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 http://personnel.ky.gov/furlough 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.

Libertarian Party condemns Rand Paul

News stories about Rand Paul, the Republican Senate nominee from Kentucky, frequently refer to his Libertarian background. But the Libertarian Party of Kentucky issued a statement Tuesday distancing itself from Paul.

Here’s the statement:

Independence, Ky. – The Libertarian Party of Kentucky strongly condemns the hurtful comments of Republican senate candidate Rand Paul.

Rand Paul belongs to the Republican Party of Kentucky, an association which he makes of his own free will.

Dr. Paul’s sole libertarian credentials come from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, former adversary Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and many in the mainstream media.

 In an effort to clear our good name, we make this public statement.

Rand Paul is not a libertarian. There are clear differences between the Libertarian Party, including the philosophy upon which is it based, and the philosophy and campaign rhetoric of Rand Paul.

While the Libertarian Party shares some stances traditionally associated with the Republican Party, the LP also shares common ground on positions traditionally associated with the Democratic Party, and not always for the same reasons.

We are an alternative to the two party system, not constrained by the model that defines both major parties.

Libertarians want a complete repeal of the PATRIOT Act, closure of Guantanamo Bay, and an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rand Paul has stated that he wants to continue military detentions at Guantanamo Bay, a retroactive official declaration of war by Congress, and has denied that he seeks to overturn the PATRIOT Act.

In further contrast, libertarians want to provide a mechanism by which non-traditional couples can receive equal protection under the law. Rand Paul has voiced his support of the discriminatory “one man, one woman” definition of marriage and his opposition to any other civil contract option.

In 2009, social conservatives in Kentucky outlawed adoption by anyone not living in a traditional, legally-recognized marriage – a concept so extreme that even family counselor and conservative talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has opposed it. The Libertarian Party stood in strong opposition to this legislation. Rand Paul has acknowledged that he agrees with his party in this, squarely placing himself at odds with the Libertarian Party of Kentucky and libertarians nationwide, who have a strong record of fighting these inequities.

 The Libertarian Party of Kentucky has primarily avoided being involved in the race for US Senate to date, other than to defend our party and the philosophy upon which it is built, and we intend to continue avoiding involvement.

Rand Paul’s statements regarding all forms of discrimination are not consistent with, nor do they reflect the views of, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky. Rand Paul does not speak for us or for our party. We condemn all bigotry based on any and all factors.

 The Libertarian Party of Kentucky is the official state affiliate for the Libertarian Party, America’s third largest political party. Founded in 1971, the Libertarian Party prides itself on a history of fighting for oppressed members of society and the rights of all citizens. More information is available on our website, http://www.LPKY.org.

McConnell discusses Kentucky flooding

Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office released this news Tuesday morning:

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the flooding in Kentucky:

“Last night Governor Beshear said he would seek a major disaster declaration from the President to help recover from the devastation wrought by a round of weekend storms and collateral flooding, and I’ll be sending a letter to the President today in support of Kentucky’s request for a major disaster declaration which would provide direct federal logistical support and cost sharing assistance to mitigate the effects of the flooding.

“Emergency declarations have been made in 48 counties throughout the commonwealth, and that number is likely to increase as recovery efforts continue. Tragically, four people have been confirmed dead as a result of flooding in Madison, Barren, Allen, and Lincoln counties. “My office has been in contact with the Governor’s office, and we’ll do all we can to assist him. It’s my understanding that Governor Beshear has spoken with the President about the situation and that FEMA is already working with state authorities in Kentucky to render assistance. “Our prayers are with the victims of the flooding in both the Commonwealth and in her sister state of Tennessee and our gratitude goes out to the first-responders and emergency personnel rendering aid to the impacted communities.”

Healthcare lobbyists dominate Frankfort spending

This just in from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission:

“Lobbying spending for the first three months of the 2010 General Assembly was dominated by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), which didn’t register to lobby until March.  CHPA represents manufacturers and distributors of non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines.

“CHPA spent $307,377 in March, more than twice as much as the next highest spending employer spent in the entire first quarter of 2010.  CHPA spent $303,377 on phone banking, and paid its lobbyist $4,000 in compensation.  CHPA includes several businesses which employ lobbyists in Kentucky, including Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Purdue Pharma.

“CHPA engaged a lobbyist on March 8, and began lobbying on two bills (House Bill 497 and Senate Bill 211) designed to tighten restrictions on the purchase and possession of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, substances which are used in a wide variety of non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines, and which can be used illegally to produce methamphetamine. 

“HB 497 would have required a prescription to obtain pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed), ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine (used as a nasal decongestant and for weight control), and established new criminal penalties for trafficking in any of the substances.  SB 211 would have reduced the amounts of the three substances which could be legally purchased or possessed, and restricted convicted methamphetamine offenders from purchasing medicine containing the substances. 

“The Kentucky Pharmacists Association said SB 211 would be an “effective measure in cutting down the amount of pseudoephedrine used by criminals to produce meth.”  The Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police said HB 497 would reduce the number of methamphetamine labs by limiting the availability of substances used to make methamphetamine.  Neither bill was enacted.

“The second highest spending employer for the first quarter of 2010 was Altria Client Services, representing several companies including Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company.  Altria spent $145,187 during the period, compared to $47,882 for the same period in the 2008 General Assembly.

“The next highest spending employers in the first quarter were the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ($82,310) and the Kentucky Retail Federation ($78,758).  The Chamber’s spending was up from $71,514 in 2008, and the Retail Federation was down slightly from $79,637 in 2008.

“Other top spenders during the first three months of 2010 include the Kentucky Education Association ($76,064); Wellpoint-Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($69,581); Kentucky Hospital Association ($63,745); Kentucky Medical Association ($60,810); Kentucky Association of Health Plans ($60,408); Kentucky Bankers Association ($54,240); Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation ($53,357); Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives ($51,752); University Health Care ($45,247); and Kentucky League of Cities ($42,877).”

Mongiardo says he has prescription for creating jobs

“We live in the best state in the country, but our state has never lived up to its potential,” Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo said Tuesday during a campaign stop in Owensboro.

Mongiardo’s daughter, Kathryn Allison, is 4 months old. And he said he’s concerned about the Kentucky her generation will inherit.

Mongiardo said he has a prescription for creating the jobs and opportunities the state needs.
It includes energy, transportation and health care.

“We must do everything in our power to reduce our dependency on foreign oil,” Mongiardo said.

If Kentucky’s coal reserves were turned into liquid fuel, they would equal 800 billion barrels — “more than the oil reserves of the entire Middle East,” he said.

“Liquid coal is much cleaner burning that foreign petroleum,” Mongiardo said.

Three proposals for coal liquefaction plants are already on the drawing board — in Henderson, Muhlenberg and McCracken counties, he said.

Mongiardo said Kentucky could support 10 such plants — five in eastern Kentucky and five in western Kentucky.

Those plants could create 80,000 jobs, he said.

See the rest of the story in Wednesday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

Kentuckians not drowning their sorrows

One thing about the current recession: Kentuckians apparently aren’t drowning their sorrows.

The latest state revenues figures show beer consumption tax collections dropped 15.1 percent in March and are down 5 percent for the first nine months of the fiscal year.

The distilled spirits consumption tax was down 8.3 percent in March and is up only 0.1 percent for the past nine months.

And the wine consumption tax took in 7.8 percent less in March and is up only 1.9 percent for the nine-month period.