HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — Veteran state official Holly McCoy-Johnson is the state’s new malt beverage administrator in the Department for Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Public Protection Secretary Ambrose Wilson IV appointed McCoy-Johnson to the position Wednesday, replacing Stephanie Stumbo, who resigned.
McCoy-Johnson has been executive director of General Administration and Program Support Shared Services (GAPS) which provides personnel, fiscal, budget, IT and operational support for the Public Protection Cabinet, Energy and Environment Cabinet and Labor Cabinet.
“Holly’s wide range of knowledge of the workings of state government and, in particular, the ability to build consensus among varied interests makes her an excellent choice for this very important role in ABC,” Wilson said in a release.
He added, “Stephanie Stumbo played a key role in helping Kentucky move forward in modernizing and streamlining the complicated laws and regulations that govern our alcoholic beverage industry. Her service to Kentucky and the many constituent groups in the industry was very valuable and I want to thank her for being part of this administration.”
McCoy-Johnson has more than 20 years of government experience, serving as executive director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Energy and Environment Cabinet, executive staff advisor for the Department for Natural Resources and staff assistant in the former Department of Mines and Minerals.
Replacing McCoy-Johnson at GAPS is Ray Perry, who has served as deputy commissioner of the Department of Insurance.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Marcia Seiler, acting director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, announced Tuesday she has decided to retire at the end of July and not seek the job of permanent director.
Seiler, of Louisville, became acting director in October 2013. She had been director of the legislature’s Office of Education Accountability. She has been working from home in recent weeks, recuperating from bone fractures sustained in a bicycle accident.
Seiler replaced Bobby Sherman, who resigned from the post in September 2013 after he said his office investigated two female staffers’ complaints of sexual harassment by a Western Kentucky lawmaker.
Those complaints and that of another staffer have been settled in a mediation session. Details of the settlement have not yet been made public.
A search panel for a full-time director hopes to fill the non-partisan position of LRC director on Oct. 1, three months before the 2016 General Assembly begins. The job pays from $120,000 to $140, 000 a year and includes state benefits.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate Floor Thursday regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the federal Affordable Care Act:
“That we’re even discussing another of Obamacare’s self-inflicted brushes with the brink — again — is the latest indictment of a law that’s been a rolling disaster for the American people.
“Today’s ruling won’t change Obamacare’s multitude of broken promises, including the one that resulted in millions of Americans losing the coverage they had and wanted to keep. Today’s ruling won’t change Obamacare’s spectacular flops, from humiliating website debacles to the total collapse of exchanges in states run by the law’s loudest cheerleaders. Today’s ruling won’t change the skyrocketing costs in premiums, deductibles, and co-pays that have hit the middle class so hard over the last few years.
“The politicians who forced Obamacare on the American people now have a choice: crow about Obamacare’s latest wobble towards the edge, or work with us to address the ongoing negative impact of a 2,000-page law that continues to make life miserable for too many of the same people it purported to help.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – A resolution has been reached in the mediation of claims involving sexual harassment, retaliation and other misconduct against state lawmakers.
Leslie Vose, attorney for the Legislative Research Commission, and Thomas Clay, attorney for three women who made the claims, confirmed the resolution Tuesday morning but declined to provide any details of it.
Vose, of Lexington, said, “I can say the mediation was successful to all parties involved,” but said legislative leaders now will have to sign off on it.
Neither House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, nor Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, had any immediate comment.
John Cox, a spokesman for Stivers, said details of the resolution will not be immediately released. He did not elaborate.
Clay, of Louisville, said the parties Monday night “reached a mutually satisfactory resolution.”
The closed mediation started Monday in the Lexington law office of Steve Barker.
Clay also said “all parties involved” should be pleased and that the resolution will take care of all lawsuits in the cases.
The mediation addressed two cases, both brought in October of 2013.
One involved sexual harassment claims by legislative staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper against former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis. Arnold has denied any wrongdoing.
The two women also sued the Legislative Research Commission, and earlier this year added Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, as a defendant after Bell fired Costner from her job in the House majority whip’s office soon after he was elected whip.
The second case involved allegations by legislative staffer Nicole Cusic that she was moved to an inferior job after she complained that Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, had sexually harassed female legislative staffers.
Coursey has denied the charge and sued Cusic for defamation. Cusic also listed the LRC and former LRC director Bobby Sherman as defendants in her case.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday to create a 23-member group to address the state’s financially strapped Teachers’ Retirement System.
Beshear named David Karem, a former Democratic state senator from Louisville and a former chairman of the state Board of Education, to chair the panel and to submit a report to him by or on Dec. 1.
Beshear leaves office in early December and could turn over any recommendations to the 2016 General Assembly.
The creation of the special panel drew applause from the top two legislative leaders – House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester – but criticism from House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown.
Hoover said he was “extremely disappointed.”
“Gov. Beshear had a real opportunity to create an independent, non-partisan panel to give a thorough review of KTRS in an effort to make substantive recommendations to solidify the system,” said Hoover in an email.
“Instead the governor chose to fill this task force with self-serving special interest groups that have been part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — John Schaaf, who has been legal counsel for the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission since 2004, will become its news executive director Aug. 1.
Schaaf will replace Anthony Wilhoit, who is retiring.
The bipartisan commission, made up of private citizens, selected Schaaf from 38 applications from all over the country, commission chairman George Troutman of Louisville said in a release.
In 1992, Schaaf worked with the Task Force on Governmental Ethics to draft the legislation which created the Legislative Ethics Commission.
Before joining the commission as its legal counsel, Schaaf was general counsel for the Legislative Research Commission for 16 years. He and his wife have three sons and lives in Scott County.
Wilhoit has led the commission staff since 1997. He took the job shortly after he retired as chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He served on the court for 21 years.
Prior to that, Wilhoit was the state’s first public advocate, and served as Woodford County attorney and police judge.
In 2012, Wilhoit received the COGEL Award, the highest honor given by the international organization of public and private organizations working in the fields of ethics, campaign finance, elections and open records.
In addition to Troutman, other members of the Ethics Commission are vice chair Pat Freibert of Lexington, former Sen. Charlie Borders of Grayson, Deborah Jo Durr of Richwood, Bob Fulkerson of Louisville, attorney Elmer George of Lebanon, retired Judge Paul Gudgel of Lexington, Henry L. Stephens, Jr. of Union and former Sen. Ken Winters of Murray.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear are to visit England next week to meet with British travel operators and media representatives to promote tourism in Kentucky.
Joining Beshear will be representatives of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and convention and visitor bureaus in Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky.
“We requested the Beshears join us because with the Breeders’ Cup coming to Kentucky and a Triple Crown winner from Kentucky, this is a great time to be telling international travelers about the Bluegrass State,” Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Bob Stewart said in a release.
“The United Kingdom sends the most overseas travelers to Kentucky and we want to help that market grow. A recent travel forecast from the U.S. Commerce Department indicates continued growth in international visitors through 2020.”
Beshear plans to meet with journalists and others in the travel industry to promote Kentucky tourism, a $13.1 billion industry.
He also will visit Ascot Racecourse during the trip.
The Beshears will arrive in England on Wednesday and return Sunday, June 21.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — State Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election to the Kentucky Senate next year.
Girdler, a former aide and district director for Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, said in a statement that after more than “a year of prayerful consideration and conversations with my wife and close friends, I have confidently come to the decision that I will not be seeking re-election in 2016.”
Girdler, who won an election in 2012 to represent the 15th Senate District that includes Pulaski, Lincoln and Boyle counties, said he has a deep passion for public service but his wife, Courtney, and he are expecting their second daughter soon “and my passion for public service pales in comparison to the love and passion I have for my family and my faith.”
Girdler noted that he suggested many times on the campaign trail in 2012 that he did not plan on serving in the Senate for a long time.
“I feel I made that abundantly clear when I opted out of the legislative retirement plan upon being sworn in to prove that I was not in the General Assembly for the perks and privileges, but there to do the people’s business, and that is exactly what I have done,” he said.
Four Kentucky Democratic House leaders met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, to discuss road projects in the state. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attended the meeting with Rogers.
The discussions involved Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s efforts to extend the Mountain Parkway in Eastern Kentucky from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., and widening the Hal Rogers Parkway in south-central Kentucky, bringing it up to interstate standards and extending it southeast to Tennessee.
The combined projects would become part of the Interstate 66 project that Eastern Kentucky leaders and Rogers have long championed.
“These meetings went exactly as we had hoped and show that the support is growing in our nation’s capitol,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, in a release.
“They realize, as we do, that projects like these can open up the region in a way no other can. Eastern Kentucky needs a major interstate route to the east and south, and these plans are the best way to do that.”
Kentucky House members with Stumbo were House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards of Bowling Green and House Majority Whip Johnny Bell of Glasgow.
They arranged the meetings while in Washington for the National Conference of State Legislature’s Symposium for Legislative Leaders.
Stumbo has asked the state Transportation Cabinet to look at how the project from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., could be accomplished.
He supports using up to $1 billion of federal abandoned mine land funds.
“Rather than sitting idle, these funds can be used to improve the coal region’s infrastructure and economic future,” he said.
The Kentucky House leaders support expanding the project’s scope to include the Hal Rogers Parkway and tying it together under the I-66 umbrella.
“I want to thank Rep. Rogers, Sen. Paul and House Speaker Boehner for meeting with us and offering their suggestions,” Stumbo said. “These billion-dollar projects can’t be built overnight, but the sooner we can lay the groundwork and planning, the sooner we can begin turning this dream into reality.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – The state Road Fund, which pays for highway projects, may come up $11 million less than expected for the year.
State budget director Jane Driskell reported Wednesday in a release that Road Fund receipts fell 4.1 percent last month compared to May 2014 with collections of $126 million. Year-to-date collections have fallen 1.5 percent.
The official Road Fund revenue estimate calls for a decrease in revenues of 0.9 percent for fiscal year 2015, which ends June 30.
Based on year-to-date tax collections, revenues must grow 5.6 percent in June to meet the estimate.
The most recent internal revenue estimate predicted a Road Fund revenue shortfall of $11 million for the fiscal year, Driskell said.
State Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said, “Anytime there is a budget shortfall,something has to give.”
But Wolfe said it would not be possible to say at this time what might be affected in the cabinet with a budget shortfall.
“It could mean a delay in some kind of activity or project,” he said, adding that the cabinet’s expected budget for this fiscal year is about $1.5 billion.