Kenny Colston, KPR-Frankfort

KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief

Governor Steve Beshear has named a longtime tourism veteran to oversee the part of his cabinet dealing with travel and the arts.Bob Stewart is a familiar face in state government, having worked for 11 years as commissioner of travel from 1992 to 2003.  And now, he'll be the new Tourism Secretary, having been appointed by Beshear to fill the post vacated by Marcheta  Sparrow, who’s retiring.

A new poll shows 78 percent of Kentuckians support the legalization of medical marijuana, while others would be fine with widespread legalization. The Kentucky Health Issues Poll has conducted polling on a wide array of issues for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky over the past few months, from a statewide smoking ban to health insurance coverage. 

Kentucky Courts

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The newest justice on Kentucky's Supreme Court will formally be sworn in this week, giving the court a record three women on the bench at one time. Justice Michelle Keller will take the oath tomorrow in the Capitol. The swearing in will take place at 11 a.m. and is open to the public. Keller previously served on the state Court of Appeals, and Beshear appointed her to the 6th Supreme Court District in April. There are seven justices on the Supreme Court. Never in state history have three of them been women. 

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A trio of Kentuckians who favor the legalization of hemp says a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and executive branch officials was beneficial. Former state treasurer Jonathan Miller, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and State Senator Paul Hornback spent three days in D.C. pushing for either the national legalization of industrial hemp, or a waiver to grow it in the Commonwealth.

The Kentucky Humanities Council has named former Congressman Ben Chandler as its new executive director. The non-profit group is not affiliated with the state, but works closely with state tourism and arts organizations. It is affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

After months of deliberations, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has decided to expand Medicaid in Kentucky under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—a move that's won praise from Democrats and health advocacy groups.  Beshear said Thursday that expansion benefits Kentucky in many ways.  "This move makes sense not only for our health but also for our pocketbook. More important it makes sense for our future," he says.  The expansion will insure more than 308,000 Kentuckians. And according to studies done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville, Medicaid expansion would bring about $800 million to Kentucky between next year and 2021.

Two Kentucky elected leaders are joining their peers in asking a national clothing retailer to stop selling questionable pint and shot glasses. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers are asking retailer Urban Outfitters to stop selling an array of pint glasses, shot glasses and flasks that are made to look like prescription pill bottles.

U.S. Senate

Senator Mitch McConnell's next election is a year and a half away, yet he doesn't have a serious opponent. But this hasn't stopped him from amassing significant money and personnel for his re-election.  Each week, the effort to re-elect McConnell adds new field directors, political staff and fundraisers.

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The special election for the 56th House District—covering Woodford County and portions of Fayette and Franklin county—will likely be the only election this year. This puts added pressure on both parties to come through with a victory, as Democrats try to maintain their majority and Republicans attempt to make in-roads in taking the House. Republican nominee Lyen Crews faces defeat Democrat James Kay on June 25

Legislative Research Commission

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is encouraging Gov. Steve Beshear to soon call a General Assembly special session so that lawmakers can pass new state legislative redistricting maps and end a federal lawsuit. Last week,  several county clerks in Northern Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit claiming the state's inability to finish redistricting violated federal law. In response, Stumbo  sent a letter to the governor encouraging him to call a special session.

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The Democratic candidate is in place for a key special election in Central Kentucky. Attorney James Kay of Versailles will run for the Kentucky state House seat being left vacant by Carl Rollins. Rollins is leaving office to work with two state education groups.

Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

A leading health organization in Kentucky is putting the pressure on Gov. Steve Beshear to expand Medicaid services under the Affordable Care Act.  Kentucky Voices for Health Executive Director Regan Hunt says her group is launching a two-week radio ad campaign pressure Beshear to expand Medicaid. The radio ad campaign will be partnered with a month long online ad campaign.

Legislative Research Commission Carl Rollins

Kentucky state Rep. Carl Rollins is resigning his House seat effective at the end of today, becoming the state first lawmaker to announce his retirement this cycle. Rollins is resigning to become the executive director and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and the CEO of the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation.

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Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is finalizing details for an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., to try and get a federal waiver for industrial hemp.  Earlier this year, Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill setting up a regulatory framework for hemp growing in Kentucky. Comer promises to work at the federal level for legalization or a waiver.

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The federal indictment of former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer won't become a problem for the Department of Agriculture, Farmer's successor said on Monday. James Comer, who took over the office in 2011, and his office say they have helped with the multiple investigations of Farmer's tenure as agriculture commissioner—including those conducted by the state auditor, attorney general or others.

Erica Peterson/WFPL

A partnership between LG&E and KU and a Kentucky company could help both the energy and agriculture sectors, Kentucky leaders announced Monday. Kentucky company Charah  is opening up a facility in Louisville that will take leftover gypsum from the Mill Creek Power Station and turn it into a sulfur product—such as fertilizers—for Kentucky farmers.

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Governor Steve Beshear says he's still considering whether to call a special legislative session for later this year.  A few issues remain unresolved from the last regular session, mainly redistricting and further tax reform. And Governor Beshear has been pushing for tax reform to pay for the state's education system.

Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

Governor Steve Beshear is criticizing the secret recording of a campaign meeting of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell  that was leaked.   Two members of Progress Kentucky, Shawn Reilly and Curt Morrison, have been implicated by a Jefferson County Democratic official as being behind who secretly recorded the McConnell meeting.  Kentucky Democratic leaders have been largely silent on the situation since the news broke last week. But after being asked Wednesday about the recording, Beshear said he found the whole situation—both the secret taping and McConnell's remarks — to be awful.

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Kentuckians concerned with agriculture, business and education spoke out in favor of the latest federal immigration proposal during a phone conference organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy. The immigration proposal is being considered in the U.S. Senate, thanks to a compromise by a group of eight senators from both political parties.  The plan would create a 13-year path to citizens, expand work visas and attempts to tighten border security.

Rae Hodge / WFPL News

Curtis Morrison, one of two Democratic activists implicated in recording a campaign strategy session of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, is starting a legal defense fund.  Morrison tweeted out a link to the page Monday afternoon. The website lists a $10,000 goal.

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Kentucky business leaders and education advocates are teaming up to start a new funding source for innovation in education. The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky—also known as the The Fund—is being launched to help with grants and extra fundraising for the Kentucky Department of Education.

Democrats, Progress Kentucky PAC at Odds

Apr 12, 2013

There’s additional confirmation today the liberal Super Pac called Progress Kentucky was behind a secret recording of a meeting between Senator Mitch McConnell and his re-election team.  It’s the second time Progress Kentucky has drawn national attention. As Kentucky Public Radio's Gabe Bullard reports, neither incident has enhanced the group’s reputation.

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A bill has already been pre-filed for the Kentucky General Assembly's 2014 session—and it deals with the use of drones in the state. Republican state Rep. Diane St. Onge bill limits how unmanned aircraft can be used. It allows U.S. military personnel to use drones in Kentucky for practice purposes. And it also allows drones to be used by law enforcement agencies if they have a specific warrant to do so.

U.S. Senate

Democratic groups are increasing the pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell as he gears up for next year's re-election campaign, launching attacks that focus on McConnell's recent actions in the U.S. Senate. The Senate Majority PAC, run by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has created a website called “Beltway Mitch,” targeting McConnell for his refusal to compromise on sequestration, and the effects of sequestration on school districts in Kentucky.

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A new poll shows Sen. Mitch McConnell with a precarious lead over potential Democratic challengers. The survey from Public Policy Polling shows McConnell with a four point lead over Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes—45 to 41—and a five point lead over former Congressman Ben Chandler.

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With action by the governor on every bill passed in the 2013 session, some of the more interesting new laws are starting to stick out. There are always a few bills that get lobbyists and lawmakers rolling their eyes, and this year is no different.

Kentucky Legislative Commission

Gov. Steve Beshear has vetoed a bill sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo that would require prompt payment in the Medicaid managed care system.  The governor was expected to veto the bill, claiming it would cost the state too much money.