- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Democrats embrace Beshear ahead of November elections

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Five Democratic candidates for statewide office with little or no primary opposition held a campaign-style rally on Monday designed to promote unity in a party clinging to state politics as it fights to stay relevant in an increasingly Republican state.

Standing center stage was Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, the two-term incumbent who cannot seek re-election because of term limits. While most Kentucky Democrats spent the last election cycle fleeing the shadow of an unpopular president, they have no such qualms about Beshear, whose approval rating remains north of 50 percent despite seven years in office marred by a devastating economic recession and Beshear’s unapologetic embrace of the federal Affordable Care Act, despised by many here for its association with Barack Obama.

“In a state that overwhelmingly votes for Republicans, his numbers are fantastic,” University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss said. “Approval ratings tend to decline over time. … For him to have served as long as he has, and still have it be that high, it’s pretty impressive.”

Monday’s rally at the state Democratic Party Headquarters marked Beshear’s first campaign appearance for the 2015 elections, where all six of the state’s constitutional officers are on the ballot. Five of the six seats are currently held by Democrats, in contrast to the five of the state’s six congressional seats being held by Republicans. Both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats are Republican.

“If there is a disconnect in Kentucky, it’s between federal level politics and state politics,” Beshear said. “This race is pivotal for not only the Democratic Party of Kentucky, it’s pivotal for the future of Kentucky itself.”

Topping the ticket for Democrats is Jack Conway, the attorney general and failed U.S. Senate candidate who said he plans to campaign frequently with Beshear in the coming months.


House, Senate bills differ on how to fight heroin problem

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - House and Senate leaders have both promised to pass a bill this year fighting the state’s growing Heroin problem.

But will they pass the same one?

Senate Republicans last month passed their bill, which featured more money for treatment and a provision not to prosecute some overdose victims for possession charges. Similar ideas are in a bill House Democrats unveiled on Monday. But there are some key differences.

The House bill would let local governments create an exchange where heroin users could swap out dirty needles for clean ones. And it would increase penalties for people convicted of trafficking in more than 1,000 grams of heroin. The Senate bill would treat all heroin dealers the same, regardless of how much heroin they were selling.

Similar efforts failed last year after House and Senate leaders could not agree on the needle exchange provision, which some Republicans view as promoting drug use. But House Democratic leaders said they included the needle exchange program because clean needles prevent diseases like Hepatitis C and help save lives.

“We are at wits end in this state and the country for that matter to find things that actually work,” House Judiciary chairman John Tilley said. “It’s time to put policy over politics. If it works and people are dying and this can save lives, then there is no excuse for not including it.”


Judge dismisses suit over Paradise plant’s switch to gas

DRAKESBORO, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge says the Tennessee Valley Authority conducted a proper environmental impact study when it decided to install natural gas burning units at a western Kentucky coal-fired power plant.

The Kentucky Coal Association and a group of landowners near the Paradise Fossil Plant sued TVA in July. They argued that TVA did not follow proper procedures in making the decision to add the new gas-burning units as part of a $1 billion project.

U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley dismissed the suit in a ruling from Owensboro last week.

Coal association President Bill Bissett said Monday the group is meeting with attorneys to decide the next step.

TVA made the decision in 2013 to switch to a natural gas facility at Paradise to meet stricter federal air emission guidelines.


Kentucky Supreme Court to hear teen sex case

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over whether juveniles who are both under the age of consent can be criminally charged when they voluntarily have sex.

The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1xY7rFs) reports attorneys will appear before justices on Thursday to argue the case.

It originated in Woodford County after the parents of a 13-year-old girl found nude photos of their daughter’s 15-year-old boyfriend on her phone.

They took out a warrant on the boy, who was charged with sexual misconduct and possessing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.

The age of consent in Kentucky is 16, and although the boy’s parents could have taken out charges against the girl, they didn’t.

The question before the justices is whether criminal charges against the boy should stand.

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