…Under (HB 315), a gang can be any three people who share a name, symbol or leader, or who have been identified as a gang by any state or the federal government…

The Kentucky House and Senate are poised to pass a bill this week that is both unnecessary and likely to be costly in terms of both money and human potential.

If it reaches him, Gov. Matt Bevin should veto House Bill 315, the so-called gang bill. It flies in the face of the evidence-based criminal justice reforms Bevin has pushed as governor.

Last June, Bevin appointed his non-partisan Criminal Justice Police Assessment Council, saying he wanted “a smarter, compassionate, evidence-based approach.Senate Bill 120, passed this session to improve employment opportunities for people leaving prison, was a result of CJPAC’s work.

HB 315 didn’t come from CJPAC, and that’s no surprise. There’s no evidence it would reduce gang activity but its broad and vague definitions and heavy-handed punishment provisions will mean that young people who have committed low-level, non-violent crimes could spend a long time in prison with little hope for the “second chance” Bevin so vigorously supports.

Sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said HB 315 is based on a similar law in California, prompting Senate President Robert Stivers to ask when Kentucky modeled itself on California.

Good question.

Even more concerning, California’s STEP Act, passed in 1988 to “seek the eradication of criminal activity by street gangs,” hasn’t achieved that goal. A 2009 study of the measure reported the opposite: “harsher sentences for minor gang related crimes may actually increase gang commitment because individuals are forced to join gangs and strengthen their gang ties in order to survive in prison.”

Without question, HB 315 would increase our already staggeringly high prison population — over 23,000 state inmates and a $530 million annual budget. The Corrections Impact Statement on HB 315 estimated the cost at over $38 million over time.

Criminal gangs are real and responsible for crimes that deeply damage our communities. People should be punished for recruiting others into gangs, as they can be under existing Kentucky law.

In the almost 20 years since that legislation passed, there have been 22 convictions under it, including six in 2015 and none in 2016.

There will be more convictions under HB 315 because it casts a wide net in defining gangs and what it takes to tag an individual as a gang member.

Under it, a gang can be any three people who share a name, symbol or leader, or who have been identified as a gang by any state or the federal government. Their “pattern of criminal activity” could be crimes committed by one or more members at any time over five years.

The evidence a gang actually exists includes identification by an informant, a member’s parent or guardian or participation in photos or social-media interaction with gang members.

Think about it: many young people have hundreds of social-media contacts: long-ago classmates, friends of friends, former co-workers and team members. If one of them is identified as a gang member, then so can all his or her “friends.”

The results are catastrophic if the gang label sticks. Judges lose most discretion over sentencing. A Class B misdemeanor such as harassment — now subject to up to three months in jail or simply a fine — would carry a mandatory sentence of 76 to 90 days. Felony charges must be prosecuted for one level more serious when the gang element is present and those convicted must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

So, a Class C felony that carries one to five years in prison, with possibility of parole with 20 percent of time served becomes a Class B with five to 10 years and a minimum of 85 percent served before possibility of parole.

These mandatory prison terms not only fill up jails and prisons at enormous cost, they also discourage rehabilitation. Consider, a person sentenced to five years with the possibility of parole after a year, is motivated to participate in drug rehab or career-oriented classes.

But with a certain four-plus years inside, motivation shifts away from rehabilitation to survival. As noted in the California study, people join gangs to survive a long term in prison.

“Gang” is another in the long line of frightening terms invoked to bloat the criminal code, fill prisons and drain our treasuries while doing little to make us safer.

Bevin’s right in rejecting this trend. He should stay the course and veto this bad bill.


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.


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’s Republican governor released 13 pages of emails Friday about a disputed road project after the state legislature’s top Democrat sued him for the information just ahead of the November election.

FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s Republican governor released 13 pages of emails Friday about a disputed road project after the state legislature’s top Democrat sued him for the information just ahead of the November election.

The legal skirmish highlighted the tension surrounding Kentucky’s elections for the state House of Representatives, the last legislative chamber in the South still controlled by Democrats. Republicans need to pick up four seats to win a majority for the first time since 1920.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo has accused Gov. Matt Bevin of delaying a road project in Jessamine County to punish that county’s Democratic state representative for refusing to switch parties and become a Republican. Bevin has denied this, saying the project was flawed and should have never been awarded by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Stumbo appointed a committee to investigate, and the inquiry has become a re-election campaign issue for Democratic House members. Stumbo asked Bevin’s office for copies of all correspondence between the governor’s office and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet about the project. Bevin released some emails last week, but said 13 pages were “exempt from disclosure” under the law because they were preliminary notes and drafts covered by attorney-client privilege.

Stumbo sued Friday morning, asking a judge to force Bevin to turn over the documents.

Bevin released the emails Friday afternoon. They mostly contain discussions among Bevin’s top aides about how to respond to a reporter’s questions about the project, including strategies on how to discredit claims by Democratic state Rep. Russ Meyer that Bevin delayed the project to punish him for not switching parties.

“It’s tough but necessary given the false and slanderous things he’s saying. Should we point out expressly that he has no credibility?” Steve Pitt, Bevin’s chief attorney, wrote in an email to other aides on Aug. 30.

Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson said they haven’t seen the emails yet, adding they “would still need assurance, from the court, that the emails are all of the records.”

Bevin’s attorney Chad Meredith said Stumbo should have first asked the governor to reconsider his decision about the emails or appealed to the attorney general’s office. He said filing a lawsuit wastes taxpayer money and clogs the court system.

Bevin said he delayed the road project because the state did not own the land it needed to build the road. He blamed his Democratic predecessor for awarding the contract without first acquiring the land. But Meyer said Bevin delayed construction to punish him for refusing to switch parties shortly after Bevin took office. As evidence, he pointed to a voicemail Bevin left him in December in which the governor says Meyer’s decision to remain a Democrat would impact him and his district.

Bevin said the voicemail was not a threat. And last week, he released emails that appeared to show Meyer was aware of the project’s problems in October, a month before Bevin was elected.


Proposed Medicaid Changes in Kentucky – Tell us what you think about Governor Bevin’s proposed Medicaid changes

Proposed Medicaid Changes in Kentucky – Tell us what you think about Governor Bevin’s proposed Medicaid changes – LINK




United 874K Members and Supporters –
The three public hearings on the proposed Medicaid waiver have been completed, with approximately 400 individuals in attendance in Bowling Green, Frankfort and Hazard, KY and nearly 100 individuals who spoke. 98% of those who spoke expressed concerns about the proposed waiver. Concerns were expressed about requiring the “medically frail” to pay monthly premiums; about a work or volunteer requirement of 20 hours/week for those on the Medicaid Expansion; loss of retroactive eligibility which could cause a lapse in coverage or a delay in beginning Medicaid coverage; increasing premiums over several years for some Medicaid members, with a 6-month lock-out from services if the premium is not paid; eliminating annual dental and vision check-ups and routine care for the Medicaid Expansion folks
Clearly those Medicaid members who are deemed to be “medically frail” (by a process yet to be determined, but ostensibly those with SMI. Chronic SUD, complicated medical conditions, are on SSI, or have a disability that interferes with a task of daily living) will be charged a monthly premium, probably in the range of $1 – $8 / month. We are concerned both by the financial burden, but also by the administrative burden created by this requirement. If the premium is not paid, then the medically frail individual will have to pay a copay for every service and every medication! While the 1915 C Waivers are exempt from this current 1115 Waiver Proposal from the Administration, we are concerned about individuals who are currently covered by Medicaid while waiting for a 1915 waiver slot. They would likely be classified as “medically frail” and would be subject to a monthly premium; if not paid, then they would be charged a copay for each health service and each medication they receive.
Medically frail individuals will not have a work or volunteer requirement and will have the full range of current benefits, including dental and vision. These latter benefits (annual check-up, routine cleanings, etc.) are being removed from the benefit package for all other Medicaid members (excluding children and pregnant women); those basic health benefits will have to be “earned” by the member through their Rewards Account.
I urge you to spread the word and to encourage those affected by these waiver changes, their families, providers and advocates to submit comments! I am available to answer questions or to be of assistance, if you will contact me.
I have attached a flyer which gives information about writing or emailing your comments about the waiver to Medicaid Commissioner Miller. THE DEADLINE FOR RECEIPT OF WRITTEN COMMENTS IS 5:00 P.M. ON FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2016! Volume is important, so please encourage everyone to write in. And send a copy of your comment to kymedicaidchanges@gmail.com so we can be sure that your voice is heard!
I have also attached a brief description of the waiver proposal and how it would affect various groups of people who are now Medicaid members.
KY Voices for Health is conducting a very short SURVEY about the proposed changes in Medicaid. Please distribute this link and ask folks to complete the survey! It takes less than 3-4 minutes.

2 Kentucky governors, past and present, in acrid public feud


FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2015, file photo, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin gives his inaugural address as former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, lower left, listens on the steps of the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky's two most recent governors are feuding and have verbally attacked each other more than any other governors in recent memory. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)


Adam Beam, Associated Press


FILE – In this Dec. 8, 2015, file photo, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin gives his inaugural address as former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, lower left, listens on the steps of the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky’s two most recent governors are feuding and have verbally attacked each other more than any other governors in recent memory. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s two most recent governors are feuding, but they can agree on one thing: the FBI is investigating.

While peaceful transitions of power are a longstanding U.S. tradition, the handoff in Kentucky from Democrat Steve Beshear to Republican Matt Bevin has been ugly. The two men have argued loudly over health care, voting rights, pensions and even the appointment of Beshear’s wife to a state commission.

Things were so tense recently that Bevin and Beshear both claimed the FBI was investigating the other. An FBI spokesman would not confirm or deny anything, preferring to stay out of the fight like many in Kentucky’s political circles.

The spat has intensified so much that Beshear has taken the extraordinary step of starting a nonprofit group that is paying for ads critical of Bevin and his policies. Bevin, in turn, has launched an investigation of the former Beshear administration, using a state law granting him subpoena power and public money to hire a private law firm to determine if the ex-governor violated state ethics and procurement laws.

Also nipping at Bevin’s side is Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, Steve Beshear’s son. The younger Beshear has already taken Bevin to court — twice — over his policies. The result is an old-fashioned clash in this Appalachian state pitting one of Kentucky’s most powerful political families against a Republican outsider intent on upending a power structure in which Democrats have controlled things for decades.

“This has got the makings of a real Hatfield and McCoy feud,” former Democratic Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. said. “I don’t think it’s good for Kentucky.”

The harsh talk from both sides — with Bevin accusing Beshear of telling a “straight-out lie” and Beshear calling Bevin “a bully” — is surprising to some. Bevin had repeatedly promised on the campaign trail to change the political tone in Frankfort if elected.

Yet the hostilities emerged before Bevin took office when he called Beshear “an embarrassment” for appointing his wife to an unpaid position on the Kentucky Horse Park Commission. He then leavened his December inaugural address with some veiled shots at Beshear as the former governor sat stone-faced just a few feet away.

In March, Bevin posted a scathing video to his Facebook page of an empty state House chamber, chiding Democratic leaders for not meeting on the budget. The legislature wasn’t scheduled to convene until 4 p.m. that day, and House Democrats were in fact meeting in their offices across the street.

“His attacks tend to be personal attacks,” Steve Beshear said. “It’s not just a disagreement over ideas. But because you disagree with me you are a bad person and I’m going to get you in some way.”

Beshear has not been blameless. Ten days after Bevin was elected, Beshear held a news conference criticizing Bevin’s plans to dismantle Kentucky’s health insurance exchange and replace its expanded Medicaid program, both cornerstones of Beshear’s legacy.

Once he left office, Beshear started a nonprofit group which — because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling — can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political ads as long as more than half of its spending is on social welfare issues. The group has already paid for its first web ad, declaring that Bevin “uses fake numbers as justification for an ideological agenda.” And this week, he wrote a letter criticizing both Bevin and federal officials for negotiating “back room deals” for Kentucky’s Medicaid program.

“It’s protocol for a former governor or a former president to be gracious and let the new governor be the governor,” said Damon Thayer, the Republican floor leader of the state Senate. “It just seems to me that Steve Beshear is having a hard time dealing with the fact that he’s no longer governor.”

The feud is likely to ripple out into the fall elections as Republicans seek control of the state House of Representatives, the only legislative chamber in the South the GOP does not control. Democrats recently were clinging to a three-seat majority in the state House of Representatives, but campaigned hard against Bevin in a series of special elections, winning three out of four to solidify their majority for the rest of this year. Now Republicans are eyeing November, when all 100 seats in the House will be on the ballot.

Recently, Bevin prayed at a National Day of Prayer event at the state Capitol, where he lamented the division in the country, “some of which we seem to increasingly celebrate.” But after the event, Bevin did not appear willing to reconcile his differences with Beshear.

“For those who have their own agendas and miss their role to such a degree that they keep hanging around, God bless them,” he said. “I can’t speak for what the motivation is there. But I’m a little confused by it. It’s rather embarrassing for Kentucky, frankly.”


This Week at the State Capitol

January 25-29, 2016

FRANKFORT — Getting our financial house in order.

That was a theme Gov. Matt Bevin returned to several times as he gave his first budget address on Tuesday night during a joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The governor’s State of the Commonwealth Budget Address unveiled a two-year spending plan that calls for 9 percent cuts across state government with the much of the savings aimed at helping state pension systems meet obligations.

In addition to the proposed 9 percent cuts over the next two fiscal years, the governor also announced 4.5 percent budget cuts for the final half of the current fiscal year.

Not all parts of state government would be hit by cuts under the governor’s spending plan. The main school funding formula, known as SEEK, is spared. So is Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, school district health insurance, student financial aid and more.

While budget cuts would be widespread, the governor’s spending plan calls for increased spending for some front-line public servants including the Kentucky State Police and other peace officers, social workers, public defenders, correctional officers and others.

Now that the governor has delivered his spending plan, it’s time for lawmakers to take the proposal apart and reassemble it in a manner they are satisfied with. The state budget bill is currently in the House, where budget subcommittees will dig into all parts of the budget in the weeks to come. Once the House approves a spending plan, it will be the Senate’s turn. By session’s end, Senate and House members are expected to meet in conference committee meetings to iron out differences in each chamber’s preferred spending plans. With the 2016 session scheduled to adjourn on April 12, there’s much work to do in the time available.

As lawmakers focused on budget issues this week, they also continued moving a number of bills through the legislative process, including legislation on the following topics:

Informed Consent. A consultation between a woman seeking an abortion and a health care provider would have to occur during an in-person meeting or through real-time video conferencing under the version of Senate Bill 4 approved by the House this week. The version of the bill approved by the Senate last week called for in-person consultations but did not provide the videoconferencing option. Information is already legally required to be provided to women seeking abortions 24 hours before the procedure, but currently the info is sometimes delivered over the phone rather than in person. Senate Bill 4 has returned to the Senate for consideration of the House changes to the legislation.

CPR. A bill that would require public high school students to learn CPR passed the state Senate this week. Senate Bill 33 as amended would require CPR be taught in physical education, health or junior ROTC classes in either ninth, 10th, 11th or 12th grade. The bill has been sent to the House for consideration.

Minimum wage. The state’s minimum hourly wage would be raised to $10.10 over the next two and half years under a bill that cleared a House committee this week and is now awaiting consideration by the full House. House Bill 278 would increase Kentucky’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $8.20 this August, $9.15 in July 2017 and $10.10 in July 2018. The increase would not apply to businesses that have a recent average annual gross volume of sales of less than $500,000.

Concealed carry. Senate Joint Resolution 36 urges Virginia, which borders Eastern Kentucky, to restore a so-called reciprocal agreement that allowed Kentucky concealed carry permit holders to legally carry a concealed firearm in Virginia. The legislation was approved in the Senate this week and has been sent to the House for consideration.

Infant protection. Parents of newborns would have up to 30 days to surrender their baby at a state-approved safe place without facing criminal charges under legislation approved by the House this week. Current law gives parents 72 hours after a child is born to leave the baby at a hospital, police or fire station or with emergency medical services personnel if they feel unable to care for the child. House Bill 97 would expand that to 30 days and add churches or other places of worship to the list of approved safe places where a child could be surrendered. Parents would not face charges for surrendering the baby as long as the child is not injured. The bill has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Feedback on the issues under consideration can be shared with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.