Philip Bailey, Kentucky Public Radio

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell defeated primary challenger Matt Bevin in the primary election Tuesday. But Bevin says he isn’t ready to back the senator. 

In a sweeping bipartisan vote, both chambers of the General Assembly overturned Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s veto of the controversial religious freedom bill.  Earlier this week, the House Democratic caucus met behind closed doors to hold a secret ballot, which ultimately favored bringing the measure back to the House floor.  After a half hour of debate, the House rejected the gubernatorial veto by an overwhelming 79-15 margin.  Supporters of the legislation affirmed it does not undermine anyone’s civil rights protections, and only safeguards First Amendment rights.



In Kentucky yesterday, there was another sign of Tea Party clout. Mitch McConnell - minority leader in the U.S. Senate, and Kentucky's most powerful politician - turned up at his first-ever Tea Party rally. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: This was not McConnell's first Tea Party rally. He participated in a Tea Party event in 2010.] This year, Tea Party candidates have scored upsets in Republican primaries in Missouri, Texas and Indiana. That's where longtime Senator Richard Lugar lost.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is defending his leadership role against conservative critics.Later this month, McConnell will join fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at a Tea Party rally in the state Capitol. The two are expected to discuss President Obama’s health care law, which has been a punching bag for GOP leaders since its passage.

In a February 14 letter to a constituent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told a fellow Kentuckian he opposes legalizing marijuana because it can lead to death.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will visit Louisville on March 1 as part of the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center for Political Leadership lecture series. The scholarship program founded by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell  has hosted several high-profiled speakers in the past including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.  Panetta will be the first sitting secretary of defense to headline the lecture series, but the center isn’t clear on what he will discuss.

The short-term extension of the payroll tax cut is set to expire at the end of this month, and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., is skeptical a compromise can be reached. In December, Congress was embroiled in a partisan debate over the issue, but was able to broker a deal to extend the relief for an additional two months. A 20-member conference committee is now discussing whether and how to pay for a further extension of the two percent tax break for nearly every working American.


Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has again rejected a proposed merger involving University of Louisville Hospital with Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives. Last month, the governor found business consolidation would result in the loss of a public asset and blocked the deal. The merger would’ve put University Hospital under a contract inspired by Catholic doctrine that would have blocked certain reproductive health procedures and change employee benefits.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., predicts the New Year will bring more partisanship to Congress as the presidential election heats up. Last year, Congress faced a possible government shutdown and a contentious debate to extend the payroll tax cuts among several other partisan debates. For most of the year the Republican-controlled House clashed with the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House until deadlines forced compromises.

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

In a message to supporters on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky., announced he will forgo re-election in 2012 because he wants to devote more time to his family.The retirement will leave Kentucky’s 4th congressional district vacant for next year’s election.

Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

After more than two decades in Frankfort, state Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election to the Kentucky Senate in 2012.  Shaughnessy did not indicate why he was retiring, but thanked constituents for allowing him to be a public servant since 1988.  “I am grateful to the voters of my community for the honor and privilege of serving in the state Senate,” he said in a statement.

The New York Times is reporting that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is lobbying the Big 12 conference to select the University of Louisville over West Virginia University to fill the vacancy.  It had been expected that NCAA leaders were going to announce the Mountaineers’ move to the conference as part of a realignment earlier this week, but now sports analysts are calling it “50-50″ chance on whether the Cardinals will be selected instead.

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission has made a number of recommendations to tighten the code of ethics for state lawmakers. In its annual report, the panel calls for 16 changes to state laws that apply to the conduct of legislators, lobbyists and political candidates. Among the recommendations is a repeal of the provision allowing lobbyists to spend a total of $100 annually on food and beverages for each legislator and their family members.

Republican attorney general candidate Todd P’Pool focused on fighting crime and political corruption in his second television ad released Wednesday. The 30-second commercial will run over Labor Day weekend and bypasses any swipes at Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, even though the two have traded barbs through the media as of late.

The office of Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway has named a special prosecutor to investigate Sullivan University for potential violations of Kentucky campaign finance laws after school executives encouraged employees to support his opponent in the general election. Earlier this month, a former admissions officer at Spencerian College in Louisville, which is run by Sullivan University, accused officials of urging them to contribute to Republican attorney general candidate Todd P’Pool this November. Spencerian is among several for-profit colleges that are currently being probed by the attorney general.

During an hour-long discussion Wednesday, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., demanded more transparency from the 12-member super committee and encouraged President Barack Obama to make a more forceful argument that the federal government has a role in fixing the economy. The Congressional Budget Office released its updated report early Wednesday). It paints a dire economic picture and forecasts the country’s jobless rate will remain above eight percent until 2014.

Raising more eyebrows in Kentucky’s race for attorney general, Republican candidate Todd P’Pool announced Tuesday that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will headline a campaign fundraiser in October.

The campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams is stepping down to pursue other professional opportunities, leaving the GOP nominee without anyone to run his day-to-day operations.

Luke Marchant joined the campaign in May to replace Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, who stayed on as a consultant.

Taking a road trip to Iowa, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., joined his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tx., on the presidential campaign trail Wednesday to enliven supporters leading up to the August 13 straw poll. Congressman Paul is making his third attempt at the presidency, but this is the first time his Sen. Paul has joined his father on the 2012 election bid. The father and son congressional duo spoke to a crowd of about 50 people during a meet and greet in the city of Waterloo, where Kentucky’s junior Senator told the audience that both parties need to compromise to bring government spending down.

The entire Kentucky delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives supports a bill to change the federal tax code to benefit the commonwealth’s bourbon industry. Lawmakers contend there is inequality in the Internal Revenue Service because bourbon is aged and must be carried in storage for extended periods compared to other distilled spirits. Introduced by Congressmen Geoff Davis and Ben Chandler earlier this year, the Aged Distilled Spirits Competitiveness Act of 2011 seeks to exempt the natural aging process in the production for distilled spirits. It would allow distillers to deduct the interest expense to pay for their inventory as those costs are incurred.

Speaking at this year’s Fancy Farm picnic, the candidates for secretary of state continued their debate about registering homeless people to vote in Kentucky. Declaring that people without an address should not be allowed to vote, Republican nominee Bill Johnson said allowing them to register opens the door to possible voter fraud. Last month, he filed an ethics complaint over a 2-page memorandum sent to county clerks by the secretary of state’s office telling local officials to approve voter applications that have “homeless” or “place to place” listed as an address.

A veteran state employee has alleged in a letter delivered to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office Monday that some government workers were threatened with termination if they did not contribute to Democratic Governor Steve Beshear’s re-election campaign.

A Christian social justice group is running radio ads targeting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for neglecting Biblical teachings and the poor during the debt ceiling negotiations. The minute-long spot is paid for by Sojourners, a progressive coalition of Christians led by Rev. Jim Wallis, who led hunger strikes to oppose budget cuts earlier this year. The group produced three ads that are running in Kentucky, Ohio and Nevada to target congressional leaders. The group criticize GOP leaders over neglecting the needy while “protecting tax cuts for the rich and powerful” but also challenges Democrats to do more to protect social programs.

After mocking the Tea Party while discussing the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations Wednesday,  Sen. John McCain, R-Az., is being pummeled by freshman members of Congress and activists for the remarks. The former Republican presidential candidate called activists associated with the movement “tea-party hobbits” while dismissing the possibility of a Balanced Budget Amendment passing the Senate.

Dismissing both plans as insufficient, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., quickly released a statement opposing the dueling debt ceiling deals being proposed by House Republicans and Senate Democrats on Monday.  The proposed deals being discussed today by House Republican and Senate Democrat Leaders do not make cuts to our debt. They do not solve our debt problems. They do not balance the budget, ever,” says Paul.

Keeping the pressure on Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, a group fronted by the Republican Governor’s Association has launched a second advertisement in support of gubernatorial candidate David Williams, highlighting the state Senate president’s toughness and personalizing unemployment in the state.

Joining state lawmakers and hundreds of residents, three members of the Louisville Metro Council are criticizing the pending merger between U of L Hospital, Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. Council members Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, and Marianne Butler, D-15, signed a petition that will appear as a half-page advertisement in the Courier-Journal this weekend, which protests the hospital merger and says it will “stop vital medical procedures” for residents in the area.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith filed the necessary paperwork with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office Thursday to be on the November ballot, but the perennial contender forgot to bring his campaign treasurer with him. Independent candidates must turn in at least 5,000 signatures to be placed on the general election ballot and Galbraith, who has run for governor four times before, carried 7,396 signatures with him. But state law also requires a candidate’s treasurer sign the proper documents as well.