The Governor and the ACA

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Gov. Steve Beshear was fired up as he delivered his State of the Commonwealth address last night.

Before a joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly, Beshear displayed energy and confidence, despite rumors he was battling the bug that has hit many Kentuckians. Nonetheless he was at the top of his speech-making game.

For his last and perhaps the longest of his Commonwealth addresses, Beshear touted his record of accomplishments and spelled out what he would like to see lawmakers do in the 2015 legislative session. Those issues include education, healthcare, heroin, public private partnerships, and childcare to name just a few.

He also talked about the Affordable Care Act in this very public of forums – unlike some Democrats who chose to avoid the subject during the 2014 election cycle. Beshear said he seized the opportunity presented by federal reform to help Kentucky’s uninsured population:

There was immediate pushback from the Republican side of aisle. It’s an indication that Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky could become a major issue in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

Republican candidate and state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said:

“As part of his State of the Commonwealth, our current governor decided to focus a large portion of his speech on Obamacare in Kentucky. To be exact, he referred to Obamacare as a “transformative solution,” to which my Democrat opponent [Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway] applauded. Apparently they have not spoken to the Kentuckians that I have spoken to over the last year. Middle class people from all across Kentucky have lost their health care plan and have seen their health care premiums increase, sometimes by upward of 40 percent. Furthermore, Kentucky businesses have been forced to cut jobs because of the astronomical compliance costs of Obamacare.

“I also find it very troubling that the current governor dismissed the looming costs of the Medicaid expansion, which the next governor of Kentucky will inevitably have to address. The federal Medicaid reimbursement rate begins dropping in just a couple of years, costing Kentucky taxpayers $60 million in the next biennium. By 2022, the Medicaid expansion will put taxpayers on the hook for $250 million. Kentucky cannot afford Obamacare and Kentucky cannot afford a gubernatorial candidate who supports it.”

Of course there will be other reaction to the governor’s speech. I’m sure the hallways of the state Legislative Annex are buzzing with comments today.

And if you listen closely enough, you just might hear some gubernatorial election conversation, too.

McConnell Discusses His New Job as Senate Majority Leader

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

This is an important day for Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Today at noon, McConnell was sworn in as the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. The only other Kentuckian to hold the position was Alben Barkley, who served from 1937 until 1947. Barkley went on to become vice president under President Harry Truman.

A few days ago, I invited Sen. McConnell to talk with me about his new role in the 114th Congress. We recorded the conversation at Ashland, the Lexington home of Kentucky statesman Henry Clay. McConnell wrote his college thesis on the “Great Compromiser” and has long admired Clay’s historic tenure in Congress.

Tonight in a special edition of One to One, McConnell talks about Clay and Barkley, and about how he will manage the new Senate.

McConnell also discusses the Oval Office meeting he had with President Obama just days after the November elections, and the issues on which the two men might agree.

My conversation with Sen. McConnell airs tonight at 6:30 on KET and online at KET.org/live.

Important Issues Face Lawmakers in 2015

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

State public pension woes, a local option sales tax for Kentucky communities, a growing heroin problem all over the state, and an increase in the minimum wage: these are just a few of the issues facing lawmakers in the 2015 General Assembly session.

These topics pose important questions for our state and need your scrutiny. You’ll see lawmakers debating the issues on KET when they speak on the floor of the state House and Senate, or in important committee meetings.

You don’t see them when they’re in the hallways or their offices discussing a piece of legislation with constituents or advocacy groups lobbying for a particular bill. That, according to Kentucky Tonight guest Rep. Denver Butler (D-Louisville), is where the real work gets done during the legislative session.

Monday night, Butler joined fellow Democrat Rep. Terry Mills of Lebanon, and Republican Representatives Brad Montell of Shelbyville and David Floyd of Bardstown to discuss the issues facing lawmakers when they return to Frankfort January 6.

Before the program began, I visited the lawmakers in the KET Green Room to ask about the issues they hope to see addressed in the 2015 session.

Click here to watch the full program and read a recap of the discussion.

Kentucky Tonight will take a few weeks off for the holidays. We’ll return on Monday, January 5 as state House and Senate leaders join me for a discussion about the upcoming legislative session.

To all of you, happy holidays and best wishes for the new year.


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