politics

Americans are extremely concerned that the coronavirus pandemic will disrupt voting in November's presidential election, according to a new poll from Pew Research Center.

They also overwhelmingly support allowing everyone to vote by mail, even as partisan divides over mail voting expansions have taken hold at the national level over the past few months.

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This week in Kentucky politics, Mitch McConnell said that states shouldn’t expect help shoring up their budgets during the coronavirus pandemic and that they should be allowed to file for bankruptcy.

Also, Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order allowing every Kentuckian to vote by mail during this year’s primary elections.

Erica Peterson from member station WFPL talked to capitol reporter Ryland Barton for this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled.


WFPL news

Kentucky is expanding absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing every voter to cast a ballot by mail or vote early during the state primary elections on June 23.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams announced the changes on Friday.

In a statement, Beshear said that the State Board of Elections is working on a plan to also conduct limited in-person voting with the possibility of a drive-through option.

“While there will be significant education and work required, we are committed to making sure this election will be held in a safe manner, while we are in this worldwide health pandemic,” Beshear said.

In the face of Republican opposition, House Democrats have backed off plans to consider unprecedented rule changes to allow members to vote and hold hearings remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 5:11 p.m. ET

The U.S. Senate has approved a measure to add roughly $484 billion in new funds to bolster the already record-breaking coronavirus response legislation.

The Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent on Tuesday. House leaders were planning a vote for Thursday.

LRC Public Information

Republican state Rep. Robert Goforth has been charged with felony strangulation, assault and terroristic threatening following a domestic violence incident early Tuesday morning.

Goforth was booked in the Laurel County jail shortly after 4:00 a.m. Tuesday. He was arrested in East Bernstadt, his hometown.

According to Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, Goforth was arrested at 3:10 am Tuesday after a woman alleged he had assaulted her at home, where there were three small children present. According to police, the children were not physically harmed.

The alleged victim said that Goforth threatened to kill her, according to police. Police reported she had visible marks on her forehead, neck and arms and bruising on her leg.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s unlikely that Kentucky will begin easing coronavirus crowd restrictions and business closures starting May 1, as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said would happen in his state.

At Thursday’s briefing, Beshear said that the state is looking at several different metrics for how to determine when it’s safe to start opening Kentucky’s economy up, but that May 1 “is a hard day to hit.”

“It’s really gradual and phased in, every plan we see out there,” Beshear said. “Late May or June, we hope there are certainly some things Kentuckians will be able to be doing again.”

The Trump administration announced new guidelines Thursday for states to reopen businesses and schools and relax social distancing measures, but public health experts say the plan skirts a major hurdle needed to safely get things moving: a shortage of tests for the coronavirus.

Liz Schlemmer

The Kentucky state senate voted Wednesday night to confirm all but one of Gov. Andy Beshear’s 11 appointees for the Kentucky State Board of Education.

Senators voted not to confirm board chair David Karem, a former state lawmaker, and main driver behind the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. Under state law, appointees who are not confirmed cannot serve again for two years, so Beshear will have to find a replacement.

The state board of education has been a stage for political battles in recent years. When Beshear took office in December 2019, one of his first acts as governor was to dissolve the board of education, which was filled with members appointed by his predecessor, former Gov. Matt Bevin. He then reformed the board with all new members, who are still currently serving. The Senate had until Wednesday, the last day of session, to confirm Beshear’s appointments.

Updated at 4:27 p.m. ET

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders officially endorsed his former rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, on Monday.

Sanders, who suspended his campaign last week, had long said he'd support whoever won the Democratic nomination, but he did not formally endorse Biden when he announced an end to his own run on Wednesday.

Sanders made the announcement as he remotely joined Biden on a livestream video.

Updated at 1:11 p.m. ET

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his 2020 presidential campaign Wednesday, bowing to the commanding delegate lead former Vice President Joe Biden established.

Multiple U.S. senators are sounding the alarm about the solvency of a recently enacted $350 billion emergency lending program for small businesses, calling for Congress to pass another wave of funding as soon as this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he will work with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to get the Senate to approve, without objection, another influx of cash on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is aggressively advocating for a second wave of legislation on top of the recently enacted $2 trillion rescue package to confront the coronavirus pandemic, but her Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is advocating for a more cautious wait-and-see approach.

Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET

The coronavirus has delayed another big event. This time it's the Democratic National Convention.

Amid ongoing questions about when traditional presidential campaigning — and the travel and large crowds it entails — will be able to resume, the Democratic National Committee has delayed its nominating convention until the week of Aug. 17. It had been scheduled for the week of July 13.

The event in Milwaukee is now scheduled for the week before the Republican National Convention, which is set to be held in Charlotte, N.C.

Alix Mattingly

A staffer for the Kentucky legislature has tested positive for coronavirus. The legislature has been meeting intermittently during the coronavirus pandemic and is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday to pass a final version of the state budget and other bills.

The staffer works for the Legislative Research Commission, the administrative arm of the legislature tasked with drafting bills, crunching numbers and assisting lawmakers. The agency is governed by a 16-member board made up of leaders from the Republican-majority legislature.

Rob Weber, public information officer for the LRC, said that the staffer is recovering and doing well, “given the circumstances.”

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