Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Promotes Gaming Bill in Weekly Address

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear used his weekly YouTube address to promote the constitutional amendment to legalize expanded gaming in the state.

Earlier this week, the governor and state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, unveiled the legislation to allow gaming in up to seven locations across the commonwealth. The legislation would permit five casino’s at horse racetracks and two at stand-alone locations that must be at least 60 miles from the nearest racetrack.

Check it out:

Political observers have noted that Beshear usually avoids controversial topics in his weekly address. The bill is expected to be voted on in Senate committee next Wednesday.

Frankfort Local News

Gambling Amendment Would Allow Up to Seven Casinos

After weeks of waiting, Governor Steve Beshear and state Senator Damon Thayer have unveiled their constitutional amendment for expanded gambling.

The amendment allows for up to seven casinos in Kentucky, but five must be at horse racing tracks. The two free-standing casinos cannot be within sixty miles of a track, regardless of whether that track has a casino.

The amendment will be sponsored by Thayer and co-sponsored by a host of other senators, including two other Republicans. If the measure passes the General Assembly, the following question would appear on this fall’s ballot:

“Are you in favor of authorizing the General Assembly to permit the establishment and operation of up to seven strictly regulated casinos, up to five of which would be at licensed horse racing tracks, with the Commonwealth’s revenue from them to be spent for job creation, education, human services, health care, veterans programs, local governments, public safety and support of the horse industry?”

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Signs Redistricting Bill, Decries Process

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will sign the controversial redistricting bill approved by the General Assembly earlier this week, but decried partisanship and the “personal vindictiveness” that resulted in state Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, losing her seat.

The state legislature passed the new legislative maps Thursday, which moves Stein’s downtown Lexington district to northeastern Kentucky and leaves her without a seat for two years. Several Stein supporters were lobbying the governor to veto the legislation to keep her in office, but Beshear says the looming deadline to file for office took precedent.

From the governor’s office:

“Redistricting is always a partisan process, and the current situation is no exception. However, the action directed by the Senate President to move Senator Kathy Stein’s district in Lexington to northeast Kentucky in order to keep her from being able to run for re-election, and moving western Kentucky Senator Dorsey Ridley’s district to Lexington, goes beyond partisanship. It reflects a personal vindictiveness that should have no place in this process.

However, the deadline for Kentuckians to file for these House and Senate seats is January 31, only 11 days away. Therefore, I am signing House Bill 1 today so that all citizens interested in filing for any of these seats will know what House or Senate district they are in and have time to get their filing papers in order to file for office.

This situation also reinforces my belief that before redistricting occurs again in Kentucky, some type of non-partisan, citizen-based group should be created to participate in the process.”

Stein says she will not move to seek re-election, but is mulling different courses of action, including a lawsuit or running for her old House seat.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

KCEP Urges Tax Reform Over Expanded Gaming

Leaders with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy are calling on state leaders to tackle tax reform to address the commonwealth’s economic woes.

Governor Steve Beshear plans to close the state’s $742 million spending gap by cutting many state agencies by up to 8.4 percent and using a number of other measures, including taking $100 million of the $122 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Director Jason Bailey says that’s a necessary step to prevent deeper cuts.

“Well, Rainy Day Funds are there for days when it rains, that’s the purpose of them and it’s absolutely raining right now. It is a smart policy decision for the governor to use the Rainy Day Funds to plug this budget,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Fischer Reacts to Hospital Merger Rejection

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer released the following statement in reaction to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s decision to reject the merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives.

From the mayor’s office:

“Now that this critical decision has been made, we need to understand how the affected hospitals will operate moving forward. With the coming changes in health care reform, coupled with the pressures facing Jewish & St. Mary’s and University, we must work together as all options are explored to ensure that there is a strong health care system that works for all people in Louisville. University and Jewish & St Mary’s have long traditions of providing excellent health care and medical research, and it’s important for Louisville’s future that those legacies continue.”

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Will Make Decision on Hospital Merger, Move Aggressively on Gaming Amendment

Facing a challenging budget for the upcoming General Assembly, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is promising to lobby state lawmakers aggressively for a constitutional amendment on expanding gaming.

A recent poll showed 87 percent of voters want the issue to be on the November 2012 ballot. The survey also found 64 percent of Kentuckians would favor such a change to the state constitution.

Beshear says his legislative agenda will also include improving early childhood education, but the state needs more money for such programs to work.

“We are going to need more revenue as we move down the road and I am going to aggressively push a constitutional amendment to get it on the ballot that would let people vote on whether Kentucky should have expanded gaming in the state. These are the kinds of things we need to do to make a difference for Kentucky for years to come,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Orders Review of Proposal to Add University of Pikeville to State System

After two prominent eastern Kentucky leaders pushed for the private University of Pikeville to become a state-supported institution, Governor Steve Beshear announced Tuesday that a study on the feasibility of adding the college to the state system will begin immediately.

Over the past few weeks, former Governor Paul Patton, who is now president of UPIKE, joined House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestongsburg, in lobbying for the change, which could come during the upcoming General Assembly and take effect fall 2012.

But other university officials said adding another school to the system was a major policy decision that required more study.

In a news release, Beshear says he will request proposals this week to hire a consultant who will conduct the study and review a variety of issues such as educational needs in eastern Kentucky, economic impact of including Pikeville University and the impact of the proposal on the existing system of state universities.

“The University of Pikeville meets a regional need for quality education in Appalachia, and the school’s growth illustrates its potential as an economic driver in the area. Universities are economic drivers in their regions, producing well-educated and trained students who are prepared to enter the workforce,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Williams Will Remain State Senate President

Despite losing to Democratic Governor Steve Behsear by a whopping 20-point margin in the November 8 general election, Republican state Senate President David Williams will retain his leadership position.

According to state Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, the 23-member GOP caucus met late Thursday at its annual retreat to discuss its agenda and leadership, where it was decided that Williams will remain.

From CN/2:

Higdon told Pure Politics that the caucus voted to “confirm their leadership” and that there were no plans to take future votes on leadership this upcoming session.

The decision fulfills Williams’s earlier prediction the day after the election when he told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he had enough support to remain Senate President.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Will Bring Up Gaming in 2012 Session

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says casino gambling will be on the agenda for next year’s legislative session and voters have delivered a clear message for lawmakers to work with him on the issue.

The governor was in Louisville Thursday, speaking at the 92nd annual Kentucky Farm Bureau meeting.

Previous efforts to get the proposal through the legislature have failed in large part due to the opposition of Senate Republicans, led by state Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, who lost to Beshear in the general election by 25-points.

Beshear says he will revive his push for expanded gaming and he hopes his re-election victory sends opponents of the measure a message.

“I think the biggest message it sent was that folks want the legislature to work with me. They want us to work together and move the state forward. I think that most folks out there are ready to vote on expanded gaming. That’s obviously one of the big differences between myself and my opponent in the November election. I’m hopeful that folks will say, ‘Look, it’s time.’ Let’s get this behind us, one way or the other,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Orders Two Percent Cuts to State Spending

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is ordering most state agencies to cut their budgets by two percent for the current fiscal year, but that will not be enough to close a $190 million budget shortfall.

The decision was announced by State Budget Director Mary Lassiter at a joint budget committee meeting Tuesday. The plan will not include furloughs for state employees as the governor previously ordered, but it could mean agencies deciding to laying off workers.

State lawmakers mandated the governor make the cuts in this year’s budget, but the additional 2 percent cuts will save only $29 million. Several of the cuts are being made to “non-priority” programs since the administration has exempted the Department of Corrections, Medicaid, public schools, state universities and student financial aid.

Lassister told the committee another $60 million in savings will come from funds that were originally appropriated to meet debt service on building projects that will not be needed. Another $75 million is anticipated to come from a revenue surplus, but lawmakers are still concerned that additional cuts will have to be made during the General Assembly next year.