Trump rally draws supporters and protesters Tuesday, Mar 21 2017 

By Shelby Brown–

President Donald Trump promoted his replacement healthcare plan at a rally March 20. Trump’s speech echoed those of his 2016 campaign. Trump reiterated that the House of Representatives will vote on the new healthcare plan March 23.

“It’s time for Democrats in Washington to take responsibility for the disaster that they, and they alone, created,” Trump said. “Thursday is our chance to end Obamacare and the Obamacare catastrophe.”

Trump touched on reducing taxes, keeping trade deals and border security. Trump’s original travel ban was blocked by several Federal judges. Most recently, Trump revised the ban and it was blocked by U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii.

“We are fighting on the side of our great American heritage,” Trump said.

Supporters began lining up this morning with doors set to open at 4:30 p.m. and Trump scheduled to speak at 7:30 p.m.

   

 

Ticket holder restrictions kept most protesters outside. Organizations like Indivisible Kentucky, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter Louisville and Students for Reproductive Justice were present. U of L’s Bree Perry said intersectional representation was her main goal for the day.

     

“I had to make sure that black trans lives are represented, disabled lives are represented, and every part of me that sometimes gets pushed to the side,” she said.

Perry also expressed concerns about education under the Trump administration.

“I know a lot of people who were going to go get their PhDs and then Trump won,” Perry said. “They just aren’t comfortable being stuck in school and they don’t know how their financial lives are going to change under this administration because it’s so unpredictable. He’s so anti-lower working class people and that’s who a lot of my friends are in academia. If we don’t have a safety plan for our finances how are we supposed to achieve to higher education?”

Elizabethtown High School student, Jamax McAdams thinks Trump is on the right track.

“Everything he says, it’s really good and what he’s been doing in the first 100 days,” McAdams said. “He’s going to repeal Obamacare, he’s going to start the construction on the wall soon, so I’m liking what he’s doing so far. It’s everything he’s promised.”

Supporters chanted “USA” and “build the wall” through the evening. During Trump’s speech protesters attempted to disrupt but were escorted out by police. One individual waved a flag that read ‘Antifa International’ before a Trump supporter snatched it away from him.

Protester waves flag before being escorted out.

Eric Hymel, another protester who was removed, said he had demonstrated at a Trump rally in 2016.

“He’s lying to us on a daily basis,” Hymel said. “We cannot stand for this.”

Three members of Black Lives Matter Louisville were the last to be removed during Trump’s speech. J. Graham Brown School student, Christian Jones was one of those escorted out.

“We planned to infiltrate the rally and cause a disturbance because this rally is nothing but white supremacists and oppressors. They’re oppressing people. They’re trying to control people. We came here to stand up and speak for the voices of the unheard.” Jones said.

Black Lives Matter protesters escorted from rally

Kentucky Majority floor leader Jonathan Shell hosted the evening. Midwest Church of Christ’s Pastor Jerry Stevenson led the hall in prayer. Dr. Ralph Alvarado, a Kentucky senator spoke about his experience in this medical field and praised Trump’s healthcare plan.

“For the next 4 years I’m feeling very hopeful about where our country and where our state can go,” Alvarado said.

Governor Matt Bevin speaks at rally.

Governor Matt Bevin and Mitch McConnell were also present.

 

Photos by Dustin Massengill/ The Louisville Cardinal

 

 

 

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5 Key Takeaways From The GOP Health Overhaul Plan Thursday, Mar 9 2017 

Got questions about the GOP plan to overhaul federal health law? Join us on Twitter Thursday 12-1 p.m. ET for our #ACAchat. Kaiser’s Julie Rovner, NPR’s Alison Kodjak and health policy analysts of various political persuasions will be online discussing how the Republican plan could work, who wins and who loses. See you there!

After literally years of promises, House Republicans have a bill they say will “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

Some conservative Republicans have derided the new proposal — the American Health Care Act — calling it “Obamacare Lite.” It keeps intact some of the more popular features of the ACA, such as allowing adult children to stay on their parents’ health plans to age 26 and, at least in theory, ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions will still have access to insurance.

In some cases the elements of the law that remain are due to political popularity. In others, it’s because the special budget rules Congress is using so Republicans can avoid a Senate filibuster do not allow them to repeal the entire law.

But there are some major changes in how people would choose and pay for health care and insurance. Here are some of the biggest.

Tax credits to help buy insurance

Both the GOP bill and the ACA provide tax credits to help some people pay their premiums if they don’t get insurance through work or government programs. And in both, the credits are refundable (meaning people who owe no taxes still get the money) and advanceable (so people don’t have to wait until they file their taxes to get them). But the GOP’s tax credits would work very differently from those already in place.

Under current law, the amount of the credit is tied to a person’s income (the less you earn the more you get) and the cost of insurance where you live.

The GOP tax credits would be tied largely to age, with older people getting twice as much ($4,000 per year) as younger people ($2,000). But the Republican plan would also let insurers charge those older adults five times as much as younger adults, so even a credit twice as big might not make up the difference in premiums.

The GOP credits also do not vary by location, so they would be worth more in places where health care and health insurance are less expensive.

The GOP credits do phase out gradually, starting with incomes above $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for families.

Medicaid

The biggest changes the Republican bill would make are to the Medicaid program. Starting in 2020, it would roll back federal funding for the ACA’s expansion that allowed states to provide Medicaid coverage to all low-income individuals under 138 percent of the poverty level, rather than just the specific categories of poor people (children, pregnant women, elderly, disabled) who were previously eligible.

Thirty-one states opted to expand access to Medicaid. People who are covered under the expansion would continue to be funded by the federal government after that, but states would no longer be allowed to enroll anyone under those expanded criteria. And an enrollee who loses eligibility for the expansion program could not re-enroll.

But the bill would go further as well, making changes to the underlying Medicaid program that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., described as “the biggest entitlement reform in the last 20 years.”

Currently, Medicaid costs are shared between states and the federal government, but the funding is open-ended, so the federal government pays its percentage of whatever states spend. Under the proposed bill, the amount of federal funding would be capped on a per-person basis, so funding would go up as more people qualify. But that per-capita amount might not grow as fast as Medicaid costs, which could leave states on the hook for an ever-increasing share of the costs of the program.

“Capping federal contributions to the Medicaid program will likely force states with already tight budgets to limit eligibility and cut benefits to at-risk Americans,” said the American Public Health Association in a statement.

Help for wealthier people

If you earn a lot of money, or even just enough to put aside something extra for health expenses, the GOP bill will provide a lot to like.

First, it would repeal almost all of the taxes that were increased by the ACA to pay for the expansion of health coverage. Those include higher Medicare taxes for high-income earners, a tax on investment income and various taxes on health care providers, including insurance companies, makers of medical devices and even tanning salons.

The bill would also provide new tax advantages for those who can afford to save, including allowing more money to be deposited into health savings accounts, and lower penalties for those who use those accounts to pay for nonmedical needs.

In addition, the plan would lower the threshold for deducting medical expenses on income taxes and allow people with job-based tax-preferred “flexible spending accounts” to put away more pretax money. It would also restore over-the-counter drugs as eligible for reimbursement from those accounts.

Mandates to buy or provide coverage

The GOP plan doesn’t actually repeal the requirements for individuals to have coverage or for employers to provide it. That’s because it can’t under budget rules. Instead, the bill would reduce the penalties in both cases to zero, rendering the requirements moot.

The individual requirement was used by the health law to force healthy people into buying coverage to help improve insurers’ risk pools since they could no longer bar customers with pre-existing conditions.

Instead, the Republican plan would provide a penalty for those who do not maintain “continuous coverage.” Those with a break in insurance coverage of more than 63 days could still purchase insurance without regard to pre-existing health conditions, but they would be required to pay premiums that are 30 percent higher for 12 months.

The employer “mandate,” which requires firms with 50 or more workers to offer coverage or pay a fine, has actually had relatively little impact on insurance coverage, analysts have concluded, and probably is not necessary to prevent employers from dropping coverage. In both the ACA and the GOP bill, however, workers whose employers offer coverage could not decline that coverage and get a tax credit instead.

How to pay for it

With all the taxes and fees stripped from the ACA, how will Republicans pay for their tax credits? The answer is not clear.

“We are still discussing details, but we are committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with fiscally responsible policies that restore the free market and protect taxpayers,” said the Republican fact sheet that accompanied the release of the bill.

Also still missing is an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that will detail not only how much the proposal will cost, but also how many people would gain or lose health insurance. Republicans insist that estimate will be available before the full House votes on the bill.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Copyright 2017 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit Kaiser Health News.

Study: KY ranks fifth in student default rates Thursday, Mar 2 2017 

By Kyeland Jackson —

Many of the Commonwealth’s students cannot pay their loans, ranking Kentucky fifth in national student default rates.

A new report by LendEDU details the findings, dividing student debt averages and percentages by states, districts and representatives. States surrounding Kentucky, except West Virginia, averaged lower default rates for their students. A default means students have not made payments toward student loans within a year.

Freshmen McKena Alford and Riley Penhorwood withdraw student loans, anticipating thousands in debt when they graduate.

“To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it,” Alford said, referencing how she will pay loans after college.

“I plan on getting a job right after I get my degree, while working on getting my masters so that I can get paid more,” Penhorwood said. “Jobs are not easy to find, especially depending on what your major is, and where your going and where you’re living especially.”

Penhorwood, studying special education, pays out of state tuition and anticipates borrowing $90,000 for her three-year program.

“Typically the student that’s going to default is not the people with all that big money. It’s usually the people who started here in college, took out some money – $2,000 or $3,000 – they default on a student loan,” Financial Aid Office Executive Director Sandy Neel said, referencing students who do not finish their degrees.

When a student’s account defaults, it transfers to the federal department of education who can take tax refunds, garnish wages and stop students’ financial aid eligibility to balance debts.

“If it goes as far as when the student’s retired, and in retirement, they can take social security benefits from people,” Neel said.

In Kentucky’s congressional district three, which encompasses Louisville, Shively and Jeffersontown, 57 percent of students graduate with debt averaging upwards of $25,000 according to lendEDU’s research. U of L students comprise more than 75 percent of district three’s students, represented by John Yarmuth. Yarmuth’s policies, compiled in the study, advocate student finances by supporting low loan interest rates,federal refinancing, loan forgiveness and tax benefits.

His default rate in the report is the lowest compared to other Kentucky representatives.

  • John Yarmuth – 6.8 percent
  • Thomas Massie – 8 percent
  • James Comer Jr. – 9.27 percent
  • Andy Barr – 10.75 percent
  • Brett Guthrie – 11.45 percent

Though Neel said U of L’s default rate is the second lowest, trumped by the University of Kentucky, she explained Kentucky’s high default rates come from poorer areas like eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian area. Financial Aid Office Associate Director Mike Abboud suggests working closely with servicers to reduce chances for default. Servicers can help students defer, postponing payments, or forbear loans, temporarily suspending or reducing payments.

“There’s opportunities of deferment and forbearance, so those servicers are extremely understanding,” Abboud said. “They (students) shouldn’t see the servicer as a collection agency, but more so as somebody who will work with them and is willing to find them opportunities of the various, different kinds of forbearances and deferments.”

Abboud and Neel also recommend students know their loan amounts and anticipate how much money they’ll borrow for their degrees.

“Only about four percent of the population borrow over $100,000 and it’s usually for the advanced degrees,” Neel said. “But students do need to be careful about what they’re going to borrow…You can’t bankrupt it (student loans). You can’t do anything with it. You can’t escape it. It’s going to follow you.”

Read lendEDU’s full report here.

File photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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LouisvilleKY’s THE WEEK: From Tailspin to a Turtle’s Appearance, and on to the Gravy Cup, Friday, Feb 24 2017 

Much was focused this week on Mitch McConnell’s appearance at a luncheon sponsored by the Jeffersontown Chamber. Plenty of protesters showed up at the Marriott, but none were able to get anywhere close to the Senator, who took only a few questions from the audience, mostly about healthcare. Of course, Mitch and his colleagues don’t like talking about a topic for which they don’t have an answer.

But let’s move on to more pleasant topics, like how I’m never going to lose any weight with this kind of schedule.

Drinking beer in an airplane hangar -- what Tailspin is all about

Drinking beer in an airplane hangar — what Tailspin is all about

It all started Saturday at the Tailspin Ale Fest at Bowman Field, where a cool wind was blowing, occasional raindrops were falling and the beer was flowing. Thanks to an excess number of volunteers, my beer pouring post (Christian Moerlein of Cincinnati) was already ably manned, so there were a few free hours to sample some of the record number of choices. My favorite turned out to be a Pineapple Shandy made by Travelers Brewing in Vermont.

Monday was the Taste of 502, a five-year-old event held at the Seelbach as the kickoff to the organization’s Restaurant Week. And while there were some great restaurants handing out samples, the floor was dominated by bourbons, beers and spirits samples. It is not wise to mix tequila, vodka and bourbon, I can tell you that.

The recovery from that was near complete by Thursday, when I was invited to Das Meal II at Shelbyville’s Science Hill Inn.

Gravy Cup poster from 2014

Gravy Cup poster from 2014

Chef Ellen Gill McCarty, and Michael Beckmann, spoiled us with several courses of German food paired with beers from Gordon Biersch.

Now I’m laying low until Saturday, when I’m excited to be attending my first Gravy Cup. The biscuits & gravy competition is being held for the first time at the Mellwood Arts Center.

Here’s who I’ve been talking to this week:

RUSTY SATELLITE SHOW

If Mike and Medora Safai are able to do half of what they want to do at their new building in Shelby Park, it will transform the neighborhood and become a new hotspot for drinking. The Safai Coffee owners recently bought

With the Safais in Shelby Park

With Mike Safai in Shelby Park. Bill Brymer photo.

the 61,000 square foot building for the coffee brewing operation, and so much more. Mike is an immigrant from Iran, and you’ll be interested to hear the interesting story of his move to the U.S. and the success he and his family have had here. Read about it on EatDrinkTalk.

My other guest is Zach Fry, the man behind the Gravy Cup. The rise of the event, now in its fifth year, is an amazing story to hear. For details, check my story on EatDrinkTalk.

Check out the 190th Rusty Satellite Show here:

EATDRINKTALK

Steve Coomes sat down with the man behind one of the city’s culinary institutions on the occasion of the Bristol Bar & Grille’s 40th anniversary. Check out the conversation in which Doug Gossman explains he never expected the kind of longevity and multiple locations the Bristol has enjoyed for four decades. My interview is with Ed Hartless, Cordish’s top local executive who is seeing to it that 4th Street Live! is focused on attracting locals, both in terms of restaurant operators and visitors. He also explains how he helped negotiate the new Edward Lee restaurant, Whiskey Dry, to come downtown.

Listen to the show here:

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In Other News…McConnell’s not-so-happy homecoming, Cardinals woes and Lawrence’s ‘biggest Oscar moment’ Friday, Feb 24 2017 

Homecoming: USA Today, The Seattle Times, New York Magazine and NPR say this week, on his trips through his home state of Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has received somewhat of a mixed reception. At a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Lawrenceburg, Rose Mudd Perkins, had some thoughts for the senator, says U.S. News […]

Dems Tap Former Kentucky Governor To Counter Trump Speech Friday, Feb 24 2017 

Democrats have tapped former Gov. Steve Beshear to deliver the party’s response to President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, highlighting the Kentucky Democrat’s efforts to expand health care coverage under the law Republicans are determined to repeal and replace.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made the announcement on Friday in which they also turned to immigration activist Astrid Silva to give the Spanish language response to Trump’s speech. Silva is a so-called Dreamer who came to the country at the age of five as an illegal immigrant.

Silva spoke at the Democratic convention and her selection is a reminder of Trump’s initial policies on immigration. While the Trump administration has cracked down on immigrants living in the country illegally, Trump has said he wants to spare the children.

During his tenure as governor, Beshear embraced the 2010 health care law and expanded the Medicaid program to provide coverage to thousands of Kentuckians.

“American families desperately need our president to put his full attention on creating opportunity and good-paying jobs and preserving their right to affordable health care and a quality education,” Beshear said in a statement. “Real leaders don’t spread derision and division — they build partnerships and offer solutions instead of ideology and blame.”

Republicans have repeatedly criticized the law as too costly and vowed to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s overhaul.

House Republicans aim to roll out legislation in coming weeks to replace major elements of the Affordable Care Act with a new system involving tax credits, health savings accounts and high risk pools, but crucial details remain unknown.

They’ve had to defend their plans at raucous town hall meetings around the country this week, and a new poll showed support for the law at a record high.

The choice of the former governor stands as a counterpoint to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is at the forefront of efforts to repeal the law.

Silva moved to Nevada as a child and contact with former Sen. Harry Reid helped to transform her into an immigration activist.

“President Trump would have people believe that all immigrants are criminals and that refugees are terrorists,” Silva said in a statement. “But like my family, the vast majority of immigrants and refugees came to this country escaping poverty and conflict, looking for a better life and the opportunity to reach the American Dream.”

First To Come, First To Go: Inside McConnell’s Hometown Opposition Wednesday, Feb 22 2017 

The cigarette did little to calm Rose Mudd Perkins.

She fumbled through her silver SUV looking first for her phone, then for her keys.

“I’ll get it together,” she said.

A few minutes later she was walking across the parking lot and through the front door of the Marriott East. She sat on a nearby couch and explained why she drove to a Jeffersontown hotel from her Georgetown home in a rage.

Perkins had a message to send.

“What’s got me fired up is the lies,” she said.

Those lies, she said, are coming from the state’s elected leaders working in Washington. Namely, Sen. Mitch McConnell.

“These people need to be held accountable,” Perkins said.

And she’s spent the past few days trying to do just that.

Perkins drew national attention earlier this week for tearing into McConnell at a town hall-style event in Lawrenceburg — a small city of about 11,000 residents located some 14 miles south of Frankfort.

A video clip of her sharp address to McConnell was broadcast on national network news programs. Her Facebook feed exploded with messages and posts praising her tenacity.

Still riding the wave of adrenaline, she arrived in Louisville Wednesday ready to press McConnell again for what she considers a lack of empathy for his constituents.

McConnell was being hosted by the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce for a lunch and an “Update From Washington,” according to an event flyer.

Perkins was ready.

She stood from the couch and made her way through the hotel lobby to the large conference room where the nation’s top ranking Republican was set to speak.

‘I’m outraged’

Perkins is a 54-year-old mother of two with a newfound passion for Kentucky politics.

The back window of her 1999 Honda CRV boasts a “New Kentucky Project” sticker — a nod to the nonprofit political organization formed last year by former Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen and Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones.

She questions if Kentucky needs a new political party.

Perkins blasts Republicans like McConnell and President Donald Trump for ignoring the needs of Kentucky workers, especially residents in the eastern part of the state who for decades depended on coal mining for jobs.

“Those are good, hardworking people and they made them believe they were going to bring back coal,” she said. “My God.”

She’s also not big on Democrats, whose failings she credits with McConnell’s three decades in Washington.

She identifies as an Independent and said she doesn’t want to run for office, “but will if they make me.”

Jacob Ryan | wfpl.org

Rose Mudd Perkins walks through the lobby of the Marriott East in Jeffersontown.

Perkins has spent most of her life in Kentucky.

When she was 22-years-old, she got laid off about the same time her husband did. So, she went to “the rich end of town” to clean houses for cash.

“We needed money,” Perkins said.

Within a few years, she was managing a full scale cleaning business with more than 20 employees — they did houses, businesses and she even claims to have rappelled down the Mercer Tower (back when it was called Capitol Holding Tower) to clean windows.

“That was back in the ’80s,” she said.

But the entrepreneurial lifestyle was taxing and she wanted more time for her young sons. She moved to Georgetown, got a job at Toyota and stayed for 12 years.

Now, she’s unemployed and rents out rooms of her four bedroom brick house about 30 minutes north of Lexington.

And to top it off, she’s not happy with Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator.

“I’m outraged,” she said.

‘I’m so surprised’

Perkins pulled into the hotel parking lot hours before McConnell and well before the some 300 other people who came to protest the town hall-style event.

In the lobby, she inquired about getting a ticket to the event, but to no avail. The chamber of commerce representative said they were all sold out.

“I wonder how hard it is to get a press pass,” she said.

As photographers and reporters gathered near the entrance to the conference room, Perkins paced nearby.

Police began filtering in and before long, she’d been snuffed out by organizers looking to keep protesters, like Perkins, out.

A Jeffersontown Police officer approached Perkins and asked her to leave the hotel, telling her she was trespassing.

She complied, but not without one last call for democracy.

“I thought this was for voters and constituents and for the American people and for the people of Kentucky,” she said. “I’m so surprised.”

‘We want to be heard’

Outside, Perkins disappeared into the crowd of the few hundred others who gathered to protest McConnell and his support of President Trump.

They held signs and chanted along the sidewalk.

As they carried on outside, the crowd inside the luncheon readied for McConnell to arrive. Some declined to discuss their thoughts about the senator.

Others, however, were ready to push McConnell for answers.

Stuart Goldberg wore a t-shirt that read “We’re Your Constituents, Too,” and sat quietly at a table near the back of the room. He said it’s time for McConnell to listen to the voters.

“He’s avoided us.” he said. “And we want to be heard.”

Hundreds Of Protesters Hound McConnell In Anderson County Tuesday, Feb 21 2017 

With hundreds of protesters assembled outside, Sen. Mitch McConnell held a contentious town hall-type event in Lawrenceburg on Tuesday.

The Senate Majority Leader refused to answer two questions from opponents in the audience, asking instead for inquiries from those “who maybe actually were interested in what I had to say.”

During a speech, McConnell said that opponents needed to get over the results of the election.

“They had their shot in the election, they certainly had their shot in Kentucky,” McConnell said. “I always remind people winners make policy and losers go home, that’s the way it works.

The event was the first of three town hall events McConnell is holding in Kentucky this week during Congress’ February recess.

Protesters amassed outside of the gates of the American Legion in Lawrenceburg, booing and chanting as his car entered the event.

During his speech, McConnell criticized Senate Democrats for slowing down the appointment process of President Trump’s cabinet nominees.

“I hope the fever’s going to break here at some point,” McConnell said at the event, sponsored by the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce. “There’s a lot of resistance, not just outside but in the country, largely based on an unprecedented decision to literally not accept the outcome of the election.”

McConnell said “it never occurred” to him to block or slow-down presidential cabinet appointments when he served as minority leader at the beginning of President Obama’s administration.

He defended his decision to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to be a Supreme Court justice, about 10 months before the end of his term.

“I made the call, myself, that we would not fill that vacancy in the middle of the presidential election year, in the 11th hour of the outgoing president,” McConnell said.

After the meeting, McConnell talked to reporters about the hundreds of protesters who showed up outside of the American Legion in Lawrenceburg.

“I can only speak for myself,” he said. “Protests in America are not unusual. We’ve had them for 240 years. I don’t think anybody should be alarmed about citizens expressing their point of view, it doesn’t bother me one bit.”

But during the event, McConnell passed on answering a question about coal jobs and another about whether a botched raid in Yemen constitutes grounds for impeaching President Trump.

“Thank you for your speech,” McConnell said in his answer to the Yemen question. “Is there anybody else with a question? Anybody up front who may be actually interested in what I had to say?”

McConnell’s response to the second question was shorter.

“Anybody interested in anything I had to say up here in front,” he asked.

Katricia Rogers drove from Whitesburg to attend the event. She said she wasn’t able to ask a question about education and the economy in Eastern Kentucky.

“I want to know what does he plan to do to bring education and other jobs into our area,” Rogers said. “Because that’s what we really need is more education for our public schools and more jobs that’s not coal related. We are educated enough to know that the coal jobs are not going to come back for other reasons rather than what he’s stating.”

In a press huddle after the meeting, McConnell said he likes “what the president’s doing,” but criticized his ongoing use of Twitter.

“I think the president would serve himself better by not having as many controversies surrounding his statements because it tends to take us off message,” McConnell said. “I would not be tweeting so often or I would be tweeting different things.”

McConnell also differed from the president’s characterization of journalists as “enemies of the state.”

“I think the press services an important function in our country,” McConnell said. “We need to have people looking at us and raising tough questions, that’s what all of you do and that’s what you do and I have no problem with it.”

Commentary: Don’t Put Louisville Under Frankfort’s Thumb Again Sunday, Feb 19 2017 

For most of the 20th century, bipartisan, civic-minded Louisvillians sought with little success to increase local control for the citizens of the state’s largest city. And to find out why, you have to study the history of a railroad.

That’s right.

In the last half of the 19th century, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, based in Louisville, had so much power that it called the shots not only for the state but for the city, then one of the 15 largest in America, and second only to New Orleans in the South.

Corruption was so embedded that the state Constitutional Convention of 1891 decided to wrest power from the railroad. But at the same time, it also placed too much responsibility for Louisville’s government in the hands of Frankfort.

Finally, in the late 20th century, after decades of effort by local leaders — with the local economy booming and the L&N’s influence greatly diminished — forward-thinking voices began to prevail.

With the voters’ support, the balance of power began to shift. Mayors were allowed to serve more than one term. The local courts were reformed and judgeships were made nonpartisan, creating a better and more independent justice system.

All sorts of powers were granted to the growing suburban county government — a change that Sen. Mitch McConnell, then Jefferson County Judge/Executive, strongly approved. Indeed, through much of that time Republicans were progressive leaders, and the questions of home rule transcended partisanship.

And, finally, in 2000, again with strong bipartisan support including leadership from former Louisville mayors Jerry Abramson and Dave Armstrong (Democrats), McConnell and Jefferson County Judge/Executive Rebecca Jackson (Republicans), voters approved a city-county merger initiative that drew national acclaim. By virtually all accounts, it has been a great success.

Now, after so many decades of support by both parties, a group of House Republicans in Frankfort — and who represent Louisville — are pushing a bill to turn back the clock on home rule. Their efforts include, among other things, limiting the mayor of Louisville to two successive terms instead of the current three and stripping the council of its power to fill vacancies that occur on the council or in the mayor’s office. Instead, the governor would be handed the power to make those appointments.

In my years at The Courier-Journal, I always counted the days until the General Assembly adjourned. Every session seemed to be the worst one yet. Part of the reason for that is the diversity of Kentucky and its people. There is no reason that lawmakers from Mousie, Fulton, Nicholasville and Rabbit Hatch should be making decisions that apply to the needs of Louisville, Lexington and a few other major cities in the state.

They don’t understand us well enough, and goodness knows we don’t understand them. This goes beyond partisanship. Metro Council President David Yates told WFPL’s Jake Ryan, “It’s dangerous for Frankfort to play politics with our local government.”

He’s right.

Louisville sends to Frankfort $1 for every 50 cents it gets back. Our town may not be able to decide how to spend that revenue, but we should at least be able to elect our own leaders. This is an American principle, going back to the New England town meetings and the stump where Lincoln campaigned in Illinois.

I’ve heard that some Republicans think this is a dandy way to turn Louisville from blue to red. But remember this: Democrats held the mayor’s office for all but eight of the years from 1933 to 2000. After 1970, the old City Board of Aldermen was solidly Democratic. Not one Republican sat in that chamber.

Today there is a strong bipartisan mix, and the second Metro Council president, Kelly Downard, was a Republican elected with bipartisan support. Subsequent council presidents have included an African-American woman and the current president, who comes from southwest Louisville.

No longer is the East End running the show, as it long did. The fact is that Louisville, like many big cities, tends to vote Democratic. But as recently as 2010, Republican Hal Heiner came within 2 percentage points of defeating Greg Fischer.

McConnell has recently said: “I would say we have term limits now. They’re called elections.”

I agree with him.

Nearly two decades have passed since the effort to bring local control back to Louisville succeeded. Most of those who pushed for it are either dead or have grown old, as in my own case.

At The Courier-Journal, where I was an opinion editor, we gave the merger effort our strongest push in the newspaper’s history. Former publisher Ed Manassah saw nothing more important for the city’s economic and governmental future, and he was right. The business community was united. The parties were united. It was a great time.

Let’s not squander that success in a misguided effort to strip local control from Kentucky’s economic engine.

Keith Runyon retired in 2012 as editorial page editor of The Courier-Journal, where he worked for 43 years.

Voting Fraud vs. Election Fraud And Claims Of Chicanery In Kentucky Thursday, Feb 16 2017 

In a national television appearance on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell knocked down claims of wide-scale voting fraud in the presidential election.

While tossing cold water on President Trump’s repeated (and unsubstantiated) claims of fraud impacting the election, McConnell did say that vote fraud is real, it happens, and Kentucky has a history of it.

“… the Democratic myth that voter fraud is a fiction, is not true,” McConnell said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We’ve had a series of significant cases in Kentucky over the years. There is voter fraud in the country.”

Our reporting pals at WAVE-3 in Louisville asked McConnell’s office for details. His office responded with a link to our newsroom’s August 2016 article on Kentucky’s history of vote buying.

So, is McConnell right? Is fraud rampant in Kentucky?

No, not really. The answer is complicated, though, and it boils down to semantics.

Some Republicans, most notably Trump, have pushed the notion of massive voter impersonation, including fake ballots, fake identities, buses of voters crossing state lines and more.

Those actions most definitely fit the definition of voter fraud.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reported zero complaints of voter fraud in the most recent election. In a letter sent last week to Congress, Grimes, who oversees elections in the state, said there is no information that anyone prohibited from casting a vote did so.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said via Twitter that his office “has no evidence of voter fraud” related to the presidential election. He noted that vote buying convictions in recent years did not involve a federal election.

Nonetheless, Kentucky does have a history of vote buying, selling and coercion. Those actions are illegal. Last fall, three people were convicted in federal court of conspiring to buy votes on behalf of candidates running for local office in Magoffin County.

And we’ve documented several of these cases over the years. But that doesn’t mean fictitious people are casting fake ballots.

Thus, election fraud isn’t the same as voter fraud.

“In the commonwealth, conflating the concept of vote buying with voter impersonation or illegal individuals voting is inaccurate, inconsistent, and the facts simply do not back it up,“ Grimes said in a statement released Wednesday to KyCIR. She called McConnell’s comments disingenuous.

Donald Trump

Another aspect of the fraud debate centers on voters registered in several states. Some Republicans have cited this as an avenue for fraud, calling it a major problem.

Several of Trump’s top deputies and his spokesman were found to be registered in multiple states. So too was our own Kate Howard, who chronicled her voting registration story last fall. She did not commit fraud. (Read “How I Became An Election Scofflaw”)

The unsubstantiated claims of vote fraud aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. Last week, Trump reignited his allegation, saying, without any evidence, that fraud cost him the popular vote in New Hampshire. He has promised a “major investigation.”

Here is McConnell’s full MSNBC commentary on vote fraud:

There’s no evidence that enough votes were stolen to change the outcome of the election. I do want to point out Joe, though, the Democratic myth that voter fraud is a fiction, is not true. We’ve had a series of significant cases in Kentucky over the years. There is voter fraud in the country.

So the notion that something – for example, like photo ID at the polls is an effort to suppress the vote – is patently absurd. But there is no evidence that there was significant enough voter fraud to affect the outcome of the presidential election.

Here is Grimes’ full statement:

Sen. McConnell’s comments with regard to voter fraud are disingenuous. They are an attempt to lay the groundwork for massive voter suppression efforts, not only in the commonwealth but across the nation.

As he rightly admitted, there was no massive voter fraud sufficient to impact the 2016 presidential election, as the president has repeatedly claimed. In the commonwealth, conflating the concept of vote buying with voter impersonation or illegal individuals voting is inaccurate, inconsistent, and the facts simply do not back it up.

KyCIR Managing Editor Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy@kycir.org or (502) 814.6541.

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