politics

J. Tyler Franklin

 Though Kentucky has no regular elections this year, voters in three legislative districts will participate in special elections in November, filling vacancies created by the deaths of two lawmakers and the resignation of another.

The elections will take place in House District 51 around Campbellsville, House District 89 around Berea and Senate District 22 around Nicholasville.

The outcome of the elections won’t determine who controls the statehouse, but all of the vacant districts have long been held by Republicans. So far, Democratic candidates have outraised their opponents with hopes of winning the seats this year.

Republicans have overwhelming control of both legislative chambers, with 29 out of 38 seats in the Senate and 73 out of 100 seats in the House (including vacancies).

Lisa Gillespie

So far two Democrats are running for Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District seat with long-time Rep. John Yarmuth announcing he won’t run for reelection next year.

State Rep. Attica Scott and state Sen. Morgan McGarvey are the only ones officially vying for the seat at this point, but Yarmuth’s retirement announcement could open the floodgates for more candidates to get into the race.

Scott was first. When she launched her campaign in July, it was a long shot primary challenge against Yarmuth, a well-known 16-year incumbent and powerful chair of the U.S. House Budget Committee.

After Yarmuth announced he wouldn’t run again Tuesday, Scott congratulated him on his retirement and said she was honored by people who supported her campaign early.

WFPL

Kentucky’s lone Democrat in Congress, John Yarmuth, won’t run for reelection next year after 16 years in office, creating a likely contentious primary battle for the Louisville-area district.

Yarmuth is the chair of the powerful House Budget Committee. The 73-year-old said Tuesday he wants to have “more control of my time in the years I have left.”

“The desire to have more control of my time in the years I have left has become a high priority. Candidly, I have found new and incomparable joy in spending time with my young grandson. And I would like to spend more of my golden years in Louisville,” Yarmuth said in a video posted to Twitter.

Yarmuth was first elected in 2006 after defeating incumbent Republican Rep. Anne Northup. He will step down in January 2023, at the end of his eighth term.

J. Tyler Franklin

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers wants to require people accused of animal abuse to pay for housing and upkeep of their animals while their court cases are pending.

Republican Rep. Kim Banta, of Ft. Mitchell, and Democratic Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson, of Lexington, are sponsoring a bill that would create the “cost of care” law in Kentucky. It would allow courts and shelters to sue owners of animals seized in cruelty cases to pay for care until cases are resolved.

During a legislative hearing last week, Banta said the measure is good for animals and taxpayers.

“When animals are seized, taxpayers and the agencies are picking up the cost of care while the animals are being housed and taken care of,” Banta said.

Wikimedia Commons

A pared-down medical marijuana bill will be introduced during Kentucky’s next legislative session with hopes of gaining support among conservative lawmakers who have blocked it in the past.

The state House passed a measure in 2020 that would have allowed doctors to prescribe cannabis for several medical conditions and created a regulatory system to grow and sell it, but it was never taken up in the Senate.

The new version doesn’t allow people to grow their own plants. And like the older version of the bill, it doesn’t allow people to smoke marijuana—only legalizing products like edibles and oils.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville and sponsor of the measure, said the bill isn’t for the recreational use of marijuana; it’s only for people with serious medical conditions.

Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting archive

The former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party will be sent to federal prison on November 30th.

A jury convicted Jerry Lundergan in 2019 for funneling more than $200,000 in illegal contributions to his daughter Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and conspiring to cover up the activity.

Grimes lost the race to incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell by more than 15 percentage points. She was serving as Kentucky’s secretary of state at the time and was not implicated in the scheme.

Lundergan was sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined $150,000 in 2020. He appealed the conviction and was allowed to remain free while doing so, but the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied his request.

Stephanie Wolf

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday that he’s filed the initial paperwork to run for a second term as Kentucky’s governor.

Beshear defeated incumbent Republican Matt Bevin in 2019 after a close election. He took office in December 2019, and the first coronavirus case in Kentucky was announced just a few months later. Beshear has been tussling with the GOP-led legislature on gubernatorial emergency powers since then

So far, only state auditor Mike Harmon has filed to run against him as a Republican, though second-term Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft and state Sen. Max Wise have been mentioned as potential challengers.

Tennessee State Board of Education/Twitter

State representatives in Tennessee are meeting this week to have a study session on education. It’s a chance for lawmakers to get together and discuss proposed legislation. But one lawmaker is upset after his proposal to expand teaching of Black history didn’t make the agenda.

Republicans promised to hear the bill in summer study. The measure calls for more inclusion of Black Americans in the state’s history standards by the 2025 school year.  

The idea was to work out the issues and start debating it in January. 

The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, says the move to leave it off the agenda disrespects him and his constituents.

Duke Energy

Advocates are urging Kentucky to develop solar energy projects on farms and abandoned coal mines as the state considers expanding its renewable energy portfolio.

Developers have been planning and building large-scale solar projects around the state—some more successfully than others—as the technology becomes more affordable and pressure increases to develop renewable energy.

During a joint hearing of the legislature’s Natural Resources and Agriculture committees on Wednesday, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman said the state has the land and energy markets necessary for solar.

“There’s a corporate demand for renewable electricity. Economic development and that corporate demand will continue to be primary movers toward encouraging solar development in Kentucky,” Goodman said.

J. Tyler Franklin

A Democratic state lawmaker has filed a bill to require public middle and high schools to teach the history of racism in the country.

Louisville Rep. Attica Scott’s bill would require schools to teach about a list of subjects including the slave trade, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, residential segregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Scott says a group of students asked her to carry the bill.

“I definitely feel like schools are addressing some of these issues differently than other schools. But this is a more robust dig and dive into the history of racism of the combination of racial prejudice plus power and how it impacts people’s lives,” Scott said.

Scott’s proposal comes after a handful of Republican lawmakers proposed measures that would purportedly ban critical race theory in Kentucky schools.

Jess Clark | WFPL

There is no partisanship on the U.S. Supreme Court — that’s the message Associate Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett wanted audience members to take away from her talk Sunday afternoon at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville. Barrett was the guest speaker for a 30th anniversary celebration for University of Louisville’s McConnell Center.

“My goal today is to convince you that the Court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” Barrett said before an audience of a couple hundred invited guests. She argued justices are driven by their judicial philosophies rather than partisan ideologies. 

Her comments come after a controversial Supreme Court ruling refusing to block a Texas law that prevents abortions after six weeks. 

Barrett described herself as an “originalist.”

Stephanie Wolf

When Gov. Andy Beshear called a special legislative session on COVID-19, he clearly outlined goals to fight the pandemic in Kentucky. 

Some of those items passed, including an extension of the state of emergency. But as predicted, masking was a point of contention — and in the end, the Republican-led legislature passed a bill reversing the Kentucky Department of Education’s mask mandate.

“The legislature owns this pandemic moving forward,” Beshear said at a Friday press conference, during which he relayed his frustration with state lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1 places the onus on individual school districts and their superintendents to decide whether masks are required in classrooms.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Republican-led legislature wrapped up the special session called by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday night.

Shortly before midnight, lawmakers overrode two line-item vetoes Beshear issued of SB 1, which nullifies the school statewide mask mandate, and SB 2, which blocks the governor from creating other statewide mask requirements.

Beshear also signed two measures–SB 3 setting aside $69.2 million in federal coronavirus relief money to fight the pandemic and SB 5, which takes $410 million out of the rainy day fund to incentivize major companies to invest in the state.

Beshear called the special session after the legislature passed several laws limiting the governor’s emergency powers earlier this year. The state Supreme Court ordered those laws into effect after they were initially blocked.

J. Tyler Franklin

State lawmakers working in a special session on a pandemic relief bill for public schools are struggling to build consensus on how much flexibility districts should have in moving to remote learning. 

Republican leaders in both chambers have moved bills through committees that give districts 20 remote learning days, in addition to the 10 non-traditional instruction days they already have. The bills would also end the statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers, create a “test-to-stay” strategy and make it easier to hire substitute teachers.

Under the provision, districts could use 20 days to send a school, a group of students or a class into remote instruction—but not the entire district. 

Democrats, and some Republicans, worry 20 days won’t be enough.

J. Tyler Franklin

During a special legislative session called by Gov. Andy Beshear, Kentucky lawmakers have advanced a bill to use more than $69 million in federal coronavirus relief money to respond to the pandemic.

Republican-led committees in the state House and Senate passed identical bills that give Beshear’s administration the authority to spend the funds to help schools, hospitals and nursing homes weather COVID-19.

Rep. Jason Petrie, a Republican from Elkton, said the administration will have the ability to decide how much and what to spend the funds on.

“There is wide discretion given to the administration of being able to nimbly adapt the funds where the need is,” Petrie said.

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