Council also has worked with Conway on the program.

The scholarships are in memory of Sarah Shay of Morehead, who died of a prescription drug overdose in 2006 at age 19, and Michael Donta of Ashland, who died of prescription painkiller abuse in 2010 at age 24.

Political speaking order set for this weekend’s Fancy Farm

FRANKFORT — The speaking order for politicians at this weekend’s 133rd annual Fancy Farm picnic has been set.

The political speaking will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Graves County.

Mark Wilson, political organizer for the church picnic, said Monday that the no-shows are Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and state treasurer Todd Hollenbach.

The political speaking, to be emceed by “Comment on Kentucky” host Ferrell Wellman, will begin at 2 p.m. CDT with five minutes of comments each by state Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, and state Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfiled.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, then will get six minutes.

Following McConnell also with six minutes will be U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville.

Each of the attending state constitutional officers will get six minutes. In order of speaking, they will be Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Comer is a Republican; the others are Democrats.

Matt Bevin of Louisville, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate next year, will get five minutes. So will Ed Marksberry of Owensboro, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2015. They will flip a coin to see who goes first.

Former Kentucky Democratic Party chief mulling possible bid for U.S. Senate

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer said Friday he is considering running for the U.S. Senate next year if Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes declines to enter the race against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.

“A lot of people have talked to me about the race,” said Garmer, a Lexington lawyer, in a telephone interview. “But Alison is the center of discussion. In my mind, if she wants the nomination, she has my support. She is one of the bright stars in the Democratic party and she wants to serve Kentucky. I would be the first in line to support her.”

Asked if he would consider running if Grimes decides not to run, Garmer said, “that sounds like a lawyer’s question but that would be fair.”

Grimes said April 23 that she is pondering whether to run for the U.S. Senate next year against McConnell. She said she would “take the time to reflect with my family, my supporters on how I can best continue to serve the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”