State Rep. Quarles may run for ag commissioner; Sen. Hornback says he will not

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT –Republican state Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown said Tuesday he is “strongly considering” running next year for state agriculture commissioner.

“I plan to talk to family and friends about this over Thanksgiving and have a comment about it Dec. 1,” said Quarles, who easily won re-election to the state House on Nov. 4.

Quarles’ comments about came after Republican state Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville said Tuesday he will not run for the office and will support Quarles for it.

Hornback, a farmer who has been in the Senate since 2011, said the timing was not right for him and his family.

Quarles, who has represented the 62nd House District since 2011, said he appreciated Hornback’s comments. The district includes Owen County and parts of Scott and Fayette counties.

Quarles, 31, is a farmer and attorney. He has been a target of Democrats since he defeated Charles Hoffman in 2010.

Quarles defeated Chuck Tackett, a magistrate on the Scott County Fiscal Court, in his Nov. 4 re-election bid, capturing nearly 59 percent of the vote.

He noted in the campaign that he is one of a few legislators to pass bills in his first two terms in office. One clarified voter instructions and another dealt with youth referees.

Farm radio show host Jean-Marie Lawson Spann is the only person so far to file to run for agriculture commissioner in 2015. She made her Democratic bid official last Wednesday.

Lawson Spann had announced in June that she would be seeking the office now held by Republican James Comer of Tompkinsville. Comer is running for governor next year.

New energy conservation plan for KU and LG&E means higher customer bills

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – A new energy efficiency plan for Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric will mean an increase in customers’ bills, an end to free compact fluorescent bulbs mailed to residential customers and a pilot test for “smart” meters.

The plan, approved by the state Public Service Commission Friday, means that a KU or LG&E customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month will see a 29-cent increase in their monthly surcharge for the conservation program, to $3.78 a month for KU customers and $4.68 a month for LG&E customers.

In its order, the PSC authorized KU and LG&E to continue or expand 10 existing programs for residential or commercial customers. Four programs will be dropped and one limited program will be started on a trial basis.

The PSC also ordered the two utilities to study the potential for energy efficiency programs for industrial customers.

The discontinued programs include:

• Mailing free compact fluorescent bulbs to residential customers;

• Incentives to encourage the incorporation of energy efficient features in new home construction;

• Discounts for residential and commercial customers to check and tune up their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to optimize efficiency;

•A web-based referral network for energy efficiency services.

Portions of the efficiency plan that will be continued include:

• Providing incentives to residential customers to install high-efficiency air conditioners, heat pumps and appliances, and to replace windows or add window films that reduce air conditioning usage.

• An energy audit program available to all residential customers.

• A program that provides high-usage residential customers with an energy usage profile and suggestions for reducing usage.

• Energy audit, energy efficiency and weatherization programs specifically tailored to the needs of low-income customers.

• Bill credits to residential customers who allow the utility to remotely turn off air conditioners for brief periods during times of peak demand.

• Cash incentives for residential customers who recycle inefficient and old, but functioning, refrigerators and freezers.

• Financial incentives for commercial customers to reduce energy usage through installation of energy-efficient equipment, through new construction that exceeds building code requirements for energy efficiency and through measures that reduce energy usage during times of peak demand.

•Public education efforts, including programs in schools and for teachers.

A new program approved by the PSC involves the use of advanced “smart” electric meters that can track the details of a customers’ usage. KU and LG&E are planning to provide the meters to as many as 5,000 customers per utility on a first-come, first-served basis.

Customers who receive the meters will have access to a website that allows them to see their own hour-by-hour usage within 48 hours of the time the data are collected.

PSC Chairman David Armstrong and Commissioner Linda Breathitt supported the advanced meter program. PSC Vice Chairman Jim Gardner did not. He said the companies did not apply a cost-benefit analysis to the program.

KU and LG&E are ubsidiaries of PPL Corp. LG&E has 397,000 electric customers and 321,000 natural gas customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties. KU serves 543,000 customers in 77 Kentucky counties.

Luallen pledges to support Beshear as KY’s new lieutenant governor

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — Crit Luallen, in her first public speech as Kentucky’s 56th lieutenant governor, told several hundred people in the Capitol Rotunda Friday that she is ready to help Gov. Steve Beshear with his “continuing efforts to build a Kentucky poised for a prosperous future.”

Luallen, who has served with six other Kentucky governors in high positions and was elected twice as state auditor, said the day was not one for laying out a new agenda but “to celebrate all that is right and good about our state’s past and its hope for the future.”

Luallen particiapted in a publc-swearing in ceremony that attracted various state officials like Attorney General Jack Conway, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Senate President Robert Stivers and other well-wishers.

Beshear named Luallen to be the state’s No. 2 public official to replace Jerry Abramson, who departed to take a job with the White House to help local officials throughout the country.

In his remarks at Friday’s public ceremony, Beshear said Luallen will help his administration in improving access to health care and creating jobs.

Luallen called on several family members and friends to participate in the ceremony.

Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart, who went to school with Luallen, served as moderator.

Catarine Hancock, Luallen’s great niece and a sophomore at Lexington’s Lafayette High School, sang the National Anthem.

The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of New Union Christian Church in Woodford County, gave the invocation and Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women, introduced Luallen.

Franklin Circuit Court Judger Philip Shepherd, administered the public oath of office as Luallen’s husband, Lynn Luallen, held the Bible upon which she put her hand. A private swearing-in ceremony was held Thursday at the home of former Chief Justice John Palmore and Carol Palmore.

Centre College President John Roush provided the closing remarks and Colmon Elridge, executive assistant in the governor’s office, sang “My Old Kentucky Home.”

The Governor’s School for the Arts Alumni offered the musical prelude for the ceremony that lasted about an hour.

A public reception was held in the Governor’s Mansion after the ceremony. Music there was provided by the Centre College Kentucky Ensemble.

Jean-Marie Lawson Spann files to run for state agriculture commissioner

With family members looking on, Jean-Marie Lawson Spann files for state agriculture commissioner.By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – Farm radio show host Jean-Marie Lawson Spann made her Democratic bid for state agriculture commissioner official Wednesday by filing papers signed by former Gov. Paul Patton and former Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith.

With her husband, Bobby Spann of Union, and her parents, Sam and Beverly Lawson of Bowling Green, at her side, Lawson Spann filed her declaration papers in the secretary of state’s office in the Capitol.

Her mother will be her campaign treasurer. Her campaign manager will be named later, she said.

Lawson Spann had announced in June that she would be seeking the office now held by Republican James Comer of Tompkinsville. Comer is running for governor next year.

Lawson Spann is in her 10th year as host of the Jean-Marie Ag Show, a radio show about farm news. She is vice president of marketing for Lawson Marketing Inc. and a former vice president of marketing for Hartland Equipment.

A graduate of Western Kentucky University, Lawson Spann was a two-term state president of the Kentucky Young Democrats, secretary of the Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee, and a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Her husband is vice president of external affairs for Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.

Lawson Spann is the only candidate to file so far for agriculture commissioner. State Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, had considered running for the seat but announced in September decided that he will not.

Patton and Smith are part of Lawson Spann’s so-called “Ag-Mazing Army.”

Others who have endorsed her candidacy include former Govs. Julian Carroll and Martha Layne Collins, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, former auditor and lieutenant governor-to-be Crit Luallen, former agriculture commissioners Ed Logsdon and David Boswell, and House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark.

Larry Clark will not seek re-election as No. 2 leader in state House

State Rep. Larry Clark, D-LouisvilleBy Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — In a surprise announcement Wednesday, House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark said he will not seek re-election to the chamber’s No. 2 post, which he has held since 1993.

Clark, D-Louisville, also said he “most likely” will retire from the state legislature when his upcoming term expires at the end of 2016.

He was re-elected last week for another two-year term from Jefferson County’s 46th District, defeating Republican David Rainey by capturing 65 percent of the vote.

“I have until January 2016 to finalize my decision,” Clark, 69, said about staying on in the legislature.
Legislators will elect their leaders at the beginning of the 2015 General Assembly that begins in January.

Clark, who has been in the House since 1984, distributed to reporters after Wednesday’s Legislative Research Commission meeting copies of a letter he had sent earlier in the day to House Speaker Greg Stumbo about his political plans.

He said in the letter that it is “now time to settle on an exit strategy for my transition from public service, particularly for the fine folks of the 46th District, as well as for our House caucus.”

He said when he first was elected speaker pro tem, there was little or no training available to prepare him for representing the members and working with the executive branch.

“With that in mid, I think that choosing a new speaker pro tem at this time, when we have an experienced leadership team and a sitting Democratic governor in Steve Beshear, will give that new member of leadership an opportunity over the next year to learn the job’s demands and best serve the interests of our caucus.”

Stumbo said he does not know who might replace Clark.

Mentioned as possible candidates for the job are House Licensing and Occupations Chairman Dennis Keene of Wilder, Denver Butler of Louisville, former House Speaker Jody Richards of Bowling Green and House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly of Paris, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2015 with gubernatorial hopeful Jack Conway, the state’s attorney general.

Stumbo said he was “saddened” by Clark’s decision not to seek leadership. He called Clark “a friend.”
“We hope to keep him involved in a very high level as we move forward these next couple of years,” Stumbo said.

Asked if the job should go to a representative from Louisville, Stumbo said there has been an effort in recent years to spread out leadership across the state.

“It’s highly likely that at some point, if not at this time, Jefferson County will have a person in leadership,” he said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Clark and he “did not agree on everything, but I say this with a great deal of respect, he was always an honorable person.

“You never had to figure out where Larry Clark was. He would tell you.”

State revenue receipts show gain in October

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — After four months of anemic growth, Kentucky’s General Fund revenue increased 4.6 percent in October compared to a year ago, State Budget Director Jane Driskell announced Monday.

Total revenue for the month was $755.7 million, compared to $722.5 million during October 2013.

Receipts have increased 1.9 percent for the first four months of the fiscal year, and need to grow 4.4 percent over the final eight months of this month to achieve the official revenue estimate of $9.8 million.

There is cause for concern but “no reason at this point to panic,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “We will just be carefully monitoring the situation.”

The General Fund, which pays for most state programs, had a solid month after a first quarter in which receipts grew only 1.1 percent, Driskell said.

“October was clearly a strong month of revenue growth as nominal collections grew $33.2 million, an amount higher than the nominal growth in the entire first quarter of fiscal year 2015,” she said.

The main contributions to the healthy growth in October were the individual income tax and sales taxes, which grew 4.8 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively, while corporate and property receipts continued to underperform.

Road Fund receipts for October totaled $126.7 million, a 0.3 percent decrease. They can decline 2 percent over the next eight months and still meet the official yearly estimate of $1.54 billion.

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Motor vehicle usage tax receipts fell 4.3 percent for the month and have declined 1.4 percent so far this year. Motor fuels taxes increased 0.8 percent in October and have grown 1.4 percent for the year.

Driskell said October’s Road Fund performance is not unexpected.

“Road Fund collections continue to be weak, as we anticipated. Growth in motor fuels tax collections is limited by a decline in demand,” she said.

“Motor vehicle usage tax receipts have been hampered by the impact of recent legislation which provides for a new car trade-in. It is anticipated that the credit will reduce collections by $34 million in the current fiscal year.”

First candidate officially files for state office race in 2015

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – Two days after an exhausting race in Kentucky for the U.S Senate, a candidate filed Thursday to run next year for a constitutional office.

Former Erlanger city councilman Steve Knipper, 44, of Independence, is the first candidate to file with the secretary of state’s office for the 2015 races. He filed Thursday as a Republican to run for secretary of state.

The office, now held by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, keeps track of state business documents and oversees elections.

Grimes, who lost to Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell in this week’s U.S. Senate race, is in her first term as secretary of state. She has the option of seeking re-election next year to another four-year term.

Knipper, an IT project manager for health provider Kentucky One, said in a phone interview that he thinks the office of secretary of state is “underutilized.”

Knipper said he would like to see the office get involved in electronic registration of voters and provide tighter security over elections.

He also said he is not slating with any particular candidate for governor. Two Republicans already have announced their bids for governor — Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Tompkinsville and Louisville businessman Hal Heiner. Attorney General Jack Conway of Louisville has said he will run as a Democrat for governor.

All state constitutional offices, including governor, are up for election next year.

Filing for those offices began Nov. 5. The deadline to file is 4 p.m. Jan. 27.

Beshear appoints new public protection secretary

Ambrose Wilson IV

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear appointed state official Ambrose Wilson IV of Midway Thursday to be secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet.

The cabinet oversees a variety of agencies, ranging from financial institutions and racing to charitable gaming.

Wilson, whose appointment takes effect Nov. 7, takes over the position from Larry Bond, Beshear’s chief of staff, who has served as acting secretary since May when Robert Vance of Maysville resigned.

“Ambrose’s experience in human resources and management will be an invaluable asset to the cabinet,” Beshear said in a statement.

“In addition, he brings a background in both public and private sectors that will well serve the critical role that Public Protection plays in monitoring and regulating a number of activities that impact nearly every Kentuckian, from the financial soundness of our state chartered banks and investment companies to reviewing building permits and fire safety inspections.”

Wilson has 28 years of human resources experience. Since 2012, he has been commissioner of the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction. He previously was deputy commissioner of the Department of Financial Institutions. He also has held office management and human resource positions within the legal, manufacturing and financial sectors.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my six years of service in the Public Protection Cabinet with the Department of Financial Institutions and the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction,” Wilson said. “I am grateful to Gov. Beshear for this new opportunity to lead a team of 600 employees dedicated to public protection and public service.”

Wilson has a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Kentucky.

Judge denies Grimes’ request to stop GOP mailers

McConnellGrimesBy Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — A judge denied a request Monday from Alison Lundergan Grimes’ U.S. Senate campaign to stop mailers from the Republican Party of Kentucky that Grimes said intimidated voters.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd turned down the Grimes campaign’s request for a temporary injunction against the mailers, which were distributed last week on behalf of the re-election campaign of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Grimes’ “sloppy lawsuit may go down in history as one of the worst publicity stunts of all time.”

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said the campaign “is exploring options.”

“It’s reprehensible that Mitch McConnell is celebrating lying, intimidating, and bullying Kentucky voters from exercising their right to vote,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in a statement. “There’s no low too low for Mitch McConnell in his personal quest for power.”

Grimes and McConnell face each other in Tuesday’s biggest election in the state.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the Grimes campaign said the mailer is false and misleading in that it implies to voters that they have violated Kentucky election laws.

The mailer is emblazoned with “Election Violation Notice” and states that “you are at risk of acting on fraudulent information that has been targeted for citizens living in” the recipient’s county.

A one-page letter inside lists what it calls “blatant lies” told by Grimes, saying “Grimes should be ashamed of herself.”

Bed bug found in state health building, but officials say no infestation

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — One bed bug was found and quickly put to rest, but state officials said there is no bed bug infestation in the large state building that houses the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said Monday that the building at 275 East Main Street in Frankfort does not have a beg bug infestation.

She said one bed bug was discovered in the building and treatment followed.

“The bug has been exterminated,” she said, adding that the source of the bug is unknown.

One location on one floor of the building was treated and the area will continue to be monitored, Midkiff said. The local health department has also been contacted to assist, she said.

Midkiff dismissed as untrue a rumor that employees would face disciplinary action if they discussed the issue.