Kyeland Jackson

Republican Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles is calling on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to set a firm “reopening” date for the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The demand comes as Republican-led states like Tennessee and Florida have almost entirely dropped pandemic-related restrictions and others have set dates when they will reopen further.

It also comes as the virus lingers, vaccination rates have dropped due to lack of demand, and public health experts say the United States won’t achieve herd immunity before this winter, if at all.

But Quarles argues people and businesses should be able to make their own decisions about how to stay safe during the pandemic.

Becca Schimmel

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t support President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure package, expressing worries about overspending and the national debt.

And while McConnell says he’s in favor of some form of infrastructure plan, he’s adamantly against undoing any of the tax cuts passed by Republicans in 2017, which significantly added to the national debt.

During a news conference in Louisville on Monday, McConnell criticized the president’s plan to fund the plan by scaling back tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals.

“We’re not going to be revisiting the 2017 tax bill. We’re happy to look for traditional infrastructure ‘pay-fors,’ which means the users participate,” McConnell said.

Updated May 4, 2021 at 3:43 PM ET

President Biden on Tuesday announced a new goal to administer at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to 70% of American adults by the Fourth of July.

The administration also aims to have 160 million adults fully vaccinated by then, a push to improve the level of immunity in the country to the point where the coronavirus has less of an opportunity to spread and so that more public health restrictions can be lifted, administration officials told reporters.

J. Tyler Franklin

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed for a new future in Kentucky politics during his visit to Louisville on Sunday to campaign for former state Rep. Charles Booker. 

After meeting with racial justice protesters at Jefferson Square Park early in the afternoon, Sanders made his way to a socially-distanced rally outside the Muhammad Ali Center. There, he touched on the progressive themes that have become his calling card since the 2016 presidential election, such as investing in green energy, overhauling the country’s health care system and addressing income inequality.

“Today in Kentucky, in Vermont and throughout our country, over half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck,” Sanders said. “This is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, yet half of our people are working so hard, and at the end of the week, they’ve got nothing to show for it.”

Sydney Boles

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Joe Biden’s proposals to expand infrastructure, boost renewable energy and fund pre-kindergarten, all of which he outlined in his first address to Congress on Wednesday.

During the speech, Kentucky’s senior Republican senator got a shout-out from the Democratic president for naming a cancer research bill after his late son, Beau Biden, but McConnell still panned the address as a “lengthy liberal daydream.”

On the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell accused Biden of “imposing a vision” on the country and not seeking out support from Republicans.

“The president talked about unity and togetherness while reading off a multi-trillion-dollar shopping list that was neither designed nor intended to earn bipartisan buy-in,” McConnell said.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky will continue to have six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives following the federal reapportionment process, which takes place after the census every 10 years.

Reapportionment is the process of dividing up the 435 seats in the U.S. House based on population. Kentucky has had six House districts since after the 1990 census, when it lost one seat during reapportionment.

Kentucky’s population increased only slightly since 2010—from about 4.4 million to 4.5 million people.

But the state’s growth still increased more than three neighboring states that will each lose one congressional seat—Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia.

Kyeland Jackson

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron says he doesn’t think systemic racism is a problem in the U.S., and accused President Joe Biden of aggravating racial tensions in the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict.

Cameron was responding to Biden’s statement that systemic racism is a “stain on the soul” of the country—comments made shortly after a Minnesota jury found Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd during an arrest last year.

Cameron, in a Sunday appearance on Fox News, accused Biden of throwing fuel on the fire.

“I don’t believe this country is systemically racist. What I believe is this country has always tried from the very beginning to become a more perfect union. And certainly, we’ve had our challenges throughout this nation’s history, and there’s no hiding from that,” Cameron said.

Kyeland Jackson

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says he expects a smooth transition as he takes over an agriculture agency previously housed in Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s office. The agency manages millions of dollars in grants and loans intended to help farmers and businesses every year.

The GOP-led legislature moved the Office of Agriculture Policy out of Beshear’s administration and into Quarles’ Department of Agriculture during this year’s lawmaking session—one of several measures shifting duties out of the governor’s office and into state offices currently controlled by Republicans.

During a legislative meeting on Tuesday, Quarles said he’s still “kicking the tires and checking the oil” of the office and looking for ways to improve operations during the transition period.

Tony Gonzalez | WPLN News

The Tennessee House has approved a measure that would require tissue from abortions to be cremated or buried.

If the measure passes the state Senate, backers say Tennessee would be the 12th state to require mortuary services after an abortion.

Backers describe House Bill 1181/Senate Bill 828 as an attempt to give more dignity to aborted remains. In committee hearings, and before a 69-22 vote on the House floor Monday night, they’ve given often graphic descriptions of fetal remains being thrown out.

State Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, says she came across fetal remains in the morgue while working as a hospital nurse.

“It’s not fetal tissue,” she said. “It’s dismembered children. … We’re going to treat them as they are — the created human that is pre-born.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Andy Beshear is challenging a new law that shifts control over the State Fair Board from his office to Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

House Bill 518, which became law last month, removes the Democratic governor’s power to appoint the chair of the fair board and gives Quarles power to appoint nine of the 14 voting members on the board.

It’s one of several measures passed by the GOP-led legislature this year shifting the governor’s powers to state offices currently controlled by Republicans.

Beshear argues that the law violates the state constitution by giving appointing authority to Quarles, who he says “does not have the supreme executive powers of the Commonwealth, and does not have the constitutional duty to ensure the laws are faithfully executed.”

John Boyle

Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Kentucky State Capitol on Sunday to oppose Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus restrictions, and claimed his vaccination goals amounted to a mandate.

When COVID-19 took hold in Kentucky last year, Beshear implemented a number of public safety restrictions, including a mask mandate and capacity limits at businesses. But those opposed to the restrictions said they’re “tyrannical,” and called on Beshear to “open Kentucky” during Sunday’s protest.

Demonstrators, of which there were about 300, carried signs critical of the coronavirus response and chanted appropriated versions of slogans from other movements, such as “my body, my choice,” and “small business lives matter.”

Charles Booker Forms Exploratory Committee For U.S. Senate Run

Apr 12, 2021
Stephanie Wolf

Kentucky Democrat Charles Booker says he’s forming an exploratory committee to weigh a second U.S. Senate race in 2022, this time against Republican incumbent Rand Paul.

“We have a chance to get rid of a horrible joke of a politician, and finally have someone in office that cares about our lives and will fight for us,” Booker told WFPL News Monday.

He slammed Paul for voting against federal relief funding and an anti-lynching bill. He said his platform would be focused on addressing poverty, structural racism and access to healthcare.

Booker’s progressive campaign came up just short in last year’s Democratic primary against Amy McGrath, who ultimately failed to unseat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Booker said the results of that race have shown a need to “do things differently.”

John Liu, via Flickr

A Tennessee bill aimes to prohibit textbooks that acknowledge the LGBT community, though the measure is unlikely to pass this spring. 

The measure would eliminate any instructional materials that would “promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles.” It’s one of several anti-LGBT bills moving through the legislature right now. 

Memphis Democrat Torrey Harris, an openly bisexual lawmaker, argued Wednesday this would erase important pieces of history. 

“This would eliminate me and one other member of this committee from even being mentioned in our textbooks,” said Harris.

screenshot from 2020 RNC

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is suing the federal government for not allowing states to use coronavirus relief money to lower taxes.

Cameron jointly filed the lawsuit on Tuesday with Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, arguing that the law “unconstitutionally usurps the authority of each state’s legislature to enact beneficial tax policies.”

In a statement, Cameron wrote that President Joe Biden’s administration was holding federal relief funds hostage.

“Kentuckians expect state tax policies to be set by the men and women they elect to represent them in the General Assembly, and not as a result of an edict from the Federal Government,” Cameron wrote.

Stephanie Wolf

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear praised the Republican-led legislature for funding broadband, water and school construction projects with Kentucky’s share of the federal coronavirus relief package, saying it would create jobs and boost the state’s economy.

Lawmakers set aside $1.3 billion of stimulus money during this year’s legislative session—nearly half the total amount Kentucky state government will get from the federal package.

Beshear estimated the effort would create about 14,500 jobs and that legislators were off to a “good start.”

“It’s one of the first times we’ve been able to work together that closely, and I think it’s going to be good for everybody,” Beshear said.