Noise & Notes

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
6:58 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Tea Party Nation Reconsidering Endorsement of McConnell Over Cruz's Anti-Obamacare Plan

Republican U.s. Sen. Mitch McConnell at a tea party rally in Kentucky.
Credit Kenny Colston / Kentucky Public Radio

In the midst of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's lengthy floor speech against the president's health care law, a tea party group is having second thoughts about endorsing GOP Leader Mitch McConnell for re-election next year.

Earlier today, McConnell rejected Cruz's plan to filibuster the House spending bill which funds the government past Oct. 1 but does not pay for Obamacare.

"We'd all be hard pressed to explain how we're against a bill we're all in favor of," McConnell told reporters.

But as a number of high-profiled conservatives—such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus—have come out to support Cruz's floor speech, the Tea Party Nation that backed McConnell in July is publicly reconsidering that decision.

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Politics
2:00 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Kentucky Lawmakers to Discuss Local Option Sales Tax

Credit File photo

A committee in the Kentucky General Assembly will discuss the idea of giving local voters an option to raise their sales tax to fund special projects.

State lawmakers tell WFPL they are keeping an open mind, but some cite a recent study showing Louisville is already a heavily tax-burdened city.

For the past year, Mayor Greg Fischer has been lobbying the General Assembly and others to support the idea.

The specifics haven't been unveiled, but in general a local option would allow voters to approve a temporary 1-percent tax increase that would go towards specific efforts such as new infrastructure.

A report conducted by the University of Louisville found such as tool could generate up to $138 million in revenue for the city.

Democratic state Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville is co-chair of the Interim Committee on Local Government, which is holding a hearing to discuss the proposal on Wednesday.

He says a temporary tax is an intriguing idea, but it is important legislators learn more about the proposal.

"I'm leaning for it because I see so many other communities around the nation that do it and I love letting the citizen decide and giving the citizen the liberty to determine where there money goes without sending it to Frankfort first and then it goes somewhere else. I love that part of it,” he says.

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Politics
12:34 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Urging Senate Democrats to Join Defund Obamacare Fight, McConnell Rejects Cruz's Plan

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

Speaking on the Senate floor, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cut ties with Sen. Ted Cruz's threat to use a filibuster against a bill with language defunding the president's health care law.

Facing increasing criticism from conservative groups and a primary opponent, McConnell argued Senate Democrats need to join the effort in order to take out funding for Obamacare while avoiding a government shutdown.

"I just don’t happen to think filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare," McConnell said. "All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded. And none of us want that."

The House passed a spending measure to fund the federal government past Oct. 1, but it does not pay for the Affordable Care Act.

Cruz is urging the GOP caucus to vote against that legislation because Democrats have indicated they will amend it to restore the health care law's funding. He argues any vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor is in effective supporting Obamacare as a whole.

Rather than focus on GOP infighting, McConnell proposed Democrats ought to join the effort to defund the law by having a simple majority vote on the House bill.

"Democrats have been hearing the same complaints about Obamacare the rest of us have. The spotlight should really be on them. This is a rare opportunity to defund the law with a simple majority. We should have that vote," he said.

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Politics
1:11 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Ed Marksberry Announces Independent Bid for Kentucky U.S. Senate Race

U.S. Senate candidate Ed Marksberry of Owensboro, Ky.
Credit Hillbillyreport.org

Saying Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes isn't speaking to progressives or their issues, Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Ed Marksberry is dropping out of the primary to run as an independent.

Marksberry is an Owensboro building contractor who has been running a decidedly liberal campaign to take on Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell in next year's election.

In a telephone interview with WFPL, Marksberry—who ran for Congress in 2012—says he plans to speak to the environment, poverty and gay rights in particular.

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Politics
7:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Ky. Environmentalists Want Alison Lundergan Grimes to Address Energy Future Beyond Coal

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes

In Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, environmentalists says there's little to distinguish Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes from Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell on coal.

But activists say what they're most disappointed about is Grimes hasn't outlined an agenda that speaks to the future of Kentucky's economy or the country's energy needs.

Ahead of new federal rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the Grimes campaign presented a decidedly pro-coal message by scolding the Obama administration.

When the Environmental Protection Agency released those proposed standards last week, Grimes reiterated her disappointment, saying the regulations were "out of touch" with Kentucky's needs and would hurt middle-class families.

The Grimes campaign told WFPL the first-term secretary of state does acknowledge climate change and the effects carbon emissions have on the planet's weather patterns.

But aides quickly pivoted to emphasize what they call "unnecessary regulations" that hurt Kentuckians who rely on the coal industry to provide for their families.

"While it is important to protect the environment, it is just as important to make sure the men and women of Kentucky are able to provide for their families,"  said Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton. "As Senator, Alison will work to protect the jobs of hardworking Kentuckians in any solution to the changing climate."

A 2007 Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases created by coal-fired plants are pollutants that are harmful to human health, and are thus subject to regulation.

Longtime Louisville environmental activist Sarah Lynn Cunningham says voters who care about the environment are frustrated with Grimes and that enthusiasm is already declining more than a year before Election Day.

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Politics
1:20 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Congressman Hal Rogers Says He Will Work to Protect Needy Constituents from Food Stamp Cuts

Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.,

Republican House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky says he will work to protect constituents in need from the proposed $40 billion in cuts to the federal food stamps program he voted for.

But the longtime GOP lawmaker argues too many "able-bodied" adults were allowed to benefit from the program under President Obama's watch.

Rogers joined 216 other Republicans to slash the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program on Thursday.

At issue for Rogers and other Republicans is the increase of Americans on food stamps in recent years. Those critics argue that is the result of changes to the rules of eligibility made by the Obama administration.

From Rogers's office:

"SNAP desperately needs reform and restructuring, but I recognize this is a vital program for transitioning families in southern and eastern Kentucky.

Under President Obama’s watch 1.7 million more able-bodied adults have started collecting federal food aid. Without Congressional consent, the President also removed bipartisan common-sense work requirements to maintain eligibility.

"This has forced struggling children, seniors, veterans, and families, clearly in need of assistance, to compete against scammers, lottery winners, gamblers and others who may be able to work, but simply refuse. H.R. 3102 seeks to correct these abuses and errors without cutting food assistance to our neighbors who need help the most.

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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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