Kentucky congressman says ‘Hell No’ to Obamacare replacement bill

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., listened during a committee session in 2013.

By Fernando Alfonso III

falfonso@herald-leader.com

A tweet from a Northern Kentucky congressman went viral Wednesday afternoon after he used his voting card to double down on his disdain for the American Health Care Act, the Republicans’ attempt to replace Obamacare.

Rep. Thomas Massie’s tweet features a photo of his “new” voting card and the words “HELL NO” on it. Within two hours after sending the message, Massie, who manages his own Twitter account, could not believe it had collected more than 8,200 likes and 3,000 retweets.

“I didn’t expect it to go viral. I thought maybe we’d get 5 percent of that,” Massie said over the phone in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s another version of Obamacare, in my opinion, and it’s not as well thought out. We need to leave the socialism to the socialists. If I thought the bill were a glass half full proposition, better than the status quo, I’d vote for it. But I think it will make insurance premiums go up.”


Sen. Rand Paul predicts House will vote down GOP health plan

“It’s important for Republicans to understand that once we pass something, we will own it,” Sen. Rand Paul said of the GOP health care plan. “If what we pass is not going to work, it’s a bad thing to own.”

jbrammer@herald-leader.com


The AHCA would replace the subsidies in Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, with a flat tax credit that would not account for income or local insurance prices. The new law would also allow insurers to charge older people five times what they charge younger customers, compared to three times under Obama’s health care law, according to the Associated Press.

Massie, a Republican, has made his displeasure over AHCA clear on Twitter over the past week through hashtags like #sassywithmassie.

“(The proposal) just won’t work and Republicans will get blamed for escalating health insurance costs,” Massie said. “The bill doesn’t do enough to reduce the cost of health care. I feel the momentum is against the bill. I don’t see any of my colleagues changing their votes and they’ve had 24 hours to switch people from a no to a yes to no avail.”

Angry constituents confront U.S. Rep. Andy Barr about GOP health care bill

U.S. Rep Andy Barr faced angry constituents in Richmond, Ky., during a town hall on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Barr was defending the Republican proposal to replace the federal Affordable Care Act.

Daniel Desrochers ddesrochers@herald-leader.com

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso

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5 things to know about the CBO’s report on Paul Ryan’s ACA replacement

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Son of state senator banned from 3rd floor of Capitol Annex says he will hire an attorney to clear his name

Image result for Dan Seum Jr., a medical marijuana advocate

03/16/2017 02:54 PM

Dan Seum Jr., a medical marijuana advocate and the son of Sen. Dan Seum, R-Fairdale, has been banned from the third floor of the Capitol Annex after racially charged comments, according to a letter detailing the ban.

But the younger Seum says the whole incident is a misunderstanding and that he plans on hiring an attorney to help clear his name.

News of the incident first broke on Wednesday in an article written by Tom Loftus for the Louisville Courier-Journal which details the ban enacted by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown.

A Feb. 29 letter informing Seum of his ban from the third floor of the Capitol Annex by Hoover states that after checking into the lobby 12 days prior, Seum engaged in a “racially-charged monologue.” The letter says an African-American Legislative Research Commission employee was seated a few feet from Seum and was distressed by the comments.

“You attempted to justify your comments by claiming the described common sentiments during the 1930’s,” the letter states.

Seum, who is the veterans and legislative affairs director for Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana, a 501(c )4 that actively lobbies for patients to safely access cannabis in Kentucky, said he was directly quoting the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a predecessor to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Harry Anslinger.

In 2014 articles for The Fix, and Huffington Post reporters quote Anslinger as telling Congress in 1937 “(t)here are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Seum says he often uses the quote to explain that marijuana was first placed under prohibition under racially charged propaganda. That’s the conversation he found himself in on the third floor of the annex on Feb.17 as he waited for a meeting with Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, he said.

When Seum, Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana Director Jaime Montalvo, Eric and Michelle Crawford checked in on the third floor for their meeting, Seum says they engaged in discussion with several individuals from Sawyersville, he said.

“I got my phone out, and I quoted (Anslinger’s) argument that he used in Congress,” he said. “It is a despicable quote. It is a bigoted quote. And I was telling them how appalling it is, and they agreed.”

In a March 4 letter from Seum to the Legislative Research Commission, Seum says he is “sincerely sorry for this terrible misunderstanding.” Seum says he advocates for African-Americans unfairly imprisoned for marijuana usage.

Download Seum’s full letter to the LRC here: lrc ban Seum letter.pdf

Seum said neither he nor the others he was with were interviewed during the investigation which banned him from the third floor of the annex, something he considers to be a violation of his due process. Now that several news organizations have run stories, Seum is seeking to find injunctive relief from what he considers to be slander against him.

“I’ve got an attorney on this. I’ve got the national organizations. I’ve contacted Marijuana Policy Project. I’m in talks with National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. Drug Policy Alliance are talking about this, so I’m doing what I can. I’ve reached out to the ACLU,” he said. “It looks like I’m going to have to hire an attorney. I have to — I have no other choice.”

Since the stories have come out detailing the ban from the third floor, Seum says he is getting people calling him a racist, which he says couldn’t be further from the truth.

When contacted by Spectrum News on Thursday, the Legislative Research Commission had no comment on what they consider to be a personnel matter.

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News or anytime with Spectrum On Demand.Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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(KY) Senate approves bill to tighten reporting of toxicology screenings

For Immediate Release

March 14, 2017 

Senate approves bill to tighten reporting of toxicology screenings

FRANKFORT — A bill to tighten the reporting of toxicology screenings by Kentucky hospitals passed the state Senate today, clearing its way to become law pending the signature of Gov. Matt Bevin. 

House Bill 314, which was approved by the House of Representatives late last month, requires certain hospitals to report positive drug screenings to the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, including results from newborn babies who might have been exposed to controlled substances by their mothers prior to birth.  The measure is part of an ongoing effort to fight prescription drug abuse in Kentucky. 

The bill also permits federal prosecutors and medical professionals, including pharmacists, to use the state’s KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) database containing reports of misuse of controlled substances. 

“For the KASPER system to be effective,  we need to stay on top of it,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah. “We need every tool available to us.”

The bill passed the Senate 33-3 and now goes to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

–END–

HB 314 :

AN ACT relating to controlled substance monitoring.
     Amend KRS 218A.202 to require certain hospitals to report positive toxicology screens to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services; permit federal prosecutors and agents to use KASPER; permit practitioners or pharmacists to review KASPER reports of birth mothers of potentially drug-exposed infants; remove a pilot program relating to real-time electronic monitoring; make other technical corrections; amend KRS 218A.240 to conform.

Charter school bill passes, goes to governor

For Immediate Release

March 15, 2017


Charter school bill passes, goes to governor

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky Senate and House each voted today in favor of legislation to allow publicly funded charter schools to operate in Kentucky. The bill now goes to Gov. Matt Bevin, a supporter of charter schools, to be signed into law.

House Bill 520, sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman and public school teacher John Carney, R-Campbellsville, HB 520 would allow local school boards to authorize public charter schools in their school districts beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. The schools would established by contract and governed by independent boards to provide Kentucky residents with nonsectarian educational programs that “meet or exceed student performance standards adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education,” according to the bill.

The Senate voted 23-15 this afternoon in favor of the bill. The House, which already approved a version of the legislation earlier this month, cast a 53-43 vote this evening officially accepting changes made to the bill by the Senate.

Changes to the bill approved by the Senate and the House would allow the state school board to override a local school board’s decision regarding authorization of charter schools and allow for judicial review of the state board’s decision. It would also allow mayors of the state’s two largest cities (Louisville and Lexington) to be authorizers of charter schools upon their request, and emphasize that only certified teachers and administrators approved by the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board could be hired to teach at the schools.

Other approved changes would allow, not require, charter schools to give enrollment preference to lower-income students, and would allow charter school students who cannot participate in state-sanctioned school athletics at their school to participate in sports at the traditional public school in their district, along with a few other changes.

Kentucky is one of seven states that do not already allow public charter schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Latonia, read from a Presidential Proclamation issued by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to make the case in support of charter schools in the Senate this afternoon. McDaniel quoted Obama’s proclamation as saying: “Whether created by parents and teachers or community and civic leaders, charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country.  These institutions give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models and develop creative methods to meet students’ needs.”

In a House debate this evening, Carney said that that public charter schools will give Kentuckians a choice in public education.

“The reality is we have a system that does not work for every child in Kentucky. We teach to the middle,” he said. “Too many folks are being left behind.”

Among those voting against HB 520 was former House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green. Richards said that charter schools would be money-making ventures governed by what he described as “for-profit” companies. 

“If you believe it’s unfair for a for-profit management company to take money away from your school system, you can’t vote for this bill. And it will. These management companies have to make money, folks,” said Richards.

Following passage of HB 520, the House voted 61-34 for final passage of House Bill 471, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah. That bill would amend the 2016-2018 executive branch budget to create a funding mechanism for charter schools created under HB 520.

Bills to allow charter schools in Kentucky have been filed for consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly since 2008. No charter school bills have passed the House until this year.

–END–

(KY) Who is this legislature working for?

March 14, 2017

As this session of the General Assembly winds down, its recurring theme has been the transfer of power to those who already have it.

The dramatic rush of legislation in early January produced the new Republican majority’s crown jewel, a right-to-work law weakening the labor unions that represent Kentucky workers.

Since then, there’s been a steady redistribution of power and influence to those who already enjoy power and influence, from those who have much less of both.

Victims of nursing-home negligence and medical malpractice lost power to the nursing home and medical industries and will now have to go through “medical review panels” before taking their complaints to court.

Neighborhoods lost power to developers who were given a weapon in the form of a costly bond requirement to take disputes over zoning decisions to the Court of Appeals.

Coal miners are losing to the operators of unsafe mines as a bill progresses that would result in fewer state mine-safety inspections.

Workers in chain restaurants lost to corporations that are being relieved of responsibility for wage, hour, health, safety and other violations affecting their franchises’ employees.

Kentuckians will lose part of the public highways to longer, heavier trucks as a favor to the poultry, aluminum and trucking industries (though Kentucky’s short-line railroad industry is also losing).

School districts will be allowed to employ certain relatives of school-board members as lawmakers dismantle historic anti-nepotism rules piecemeal.

And women — especially low-income and rural women — will have less access to safe, legal abortions as a male-dominated legislature imposes even more constitutionally questionable barriers. At the same time, bipartisan legislation that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations, such as breaks or unpaid time off, to pregnant or breastfeeding workers got nowhere.

The legislature’s new Republican majority is making Kentucky a guinea pig to test the theory that lowering wages and taking away Kentuckians’ rights will produce a better, more prosperous state.

In doing so, the new Republican majority is also carrying out the agenda of an organization founded and funded by the Koch brothers (who have plenty of power, influence and money) that opened shop in Kentucky in 2014. Americans for Prosperity does not report how it spends its money or where its money comes from. It does not give directly to candidates, but there’s no doubt its independent spending was a factor in last fall’s elections when Republicans won the House for the first time in almost a century and also in Gov. Matt Bevin’s victory in 2015.

Kentucky’s legislature and governors have long been captive to monied interests, most notably road builders and other state contractors.

This session is the first in which lawmakers have owed so much to out-of-state interests.

This session’s redistribution of power eventually will manifest itself in lawmakers’ hometowns and across their districts. They can pat themselves on the backs if, indeed, their constituents become more prosperous, healthy and safe as a result of their actions. If that’s not how it works out, however, voters will have to make a strong statement to be heard above the siren song of dark money.

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Dear Governor Bevin,

bird on hemp

Dear Governor Bevin,

I’m Audra Baker. My question is when are you plan on legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal reasons?

I am the mother of 6 year old twins both with special needs. One with severe ADHD and the other non verbal autism.

I have done extensive research and have seen that cannabis oil has been proven to improve the symptoms of both these disorders. My family is considering moving to Colorado to be able to give my kids a better quality of life.

In addition to the health aspect of the legalization it will be an extreme boost to the economy.

My husband and I are both from KY and don’t want to leave but as a parent knowing there is an all natural medical alternative to the harsh drugs given to children I am doing my kids an injustice by staying.

I know we are not alone in the fight for legalization of medical marijuana. There are hundreds of ailments that can be drastically helped by its benefits. Millions of Kentuckians are suffering.
It seems the general assembly has come to an end again without any advancing of any marijuana bill at all to arrive on your desk. We as Kentuckians can’t wait indefinitely on the legislative branch to help our quality of life. Merely discussing this in Frankfort is just not enough. We need action. You have an incredible power like no other governor of KY has before. You have the ability to change and save lives. And change history in our state.

President Trump is a deal maker. So am I. SO is KENTUCKY. Let’s all work together and make this happen. So many other states are taking advantage of the increased tax dollars to improve schools, roads and commerce. JOBS will be created in so many of the poor counties of KY like those affected by factories closing and farming almost becoming obsolete. There are so many positive reasons.
Let’s all work together to make this happen. I don’t want to move to Colorado but it will soon be a necessity.
Thank you for reading this and I hope to hear from you soon.

God bless you and God bless Kentucky

Sincerely, Audra Baker

Kentucky is on the cusp of doing what was once unthinkable: opening the door to nuclear power.

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2014 file photo, fog hovers over a mountaintop as a cutout depicting a coal miner stands at a memorial to local miners killed on the job in Cumberland, Ky. The Republican-controlled Kentucky state legislature is on the cusp of lifting its decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy, a move unthinkable just three years ago in a state that has been culturally and economically dominated by coal. As the coal industry continues its slide, even Republican lawmakers are acknowledging a need for alternatives.

Above: FILE – In this Oct. 16, 2014 file photo, fog hovers over a mountaintop as a cutout depicting a coal miner stands at a memorial to local miners killed on the job in Cumberland, Ky. The Republican-controlled Kentucky state legislature is on the cusp of lifting its decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy, a move unthinkable just three years ago in a state that has been culturally and economically dominated by coal. As the coal industry continues its slide, even Republican lawmakers are acknowledging a need for alternatives. David Goldman, File AP Photo

By ADAM BEAM Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky.

Donald Trump promised to bring back coal jobs, but even the country’s third-largest coal producer appears to be hedging its bets on a comeback. Kentucky is on the cusp of doing what was once unthinkable: opening the door to nuclear power.

The Republican-controlled state legislature is close to lifting its decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy in a state that has been culturally and economically dominated by coal. Politicians from both parties have promised for years to revive the struggling coal industry, with Trump famously billing himself as “the last shot for miners.” But as the coal industry continues its slide, even Republican lawmakers are acknowledging a need for alternatives.

“There are other factors other than the administration in the White House that controls this. There are banks that are reluctant at this point to give loans for coal-fired furnaces,” said Republican state Sen. Danny Carroll, who sponsored the bill. “You look at the jobs that were lost, you look at the production of coal and how that has declined, we’ve got to learn lessons from that and we’ve got to have a third option.”

Kentucky’s coal industry has been steadily declining for decades. Coal mining employment has fallen from 31,000 in 1990 to just over 6,300. Just three years ago, coal-fired power plants provided 93 percent of the state’s electricity. Today, that has fallen to 83 percent, according to the Kentucky Coal Association, as older plants are being shut down and replaced by natural gas.

Kentucky is one of 15 states that restrict the construction of new nuclear power facilities according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wisconsin lifted its ban last year. Nationwide, there are 61 nuclear power plants with 99 nuclear reactors in 30 states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The bill has passed the state Senate and could get a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin told Cincinnati radio station WKRC he would not veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.

“I don’t see it as a threat to that existing energy infrastructure. I see it as just increasing the opportunities of things we might be able to do in Kentucky,” he said.

The bill has been pushed by local government and business leaders in the western part of the state, which was home to one of the few uranium enrichment plants in the country before it closed in 2013. That left the area teeming with a skilled workforce with no hope of employment in their field.

“Without that moratorium lifted, we absolutely have no opportunity,” said Bob Leeper, the judge executive for McCracken County and a former state senator who has pushed to lift the moratorium for years.

But Kentucky has been burned by the nuclear industry in the past. In the 1960s, seeking to lure the emerging nuclear energy industry into the state, Kentucky set up a place to store toxic waste. From 1963 to 1977, more than 800 corporations dumped 4.7 million cubic feet of radioactive waste at the site, but no nuclear reactor was ever built. The Maxey Flats site is closed, but its contaminated soil, surface water and groundwater resulted in an expensive state and federal cleanup.

“This is the Faustian bargain we engage in. We get cheap energy, but we saddle future generations with millennia responsibility of being mature enough to properly manage waste we are generating,” said Tom Fitzgerald, executive director of the Kentucky Resources Council, which has opposed lifting the moratorium.

Even if the ban is lifted, a nuclear power plant could still take more than 10 years to develop given the rigorous permitting process. And construction would be expensive, which would threaten to drive up electricity rates to pay for it. That is of particular concern to the state’s manufacturing sector, which uses large amounts of electricity in their production processes.

The bill requires state officials to review the state’s permitting process to ensure costs and “environmental consequences” are taken into account. That was enough for Fitzgerald to be “neutral” on the bill.

The Kentucky Coal Association is also neutral, although president Tyler White said they were not happy with the bill.

“We think there are more realistic policies that we should be pursuing in Frankfort than nuclear,” he said.

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