Budget Reaction Still Going Strong

Maybe not the best move for Overly because it’ll be a terrible year. She’ll shoulder much of the blame for down ticket losses, along with Jim Gray. Even though it won’t truly be her fault. The Kentucky Democratic Party on Saturday chose state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris as its new chairwoman for what promises to be a tumultuous election year. [John Cheves]

Both the Democratic and Republican races are close contests in Iowa, and pollsters say surprises are likely. [HuffPo]

A massive surplus of $500 million that is anticipated in the Kentucky public employee health insurance fund is part of Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to restore financial stability to Kentucky’s badly underfunded public pension funds. [C-J/AKN]

Turd Cruz is beating Rand Paul (R-Cookie Tree) in the race for the hearts — and endorsements — of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus. [The Hill]

The city of Ashland is now preparing for a mayoral primary this spring after three prospective candidates officially filed to run for office Tuesday. [Ashland Independent]

The United States cannot solve any problems in the Middle East without Iran’s help and should drop its “hostile” stance toward Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday. [Reuters]

The final tally of candidates filing to become the next district judge serving Barren and Metcalfe counties is six. [Glasgow Daily Times]

You win brownie points if you can correctly identify the “operatives” mentioned in this story about Jim Gray running against Rand Paul. [Politico]

Reaction to Gov. Matt Bevin’s first budget proposal was mixed with Republicans approving and Democratic lawmakers asking for more details and expressing concerns. [The Morehead News]

Voters have the chance to choose one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history. [NY Times]

Former Kentucky state Sen. Georgia Powers has died. Powers was the first African-American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate, where she served for 21 years beginning in 1968. [WFPL]

This year’s presidential campaign has proved to be a bleak season for mainstream conservative candidates, a story of frustration, rejection and disappointment. But will that be the end of the story, or are revival and redemption still possible? [WaPo]

Frankfort is back to its old tricks. Fighting to restrict abortion access while ignoring children after they’re born. Everybody is pro-life until birth. Then it’s every child for itself. They kill child welfare programs, oppose early childhood education, prevent addicted mothers from accessing welfare benefits, kill the expansion of Medicaid. Then they wonder why so many turn to crime, drugs, suicide. [H-L]

President Barack Obama plans to visit a U.S. mosque for the first time during his presidency on Wednesday. [HuffPo]

It’s Frankfort Tidbit Update Time

Adam Edelen should take the KDP chairmanship.

Stop asking people, Adam, and just do it.

Unless you’re in another nervous sweat over talking out of both sides of your mouth about members of the executive committee? I can assure you no one outside of that bunch of elderly good old boys cares. Just like no one will care that you’ve publicly praised a racist fearmonger (John David Dyche).

If you don’t take the job, you can’t expect to have much of a political career. Gonna need to leave some of your drunk friends behind, though.

The Dale Emmons/Alison Daddy’s Name Grimes/Jerry Lundergan/Jonathan Hurst crew involved in Jim Gray’s race are already alienating people. It’ll be like 2014 all over again. MIA candidate, bitter asshole staffers, a lot of money and a lot more disappointment.

Unless something changes quickly. (Spoiler alert: nothing will change)

State Rep. Chris Harris, a man many credit with taking down W. Keith Hall’s regime, got his open records bill (HB 80) unanimously released from committee this week.

Because he’s pro-transparency and anti-corruption, he’s being primaried by a Ray Ray Jones/UMG-supported guy. And on the Republican side? UMG has a candidate alleged to be funded by Leonard Lawson set to take Harris on.

This is why Eastern Kentucky can’t have nice things.

Hearing from Frankfort insiders that Jamie Comer’s hemp efforts may end up being soured… by Jamie Comer.

The hot gossip (it’s not really gossip) is that Democrats have been denied hemp approval left and right, while Republicans aligned with Comer sailed through the approval process. Not sure that’s a big deal, really. Probably much more good old boy back scratching than partisanship. Because at least one longtime Democrat with ties to illegal cultivation and alleged drug smuggling from the Julian Carroll era was granted a permit. His name’s prominently displayed on state government websites even though he should be nowhere near hemp. Comer knew it at the time but turned a blind eye because of the guy’s ties to Woody Harrelson. Allegedly. Cough.

Flash back to this October 22 story:

The Shell Farm and Greenhouses in Lancaster is turning its fields away from tobacco, growing 157,000 hemp plants on 40 acres outdoors and 3,500 plants in a greenhouse.

“And we’ll be growing it indoors all winter,” Giles Shell said. Shell’s greenhouses once raised flowers; now he’s working on hemp genetics.

“There’s no seed crop, so we have to take cuttings to get the plants in the field. So I’m selecting genetics, for a hardier plant — bigger, fuller,” Shell said. “We’ve got a problem with variegation or chimera, so I trying to select away from it.”

Next year, Shell intends to grow even more hemp.

“We’re going to quit raising our tobacco crop, and if we do any flowers, it will be downsized,” Shell said.

-SNIP-

The Shell family, which has a three-year contract with GenCanna, certainly is now.

“We were very leery — I was the most reserved in my family of starting to do this,” Giles Shell said. “But … I felt like we were the best route to help commercialize this crop. Demand is really high, and supply isn’t there. Basic economics will tell you that’s profit.

“We’ve got a year ahead of everybody else that’s going to get into the game.”

One of the big partners of GenCanna? State Rep. Jonathan Shell’s relative.

Why does that matter? Shell sits on the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee.

Consider these minutes from July 1, 2015. That’s a lot of money to be throwing around to hemp. Particularly while Shell’s relatives are knee-deep in it. Smells a lot like a CBD monopoly in the works.

Meanwhile, Comer’s telling people who have been shut out that he has no idea what’s going on, blaming Ryan Quarles left and right. Reality? Comer started this mess. And he controlled the secretive hemp committee that no one knows anything about – the group of people doling out permits.

Comer’s crew ought to back up a taste before they ruin it for everybody.

P.S. Hearing there’s a freshman state senator (R) about to be (already?) permitted despite never having farmed a day in his life. Andy Beshear’s office is gonna have its work cut out for it.

Alvarado Pushed Frivolous Legislation

Should landlords be held responsible when their tenant’s (or tenants’) dog bites someone?

That’s a tough call because it would, if common sense comes into play, depend upon several variables and circumstances. Though, it certainly seems like Republican State Senator Ralph Alvarado is wasting time and taxpayer dollars on dog bites instead of dealing with what’s going on in his own backyard.

Because, as we all know, if there’s one thing Kentucky is overwhelmed with? It’s frivolous dog bite lawsuits.

From a Legislative Research Commission press release last week about SB 68:

Senate Bill 68, known as “the dog bite bill,” was introduced by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. He said it would protect landlords from being held liable when a negligent tenant’s canine bites someone. SB 68 would do this by amending the current statute to modify the definition of persons who would qualify as the owner of a dog.

Alvarado said the legislation was prompted by a 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court opinion that a landlord could be considered a dog owner of his tenant’s dog for the purposes of legal liability. He said that opinion puts unfair pressure on property owners who may not even know that a dog is living on their property.

What kind of negligent landlord/management company do you have to be to not know there’s a dog on the property you own or operate?

This legislation seems frivolous. The kind of frivolous Republicans love to scream about. If a landlord doesn’t allow dogs in their agreement with the tenant, it’s on the tenant for violating their agreement. If a landlord does allow well-behaved dogs, as everyone should (don’t be stupid – it’s 2016), every attorney we’ve spoken with says liability can be handled with simple clauses in a lease. When asked about the 2012 supreme court case, those familiar with it suggested it wouldn’t matter if a property owner wasn’t an absentee slumlord.

And if a landlord doesn’t require rental insurance to cover that sort of thing, they probably deserve to be sued.

It’s almost as if newbie legislator Ralph Alvarado only wants the little people to take personal responsibility – not anyone a notch above middle class. Landlords – people who tend to be keenly aware of liability – have the means to afford protection in the form of strong legalese-filled leases prepared by their attorneys. It’s unfortunately not rare for those folks to be some of the most notoriously negligent people in Kentucky.

Democratic State Senator Robin Webb has it right, along with her five colleagues who opposed the legislation:

“It would totally take the landlord out of any potential recovery, whether they knew, not knew, promoted, or encouraged any activity,” she said. “It would fully insulate the landlord regardless of conduct.”

‘Cause it’s common sense. If you rent out property, you should be involved enough to know what’s going on. Only a slumlord would be so disconnected and unaware.

Wondering what could have such an influence on Alvarado, a physician, to push him to so fervently back this legislation?

Just a taste:

  • Robert Gable – $200 – 2010 – real estate broker (ret)
  • Robert Gable – $1,000 – 2013 – real estate broker (ret)
  • Robert Gable – $1,000 – 2014 – real estate broker (ret)
  • Ralph Ruschell – $100 – 2010 – real estate developer
  • Charles Conley – $375 – 2010 – Pinnacle Management
  • Katherine Davis – $500 – realtor
  • Louisville Apartment PAC – $200 – 2010
  • W.L. Rouse – $1,000 – 2014 – real estate
  • Jim McGinnis – $1,000 – 2015 – property owner

More than $5,000 in contributions that we could track down in less than ten minutes at the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

This isn’t meant to overlook Alvarado’s co-sponsors (Chris Girdler, Jared Carpenter, Dan Seum, Mike Wilson) who have also greatly profited from landlords. It’s just a look at Alvarado because he’s a freshman legislator.

Note: Here’s a zip file (155ish K in size) of some of the KREF data we reviewed for safe keeping.

Adam Edelen: Calm Down, Beyonce!

Will Jim Gray beat Rand Paul? Probably not with his current team that consists almost entirely of Conway people. Stranger things have happened, though. [H-L]

When Diana Andino first started researching medical school — something she had been working toward for years — she hit a brick wall. [HuffPo]

A religious group building a massive Noah’s Ark tourist attraction in Kentucky has won a legal battle over the state’s withdrawal of a potential tax incentive worth millions. [C-J/AKN]

Of all things for Adam Edelen to attack, he chose to hit Rand Paul on foreign policy. That may be the only thing most Democrats can stomach from Paul. He’s also wrong about sexual orientation. Anti-gay discrimination is alive and well in Kentucky. Hell, the Kentucky Democratic Party runs so quickly away from the gays that it’s alarming. We can all agree that Rand Paul (R-Cookie Tree) is a delusional troll. But Adam Edelen needs to check his straight, white, male privilege once in a while before spouting off in another sweaty rant. [Roll Call]

State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout has re-enacted restrictions on bird sales and movement in Kentucky to protect Kentucky’s poultry industry and bird population from the avian influenza outbreak in southern Indiana that federal officials announced on Friday. [Richmond Register]

For a variety of reasons, the nomination of Donald Trump would probably not be in the best interest of the Republican Party. [Nate Silver]

SURPRISE! Johnny Bell, sexual harasser extraordinaire, has finally gotten the hint. [Ronnie Ellis]

A federal appeals court upheld the government’s new coal dust exposure rule for coal miners Monday, rejecting industry challenges to it. [The Hill]

As if people in Eastern Kentucky aren’t taxed enough. Rowan Fiscal Court could be looking at raising the occupational tax by a half percent to help pay for the new Rowan County Detention Center. [The Morehead News]

Wall Street edged higher on Tuesday morning, driven by strong earnings reports and recovering oil prices, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting and Apple’s results. [Reuters]

Glasgow City Attorney Rich Alexander, in a letter responding to a complaint from the Glasgow Daily Times, said he incorrectly relied upon an exemption of the Open Records Act as grounds for closing a portion of a police sergeant’s disciplinary hearing last Monday. [Glasgow Daily Times]

The Supreme Court rescued an administration-supported rule that promotes electricity conservation, handing a big victory to environmentalists and President Barack Obama. [Politico]

Barbara Kleine, director of Kentucky Refugee Ministries’ office, points to a to-do list on the wall of her office: It’s a couple of feet long and takes a minimum of 18 months to accomplish. Printed on it is every permit, form and check that refugees must pass on their way to becoming settled in a new home. [H-L]

Six years ago, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC. It is not a happy anniversary. I remember waiting for the ruling and opening it up on my computer: when I finally read it, I didn’t want to believe that the Court had gone as far as it had and been so careless with our democracy. [HuffPo]

Magical Hugs Will Definitely End Racism

Rand Paul and Kentucky Democrats allegedly have something in common. [H-L]

It’s cute that Republicans think hugs will end racism. Just like Barack Obama getting elected magically ended racism. Black people are magic, did you know? [HuffPo]

No, legislative pensions should not be secret. We’re dumber for being asked the question. [C-J/AKN]

PEE ALERT! Republicans are finally realizing that they’re wasting their money on presidential candidates. [The Hill]

Rebecca Collett was overcome with emotion Wednesday after a Kentucky legislative committee advanced a bill that would allow some nonviolent felons like her to have their criminal records expunged. [Richmond Register]

Everyone is excited that Michigan is more terrible than Kentucky. [Reuters]

A guy worth millions used $2,700 from his mega-business to give to charity in Morehead and the newspaper wrote about it. [The Morehead News]

President Obama might have started off his State of the Union address Tuesday night by saying he wasn’t going to list a bunch of policy priorities, but he did offer up some climate change policy changes that we will likely see this year. [ThinkProgress]

After listening to a plea for financial help, members of the Glasgow-Barren County Tourist and Convention Commission voted Tuesday to contribute $20,000 to help fund the 2016 Glasgow Highland Games, a local Scottish festival that is in its 31st year. [Glasgow Daily Times]

The US is looking to the United Nations for help in dealing with thousands of migrants fleeing to the US to escape violence in Central America. [BBC]

Everybody look how sand Rand Paul (R-Cookie Tree) is now that he’s being excluded for having absolutely no chance. [WKYT]

Hillary Clinton wants you to know she has a new tax proposal. She also wants you to know that Bernie Sanders does not. [NPR]

Should Fayette County Public Schools build larger elementary schools? [H-L]

When you’re running for president on a platform of universal health care, free college and breaking up the big banks, pretty much everything else seems small bore. And so it was last week when Bernie Sanders laid out his financial reform plan, which included a proposal to turn the credit rating agencies into nonprofits and remove their conflict of interest. [HuffPo]

Need cheap mobile phone service? Maybe even for a backup cell phone? I’m talking $6/mo cheap? Use our Ting referral code and we’ll all get a sweet credit. You get $25 — enough for a couple months of service to determine whether you like it. Both CDMA and GSM options. [Ting]

Get Ready For The Stumbo Meltdown

What’s that nonsense about caring about Eastern Kentucky again? Kentucky may be the nation’s third-leading coal producer, but over the years it has increasingly turned to other states to supply coal for its power plants. [H-L]

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Friday proposed an overhaul of the U.S. welfare system that would eliminate what he called failing programs for the poor and send the federal dollars from them to the states to develop their own plans. [HuffPo]

Another week, another attack by House Speaker Greg Stumbo on former House Democrats who have become Republicans in recent weeks as the GOP threatens to take control of Kentucky government. [C-J/AKN]

This isn’t “Shark Tank.” This is your democracy. But as the bidding grows higher, your voice gets lower. You’re simply priced out of the marketplace of ideas. That is, unless you are one of the ultra wealthy. [NY Times]

Some Frankfort wags like to say Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo thrives on chaos. If so, he ought to be positively giddy. [Ronnie Ellis]

As the price of oil plunges to its lowest point in 12 years — and threatens to drag the broader U.S. economy down with it — lawmakers say Congress should consider helping teetering energy companies with policy fixes beyond the decision to lift the oil-export ban. [The Hill]

Despite a warmer holiday season than expected, the cold reality of credit card debt may soon settle in as many receive their first credit card statements of 2016. After loading up their plastic with gifts, food and travel expenses during the holidays, many Americans are shocked by the balance owed come January. [Richmond Register]

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider on Monday a conservative legal challenge targeting public sector unions when the justices take up a case brought by non-union teachers in California who object to being compelled to pay for collective bargaining. [Reuters]

A pair of creditors is looking to force the troubled Bullitt Utilities Inc. into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, claiming it is their best hope of getting paid what they’re owed. [Business First]

The only thing standing between public sector unions and financial disaster may be Justice Antonin Scalia. [ThinkProgress]

A dozen fat, white bigots held an anti-Muslim “rally” in Frankfort over the weekend. [WHAS11]

Money clearly doesn’t buy intelligence. Donald Trump’s new call to encourage guns in schools may sound radical even by the standards of the current gun rights movement, but the reality is state legislators and activists all over the country are pushing to expand gun owners’ rights to bring firearms into schools and onto college campuses. [Politico]

Someone asked why we haven’t mentioned the departure of KDP’s chairman. Here’s why: it doesn’t matter. The KDP is dead in the water. Not even floating. Already popped and sinking to the bottom. It’ll be there until the current mess of good old boys retires and fresh, new faces claw their way back to Frankfort in a few years. [H-L]

NASA’s high-tech endeavors normally look outward. But given the existential threat facing the world’s coral reefs, the space agency has decided to focus its efforts closer to home — and the result may be game changing. [HuffPo]

WSJ Ignores Kentucky Corruption But Unintentionally Delivers Some Choice Quotes

Nearly eight years ago, State Representative Greg Stumbo (D-Drink Yer Juice, Shelby) was plotting to take over the role of speaker of Kentucky’s state house and we were questioning his ethics way back then. He, Martha Jane King and other Democrats were scheming with mega donors and it was all downhill from there.

So you can imagine how fascinated we were to discover that State Representative Jeff Hoover (R-Gay Panic) is plotting to take over the speakership this weekend. It’s all Republicans can think about, all they can talk about. People like Scott Jennings and State Senator Damon Thayer (R-Hey Gurl) are nearly in tears because they’re so excited about the non-existent power they think they’re going to wield.

That’s all highly entertaining. The cyclical nature of Kentucky’s corrupt state legislature is apparently so intoxicating that it leads to extreme political delusion.

But wait! It gets better. Our minds have been blown.

The Wall Street Journal came to Frankfort to cover a presentation by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on corruption and ethics.

Here’s a taste:

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan who recently secured the convictions of two top New York lawmakers, on Wednesday said the blame for corruption lies not only with bad actors but also with the “good people” who don’t try to stop it.

“People knew, and did nothing,” said Mr. Bharara, referring to the corruption cases in Albany during a speech before the Kentucky Legislature. “This, perhaps, is the most unfortunate feature of the status quo in my home state—the deafening silence of the many individuals who…saw something and said nothing.”

Mr. Bharara’s speech at the Kentucky General Assembly’s annual ethics training was his first before a full state legislature. It came at the request of Kentucky state officials.

-SNIP-

He told the legislators that federal law doesn’t require an explicit quid-pro-quo, that it doesn’t matter if the official act was good for the community, or if it was done for a friend.

In Kentucky in the early 1990s, more than a dozen lawmakers and lobbyists were convicted on an array of charges stemming from a wide-ranging federal probe into bribery and extortion in connection with horse-racing legislation and hospital regulations.

In response to the charges, Kentucky passed a package of ethics laws and restrictions on lobbying, rules that continue to be refined. The state’s ethics laws, some of the strictest in the country, include what is known as a “no cup of coffee” rule—lobbyists aren’t allowed to buy a cup of coffee for a lawmaker.

If only those ethics laws worked…

One of the strangest STOP THE PRESSES! moments in the story is when Martha Jane King scores a quote:

Martha Jane King, a state representative from south-central Kentucky, said she hadn’t known Mr. Bharara’s name before this week. “But he sounds awesome,” she said.

Ms. King, a Democrat, said Mr. Bharara’s remarks reminded her that lawmakers can sometimes lose their way, and “little by little, they step over the line.”

You remember her, right? If you’re an outsider, Martha Jane King is a good old boy Democrat with quite a history of skirting ethics laws. From ignoring campaign finance regulation to covering up one of the nastiest legislative sex scandals in the country, she’s done it all.

Here’s a brief look back:

Eye-opening, isn’t it? Easy to see why our minds were blown by her quote in the WSJ article.

Martha Jane isn’t the worst part of the story. Not even the most embarrassing.

Check out the remarks from Republican State Senator John Schickel:

Sen. John Schickel, a Republican from northern Kentucky who opposes the state’s ethics laws because he said they “tend to inhibit freedom of speech,” said he enjoyed Mr. Bharara’s remarks. But Mr. Schickel noted that Mr. Bharara was “not elected by anyone” and is “telling [Kentucky] state legislators making $35,000 a year and working other jobs how to be ethical.”

They make $35,000 for something like six-eight weeks of work. Most legislators, despite what they love to claim, do little beyond attend occasional meetings when they’re not in Frankfort. Some do, sure, but most do absolutely nothing. Otherwise, teachers, nurses and the like wouldn’t have time to serve.

Don’t forget that on top of that mountain of easy money sits the unbelievably generous pension that state legislators receive. Pensions that can’t even be taken away from them if they commit cold-blooded murder.

Won’t somebody think of the poor, overworked, underpaid state legislators?!

Now you outsiders know what Kentuckians are up against when the legislature is in session in Frankfort. Democratic Party good old boys attempt to portray themselves as kind-hearted grandparents. And Republican Party lunatics spew nonsense about ethics laws being a violation of free speech.

This is why Kentucky can’t have nice things.