Phillip M. Bailey

Political Editor

Phillip M. Bailey became WFPL's political editor in 2011, covering city, state and regional campaigns and elected officials. He also covers Metro Government, including the mayor's office and Metro Council. Before coming to WFPL, Phillip worked for three years as a staff writer at LEO Weekly and was a fellow at the Academy of Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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Politics
10:44 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Kentucky Lawmakers Respond to President Obama's National Address on Syria

Rand Paul

Kentucky lawmakers in Washington are reacting to President Obama's national address where he said he was asking Congress to postpone a vote on authorizing military strikes against Syria as the U.S. pursues diplomatic solutions.

Since the president first said he was seeking congressional approval for a limited attack on the Assad regime, members of the state's federal delegation have voiced either opposition or skepticism to the plan.

Poll numbers show the vast majority of Americans oppose U.S. intervention.

The president acknowledged the public's war weariness but outlined his rationale for why he believes the U.S. should get involved. At least one lawmaker was pleased with Obama's primetime address for clearing a path to diplomacy.

From Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth:

"It is in our national interest to delay a vote on military action against the Syrian government while we pursue diplomatic opportunities to force the Assad regime to surrender its chemical weapons. I strongly support this approach and, like all Americans, will continue to monitor these developments as the international community re-evaluates its responsibilities in Syria."

Others remained oppose to the idea of U.S. intervention, even as reports reflect the Russian government is persuading the Syrian government to release their chemical weapon stockpiles to avert U.S. strikes.

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Politics
6:00 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Liquor Store Owners Propose Wet-Dry Vote for Fourth Street Live in Response to 4 a.m. Ban

Credit Wikipedia Commons

A community activist and a pair of liquor store owners are proposing to hold a wet-dry vote in the precinct containing Fourth Street Live in response to Louisville Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton’s bill to eliminate 4 a.m. sales.

Hamilton's ordinance is set to have a vote before the full council this Thursday, which she maintains is aimed at reducing crime and improving the quality of life.

But crime statistics obtained by WFPL show a relatively low number of alcohol-related incidents in Hamilton's district compared to others, and arrests decline during the hours being targeted by the bill.

The vast majority of liquor stores that carry special licenses allowing 4 a.m. alcohol sales are concentrated in west Louisville.

Critics of the measure argue it is a contradiction, however, for sponsors to go after package retail stores that sell liquor and wine while exempting beer. The group also points out that if alcohol-related incidents are one of the issues Hamilton and others are concerned about then the city's entertainment district needs to be targeted.

"A lot of times when I’m driving home at five o’clock in the morning when I close my store at four, I see people weaving all over the road when they’ve just gotten out of bars," says Barbara Deel, who owns Lucky Junior’s in the Portland neighborhood.

Statistics provided by Metro Police to the council found the highest number of alcohol-related incidents occurred in Councilman David Tandy's district, which covers the Russell and Smoketown neighborhoods, but most of downtown including Fourth Street Live.

Since August 2012, just under 1,500 alcohol involved incidents were reported in Tandy's district compared to just under 400 in Hamilton's area. The data shows more incidents involving alcohol took place in Councilman Tom Owen's district covering the Highlands than in Hamilton's mostly West End district.

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Politics
12:38 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Senator Mitch McConnell Opposes President Obama's Syria Resolution

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Credit File photo

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell ended days of speculation and came out in opposition to President Obama's request for military strikes against Syria.

McConnell said he is not an isolationist and argued the U.S. has a role on the world stage that cannot be ignored, but the GOP slammed the president's foreign policy strategy overall.

He says Obama has been a "reluctant commander-in-chief" and that the administration hasn't made a compelling case for intervention.

“So I will be voting against this resolution. A vital national security risk is clearly not at play, there are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria, including the fact that this proposal is utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war there, and on the specific question of deterring the use of chemical weapons, the president’s proposal appears to be based on a contradiction," he says.

Watch:

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Politics
9:59 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Study: Local Option Sales Tax Would Generate Significant Revenue, but Burden Louisville Taxpayers

A 1-percent local option sales tax would generate $138 million in revenue for the city, but add to an already heavy burden for Louisville taxpayers.

That's according to a study by a University of Louisville research center released Tuesday.

The report conducted by the Urban Studies Institute was paid for with discretionary funds from Republican Councilman Ken Fleming's office earlier this year.

It is the first official examination of the idea, which is being spearheaded by Mayor Greg Fischer as a way to create additional revenue for Metro Government.

Among the chief findings in the 40-page report is that Louisville has the highest income tax rate among its 14 peer cities at about $7,720 for hypothetical family of four with two income earners. The city also has the third-highest overall tax burden when compared to competitor cities property, income and sales taxes combined. 

Fischer has said the local option isn't a tax increase but rather emphasized it's choice for local voters to invest into the community and fund key capital projects. But according to the study, introducing a 1-percent sales tax would bump Louisville up to the second-highest overall taxed city among its peers.

Fleming says he sponsored the study to examine the economic impact and better inform the public, adding its shows the benefits and pitfalls of the plan.

"This study does a really good job at taking an objective point of view and looking at data that provides both the pros and cons of what we're trying to do," he says. "We should have had this debate last year or two years ago, and we need to have it now to understand where we are economically."

Among the benefits of a local option outlined in the study is it help diversifies the city's revenue stream, which is limited to occupational, insurance premiums and property taxes.

The study says due to Louisville's position as a retail shopping and entertainment center a local option could shift a sizeable percentage of the sales taxes those who live outside the county. The effect could mean residents would enjoy economic windfalls for infrastructure or other capitol projects at a reduced tax price.

And depending on the economy, it estimates anywhere from $140 million to $160 million in projected revenue, which is nearly twice as much as the $95 million a year that Fischer's office estimated.

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Politics
7:38 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Congressman Brett Guthrie Voting Against Syria Resolution

Congressman Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

After receiving a classified security briefing, Kentucky Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie is opposing the Obama administration's resolution to launch military strikes against Syria.

The announcement comes as the rest of Kentucky's congressional delegation is either vocally opposing or questioning the president's request to authorize action against the Assad regime.

Fellow Republican congressmen Andy Barr, Thomas Massie and Ed Whitfield have all voiced opposition.

In a statement to WFPL, longtime Kentucky lawmaker Hal Rogers says he wants "precise" details before deciding.

And the lone Democrat in the federal delegation, Congressman John Yartmuth, told WFPL he remains unconvinced by the Obama administration's arguments.

Guthrie says he is voting against the resolution because none of the information shared by Obama's national security advisors on Monday is persuasive enough to support military action.

"There is no doubt that the Middle East is ripe with conflict and that the chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people on August 21 was horrific," Guthrie said in a statement. "But I do not believe that a bombing campaign against the Assad regime would be appropriate, and may even further enflame regional tensions."

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Politics
5:31 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

State Sen. Julie Denton Hopes to Bring 'Integrity' to Louisville Metro Council

State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, is running for Metro Council
Credit Phillip M. Bailey

Saying she wants to bring integrity to City Hall, Republican state Sen. Julie Denton is forgoing re-election to run for Louisville Metro Council next year.

The surprise move means the longtime state lawmaker is leaving the GOP-controlled Senate, where she currently chairs the chamber’s Health and Welfare Committee, for a council dominated by Democrats.

"I've tried to play well with both sides of the aisle in both chambers while in Frankfort. I've never been a chairman who decided what bills are going to be heard based upon who the support of the bill was," says Denton. "If somebody's got good public policy I think we need to be moving that forward."

Joined by a handful of council Republicans who are supporting Denton's early bid, she is running on a platform to bring transparency and accountability to Metro Government.

Asked about the council's public image in the aftermath of the Barbara Shanklin removal trial, Denton says it was an unfortunate moment in council history that has put a "dark cloud" over the chamber.

"I wasn't there to hear the testimony and only read what was on the news. But based on the fact the majority found her guilty I found it surprising that she wasn't removed," she says.

Denton will be running for the seat currently held by Councilman Jerry Miller, who is leaving the council at the end of his term to make a bid for the state House next year.

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Politics
1:36 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Republican State Senator Julie Denton Running for Louisville Metro Council

Kentucky State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville
Credit Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

Update: State Sen. Julie Denton has announced Monday afternoon that she's running for Louisville Metro Council.

Earlier: Republican state Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville will not seek re-election next year, WFPL News has learned.

A spokesperson for Senate President Robert Stivers told the radio station Denton did not discuss her future plans, but informed Stivers this weekend she will not be filing to retain her east Louisville district seat in 2014.

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Politics
7:59 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Louisville Liquor Store Owners, Residents Question Beer Exemption in Banning 4 a.m. Alcohol Sales

Credit Creative Commons

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, is confident her bill eliminating alcohol sales at retail package stores after 2 a.m. will pass this week. 

The ordinance sailed through the council's Public Safety committee with a unanimous vote last Tuesday, and supporters maintain it's a way to improve quality of life in the West End.

According to city statistics, close to 70 percent of stores that carry special licenses allowing 4 a.m. liquor sales are located in west Louisville neighborhoods and the Newburg area.

Hamilton's bill does not apply to restaurants and bars. It also exempts 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. licenses for beer sales, which has been roundly criticized by liquor store owners as selective targeting and some constituents are questioning its effectiveness.

In June, a state law took effect dividing those special licenses between beer and other alcoholic beverages such as liquor and wine. Asked why the ordinance banning 4 a.m. sales doesn't include beer, Hamilton admits that would encompass a larger number of businesses outside of her district.

"If we eliminate (beer) we're dealing with 400 to 600 businesses in the city. So this is an easier bite of the apple right now," she says. "I've had people say we should have included it all. But I'm not trying to get rid of it, I'm trying to control the quality of life issues in our neighborhoods."

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Politics
12:02 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Congressman Hal Rogers Wants 'Precise' Details Before Favoring Syria Strike

Kentucky Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers

Kentucky's longest serving member of Congress wants more details from President Obama before supporting the administration's resolution seeking military action against the Syrian government.

"The ongoing civil war in Syria is heartbreaking, but I have great reservations about intervening in Syria," says Congressman Hal Rogers, who was first elected in 1980.

Speaking at a news conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, the president announced he will address the nation from the White House next week to make his case for intervention before the American public.

For the most part, Kentucky's federal delegates in the House and Senate are leaning against the mission. 

Congressman John Yarmuth, the lone Democrat, says he remains unconvinced by the Obama administration's argument.

Republican congressmen Andy Barr and Ed Whitfield have both voiced opposition while Brett Guthrie said via Facebook he would "listen carefully" as the administration makes its case.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been noticeably absent from the debate. But in a recent public appearance, McConnell said he would announce his position in "the coming days."

While Rogers, who chairs the powerful appropriations committee, told WFPL he has serious doubts about the mission, the GOP lawmaker also indicated he is open to being persuaded by Obama's argument.

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Politics
6:45 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

GOP Group Rebukes Matt Bevin for Defending Alison Lundergan Grimes Against 'Empty Dress' Remark

Mitch McConnell (l) is being challenged by Matt Bevin (r) in the Republican primary.
Credit File photos

Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin is being rebuked by a national Republican group for defending Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes against a GOP spokesman who referred to her as an "empty dress" this week.

The comments were made by National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring about Grimes in an -email to a Washington, D.C.-based newspaper.

Since then, state and national Democrats have pounced on the comment as a "sexist smear" while attempting to tie them to Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.

In an interview with The Courier-Journal's James Carroll, Bevin, who is running against McConnell in the GOP primary, followed suit. Saying he is married with six children, Bevin said calling Grimes an "empty dress" remarks was "insulting" and "beneath the dignity of a United States senator."

That drew a sharp criticism from NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen.

"It's frankly embarrassing—and as a woman it’s offensive—that someone proclaiming to be conservative would lend credence to the Barack Obama gender war playbook that aims to smear good and decent Republicans," Hougeson told WFPL in a statement.

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