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January 31, 2012

Thayer Provides Remedy for Fighting Bureaucracy in NKY and Elsewhere

Last July, patriots in Northern Kentucky attempted to "Ax the Tax" created to fund a wasteful planning commission.

Unfortunately, their effort to gather the requisite amount of signatures was thwarted by an unfriendly judge protecting the government from the will of the people.

Sen. Damon Thayer wants to help the petition to eliminate the tax succeed, as does cosponsor Sen. John Schickel

SB 62 will not only lower the signature threshold to gain ballot access for this sort of petition by 60%, but also lengthen the window to collect them and even create a strong presumption that signatures are valid in order to make them harder to disqualify.

Today, SB 62 passed the Senate 23-12. This legislation will be a KEY VOTE on our 2012 Legislative Scorecard, and we may even award cosponsorship.

January 30, 2012

Some Filings

The filings in Frankfort are coming fast and furious, so we're just going to run through a handful at a time and tell you what we know.

House 5

The Fifth District is little changed from 2010 to 2012, containing Calloway and part of Trigg counties. It is an open seat due to the retirement of liberal Democrat Rep. Melvin Hensley.

So far, one Republican and one Democrat have filed.

Republican Kenneth Imes, of Murray formerly represented Kentucky's Fifth District in the Seventies as a Democrat. He has a history of fighting gas tax increases and fighting for pro-business solutions for tax policy. Imes owns and operates a funeral home.

Democrat Hal Kemp lost to then-Republican Melvin Henley in 2006 42% to 58%. Kemp owns the Murray Dairy Queen.

House 54

Kentucky's 54th District now consists of Boyle and part of Mercer Counties, where it had been Boyle and Washington. It is currently represented by Republican Mike Harmon, a Lt. Governor candidate in 2011 and a regular top finisher on our scorecard.

Apparently there are plenty of Harmons in Boyle County, because Barry Harmon has filed for the seat as a Democrat. B. Harmon is the Boyle County Jailer.

House 80

The 80th District is one of the most appalling gerrymanders of the new map. Where it was once a contiguous collection of Lincoln, Rockcastle and parts of Pulaski Counties, it now includes the western portion of Madison, Rockcastle, a thin stretch along the border of Pulaski that skips over Lincoln County and includes Casey County.

Current Rep. Danny Ford was so put out by this nonsense he announced his retirement.

So far, two Republicans and one Democrat have filed, but only the Republicans reside in the district.

Republican Mark Eaton is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon Kentucky.

The other Republican, Roger Coldiron, has a substantial and awarded military background. Interestingly, his Facebook info page lists the office he seeks as US Congress from the Fifth District.

While both Republicans live in Mt. Vernon, Democrat Mary Lou Rossetti is a Hustonville Councilwoman and now actually lives in the 36th District.

House 94

The 94th District gerrymanders through the mountains in Pike and Letcher Counties. Democrat incumbent Leslie Comes has filed for reelection and faces no opponents yet.

January 27, 2012

Legislation -- RS12 Day 17

Even though it's early, some bills have already seen action in one committee or another. Some bills have even passed one chamber. Here is a first installment of a few bills that are of concern to the taxpayer and to the free market.

HB 21
Passed House 91-0
This anti-competitive measure seems unconstitutional. It would allow the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to require national providers of durable medical equipment to maintain an office in Kentucky.

HB 88
On House Orders
This legislation seems to create a loophole for litigation in arbitration agreements, the very expensive litigation that arbitration agreements are designed to avoid. This legislation is pro-trial lawyer and anti-business. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

HB 216
On House Orders
This is Governor Beshear's legislation to raise the dropout age in Kentucky. You can read our previous post about why this approach costs taxpayers money without actually addressing the problem. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

SB 86
Passed Senate Committee on Education
This legislation would create opportunities for early graduation in grade school and specify how Kentucky scholarship funds would be affected by graduating early.

Three File for 26th House District

Three candidates have filed so far in the 26th House district. In the current House, this seat is held by Republican Tim Moore, but Moore will face election in the 19th district in 2012 if Stumbo's tortured map isn't thrown out by the courts.

One is Republican David Glauber, an appraiser who, in 2010, announced his intention to seek the state Senate seat currently held by Sen. Hornback before withdrawing that intention.

A second Republican, Gary Hatcher, has filed. Hatcher appears to be the Mayor of Pioneer Village.

For the Democrats, David Lee Strange will contest the seat. Strange is a retired GE employee and active in the Bullitt County community.

Bill to Eliminate Treasurer's Office Moves Forward

While it may seem like nothing good is happening in Frankfort, there are a few positives.

Possibly the best right now is that Sen. Damon Thayer's bill to eliminate the Constitutional Office of State Treasurer is moving forward.

SB 51 is also cosponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson.

As we have written before:

The office of the Treasurer has little responsibility outside of printing checks and sitting on a few boards. It serves no role in checks or balances on the system that would support an argument for it continuing to be an elected office, serves no function that is exclusive to the office, is an unnecessary use of taxpayer dollars and should be eliminated.

This legislation is an obvious KEY VOTE for the 2012 Scorecard, and we may also award cosponsorship of this legislation.

The bill has received its second reading and should be voted on the floor of the Senate soon. Contact your legislator and let them know you support this great legislation.

January 25, 2012

Two Republicans File for House 63, One More Announces

So far, two Republicans have filed the the 63rd House seat being vacated by Rep Alicia Webb-Edgington.

First is former Lakeside Park councilwoman Diane St. Onge filed for the seat on Jan 24th.

Second, Walter A. Starosciak, an insurance salesman and an Election Victory Coordinator for the National Rifle Association in Kentucky's 4th Congressional District filed today.

A third Republican, Edgewood City Councilman Steven Jaeger, has announced his intention to seek the seat, but has not filed.

The Races: Four Candidates File for the Open Second District Seat

Earlier we noted that Kentucky's Second House District (consisting of Graves County with a southern portion of McCracken, largely unchanged from 2010) would be an open seat for the 2012 election.

Graves County Republican Patrick Fisher has officially filed to contest the seat.

On his Facebook page, it notes that he believes that the state should live within its budget, a position we applaud. Additionally, he notes his opposition to casinos, and that he was a member of Mayfield High's two state champion football teams.

Additionally, Republican Richard Heath has filed. Mr. Heath is a businessman and owner of Heath Building Material Inc.

On the Democratic side, Kelly Whitaker has filed. Kelly is a pharmacist and a member of the Graves County School Board and has experience organizing the community fighting the consolidation of two Graves County elementary schools.

A second Democrat, Arthur Byrn, has also filed. He is an insurance salesman and the former Mayor of Mayfield.

Currently, candidates have until January 31 to file.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer Seeking Value for Taxpayers

In his first days in office, Agriculture Commissioner made use of his prerogative to dismiss any employees he wished outside of the state merit system.

Some were obvious dismissals - girlfriends of wasteful former Commissioner Richie Farmer...

Comer dismissed 16 non-merit employees, including Farmer's girlfriend, Stephanie Sandmann, shortly after taking office. She had been hired to a $60,000-a-year job in the Agriculture Department in the waning days of Farmer's unsuccessful campaign as running mate to gubernatorial candidate and Senate President David Williams.

...and childhood pals.

Another political appointee who was fired without cause on Jan. 3 apparently also has a connection to reality TV. According to fan blogs, season 20 of The Amazing Race will feature Mark Jackson from Manchester....

...Jackson, who grew up as a friend of Richie Farmer in Manchester and coaches sports at the elementary school in Clay County, said Sandmann was Farmer's first girlfriend since Richie and Rebecca Farmer married.

"I begged him, after Becky filed for the divorce, to get out and find a woman," Jackson said.

However, Jackson said, he doesn't generally socialize with Farmer.

"I don't hang out with Richie like that. ... He hangs out with the uppity-up people," Jackson said. "We might play golf together, but we don't get out and eat together."

Recently, Comer has been under fire for the firing of the state beekeeper. Phil Craft, who has served as the state beekeeper since being appointed by former Commissioner Billy Ray Smith, is widely praised for his work.

"Phil did a terrific job for 12 years," said Tom Webster, an apiculture specialist at Kentucky State University. "I hate to see him go."

Webster said the position was more important than many people realize. "These days, a lot of people are trying to grow some of their own food," he said. "If they're going to grow bee-pollinated crops, they need bees."

"We need a state apiarist. I've got a couple hundred hives. It's more than a struggle to be productive these days with all the things coming at us," said Hosey, who sells his honey in Lexington at Good Foods Market and Café. "We need someone who can help, especially new beekeepers. (Craft) was great at that. He's a knowledgeable, amiable guy, and he's helped a lot of new people. What most people don't get is that beekeeping is a true art. ... You almost have to be born a beekeeper."

Lorie Jacobs, president of the Kentuckiana Beekeepers Association in Louisville, said Craft was known for his passion for beekeeping and his patience with newcomers.

We have no doubt of Mr. Craft's qualifications and good work. And while those are important qualifications for this government job, there are other considerations that are just as important.

The article linked above hints at one without giving it proper discussion:

"While he is making some difficult decisions under what amounts to an almost 11 percent budget cut, Commissioner Comer is committed to growing the honey industry in Kentucky and is therefore keeping the state beekeeper position," Comer's office said in a statement.

The article makes Phil out to be a great guy in addition to a great apiarist.

Members of the state's beekeeping community say Comer will have a hard time finding someone better than Craft.

But "whether there is someone better than Craft" isn't the question. The question is whether the core elements of the position, such as certifying that hives are disease-free for interstate transport and promoting beekeeping and honey production, can be executed equally or more effectively in another way. The taxpayer may be better served if this position held additional, non-apiary responsibilities, or by distributing these responsibilities differently in his office. While Mr. Craft sounds incredibly qualified for the position, he is by no means the only qualified individual. In a time of budget constraints, hiring a qualified apiarist at a lower salary may free up other resources to serve the needs of Kentucky Agriculture.

Commissioner Comer is seeking value for the Kentucky taxpayer, and should be commended.

January 23, 2012

Rep. Jim DeCesare Files for 27th Senate District

Now that the ridiculous and probably illegal House map and Senate maps have been adopted, candidates are filing right and left.

Today, Rep Jim DeCesare announced his intention to seek a seat in the upper house. While we at the Kentucky Club for Growth will miss one of the handful of solidly conservative voices in the Kentucky House, the Senate could use a pro-growth conservative of his caliber just as well.

In the history of our Legislative Scorecard, DeCesare has finished 2nd three times and 7th once. He and Rep. Stan Lee are the only two legislators to receive adequate scores on every scorecard we have published. Jim DeCesare is a strong champion for the taxpayer.

January 12, 2012

What Wasting Time and Taxdollars Looks Like

The Governor's Office just proclaimed that several government employees will be trained the by the ACT about how to read certain statistics to give communities a merit badge.

From the press release:

A leadership team from Kentucky representing workforce development, education and economic development will participate in the academy during the next 12 months. ACT, which is usually associated with educational testing, is establishing a national baseline for state workforce standards that each state can build on through its Certified Work Ready Communities program. The academy gives Kentucky leaders the opportunity to collaborate with other state leaders on workforce development strategies.

"This certification will assure employers already located in Kentucky as well as those looking to call Kentucky home that a community is committed to providing businesses with the skilled workers needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. We can validate the skill levels of workers in a community and use it as an economic development tool," said Crystal Gibson, chair of the Kentucky Work Ready Communities Review Panel and vice president of Communications and Public Affairs at Citi Group.

Got that?

Now a bunch of bureaucrats can award a badge so that some companies -- the kind that don't feel like doing due-diligence on their own investments -- can...well, are there any companies that are that lazy that would actually be expanding?

Kentucky will get the additional benefit of wasting tax dollars on these government employees to spend their time learning and administering and encouraging and filling out paperwork on this near-worthless program.

At least it will be time they are unable to devote to picking winners and losers with tax credits?

January 11, 2012

The Races: Members Return to Frankfort, File

Some members of the General Assembly took a moment while they were in Frankfort to file for reelection. Here are links to our first two lists: List 1 | List 2

House Filings

District Member Party
10 Ben Waide R
15 Brent Yonts D
18 Dwight Butler R
25 Jimmie Lee D
29 Kevin Bratcher R
34 Mary Lou Marzian D
43 Darryl Owens D
44 Joni Jenkins D
46 Larry Clark D
47 Rick Rand D
58 Brad Montell R
64 Thomas Kerr R
69 Adam Koenig R
76 Ruth Ann Palumbo D
79 Susan Westrom D
87 Rick Nelson D

Senate Filings

District Member Party
11 John Schickel R
13 Kathy Stein D
33 Gerald Neal D

The 53rd House District: Special Election Date and Candidates Set

Speaker Greg Stumbo has set February 7th as the date for the special election to replace Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in Kentucky's 53rd House District, and the local Republican parties have selected Bart Rowland as their nominee.

"I'm honored to receive the Republican nomination for the special election in the 53rd House District. I've lived all my life in southcentral Kentucky and want to make this area a better place to live, work and raise a family," Rowland said in a press release. "I pledge to be an open, accessible and informed representative for all the people in the district. I will make it my top priority to grow the local economy, create more jobs, cut wasteful spending in state government and fight for conservative values in Frankfort."

Rowland is vice-president of Rowland Insurance Agency, which has offices in Glasgow and Tompkinsville.

Three other Republicans have filed for general election, and will face Rowland in May's primary. Earlier we had noted Kirb Copas, who was the first to file. Freddie Harbison of Metcalfe has also filed prior to Rowland's selection, as well as a fourth Republican, ironically named Jeremy Wright.

If Rowland wins the special election, he would be the presumed primary favorite.

On Tuesday, the Democrats finally picked their nominee: Barry Dean Steele. Steele once held elective office as a magistrate, but has been retired since 2006.

January 9, 2012

The Races: Three Dem House Retirements, Three Opportunities for Conservatives

In December, three Democratic members of the Kentucky House of Representatives from Western Kentucky announced that they would not seek reelection:

  • 2nd District - Fred Nesler
  • 4th District - Mike Cherry
  • 5th District - Melvin Henley

All three of these districts are conservative districts that voted for US Senator Rand Paul by an overwhelming margin and largely failed to give Gov. Beshear a majority in his reelection.

Redistricting will likely rearrange these districts, but they will still represent opportunities for conservative, pro-growth candidates. If you know of conservatives considering these or other races, contact us and let us know!

January 4, 2012

Session Top Issues - Charter Schools

While we did not mention it in out top issue overview, it seems that charter schools may actually be seriously examined this session. We've long been an advocate of charter schools as an element of increased school choice in Kentucky, and if you missed Jim Water's recent column on Kentucky's ineffective education spending, we recommend it.

Yesterday, a group called Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education (KARE) began airing pro-charter school advertisements in Kentucky, coinciding with the first day of the 2012 legislative session.

Kentucky is now one of only nine states that do not allow public charter schools, and some want the state to be taken off that list this year.

"Kentucky's schools are failing, but there is a better way. Public charter schools offer information and accountability," says a commercial that began airing throughout the state Tuesday.

It's funded by a group called Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education, or KARE, which is chaired by former Metro Council Member Hal Heiner.

"It is the way for at-risk youth, for them to be successful in life, to get the kind of education every child needs to be successful, and public charters have shown if they're set up right, the results are amazing," he said.

Public charters use tax-payer money, but are not subject to many of the rules and regulations that other public schools are. Many have higher standards for entrance, and use longer school days and school years to boost scores. Lawmakers have said the state's schools will be a top priority this legislative session.

Perhaps they have already had an effect.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who once bragged about being beholden to the Kentucky Education Association, has indicated that he'll attentively allow hearings on the issue.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he's interested in hearing more about charter schools after a new group launched TV ads in support of the reform Tuesday morning.

Shelbyville Republican Brad Montell has introduced legislation into the house allowing charter schools over the past several years. And supporters in the state Senate have filed and passed bills in that chamber. All the measures have died in the House. But Stumbo says this could be the year that breaks the pattern.

"I'm open to listening because I think anytime that we have a new idea about education improvement we should listen," says Stumbo. "But I have reservations because we can't allow our public schools to be impacted negatively."

We don't know whether repeatedly missing out on federal Race to the Top funding has softened the KEA's resistance or Stumbo just misses having that money to spend, charter schools would be a great tool for the Kentucky educational system.

The #8 school in the country ranked by the Washington Post is a charter school just over the river in Evansville, IN. Kentucky's best ranking is #248.

January 3, 2012

Stumbo Edits Congressional Map Proposal - Even More Ridiculous

Greg Stumbo has edited his earlier ridiculously gerrymandered proposal to make it even worse. For example, instead of removing Jessamine County entirely from the 6th, he now only takes a sliver that runs all the way to the Fayette County border. He also attempts, I believe, to keep Sen. Damon Thayer in the 6th while placing the county and most of the district he represents in the 4th. I can't imagine that is a negotiable item for the Senator, who will run the redistricting process in the Senate.

Stumbo claims, and columnist Joe Gerth recently blindly repeated, that this proposal maintains greater "geographic integrity" by removing the tail from Western Kentucky's 1st district to Lincoln County, but, like most of the words that spill from Stumbo, this suggestion is laughable. If he were concerned about tails, he wouldn't have added them to the 4th into Nelson, the 5th into Pulaski and the 6th into Marion. Here's a link to the map and here's a picture:

StumbosFolly

In our earlier analysis, we described how unserious Stumbo actually is about this map:

Stumbo is digging in his heels to gerrymander a district for Chandler. In a recent analysis in the Courier-Journal, he practically resolves to throw it to the courts.

If the two chambers can't come to an agreement, Stumbo said the House could simply refuse to approve any plan and throw the issue into the courts.

He's off-base, and you should let him know. The legislature's in session. Call them! 1-800-372-7181.

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The KY Club for Growth seeks principled candidates who are committed to the following:

* Free market principles
* Lowering taxes
* Reducing spending
* Decreasing the size of government
* Judicial reform
* Protecting property rights
* Expanding school choice
* Reducing needless regulation

We will hold endorsed candidates accountable for these principles by monitoring each candidate on a vote-by-vote basis. As a Club member, you will receive candidate monitoring updates and scorecards on a regular basis. Join us today.