Owensboro attorney appointed to Executive Branch Ethics Commission

Gov. Steve Beshear has appointed local attorney Jeanie Owen Miller to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

Miller, an attorney in private practice, previously served as a consumer protection specialist with the attorney general’s office from 1976 until 1981. Miller has served as president of the Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys, president of the Daviess County Bar Association and as co-chair of the Daviess County Democratic Party.

Along with Miller, who was selected by Beshear from three nominations made by the attorney general’s office, Beshear appointed Rutheford B. Campbell Jr. of Lexington to the commission. Campbell is a law professor at the University of Kentucky.

Beshear’s office notes that the commission’s duties include “administering a program of training and education on the code of ethics, providing guidance to state employees concerning their ethical conduct, enforcing the provisions of the code of ethics, interpreting the code of ethics through the issuance of advisory opinions, registering executive agency lobbyists and recommending legislation to the General Assembly.”

Among other things, the commission is currently investigating former members of Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration relating to a hiring scandal during his term in office.

For more information about the commission, visit its Web site and view recent changes imposed by Beshear’s order here.

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Second lawmaker to push slot machine plan

Rep. Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, has released a working version of legislation he plans to file next year that would allow “video lottery terminals” at ractracks around the state.

The bill puts the operation of the video lottery terminals, which appear to be similar if not the same as video slot machines, under the supervision of the Kentucky Lottery Corp. The machines would only be allowed at horse race tracks and only with the approval of the local government, according to the bill.

Video lottery terminal is defined in the bill as a machine that “uses a video display or spinning reels or both and microprocessors in which by chance the player may receive free games, coins, tokens, or credits that may be redeemed for cash.”

According to the release from Stumbo’s office, “revenue would be distributed to primary education, to offset the state’s share of personal property taxes on motor vehicles and motorboats and to approved tracks to enhance the size of purse offerings.”

Unlike the proposal announced last week by Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat, Stumbo’s plan would not limit the number of machines in the state.

Burch is working on a bill that would allow up to 18,000 slot machines around the state, with 6,000 of those allotted to horse race tracks. Slots would only be allowed when approved by local government, according to Burch’s plan.

This week’s announcement by Stumbo doesn’t come as a complete surprise, given that he had tossed out this idea after rejoining the legislature this year. And as attorney general, Stumbo issued an opinion that allowing slot machines in the state would not require a constitutional amendment, as would be the case if casinos moved into Kentucky.

Columnist Larry Dale Keeling with the Herald-Leader has a take on Stumbo’s slots announcement, which comes just days before the annual Fancy Farm picnic and among speculation – fueled in part by Stumbo’s own comments recently – that the former House majority floor leader is considering a run for speaker of the House.

2nd District candidates skipping Fancy Farm

Neither Democrat David Boswell nor Republican Brett Guthrie will be taking their campaigns for Kentucky’s 2nd Congressional District seat to Fancy Farm this weekend.

Both candidates, who want to replace U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis of Cecilia in the U.S. House, will be bypassing the speeches, political jabs and theater of the Graves County picnic on Saturday in far western Kentucky.

Guthrie Campaign Manager Brian Smith said Wednesday the state senator from Bowling Green will be attending other events and won’t be able to make the picnic. The campaign isn’t organizing supporters to attend the event and campaign on Guthrie’s behalf, Smith said.

Likewise, Boswell, a state senator from Sorgho, said he’ll skip the political picnic this year to attend events inside the 2nd District, including the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church picnic in Owensboro.

“Given the fact that I was not formally invited to speak, we decided that it would probably be best to spend the time in the district,” Boswell said. “Fancy Farm is a great picnic. It’s a wonderful event, but it’s in the far, far end of the 1st District.”

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Hopkinsville Republican representing the 1st District, and Democratic challenger Heather Ryan of Paducah are the only U.S. House candidates given speaking time at Fancy Farm. Whitfied

Attorney General’s office sends out open meetings, records reminder to local governments

Attorney General Jack Conway announced Wednesday that his office will be sending an update on the state’s open meeting and open records laws to more than 1,400 public officials.

The update will include a new provision approved by the General Assembly this spring that will allow public agencies to notify the public and press about special meetings by e-mail. That change could allow the public to learn about special meetings more quickly and efficiently and make it easier for those agencies to provide appropriate notice.

Public officials who receive the update¬† are required by law to pass it along to “all elected and appointed officials and members within the county, city, school district or university they represent,” the attorney general’s office noted.

In its press release, Conway’s office notes that the update “is aimed at enhancing public officials’ understanding of the law and ensuring open government.”

In other open meetings law news, the Messenger-Inquirer has received notice that Conway’s office has started its investigation into a complaint by the newspaper against the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court.

The complaint alleged that both governments arrived at the decision to submit an offer for the Executive Inn Rivermont and what purchase price to offer without calling a special meeting of elected officials. The city and county both denied the complaint, which prompted the review by Conway’s office.

The attorney general’s office received the Messenger-Inquirer’s appeal on July 23 and has 10 business days to issue an opinion about whether the two governments broke the open meetings law.

Update…

Joe Biesk with the Associated Press has the full story on the open meetings law changes here or here.

Beshear in western Kentucky tomorrow

Gov. Steve Beshear will be making the rounds in western Kentucky Thursday afternoon before heading to Madisonville for his next town hall meeting.

The governor will be at the Merle Travis Music Center in Powderly at 12:15 p.m. for a check presentation to Muhlenberg County for housing rehabilitation and will then head to Dawson Springs, Princeton and Sturgis for similar events in those communities.

His “Beshear About Kentucky” event at Byrnes Auditorium at 750 N. Laffoon Drive in Madisonville begins at 6 p.m.

This will be Beshear’s first stop in western Kentucky on his “listening tour,” which appear to be eliciting some response and ideas from those attending. At an event Monday night in Raceland near Ashland, The Daily Independent reports that folks asked him about illegal immigration, job development, casino gambling and health care.

Beshear will be in Bowling Green on Aug. 6, Owensboro on Aug. 11 and Henderson on Aug. 18 as part of the tour.

House leadership races heating up

Ryan Alessi with the Herald-Leader has the story of a possible run for Speaker of the House by Rep. Greg Stumbo, the former attorney general and House majority floor leader who rejoined the legislature this year.

Alessi’s story comes following comments by Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, to the Courier-Journal that he might be looking at the House’s top leadership post which has been held by Rep. Jody Richards of Bowling Green since 1995.

This possible addition to the House Democratic leadership races when the General Assembly reconvenes in January has been talked about since Stumbo’s first day back on the House floor this year and makes what was already going to be an interesting start to next year’s session even more so.

The departure of Rep. Rob Wilkey of Scottsville from the legislature and his spot as House majority whip has prompted a number of legislators to toss their hats into the ring, including Rep. Tommy Thompson of Philpot. The spot of speaker pro tempore has two Louisville-area legislators – current post-holder Rep. Larry Clark and challenger Rep. Joni Jenkins – in the running.

It will be interesting to see how western Kentucky fares once the final votes are tallied among House Democrats next year. With Richards and Wilkey, two of the five members of House Democratic leadership were from western Kentucky.

When the smoke clears, this area of the state could lose any direct voice when it comes to guiding Democrats in the House. Geography will be only one of many things I’m sure will factor into who House Democrats choose in January, but one I’m sure will be in the minds of many lawmakers from west of Interstate 65.

Local legislator named to Southern Legislative Conference post

Rep. John Arnold Jr., the Sturgis Democrat who represents the 7th District in the Kentucky House, has been named chairman of the Southern Legislative Conference’s Human Services and Public Safety Committee.

Arnold, a chiropractor, was appointed to the post during the SLC’s annual meeting in Oklahoma City earlier this month.

According to the Conference’s Web site, the committee “has undertaken assessments of Medicaid and reform; the nursing shortage; long-term health care; the Children’s Health Insurance Program and such corrections issues as criminal justice DNA statutes; the aging inmate population; female offenders; sentencing reform; and prison staffing in Southern states.”

Arnold is one of two Kentucky legislators chosen to head one of the Conference’s six standing committees. Rep. Rocky Adkins, a Sandy Hook Democrat, was selected this year to chair the Energy and Environment Committee.

Arnold was first elected to the state House in 1994 and his district includes western Daviess County along with Union and Henderson counties.