Noise & Notes

On air Saturdays at 10pm.

On Noise & Notes, WFPL's Phillip M. Bailey doesn't just discuss the issues, he dissects them. From city government to national politics, Phillip has covered it all. 

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Politics
7:33 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Congressman John Yarmuth Lone Kentucky Lawmaker to Vote Against $40 Billion in Food Stamp Cuts

Credit File photo

In a close vote, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Republican-backed plan to cut food stamps by $40 billion over the next decade, which supporters say will bring sustainability to the program while saving the taxpayer's money.

Lawmakers approved the proposal by a 217-210 vote on Thursday with 15 GOP members joining the entire Democratic caucus who voted against the bill.

The cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are nearly double as much as an earlier measure rejected by the House in June.

But supporters of the assistance program argue this could have a disproportionate impact on poorer states like Kentucky, where one out of six households report facing serious problems affording nutritious food.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food stamps benefits go to around 820,000 Kentuckians per month. In the final tally, all but one of Kentucky's six representatives voted for the cuts.

"Today’s House vote to strip nearly $40 billion from federal food assistance programs directly threatens the health and financial security of the more than 44,000 Louisville families who depend on these programs to put food on their tables," says Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth, who voted against the bill. "These cuts would also needlessly weaken our economy, as every $5 spent on food assistance generates $9 in local economic activity."

But GOP lawmakers who favored the proposal drafted by Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, highlight the rise of food stamp recipients in the past five years as a need to bring solvency to the program. The argue it simply restores eligibility limits to their original levels, and maintains funding for food assistance in other areas.

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Politics
4:35 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

'Coal Country' State Democrats Defend Alison Lundergan Grimes from GOP Attacks

Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes

Democratic state lawmakers representing Eastern Kentucky are coming to the defense of U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, saying Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell has failed the coal industry.

The comments come as Grimes is being pilloried by Republicans after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked a bill McConnell proposed to ease federal regulations on coal operators.

An industry leader questioned if Grimes could stand up to Reid or the Obama administration.

But state representatives from coalfield areas in the state argue it's McConnell who hasn't done enough to help the struggling industry.

From the Grimes campaign:

"You will not find a stronger advocate than I am for our coal miners and the communities they call home," says state Rep. Leslie Combs, who represents parts of Harlan, Letcher, and Pike Counties. "Mitch McConnell has been in Washington for 30 years, yet he has let Kentucky's greatest industry die on his watch. He likes to tout his leadership in the Senate and on coal. If Senator McConnell has been such a powerful leader on coal, the industry would be thriving and not dying. It's time to put partisanship and rhetoric aside to work together to put Kentuckians back to work."

Other lawmakers such as state House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins and Rep. John Short spoke to Grimes's ability to "reach across the aisle."

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Politics
2:02 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Senate Democrats Blocking McConnell's Coal Bill Puts Alison Lundergan Grimes in Tough Spot

Credit Kentucky Secretary of State/U.S. Senate

The pro-coal message of Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was complicated by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Thursday, who blocked a bill introduced by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to ease federal regulations.

Reid's actions comes just days after Grimes called on the Obama administration to hold off on new environmental restrictions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell asked for unanimous consent on his  "Saving Coal Jobs Act" to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing carbon emission standards for power plants.

"The EPA has already stifled the permitting process for new coal mines; the agency has done this so dramatically that they have effectively shut down many coal mines through illegitimate, dilatory tactics," McConnell said. "The EPA’s actions ignore the thousands of people in my home state of Kentucky who depend on the coal industry for their livelihoods."

Reid quickly objected to delay the bill while promising to hold a vote at a later date despite McConnell's urgency that the measure is needed now ahead of new EPA emission standards this week.

A coal industry leader had already raised doubts about Grimes being a more effective voice for Kentucky coal operators and miners than McConnell. But Reid's maneuvering raises further questions about whether Grimes can stand up to the Democratic leader while relying on him politically to unseat McConnell.

"Alison isn't afraid to stand up to members of either party," a Grimes campaign aide told WFPL. "She will stand up for Kentucky as its next U.S. Senator. When she is in the Senate she will get things done on behalf of Kentucky's working families. Today just underscores McConnell's weakness and ineffectiveness. His influence isn't working and he's unable to deliver for the people of Kentucky."

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Politics
7:01 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Congressman John Yarmuth Assigned to Influential Energy and Commerce Committee

Credit U.S. Congress

Kentucky Third District Congressman John Yarmuth is joining the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which puts the Democratic lawmaker in the middle of key debates including implementing President Obama's health care law.

Yarmuth voted for Obamacare, and has been its lone defender in Kentucky's federal delegation, often serving fact-checker to his congressional colleagues.

He will join congressmen Ed Whitfield and Brett Guthrie, who are both Republicans.

The panel also has jurisdiction over environmental, energy, cyber-security and consumer protection policy.

The congressman's office points out manufacturing is also under the committee's purview, which is important to the Louisville economy.

In 2009, Ford Motor Company received a $5.9 billion loan through the federal Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program, which supports the development of energy-efficient vehicles.

That allowed the company to invest $600 million to retool the assembly plant in Louisville, which has added more than 3,000 jobs recently.

"Good jobs and financial security are cornerstones of a strong society, and as a new member of the Committee, I look forward to being at the forefront of policy debates that are so critical to the future of our country," Yarmuth said.

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Politics
4:40 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

National Right to Life Endorses Mitch McConnell for Re-Election

National Right to Life

Joined by leaders with its Kentucky affiliate, National Right to Life on Wednesday endorsed Republican Senator Mitch McConnell for re-election next year.

The support from the anti-abortion organization is in sharp contrast to the backing of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes last month by the pro-choice group Emily’s List.

Speaking to reporters, National Right to Life president Carol Tobias says McConnell is an "irreplaceable" voice in the Senate as a GOP leader who has consistently backed their movement.

"Senator McConnell has been a key supporter of every major pro-life initiative to come before the U.S. Senate during his tenure, including legislation to protect un-born children at 20 weeks. That's a point by which the un-born child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion techniques," she says.

Tobias adds McConnell has also helped by blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees who support abortion rights.

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Politics
12:19 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Senator Rand Paul: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws Target Racial Minorities

U.S. Rand Paul, R-Ky.,
Credit U.S. Senate

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws need to be changed in part because they disproportionately target African-Americans and Hispanics.

"If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago. Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting because of the War on Drugs," Paul told fellow lawmakers. "The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males."

Paul was testifying about the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, which he is co-sponsoring along with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Watch:

The measure will expand the so-called "safety valve" allowing federal judges to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum in qualifying drug cases.

This is also part of Paul's larger outreach effort to racial minorities, which has sparked a discussion among civil rights leaders and lawmakers in his home state.

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Politics
9:44 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Kentucky Coal Leader Doubts Alison Lundergan Grimes Could Be Stronger Advocate Than Mitch McConnell

Alison Lundergan Grimes (l) and Mitch McConnell (r)
Credit Kentucky Secretary of State/U.S. Senate

A top coal industry leader in Kentucky is questioning if Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes can break with President Obama on restraining environmental regulations.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett also credits Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell for being the industry's chief proponent in Washington, D.C. despite the Grimes campaign blaming the GOP leader for job losses.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil stricter pollution limits this week to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country.

Despite reports that regulations would not be as stringent on coal plants as originally expected, Grimes pounced on the Obama administration to hold off.

"Coal keeps the lights on in Kentucky—plain and simple—and I will not stand idle as overreaching regulation adversely impacts jobs and middle-class families. Any new regulations must take into account the impact on Kentucky jobs and be based on current technology that will not drive Kentucky coal out of business," Grimes said.

The message is part of an effort to blunt Republican attacks that Grimes would be beholden to the president's environmental agenda. But attempts to pick up support from Kentucky coal industry leaders has yet to materialize when many already view McConnell as their top advocate.

"One person's position on coal is defined and the other has yet to be," says Bissett. "I would say our industry has looked at Sen. McConnell as the chief adversary of President Obama since he took office. I think you've seen Sen. McConnell be very engaged in coal and standing in the way of a lot the president's policies as it relates to coal in Kentucky."

Bissett adds that Grimes hasn't said much about the subject until now and rarely was involved with the industry's concerns or needs in her capacity as secretary of state.

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Politics
6:47 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

NRSC Defends Ad Criticizing Democratic Incumbent for Votes That Mirror Mitch McConnell's

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
Credit Kenny Colston / Kentucky Public Radio

When a political attack ad crosses state lines should the same strategic logic be applied?

That's what many Democrats are suggesting in reaction to a blog post by LEO Weekly, which found a Republican group's TV spot that could run in the Kentucky or Arkansas U.S. Senate race.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a spot slamming Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas for being a "liberal" clothed as a moderate.

Among the issues the NRSC calls Pryor out on are six "debt ceiling" votes that the GOP group highlights, including the Wall Street bailout.

Watch:

At least three of those measures (S.365, HR.3221 and HR.1424 for example) were also supported by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however.

Asked if those criticisms of Sen. Pryor being "liberal" could also apply to the GOP leader, the NRSC defended McConnell's fiscal voting record.

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Politics
2:28 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Kentucky Senate Republican Leader Open to Giving Felon Voting Rights a Second Look

State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown,
Credit File photo

A day after U.S. Sen. Rand Paul called on Republican lawmakers in the Kentucky General Assembly to give restoration of felon voting rights a second look, a prominent GOP state senator says the caucus might be open to the idea.

Speaking at the Plymouth Community Renewal Center earlier this week, Paul said U.S. drug laws disproportionately effect racial minorities.

One of the consequences, Paul said, is voter disenfranchisement for African-Americans.

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Politics
4:24 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Citing Racial Disparities, Senator Rand Paul Favors Restoration of Felon Voting Rights

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Acknowledging racial disparities in U.S. drug and sentencing laws, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is calling for the restoration of felon voting rights in state and federal laws.

The Tea Party favorite also says the consequence of those punitive measures is the chief culprit behind voter disenfranchisement in African-American communities.

"The biggest impediment to voting rights, right now, are convicted felons. One in three young black males has been convicted of a felony and they’ve lost their voting rights. I think it dwarfs all other (election-related) issues," says Paul.

Paul made the comments at a forum hosted by the Plymouth Community Renewal Center in west Louisville on Monday. It is part of the libertarian-leaning senator's continued effort to close the gap between Republicans and black voters, which began with a speech at Howard University this spring.

Among the measures Paul's office touted to those in attendance was co-sponsoring a bill with Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to give judges more discretion in sentencing federal drug cases.

Speaking to a handful of community activists and residents, Paul outlined how he also hopes to put forward a measure that would restore a felon's voting rights at the federal level five years after their release.

"We haven't decided which crimes yet, but I think particularly for non-violent drug crimes where people made a youthful mistake I think they ought to get their rights back," he says.

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