- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014
Gay hiring fears hurt Baptist agency fundraising

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Uncertainty over a short-lived proposal to open employment to gays at Kentucky’s largest private child care agency prompted many of its supportive churches to withhold giving last year, causing a multi-million dollar shortfall.

Sunrise Children’s Services depends on giving from Baptist congregations in Kentucky, along with government funding. But Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director Paul Chitwood said those offerings dried up last year because donors were concerned that the proposal to allow gay workers might succeed.

The Sunrise board ultimately rejected the proposal introduced by Bill Smithwick, then CEO of Sunrise. But the flap left the agency that cares daily for about 600 children with a funding shortfall of about $7.5 million.

“Most of our churches decided not to take the annual offering for Sunrise because they feared that Smithwick was going to lead Sunrise away from” the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Chitwood said. The state convention, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and has about 2,400 member churches in Kentucky, is conservative on social issues and opposes gay marriage.

Chitwood and church leaders are hoping congregations statewide will be able to raise about $5 million during a drive in May to make up for the funding gap.

“Now we’re going back and asking them to make that up,” he said.


Bill would let Paul run for 2 offices at same time

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Rand Paul faces a potential quandary as he weighs whether to run for president in 2016 or focus solely on re-election to his Senate seat. Legislation introduced Thursday in his home state would allow him to run for both.

The measure would clarify that current Kentucky law, which prevents someone from running for multiple offices, does not apply to federal elections, said state Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer.

His bill would allow Kentucky candidates’ names to appear twice on the same ballot if one or both offices sought are federal offices.

“He (Paul) is the impetus for it, but it could affect anyone in the federal delegation,” said Thayer, R-Georgetown, who introduced the bill in the GOP-led Kentucky Senate.

Thayer said he was approached by Paul’s staff about the legislation and later spoke several times with Kentucky’s freshman senator about it. He waited until the last day bills could be introduced in the Senate in the current session to bring it forward. The 60-day session is two-thirds complete.

Paul, a Republican who rose to national prominence as a tea party favorite, is seriously considering a run for the White House in 2016. The son of ex-U.S. Rep. and former presidential candidate Ron Paul has visited early primary and caucus states to gauge support for his own possible presidential run.


Kentucky smoking ban bill is dead, sponsor says

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky House bill that would enact a statewide ban on smoking in shared public spaces and places of employment is dead for the year after meeting strong opposition, the sponsor says.

Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington said Thursday that despite high public approval and Democratic leadership urging progress on the bill, it is unlikely to be taken up for a vote on the House floor this session. Westrom says it’s due to pressure from lobbying organizations and some lawmakers.

“It appears that the bill has been pronounced dead for the 2014 session,” said Westrom.

She said Gov. Steve Beshear and the House leadership were not convinced there were enough votes for the measure.

“Quite frankly, I just don’t think they wanted to risk it in case it was an uncomfortable vote for somebody,” she said. “I think Farm Bureau probably scared some people.”

However, Westrom says she remains hopeful that companion legislation in the Senate will pass both chambers.


Senate OKs keeping e-cigarettes away from minors

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

Republican Sen. Paul Hornback says his bill is aimed at protecting youngsters from gaining access to the adult products.

Hornback, a Shelby County tobacco farmer, says the measure carries the same rules that apply in banning youth access to tobacco products.

The bill cleared the Senate on a 36-2 vote Thursday and now goes to the House.

A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes. They heat a liquid solution, creating vapor that users inhale to get nicotine without the smoke of regular cigarettes.

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