Kentucky Political News Headlines

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

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Government Strategies!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

2015 KY Election Update

Kentuckians went to the polls today to vote for the six statewide constitutional officeholders and one Supreme Court Justice. In what some will consider an upset, based on polling the past few weeks, Matt Bevin defeated Jack Conway to become the next Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Below are results for the constitutional offices and the sole Kentucky Supreme Court race.  We will provide more analysis in the coming days.


Matt Bevin (R) - 52.5%
Jack Conway (D) - 43.8%
Drew Curtis (I) - 3.7%

Attorney General

Andy Beshear (D) - 50.1%
Whitney Westerfield (R) - 49.9%

Secretary of State

Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) Incumbent - 51.2%
Stephen Knipper (R) - 48.8%


Allison Ball (R) - 60.6%
Rick Nelson (D) - 39.4%

Agriculture Commissioner

Ryan Quarles (R) - 60.1%
Jean-Marie Lawson Spann (D) - 39.9%


Mike Harmon (R) - 51.9%
Adam Edelen (D) Incumbent - 48.1%

KY Supreme Court - 7th Supreme Court District

Sam Wright - 51.9%
Janet Stumbo - 48.1%

Monday, August 24, 2015

Funds Needed for Pensions

The headlines related to Kentucky's financial picture has been rosy as of late, with the Consensus Forecasting Group predicting increased revenues in the current and upcoming fiscal years. However, given the poor financial health of the state's pension system the horizon remains cloudy. See the release below from today's Public Pension Oversight Board hearing.


For Immediate Release
August 24, 2015

Over $520 million in state funds needed to beef up KTRS

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky Teachers Retirement System pension fund will need an additional $520.4 million in state contributions to be fully funded next fiscal year, a state pension oversight board heard today.

The $520.4 million is in addition to around $380 million paid out to KTRS from the state General Fund this fiscal year, state Deputy Budget Director John Hicks told the Public Pension Oversight Board. All funds are needed to help KTRS meet 100 percent of its ARC, or annual required contribution.

The $520.4 million would be part of the KTRS "employer contribution," which Hicks said is "a great big old hunk of General Fund" tied to the state SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) appropriation for local school districts.

For the Kentucky Employee Retirement System, State Budget Director Jane Driskell said an additional $60 million in General Fund dollars will likely be needed in fiscal year 2017 to help meet the required ARC for that system. Around $106 million in additional General Fund dollars are budgeted this fiscal year to meet that pension system's needs. 

Full funding of the Kentucky Employee Retirement System ARC is required under 2013 Senate Bill 2, which mandates that the Kentucky General Assembly "shall pay the full actuarially required contribution rate" for KERS as well as CERS (County Employees Retirement System) and SPRS (State Police Retirement System) beginning in fiscal year 2015.

The pension needs will be addressed by lawmakers in the upcoming budget session beginning in January, although solutions are not expected to come easy.

"Hard to know where to start," said Board Co-Chair Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, after Driskell and Hicks finished their presentations. He asked the two if paying the $520.4 million will make the state "flush" on its employer contributions to the KTRS pension system after at least eight years of trying to play catch-up.

"Yes," said Hicks," that's the equivalent of 100 percent full ARC."

Total General Fund dollars budgeted for the KERS and KTRS this fiscal year was around $990 million, or 68 percent of the total $1.5 billion budgeted for the systems, said Driskell.

Board Co-Chair Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, asked Driskell's office to explain data in a handout it provided which shows KTRS is $487 million short this fiscal year. Hicks said the $487 million added to the $725.9 million budgeted by the state for the current fiscal year represents the full required employer contribution, partially unpaid.

"So we didn't pay the full ARC to teachers last time and, to be current next time, we're going to have to put up $520 million on top of whatever the number is for 2017," Yonts clarified.

Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, said based on prior testimony before the Board, KTRS had not requested any money above the state contribution plus payroll from the General Assembly up until 2008. He said the additional millions needed now are due to performance on investments "that the General Assembly is being asked to make up," asking Driskell's team if he is correct.

Hicks said it is a "shortfall from everything that goes into the performance of the system."


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gov. Beshear Creates Teachers’ Retirement Work Group to Address Funding Issues: 23-member panel to suggest ways to strengthen public pension plan for teachers, retirees

See press release below and executive order attached.

Executive Order attached.


Commonwealth of Kentucky

Office of the Governor






Kerri Richardson




Terry Sebastian



Gov. Beshear Creates Teachers' Retirement Work Group to Address Funding Issues

23-member panel to suggest ways to strengthen public pension plan for teachers, retirees


FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 16, 2015) – In an effort to strengthen the solvency of the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System (KTRS), Gov. Steve Beshear today by executive order created a 23-member work group made up of policy and education leaders.


The Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System Funding Work Group, to be led by former state senator and former State Board of Education Chairman David Karem, will meet over the coming months to develop recommendations to resolve a funding shortfall and stabilize and secure funding for the system that serves over 75,000 active and over 45,000 retired members.


"Our teachers are the foundation of our educational system for the future of our children and grandchildren," Gov. Beshear said. "We must assure that the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System is able to fully honor our commitments to our teachers and those who retired from teaching. Today I'm asking a group of experts to find ways to ensure the future of the KTRS."


According to the system's 2014 actuarial valuation, there is a $14 billion unfunded liability and a 53.6 percent funding status. This is compared with the system's $571 million unfunded liability and 95.7 percent funding status in 2000.


Gov. Beshear said he recognizes that other study groups have examined the KTRS in recent years, but "since the issuance of the reports by these study groups, a number of changes and improvements have been made by the KTRS. We can utilize this prior work in this effort. It is critical that we explore the options and develop recommendations to aid the 2016 General Assembly as action needs to be taken next spring to address this crisis."


The members Gov. Beshear has placed on this working group through an Executive Order include: 


·         David Karem, former state senator and former chair of the Kentucky Board of Education

·         David Adkisson, CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

·         Mike Armstrong, executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association

·         Jason Bailey, research and policy director for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development

·         Mary Ann Blankenship, executive director of the Kentucky Education Association

·         State Budget Director Jane Driskell

·         Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen, who shall serve as a nonvoting member

·         Amanda Ellis, associate commissioner, Office of Next Generation Learners in the Kentucky Department of Education

·         Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet Lori Flanery

·         Gary Harbin, executive secretary of the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System

·         State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, who is also a board member of Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System

·         Secretary of the Governor's Executive Cabinet Mary Lassiter

·         Secretary of the Personnel Cabinet Timothy Longmeyer

·         Roger Marcum, chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education

·         Brent McKim, Jefferson County Teachers' Association president

·         Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

·         Dr. Tom Shelton, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents

·         Dr. Bob Wagoner, executive director of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association

·         Wayne Young, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators

·         Two members of the Kentucky State Senate designated by the President of the Senate

·         Two members of the Kentucky House of Representatives designated by the Speaker of the House.


The work group will review best practices in other states regarding pension benefits, conduct a comprehensive review of funding options and make recommendations for improving the fiscal solvency of the KTRS. The work group may also contract for consulting services.


With the fiscal crisis that faces the KTRS, Gov. Beshear is asking the work group to complete its work and submit its report to him on or before Dec. 1, 2015.


"I applaud Gov. Beshear for tackling the issues surrounding the solvency of teachers' retirement and for not just kicking the issue down the road for our next governor to handle," said Karem. "With teachers unable to receive Social Security, I believe there is a compelling case that their retirement system must be stabilized. I'm honored to head this work group with such a dynamic membership, and look forward to issuing some real ideas to Gov. Beshear that will help all our teachers."  


"I am pleased with the new working group to address issues with KTRS," Senate President Robert Stivers, of Manchester, said. "I appreciate the Governor's willingness to take action on a very serious issue that is definitely a priority for all legislators. This will not be a quick fix, but rest assured that the Senate Republicans are committed to finding long-term solutions to make this system viable in perpetuity for teachers and all Kentuckians."


"I want to thank Gov. Beshear for taking action and authorizing this diverse and well-qualified work group," House Speaker Greg Stumbo said. "There is no doubt that additional and significant money is needed to address the long-term stability of the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System. I sponsored House Bill 4, which was passed by the House and died in the Senate, believing we had a unique opportunity to provide additional funds in this year's session. My hope is that this work group will inform and help the legislature find the best solution for the needed funding. The General Assembly proved in 2013 that we can take on a project of this size, as we did with state retirees, and I'm confident we can do it again in 2016 for our teachers – they deserve no less."   


Recent bond rating warnings issued by national credit rating agencies regarding the KTRS are further evidence that this fiscal crisis has financial implications beyond this administration, Gov. Beshear said.


"If Kentucky is to compete for 21st-century jobs, we must have a world-class education system for our children," he said. "The success of such a system is dependent upon the recruitment and retention of outstanding educational professionals. If we do not have a stable, secure retirement system for our teachers, Kentucky will never be able to compete in education at the highest levels."





LRC: New state laws go into effect June 24

See Press Release below from the Legislative Research Commission on new laws taking effect next week. 

For Immediate Release

June 16, 2015



New state laws go into effect June 24


FRANKFORT – Most new laws approved during the Kentucky General Assembly's 2015 regular session go into effect next week.


The state constitution specifies that new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature. The General Assembly's 2015 session adjourned on March 25, making June 24 the day for new laws to take effect.


There are some exceptions. Bills that contained an emergency clause, such as this year's measure to fight heroin abuse, went into effect immediately upon being signed by the governor. A handful of bills also specified their own effective dates, such as a measure that goes into effect early next year to offer some civil protections to victims of dating violence.


But most new laws – 98 of the 117 passed this year – will go into effect on June 24. Laws that take effect then include measures on:


Beer distribution. House Bill 168 states that beer brewing companies can't own beer distributorships. The measure is meant to affirm that beer is not exempt from the state's three-tier system of regulating – and keeping separate – alcoholic beverage producers, distributors and retailers.


Charitable gaming.  Senate Bill 33 will allow electronic versions of pull-tab Bingo tickets at charitable Bingo halls.


Child abuse. SB 102 will allow a death caused by intentional abuse to be considered first-degree manslaughter.


Child booster seats. HB 315 will require booster seats to be used in motor vehicles by children who are less than eight years old and are between 40 and 57 inches in height.


Crowdfunding. HB 76 will help Kentucky entrepreneurs to gain investors through crowdfunding. The bill will allow people to invest up to $10,000 through a crowdfunding platform while helping businesses raise up to $2 million.


Drug abuse. HB 24 will prevent youth from misusing certain cough medicines to get high -- sometimes called "robotripping" – by restricting access to medicines that contain dextromethorphan. The bill will prevent sales of dextromethorphan-based products, such as Robitussin-DM or Nyquil, to minors.


Drunk driving. SB 133 will expand the use of ignition interlocks for people caught driving under the influence of alcohol. An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a mobile phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A person convicted of driving under the influence must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.


Early childhood development. HB 234 will require early child care and education programs to follow a state quality-based rating system.


Emergency responders. SB 161 will authorize the governor to order that U.S. flags be lowered to half-staff on state buildings if a Kentucky emergency responder dies in the line of duty.


End-of-life care. SB 77 will allow Kentuckians to use a health care directive known as a "medical order for scope of treatment." These orders spell out patients' wishes for end-of-life care. Unlike advance directives, the orders are considered to be physician's orders and are signed by both the patient or patient's legal surrogate, and the patient's physician.


Hunters. SB 55 will ensure that game meat can be donated to not-for-profit organizations to feed hungry people as long as the meat was properly field dressed and processed and is considered disease-free and unspoiled.


Kentucky Employees Retirement System. HB 62 will make sure the agencies that want to leave the Kentucky Employees Retirement System pay their part of the system's unfunded liability.


Newborn health screening. SB 75 will require newborn health screenings to include checks for Krabbe Disease, an inherited disorder that affects the nervous system.


Retirement systems. HB 47 will add the Legislators' Retirement Plan, the Judicial Retirement Plan, and the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System to the Public Pension Oversight Board's review responsibilities.


Spina bifida.  SB 159 will require health care providers to give information about spina bifida and treatment options to parents whose unborn children have been diagnosed with the disorder.


Stroke care. SB 10 will improve care for stroke victims by requiring the state to make sure local emergency services have access to a list of all acute stroke-ready hospitals, comprehensive stroke centers, and primary stroke centers in Kentucky. Emergency medical services directors would be required to create protocols for assessment and treatment of stroke victims.

Tax check-offs.  SB 82 will place check-off boxes on tax forms to give people getting state income tax refund the option of donating a portion of their refund to support child cancer research, the Special Olympics or rape crisis centers.

Telephone deregulation. HB 152 is aimed at modernizing telecommunications and allowing more investment in modern technologies by ending phone companies' obligations to provide landline phone services to customers in urban and suburban areas if they provide service through another technology, such as a wireless or Internet-based phone service. While rural customers can keep landline phones they already have, newly constructed homes in rural areas won't be guaranteed landline services.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Primary Election Results

Kentucky voters went to the polls today to select party nominees for state constitutional officers: Governor/Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, and Agriculture Commissioner. A quick run down of the unofficial race results are below with winners underlined and in italics:

Governor/Lt. Governor
The four candidate race for GOP primary for Governor has been a wild ride over the past month and tonight's election results lived up to the hype. The outcome may not be known for some time as Bevin and Comer are locked in a dead heat, separated by less than 100 votes. Comer has asked for a recanvass, the results of which will not be known for several days possibly.

Matt BEVIN / Jenean HAMPTON 32.91% 70,479
James R. COMER / Chris McDANIEL 32.87% 70,396
Hal HEINER / K.C. CROSBIE 27.05% 57,948
Will T. SCOTT / Rodney COFFEY 7.17% 15,364

In the Democrat gubernatorial primary there was less drama as Attorney General Jack Conway handily defeated Geoff Young. Conway awaits the eventual winner of the GOP Primary.

Jack CONWAY / Sannie OVERLY 78.78% 140,627
Geoff' YOUNG / Jonathan D. MASTERS 21.22% 37,887

Attorney General
There was no Democrat primary election as Andy Beshear ran unopposed. He will face State Senator Whitney Westerfield in November, who won the Republican primary. With Jack Conway term-limited this is an open seat.

Michael T. HOGAN 46.62% 84,364
Whitney H. WESTERFIELD 53.38% 96,581

Secretary of State
Incumbent Secretary of State Alison Ludergan Grimes defeated her primary opponent and will face Stephen Knipper in November. Knipper is the GOP nominees, but did not have a primary opponent.

Alison Lundergan GRIMES 73.25% 131,640
Charles LOVETT 26.75% 48,083

With this office being open due to term limits for Todd Hollenbach, there was significant interest on both sides of the aisle to run for this office as it drew 8 candidates. Allison Ball won a three candidate race for the GOP nomination. State Representative Rick Nelson won a five candidate Democrat primary.

Allison BALL 46.88% 84,516
Kenneth IMES 22.21% 40,039
Jon LARSON 30.91% 55,712

Neville BLAKEMORE 22.44% 36,663
Jim GLENN 19.06% 31,146
Daniel B. GROSSBERG 11.19% 18,284
Richard HENDERSON 20.14% 32,914
Rick NELSON 27.17% 44,397

Commissioner of Agriculture
This is an open office with Comer running for Governor. Tonight State Representative Ryan Quarles defeated State Representative Richard Heath for the GOP nomination. Democrat nominee Jean Marie Spann ran unopposed and will face Quarles in November.

Richard HEATH 49.61% 91,273
Ryan F. QUARLES 50.39% 92,700

Incumbent Auditor Adam Edelen ran unopposed for the Democrat nomination and will face State Representative Mike Harmon who ran unopposed for the Republican nominee.

More analysis will be forthcoming in the days ahead. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Candidate Filings

The Field is Set

The deadline to file to run for a constitutional office in 2015 came and went today at 4:30. HERE you will find a complete listing of those candidates who have filed to run for the offices of Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor and Agriculture Commissioner, as well as candidates to fill the unexpired Supreme Court term. 

The top prize in Kentucky politics is the Governor's Mansion and filing for that office was heavy with 6 candidates in the race; 2 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Here is a run down:

Attorney General Jack Conway - Front runner and likely to win the nomination
Geoff Young - Not a serious threat to Conway

Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer - Has a large statewide base and good name recognition
Hal Heiner - A businessman from Louisville, who has pledged significant personal financial support to his efforts
Justice Will Scott - He left the bench to run for Governor. Will try to play on his popularity in the 5th district to compete in primary
Matt Bevin - A businessman who ran against Mitch McConnell in US Senate primary will try to play on his name recognition in primary

More analysis in the days ahead.

Friday, January 9, 2015

CHFS News: Kissner to Resign, Lee Appointed New Medicaid Commissioner

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Jill Midkiff,

Kissner to Resign, Lee Appointed New Medicaid Commissioner

FRANKFORT, Ky. (January 9, 2015) – Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes today announced that Lawrence Kissner has tendered his resignation as Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services to accept an out-of-state private sector position. Secretary Haynes has appointed Deputy Commissioner Lisa Lee to succeed Kissner as the new Medicaid Commissioner. Both Kissner’s resignation and Lee’s appointment are effective Feb. 1, 2015.

During his 29-month tenure as Commissioner, Kissner oversaw the Medicaid program during a time of historic transformation.

“Commissioner Kissner’s knowledge of and experience in managed care brought a great level of stability to the Medicaid program during a time of significant change,” said Secretary Haynes. “He freely shared his wisdom and experience with those who interacted with him, the greatest beneficiaries of which were the staff in Medicaid, to whom he was a tremendous teacher. The staff will continue to benefit from their time with Commissioner Kissner long after his departure.  He will be truly missed.”

A graduate of Kentucky State University, newly appointed Commissioner Lee is a 23-year veteran of state government, including 15 years of service in various capacities within the Department for Medicaid Services. In addition to her tenure as Deputy Commissioner, she served as director of the Division of Provider Operations, overseeing a variety of Medicaid programs specifically aimed at improving the health of Kentucky children including the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP), Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment Program (EPSDT), Health Access Nurturing and Development Services (HANDS), First Steps and school-based health services. For seven years she worked as the program director for KCHIP, where she received national recognition for her role in streamlining the enrollment process for children in KCHIP and Medicaid, leading to an additional 60,000 children receiving healthcare coverage.

“With more than 15 years of institutional knowledge about the Medicaid program, Deputy Commissioner Lee has been an important partner and adviser to both Commissioner Kissner and me as we have implemented managed care and expanded Medicaid,” said Secretary Haynes. “She has worked hand-in-glove with Commissioner Kissner every step of the way to achieve the tremendous improvements and efficiencies the
department is experiencing today. With her experience and leadership abilities, I have every confidence that she will not only continue, but expand upon the progress that has been made over the last few years. I am extremely grateful for her willingness to continue her public service to serve the Commonwealth in this leadership and management capacity.”  


The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is home to most of the state's human services and health care programs, including Medicaid, the Department for Community Based Services and the Department for Public Health. CHFS is one of the largest agencies in state government, with nearly 8,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Commonwealth focused on improving the lives and health of Kentuckians.