Saturday, March 31, 2007

Harper Campaign Manager Resigns

Republican gubernatorial candidate Billy Harper has lost his campaign manager. Stan Pulliam has gone back to his home in Oregon, accordiing to Harper's spokesman. Sam Edelen says Alois Moore, who's been serving as the campaign political director, will take over management of Harper's campaign.

Edelen says Pulliam resigned and was not asked to leave. He says it was a personal decision. Moore is a former county PVA from Hazard. Edelen says she's a personal friend of Harper's. Harper has spent more than $3 million of his own money in a campaign against Ernie Fletcher and Anne Northup. The Paducah businessman has failed, so far, to break 15% in the polls, though he was a virtual unknown when he began running campaign commercials in October 2006.

How to Vote For Anne

Question: Do you believe Fletcher cannot win and are you uninterested in policy?

If you answer YES to this, then Anne Northup is your candidate on May 22nd.


Another week and Kentucky Republicans are opening their mail box to find another glossy mail piece from the Ernie Fletcher campaign.

This time the topic is Health Care.

Ernie Fletcher actually wants you to believe that he has lowered the cost of Health Care!

Take the Kentucky Health Care Challenge!

Question: Do you think Ernie Fletcher has fixed the problems with Health Care and lowered the cost for Kentuckians?

If you answer YES to this, then Ernie Fletcher is your candidate on May 22nd.

If you answer NO to this, then Anne Northup is your candidate on May 22nd.

Question: Have your Health Care insurance premiums skyrocketed while Ernie Fletcher has sat back and done nothing?

If you answer YES to this, then Anne Northup is your candidate on May 22nd.

If you answer NO to this, then Ernie Fletcher is your candidate on May 22nd.

So make sure when you open your mail box and see Ernie Fletcher’s next glossy mailer that you check for the facts…you’ll have to look past the mailer because they won’t be on there.

Anne Northup has a better plan! Click here to read her position on Health Care or watch her discuss the issue by clicking here.

Next time you see Ernie Fletcher make sure you ask him what is his plan is for Health Care! He has lots of glossy mailers but not a lot of plans.

Fordfare: Fletcher’s Vanity

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

The odds that Ford Motor Co.'s Louisville Assembly Plant will survive the next round of plant closures improved this week after union workers approved a set of cost-cutting moves, analysts said yesterday. But it's too soon to predict whether the plant and its more than 3,000 jobs are safe - even with the added promise of $200 million in state incentives available if Ford invests in its two Jefferson County factories.

Winning the United Auto Workers concessions, which had already been approved at 35 of Ford's 42 plants in North America, "improves the chances of the plant's staying open," said Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore. The agreement at least lets Louisville Assembly "stay in the game" as it competes against other plants for survival. Having the cost-cutting agreement is better than not having it, said Catherine Madden, an analyst with market-research firm Global Insight in suburban Boston. "Unfortunately, I don't believe it guarantees a facility will stay open. … Nothing can change the fact that Ford is not selling enough vehicles to fill the capacity that they have," Madden said.

The Dearborn, Mich., automaker wants to reduce North American employment by 29 percent, to about 92,000 by the end of next year, from about 130,000. Ford has said it will close seven assembly plants across the country by 2009, but hasn't identified two of them. "I would think that Louisville would be one of the last on the list to go," Spinella said, calling it a historic linchpin for Ford. But that's no guarantee of security, he said.

"You hate to give up on something that has such longstanding history with the company - but they've done it before," he said. "Ford has a long history of closing down plants that they've had for a long time." The Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road opened in 1955. Ford lists the Edsel, LTD and Ranger among the products in its history. "The auto industry has just changed so dramatically in the U.S.," and Ford "has gotten the brunt of that change," Spinella said. "That being the case, they have to make some decisions as to what they can and can't afford." Madden said she thinks a more car-like version of the Explorer will be made at the Chicago Assembly Plant, but Louisville Assembly could be assigned production of a different vehicle.

The 2007 Kentucky General Assembly approved an incentives package that would cover much of the cost of retooling the Explorer plant for a new vehicle even if employment doesn't increase. The measure, signed into law last week by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, provides tax incentives for investments in both Louisville Assembly Plant and Kentucky Truck Plant operations and retraining local employees to work there. The Kentucky Truck Plant, Ford's largest factory, builds the F-Series Super Duty trucks.

While F-Series sales have suffered from high fuel prices and a downturn in home construction, analysts believe the Chamberlain Lane plant is safe. Louisville Assembly is considered vulnerable because of the weak sales of the Explorer, Madden said. Unless the plant gains a new product line, it could face a shutdown, she said. "Overall, the state incentives are all well and good, and obviously they have a place in the decision-making," Spinella said. "But the reality is that Ford has too many plants. And all the concessions in the universe won't keep that plant running if they don't have the sales to back it up."

Despite Fordfare’s passage, employment remains unstable. The aforesaid codifies the incentives’ absurdity. No workers were saved. No employment was assured. The plant was not guaranteed. Fletcher merely passed legislation for legislation. Ultimately, his egotism will devastate Kentucky and Ford.

Solve the Problem!

The state care population is nineteen percent. The African-American population is seven percent. The problem is obvious. Why is a study necessary?

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Concerned about the disproportionate number of black children in state care, Kentucky officials are launching a project to determine why so many are being removed from homes and what can be done about it. About 19 percent of the 7,000 children in state care are black, yet African Americans make up only 7.3 percent of Kentucky’s population.

"This is an opportunity to make a difference and do what’s right,"" said Tom Emberton Jr., who oversees the state social-service system for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. African-American lawmakers from Jefferson County — which has the highest rate of black children removed from homes because of alleged abuse and neglect — welcome the initiative.

More than half the Jefferson County children in state care are black, although African Americans make up only 19 percent of the population. "The numbers are disturbing,"" said state Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville. "We must find out exactly what’s going on and how to correct it. Neal said he believes there is "clearly a racial component" but said the issue probably is more complex — involving poverty, housing, services for families such as counseling or drug treatment and other issues.

State Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, said he is concerned about the problem, particularly in Jefferson County. "The numbers are staggering," he said. "This is a very serious problem, and we have to find out the reason for it."

Emberton said that’s what the state intends to do in coming months. It has identified 11 counties with the highest rates of black children in state care and will spend about $500,000 over the next year to try to find out why. At the same time, the state is launching more training and education on possible biases by those involved in child welfare and how to overcome them.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Conservative Edge Fact Check

While Anne Northup's most fervent online supporters have been quick to call mine and Brett Hall's credibility into question regarding the GOP primary, they rarely have facts to back up their assertions of a Northup surge. Now, there is certainly no lack of name calling and anger, but that is usually not the basis for a persuasive argument. So, would it be to much to ask, since I have been assured by the Northup supporters that momentum is building for her, what the factual basis is, for the assertion. Could you give us fund raising facts? How much? From whom?

How many fund raisers have been held? As well, which counties other than Jefferson seem to be in the Northup column? At what Lincoln Day Dinners have Northup supporters out numbered Fletcher supporters? How about internal polling numbers. Do you have any of those? After all, the last Survey-USA poll showed an 8 point drop for Northup from her previous internal poll. What has changed since then? I'll be happy to post the information. I'll even buy your theory that momentum is building for Northup. It's just that you'll have to provide more than talk. Is that to much to ask, for people questioning others credibility?

Legislature: The Final Days

State prepares for possibility of runoff election

The state Board of Elections has taken action in hopes of helping Kentucky's military service people and overseas citizens vote in case of a primary runoff election in this year's race for governor. The runoff would occur if no gubernatorial candidate in one of the May 22 primary elections receives at least 40 percent of the vote. The runoff would be 35 days after the primary.

A runoff election which should have never been challenged. A runoff election I advocated. Victory is mine. Victory is mine. Great day in the morning people, victory is mine.

Session gets mixed reviews


Coal miners, minimum-wage workers and the Ford Motor Co. met with success in the 2007 legislative session that ended Tuesday night. But university students, women without health insurance and numerous nonprofit agencies were among those who struck out after bills to help their causes failed to pass. "It was a session that substantive things were accomplished, but I still think it was a session that, in my opinion, constitutes a missed opportunity," said Rep. Scott Brinkman, R-Louisville.

We passed corporate welfare, an unemployment initiative, and were virtually stagnate on mine safety. Session, guess my review.

Lawmakers spar on pension plan


Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, accused House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, of dodging the issue to smooth his campaign for governor, and Richards responded by essentially calling Williams a liar. The Republican leadership plan to change the retirement system for state and county employees, which passed the Senate on March 6 with the dissent of only two among the Senate's 14 Democrats, would have sold $828 million in bonds to get the current program out of debt, put half the current employee contribution into an employer-matched 401(k), and raise the length of service needed to retire with full benefits from 27 years to 32. The changes would apply to state or county employees hired after July 7, 2007, and would not affect teachers' benefits at all. But it stalled in the House, though Senate leaders called for its consideration up to the General Assembly's last two days in session.

They are debating the pension plan now?

Fletcher uses discretionary funds for design of Horse Park stadium


Gov. Ernie Fletcher said today he is considering using his executive authority to pay for some of the "urgent needs" that legislators declined to fund in the legislative session that ended Tuesday. Fletcher said he believes he has the power to use the state's "rainy day fund" to help several South-Central Kentucky counties with expenses related to ongoing repairs of a leaky Wolf Creek Dam and to pay all the costs of an expected runoff election in the Democratic primary for governor.

Discretionary funds? I would have preferred them elsewhere. With that stated, the legislature was lazy. Governor Fletcher’s decision was correct.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Conservative Edge: Women Whip Northup

I missed this Al Cross story from the March 18th edition of the Courier Journal on the Northup campaign. Here's the real interesting part of the story in which a "leans Northup" Republican was interviewed: The 60-second ad seems to be aimed at people like Hughes -- Republicans who think the hiring investigation and prosecution by Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo was "overkill," as Hughes calls it, and who still have personal regard for Fletcher but remain uncertain about their vote.

Republicans who put a premium on maintaining GOP control of the governorship are unlikely to be persuaded by the appeal to sympathy, given Fletcher's low job ratings in polls. But most voters in the primary, which also includes businessman Billy Harper, are likely to have less partisan priorities -- such as who they think would be the best governor. And as we wrote in January, they need to hear reasons to be for Northup, not just against Fletcher.

Hughes said likewise after hearing her litany and discussing it with the locals. "Not anything about what she's going to do, that didn't go over too well with those people there," he said. "Some of those little old ladies, they were ready to whip Anne Northup."

I'd say your campaign is not going well, when you incite "little old ladies" within your own party to do you bodily harm. Of course, I am a Fletcher supporter. But still, that can't be a good sign.

Governor: Children Are Your Occupation

Where is our Governor? Thirty one days, three children dead? Where is his statement? Where is a commission? Where is a special investigation? Where are new safety measures? Governor Fletcher, society survives via our children. If you cannot protect them, why serve or seek re-election?

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

When 2-month-old Brianna Brown died yesterday morning, she became the third Central Kentucky child in 31 days to die of injuries apparently caused by abuse. Parents have been charged with murder in the deaths of all three.

The deaths illustrate what many advocates and some in state government have known for years: The number of kids in Kentucky who die as a result of abuse and neglect has been increasing. "This isn't just a blip on the radar," said Jill Seyfred, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. "There are children in Kentucky who are subjected to fear every day."

Caleb Bishop, 1 month old, died Feb. 25 after suffering blunt-force trauma to the head. Fourteen days later, Michaela Watkins, a chatty 10-year-old who dreamed of being a cheerleader, died in a Winchester apartment. Brianna's death at University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center came 16 days after Michaela's.

In one of the three deaths it is clear the state had been involved in the child's care. Family members have said the Watkins family had had several visits from social workers. Statistics show that the number of children who died as a result of abuse and neglect in Kentucky has nearly doubled from 2000 to 2004. And the number of children who have died while being monitored by state social workers has also increased. In 2004, the last year for which national figures are available, Kentucky ranked fifth among all the states in the number of children who died as a result of abuse and neglect.

Child advocates and state legislators say the three deaths in such a short time should be a wake-up call that the state needs to devote more resources to child protection. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said advocates and some members of the legislature have said for years that child protection has been underfunded. Yesterday, one state lawmaker said she would push in the 2008 legislative session for more investigation into abuse and neglect deaths. It's not enough for the cabinet to do an internal investigation if a child dies while under its care, said Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo. There should be outside scrutiny, she said.

The cabinet investigates all deaths due to child abuse. Palumbo, D-Lexington, says she will file legislation requiring the cabinet to release a summary of any internal review conducted in response to abuse or neglect that results in a fatality or near fatality. Palumbo filed similar legislation in 2004, but it was not passed. She also intends to draft legislation that would allow lawmakers on the Health and Welfare committee to review cases twice each year to track the decisions social workers make. "I want to go as far as we can go. As a policy maker, I want to talk to social workers about what we can do," Palumbo said.

Other advocates applauded Palumbo's efforts, saying more oversight is needed. "I would like for more outsiders to look at how these children die, people and agencies who don't have a contract with the cabinet," said David Richart, executive director of the Louisville-based National Institute on Children, Youth and Families. "These incidents go underground by virtue of confidentiality. It erodes public confidence."

From 2000 to 2004 in Kentucky, child fatalities due to abuse more than doubled -- from 16 to 36. During that time there was an increase in fatalities in which the children had prior contact with state social workers, from 16 to 25. Those numbers decreased slightly in 2005, and cabinet officials say the preliminary numbers in 2006 are lower than those in 2004. The cabinet has launched a host of initiatives to cut the number of abuse and neglect deaths in Kentucky, including a program with the non-profit Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. Also, more than 700 physicians and other medical personnel have been trained to spot signs of abuse and neglect, Seyfred said. Better training in spotting abuse may be behind some of the uptick in both reports of abuse and investigations into child deaths, child advocates say. The number of reports of suspected abuse and neglect increased from about 44,000 in 2000 to 65,000 in 2006, although the number of substantiated cases remained flat.

Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville started a series of child abuse prevention programs and an educational seminar for medical professionals to help spot abuse. Dr. Stephen Wright, professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville and medical director at Kosair, said that about four years ago the hospital saw about a child a month who died as a result of abuse or neglect. "We noticed of the kids who came here ... almost half of them had seen a physician or some other health care professional within a couple of weeks prior to them having this catastrophic event," Wright said.

Child advocates hope others, not just police or medical professionals, will watch out for children's well-being. "If there is any hope that can emerge from a tragedy, maybe these kinds of headlines can make these kids the focus of the governor's race rather than a forgotten issue," Brooks said. "Kids should be a topic of conversation of every candidate."

Legislature: The Final Days

Key legislation collapses as legislature adjourns

Lawmakers adjourned this year's legislative session late Tuesday night without appropriating $9 million for a new runway at Blue Grass Airport or $38 million for a new outdoor stadium and other improvements at the Kentucky Horse Park. Afterward, Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who is seeking re-election, again promised to recall lawmakers to address what he called "urgent needs," but said lawmakers need a "cooling-down period" that might last beyond the May 22 gubernatorial primary.

What occurs when legislators slack? Miners are not safe. Critical tourism measures are not addressed. College students are slighted. Should we mock applaud our pathetic legislature or offer a moment of silence?

House balks on repealing runoff election law

The House and Senate yesterday refused to back down from their respective positions on the governor's race runoff, meaning Kentucky will probably have an overtime election and counties will have to pick up the tab. Senate Republican and Democratic leaders told the House Monday that they favored repealing the runoff provision -- the last remnant from 1992 election law reforms. The House's position would have left the runoff in place but provided $5 million to cover the counties' costs of holding such a special election. The state already is responsible for about $2 million for a runoff. The House didn't budge from that stance yesterday.

For months, I denounced the runoff. I said Kentucky politicians should play the ball as constituted. Victory is mine. Victory is mine. Great day in Kentucky people, victory is mine.

Social worker safety bill passed


The House and Senate passed a social worker safety bill and one other measure late last night and then adjourned the 2007 session -- without acting on other major issues. An impasse between the two bodies prevented action from being taken on the Senate's plan to bail out the financially ailing state retirement systems or bills that would fund scores of university construction projects and spending priorities of Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Social workers deserve protection. Governor, sign this legislation.

Groups disagree on merits of special legislative session to address retirement systems

A day after lawmakers ended their 2007 session, several groups weighed in with various opinions on a possible special legislative session to address money problems in retirement systems that cover state and local government employees and public school teachers. The Coalition for Sustainable Benefits -- made up of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence -- urged Gov. Ernie Fletcher and lawmakers yesterday to begin working immediately toward a special session this year to overhaul the state retirement systems. But the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition -- made up of the Kentucky Education Association, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, the Kentucky Association of State Employees and the Technical Faculty and Staff Alliance -- urged interested parties to study the issue over the next nine months and consider it in the 2008 General Assembly, which begins in January.

During their term, legislators were lazy. How will they act when they have no desire to govern?

Legislative deadlock leaves university projects in limbo


At Northern Kentucky University, 200 students are on a waiting list for housing, and they'll keep waiting now that the General Assembly ended without approving money for a new dorm. NKU President Jim Votruba said he understands that the building -- along with $218 million in other university projects -- is merely a hostage to a political fight over the state pension fund. But NKU has to buy the new dorm, a former nursing home, by Monday, and he's not sure how they will do it without state funding. "We're disappointed we couldn't bring closure to this," Votruba said. "My hope is that can be done in a special session." In the meantime, it will "take some creativity" to figure out what NKU will do.

Clearly, Ernie is the education Governor.

Personnel officer recommends reinstating fired merit employee


The hearing officer for the state Personnel Board issued an order for Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration to reverse the firing of Mike Duncan, a former staff assistant in the Transportation Cabinet's inspector general's office. The board's hearing officer, John C. Ryan, issued a 54-page recommendation that concluded that Duncan's firing was "excessive, erroneous and improper under the circumstances." Under the term's of the order, Duncan is to be returned to his previous position with the same pay and back pay.

Obviously, the merit hiring scandal was warranted.

Fletcher says state will sponsor 2007 Bluegrass Games


Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced plans to sponsor the 2007 Bluegrass State Games through his Get Healthy Kentucky initiative. Through the initiative, Fletcher will donate a $100,000 grant to the games, which will be July 20-22 and 28-29. "I can't think of any better ambassadors to help us spread the Get Healthy Kentucky message than the athletes that participate in the 2007 Bluegrass State Games," Fletcher said at a press conference Wednesday at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky is the Bluegrass state. Who else would sponsor these games?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

KY Pac 2 Excoriates Anne

Let us be up front -- we heartily support Ernie Fletcher's re-election campaign (if that's any great secret). We believe that the policy accomplishments of his administration, made in the face of overwhelming political opposition, have earned him a second term. We also believe that the merit system hiring investigation was overblown, unnecessary and politically motivated.

We are further saddened to see Republicans whom we originally believed to be intelligent and reasonable buying into the partisan allegations made by Greg Stumbo and his accomplices on the stacked grand jury and hanging their opinions on the nails driven by selective leaks by the prosecution and the press' subsequent gobbling them up like emaciated dogs who find a 5-pound pack of ground beef lost by the roadside.

We agree with the Fletcher administration's contention that mistakes were made in the hiring of new state employees to fill vacancies, but there was no criminal intent. Those mistakes were properly dealt with by the firing of those who made them. We also note that none of the indictments was for the improper firing for political purposes of an existing merit system employee with status.

We believe that much of the damage done by the merit system investigation could have been blunted or avoided had this state's top Republican officeholders, officials and unofficial party leaders immediately denounced the investigation and instead turned the mirror on the investigator. That list most certainly includes Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, as well as most of the state's Republican members of the House of Representatives. Had they swiftly defended Fletcher, criticized Stumbo and then flexed a little political muscle, Fletcher would be cruising to renomination and we wouldn't even be having a discussion about a Republican primary. We can give Anne Northup a pass for not originally standing tall for Fletcher, while we hold that against the others.

After all, Northup represented a district that is overwhelmingly Democrat and she knew that she would be in for a tough re-election battle. But there is no excuse for McConnell, et. al, to have left Fletcher hanging. We were wholeheartedly behind Northup in her Congressional re-election campaign and we were saddened when she lost. We want to see Northup back in public service sometime in the future. But we definitely cannot support her candidacy for governor.

Not only do we not endorse her candidacy, we do not even endorse the concept of her challenging the incumbent of her own party. No thinking Republican could have ever imagined that the Democrats would give a Republican administration a free pass, considering that Democrats think that running this state is their birthright and the top two investigative offices were occupied by D's. The press has never seen fit to print the real stories behind the merit system investigation because they don't reflect negatively on the Republican incumbent.

Had there been a Democrat governor, any complaints about hiring practices would have been handled administratively, as they had been for more than four decades since Kentucky's civil service system was established. But because this state has a Democrat attorney general, suddenly administrative actions became criminal misdemeanor indictments. It hasn't helped matters that most of those responsible for the missteps in the Fletcher administration were hired at the behest of the federal delegation.

It's particularly disgusting to hear Northup out on the campaign trail, parroting many of the same things Greg Stumbo has been saying -- the same Greg Stumbo that dropped the charges against Fletcher with prejudice. We applaud Northup for her service in Congress and before that, in the General Assembly.

At another time, she might make an excellent governor. But not now. At a time when she should have been standing behind her former friend and Congressional colleague, she turned her back on him. Doesn't she wonder what will happen at the first sign of trouble if she is elected? Will Jim Bunning defend and support her, or will he desert her the way he did Fletcher?

That's why we say Ernie Fletcher deserves better than he has gotten from his own party -- and why we say that if Fletcher is defeated in the primary, we aren't sure that the Republican Party of Kentucky deserves to win the race in the fall. If we can't support our governor in the eye of the Democrat siege he's been under for two years, we aren't much of a political party. We say we value loyalty and integrity, yet as a party we've shown neither.

Carroll Pummels Pence

From Pol Watchers:

For the second time this legislative session, state Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, railed against Lt. Gov. Steve Pence for his "disloyalty" to Gov. Ernie Fletcher and challenged him to repay taxpayers for his salary and expenses. In a speech on the Senate floor, Carroll questioned Pence's use of a "new Chevy Tahoe" and communication equipment provided by the state. "Where is he driving that Tahoe?" Carroll asked. "I want to know whether or not he's using it for political purposes around the state."

Carroll also alleged that Pence is transported by Kentucky State Police in a limousine.Pence, a Republican, has endorsed former Louisville congresswoman Anne Northup in the Republican primary for governor. In an interview, Pence described Carroll's comments as "out of touch." "Perhaps he forgot that he gave this speech once already," Pence said.

As lieutenant governor, Pence said his loyalties lie with the voters and the state Constitution, not Fletcher. "I was not indicted. I did not take the 5th. I didn't pardon anybody. I don't have a secret legal defense fund," he said.

Pence has said Fletcher pardoned his administration from any charges related to an investigation of state hiring practices in an effort to cover up actions taken by workers in the governor's office. Pence said he has driven the same Chevy Tahoe for more than two years. He said he drives himself to events and has no limousine. Pence said he uses a private cell phone and has not made a call from his state-provided Blackberry in several months. Carroll, a former governor, said Pence should resign because "the people of Kentucky elected Ernie Fletcher governor, not Steve Pence. He didn't get a single vote."

Carroll said he understands why Fletcher has not assigned Pence any tasks in recent months. "Anybody who is disloyal as he is, it certainly wouldn't be carried out to the governor's instructions," he said. Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, defended Pence, saying the lieutenant governor is "a man of great character." "We should perhaps take a good look at ourselves before we start throwing rocks at others," Shaughnessy said.

"Shaughnessy said he is "embarrassed" that lawmakers have not completed important work this year, including restoring $370 million of building projects vetoed from the budget last year by Fletcher.

"I don't have a Chevy Tahoe, but we've all been paid to be up here and I don't want people telling me to write a check," he said.

As previously stated, Pence has no staff, no political responsibilities, and no reason to remain Lieutenant Governor. He should resign. However, Pence has neither humility nor character.

Legislature: The Final Days

Fletcher: politics partly the cause of deadlock

Gov. Ernie Fletcher this morning attributed the deadlock between the House and Senate in the current legislative session partly to gubernatorial politics. "You’ve got a couple of candidates in the House that are running for governor or lieutenant governor. You have some issues there that are challenging," Fletcher said. "And I think there’s some political posturing that’s going on. That’s unfortunate, but it is part of the political process." House Speaker Jody Richards of Bowling Green is a candidate for governor in the May 22 Democratic primary.

Campaigning stalls legislation? Politics creates gridlock? I never knew this.

Lawmakers reach agreement on Boni Bill


The state would hire as many as 80 new social workers under an agreement reached by the House and Senate on the Boni Bill Tuesday, said Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, and Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown. But, with the late hour of the legislative session and the political maneuvering that goes with it, the bill could still fail to become law. The agreement has to be approved by the two chambers, and disagreements over other bills could hold it up.

The bill passes. The bill does not pass. Why not protect our social workers?

Military leader appeals for tax break in Senate speech

In a highly unusual move, Adjutant General Donald Storm addressed the Kentucky Senate today, issuing a last-minute appeal for a tax break for military personnel stuck in the House. Storm, head of the National Guard in Kentucky, profusely thanked senators for passing a measure that would exempt Kentuckians in the military from the state income tax.

These men and women are American heroes. They deserve every break possible.

Cyber Hillbilly Pathetically Defends Fletcher

The spin would have you believe that Anne Northup is a day late and a dollar short in unveiling her political platform. She should have released details statements on dozens of major issues with actuarial analysis to back them up, goes the thinking of Fletcher supporters. But what was Ernie Fletcher’s strategy back in 2003 when he was a candidate for Governor?

From the archives of the Kentucy Post, snippets from this op-ed by John David Dyche: The May primary is less than seven weeks away, but so far the primary characteristic of Kentucky's campaign for governor has been its sterile superficiality.

The six serious contenders have made a hodge-podge of public pronouncements, which the press has partially and selectively reported. But citizens search in vain for systematic statements of candidates' plans and positions. Nobody in either party has put forward anything approaching a comprehensive program for Kentucky's future. […] At www.fletcher2003.com, Ernie Fletcher backs medical malpractice reform and calls for "fiscal discipline that reduces waste, while ending the political patronage."

Fletcher wants to "cut political paybacks, not raise taxes" and believes "this can be accomplished while maintaining strong support for education, healthcare, public safety and other vital services." While his site shows him praying with President Bush, browsers' prayers for substance on issues go unanswered.

The articles themselves are paid access only, but the headlines are free… and speak volumes:

Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
April 8, 2003
GOP Hopefuls Vow To Restore Integrity... Say Little on Platforms

Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
May 4, 2003
Governor's Race Clogged With Visionless Clones, Everyone's Running on 'Me, Too' Platform

Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
May 22, 2003
Now To Find The Issues, Candidates Have Yet To Outline Real Differences

Courier-Journal, The (Louisville, KY)
July 3, 2003
Gubernatorial candidate outlines ethics- reform proposal

Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
October 26, 2003
Fletcher's platform is more about style than substance

Legislature: The Final Days

Fletcher: lawmakers should avoid special session

Gov. Ernie Fletcher today urged lawmakers to use to their final hours in Frankfort to pass pending bills so he won’t have to call a special legislative session. "Clearly it would be in the best interest of the taxpayers,’’ Fletcher said, speaking to reporters at the Capitol.

Governor, would your Blue Ribbon Commission recommend the special session?

Actuary: Pension plan won't mean big savings

The actuary for the Kentucky retirement systems testified this morning that proposed changes in pension benefits for future state employees would not result in significant savings to the state. "It’s surprising to me that the commonwealth is considering the comprehensive nature of the changes here in a very tight time frame," the actuary, Tom Cavanaugh, said. "It looks like we’re doing an awful lot to gain very little."

Politicians fudging the numbers. I am stunned.

Senate committee votes against secrecy measure


A Senate committee turned back a third attempt today to pass a measure that would make it easier for a handful of leading legislators to effectively change the law without first holding a public debate. Some Republican members of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee went against the recommendation of their leaders and voted against an amendment to House Bill 400 that would have given lawmakers the ability to set aside existing laws and create new laws within the executive branch budget bill, which appropriates billions of dollars once every two years.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Grayson says leadership needed on runoff


Secretary of State Trey Grayson said today that an absence of political leadership has doomed a proposal to either eliminate the gubernatorial runoff or help counties pay for it. He said he points the finger at all elected officials, including himself, for not being able to find a compromise on an issue that almost everyone agrees needs to be fixed. "The voters are the ones who are going to be harmed by it, I don’t care who is to blame," he said during a press conference this afternoon.

Leadership is required. Leadership must state: “Don’t pass this ridiculous proposition.”

Governor signs horse sales bill


Gov. Ernie Fletcher has signed a bill pushed by winemaker and breeder Jess Jackson that is aimed at strengthening horse-sales integrity. House Bill 367 amends a law that requires an agent representing both a buyer and a seller to disclose the position before many sales. The new bill says that an agent’s compensation cannot be enforced in court unless put in.

Governor Fletcher endorsing integrity? Again, stunned.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Two Failures in Blue

For three years, two men have mired Kentucky in mediocrity.
One dismissed, one remaining.

Fordfare Enacted

From Louisville Courier-Journal:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher today signed legislation creating potential incentives worth about $200 million to help keep Ford Motor's two Louisville factories open. "This legislation makes it possible for us to go back to the table and continue negotiations with Ford using these new economic development tools," Fletcher said in a prepared statement.

The two plants employ more than 8,000 have an estimated economic impact of more than $4 billion. The governor's announcement included a comment from Curtis Magleby, Ford’s director of U.S., state and local government relations.

"Passage of HB 536 sends a very strong message regarding Kentucky's desire to strengthen the long-standing partnership between Ford and the commonwealth. This show of support comes at a critical time for Ford as we continue to face unprecedented competitive challenges that shape our business," he said.

Fletcher’s dream is realized. The Republican ideal is betrayed.

This legislation will not aid Ford. Welfare with work remains welfare…. Fordfare.

OSI Speaks Analyzes AMT Responses

I believe their decoder ring is broken.

This is continuing our series on the answers to questions posed to the gubernatorial candidates by the Herald-Leader. This week's question asks whether it's fair to impose the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which forces many businesses to pay an "income" tax, even if they are not able to generate a profit. Here's what the candidates are REALLY saying:

Republicans:

Anne Northup: "No, it's not fair. The first, most important thing we need to do is repeal the AM[T] ... ." ANNE WILL REPEAL (ELIMINATE) THE AMT.

Ernie Fletcher: "In 2006, we reduced the AMT by $45 million. We are always looking for ways to lower taxes further." ERNIE IS IN FAVOR OF REDUCING THE AMT.

Billy Harper: "I will work hard ... as a top priority to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax in Kentucky." BILLY WILL ELIMINATE THE AMT.

There you have it, in their own words, deciphered!

Conservative Edge Mocks Northup

The Northup for Governor campaign announced Northup's position on education and health care today. In reality, it's only one new policy position, since she already released the education policy. But I am in a good mood so I'll let her count education again.

So, half way through the campaign Northup has two policies worked out. That leaves about fifty to tackle in the next two months. But at her current pace, we should have them in more like 9 years.

We'd agree to just a baker's dozen between now and May. Here in no particular order are major policy issues that face the commonwealth in addition to education and health care:

1. Job growth
2. Business development
3. Agriculture
4. Tourism
5. State and County Pension deficits
6. Prevaling wages for local governments and school districts
7. Casino Gambling (Yeah, we know she's says she's against it, but said she wouldn't stand inthe way of it. So she will have to develop a policy)
8. AMC
9. Economic development
10. Foster Care
11. Drug abuse
12. Elder Care and abuse
13. Nursing home reform

That should give the Northup team a little homework.

Editorial Scorches Fletcher

Have you seen Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s first re-election campaign TV commercial, the one where he tries to compare the investigation of his administration’s partisan personnel practices to being bullied by schoolyard tough guys?

“Day after day he took it,” the voiceover says. “Didn’t flinch because fighting’s not his way. But he got where he was going. He held his head high. So in his own determined way he won. That’s how it’s been for two long years for our governor. He did his job, and Ernie Fletcher did it well. … It’s behind us now, and Kentucky’s a better place because Ernie came out with his head held high. And Kentucky won.”

That could be pretty persuasive stuff. If there were any truth to it....

But first you ought to review the facts the governor signed along with his tax-paid lawyer and the six private attorneys whose sources of fees the governor refuses to reveal. They all signed a Frankfort district court “Agreed Order” ending nearly two years of investigation. The governor was indicted on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and violating a prohibition against political discrimination in state personnel matters

In the court document — which resembled a plea bargain or a nolo contendere plea (no contest) — the governor and his lawyers signified Aug. 26 they agreed:

The special grand jury found probable cause to believe a number of violations of the merit system law occurred.

The governor acknowledges that the evidence strongly indicates wrongdoing by his administration with regard to personnel actions within the merit system.

Further, the governor hereby states these actions were inappropriate, that he regrets their occurrence and accepts responsibility for them as head of the executive branch of state government. This sincere expression of ultimate responsibility, however, is not an admission in any way of any criminal wrongdoing by the governor nor directly on behalf of the governor.

The parties recognize that the attorney general’s investigation and prosecution of this matter were necessary and proper exercises of his constitutional duty. The investigation and prosecution have benefited the Commonwealth and ensured that abuses of the state’s merit system will be eliminated.”

Which has the most credibility? The slick, dramatic TV ad intended to create a favorable image of an indicted governor mistreated by the state attorney general or the facts embodied in the state District Court “Agreed Order” signed by the governor, his seven lawyers, the attorney general’s prosecutor and a district court judge?

Add to that the report of the special grand jury that investigated the administration’s hiring and firing policies for 17 months, taking testimony from 150 witnesses, except the governor who hid behind the Fifth Amendment protection to avoid incriminating himself. The jurors uncovered “widespread abuse of the merit system,” which they identified as Fletcher’s “Personnel Initiative.”

Their conclusion: “This report details a widespread and coordinated plan to violate merit hiring laws. This investigation was not about a few people here and there who made some mistakes as Gov. Ernie Fletcher has claimed. The Governor’s Personnel Initiative was formulated at the highest level of state government and approved by Gov. Fletcher. Entire cabinets and departments were tasked with carrying out various parts of this illegal plan. Senior administration officials were charged with the duty to give periodic reports regarding its status.”

Once voters have viewed the first commercial, surely a prelude of themes to follow, and compared them to the facts that bear the signatures of the governor and his lawyers and the findings of the grand jurors, they will be able to decide for themselves which is fact and which is fiction.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Northup Has Policy? Who Knew?

A press conference to discuss education policies and a health care plan? Count me in!

Anne Northup to outline
Education and Health Care Platforms

FRANKFORT----Anne Northup, candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the May 22nd Primary, will outline her plan to improve education and Kentucky’s Health Care system Friday in Frankfort.

WHO: Anne Northup and Jeff Hoover

WHAT: Education and Health Care News Conference

WHEN: 10am, EDT, Friday, March 23rd.

WHERE: Frankfort Capital Plaza Hotel, Caucus Room, Wilkinson Boulevard

What do you think they should propose? What do you think they will say?

Smiling Nonsense

As previously stated, endorsements are akin to cake. They are nice. They are not necessary.

Ex-personnel chief for Fletcher endorses Northup


Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s former personnel secretary today endorsed ex-U.S. Rep. Anne Northup in her bid to unseat the governor in the May 22 Republican primary. Erwin Roberts of Louisville said at a news conference that Fletcher had "misled" him with statements about doing things differently during his administration. Roberts said that his concern about the administration had increased over time and that Fletcher’s agreement with Attorney General Greg Stumbo to drop charges in an investigation of hiring practices was particularly distasteful to him. Roberts is a former federal prosecutor.

Fletcher picks up Louisville-area endorsements

Three more judge-executives have endorsed Gov. Ernie Fletcher's re-election bid, including two who serve in counties adjacent to opponent Anne Northup's hometown of Louisville, according to a news release issued today by Fletcher's campaign.

Jim Clark’s Peculiar Assertion

The enormity of Kentucky Attorney General Stumbo’s profligacy in his sordid but botched hatchet job on Governor Fletcher in the so-called “merit scandal” affair is brought home on a daily basis as he cavorts around the state campaigning for the Lunsford/Stumbo gubernatorial ticket. Obviously, Lunsford brings the money to the effort, but what does Stumbo bring? Nothing.

As has been pointed out here before, Stumbo went on the record years ago in stating that he would be interested in the governor’s chair if Fletcher ever became “wildly unpopular.” Strangely, instead of running for that position or even running to succeed himself, he’s the number two guy headed for almost certain political oblivion if the L/S combine fails to make it…as it most likely will. The fact that he, instead of allowing a personnel matter to go before the proper agencies, decided to make the governor become “wildly unpopular” by chasing it through his office speaks volumes for itself. Almost the only “crimes” committed were misdemeanors.

As did Patton, Jones, and Wilkinson before him, Stumbo probably hopes to vault from the number two spot to the top spot, though one wonders, assuming an L/S victory, when Lunsford might be ready to let that happen – four years from now or eight? He’s smart in using Lunsford’s money to do this, whereas the others had to buy their own way in. Wilkinson introduced the new wrinkle of getting back his ante with interest. Jones spent what seemed like his entire term getting back his investment, the procuring of part of which eventuated in a supporter going to the Big House.

Both of Governor Fletcher’s opponents in the Primary began their campaigns on the premise that Fletcher, because of the “merit mess” and the pardons, is unelectable. Northup hammers at this constantly. Harper, who also is buying his way in, seems less strident. The fact is, however, that as Kentuckians take the time to consider seriously what happened with respect to the attempted Stumbo massacre of Fletcher they may take a different view of the pardons, perhaps comparing Stumbo’s actions as AG with those of Ben Chandler as AG with regard to the vote-buying mess in 1995.

In Fletcher’s case, the merit matter should have gone before the proper agencies (personnel, ethics) and, in any case, involved virtually nothing other than misdemeanors. In Patton’s case (the 1995 election), the voting irregularities involved felonies and fitted directly within the purview of the AG’s office. Absent the pardons, Fletcher and his people would have been drained dry in lawyers’ fees for simple misdemeanors, and most folks understand that this was probably what Stumbo was interested in, perhaps as payback for both the democrat loss of the state senate years ago and the governorship in 2003.

Patton effected the four pardons connected to his problem (two union leaders and two state officials) to undo probable trials that might have involved him somewhere along the way with felonies. In fact, they probably would have; otherwise, he could have left the four alleged miscreants hanging in the wind. Conventional wisdom is that the Louisville vote was definitely tainted in 1995.

So…is it fair of Northup and Harper to insist that the governor, who has certainly done no worse in office than other governors and maybe even much better than most recent ones, to premise their campaigns on Fletcher’s un-electability? After all, Lieutenant Governor Pence bailed last June as a second-term guy, though, as a former prosecutor, he might be given some slack in his possible perception of the pardons as just plain wrong, no matter the circumstances. If this is the case, it is nevertheless worth noting that the power to pardon is written into the state constitution so that grievances of little or at least minor consequence or grievances obviously advanced through design can be redressed.

The difference between the pardons granted by Fletcher and Patton is obvious. A former Tennessee governor went to the penitentiary for selling pardons, so the pardon can be misused. In the news lately has been the pardons granted by Bill Clinton on the request of two of Hillary Clinton’s brothers, one involving a “loan” of $100,000 that’s never been repaid in seven years and the other in the amount of $400,000. In Fletcher’s case, since an easily recognizable attempt to “use” the system for political purposes is the issue, the pardons were permissible and the governor should not be judged on their basis. He should be judged only on his performance.

Bill Bryant Analyzes Republican Rumble

As the Republicans fight it out in their hotly contested primary… the two sides slung bombs intended to hit close to home on Thursday.

The Anne Northup camp announced that former Fletcher Personnel Cabinet Secretary Erwin Roberts is endorsing the former congresswoman over his old boss. Roberts, who oversaw the state’s 30-some thousand state employees, left the administration last year. He was touted as up and coming when Fletcher tapped the African-American attorney to head up Personnel… but now Roberts will support Northup. He’s the third high profile former Fletcher team member to announce support for Northup… the others being former GOP Chairman Darrell Brock and Lt. Governor Steve Pence.

While Northup was making her announcement… the Fletcher forces were putting out a release saying three Judge-Executives in the Louisville media were endorsing the governor for a second term. Judge Execs in Shelby, Oldham and Breckinridge counties say they’re for Fletcher for re-election. That’s 32 Republican judge-executives who’ve announced support for Fletcher. The “courthouse crowds” could be key in helping organize for the primary.

Con Edge Dismantles Evans\Novak

Some in the conservative blogosphere are touting a report by Robert Novak that says that Kentucky leans Northup. Novak is reputed to be a brilliant political analyst. But read this section of his report: 5. The winner of this Republican primary must take 40 percent to avoid a primary runoff. A third candidate, businessman Bill Harper (R) -- who served as Fletcher's finance chairman in his 2003 election -- will sop up a significant portion of the vote in his native Western Kentucky, the most Republican part of the state.

This could make it difficult to get 40 percent. Western Kentucky is not the most Republican part of the state. It is the least Republican part of the state. This is such a fundamnetally flawed statement, on such a basic political fact, that it renders the rest of the Novak opinion invalid. In my view, Novak has no idea what he is talking about. You have to wonder how much McConnell leaned on Novak to issue the report.

Evans\Novak BS KY Analysis

Governor 2007 Kentucky: Republicans here feel strongly that Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) has gotten a raw deal with respect to the scandal over hires he made outside the state's civil service system. However, they are equally convinced that he will not be re-inaugurated next January. The only question, therefore, is whether he loses the May 22 primary or the November 4 election.

Fletcher has alienated two key groups in Kentucky 's Republican Party -- first the grassroots organizers who got him elected in his close 2003 race, and second his Republican allies in the state legislature. To the former, he gave early impressions of ingratitude and neglect, and many of them have abandoned him by now. The latter complain that he has behaved in an aloof manner, not unlike the way President Bush dealt with the congressional majority when he still had it.

The business community has also been upset with much of Fletcher's work. Fletcher pushed through a so-called "tax modernization plan" that included one of the most hated of all taxes for small businessmen -- an alternative minimum tax for businesses based on gross revenues. As a result, the state is raising excessive revenues on the backs of low-margin small businesses, even those with bad balance sheets.

Despite promises during his 2003 election campaign to make Kentucky more business friendly, the state has dropped from the 29th to 36th most business-friendly state in the United States since 2004, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The tax change played a significant role in that.

Former Rep. Anne Northup (R) is already nearly even with Fletcher in the polls, and she must be favored to win the primary. Despite what some view as a sluggish fundraising operation early on, she has hit her stride for the most part. The winner of this Republican primary must take 40 percent to avoid a primary runoff. A third candidate, businessman Bill Harper (R) -- who served as Fletcher's finance chairman in his 2003 election -- will sop up a significant portion of the vote in his native Western Kentucky , the most Republican part of the state. This could make it difficult to get 40 percent.

Still, Fletcher's support lags even at a time when he is on television and Northup is not. The real state of play in the GOP primary should become clearer when Northup takes to the airwaves in April. Leaning Northup.

Brett Hall Continues Randomly Hammering Northup

The law of unintended consequences manifests itself in strange and unpredictable ways. The McCain-Feingold Act, for instance, created a campaign finance monster its backers said wouldn't happen. So, now we have more unrestricted political committees than ever versus the reform that was promised.

Comes now Anne Northup, backed by two U.S. senators, no less, thundering into the Republican gubernatorial primary with the goal of marginalizing the incumbent. What she's accomplished is something quite the opposite: energizing Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

I've run into a few doubting Thomases when sharing this observation. All I can say is, the governor is one tough character who will get back up on a horse time and again, no matter how often he's been thrown. Just ask Greg Stumbo.

No, what the Northup campaign has accomplished with all their negativity has been to galvanize the incumbent to the point that he is on a mission with all the focus one candidate can muster. You can see it in Fletcher's impassioned delivery of his campaign message, his laser-like fund-raising machine and his 24/7 public schedule.

As Al Cross wrote in his Sunday Courier-Journal column, Northup has a spotty public schedule probably due to the fact that she's tethered to the phone raising money. Not a good sign for any candidate this late in the campaign to be so preoccupied with finding money.

Fletcher's advertising blitz, his personal appearances throughout the state, combined with his skillful use of the governor's office - both bully pulpit and other tools at his disposal - add up to a candidate on the move. It's telling that not once has the governor broken his 11th Commandment vow to utter an unkind word about either of his primary opponents. Heck, he's even been kind to most Democrats. It's apparent that Fletcher doesn't need to go negative at this point as the reelection campaign has been moving along in a steady progression.

Regarding Anne Northup, at this point with some two months to go until Primary Day, she may well be wondering how in the name of the Grand Old Party did she ever let herself get talked into this race.

She could very well have rested on her considerable laurels as an accomplished member of congress. Northup did get reelected consistently in a tough district. The political climate of 2006 throughout the nation was about as bad for Republicans as any time since the 1974 mid-term debacle when the party lost 48 U.S. House seats. The voters chose a man of far diminished qualities, but, hey, stuff happens in politics.

Last year was an emotional year for Northup, both politically and at home. No one can know the level of sorrow she and her family endured in the loss of her son and father. So, it came as a surprise that she would venture so late in the game in a primary fight for governor - against an incumbent.

As much as anyone, Ernie Fletcher knows what it's like to have a string of bad days, given the Stumbo over-prosecution. As a result, the governor has observed with a certain detachment the slams and arrows fired his way by the ex-congresswoman from Louisville.

Not taking her attacks personally, Fletcher has used them to his advantage as a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted and the general election will require an even greater effort in order to win. The contrast between the two has been remarkable as the focused Fletcher compares well to Northup's attack mode.

Lexington last Saturday night was an excellent venue for Fletcher, where hometown friends warmly welcomed their governor at the 6th Congressional District Reagan Day Dinner, giving him sustained applause just seconds after Northup unleashed a blistering attack on the incumbent.

"Who on her campaign staff told her to give that speech in this venue tonight? Someone's got a tin ear for such things," they said.

"You don't go bashing a candidate, especially a governor, in his own hometown. It's artless and makes one appear petty, ham-handed. If you really want to disarm a guy like Fletcher, praise him on his home turf but give the audience an idea of what you'd do if you were in his shoes. How you would be a better leader. That she didn't do tonight, and it was a golden opportunity to do so."

But, as Northup likes to say, Republicans will all join hands and come together in one big grand old love fest the day after the May 22 primary, girding their loins for the real fight in the general election phase. That will be one picnic not to miss.

Cyber Hillbilly’s Bizarre Theory

I'm off this week so I'm catching up on some things. Rumors are swirling that Governor Fletcher will pull his bully ad later this week and won't be on the air for a while. This comes after earlier indications that the ad would run through late May. Could this be a reaction to negative comments concerning the ad?

Speaking of, the best had to come from Greg Stumbo himself. As I've said here before, KY Governor's fates are seemingly made in reaction to conflict with the Gentleman from Floyd. Paul Patton bested him twice in brutal battles that paved the way to easy reelection. Stumbo said the attempt to gain sympathy probably wouldn't work. "I would have come out harder against me, if I were him" was the substance of Stumbo's remarks.

We Aren’t All Stupid

From the Lexington Herald-Leader

Some leading lawmakers are again pushing a controversial measure that would make it easier for a handful of legislators to effectively change state law without first having a public debate. The proposal would clarify that lawmakers have the ability to set aside existing laws and create new laws within the executive branch budget bill, which appropriates billions of dollars once every two years. It was put into an unrelated House bill by a Senate committee last week.

Unlike most other bills, the final details of a budget bill are usually hammered out in closed-door meetings of leading lawmakers from the House and Senate. Most rank-and-file legislators have no opportunity to even read the mammoth document before casting a vote on the measure in its entirety. "If that thing passes, then legislative leaders will have control over absolutely all legislation," said Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington. "We might as well pick up our tent and go home."

A similar proposal was withdrawn last month by House budget committee Chairman Harry Moberly after several Democratic and Republican lawmakers objected. In general, the provisions within the budget bill expire after two years. But in recent years, lawmakers have increasingly been using the bill to make permanent changes to the state's statutes. Groups opposed to those changes have filed multiple lawsuits, claiming that permanent changes to law within the budget bill are unconstitutional. "That bill is blatantly unconstitutional and laughable," said Mark Guilfoyle, a former state budget director. He is representing clients who think lawmakers have been illegally raiding a $19 million workers' compensation fund. The state Supreme Court is considering whether to take up the lawsuit.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Dan Kelly, who backs the amended version of House Bill 228, said he is confident that state law already allows legislators to change laws within the budget bill. The legislation simply eliminates the need to wrangle in court, he said. "We don't think they'll win, but rather than litigate it out and find out we're $20 million or $100 million in the hole, we'd like to close the door on the issue," Kelly said.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted March 12 to approve the amended bill -- which originally dealt with consumer protection measures during a time of crisis -- and placed it on the Senate's consent calender. The consent calender is reserved for non-controversial bills that require no debate. Kelly said he expects the measure to pass without objection because "it's a pretty important issue."

Scorsone said he has already cast a no vote on the bill. If it wins approval in the Senate, the amended measure must return to the House for its consideration. Moberly, D-Richmond, said he supports the bill, but others do not. "I don't believe anybody is for that," said Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington. "That will have to be stripped out of there. We cannot do that."

Scandal has marred Governor Fletcher’s administration. Corruption and fraud have dominated the headlines. Now, legislators want secret sessions? Please…

Ernie, Save Our Children

This is pathetic. Kentucky ranks fifth in child abuse\neglect deaths. Our per one hundred thousand average is 3.88. The national average is 2.03. If Governor Fletcher cannot protect our children, why is he serving?

This would embarrass a leader. However, Governor Fletcher is silent. A true leader would champion legislation and revamp this disaster. Governor Fletcher, our children are dying. What is your response?


From Lexington Herald-Leader:

At least 12 states have passed laws requiring that child protection records be released when a child dies from neglect or abuse. But Kentucky, which in 2004 had the fifth-highest rate of children dying of abuse and neglect in the United States, isn't one of them. When a child dies from abuse or neglect in Kentucky, state child protection officials decide whether to release the information on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of Michaela Watkins, a Clark County 10-year-old whose father and step-mother have been charged with murder, the answer is no. Michaela was found dead in the couple's apartment, and relatives have said that police and state social workers had previous contact with the girl and her family, including three other children in the home.

So far, the state has declined to release any records in Michaela's case, citing an ongoing police investigation and saying the confidentiality of Michaela's siblings should be protected. The state says it is conducting an internal investigation of its contact with Michaela. Kentucky Youth Advocates, a Louisville-based child advocacy group, favors opening state social service records after child fatalities, said KYA Deputy Director Lacey McNary. The hard part, she said, is in deciding when that should happen. "We want to ensure transparency, but we want to make sure that police can do their job," McNary said.

Under federal law, states such as Kentucky that receive federal child abuse prevention grants must have a provision in place to release state social service information when a child dies. But the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act does not require the release of information in all cases or specify the information that can be released, said Steve Christian, a spokesman for the Colorado-based National Conference of State Legislatures.

The national average of children dying from abuse and neglect was 2.03 deaths per 100,000 children in 2004, the most recent year for which national data was available. In 2004, Kentucky's rate was 3.88. Only Indiana, Washington D.C., Oklahoma and Georgia had higher rates. Indiana, which had the nation's highest rate of deaths from child abuse and neglect in 2004, has passed a law that requires a judge to open files in child death cases after receiving a request from the public or an agency. Within 30 days of a request being made to open a record, the court in the Indiana county where the child died must exclude identifying information not relevant to the circumstances of the child's death.

Ford Cuts, Fletcher Cheers

From Louisville Courier-Journal:

Union workers at Ford's Explorer plant in Louisville will vote soon on cost-saving concessions for the troubled automaker. The vote at the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road may happen in the next week, Ford spokeswoman Anne-Marie Gattari said yesterday.

She said she didn't know details of the so-called competitive operating agreement. Deals at other plants have loosened work rules and allowed the company to shift some work to non-UAW employees. "The bottom line is our plants are working very hard to turn our business around, and we applaud them for that," Gattari said.

Messages left for Louisville UAW leaders were not returned yesterday. The news comes with Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher expected to sign legislation this week allowing about $200 million in tax rebates and other incentives to Ford if it upgrades its two Louisville plants. Workers at 34 of Ford's 42 plants in North America have approved concessions, Gattari said, including Ford's Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, Michigan, which makes the Expedition sport utility vehicle.

The Louisville Assembly Plant employs more than 3,000 and builds the Explorer SUV, which has seen sales plummet amid higher fuel costs and changing consumer tastes. The poor Explorer sales have many concerned that the plant could be one of the plants Ford will close by 2009. Five of the seven plants slated for closure have been identified. The plant has endured weeklong shutdowns, and Ford plans to run its assembly lines slower, requiring fewer workers, to produce fewer vehicles.

The Kentucky Truck Plant, which has more than 5,000 hourly and salaried workers and is Ford's largest North American factory, builds the high-profit F-Series Super Duty truck. While the factory is generally considered to be at low risk for closing, truck sales have been hurt by higher fuel prices and a decline in the national home-building market.

Last year UAW leaders agreed to change the shift structure at the Chamberlain Lane plant to eliminate scheduled overtime. Fletcher, who supports the incentives passed by the General Assembly, has until tomorrow to sign the legislation.

As Fordfare passes, Ford mulls cuts. Someone silence Fletcher’s celebrating.

A Diamond in Corruption

Harold Simpson fleeced, deceived, and defrauded. Another corrupted example of Fletcher’s ineptness.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

An Eastern Kentucky coal operator with one of the worst records in the nation of not paying fines for mine safety violations has pleaded guilty to fraud. Harold Simpson, who has operated mines in Perry, Bell and other counties, told companies that provided workers' compensation insurance that he had only half as many employees as he really did, according to the charge.

Comp premiums are based largely on the number of employees at a mine, so that meant Simpson paid only half of what he should have. The document charging Simpson, called an information, said he covered the scheme by paying employees partly in cash, wrote checks to fictitious people to generate cash for such payments, and gave false payroll records to three insurance companies between 1999 and June 2006. Simpson, 56, of Ewing, Va., pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of mail fraud, based on mailing inaccurate payroll information to the three companies.

Federal prosecutors agreed not to file charges against Simpson's wife, Linda, who was listed as president of one of his companies. The payroll records that Simpson sent insurance companies helped trip him. Greg Duerstock, an agent with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said the investigation started after a miner who worked for Simpson got hurt and filed a workers' comp claim. After Simpson's insurer found the man was not listed on Simpson's payroll, it investigated and found he had quite a few more employees than he'd reported. That led to the federal inquiry, Duerstock said.

The charge against Simpson carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. However, under federal sentencing guidelines, Simpson's sentence will be less than 10 years, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor, who prosecuted. The government and Simpson's attorney, Steven Reed of Louisville, don't agree on how to calculate the amount of money Simpson's actions cost insurance companies, according to the plea agreement. That figure, which a judge will have to decide, will play a role in how much time Simpson gets.

Reed was not available for comment yesterday. Simpson is scheduled to be sentenced June 25. U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood released him on his own recognizance after the plea, meaning he didn't have to post bail.

Mining 'scofflaw'

This week's charge against Simpson is the second time in recent years he has been involved in a federal criminal case. In 2002, regulators filed charges against Simpson's company and a foreman, Mark Mills, alleging they endangered miners.

The charges in that case said Simpson's company did not follow rules for supporting the roof of the mine, which could have caused a deadly rock fall; did not have a proper fire-suppression system; and did not use required ventilation measures to provide clean air to workers and carry away gases and dust that could blow up. Mills said in a plea document that he followed the ventilation plan only when inspectors came in the mine. A judge sentenced him to three years' probation.

Simpson pleaded guilty on behalf of the company and paid a $20,000 fine. He said he was not aware of violations by Mills and other foremen but should have been. Simpson gained notoriety last year because the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said he had not paid more than $1.1 million in fines for health and safety violations at his mines, dating back many years. That was the most of any coal operator in the country, MSHA said; one agency official said Simpson operated as a "scofflaw."

Seen as part of a weak system

Some mine-safety advocates pointed to Simpson as an example of weaknesses in the system of collecting federal mine-safety penalties. MSHA can't shut down a mine because of unpaid fines. Critics had long said MSHA's fines were too low and that it didn't push to collect, undermining the deterrence of the penalties.

The debate was part of a larger argument that MSHA had not done enough in recent years to protect miners, though the agency said it had moved aggressively against unsafe operators. The new mail-fraud charge against Simpson is not related to the issue of his unpaid fines, which are not a criminal matter.

MSHA filed a lawsuit in February 2007 against Simpson and his companies, Simpson Mining Co. Inc., and Motivation Enterprise Inc. The lawsuit does not seek to collect the big backlog of fines that MSHA says he owes, but rather asks that a judge order Simpson to post a large bond to cover any future fines. The agency has filed a similar action against Stanley Osborne of Pike County and two of his companies, Misty Mountain Mining and Midgard Mining LLC. Simpson and Osborne have denied they owe the fines and argued there is no authority in federal law to force them to post a bond for potential future fines.

David Williams: An Actual Leader

I never compliment Democrats. With that stated, David Williams deserves praise. Imagine; he is concerned with passing legislation and improving Kentucky.

From Louisville Courier-Journal:

Senate President David Williams has sent all members of the legislature a letter asking them to return to Frankfort on Friday to work out a compromise on the Senate’s pension-reform proposal.

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate have been at an impasse over the proposal, as well as on two spending bills. Lawmakers are set to return Monday for the final two days of the 30-day session. In the letter, addressed to House Speaker Jody Richards and copied to all members of the House and Senate, Williams said he and Senate Minority Floor Leader Ed Worley would be available Friday afternoon to discuss the plan.

Williams, R-Burkesville, said he also is prepared to meet through the weekend to allow a conference committee to produce a report for consideration by both chambers Monday. The Senate has proposed borrowing $800 million through bonds to stabilize the state-employee and teacher pension systems and cut benefits for future state employees. House leaders have said they are willing to float the bonds but want more time to study reductions in future benefits.

Who’s Endorsing Northup? Speculation Abounds…

From On the Mark:

The former Personnel Cabinet Secretary for Governor Fletcher will be endorsing the candidacy of one of Fletcher's opponents on thursday.

From NKY Politics:

Sources down state and in NKY say former Fletcher cabinet member Erwin Roberts will endorse Anne Northup Thursday in the governor's race. Here is what Gov. Fletcher said about Roberts, the former personnel secretary, when he left the cabinet in July:

From Blue Grass, Red State:

Pat Crowley seems to think it will be Erwin Roberts endorsing Northup/Hoover tomorrow. He has "people" and "sources," so it looks likely that I was right in leaning toward Roberts earlier today. You could tell by the way Hall tried to preempt the endorsement by writing it off as meaningless, just as all the Fletcher supporters have done for the entire campaign on all the endorsements. We'll find out for sure tomorrow.

From Blue Grass, Red State:

Brett Hall thinks the ex-Fletcher administration official is either ex-GOP Chair Darrel Brock or ex-Personnel Secretary Erwin Roberts. Brock resigned as GOP chairman last month and once served as Commissioner for G.O.L.D. Roberts, on the other hand, used to be Fletcher's Personnel Secretary. I thought Brock already endorsed Northup/Hoover last week, so I'm leaning towards Roberts. I called Roberts' office and his secretary told me that he will not be in the office tomorrow.

From KY Progress:

Another press conference tomorrow promises to have another big-name Republican endorse Anne Northup for Governor. I'm guessing it will be former Commerce Secretary Jim Host, but it doesn't really matter. The Anyone But Ernie crowd has taken their shot, but it is about time to admit that it hasn't worked and that the conservative thing to do is get behind Governor Fletcher and push on through to November. I say this as one who was sympathetic to the idea of changing horses in this primary.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A.F.C.: Additional Fletcher Corruption

Bath County Judge-Executive Walter Bascom Shrout resigned his office Monday following a federal court order to do so. In a one-sentence letter to Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Shrout said his resignation was effective as of noon. "I sure am," Shrout said of resigning, in a telephone interview. "I have no choice."

Three Words For Kentucky…

From NKY Politics:

Received this as part of a campaign email from the Northup/Hoover gubernatorial campaign.

Survey USA shows Ernie Fletcher with 63% Disapproval rating Survey USA has released the results of a recent survey (click here for survey results) showing that with a little over two months to go before the primary election Ernie Fletcher now has a 32% job approval rating, while 63% of the people in Kentucky disapprove of the job he has done!

Among Republicans, Fletcher’s approval ratings are at a low for the year with a full 50% disapproving of the job he is doing (click here for survey results). It is time Kentucky Republicans make a change.

Everyone… Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win.

Will Fletcher Lead?

From the Kentucky Post:

A judge has ruled that Kenton County Fiscal Court violated open-meetings laws on two occasions when it met in closed session last year to discuss the purchase of a site for a new county jail. Kenton Circuit Judge Greg Bartlett isn't yet sure, though, if those violations are sufficient grounds to invalidate the county's purchase of the land.

Bartlett made the ruling at a hearing requested by Independence attorney Eric Deters, who is representing more than 200 residents in a lawsuit opposing the jail. Deters asked Bartlett to void the county's purchase of 25 acres just south of Pelly Road along the extension of Ky. 17 near the Independence border. Deters contends that, because the county violated open meetings laws on two occasions to discuss the site, the property's sale should be invalidated. Bartlett stopped short of that finding, but he did ask Deters and Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, who is representing the fiscal court, to submit briefs on the matter within the next 10 days. "The only way you can interpret this is a huge victory for us," Deters said. "We hope the judge takes it a step further and voids the sale."

They have argued, bickered, quarreled, delayed construction, discussed alternative sites, and denied the opposing points. Now, they are committing illegal acts. This situation is absurd. Governor Fletcher must become involved.

Bunning & Northup: The Perfect Couple

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

A plan endorsed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher and the state Senate to overhaul Kentucky's pension system would overburden the state's financial future, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning said Tuesday. Bunning, Kentucky's junior senator and a Republican, criticized a plan pending in the General Assembly that calls for the state to sell about $800 million in pension bonds to give its financially troubled public retirement systems a cash infusion. "That won't work," Bunning said of the plan. "There's no way to pay the bonds off out of future income of the state."

Democrats and Republicans in the GOP-led state Senate approved the measure, aimed at boosting the system, which handles retirement benefits for state and county public employees and police and firefighters across Kentucky. The plan also seeks to put money into the retirement system for public school teachers. Under the proposal, future employees would no longer receive the traditional pensions enjoyed by current employees and retirees. Instead, they would have benefits more similar to private sector retirement offerings.

It is pending in the Democratic-controlled House, which agrees with selling the bonds, but not changes to employee benefits. House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said the proposal's long-term effects on state employees were still uncertain, and there was not enough time during this session to resolve those issues. "You need to know where you're going to land before you jump," said Richards, who is running for governor.

The "most prudent" thing for lawmakers to do this year is to "stop the bleeding" by selling the pension bonds, Richards said. Still, he acknowledged that could affect the amount of bonding lawmakers are able to authorize when crafting the budget again next year. "There would still be some capacity left, but we would be going toward the ceiling," Richards said.

Fletcher, who has said he supports the plan, has threatened to call the legislature into a special session to deal with pensions and possibly other issues. The legislature, which has only two working days left during this session, adjourned last week and is not scheduled to reconvene until Monday.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has said the state stands to lose about $200 million this year if no changes are made. Within 15 years, the state could face annual pension payments of about $2 billion - a prospect that jeopardizes other government spending, Williams has said. Williams said he spoke with a member of Bunning's staff on Tuesday and did not believe the senator fully understood the issue. Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard could not immediately comment.

Obviously, Senator Bunning endorsed Anne Northup. He mirrors Northup’s campaign. Thousands of words, hundreds of “Fletcher can’t win,” and zero action or solutions.

Kentucky Pachyderm 2 Assails Anne

From many indications, things aren't going well in Annieland. Rumor has it that Northup is finding fundraising to be difficult. Her attacks on Gov. Fletcher aren't going over well at Lincoln Day dinners across the state. (We have heard from more than one source that at the Corbin dinner last weekend, one of her attack lines drew thunderous applause from the Fletcher contingent because what she thought was a weak point for Fletcher was actually a strong point.) And she still hasn't come up with much of a campaign message other than "Fletcher can't win in the fall so vote for me in the spring."

But one of the dumbest things Northup has said so far was reported last week in a central Kentucky weekly newspaper, the Citizen Voice & Times out of Estill County. Reporter Rhonda Smyth wrote a column published on March 15, chronicling her recent encounter with Northup. We'll let Ms. Smyth's column speak for itself, but there was one quote that was definitely attention-getting: "...I asked her why she didn’t come and speak with the other candidates at the Kentucky Press Association Convention in January. Her answer was 'I didn’t want to participate in a forum where I have to listen to what the Democrats have to say.'" How stupid a thing was that to say?

First of all, any Republican running in a statewide general election needs lots of votes from Democrats in order to win, unless a lot of Democrats just sit the election out. To dismiss the other party's concerns out of hand is a bit foolish, don'tcha think? But to top it off, if Northup is lucky enough to win the primary, she is going to have to face one of those Democrats in the fall. She will be participating in forums with the Democrat nominee at Fancy Farm, on KET debates and any number of other events. Wouldn't it pay to know what the Democrat nominee's strategy is? How do they approach the task of speaking to a group? What policy positions do they enumerate? What public speaking weaknesses do they show that can be exploited? There's a reason that basketball coaches scout their opponents.

We're sure the basketball coach at North Laurel feels like he's going into enemy territory if he watches a game at South Laurel, but he's observing his upcoming opponent and taking notes, even if the game he's watching is in December and the two teams won't play until February. Seems to us to be logical for Northup to do the same thing -- evaluate her opponents -- at every opportunity. For the record, Ms. Smyth admits she's a Democrat and predicts a Fletcher win in the primary, and she also notes that she personally found Northup's

"I have no ideas so I'll just attack Ernie" strategy somewhat off-putting. Her conclusion? "Big mistake for somebody who wants to serve all the people in BOTH parties as governor, don’t you think?" Ms. Smyth, we are in total agreement. Catalog this as a Stupid Northup Trick.

Education Fails… Twice

State Lags In Technology

Kentucky ranks 47th among U.S. states in its per-capita number of working scientists and engineers. That's the "good" news. The state ranks even worse - 49th - in the number of science and engineering degrees conferred by its universities. That must improve, or, as the technology-driven global economy continues to emerge, India and China are going to eat our lunch.

Task force issues eight-point plan to improve math and science education

A statewide task force approved eight recommendations Tuesday to address what it called a "national crisis" in science and mathematics that is inhibiting the United States' ability to compete in a global economy. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Task Force, which goes by the acronym STEM, appointed by the state Council on Postsecondary Education, released its proposal in a press conference at Tates Creek High School.

The recommendations are: Launch a statewide campaign to increase public awareness of the urgency of the science and math problems and how they affect the state's economy. Create incentives, including pay for teachers, so that students, teachers and schools will be encouraged to improve learning in science, math and related fields. Intensify professional development for math and science teachers based on based on rigorous national and international standards.

Improve teacher education programs to encourage people with degrees in science, math and related fields to become teachers. Encourage business, industry and civic leaders to improve education in math, science and related fields and creative incentives for Kentucky businesses to employ students educated in those fields. Develop a coordinated statewide effort among state agencies, schools, colleges and universities to maximize Kentucky's ability to attract jobs in science, math and related fields. Make energy sustainability and alternative forms of energy a major goal stemming for the improvements in science, math and related fields. The STEM task force issued a 35-page report, which is available from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 1024 Capital Center Drive, Suite 320, Frankfort, Ky. 40601.

Kentucky education is horrific. The system’s failures are pronounced. Our Governor is… silent.

Government Limiting… Themselves

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

The political deadlock between the House and Senate is threatening continued operations at six state agencies that have requested a total of $23 million for this fiscal year, officials said.

Kentucky State Police would pull cruisers off the highways if they don't get a $3.3 million infusion, and the prison system would implement a hiring freeze and cut services if it doesn't receive an additional $10.4 million, said Gen. Norman Arflack, the Justice Cabinet secretary. "If we don't have the money, we can't pay the bills. And if we can't pay the bills, those people we do business with in some situations won't provide the supplies and services we need," he said.

The agency funding issue became entangled in a bigger battle between the House and Senate last week over proposals to reform the state pension system and fund projects the governor vetoed last year.

"Until the commitment is upheld on House Bill 1 (funding for the vetoed projects), I don't know that we're ever going to be in a position to talk about any of those things," said House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook. Senate leadership said it was unwilling to move on HB 1 unless the House supported a plan to borrow more than $800 million to stabilize the state-employee and teacher pension systems and cut benefits for future state employees.

House leaders said the Senate reneged on its agreement to fund the vetoed projects; Senate leaders said the projects seem to be the House's only priority. "I find it quite interesting that Rep. Adkins said they weren't interested in stuff … but it appears that stuff is what is motivating them rather than substantive needs that we are mandated and dictated by the state and federal governments to provide," said Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said he was unaware that the state agencies were facing dire needs for operating funds. "My understanding is they have not made that case to the House," he said. "They may say they have, but … they certainly haven't made it with me, and I would be fairly important in the equation. It's my guess they have not made that with our leadership."

Stivers said the Justice Cabinet sent letters to House and Senate leaders pleading its case, but Richards said a letter isn't sufficient. "They need to come and see us and talk about the situation," Richards said.

State Budget Director Brad Cowgill said that in January he briefed leaders of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee. Agency officials said the shortfalls are a combined result of higher-than-expected costs, lower-than-expected revenue and lower-than-requested allocations in the last budget cycle.

The prison system, for example, received 2 percent less than what it requested last year. Arflack said that, combined with higher-than-anticipated medical expenses and fuel costs, leaves the agency with a $10.4 million shortfall. Medical expenses also played a role in cost overruns at the Juvenile Justice Department, which has asked for $2.7 million more for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Arflack said the state police have been hit hard by fuel costs, which were projected to be an average of $2.08 per gallon and are coming in at about $2.22 per gallon. "The motor-fuel costs were based on a lower dollar amount than what we actually had to pay," he said.

Other agencies experiencing shortfalls include: The Parks Department, which has asked for $4.5 million. Commerce Secretary George Ward said the shortfall is a result of increased utility and fuel costs, lower-than-expected revenue at parks and the elimination last year of the boat-launching fee, which generated about $1 million annually. Without the additional money, Ward said the department would begin closing facilities that don't bring in revenue.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which has asked for another $2 million. Deputy Commissioner Marty Pinkston said the department was not adequately funded last year and was ordered by the legislature to hire another five or six field representatives. The department also has received less from the federal government than anticipated. Pinkston said he was unsure how the department would absorb the shortfall. The Commission on Human Rights, which has requested another $220,000. Executive Director Linda Strite Murnane said the shortfall is a result of a lower-than-requested budget allocation and lower-than-expected federal contributions. Murnane, a retired Air Force colonel, has waived her salary since February to make sure she doesn't have to lay off the five employees she hired after a blue ribbon panel recommended a staff expansion to address a backlog in cases.

Because of a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in the wake of the two sessions in which the General Assembly did not pass a budget, the governor's office does not have the ability to address these issues without legislative approval, Cowgill said. "If we had the unilateral ability to take care of it, we would have," he said.

Deputy Budget Director John Hicks said the impact would go beyond hiring freezes and other cost-cutting measures. "Those won't be enough," he said. "Bills will go unpaid for a period of time."

The aforesaid is asinine. Police and prison funding endangered? Promptly, Kentucky politicians must awaken. They must compromise and complete the people’s business.

Elendil’s Journal Examines Race

My friend over at kyconservativeblogs.com has done a masterful job of bringing together conservative bloggers across Kentucky. Yesterday, he decided to shut down his web site until after the May primary because of the heated vitriol spewing from some of the partisans on each side of the Republican primary.

Members, I have made the decision to shut down the KYConservativeBlogs.com until after the May Primary. With my absence in Washington D.C, I didn't have the opportunity to keep up with reading everyone's posts, but once I did I was surprised by the harshness the Fletcher and Northup factions were attacking each other directly, and that is not why I helped organize this network.

When Northup joined the race over a month ago, I knew these types of attacks would occur. How could it not? On one side you have supporters of the Governor who believe they have been wronged by the party. And now they are seeing members of their own party ripping into their candidate and have become very defensive. On the other side you have those who are saying that Fletcher is a scoundrel and as such is unelectable.

How do you close this rhetorical gap after the primary? If Fletcher wins, will all of the people who have been saying Fletcher can't win change their tune and say "We were just kidding, of course Fletcher can win"? If Northup wins, do you think those who have been smeared by her aggressive tactics will gladly fall in line to support her?

How can this end well? I am a Fletcher supporter who likes Northup. I just think her run for the governorship is a bit misguided at this time. But with that said, I know I am having a hard time getting excited about her campaign as she continually trashes Fletcher. Especially knowing that if Fletcher wins, Northup's words will be echoed by whoever the Democratic nominee. Imagine how those more partisan than I am will feel?

For a party that is outnumbered almost two to one in registration in this state, we can't afford to be divided going into the general election. But how can we be unified? Which means we are faced with the real and discouraging possibility that a second rate Democrat will sit in the governors mansion next year.

I hope I am proven wrong. Maybe we can be like the Democrats and circle the wagons once the primary battle is over. But for some reason, I don't think it will be as easy for us Republicans who have never been in this situation before. We have already passed the brink. It is too late to reverse this split. Hopefully, the scars from this war will heal up and not come back to haunt us this November.
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