After special elections defeats, Ky. Republicans reopen campaign to “flip” House

Tuesday, March 8, was a tough day for Kentucky Republicans.

Democratic candidates took three of the four open seats in the House of Representatives. The wins in Tuesday’s special elections increased the lead Democrats hold in the House. Democrats now hold 53 seats, compared to 47 for the Republicans.

The special election results were a major turnaround from just four months ago, when then-candidate Matt Bevin defied all predictions and won the governor’s race by a resounding margin. Bevin’s coat tails were so long that he also helped sweep Republicans into the offices of treasurer, ag commissioner and auditor of public accounts.

The November results were more than just a major Republican win, they were a repudiation of the shining stars of the state’s Democratic Party. Alison Lundergan Grimes retained her seat as secretary of state, but faced a tougher fight than she expected. Meanwhile, Democratic auditor Adam Edelen, who was respected and proactive in his job and considered a future candidate for national office, was unexpectedly trounced by Republican Mike Harmon.

In his election night victory speech, Bevin urged voters to then “flip the House.” Bevin, for his part, did what he could to help narrow the odds, but appointing two House Democrats to government posts. Things were so tense in Frankfort leading up to the special elections that House Democrats declined to bring forth a budget until after the elections were over, state Rep.  Jim Glenn, an Owensboro Democrat, said two days after the elections.

The special election results completely change the dynamic of the General Assembly’s budget negotiations. If Republicans had managed to win all four seats — and they tried, by outspending Democrats in the races — there would have been a 50-50 split in the House, preventing Democrats from advancing their budget without making major concessions to House Republicans. That budget would likely have been changed further by the Republican Senate, with the backing of Republicans in the House.

The end result would have been something extremely close to the budget plan Bevin announced in January, which includes budget cuts to just about every  branch of government, including K-12 and postsecondary education and the judicial branch.

Instead, House Democrats increased their majority, encouraging them to announce their budget will not include Bevin’s cuts to colleges and universities. The budget that comes out of the House Tuesday will doubtless divert from Bevin’s plan in other ways. For example, instead of cutting funds to the judiciary — something Chief Justice John Minton Jr. says would be devastating to the courts — it’s highly possible the House plan will include funding for a Family Court judgeship in Daviess County, something that Minton, the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce and Owensboro-area Republican and Democratic House and Senate members support.

Instead of House Democrats having to negotiate with a Republican majority, the Republican Senate can expect to have to work out deals with Democratic leaders when the budget goes to an inevitable conference committee.

So what happened during Tuesday’s special elections? The easiest answer is that people generally seem to prefer divided government. But there were other factors at play.

First, we need to at least consider the possibility of what I’d call “Bevin Shock.” Shortly after the November elections, the Washington Post sent reporters to Pikeville to interview voters. They found people who had voted for Bevin, seemingly without knowing Bevin’s plans to dismantle Kynect, the state’s health insurance exchanged created under the Affordable Care Act, or of his plan to alter the state’s Medicaid expansion.

“(I)t doesn’t look to me as if he understands,” Pikeville resident Dennis Blackburn told the Post. “Without this little bit of help these people are giving me, I could probably die. . . . It’s not right to not understand something but want to stamp it out.”

If voters didn’t know Bevin’s plans, that’s certainly not Bevin’s fault. During the campaign, Bevin was certainly out front about his plans to dismantle Kynect and switch Kentuckians who used it to the federal health insurance exchange, and about his plan to apply for a federal waiver to alter the Medicaid expansion. Bevin said, time and again on the trail, that the state cannot afford the cost of the Medicaid expansion, and that Kynect is an unnecessary  and expensive duplication of the federal exchange. What Bevin’s Medicaid changes will look like are yet to be seen.

Then, there was Bevin’s budget proposal.

Bevin’s budget plan focuses on cutting government spending, in order to pump more money into the state’s badly underfunded state employee and teacher retirement systems. Everyone, Republicans and Democrats, agree the pension crisis is actually a crisis — but the scope of Bevin’s proposed cuts gave Democrats an issue to exploit, which they did.

Almost as soon as the House budget review subcommittees began meeting, the Democrats lined up a number of officials — university presidents in particular — who testified about how the cuts would (they say) decimate their institutions. To people who aren’t teachers or state workers, the pension systems might seem a bit abstract — but when you start talking about putting the hallowed halls of UK and U of L on the budget chopping block, or about slicing into the community colleges, people take notice.

Republicans have charged that the universities are overplaying their woes, and that the big universities are stacked with overpaid people. On Thursday, a member of Senate leadership took to the floor to attack the severance packages of college personnel. They may have a case — but it’s a lot easier for Democrats to say “cuts to education are bad” than it is for Republicans to make a policy argument about the need to shore up pension systems that don’t directly affect most Kentuckians anyway. The pension crisis doesn’t easily lend itself to slogans.

When the Democrats rolled out a plan to provide free tuition for high school graduates to attend community colleges, they essentially framed the issue as: We are for college education, Republicans are against college education. Unfair? Sure. But when did fair count in politics? The Republicans were simply outmaneuvered on the issue.

Despite Tuesday’s losses in the House races, Republicans would still very much like to retake the House, and that goal is not out of reach. A pickup of only three seats would split the House, and more than that would swing the chamber. The new campaign for the House began Friday, in the Senate.

Friday morning, Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, stood up and launched an attack on Kynect and the Affordable Care Act, which is more commonly known as “Obamacare.” In retrospect, I wish I’d counted the number of times Stivers said ether “Obama” or “Obamacare.” It was certainly more than 10 times in the space of a couple minutes. I’m paraphrasing here, but Stivers called the ACA/Obamcare an expensive, job-killing boondoggle, echoed Bevin’s declaration that Kynect is just a “Web site,” and called on House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, to hold hearings or debates on the ACA.

“But let’s take a vote, let’s see where the votes are on this issue,” Stivers said. The public, Stivers said, “deserves to know where everybody stands on this issue.”

Well, that’s a call Stumbo is certain to ignore, but it does point out the Republican strategy going forward — to pin House Republicans to President Barack Obama as much as possible.

As strategies go, it makes sense — Obama remains deeply unpopular in Kentucky, even while Kynect is considered something of a national model, and despite the fact that 500,000 people received health coverage, mostly through the Medicaid expansion but also through Kynect, between 2013 and 2014.

You can expect Republicans to say the “O Word” a lot in the coming months, and you can anticipate television ads where the faces of House Democrats will appear next to Obama’s. Republicans were outspending Democrats $3 to $1, Rep. Tommy Thompson, a Philpot Democrat, said a week or two before the special elections, and money won’t be in short supply again for Republican candidates in the fall.

Running against Obama has worked for Republicans before. We’ll see in the coming months how Republicans fare by returning the anti-Obama playbook.


State House candidates speak at Red, White and Blue Picnic

The problem with covering a political event where more than 20 candidates are speaking is that it’s impossible to give every candidate the coverage we would like in the physical newspaper.

At Tuesday’s Red, White and Blue picnic at the Daviess County Courthouse, that issue was compounded by the fact that the two main speakers, incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell and his challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, are competing in what is likely biggest national race of the 2016 campaign season.

Due to space, we were only able to devote a couple of lines to each of the eight candidates running for state House seats. But that doesn’t mean state House races are unimportant. On the contrary. State House and Senate members have a direct impact on their districts, particularly in the local projects they champion and the state dollars they bring home for infrastructure improvements. State legislator also control how much money will be available for the schools, the courts and for highways.

To give  you a better view on where Owensboro-area candidates for the State House of Representatives stand, here are transcripts for ever House candidates who spoke at Tuesday’s Red, White and Blue. The speeches are verbatim and unabridged, except in the case Seventh District incumbent Suzanne Miles; in her case, the tape ended near the conclusion of her speech. Sorry. Old technology is a drag.

Seventh House District

Johnny Warren (Democrat, challenger) — “It’s hot, Don. My name is John Warren, I’m your Kentucky Democrat candidate for Seventh District.

“You know, a good friend and political hero of mine, (Retired Sen.) Wendell Ford once said, ‘I’ve personally seen statements longer than the books I’ve read.’ Well, folks, thank God we’ve just got four minutes, because it is hot.

“I am your candidate that will bring good, common judgment to the House of Representatives. Folks, there are politicians who will say just about anything to get elected, and when they get there, you find out what they really believe in.

“Well, I’m going to tell you what John Warren believes in. First and foremost, the good lord, the sanctity of life, family and hard work. As your representative, I will support education, Standing here beside me is my daughter, the future. Education is the key to our future. Readiness for school, college, the work force and life. That should be the goal for all Kentuckians.

“Jobs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, folks, to understand that without good-paying jobs and industry, you have no foundation for revenue to uphold citizenship for the local state and federal levels.

“Infrastructure. We have to stay ahead of our infrastructure needs, first and foremost because it’s for public safety, but also because it creates jobs in our economic communities. It won’t be millions of dollars if we get behind on infrastructure, it will be billions.

“We have to have affordable health care for all citizens of Kentucky, young and old.

“And better representation. I will be the voice of all constituents, not only of the Seventh District, but for all Kentucky — right to lifers, farmers, county and state employees, teachers and our veterans, business owners of all kinds, all young men and women of the Seventh District of Kentucky.

“And, folks, let me conclude with this: As we look back here at our great Commonwealth flag and it says, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ Well, there’s more to that phrase, folks, and I’m going to finish it for you. Let us trust god and our better judgment to us right here and not right here, but also after we leave here. ‘United We stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union on which our existence hangs.’

“Folks, we all know there are forces in our governments who want to keep us divided. We’ve seen the mess all across our district and all across Frankfort and Washington. What we need is some good, old-fashioned, common-sense leadership. People willing to put party differences aside to work for the kind of good. I am that kind of leader. I am John Warren. I ask for your vote and your support. Thank you and praise God.”

Rep. Suzanne Miles (Republican, incumbent) — “Good afternoon, I’m so happy to be here with you this evening, and I appreciate all of you coming out today.

“It is a hot day, no doubt, but you being here tells me you are interested in being an educated voter. Is that true? Then I want you to educate yourself on the people who come before you today — what they walk their life as, not what they talk their life as from this microphone.

“So, please pay attention to all the different things that have taken place. I am happy to be here as the endorsed candidate for Kentucky Right to Life. I want to tell you, we’ve got some smoke and mirrors in Frankfort and, unfortunately, they’re not for the unborn, they’re not for the sanctity of life. And that breaks my heart when I got there, and some of the things that have taken place.

“I was elected in a special election this past December. I have served my one term, I am running for reelection in November, and I would appreciate your vote on Nov. 4.

“But if you go today with any thought whatsoever but what I think about a lot of different things, most importantly, I believe you know how to take care of your money, take care of your business and when you built your companies, I think you built them and we as government officials should encourage you and be supportive to enable you to be the best Kentucky it can be.

“As you go to the polls in November, I want you to keep in mind, it is so important that you be an educated voter, and pay attention to the candidates that are before you, no matter what party they are, no matter … (tape ends).

12th House District 

Dianne Burns Mackey (Republican, challenger) — “Well, speaking of education, I would say that would be my top priority, and I’ve been in education all my life — 35 years, my husband, my parents, and my uncle was a superintendent of the Daviess County school system, as you know.

“I believe in education. I also believe in hard work, and I believe in being a good — and I know that the reason that we’re wanting, or our school board is wanting, to raise taxes is because the state is not wanting to fund their part. They’re mandating and regulating.

“But I promise on Thursday night, or I think we’re switching to next Thursday night, on the tax vote, as you know the property taxes are being brought up in the Daviess County school system, and I’m going to vote against it. I have talked one other board member to vote against it as well. Now you might want to call the rest of our school board members to see if they will also vote against the tax increase. We have to limit what we spend.

“I have also been a businessman, a businesswoman, with my husband. We have been in business 37 years I have dealt with (inaudible) and their unbelievable regulations. We have spent no-telling how much money trying to oblige them.

“I want to get to Frankfort and make a difference — bring back our government to our local government and not have Frankfort telling us everything, and the federal government as well. Amen, that’s correct.

“I am pro-life, Second Amendment advocate, and I’m a smaller government, more independence for the people. I’ve always been involved in church, and I think that’s one of the reasons that’s called me to do this.

“I also believe in coal. I really like my dish washer. I can remember my mother didn’t have a dish washer and she didn’t have a dryer, and as I was leaving today, I put my dirty laundry in the washing machine and turned it on because of coal.

“Thank you and vote for Dianne Mackey in McLean and Webster and Hopkins and southern Daviess County. And my time’s up?”

Rep. Jim Gooch (Democrat, incumbent) — “Thank you. It’s great to be here tonight and a pleasure to speak with you.

“I just want to let you know how honored I am to have been able to serve this district, part of this district as state representative for the last 10 sessions. I think a lot of  you know me, you know who I am, I think the fact I’ve been there for almost 20 years you pretty well know what I’m about.

“But, you know, I want to talk a little bit about — you can tell a lot about someone by how they campaign and how they serve. And that’s what I want to tell you a little bit about myself. You know, I was lucky to have two wonderful parents and they taught me so many things that make me what I am today.

“I remember my mom said, ‘you can’t pull yourself up pulling others down.’ And that’s why I’ve always tried to run a positive campaign. Because, you know, talking about my opponent wouldn’t have made me any smarter, it really wouldn’t have helped my work ethic, it wouldn’t have made me any more qualified. So I’ve always pledged not to do that, I always run a positive campaign talking about who I am, what I’m all about and what I want to do for the future.

“Also, you talk about you can tell something about someone about how they serve, what they stand for. And that’s what I really want to talk about. There’s three things I’ve always strived to do, three guiding principles that I try not to ever ignore.

“The first thing is in every vote you make, in everything you do, always try to look out for the next generation and not just the next election. One of the most frustrating things I found out when I came to Frankfort was that we live in a world and a government that is almost reactionary. We only elect people for two years in the House. So what happens, something happens and someone says, ‘well, there needs to be a law.’ The next thing you know, we’re reacting.

“Often, what happens is that we really don’t find long-range solutions to long-term problems. What we do is we do political fixes. And sometimes those political fixes are designed more to get us past the next election than they are to solve the problem. So I always want to work for the next generation, than the next election.

“The second thing I’m doing is, mean what you say and say what you mean. My dad always told me your word was your bond. You know, so many politicians today — and I get discouraged with them just like you do — you know, they come on TV or whatever and they start talking. They’re not telling you what they think. All you’re hearing is political spin or partisan talking points. And I don’t do that, I don’t do political spin and I don’t do talking points.

“Yes, I am a member of a political party, just as my opponent is. But, you know, both of those parties need to be big tents where they have ideas from a lot different people and from all different walks of life and from all different persuasions. That way, we can really work on issues that affect us.

“When we all start voting alike, when we all start talking alike, when we all start putting our party often above the interest of our districts,then we’re going down what I think is a dangerous path, and I pray us not to do that.

“The third thing I’ve always pledged to do is I ask you to vote for me. I ask you for to be your representative, and the only way I can represent you is to really know how you feel and listen to you, so you always have my ear. Now, somebody told me I’m pretty hard to catch and that’s probably the case, but I’m always there to listen to you and find out what you’re really interested in.

“If I am reelected, I will probably be the most senior Democratic House member serving in western Kentucky. I think Jody Richards, thank you, from Bowling Green and maybe Jimmy Lee from Elizabethtown are probably the only two who have more seniority. I promise to take the 20 years I’ve had, the experience of working for west Kentucky, looking at needs in west Kentucky and servicing the citizens of west Kentucky and I promise to continue that if you choose to reelect me.

“It is such an honor to be your representative in Frankfort. Thank you for having me. I’m glad to see this great crowd. And, you know, it really kind of cooled off before I got up here, so II really thank you for that. So, thanks for coming out.”

13th House District

Alan Braden (Republican, challenger) — “Good afternoon. First of all, I’d like to thank AT&T and the Chamber, and I think we should all give them a round of applause for what they did this afternoon in putting this together. It gives you  an opportunity to hear what the candidates are thinking and maybe get to learn a little more about them.

“I am Alan Braden. I was born and reared in Kentucky, grew up in Providence, Kentucky, my father worked in the coal mines and my mother sold Stanley home products. You may remember those.

“I’m married to Nan Triplett.Nan is a retired teacher and counselor from the Owensboro Public School system. We have six children and 11 grandchildren, and — I tried counting this earlier — I think between the eight of us, us and our six children, we have 11 degree and I think 10 of those degrees came from colleges in Kentucky. So we’re proud to be Kentuckians.

“I have cards, if you want to look someone up, it has a bio, pretty much a brief bio and what I stand for and what I hope to do when I’m elected your representative in November. But I want to talk a few minutes about three little phrases and descriptive words that I have at the bottom of the first page of this thing, ‘experienced,’ ‘committed’ and ‘willing to serve.’

“‘Experienced.’ I served on the Owensboro Health board for nine years, eight of which I was chairman of the finance committee and one of which I was chairman of the board. I served on Greater Owensboro chamber for four years and was chairman of that board for one year. I know how to lead, and I know how to make tough decisions. I served as city commissioner here in Owensboro for 13 years. I know how to govern.

“I’m a small business owner. For over 40 years in Owensboro as a CPA and as a financial adviser, and I know the type of regulations and unnecessary burdens our government has placed on small business owners. I also know how to read a financial statement, I know how to read a budget and I know how to ask tough questions.

“I also have the word ‘committed.’ down here. Nan and I, as I’ve said before, have 11 grandchildren, 10 of them live in Kentucky, and we really like the fact that they’re near us. We want to keep them in Kentucky. What we don’t want is to see our state, our Commonwealth, incur debt that our children and grandchildren cannot pay. I sincerely believe that the next few elections in Kentucky will have a tremendous impact on our young people, on our children and on our grandchildren.

“Not only with the debt, but also we’re in a state that is losing jobs rapidly. We need to find Kentuckians who are willing to stand tall, and be tough-minded and make decisions that make those changes for us in the state of Kentucky.

“The last one is ‘willing to serve.’ I have a heart to serve. For many of those 40 years that I have lived and worked in Owensboro, I have served on boards, public committees, 13 years as a city commissioner, nine years on the board of Owensboro Health, five-plus years on Alma Randolph’s charitable foundation. I served four years on the Chamber and two or three public committees. I have a heart to serve.

“What I would like to do, and desire to do, is bring jobs back to Kentucky, by making us a more business-friendly community, or state, by reducing regulations and by simplifying our over-complicated tax code. If you feel the same way I do, I would appreciate your vote for Alan Braden on Nov. 4. Thank you very much.”

Rep. Jim Glenn (Democrat, incumbent) — “Bottom line, I’m not going to take all of my time.

“I’m a tenured full professor at the community college. Everybody in my family went to a community college, and that includes my sisters. We all have college degrees. Our degrees are from places like the University of Illinois, Wisconsin, Cornell, Kentucky. My son just finished up with all of his course work on his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. We’ll add that to the list.

“We like education. We believe it’s the foundation, along with technology, for growing this economy. And I’ve been doing it for a long time. I teach econ, finance, marketing, management and I’ve been doing if for over 25 years.

“And now I’m going to the notes I have. I’ve been the legislature for seven and a half years. I forgot to tell you, my father’s a policeman, he passed away 20 years ago. And my wife passed away five years ago. She taught at the community college also.

“And something that was not in the newspaper, so you know something about what we believe about education: My wife was the outstanding teacher of the year at the Owensboro Community College in 1997. She was the outstanding teacher for the entire state of Kentucky. She received a plaque from UK, and (inaudible) in the community college system and an award to go to Texas. But she died five years ago of cancer.

“I want to thank you for allowing me to be your state representative. Over the last seven and a half years, my job has been about results. Not about rhetoric at all. I have fought for families in this community at three different levels: I’ve fought for good-paying jobs, good educational opportunities for our children, improving the infrastructure in our community.

“Here’s something else that’s not printed. I was elected in office in 2007. Between 2007 and 2014, I helped bring back to this community $178 million in infrastructure money.

“This is new information. Sept. 15, we’re going to add to that number. We’re going to put $428,000 of new infrastructure economic development money on Frederica, from the bypass to to Owensboro High School, in about two weeks.

“My job is to help the people in this community. It always has been. You see me in the community all the time, because I go around, I talk to various groups and I help other kids get into college or transfer to other universities.  I’ve done, like I said, over 25 years.

“I graduated, I got my doctorate from UK. My wife got her doctorate from UK. My son was admitted to a doctoral program at UK. We’re committed to education in this community. We understand how it works, and we try to help in that general area.

“I want to thank you for allowing me to serve. My name is Jim Glenn. I represent the district of Owensboro, 13th District, city of Owensboro, Daviess County.”

14th House District

Marian Turley (Republican, challenger) — “I’d like to stand up here and tell you all everything that I’m for, and give you a big list. Then when I finish that I’d like to tell you everything I’m against, another big list. And I might even like to resort to saying some negative things about my opponent. But I’m not going to.

“What I’m going to talk about tonight is much more important than those lists. You can see those on our cards, you can see those on ads, you’ll see all that you need to know.

“What we need to think about right now is what’s happening in this nation, and what’s happening in the state just next to us. Do you realize that just the other day in the state of Tennessee, a young high school senior was sitting in class named Kendra Turner, and the person beside her sneezed, and she dared to say ‘bless you.’

“She didn’t even say, ‘God bless you,’ she said, ‘bless you.’ And the teacher said, ‘who said that?’ She said, ‘I did.’  She said, ‘I’m not going to have that godly talk in my classroom.’ Dialogue ensued, and Kendra got sent to the principal’s office. By the end of the day, she had spent that day in In-School Suspension for saying, ‘bless you,’ that godly talk, it isn’t allowed in our schools.

“We’ve all been horrified recently as we’ve listened to reports about the beheadings of Christians in the Middle East. Been terrified of that thought, and then they sent the video of an American journalist, to terrorize us. To let us say, ‘it’s coming to us.’

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have got to think about our country and our commitment to God. We sing all the time, ‘God Bless America.’ We want him to bless America, but how can keep blessing us when we’re so distant from him? It says we have to turn from our wicked ways, humble ourselves and pray, and then, then he’ll (inaudible) and heal our land.

“As I was singing tonight and looking at the American flag behind me, a terrible thought came to me. What if there should ever be a day that those stars and stripes are taken down and a black ISIS flag flies there? We say, ‘we need to separate things from religion, we need to not have this Christian stuff going on, we got to separate it out.’ What are you going to do if they come?

“We need to have a government and leaders that will stand strong, and stand strong for our country, for our faith and for the hand of God upon this nation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, 70 days from tonight, you’ll go to the polls. You make sure you vote for leaders that will stand firm to protect our nation from the evil that would come to it. Thank you.”

Rep. Tommy Thompson (Democrat, incumbent) — “Thank you, Kirk, and good afternoon. I’m so proud of our community for the tremendous turnout, for you all coming today and for most of you staying and giving us candidates a brief opportunity to share our vision with you about our community’s future and about our state’s future.

“For the last 12 years, I’ve had the privilege of representing the citizens of the 14th legislative district, and during that time, I’ve worked hard to improve the economic opportunities and the quality of life for the people of eastern Daviess County and Ohio County. And I’ve worked to represent the values of our community and advocate for the priorities of our community.

“But I want to go to Frankfort and I want to go back to enhance job growth and job retention. I had the pleasure a couple of sessions ago of being the principle sponsor of a piece of economic development legislation that significantly reworked and modernized our economic development incentive packages. As a result of that legislation, we’ve seen thousands of new jobs in Kentucky and millions of dollars induced for capital investment.

“But right here in our community, that legislation has paid off. We’ve seen it by expanding jobs and retaining jobs at Swedish Match. We’ve seen it at the recent expansion of Glenmore Distillery. And we’ve seen it right down the street here: First Security Bank had a chance to locate their headquarters in Indiana, but because of those inducements, they stayed where they ought to be and that’s right here in Owensboro and in Kentucky.

“I want to go back to Frankfort to work on education. You know, that’s job one for us. We’ve got to make sure our kids have the skills to be competitive in a world economy, in a global economy, make sure they’re job and career-ready.

“In this session, we put money into pre-K, 3,000 more students are going to be able to go to preschool. Think of the difference that will make. For the first time in six years, we funded textbooks for our students. We put more money in the classroom for technology. And most importantly, we gave our hard-working teachers a raise that they richly deserve.

“And I want to go back to Frankfort to continue the transportation projects that have helped our community move forward. Projects like continuing the funding to finish the bypass, a project that’s so important for our community we’ve now got about $60 million of good money in the budget to widen highway 54. And we’ve got money in the budget to expand and widen Thruston-Dermont and Kentucky 144.

“And those projects are important not just because of the convenience they’ll provide our citizens, the safety, but the opportunity to enhance commerce for our community. I want to continue to work on those infrastructure projects, and I want to pledge to you that if you allow me to go back to Frankfort, I’ll continue to reach across party lines to take care of your business, the people’s business. That’s what you all expect from us, and that’s what we should do.

“So I hope on Nov. 4, I sincerely ask for you vote to allow me to go back to Frankfort, to continue to represent you. And I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to use my experience and my seniority to make Daviess and Ohio County even better places to call home. Thank you.”

Mount Everest getting 3G before Owensboro

 Just how remote is Owensboro anyway?

The Himalayas are getting 3G service before we do.

The New York Times reported this week: “The Hindustan Times carried a small news item the other day that, depending on your perspective, is good news or a sign of the apocalypse. It reported that a Nepali telecommunications firm had just started providing third-generation mobile network service, or 3G, at the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, to “allow thousands of climbers and trekkers who throng the region every year access to high-speed Internet and video calls using their mobile phones.”

AT&T says Owensboro is supposed to get 3G service by the end of the year.

Until then, head for Mount Everest to make a call.

September neighborhood alliance meetings set

Here is the list of Owensboro neighborhood alliance meetings in September:

Apollo Area Alliance – 6 p.m., Sept. 28 at Century Christian Church.

Audubon Bon Harbor Area Alliance – 6:30 p.m., Sept. 13 at Audubon Church of the Nazarene.

Dogwood Azalea Neighborhood Alliance – 5:30 p.m., Sept. 16 at the Edge Ice Center.

Dugan Best Neighborhood Alliance – 6 p.m., Sept. 28 at the Dugan Best Recreation Center.

Hillcrest Area Alliance – 6:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at the Owensboro Christian Church Community Room.

Midtown East Neighborhood Alliance – 5 p.m., Sept. 2 at Owensboro Christian Church.

Northwest Area Alliance – 5:30 p.m., Sept. 28 at Foust Elementary School Media Center.

Old Owensboro Neighborhood Alliance – 6 p.m., Sept. 14 at the Owensboro Police Department Community Room.

Seven Hills Neighborhood Alliance – 7 p.m., Sept. 2 at Trinity United Methodist Church.

Shifley-York Neighborhood Alliance – 5:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at Lewis Lane Baptist Church.

Southeast Alliance – 6:30 p.m., Sept. 9 at Newton Parrish Elementary School.

Wesleyan-Shawnee Neighborhood Alliance – 6 p.m., Sept. 28 at Kentucky Wesleyan College’s Winchester Center Cox Meeting Room.

Guthrie will be in Owensboro Aug. 30

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, a Bowling Green Republican, will host an “America Speaking Out” town hall meeting at Western Kentucky University’s Owensboro campus on Aug.30.

The meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. at 4821 New Hartford Road.
America Speaking Out is an initiative of House Republicans.

“After collecting ideas and solutions, I will be talking about what I have heard from across the district and nation and invite individuals to discuss these top issues with me,” Guthrie said in a news release.

Yonts will head state’s Civil War commission

State Rep. Brent Yonts has been elected chairman of the commission that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Kentucky’s role in the Civil War.

Gov. Steve Beshear named the Greenville Democrat to a four-year term on the 25-member Kentucky Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission last winter at the request of House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Yonts was elected chairman of the commission Tuesday by the membership.  

The group will recommend ways to commemorate Kentucky’s Civil War events, educate people about Kentucky’s role in the war and encourage community participation in activities that increase understanding of the war, according to a news release.

Yonts recently completed an appointment to the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which was responsible for coordinating a two-year celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday on Feb. 12, 2009.

Kentucky’s state workers will be furloughed six days

Kentucky plans to furlough state workers for a total of six days in the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2011.

Here’s the announcement from Frankfort.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 9, 2010) – Kentucky Personnel Cabinet Secretary Nikki Jackson today presented a regulation to the State Personnel Board as the state prepares to furlough state government workers a total of six days in Fiscal Year 2011, as authorized by the 2010-12 biennial budget passed by the General Assembly. 

 “In order to achieve the savings required by the budget passed by the General Assembly, legislators authorized the administration to implement a furlough plan for state employees,” said Sec. Jackson.  “Today we are presenting an outline of the plan to the State Personnel Board – a plan that has been developed with an eye toward minimizing impact to state employees and the disruption of delivery of state services to Kentucky citizens.”

 Combination of closure of state offices and non-designated furlough days

The six days include three common days during which state offices will be closed that are adjacent to existing state holiday weekends – Friday, September 3, 2010 (Labor Day weekend) ; Friday, November 12, 2010 (Veterans Day weekend); and Friday, May 27, 2011 (Memorial Day weekend). The closure of state offices for the three common days will serve to increase operational savings by decreasing energy and other operational costs.  In addition, employees will be furloughed for one day in each of the months of October, March and June.  Agencies will schedule employees to be off work in a manner that minimizes the impact to the public, and will be submitting plans to the Secretary of the Personnel Cabinet to describe how they will implement the furlough days that are non-designated.  Several state agencies that operate 24-hour/7 day-a-week facilities, including mental health and correctional facilities and law enforcement functions, may submit plans requesting additional flexibility on how to implement the furloughs.

 Furloughs will achieve savings and prevent many layoffs

As a key component to solving a $1.5 billion shortfall, the 2010-12 biennial budget passed by the General Assembly requires that the state achieve $131 million in expenditure reductions in FY 11 and $169 million in FY 12, on top of 3.5 percent cuts and 4.5 percent cuts for most state agencies, respectively.  The six days outlined today by Sec. Jackson will achieve a savings of approximately $24 million for the first year of the biennium.  Sec. Jackson also noted that, based on an average fulltime salary of $58,066 including fringe benefits, the six-day furlough plan will prevent 413 state employees from being laid off. 

 Both non-merit and merit system employees are included in the plan 

Both non-merit employees and merit system employees, full-time and part-time, including the Governor and all cabinet secretaries, regardless of salary, will be furloughed the same number of days, as will contract workers.  In addition to furloughing non-merit system employees, the administration will reduce the number of non-merit system employees in order to achieve further savings; decisions about non-merit system employee reductions are still under discussion.  The Governor, all cabinet secretaries and members of the Governor’s senior staff have already taken and continue to take voluntary 10 percent pay reductions as part of cost-savings measures in balancing the budget.

 Other states have furloughed workers

Facing a global recession, many states have furloughed or proposed to furlough state employees:

 California has furloughed employees 46 days since February 2009;

  • Hawaii has proposed furloughing employees 42 days; and
  • Maine and Washington are also furloughing employees.

 Communications sent to state employees and cabinet secretaries

Email communications were sent to both state employees as well as executive branch cabinet secretaries to inform them of the plan.  State employees who have further questions about the implementation of the plan can visit to find frequently asked questions and answers, and are encouraged to speak with their agency’s human resources administrator. 

 Next steps

Following the filing of the administrative regulation, Cabinets will propose implementation plans to Secretary Jackson.  The Personnel Cabinet will then issue suggestions to state agencies for the implementation of the plans.