Kentucky Political News Headlines

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.

Committee Chairs & Assignments

Committee Chairs & Assignments

The House & Senate released their committee rosters this week. We have listed the changes in committee chairmanships in each chamber below and copies of the full rosters are attached.  


Tourism Development & Energy - Rep. John Short
Veterans & Military Affairs - Rep. Will Coursey 
BR Sub on Justice - Rep. Denny Butler
BR Sub on General Government - Rep. Rita Smart
BR Sub on Human Resources - Rep. Joni Jenkins


Appropriations & Revenue - Sen. Chris McDaniel
Health &Welfare - Sen. Julie Racque Adams
BR Sub on Econ Dev - Sen. Chris Girdler
BR Sub on Education - Sen. CB Embry
BR Sub on General Government - Sen. Danny Carroll
BR Sub on Human Resources - Sen. Ralph Alvarado
BR Sub on Justice - Sen. Wil Schroder
BR Sub on Transportation - Sen. Max Wise

We will provide more analysis of the various committee changes in your weekly report as they pertain to your issues.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Gov. Beshear: Kentucky 'back with a vengeance'

*Attached please find a copy of Governor Beshear’s 2015 State of the Commonwealth speech. 

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Office of the Governor

Kerri Richardson

Terry Sebastian

Gov. Beshear: Kentucky ‘back with a vengeance’
Speech urges collaboration to maintain momentum on economy, improving workforce

FRANKFORT, Ky.  (Jan. 7, 2015) – Declaring that “our vision is working,” Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear used his eighth State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday to urge legislators to remain focused on the long-term strategies and collaborative relationship that have lifted Kentucky out of the economic doldrums.

Describing record-setting improvements in key economic measures like unemployment rates, new businesses, capital investment and exports, as well as trend-setting reform in education and health care, Gov. Beshear said Kentucky had regained the national leadership position it had held centuries ago.

“We can hold our heads high once again,” he said. “Because Kentucky is back, and we’re back with a vengeance. … In the public and private halls of power, where the issues of today are being hammered out, Kentucky has become – once again – a national example of leadership and success.”

Originally scheduled for February, Gov. Beshear’s annual appearance before the joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly was moved up because he has been invited to Europe to speak at an international gathering of auto manufacturers.

He used the invitation as an example of the increased global presence of Kentucky’s advanced manufacturing industry. And he described in detail numbers and rankings that show how far Kentucky’s economy has come in the last seven years, including a drop in the unemployment rate from 10.7 percent to 6 percent; four straight years of record exports; the nation’s highest percentage growth in new business in 2013; and almost $10 billion in new business investment through the performance-based Incentives for a New Kentucky program overhauled in 2009.

He cited an official Federal Reserve evaluation that concluded Kentucky’s economy had not only recovered losses suffered during the recession but had moved on to its highest-ever economic activity.

“In other words,” Gov. Beshear said, “our economy had hit bottom, bounced off that bottom and now has so much momentum that we’ve bounced higher than we were when the struggle started.”

Progress in workforce development, state government operations
The Governor also described the progress made over the last seven years in turning around a “broke and broken” state government, including a new ethics policy, a culture of integrity and public trust, and “common sense” spending in state government.

And finally, he described a steady move toward a healthier, more highly trained and educated workforce made possible by nation-leading gains in health care access, a soon-to-be expanded apprentice program in advanced manufacturing, stunning gains in high school graduation rates and college/career readiness, and progress in kicking Kentucky’s prescription drug habit.

“My top priority has been to create a workforce that executives can’t wait to hire,” the Governor said, saying Kentucky’s progress has been the result of a comprehensive, long-range plan that emerged from a realization that short-term strategies by themselves weren’t enough.

“I wanted Kentucky to emerge from this fiscal crisis not shell-shocked and shattered but able and ambitious, poised and capable of doing great things,” Gov. Beshear said. “I wanted us to do more than survive. I wanted us to thrive. Long term.”

Challenge to legislators
But the Governor said Kentucky needed to take steps to address continued weaknesses and accelerate its momentum, and he challenged the legislature to work with him to do so.

“Not every Kentuckian who wants a job has one. Not every family has financial security. Good health is a luxury some people still can’t afford. And too many Kentucky graduates enter the workforce unprepared,” he said. “You can’t fix weaknesses like these overnight.”

Toward that end, the governor laid out a series of legislative proposals that could help improve the health, education, safety and capability of Kentucky’s workforce, as well as improve Kentucky’s economic infrastructure.

Among those issues:

Heroin:  In 2011, 5 percent of people who died from drug overdoses in Kentucky had heroin in their bloodstream, the Governor said. In 2013, that had risen to 32 percent. He used that figure as one example of how increasing use of the illegal drug is devastating families.

Gov. Beshear urged the legislature to pass comprehensive legislation that does a variety of things, including expanding access to drugs that immediately reverse the effects of overdoses; protecting law enforcement and health care workers from needle sticks; expanding access to treatment; enhancing penalties for major traffickers; and protecting users from minor drug charges when they call 911 to help an overdose victim.

“No single change in the law is enough. Like we did with prescription drugs, we have to attack this problem from all angles,” Gov. Beshear said. “Our families are looking for solutions – not political rhetoric and posturing.”

Dating violence: Kentucky is one of the few states not to provide domestic violence protection to dating couples.

“Violence and the threat of violence are tragic realities for too many Kentuckians – especially our young women but also those who are older,” he said.

More than 14 percent of high school students in Kentucky reported being the victim of dating violence, one of the highest numbers in the country. That number only gets worse when our young women get to college. And national studies show that over one-fourth of women over 65 have experienced violence at the hands of a partner.

Smoke-free legislation: The Governor also reiterated his ongoing support for statewide smoke-free legislation that protects workers, children and others from toxic cigarette smoke in public.

“Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the nation,” Gov. Beshear said, “and when it comes to preventable illnesses and deaths, every single study concludes that nothing is as devastating to Kentucky as smoking and tobacco use.”

He noted that two-thirds of states and many Kentucky communities already have smoke-free laws, and he cited a new survey that shows that two-thirds of Kentucky adults favor such a law, as well as a similar survey of Kentucky Chamber of Commerce members.

Booster seats: Kentucky requires booster seats for children under 7 years old who are between 40 and 50 inches tall, but federal highway safety officials and pediatricians recommend booster seats for children up to age 9 and 57 inches tall, because it’s safer.

Gov. Beshear urged legislators to strengthen Kentucky’s laws like 32 states – including all of Kentucky’s neighboring states – have done, saying “our failure to act is putting kids at risk.”

Early childhood programs: Gov. Beshear asked legislators to add accountability and transparency to all of Kentucky’s early child care facilities by implementing the goals of
the Accelerating Learning Statewide Through an Advanced Rating System (All-STARS).

All-STARS addresses safety, continuing education for staff members, nutrition and age-appropriate curriculum.

“We have health ratings for restaurants. Aren’t our children just as important?” he asked.

Public-private partnerships: Gov. Beshear also expressed support for expanding Kentucky’s public-private partnership, or P3, laws to allow this financing mechanism for transportation projects.

Kentucky already uses public-private partnerships for a variety of projects and services, including marinas at our state parks, the new residence halls at the University of Kentucky and managed care in the Medicaid program. The Commonwealth also signed an agreement last month to use a P3 model to expand high-speed broadband access around the state.

But P3 agreements can’t be used for highway and bridge projects.

“Kentucky has large gaps in our road and bridge system, and federal resources aren’t enough to fill those gaps,” the Governor said. “Using current procurement and financing mechanisms, we are simply not equipped to tackle these ‘super-projects’ in a timely manner without squeezing out local projects.”

P3 legislation passed in the 2014 session but was vetoed by Gov. Beshear because a late amendment prohibited tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge.

The governor also urged the General Assembly to approve:

·         A constitutional amendment that will allow local communities to vote on a local sales tax for specific infrastructure projects they may need.

·         A governing mechanism for a previously approved regional development fund designed to encourage strategic investments in Appalachia as part of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative.

·         Updates that protect receipt of Master Settlement Agreement funds long into the future, given a legal settlement last year that brought stability and certainty to Kentucky’s receipt of these tobacco settlement funds.

·         A certification program for businesses owned by veterans disabled in the line of duty that  provides the same recognition and opportunity enjoyed by women- and minority-owned businesses.

·         Offender re-entry, which prohibits public agencies and licensing boards from automatically discriminating against people with criminal records.

While acknowledging the limitations of a short session, the Governor said he was confident the General Assembly would work with him on these and other issues “because our record over seven years is one of collaboration.”

Collaboration Means Success
He listed numerous issues on which he and legislators had worked together.

The Governor warned new legislators against getting caught up in the “negative dialogue” and “downright hatefulness” that plagues public discourse in places like talk radio and social media, and that leads many people to “conclude that consensus and collaboration are cardinal sins.”

“That’s not what being a leader is about, and that’s not what we’ve been about here in Frankfort the last seven years,” he said. “Instead, we have fostered a respectful relationship that reaches across political lines, geographic areas and branches of government. And we’ve done so because we have recognized the distinction between campaigning and governing.”

He ended by posing a choice for legislators.

“We can let ourselves get waylaid by things like partisan bickering, pending elections and Twitter-feed rhetoric. We can retreat, backtrack or second-guess our progress,” Gov. Beshear said.

“Or we can accelerate Kentucky’s considerable momentum by remaining focused on the job before us.”


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

GA Leaders Elected

GA Leaders Elected

The 2015 General Assembly Session is underway and as in all odd-numbered year sessions, the legislature takes these first four days to swear in new members and get organized. The first order of business is leadership elections.

After a bruising election cycle that ended in November, both Democrats and Republicans had contested leadership elections that were decided this evening.

The 2015-16 Majority Leaders are:

Speaker Greg Stumbo
Speaker Pro-Tem Jody Richards - This position was vacated by Rep. Larry Clark
Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins
Majority Whip Johnny Bell
Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly

The 2015-16 Minority Leadership Team is:

Minority Leader Jeff Hoover
Minority Whip Stan Lee - This position was vacated by Rep. Bam Carney
Minority Caucus Chairman Jim Decesare - This position was vacated by Rep. Bob Deweese

In the Senate today they formally recognized the leadership elections they made over the last month in previously held caucus meetings.

The Senate Republican Leadership team is:

President Robert Stivers
President Pro-Tem David Givens
Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer
Majority Whip Jimmy Higdon
Majority Caucus Chair Dan Seum

The new 2015-16 Senate Minority leaders are:

Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones
Minority Whip Gerald Neal
Minority Caucus Chair Julian Carroll

All of the House results are unofficial and we will have further analysis and information on the leadership elections, committee chairs, and committee assignments as the week continues.  

Update - Session Set to Begin

Legislature Set to Convene

The 2015 General Assembly Session will convene on Tuesday with the opening gavel falling around Noon. This will be Kentucky’s short non-budget session, which is 30 legislative days. The four day organizational part of the session where they will officially elect leaders, name committee chairs and appoint members to committees takes place this week. This is basically complete in the Senate with each party having announced their leadership elections and committee assignments. The House is much less resolved as it appears there could be multiple contested races for House Democrat leadership posts, including Speaker Pro-Tem. House Republicans will have several contested races for leadership posts, as well. Until these leadership elections are completed, work naming committee chairs and committee members will hold until later in the week.

Once the organizational business is concluded, the legislature will recess Friday, January 9th until February 3rd when they are scheduled to return for the remaining 24 legislative days. When the General Assembly returns in February, they will have four and a half weeks remaining. This is not a lot of time to pass significant legislative measures, especially if an issue is controversial. Among the issues the General Assembly will be dealing with this session are: heroin abuse; teacher and state employee pension reforms; local option sales tax; and public-private partnerships. None of these have consensus going into the session, which will occupy leadership’s time working out final details on these bills as the session progresses.

Once completing their business, legislators will recess for the veto period of 10 days and return for 2 veto days on March 23rd. The session is currently scheduled to be finished by March 24, but legislators have until the end of March to complete their business.

You can access the official session calendar HERE.

You can access the official standing committee meeting schedule HERE.

Back to Frankfort Reception

Please Join Us For Our Annual
Welcome Back to Frankfort
Legislative Reception

January 7th, 2015
5 PM —7 PM

Government Strategies
229 Shelby Street
Frankfort, KY

Session Communications

We will be communicating with you frequently throughout the session, especially as legislative activity ramps up heading towards February. You can expect a weekly session summary and bill tracking report tailored to your interests in order to keep you updated on issues and bills of interest. In addition we will be communicating from time to time  on issues of general importance as they arise, like the outcome of this week’s legislative leadership races. We also encourage you to sign up for our daily Kentucky Politics newsletter HERE and checkout our redesigned website As always we will not hesitate to contact you when issues of interest arise.