Greg Stumbo

Take Action: Clean Energy Opportunity Act in Frankfort, and Coal Shills

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March 20, 2012
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From KFTC:

The House Committee on Tourism Development and Energy is expected to consider two clean energy bills when it meets on Thursday, March 22 at 10 am in room 131 of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort.

The committee will take testimony on HB 167, The Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a bill that would gradually increase the share of electricity in Kentucky that comes from energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Testimony will also be heard on HB 187, a bill that would encourage investment in renewable energy by allowing commercial-scale renewable systems to connect to the grid through an arrangement called net-metering.

Click on over to read more and contact Frankfort.

And, hey!, while you’re at it, why not sign this petition in response to Greg Stumbo’s insulting “buy a mountain” comment:

“Heaping praise on the coal industry while ignoring the devastation it inflicts on Kentuckians and the environment is totally unacceptable. Stop shilling for the coal industry and start protecting Kentuckians and our mountains from dirty coal.”

They’re 67% of the way to their signature goal – put ‘em over the mountaintop.

Buy a Mountain, Kentucky, our politicians are all sold out

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March 19, 2012
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[Via Sonka]

Governor Beshear took time out of his schedule last week to hold a press conference celebrating the 50,000th “Friends of Coal” license plate sold to Kentuckians.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett praised Beshear and a group of more than 12 coalfield lawmakers who attended the press conference for supporting the coal industry.

Bissett said the industry has been pleased that so many people have shown support for the coal industry by choosing the black, specialty license plates.

Beshear dialed back his rhetoric — there was no fist banging, screaming tirade against the federal government from the Governor on this happy occassion — but not so House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Stumbo, channeling all that is great about the Kentucky Democratic Party, clearly defined the real issue and offered up real solutions to poisoned water, lost wealth and ravaged communities.

To the people who say let’s save mountains: Go buy one,” Stumbo said. “There’s a bunch of them for sale. And if you own it, and you don’t want it mined, guess what, it’s not going to be mined that way.”

There you have it.

Alternately, you could buy a House Speaker. They are for sale, too.

In other news, from the always great Coal Tattoo, we learn that the West Virginia Center for Budget Policy recently broke down the incredible tax burden facing the West Virginia coal industry (PDF).

– In 2008, Wyoming collected approximately $2.1 billion in taxes from coal and natural gas producers, compared to $787 million in West Virginia.

– Wyoming’s average effective tax rate on coal producers was 10.6 percent, compared to 6.5 percent in West Virginia.

– The average effective tax rate on natural gas producers was 10.2 percent in Wyoming and 8.2 percent in West Virginia.

– The average property tax rate for coal and natural producers in Wyoming was 4.8 percent for each industry, while the average property tax rate for natural gas was three percent and one percent for coal in West Virginia.

– If West Virginia replaced its real and personal property tax scheme with Wyoming’s county gross production tax, it would have raised an additional $115 million in 2008.

Incredible.

Going back to Beshear’s press conference for the coal industry, the Governor of Coal said this:

“Coal mining, as I’ve said many times before, is one of the cornerstones of Kentucky’s economy,” Beshear said during a Capitol press conference. “More than 19,000 people work directly at our mine sites with several times more than that number holding jobs indirectly related to the industry.”

Which is awesome because it reminds us of the 2008 study which found that the coal industry provides just 1% of the jobs in Kentucky:

And has an overall negative net impact on the state’s economy of $115 Million thanks to all of us subsidizing their industry (or, as you could maybe put it, ‘Buying the mountains and giving them away):

Play it again, Steve!

Senate Wants to Spend More Time Screwing Up Redistricting

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February 28, 2012
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The State Senate is chomping at the bit to get back into the redistricting process they just got done screwing up.

The State House… not so much. While the Republican-controlled Senate wants to git ‘er done by the close of session in April (because apparently they have nothing better to do), Stumbo and the House appear ready to wait til next year. Musgrave & Brammer:

[Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers] said the Senate “is prepared to go forward and thinks it appropriate” to consider legislative redistricting this session. “We hope to have discussions with the House on the possibility of doing so,” he told reporters Monday.

He said the Senate would want to redraw legislative district boundaries for this year’s elections.

Stivers also said that if the House did not want to redraw House boundaries this session, the House might agree to let the Senate do its redistricting “to get it out of the way.”

The Supreme Court has not yet released its full opinion on just how screwed up the previous maps were, but obviously if the Senate’s Stivers, Thayer and Williams can’t remove Kathy Stein’s district from Lexington until next year then she’ll already be re-elected and all their hard work will be for nothing.

Who Can It Be Now: On Damon Thayer, Political Strategery & Gambling in Kentucky

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February 27, 2012
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Since Thursday’s failed vote on Beshear’s gambling amendment, many around the Bluegrass and the Commonwealth have noted the sacrifice Damon Thayer made. They have lauded him for taking a stand, for crossing party lines, putting his reputation at risk, to co-sponsor the bill that could — as the argument goes — save the thoroughbred industry.

But is Damon Thayer deserving of this praise?

Or did Damon Thayer outplay everyone, working both sides to achieve his own ends?

The Paulick Report pronounced Damon a “Winner” in the 2012 Gambling battle, writing:

Since the beginning of 2012, no one has laid it on the line politically like Sen. Thayer. The horse industry destroyed him just a few years ago for not going along with a statutory approach to expanded gaming. And yet, he stood up to immense pressure from his own Republican caucus and right-wing base of supporters to bring forth the constitutional amendment bill he promised the industry when he first ran for office.

Let’s take a closer look at what Damon Thayer has done — and how he’s done it — since the beginning of 2012.

Thayer hails from Georgetown, just across Fayette County’s border. He represents Scott, Owen, Grant and Kenton Counties. A Kentucky Colonel (who isn’t?), he is a member of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, the NRA and Kentucky Right to Life.

He is the Chair of the Senate standing committee on State and Local Government and in that capacity he was in charge of the Senate’s redistricting process. The map Thayer drew, ruled unconstitutional on Friday by the Kentucky Supreme Court, removed Fayette County Senator Kathy Stein from office, relocating her 13th District seat to Northeastern Kentucky and replacing her with a Senator from a county three hours drive to the West.

After this plan was announced on January 18th, the Herald-Leader reported:

Senate State and Local Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said moving Stein out of Fayette County was not political retaliation. The move was necessary to redraw Senate district lines to reflect the state’s shifting population, he said.

….Thayer did not answer a reporter when asked if Williams had ordered that Stein’s district be moved because of a vendetta. Stein said she was glad that Thayer at least did not lie. Williams later said he did not direct Thayer to move Stein’s district.

Upon signing the unconstitutional Senate and House redistricting maps into short-lived law on January 20th, Governor Beshear expressed unguarded skepticism about Thayer/Williams’ claim of a lack of coordination:

Beshear blasted Williams, accusing him of personally ordering Stein’s district to be moved. “The action directed by the Senate president to move Senator Kathy Stein’s district in Lexington to northeast Kentucky in order to keep her from being able to run for re-election, and moving Western Kentucky Sen. Dorsey Ridley’s district to Lexington, goes beyond partisanship. It reflects a personal vindictiveness that should have no place in this process.”

Political observers across the spectrum recognized that Williams and Thayer had worked together to craft the Senate redistricting map, in part a retaliation for the Democrat-controlled House plan which disenfranchised several Republican representatives, in part to settle partisan grudges and flex political muscle.

Days after the Governor signed the Thayer/Williams redistricting map into law, the Herald reported that Thayer would cross party lines to sponsor the Casino Gambling Amendment:

Senate State and Local Government chairman Damon Thayer of Georgetown said Wednesday he was “strongly leaning” toward sponsoring Gov. Steve Beshear’s constitutional amendment to expand gambling.

….Thayer said Williams “has said publicly and told me privately that he will not stand in the way of a constitutional amendment coming to a vote in the Senate. I have no reason not to take him at his word.”

Indeed Thayer did support the amendment, appearing with Beshear to introduce it and then pushing it out of his own State and Local Government Senate Committee for the full, and failed, Senate vote.

After that Senate vote failed, Thayer explained to reporters his conflicted position on gambling:

Thayer, a horse industry proponent and former racing executive, said after the vote he believes a constitutional amendment is the only way to address the issue. He noted he opposed gaming-via-statute legislation a few years ago. “I paid the price for that but I was able to look myself in the mirror, and I can look myself in the mirror now,” Thayer said. “Other states have done (expanded gambling) by statute, but it is wrong. I’m not afraid to give people the opportunity to decide this issue. This is a democracy.

Thayer was against casino gambling before he was for it but even when he was for it, Damon Thayer was never really in favor of it. He just wanted to let the voters decide.

That’s the Damon Thayer narrative this time around.

Just like last time, Thayer doesn’t actually support gambling but this time he professed to support the peoples’ vote.

That’s a nuanced position and any in the horse industry or in the state who wish to laud Thayer for trying should take a moment to fully consider Thayer’s actual purpose.

Thayer’s strategy allowed Damon Thayer to

  • Represent the horse interests of Scott County.
  • Represent the anti-gambling interests of the increasingly conservative voters of the rest of his Northern Kentucky district.
  • Put forward the vote under veil of giving voters what they wanted.
  • Coordinate the Senate vote’s timing with Senate Prez David Williams.
  • Ultimately lead the Bill into Williams’ buzzsaw.
  • Weaken the Governor.
  • Strengthen his own political position with both sides.

This positioning creates political capital with both sides. For the far right religious voters who opposed gambling on a Biblical premise, Thayer delivers a CYA under guise of “letting people decide.” For anyone on the inside of the KY GOP, word is whispered out that Thayer is very much on their team — as he has always been in the past — and acted out of expediency to his horse constituency while strengthening his overall statewide position.

Thayer is not pro-gambling. Thayer saw polls from the horse industry and from the Republican Party which showed a wide majority of Kentucky voters wanted to vote directly on the initiative (regardless of their support or opposition to it). Thayer presents himself as someone who has opposed gambling in the past but wishes to let the people decide this time while simultaneously planning with Williams a way to kill the bill, keep people from ultimately voting and, in the process, weaken the Governor. No gambling, no problem. A win/win.

Thayer’s committee passed the bill on Wednesday. On Thursday, David Williams announced he would bring it to a vote even though he knew full-well three “Yes” votes (all Democrats) would not be in attendance.

Ultimately, two of those three hastily re-scheduled and made it to Frankfort but the third “Yes” remained unavailable.

The bill needed 23 votes to carry. Given the divisivness of the issue and the prolonged madness of the ultimately failed Thayer/Williams/Stumbo/Beshear redistricting mess, a handful of votes remained in the balance. Senators were hesitant to take a stand one way or another without knowing what district and which voters they would be voting to represent and down the road seeking re-election from (and in this way, Thayer could be given credit for killing the bill twice, if you’re willing to acknowledge it).

Beshear said he had 23 votes. Thayer said there were 23 votes. One of those is at worst wishful thinking while the other is at best being honest.

In the middle, perhaps, there is truth.

Still unsure of their ultimate electoral districts (thanks, again, to the T/W/S/B redistricting debacle) the swing Senators who could vote Yay or could vote Nay on casino gambling and thus could account for the needed 23 were further compromised by David Williams move to force the vote on Thursday, when three of the 23 needed Yes votes were unavailable.

Even after two of those Yesses showed up, one was still missing. While some have stressed the wide margin of the eventual vote — 16 to 21 — as evidence the votes were never there to begin with, another explanation is that the missing six voters were holding out for the assurance of victory.

If the Governor could guarantee 23 votes, perhaps he could have gotten 23 votes.

As it happened, David Williams scheduled the vote on a day he knew there would not be enough votes. Williams assured there would be at best 22 votes given one Senator’s pre-established absence. The six swing-Senators then would be voting for a failing amendment and putting their own chances for re-election on the line for a failing vote.

Thayer passed the bill out of Committee on Wednesday. Williams called it to the floor on Thursday knowing it couldn’t get 23 votes. After the bill was voted down, Thayer expressed regret and extended congratulations:

Soon after the proposed constitutional amendment to allow gambling failed in the Senate by a 16-21 votes, Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, who sponsored the casino bill, congratulated Senate President David Williams of Burkesville for “orchestrating” the measure’s defeat.

All of this came after a Herald-Leader report that Thayer’s consulting firm represented thoroughbred interests, a revelation Governor Beshear blamed on Willaims:

“I certainly thought that that was a cheap shot that was taken this morning in the newspapers about Senator Thayer,” Beshear, a Democrat, said during a news conference after an event in the Capitol Rotunda. “He’s a fellow of integrity, and he is doing what he thinks is right in sponsoring this amendment to let people vote on it.”He implied that Williams, R-Burkesville, was behind the story and said it is “certainly further evidence of intimidation by Senator Williams and others who are against this amendment. I think it’s very clear that that’s the case.”

Again, Thayer is not in favor of gambling but he is in favor of the horse industry. That’s a good place to be politically for someone with ambitions for even higher office.

In the Gubernatorial election of 2011, Beshear trounced Williams and the theory went the Governor was trying to run up the numbers (thus, his tax task force was not a policy platform but an afterthought) in order to not only defeat Williams at the polls but render him impotent and unelectable again as Senate President.

Beshear did defeat Williams but Williams retained control over the Senate Republicans:

Williams, a Burkesville Republican who has headed the Senate since 2000, said after a retreat Thursday for Senate Republicans that there would be no leadership changes in the Senate.

He said no Republican leader faced a challenge.

There was speculation that there might be a challenge to Williams’ leadership, given Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s resounding victory over Williams in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election.

Some thought Williams could be a liability for Republican candidates in the 2012 elections, when half of the Senate’s 38 seats will be up for grabs.

The Republican Party of Kentucky is powerful and forward looking. On the national level, they have foisted the nation’s most powerful Senator, Mitch McConnell, the nation’s leading Tea Party voice, Rand Paul, the holder of the nation’s pursestrings, Hal Rogers, and a trio of powerful Congressmen who control the national policy on environment unprotection and “job creation” — Whitfield, Gutrhie and Davis.

On the state level, however, the Kentucky Republican Party has over and over proven ineffective in taking over government. The Williams nomination was, in itself, a declration of failure. The Bully from Burkesville never had a chance and no one of right-thinking mind ever thought different. He was nominated because a) it was his time; and more important, b) no one else had statewide cred.

With his backhanded support of the Democratic Governor’s gambling bill, Thayer is attempting to take that mantel.

The Senate Republican caucus’ decision to keep Williams as President was not an endorsement of Dave’s job performance but a recognition of reality: Governor Beshear has four (right?) more years in office, he can’t run again which makes 2015 a clean slate struggle between the two parties. Better to have an established villain perform the task of obfuscater than run, again, someone so easily lampooned as the reason nothing gets done in Frankfort.

So David Williams carries on as bad guy and the Republicans around him jostle for position.

Who can it be now?

Damon Thayer opposed gambling in the past.

This year, in 2012, he did David Williams’ bidding on the failed redistricting bill.

Then he took a “brave” stance across party lines by sponsoring not the idea of casino gambling but the idea Kentucky voters should be able to vote it down themselves.

He worked alongside Williams on the unconstitutional disenfranchisement map. Why would you think he didn’t do the same on gambling?

He passed it out of committee on Wednesday. Williams took it to a vote on Thursday when everyone knew there weren’t enough votes.

Gambling died. Will the thorougbred industry?

Will Damon Thayer get the credit he deserves?

Mission Accomplished: Kentucky Supreme Court Tosses Disenfranchisement Map

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February 24, 2012
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Believe It Or Not by Joey Scarbury on Grooveshark

Go big AND go home:

The Kentucky Supreme Court has blocked implementation of the newly-drawn boundaries for state legislative districts.

In a two-page order issued a few hours after hearing oral arguments in the case Friday morning, the state’s highest court upheld Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s ruling that this year’s redistricting was unconstitutional.

“Until the General Assembly passes redistricting legislation that complies with Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution, the terms of the injunction entered by the Franklin Circuit Court remain in place,” the court said.

Read the Full Story @ HL

The Thayer/Williams/Stumbo/Beshear disenfranchisement bill fails. Kathy Stein is returned to her rightful and elected seat (as are the others) and Williams’ mission to run her out of office is lost.

The Supremes were unanimous in their decision — 6 to 0! (one recused). The 2002 lines stand for now.

Rejoice! And remember…

 

Kentucky Roulette: You’ve only got one shot?

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February 24, 2012
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Snap back to reality! The sun is risen and Kentucky’s big gamble is dead… or is it?

CN|2 caught up with KEEP chief Patrick Neely who says the gambling bill’s defeat is not the end of the fight:

But when asked if it was the last best chance, he said: “I don’t think so. There are two main issues that are not going to go away. The first is, Kentuckians are going to continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars across the river. That’s not going to change. The second is our industry is going to remain in peril.”

Neely outlined the external threats from other states’ tracks that can pay higher purses and have put Kentucky’s horse industry in “crisis mode.”

Horses are now the fourth-highest-grossing segment of Kentucky agriculture with $700 million in sales, according to 2010 Kentucky agriculture figures.

But Neely said the tracks are suffering from external competition.

“I think tracks like Turfway and Ellis Park are in serious jeopardy,” Neely said, although he didn’t put a time-line on how long they would stick around.

[Click for full interview]

The Herald has both Stumbo and Thayer who both suggest that while it’s probably dead for this session, there may be a Zombie Gambling Bill lurking just outside the chamber:

The sponsor of this year’s proposal, Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, said on Thursday that he has no plans to attach the amendment to other legislation.

“I think it’s very difficult to predict in this building what’s alive and what’s dead,” Thayer said.

Stumbo agreed, noting that no measure is dead until the General Assembly adjourns for the year.

Sorry. But maybe everything that dies some day comes back?

The Paulick Report has a must read round-up of the latest battle’s Winner’s and Losers. Among the Winners:

Indiana – Oh, to be an Indiana casino owner today! As Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Eric Crawford put it on Twitter, the final vote tally was actually Indiana 21, Kentucky 16. I would assume the president of Southern Indiana’s Horseshoe Casino has named his first daughter Kentucky in homage to the wing of his house built on Bluegrass money Horseshoe has collected over the years.

I can’t wait to be a part of the $400 million transfer Kentuckians will make to neighboring casinos in 2012. Maybe I’ll eat at an Indiana restaurant while I’m there.

Kentucky Democrats – If SB 151 had passed and been on the ballot in November, social conservative Mee Maws from Pikeville to Paducah would have come out in droves to vote against the scary casino man. These same voters are more likely to vote Republican than Democratic and that would not have been good for a party that is already facing a difficult road on the House side in this year’s election.

And among the Losers:

Steve Beshear – Gov. Beshear has now had two major bites at the expanded gaming apple and both times was poisoned by Sen. Williams’ tactics. No one will question Gov. Beshear’s ability to fundraise and win elections but as a leader, it’s clear the governor still has some work to do.

You really do want to read the rest of that… there’s a lot of collateral damage in the Bluegrass and while we might all be a little down, it’s never a bad time to sing a song.

Kentucky Roulette: Ch-ch-changes

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February 20, 2012
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Gov. Beshear used his weekly YouTube address to advocate for gambling:

He said resident are taking their money to casinos in neighboring states, and that if Kentucky had its own casinos, that money could be kept here.

Gambling opponents have been working feverishly to try to defeat the governor’s proposal that could be voted on by a Senate committee next Wednesday.

Beshear has touted gambling as a way to generate additional money for the state budget by allowing casinos to open and then taxing their revenue.

“The proposed state budget is bleak, thanks to a sagging national economy and slow-to-recover state revenues,” Beshear said. “Painful cuts are being made across state government. We run a real risk of taking steps backward in areas like education, public protection, and job creation. And until our state generates more revenue, we will always fall behind.”

(I tried to find the video but couldn’t find one named ‘Gambling’ so we’ll have to take the AP’s word for it.)

In Sunday’s Courier, Gregory Hall previewed the casino gambling bill’s hearing on Wednesday at the Senate State & Local Government Committee, asking the Governor if this is the bill’s last chance.

Steve says no, but…

Others, on both sides of the debate, aren’t so sure.

While the issue likely wouldn’t go away, they say, a defeat could seriously derail political momentum, at least for the push to allow expanded gaming through a constitutional amendment — an approach that circumscribes the chance of a court challenge.

Hall goes on to catch up with Williams, Stumbo and Thayer and the consensus appears to be that, regardless of whether this is the last chance, the bill may well change and be simplified in the next couple days. In committee, it’s one vote short but it is expected to make it to the full Senate where it needs 23 votes.

On Friday, the Herald chatted with former Gov. Brereton Jones, who had some good thoughts on how the bill could change. Jones is the former head of KEEP, the horse lobbying group, and he’s advocated for gaming for years… but he says he can’t support Beshear’s gambling bill.

“We could end up with two mega-casinos and one casino at a lesser track,” Jones said. He also supports allowing local communities a say. “I know for sure most Kentuckians do not want to live in some kind of gambling mecca. It could be a disaster.”

Jones said changes are needed to designate what casino revenue would be spent on so people know what they are voting on.

“I respect that they’re trying to help but I think we’ve got to make certain we allow the people to make the decisions,” Jones said.

Jones wants to see a clearer plan, one that puts more power and more information in voters hands and has clearer structures for how it supports the horse industry and how its funds are divvied up.

Joe Gerth takes a wide view of all these critics and all their input in his column today:

The legislation still could have life left in it — depending on what changes are made before it is voted on in a Senate committee, possibly as early as Wednesday — but it’s not going to be easy.

The reason is that the protectionist provisions that make the legislation palatable to the horse industry are exactly those that are unpalatable to legislators who favor gambling but think the licenses should be sold to the highest bidders — no matter if they are in the horse business or not.

Beshear and Thayer thought they were walking that fine line between free market and protectionism when they wrote a bill that would give licenses to five horse tracks and two to operators that aren’t racetracks.

Gerth goes on to suggest Jones “fails to understand” Beshear’s bill (which seems unlikely) after highlighting Jones’ failure to deal with his own legislature (Brereton had the temerity to suggest they were owned by special interests in the midst of health care reform) and ends with a simple question:

A governor skilled at getting the legislature to do what he wants — even if it doesn’t want to — might be able to do those things. The question is, can Beshear?

It’ll be fun to watch.

Does Vegas have odds on this?

Let’s end by looking around the country real quick at some other gambling headlines. Like up in one of those other commonwealths:

To press its case at the Statehouse and win over wavering lawmakers, the industry hired a small army of lobbyists who, year after year, steadily made the argument for expanded gambling in Massachusetts.

In just the past five years, the tally for all that lobbying topped $11.4 million, according to a review of state lobbying records by The Associated Press.

And over in Maryland:

Maryland lawmakers are still waiting for the big payout from the Legislature’s gamble more than four years ago on legalized slot machines. To truly hit the jackpot, though, some lawmakers believe the state must expand gambling further, through table games and a Washington-area casino, to be competitive with nearby states and generate the dollars needed for education and other needs.

When the General Assembly voted in 2007 to let voters decide whether to allow up to 15,000 slot machines at five casinos in the state, supporters touted it as a sure-fire way to bring in millions for education, shore up the state’s horse-racing industry, and avoid painful cuts and tax increases.

Voters approved slot machines at five casinos in 2008. But so far, only 2,300 slot machines have been turned on at two locations, off Interstate 95 and on the Eastern Shore. State analysts have reduced projected revenues amid bad economic times, competition for gambling dollars from neighboring states and delays in developing three other casinos.

Well that’s a bummer.

But! Beshear’s gambling plan is different from Maryland’s and while Massachusetts may be bought and paid for, apparently Kentucky’s legislature’s top three givers are the pseudoephederine lobby, Altria/Phillip Morris and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (which, of course, is now orchestrating a gambling push).

So perhaps things are looking up.

Redistricting Saga Continues: Supreme Court wants motions by Friday, could get sent back to Legislature

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February 15, 2012
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You Keep Me Hanging On by The Supremes on Grooveshark

H-L:

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Tuesday fast-tracked the appeal of a Franklin Circuit Court ruling that declared Kentucky’s newly drawn legislative districts unconstitutional.

The state’s highest court said all responses to all motions must be filed with its clerk by noon Friday.

Lawyers for Stumbo/Williams argue the disenfranchisement of Lexington voters and several Republican House districts was done meticulously with previous court rulings in mind. They argue that they knew exactly what they were doing, meant to do it, and have every right to do it. And voters can go             themselves.

Here are the Supremes. Will Scott, top left, has recused himself as HB1 redraws a district he’s running in… but you can learn all about them here.

The AP:

The changes produced some oddly shaped legislative districts. One House district was stretched from the Tennessee line in McCreary County, zigzagged narrowly through Laurel County, then encompassed all of Jackson County. One Senate district was stretched more than 130 miles from Barbourville to Morehead.

….Chief Justice John D. Minton has given attorneys in the Kentucky case until noon Friday to file all motions that the Supreme Court will need to consider before issuing a ruling. Lawmakers are hoping for a quick resolution because the lingering questions about redistricting have overshadowed other issues pending before the General Assembly.

One of those issues has been Beshear’s bill to open the Commonwealth to casino gambling. That bill was supposed to hit the legislature early in its session but instead didn’t show up until yesterday — Day 27 of 60 — as Thayer and Beshear kept pushing it back as redistricting uncertainty left legislators unclear how they wanted to vote or how secure they would be in their votes.

Obviously with the case still tied up in court, those questions remain but Beshear and Thayer and others have decided they just can’t wait for the Thayer/Williams/Stumbo disenfranchisement plan to come to fruition.

The C-J:

Questions over redistricting, however, could still pose problems for the amendment. The legislative redistricting issue remains in the courts on appeal — and the issue could be sent back to the legislature. That could mean a reopening of the filing period.

….One of the criticisms of that proposal was that it was filed late, on the 27th day of that 60-day session.

But Beshear and Thayer have said they believe there’s enough time this year for legislators to take up the amendment.

“We have plenty of time to pass this measure,” said Beshear, adding that he doesn’t know of any votes that he’s lost during the redistricting process.

Which is of course why he waited until half way through the session to propose it.

Mapmaker, Mapmaker make me a map

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February 14, 2012
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Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Grooveshark

After the Stumbo/Williams/Thayer/Beshear alliance went forward with plans to appeal Judge Shepherd’s decision to toss their redistricting maps, it became time to spend money on lawyers.

Secretary of State Grimes and Stumbo/Williams’ Legislative Research Commission have set aside $145,000 for the fight over the House and Senate disenfranchisement bill.

Brammer/Cheves report:

The Legislative Research Commission, which represents House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams in defending the districts from a constitutional challenge, has budgeted $95,000 for Louisville attorney Sheryl Snyder, although it may end up paying less depending on how much work is necessary.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and the state Board of Elections, also defendants, have budgeted $50,000 for the law firms of Tachau Meek in Louisville and Britton Osborne Johnson in Lexington. Those legal fees will be paid with public funds.

House Republicans, who brought the lawsuit, said they are privately raising funds to pay for their lawyers at Fultz Maddox Hovious & Dickens in Louisville.

“Our attorneys told us to look at a budget of $75,000,” House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Monday. “We’ve been asking people to help, including friends of members who are going to be adversely affected by the changes in district lines.”

According to Stumbo/Williams’ lawyer, Shepherd’s decision — finding the bill unconstitutional — was  “an unprecedented use of the power of an injunction to resolve a political question.”

In the motion to overturn the ruling, Snyder argues that Shepherd misapplied the law. But even if Shepherd is correct, Snyder contends, the old districts are even more unconstitutional because population changes in the past decade have made them too big or too small.

Stumbo’s House plan forces six GOP reps from office, while Williams’ Senate plan forces four Dems out — including the disappearing of Lexington’s Senate representation.

So again we see the odd alliances continuing as House Dems and Senate Republicans fight alongside the Governor’s office against House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

From the AP:

“While adherence to one person, one vote presents a justiciable controversy, the actual drawing of the lines in an apportionment plan is a quintessential political question,” Snyder wrote in the research committee’s appeal.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has not yet decided how to handle the appeal, spokeswoman Lynn Zellen said.

The legislature’s filing deadline has already passed three times. If the courts toss Shepherd’s ruling and force the Stumbo/Williams disenfranchisement map into effect, it creates a situation where people are filed for office in wrong districts (or nonexistent ones).

That uncertainty, among other problems, continues to complicate the Governor’s gambling plans as elected officials wait to see who they represent and who they’re running against before taking a position on a bill which, still, doesn’t explicitly exist.

But hey, at least we’re not alone. Kentucky is one of 23 states with an active redistricting lawsuit.

Republican Party pushes Garland Barr IV to wave white flag

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February 13, 2012
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A quick roundup of Congressional redistricting finds Andy Barr giving up in the 6th after his fellow Republicans strengthened themselves and left the Tea Panderer out in the cold.

The bill was signed into law on Friday by Gov. Beshear. After the House and Senate failed to come to an agreement on their own maps, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers got together and crafted a map of their own.

That map strengthens all incumbents, including Ben Chandler. This angered 6th District area Republicans, like state Sen. Damon Thayer. A week after trying to expunge the area’s own Senator, Thayer was forced to pivot, flip-flopping his position so that now he finds himself incensed and offended by the redistricting process. Our hearts go out to him, and the others. From the CJ:

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, called HB 302 the “Ben Chandler Lifetime Employment Act.”

Thayer called the bill an “insult” to the people of Central Kentucky and described it as “horrific.”

….Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, complained that “we have turned our allegiance more to the congressional delegation than to the taxpayers.” He said the people in his district oppose the plan.

Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, said his constituents don’t want to move from the 6th District to the 2nd, as the plan requires.

He said the people in his district are “not a bit happy.”

Now unlike Thayer’s plan to disappear Kathy Stein, the Hal Rogers compromise map doesn’t do anything too crazy… it just shifts a few lines and Brett Guthrie should be a) concerned, and b) offended that so many Republicans are unhappy about now having his conservative credentials as their new Congressman.

What do Fayette-area Republicans have against Brett Guthrie?

Garland Barr IV was similarly offended by Hal Rogers’ plan. He said:

It’s weird that Barr and his Republican allies have taken this opportunity not to welcome their new voters or accept any challenge, but rather to throw up their hands, waving the white flag.

If you want to call it the “Ben Chandler Lifetime Employment Act” and you want to spend your time appealing to voters who can no longer vote for you because they are now represented by Brett Guthrie, that’s your choice, but it’s not particularly smart to declare your race lost while simultaneously alienating and denigrating your new voters.

[Check the HL for maps.]

The only explanation for why Barr and his allies would crap all over Hal Rogers and the Republican power nexus that crafted these maps is that the Barr campaign is continuing its strategy of pandering to the Tea Party.

Cynically believing the Tea Partiers and rank and file conservative activists to be total idiots, Andy Barr is trying to make them believe this was all Ben Chandler’s doing. Which is simply not true. Barr and 6th District republicans were pawned by Rogers and the Republican controlled delegation to make the other districts more conservative.

Each of the four Republican members, Reps. Brett Guthrie, Ed Whitfield, Hal Rogers and retiring Rep. Geoff Davis, are drawn into conservative-oriented seats.

There is a catch for Republicans, however: In keeping their House members safe, they also bolstered Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler by shifting more Democratic voters into his district. Chandler is a top GOP target who survived the 2010 election in one of the closest races of the year. Under the plan, Chandler’s Lexington-based 6th District seat will become slightly more Democratic-friendly.

Sonka/LEO’s Fat Lip has more on both the internal GOP squabbling that led to this compromise, as well as some sharp words from Ms. Kathy Stein for Thayer and Kerr and a quick numbers game looking at how the new 6th might alter vote turnouts for Barr and Chandler.

GOP internal squabbling leads to congressional redistricting deal

Though it looked like congressional redistricting would go to the courts, since the legislature couldn’t reach a compromise, that will no longer be the case. A wild morning full of emotions and accusations lead to the passage of House Bill 302, which will now go in the books and finalize the boundaries for congressional districts in Kentucky.

Though an agreement appeared to be reached a week ago, it was nixed at the last minute by central Kentuckian Republicans, particularly Sen. Damon Thayer and 6th District congressional candidate Andy Barr, who got Tea Partiers from their area to flood Republican senators with calls telling them not to agree to it. While the deal reached eased the concerns of Republicans in other districts, it does give Chandler a slightly more favorable district than what he previously had. In nixing the deal, several Republicans were quite liberal in expressing their anger at Barr for sabotaging it (particularly Tom Jensen).

Click it and go.

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