Kentucky County’s proposed Intl. Code Ordinance intrusive, tramples property rights


Dear Editor,

My wife and I attended the Boone Co. Code Enforcement Board Ordinance non-vote Tuesday. Thank you, Mr. Kunkel, for calling this to our attention.

Vic Altherr

Anyone who reads this document has to be incredulous that it would be presented, much less adopted, anywhere in the U S.A. (maybe with the exception of Bill DiBlasio’s New York City).

An overflow crowd agreed, packing the first floor of the Administration Building to overflowing. Many turned around and went home.
I have to wonder about the Administration’s tin ear in presenting this wide-ranging, intrusive document to the most conservative county in the State, two months after they overwhelming elected a Governor who ran on radically shrinking government; and this on the heels of putting tolls back on the table after voting for a no-tolls resolution.
A surprising amount of attendees were first-timers, many I recognized from community service through churches and charities…people who quietly make our community a better place. They are angry. Two people involved in local government for awhile talked to me.  One said (paraphrased) over half of those people weren’t the normal crowd and the Administration better take notice. The other one chuckled, shook his head and said, “They really stepped in it this time.”
I also went to International Code Council’s (the source of this ordinance) website. This appears to be a multi-layered globalist website with keywords such as sustainable, green codes, solar codes, etc. I clicked to this portion of the site which shows the “successful” code official how to grow his empire.
The 2012 edition of the property maintenance code lists other codes it is in compliance with, including Int’l Energy Compliance Code, Int’l Existing Building Code, Int’l Green Construction Code, Int’l Private Sewage Disposal Code, Int’l Swimming Pool and Spa Code, Int’l Wildland Urban Interface Code and Int’l Zoning Code. International  means county citizens can be bound by rules voted in by autocracies, monarchies (yes, they still exist) and authoritarian single party governments half way around the world.
Boone County has been one of the fastest growing counties in the state for a very long time. Visual evidence tells me the lack of a Code Enforcement Board isn’t stopping people from moving or investing here. The Administration should get rid of this document and concentrate on making people aware of existing ways to deal with these problems. The consensus we are hearing is that it’s a bad document that should be forgotten.
Something else struck me at the meeting. More and more government employees are calling taxpayers “customers.” The main definition of customer is “one that purchases a commodity or service.” Given a choice, there are quite a few “services” I would discontinue. I consider customer a free market term indicating someone who is the subject advertising campaigns. I prefer “citizen of Boone County” or “employer”.
Vic Altherr
Union, Kentucky
Vic Altherr is a resident of Union. He publishes the community newsletter Boone and Beyond…Grassroots News, with his wife Ann Altherr.

WATERS: Liberty boosters and busters: Something new, something bold

Jim Waters head

‘Tis the season for another edition of “Liberty Boosters and Busters.”

My goal is to make these awards more about ideas than personalities. But alas, policymakers’ personal behavior occasionally is so egregious they themselves demand a spot on the “Liberty Busters” wall.

Liberty Buster: Take, for example, Speaker Greg Stumbo’s cheap shots fired at fellow House Democrats who switch parties or accept positions in Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration.

After Hopkinsville Rep. John Tilley joined the governor’s offer as justice secretary, Stumbo bared his teeth, impugning Tilley’s character and those of fellow Democrats who make similar decisions by claiming they were “for sale.”

The speaker – lacking any modicum of class or decorum since voters rebuffed his party in November’s election – failed to meaningfully recognize Tilley’s reform-filled tenure as House Judiciary Committee chairman or that he’s received national recognition for crossing Frankfort’s political aisle to advance solid criminal-justice and substance-abuse policies.

Like the lead jockey hearing thundering hoof beats of competing horses closing ground and ready to overtake him down the stretch during May’s first weekend, Stumbo knows his horse is faltering as the margin by which he holds his speakership in the House fades.

Could Stumbo find himself in an office without “Speaker” on the door by the time those horses rumble down the Churchill Downs track at this year’s Derby?

Liberty Booster: Former Louisville Metro Council member and GOP gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner offers a complete contrast to Stumbo.

Heiner hasn’t only accepted – with absolute class – former political rival Bevin’s offer to join his cabinet as its education and workforce development secretary, he’s talking about “bold moves” to address stagnant education and workforce systems by advancing an agenda driven by everything from parental choice in where and how children are educated to updating the unemployment insurance system’s antediluvian computer-programming code.

While Heiner’s built a prosperous career as a real-estate developer and doesn’t need the job, Kentucky needs his voice.

Kentucky Youth Advocates’ executive director Terry Brooks got it right when, speaking of Heiner, he told “You cannot possibly minimize the power of a strong public voice.”

The voice of Heiner, who’s invested a considerable amount of personal resources and political capital in efforts to bring public charter schools to Kentucky, will certainly sound different than the drivel we’ve heard spilling out of Frankfort for decades.

Something different is indeed needed – especially considering that, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 36 percent of Kentucky’s eighth-grade students are proficient in reading; less than 30 percent reached proficiency in math.

While progress has been made since these scores first were recorded in the 1990s, it’s been very slow and too small.

Considering the rate of academic progress in our public schools as tracked by the NAEP, education analyst Richard Innes claims it will take another 126 years before eighth-grade students in Kentucky’s public schools reach even an 80-percent proficiency rate in reading and more than 70 additional years before they make that grade in math.

Space doesn’t permit full treatment here of other candidates for a “Liberty Booster” award, such as Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, who in November became the first black Kentuckian elected to a statewide office and whose personal story will spark a spirit of entrepreneurship statewide.

We’ll tell that story soon, just as we’ll highlight foolish legislation sponsored by Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, who proposes using government power to require contractors on public projects to field a workforce comprised of 51 percent Kentuckians and 15 percent apprentices.

Yet Nelson staunchly opposes economically inclusive policies like getting rid of the prevailing-wage requirements on these same public projects, which would actually result in more Kentucky companies with a workforce made up of Kentuckians building schools and government buildings.

No wonder he was so easily defeated by Republican Alison Ball in the race for state treasurer in November.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

WATERS: Super-size restaurant taxes fund tourism’s shiny new toys


All taxpayers and restaurant owners of Shelbyville and Madisonville wanted this Christmas was to be left alone by pro-tax politicians and bureaucrats.

Nearly 3,000 of them even went to the trouble of signing Kentucky’s biggest Christmas list – a petition opposing Shelbyville’s planned super-sized restaurant tax, which the state allows fourth and fifth-class cities to pass in order to buy shiny new toys known as “tourism-related projects.”

Local politicians addicted to spending taxpayer dollars on nonessential street-scaping projects want to use the revenue raised from Shelbyville’s restaurant tax on items like a $4,000 light pole, $1,000 six-foot bench and $850 “litter receptacle,” according to city engineer Jennifer Harrell’s email to Mayor Thomas Hardesty outlining the costs of these requested toys.

Thousands of local residents and restaurant owners have made it clear: they’d rather keep their money and spend it as they – not some local mayor with visions of government-funded grandeur – see fit.

The unelected officials at local tourism agencies will have none of that, however.These bureaucrats have cast a memory spell over elected officials to the point that some council members not only support such taxes but also minimize – or even forget – who earned and owns those dollars.

I had to remind Shelbyville councilman Bob Andriot concerning this matter as he wondered aloud while addressing local tourism officials at a recent council meeting: “Are these our dollars or your dollars?”

“They’re neither, sir,” I told him during the comment period.

They belong to local servers, who are the least able to afford losing them.

Bill Hisle, who owns five Cattleman’s Roadhouse restaurants in Kentucky, including one in Shelbyville, told me that servers in his restaurants – many of whom are single mothers – carry the burden of such taxes.

“People tend to stick to their planned budget when they go out to a restaurant, and they will continue to do so – by taking the tax out of servers’ tips rather than increasing how much they actually spend,” Hisle said. “Plus, it’s not as if Shelbyville is going to file for bankruptcy any time soon. The city has money in the bank.”

Some local politicians voted for this huge profligate tax apparently without even knowing how current revenues in their general funds are spent.

Madisonville city councilman Raymond Marion during a Dec. 7 council meeting had to pause during a tirade berating restaurant-tax opponents in his community to find out more about how current dollars are spent.

“There’s a lot of money that we spend out for tourism that comes out of the General Fund. Am I correct?” he wondered inquisitively while turning to other council members before restarting his diatribe.

Even though he had to ask in that open meeting whether or not the tax was even needed to relieve some phantom-like pressure on his city’s budget, he and three other council members still voted for it.

You can bet their constituents – like the hard-working ladies out at the local Country Cupboard (a favorite Madisonville lunch location of this columnist) or Skip and Teresa McKinley, owners and operators of McKinley’s Bread Store & Deli in downtown Shelbyville for 19 years – know everything about their own budgets as they shop for those gifts on their children’s and grandchildren’s lists this Christmas.

They likely will have less money available for those requests next Christmas as beginning Jan. 1, they will be forced to collect more from their customers – most of whom are local residents – in order to fund some shiny new garbage can at the top of the local tourism-agency’s list.

At least they’ll have an upscale bench on which to sit while resting from the heavy tax burden they carry and pondering how to keep their doors open.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Election Day 2015


( – Today is the day that many states will hold statewide and executive office elections.

Gubernatorial elections will take place in Kentucky and Mississippi. Louisiana will hold their special election on November 21, 2015.

Various other elections will be held for officeholders in numerous cities, counties, school boards, special districts and others around the country.

It is a civic duty to get out and exercise your right to vote. Today is that day for local politics. Your voice and your vote matter.



Conservative Republican Matt Bevin who won his party’s primary by just 83 votes back in May takes on Democrat Jack Conway, Kentucky’s Attorney General.

This has been a toss-up throughout the campaign season and most insiders predict it will go down to the wire to determine who will become the state’s next Governor.

Bevin, a Louisville businessman, husband, and father of nine is pro-life, supports right-to-work, is against common core, wants to update and simply the tax code, and fix the public retirement system with pension reform.

Conway, the state’s Attorney General, a husband and father of two is pro-choice, against right-to-work, supports expanding early childhood education, and wants to continue with much of what current Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has implemented.

Governor Steve Beshear (D) is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.

Attorney General:

Republican Whitney Westerfield, State Senator takes on Democrat Andy Beshear, attorney and son of Gov. Steve Beshear.

Attorney General Jack Conway (D) is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.

Secretary of State:

Republican Stephen Knipper takes on incumbent Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

State Auditor:

Republican Mike Harmon, State Representative takes on incumbent Democrat Adam Edelen.

State Treasurer:

Republican Allison Ball, attorney and former staffer to Sen. Mitch McConnell takes on Democrat Rick Nelson, attorney and State Representative.

Todd Hollenbach (D) is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.

Agriculture Commissioner:

Republican Ryan Quarles, State Representative takes on Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, businesswoman and agriculture activist.

James Comer (R) decided not to run for re-election. He ran for Governor and lost in the Republican primary by just 83 votes.

Kentucky polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Ohioans will decide if they will become the Buck-High state when they vote on Issue 3, which would amend the state constitution to legalize recreational marijuana use.

If it passes, Ohio will be the first state to do so without first allowing medical marijuana.

Ohio polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.


Voters are choosing a governor and seven other statewide officials, three public service commissioners, three transportation commissioners, all 174 legislators, and county officials.

They also vote on Initiative 42, which would allow the state legislature to have complete freedom in how they fund their public schools.

Mississippi polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Voters will decide which party controls the state’s Senate. All 140 seats in Virginia’s General Assembly are up for grabs.

Currently, Republicans control the Senate 21 to 19.

Virginia polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Again, today is the day for local politics. Be sure to do your duty and get out there and vote. Bring a friend and family member. Just vote. It matters.

Kentuckians are looking at Matt Bevin for Governor

Kentucky Republican Gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin addresses a group of supporters during a Religious Freedoms Rally at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Ky., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Three Kentucky county clerks who are refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples drew thunderous cheers from a crowd gathered at the state capitol. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Kentucky Republican Gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin addresses a group of supporters during a Religious Freedoms Rally at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Ky., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Three Kentucky county clerks who are refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples drew thunderous cheers from a crowd gathered at the state capitol. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Dear Editor,

Next Tuesday, we determine the future of our State.  Voting is a right that few countries can exercise as freely as we do in the U. S.

The differences in candidates couldn’t be greater:

  • Matt Bevin:  Pro-Life
  • Jack Conway:  Pro-Abortion (has accepted money from Planned Parenthood)
  • Matt Bevin:  A self-made man who served as an Army Officer.
  • Conway:  Child of privilege
  • Matt Bevin:  Stands up for our Constitution
  • Conway:  Refused to defend a Constitutional vote required by his oath of office. (The Governor ended up spending money we don’t have in Conway’s absence)


  • Matt Bevin is a successful businessman.
  • Jack Conway became Kentucky’s chief law enforcement officer touting anti-drug skills.  Since his taking office, everyone in KY has been touched by the heroin epidemic. (The State Police in Southern KY have had to be re-trained to handle drug intoxication.)

I’ve known Matt Bevin since before he decided to run for United States Senator.  He’s a good man who has invested greatly of himself to get our state turned around for the future of our children. Conway, a man of utter incompetence panders to special interests and extreme ideologies.

Please vote on Tuesday, November 3rd and implore friends and family to vote.  This election will impact all of our lives.  Matt Bevin is the only choice.

Vic Altherr
Union, KY

WATERS: ‘Right-to-try’ for terminally ill Kentuckians: A no-brainer

Jim Waters head

Once upon a time, an eagle’s egg was knocked loose from its nest and rolled down the mountain into a barnyard full of chickens.

The chickens compassionately protected this egg until it hatched, after which they raised this creature – not as a beautiful eagle but just like a chicken who scratched the ground for grub and worms while fluttering around the barnyard.

One day, a neighbor convinced the farmer who owned the chickens to let him take that eagle up the mountainside to see if he might fly.

When that man released the eagle, the innate desire to live free and soar took over. That majestic bird stretched his wings and flew into the sky – like eagles are created to do.

But what if he hadn’t soared? What if the eagle had fallen to the ground and died when the neighbor let him go?

Would anyone dare claim he had committed an evil act by giving that eagle every opportunity to at least try to fly?

“Right-to-try” policies can be found in several other states, protecting terminally ill patients’ right to access experimental drugs that may not have gone through the bureaucracy’s full testing gambit.

Allowing terminally ill Kentuckians to try and save their own lives through experimental drugs is a no-brainer for any politician looking for legislation that has – and would – attract strong bipartisan support.

Such legislation passed Michigan’s House of Representatives 109-0 and received an overwhelming 31-2 vote in the state Senate before Gov. Rick Snyder signed it into law one year ago this month.

Americans of all political persuasions are asking: Why should we deny terminally ill people the right to try every option – even if some of those lives still are lost in the end?

Dr. Kent Brantly, who contracted Ebola – a humiliating, wasting virus – in the summer of 2014 while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia, received his first dose of the experimental drug ZMapp while standing close enough to death’s door at the age of 33 to push it open while separated from his family by 6,000 long miles.

ZMapp is made possible by antibodies produced in an Australian strain of tobacco at Kentucky BioProcessing in Owensboro.

Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a unit of Reynolds American Inc., manufactured ZMapp, which uses genetically-modified tobacco plants.

Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a unit of Reynolds American Inc., manufactured ZMapp, which uses genetically-modified tobacco plants.

Brantly, whose story is told in his moving book “Called for Life,” began to experience nearly immediate improvement after receiving his first dose in Liberia, which allowed him to get on a plane – while fully quarantined – and became the first American to return and be treated for Ebola in the U.S.

While the tobacco leaf that helped save his life isn’t the same kind found in Kentucky’s waving fields, it nevertheless is most impressive that such a demonized plant could produce such redemptive results and be produced here in the Bluegrass State.

But what if this whole experiment hadn’t worked? What if Brantly had died even after taking the drug?

Should the Food and Drug Administration have told this doctor – now fully healed and once again serving the world’s poor and downtrodden – that he had no such right to try experimental medicine that had only been tested on primates but no humans?

Fortunately, the FDA allowed Brantly to obtain ZMapp and save his life from a virus that kills 70 percent of its victims.

In other cases, though, the FDA has operated a command-and-control, pick-and-choose approach, which is neither compassionate nor fair.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

WATERS: Warmer economic climates heat up competition for jobs

Jim Waters head

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s recent stop in Kentucky to try and convince businesses to move south to the Sunshine State was met with predictable derision from the political establishment.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer used Scott’s visit to remind people of the Florida governor’s baggage from his past tenure as CEO of the Columbia HCA hospital chain, which purchased Humana’s “Galen” hospitals in the early 1990s.

Scott in 1995 moved the company’s headquarters and its 1,000 jobs from Louisville to Nashville, citing Kentucky’s high taxes. He was forced to resign in 1997 in the midst of a $1.7 billion settlement related to Medicaid fraud.

“And now, this guy is coming to Kentucky and saying, ‘Trust me?’” Fischer said. “I don’t think so.”

But Scott isn’t preaching “trust me.”

He’s in competitive mode, promoting the Sunshine State’s warm business climate – including lower taxes, less regulation and the freedom to say “no” to paying union dues without losing your job.

1st Choice Aerospace owner Chris Yeazel on the left, Florida Governor Rick Scott on the right.

1st Choice Aerospace owner Chris Yeazel on the left, Florida Governor Rick Scott on the right.

“You don’t have to worry about your taxes going up because the credit rating is not one of the worst in the country,” Scott said, rightly noting that’s “what’s happened in Kentucky.”

Scott’s not the only one who’s touting Florida.

“Friendlier tax codes make it a little easier for us to do business there,” said Chris Yeazel, owner of 1st Choice Aerospace, which has decided to expand in Scott’s state rather than at its Hebron location.

The decision by the company, which repairs interior items on commercial aircraft, means 40 new jobs and a $7 million investment will go to the Sunshine State instead of Kentucky.

It’s fair game for Scott’s critics to question his integrity.

Credibility matters.

However, Scott isn’t the only governor to come and contrast his state’s attractiveness with Kentucky’s slower economic growth.

Then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry came to Murray last year and said he didn’t “worry about” Kentucky.

“I can promise you: I get up every morning and I’m nervous about what (Gov.) Bobby Jindal’s doing in Louisiana, and I know for a fact that Rick Scott’s over there in Florida looking at his tax code, his regulatory code; he’s trying to pass major tort reform in Florida today. It makes me nervous,” Perry said. “You think (Tennessee) Gov. Bill Haslam’s not sitting down there, kind of looking up here going ‘which of these businesses am I going to come get this time’ because he’s a right-to-work state, he doesn’t have a personal income tax.”

Neither is 1st Choice Aerospace the first company to invest in another state while citing uncompetitive policies.

Chegg, Inc., a California-based textbook rental company, announced earlier this year it was closing its Shepherdsville-based fulfillment center.

Rob Chestnut, Chegg’s general counsel, told Louisville Business First: “Kentucky’s business climate has had us very unhappy for quite some time.”

The story’s headline read: “Where will Chegg Inc. move its inventory? Anywhere but Kentucky.”

Some recent data also casts serious doubt on Kentucky’s competitiveness.

A new Truth in Accounting report indicates that our commonwealth has the nation’s fourth-highest taxpayer burden.

Frankfort owes $53 billion in bills, has $13 billion in assets, which leaves $40 billion in debt and results in a $32,600 burden for each taxpayer – up from $23,800 in 2009.

Compare that with Florida’s taxpayer burden of $1,100 or neighboring Indiana’s $700 load.

Each Tennessee taxpayer would actually receive a $1,300 surplus if the Volunteer State’s $2.4 billion surplus were divided among them.

Such economic strength is attractive to companies looking to expand.

They don’t want to arrive in a state only to be forced to bail out a public-pension system through higher taxes.

Will Fischer and his fellow politicians urge Kentucky’s business owners: “Don’t leave; trust us to fix these problems”?

How many will respond: “I don’t think so”?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

WATERS: Virus of secrecy infects Kentucky Wired program

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), watch Gov. Steve Beshear deliver remarks about the importance of high-speed Internet at the KentuckyWired kickoff event in Hazard, Ky., on Aug. 31. Eastern Kentucky residents will be among the first in the state to benefit from the KentuckyWired initiative. ​

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), watch Gov. Steve Beshear deliver remarks about the importance of high-speed Internet at the KentuckyWired kickoff event in Hazard, Ky., on Aug. 31. Eastern Kentucky residents will be among the first in the state to benefit from the KentuckyWired initiative. ​

If Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration wants taxpayers to trust it to build Kentucky Wired – a $350 million, 3,000-mile high-speed Internet network – then bureaucrats in charge of the project should at least be technologically capable of scanning and posting a copy of the commonwealth’s contract with Macquarie Capital, its Australian partner.

Could it be the administration doesn’t want taxpayers to know the details because Macquarie has a poor track record when it comes to government-owned high-speed Internet projects in other states?

Instead of just releasing the documents, a Finance Cabinet official responded to a simple request to see the contract by claiming his office was having technical difficulties posting the documents online but claimed they would be available in another week or so.

It’s supposedly been months since a deal was reached, yet we still haven’t seen the contract.

With a project this big and with all Kentucky taxpayers on the hook, an open-records request should not even be required. The details should have been revealed even before it was signed.

Perhaps the claim about “technical difficulties” is just a smokescreen for politicians in Frankfort, including legislators – who slipped a $30 million Kentucky Wired-expenditure into the 2014 budget and who would rather not have us privy to its details.

If Kentucky Wired is as good as Beshear’s public-relations machine claims and even the gubernatorial candidates naively believe, wouldn’t they want taxpayers to know as much as possible – as soon as possible – about its greatness?

“Here in Kentucky, you’re about to be given a gift,” Brian Mefford, CEO of Connected Nation Exchange, piped up with all of the sunshiny-ness he could muster during a recent broadband conference. “And the only think you had to do to get that gift is to be a taxpayer.”

He’s right: this project surely will be a gift that keeps on taking … from taxpayers.

There are other question marks about the project, including how Frankfort’s genius bureaucrats and politicians concluded they could build an entire statewide network for $350 million when it cost $500 million to construct a gigabit network in one city – Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Also, realizing that there usually are cost overruns even on projects that government knows how to build reasonably well – such as roads, bridges and schools – what’s the contingency plan for such excesses related to the Kentucky Wired initiative?

What happens if the project runs out of money before completion? Will taxpayers be forced to ante up and make up the difference?

Considering that, conservatively, 85 percent of Kentuckians already have access to high-speed Internet service, where will Kentucky Wired find its customer base?

Will state government quit doing business with private companies who currently serve city colleges and universities? What would such an approach do to the rates of private Internet providers?

What if the network can’t get enough subscribers to properly fund it?

Will all Kentuckians be forced to pay higher utility fees, like Macquarie Capital tried to tack on to the bills of Utah residents – even those who already had their own service and didn’t want to subscribe to the 11-city government network?

Who will build this Internet highway? Originally, rural Kentucky contractors were promised that this would be a true public-private partnership – with them involved in constructing the fiber-optic lines for the network.

We now hear rumblings that a Canadian company is going to be brought in to build out the network instead of employing those who live, work and contract in – and know – rural Kentucky.

Making taxpayers wait to see the details until after Frankfort already committed to funding this deal is like forcing a home owner or car buyer to make the deal before finding out the terms of the loan.

It would be like saying “we’re giving you a gift,” only to find out later it was a genuine dud.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

DEACON: Disobey – Taking a stand for religious liberty

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

When Kim Davis was arrested and sent to jail by a federal judge for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Kentucky due to her religious beliefs, it made me think of Martin Luther King, Jr’s words in his well known letter from a Birmingham jail. “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Civil disobedience has an important place in our republic. The new civil rights movement has begun.

In theory, everyone should be free to do what they want to do. When someone disagrees with something but they are forced into participation, that is when the problem arises. The Kentucky clerk of Rowan County, Kim Davis, was elected to her position prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, which legalized same-sex marriage all over the country. Her job description was suddenly changed overnight. On this wikipedia chart, it shows prior to Obergefell v. Hodges, gay marriage very rarely won via referendum vote by the people. Before this Supreme Court case, most states where gay marriage was legal, it was due to a federal court decision.

Obergefell v. Hodges legalized gay marriage based on the equal protection phrase of the 14th Amendment. This was one of the Reconstruction Amendments. It handles the citizen rights of former slaves who were recently freed at the time. Following the Civil War, it gave freed slaves equal protection under the law. To use the 14th Amendment to legalize gay marriage is preposterous, especially since two years earlier, Justice Kennedy acknowledged marriage as something for the states to decide. As Justice Scalia said, “The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003.”

I never really thought the same-sex marriage issue was actually about helping gay people. Come on, the Left never does anything to help anybody. The long, hundred year progressive plan includes elements of slowly breaking apart the relationship people have with their families and with God. Socialism thrives in an atmosphere where atheism and loneliness rules supreme. Freedom dwells more in the realm of God. At it’s basic tenets, the fight between liberty and tyranny is a clear cut case of good versus evil.


(Getty Images)

Kim Davis sat in jail, while the most lawless president in American history Barack Obama, remained free and never even came close to being impeached by the spineless, futile Republican leadership. In interviews, Sen. Ted Cruz questioned why other lawless officials weren’t in jail for disobeying the law. Cruz brought up the Mayor of San Francisco who declared his city a sanctuary city defying immigration laws. American citizens have been murdered by violent illegal aliens because this Mayor is violating the law and the Attorney General of California has allowed the sanctuary city in San Francisco to stand unchallenged.

Government is persecuting Davis for her faith over this lawless judicial decree. Sen. Cruz also reminded us we were founded by people who fled religious oppression, who wanted to worship freely without government getting in the way. The presidential hopeful worried about the premise that Christians can no longer hold public office unless they violate their faith or go to jail.

Ben Carson speaks to the Palm Beach Republican Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Ben Carson speaks to the Palm Beach Republican Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson believes we are still a Judeo-Christian nation whose values are based under those beliefs. He stated that congress should somehow step up to prevent situations similar to Kim Davis from happening in the future. He believes separation of powers exist because when one branch of government makes a mistake such as the Judicial branch, it is up to the other branches to correct the problem. Nobody should be able to force their way of life onto another.

The Supreme Court decision was blatant judicial activism. Leftists try to debate the Davis situation by throwing around the establishment clause of the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF.” The purpose of “no establishment” was to protect “free exercise.” According to law professor, Rob Natelson, whenever in conflict, the former must yield. Sexual behaviors are not a religion, despite what the militant, rainbow flag waving activists at GLAAD want us to believe. Gay people are less than 2 percent of the American population. This same-sex marriage issue was designed from the beginning to be an assault on the Christian majority and a part of the transformation of America.

Years ago, Justice Black’s opinion with Everson v. Board of Education established the anti-religious precedent which has done so much damage to religious freedom. And of course Black had ulterior motives as a KKK member who was also an anti-Catholic intolerant hateful bigot. The First Amendment was meant to protect religion from government, not to protect government from religion. It’s meant to protect individuals like Kim Davis, not the government body which employs her. The phrase “Separation of Church and state” came from a letter Jefferson wrote, not the Constitution. The statists like to figure out ways to twist language, misinterpret and use the law against the law-abiding. Five justices acted outside the law when they legalized gay marriage. They violated the law. Now, people are asking average citizens to simply obey and “follow the law.” Well, Anthony Kennedy isn’t a king and this is tyranny.

Our framers were men of faith. Many of our monuments and buildings reference God and the Bible. For decades now, our countries court system has abused the First Amendment’s free exercise clause in an attempt to erase this nation’s Christian heritage. As Mark Levin wrote in his book, Men In Black, “The intensive and concerted effort to exclude references to religion or God from public places is an attack on our founding principles. It’s an attempt to bolster a growing reliance on the government—especially the judiciary—as the source of our rights. But if our rights are not unalienable, if they don’t come from a source higher than ourselves, then they’re malleable at the will of the state. This is a prescription for tyranny.” In the same book Levin refers to judicial activists as “radicals in robes.” What a great description.

Even President Lincoln defied a Supreme Court decision with Dred Scott. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. are two great leaders in our history who have used peaceful disobedience to prove a point. One man, Justice Kennedy, is imposing his desires and beliefs on 300 million people. Justice Scalia even advised people to defy this same-sex marriage law in his dissent because it is unconstitutional. Once again, like Ronald Reagan used to remind us, the federal government is the problem. They have no respect for the 10th Amendment. They have no respect for federalism. Hopefully, more people will begin rising up like Kim Davis did against this runaway federal government flooded with judicial activism.

Marriage is and always has been, first a religious institution, but secondly a state issue. The federal government has no right to involve itself in marriage. The Constitution clearly spells out in plain language what specific powers the federal government has, the states cover everything else. Each individual has unalienable rights which no government can take away. We will begin to see more and more Christians being persecuted in this country. More and more people will begin to take a stand against this iron fisted lawless government which is currently running the United States. The law is being used to violate the Constitution, which is the ultimate law, and the document which protects the people from out of control centralized tyranny.

This line from the Declaration of Independence still holds true today, “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, IT IS THEIR DUTY, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Religious liberty is under attack! We will see this War On God continue as the Left marches forward with its fundamental transformation of America. As conservatives, at times we will need to disobey, to commit civil disobedience and to remind ourselves we are serving a higher power, one who sides with freedom.

Remember what Aristotle once said, “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”

4 Reasons to care about Kentucky Governor’s race


The Cincinnati Enquirer is running a story this weekend by the same title, however, it is misleading and shows how disconnected they continue to be with Northern Kentucky.

Their reasons: “Northern Kentucky needs to improve turnout”, “who will gain momentum for the 2016 Senate race”, “the White House effect”, and “tepid Republican support”.

I ask, what do any of those have to do with how voters should weigh their choices this November? The answer is a very distinct, “absolutely nothing.”

Instead, please allow me to offer four REAL reasons:

  • Pension Crisis

As of January 1, 2015, the Kentucky teacher retirement system faced more than $14 Billion in unfunded liabilities. This is in addition to the $17 Billion in unfunded pensions in the Kentucky Retirement System. No solution came out of the legislative session, and the can was kicked down the road yet again. This massively looming debt grows daily, is not being addressed and is not sustainable. Pensions continue to be offered to state employees as a benefit, so the burden grows through attrition.

All of this burden falls upon the Kentucky taxpayer. Our police, fire, teachers, and civil servants all stand to lose their retirement that they’ve worked for if something is not done.

  • Tax Deficit

The current Kentucky tax code is more than 60,000 pages.  The state, in 2014, gave out $90M more than it took in, and is on pace to fall more than $35M short in 2015.  This, is in addition to the pension deficit. The tax code in current form does not provide competitive opportunity for businesses to locate within the commonwealth.  Major players such as Toyota, Humana, and Omnicare have moved out of state for greener pastures.  All sides agree that comprehensive tax reform is needed, but the seated governor and legislature have ignored the issue, and again, passed the buck.

  • Health Care Reform

The creation of a state exchange, KYNECT, was initiated as part of the Affordable Care Act.  The exchange is heralded as one of the better state exchanges in design, and was created with $253.6M in grants, of which only $60M have been accounted for.  The state spent more than $11M in 2014 just promoting the exchange, who has 622 employees.  The cost to operate KYNECT is stated at $39M per year.  States are not required to operate their own exchange, and all services provided by the exchange can be received through the federal ACA online exchange.

Medicaid expansion in the state has increased the annual state cost of funding. The governor’s projections in 2013 were for 147,000 people to join the expanded program, at a cost of $33M.  More than 310,000 people joined, just the first year pushing the cost projections to $119M per year.  The healthcare marked is turning to increased costs upon the insured, because of the reduced reimbursement rates of Medicaid, driving the expense of healthcare up, to compensate.  The cycle is not sustainable, and the state currently has no answers to fund the expansion.

  • Labor Law

Right to work legislation is at Kentucky’s doorstep.  The concept with Right-To-Work is that by law, no one can be forced to enter into an organized labor contract / agreement.  This does not ban unions, but does make participation within them elective.  This issue is very divisive, as the organized labor contingent believes it jeopardizes their funding and ability to operate, and those opposed to forced participation believe the increased dollars going to worker pockets instead of union dues are a job creation incentive.  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee all have passed right to work legislation, and are all in direct competition for business growth and expansion with Kentucky.

All four of these topics have major implications on the future ability of our state government to function. In Northern Kentucky we have a looming need for an I-75 bridge solution, and our sprawling growth has overburdened many state highways and systems.

Which candidate offers the best skill set, and approach to resolving these major issues facing our state?

Here are your choices:

Do your homework Kentucky, and VOTE!

November 3, 2015.

GASPARD: Resistance to marriage ruling essential


Public Officials Are Right to Stand Opposed

In a shameful break with human history and legal precedent, the Supreme Court has radically and tyrannically altered the definition of Marriage as it has been universally acknowledged since the origins of mankind. This usurpation of power demands civil resistance.

Commencing from the foundation of our civilization, marriage has been a sacred religious institution, and no government or court has the power to redefine it without violating the traditional order of society and the hallowed institution of marriage itself, including the religious liberty of those upon whom the new definition is forced.

While government should correctly have no sacred place in marriage, it chose to license the holy institution for the purpose of publicly recording the consecrated bond and lawfully recognizing its existence. Unfortunately, the government quickly moved to regulate and tax marriage – and more recently opted to perform and sanction secular union ceremonies – thus helping to culminate in the current crisis of religious identity we now face.

Truly, it would have been altogether unreasonable for someone to say that the traditional institution of marriage was in any way opposed to the good order of society or religious precedent. This is why there has not been nor could there be an objection from any public official or government body relative to the marriage of one man and one woman.

The revised and expanded definition, however, is most certainly an affront to the historical order of civilization and religious precedent. On this point there can be no argument. This is why the intolerance of those who demand that every person accept the new meaning of marriage is not only outrageous, but is quite frankly the very definition of intolerable.

Clearly, those who hold fast to tradition and their religious values are not the ones who have changed; they are not the ones who are attempting to force a new idea, belief, or explanation for the institution of marriage upon others.  Why then do so many people find it unreasonable for anyone – whether in their public or private capacity – to resist the innovation, to demand due process, or to argue the point of religious freedom?

This point is no less salient for the hundreds and thousands of public officials who accepted a position that at once respected their religious values and principles – especially relative to the institution of marriage – but now purports via judicial fiat something radically new. Sadly, many folks are arguing that these principles apply to private citizens only, and are actually demanding that public officials resign from office. That argument is patently false.

Yet, even aside from the religious liberty perspective, one cannot deny other key issues and facts. In Kentucky, for example, all elected officials and many public employees take an oath to uphold the constitution of that state.  And, while the People have the ability to amend or alter that revered document, the courts do not carry such authority. Specifically, the courts may only render an opinion or ruling relative to the validity of a law in accordance with the Constitution. In other words, the “Law of the Land” as so many folks clamor is embodied only in the language of the Constitution itself, not any ruling whatsoever by the Court.

To be clear then, the Kentucky Constitution states explicitly: Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky.

With this in mind, the more provocative question facing the people should not be whether a small number of county clerks are refusing to issue marriage licenses, or asking for their individual religious beliefs to be protected, but rather why the rest of us aren’t suing those county clerks who have been issuing secular union licenses in opposition to their oath.

Frankly, while it’s easy to understand why most public officials would be frightened to resist the ominous force of the Court and subsequent mob of people expecting conformity, it’s also reasonable to believe that most county clerks not only share that same fear, but furthermore don’t recognize the full complement of their rights under the Kentucky and U.S. Constitutions. Therefore, we must boldly encourage those willing to make a stand.

Ultimately, the preservation of our Christian heritage and American culture demands that emboldened patriots – and especially those who are passionate about their religious traditions – stand and be counted in opposition to the completely radical usurpation of power by the supreme Court of the United States. It is not an expression of liberty, nor does it reflect a mature understanding of the convictions which led to our nation’s founding, to accept judicial fiat in place of government of the People, by the People, and for the People.

Religious liberty set aside, the United States of America is a Constitutional Republic. We pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic for which it stands.  We honor the lives of those who fought and died so that we may live free in a nation that acknowledges human rights are derived by God, not man.  We boldly proclaim that government derives its power from the consent of the governed, and not from those who hold offices of authority or preside over courts and tribunals. We cherish a Bill of Rights articulating certain inviolable freedoms and praise a Constitution which enumerates restricted powers to the federal government, and reserves authority over all other matters to the States, or to the People.

In the end, I am reminded of the motto drafted by Benjamin Franklin for the first Great American Seal, which included a symbolic scene from Exodus depicting Moses in a manner to express that he acts by the command of God.  This same motto would later be adopted for the personal seal of Thomas Jefferson: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

Right now, perhaps the best expression of our obedience to God and rebellion to tyrants is to support the handful of public officials willing to make a stand, and resist the intolerant pressure to renounce our religious values by those who would ridicule us into submission. Let us not be willing to surrender our religious and cultural heritage. Let us stand and fight.

Kentucky GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Matt Bevin responds to County Clerk’s arrest

Kentucky Republican Gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin addresses a group of supporters during a Religious Freedoms Rally at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Ky., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Three Kentucky county clerks who are refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples drew thunderous cheers from a crowd gathered at the state capitol. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Kentucky Republican Gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin addresses a group of supporters during a Religious Freedoms Rally at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Ky., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

MIDDLETOWN, Ky. — Republican Candidate for Governor Matt Bevin issues a statement on Thursday regarding Rowan County clerk Kim Davis’s arrest.

“It is utterly unnecessary that Rowan County clerk, Kim Davis, is sitting in a jail cell, when there is a simple solution that would respect the rights of every Kentuckian. I first put this solution forward many weeks ago. […] As Governor, I will stand up for all Kentuckians, not just the ones who agree with me,” said Bevin.

Davis came under fire recently by refusing to issue any same-sex marriage licenses in Rowan County even after the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage in June. She has stated that doing so would violate her right to religious freedom although the Supreme Court disagrees with her. Since this has been going on, Davis and the Rowan County clerk’s office has not been issuing any marriage licenses.

When asked by reporters how she can continue to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses, she responded by saying, “under God’s authority.”

The Republican Gubernatorial Candidate has also stated that he supports Davis by saying, “I absolutely support her willingness to stand on her First Amendment rights,” he said. “Without any question I support her.”

Bevin appeared on CNN Thursday morning to comment on this stating that government should be out of marriage all together.

Bevin’s plan, encourages the government to get out of marriage contracts entirely saying “Two consenting adults should not need to ask for permission from the government to enter into a contractual relationship – a license should not be needed. ”

The plan also adds; “As with other contracts, the government’s role should be limited to recording, interpreting, or enforcing such contracts in times of dispute.”

Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, after refusing to grant a marriage certificate to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz on Wednesday. Credit Ty Wright/Getty Images

Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, after refusing to grant a marriage certificate to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz on Wednesday. Credit Ty Wright/Getty Images

Davis was ordered to appear in court on Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses and the judge offered her a deal. If she were to allow her deputy clerks to begin issuing licenses without interference, she would be “Purged of Contempt”.

Five out of the six deputy clerks agreed to begin issuing licenses. The clerk who continues to refuse is Davis’s son, Nathan.

Davis rejected the judge’s proposal, which would have more than likely allowed her to be released from custody. Judge David L. Bunning ordered Ms. Davis to jail.

Rand Paul, the Republican presidential candidate and a senator from Kentucky, said it was “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties.”

Rowan County clerks will begin processing the paperwork for all marriage licenses starting on Friday.

WATERS: Conway gets it right: State board violates open-meetings law

Jim Waters head

Attorney General Jack Conway is right: the state Board of Education violated Kentucky’s open-meetings law when an ad hoc committee it hastily created in April conducted business in unannounced, closed-session conditions while hiring a search firm to aid in finding a replacement for outgoing commissioner Terry Holliday.

State board chairman Roger Marcum indicated in a May 4 text to Bluegrass Institute staff education analyst Richard Innes that the subcommittee spent “many hours” reviewing proposals offered by search firms after Holliday’s surprise announcement – but the public was never informed.

Even with valid reasons, government agencies cannot legally go into closed session without first publicly citing the specific authorization for conducting the stated business outside public purview, followed by a motion and vote – again, in public – to go into closed session.

This subcommittee did neither, although it clearly was active because it narrowed the number of search firms to only one. The full state education board then voted to hire that firm – Asher/Greenwood & Associates, a Florida company that also recruited Holliday to Kentucky.

Since transparency is vital to holding government agencies accountable, I sent an official complaint on behalf of the Bluegrass Institute to the board in the form of a simple two-part suggestion: the board should acknowledge its error and commit to conducting a training session for its members with an Open Meetings expert from Conway’s office during a regularly scheduled, webcasted meeting.

Board attorney Kevin Brown sent me a letter flatly refusing to acquiesce to my uncontroversial plea, which led to the appeal.

Following release of Conway’s decision, the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) breathlessly defended the state education establishment, hyperventilating in the headline of its statement: “KDE doesn’t believe Attorney General’s opinion impacts ongoing commissioner search process.”


However, past open-meetings violations have resulted in courts voiding contracts, including those of contractors hired to find new school leaders. It would be better for the board to comply with the ruling, perform my education remedy and put this incident in its rear-view mirror.

The KSBA irrelevantly remarked in its statement that my appeal of the department’s refusal to acknowledge its wrongdoing comes from “a frequent critic of the state Department of Education and public education in Kentucky in general,” as if a violation of open-meetings laws somehow doesn’t matter so much when called out by a “critic” of a system that routinely ranks behind many other states in its academic performance.

If the institute’s goal is to degrade the department in some way, would we make such a benign request for corrective action – the most-discomfiting part of which would be simply to acknowledge that open-meetings laws were violated?

A primary reason we included that request was to demonstrate respect for a law without which there would be frequent closed-door meetings offering increased temptation to act in ways not conducive to serving the taxpayers who pay the freight for our public-education system.

The state board’s argument throughout this challenge has been that its temporary ad hoc committee was formed for a single task and thus could ignore the open-meetings law.

That’s a weak, and ultimately losing, argument from an agency that will spend the most – $8 billion – of any state-government department in the current General Fund budget.

Perhaps state board members or their political pals in Frankfort and at the alphabet-soup agencies and organizations don’t deem the state’s education system worthy of being subject to such a high level of scrutiny – especially since it was just a “single task.”

But hiring the next leader of Kentucky’s entire public-education system happens to be one of the board’s most important tasks.

Such a task may be singular in nature but huge in consequences.

In fact, if there’s any decision that should be made with full transparency and accountability throughout the entire process, it’s this one.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

WATERS: Tear down Kentucky’s occupational licensing walls

Jim Waters head

A White House report on oppressive occupational licensing requirements reads more like it came from a Rand Paul administration than the current President’s coal-hating crew.

“There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across state lines,” the report states. “Too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh these costs and benefits when making decisions about whether or how to regulate a profession through licensing.”

Then again, sometimes they do.

For example, Kentucky’s licensing requirements for auctioneers previously were the third-most stringent among states – requiring two full years of experience to become a principal auctioneer, compared to the national average of three months.

However, the state’s Board of Auctioneers in Elizabethtown wants to double the number of Kentuckians – currently more than 2,000 – interested in the profession.

“The more, the merrier,” Ken Hill the board’s executive director said. “We don’t have enough now; we’d like to bring in some new blood.”

Hill convinced the board to reduce some entry costs and the experience requirement to a single year.

Barriers remain, including more than a week of required intensive classroom training which cannot be accessed online and is only available at two locations at costs exceeding $1,000.

Still, Hill is moving toward a common-sense licensing approach that he believes achieves “a balancing act” by protecting consumers from fraudulent auctioneer-actors and “fly-by-nighters” without insulating current auctioneers from more competition.

But there’s much about occupational licensing policies that remains unbalanced.

For instance, burdens placed by arbitrary regulations on military families were a primary motivating factor in the White House’s unusually relevant and frank report.

First Lady Michelle Obama in all of her school-lunch-changing glory has recognized that onerous licensing schemes affect the ability of service members and their spouses to find employment.

Military spouses are 10 times more likely to have moved across state lines in the past year than their civilian counterparts and “have a difficult time obtaining a new license each time they move,” the report said.

Eliminating arduous requirements for military spouses – 35 percent of whom work in professions requiring state credentials – would have a disproportionately positive impact on Kentucky, which ranks ninth-highest among states in the number of active duty military personnel stationed within our borders.

The report also notes that states can better serve returning veterans by using their excellent military training to bypass licensing policies that place “heavy burdens” on their ability to become civilian paramedics, truck drivers, nurses or welders.

How might removing barriers that still remain to heavily licensed professions open doors for Kentucky’s 27,000 military retirees?

The legislature, which has demonstrated an openness to helping military families, could do even more by recognizing that 60 percent of veterans responding to a 2012 survey indicated they had trouble translating their military skills into what Kentucky’s licensing boards consider sufficient – and significant – job experience.

The fact that only 15 of the 102 low- and moderate-income occupations looked at in an analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Justice are credentialed in 40 states or more indicates job-licensing schemes are more about cabals of incumbents seeking to keep competitors out rather than any meaningful public protection.

“These regulations don’t exist because citizens are storming the gates of the legislature begging for fences to keep out those wanting to break into the field,” said the Institute for Justice’s Dick Carpenter, who advised the White House on its recent report.

Kentucky compared to all of its neighboring states has, by far, the largest percentage of its workforce licensed, indicating there’s plenty of work that Obama’s Democrats and Paul’s Republicans could do in Frankfort to remove yet another barrier to entering and flourishing in the commonwealth’s fields of labor.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

WATERS: Transparency is the best medicine for drug-pricing program

Jim Waters head

If ever a well-intentioned government program was trusted too much and verified too little, it’s the 340B Drug Pricing plan created by Congress in 1992 to help indigent and uninsured patients acquire costly prescription medicines.

The policy forces manufacturers to sell those drugs to participating hospitals at reduced rates; some price at more than 50 percent below retail.

However, a lack of proper oversight combined with passage of the Affordable Care Act has resulted in a collusion between big hospitals, big pharmacies and big government, causing an explosion in the size of 340B.

More than 14,000 facilities have signed up despite the fact that 340B was initially meant to serve only around 90 safety-net hospitals and clinics. Spending on 340B ballooned from $1.1 billion in 1997 to more than $7 billion in 2013 and is projected to reach $16 billion by 2020.

The 340B cabal seems to force one industry – drug manufacturers – to subsidize huge profits of hospitals and big-chain pharmacies that likely don’t provide direct benefits to vulnerable and uninsured patients, at least not in proportion to the savings the facilities squeeze from makers.

Participating hospitals simply aren’t required to reveal enough relevant data needed to determine whether they use the 340B program as Congress intended or merely to enhance their bottom line.

A congressional hearing was finally held in March after a growing chorus of voices – including mine in a column last year – criticized Congress for failing to hold a single oversight hearing in the 22 years since 304B’s  creation even though the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), the program’s oversight agency, admitted more accountability is needed.

But an effective prescription will involve more than tepid talk.

Answers are needed for fundamental questions, including: Should hospitals offering extremely low percentages of charity care even be allowed to participate in the 340B program?

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to suspect hidden, costly maladies and seek a second opinion on the condition of the program at places like Duke University’s rich hospital, which, according to a four—page letter to the HRSA from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, reported 340B profits of $463 million between 2009 and 2012 while treating no more than 5 percent charity cases in any of those years.

While some Kentucky hospitals and clinics seem to correctly use the program by caring for large percentages of 340B patients, it’s certainly questionable whether others are passing on to these patients the savings they receive, much less whether they even qualify for participation – considering how small a percentage of their overall revenues are devoted to charity cases.

For instance, there’s a stark difference in Louisville between University Hospital, where, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, charity cases comprised nearly 10 percent of their patient load in 2014, and Norton Healthcare, which, despite $1.5 billion in revenues and 53 contracted pharmacies, reported less than 1 percent of vulnerable patients.

Still, both are considered “Disproportionate Share Hospitals,” allowing them to purchase highly discounted 340B medicines.

We also see such disparities in other parts of Kentucky.

Charity cases in 2014 comprised more than 9 percent at St. Joseph Hospital in Mt. Sterling but less than 0.5 percent at T.J. Samson Community Hospital of Glasgow and The Medical Center of Bowling Green, which reported $125 million and $285 million in revenues, respectively, during that same year.

Yet all three hospitals claim to serve a “disproportionate” share of indigent patients and are eligible to participate in 340B.

What’s needed are disproportionately large doses of transparency to help determine whether 340B hospitals are, in fact, passing manufacturers’ savings on to enough needy patients.

Some unquestionably are; others undoubtedly profit in big ways from failing to do so and should be rendered ineligible for further participation.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

WATERS: Overtime rules, faulty assumptions

Jim Waters head

I asked reporters who contacted me for comment regarding President Obama’s proposal to more than double the salary threshold for those getting overtime pay – from $455 to $970 – whether they also planned on including in their stories the number of people who could suffer financial harm by such a move.

They can’t.

No one knows, including the President and his supporters, who – in the same way – cannot back their claims that this policy will help millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Kentuckians.

Wouldn’t any thoughtful analysis of a mandate that could, according to the National Retail Federation, cost businesses $5.2 billion a year at least acknowledge that while some people may indeed be helped by such a policy, a downside does exist.

However, proposals like this aren’t about careful economic analysis. Rather, they’re driven to appeal to a partisan emotionalism.

Otherwise, Obama’s labor-department prognosticators would acknowledge what any Econ 101 student at the University of Kentucky knows: When a tax or regulation is enacted, a process almost subconsciously kicks in whereby those most affected by such government coercion begin searching for ways to avoid paying the Uncle Sam-subsidized piper.

A stark example of this occurred when President George H.W. Bush agreed to raise taxes despite his famous “read my lips: no new taxes” pledge during the 1988 Republican National Convention.

Bush eventually compromised with congressional leaders.

Both sides agreed that raising taxes on items like aircraft, jewelry and luxury yachts would produce some quick revenue and not harm middle-class Americans because those are items generally purchased by wealthier people.

Like Obama’s labor gurus assume that employers will not adjust to avoid his or her increased labor “taxes,” Bush and Congress apparently assumed no change would occur in the purchasing practices of wealthy Americans despite the tax hikes.

You do know what assumptions make out of us, don’t you?

Instead of raising more money to effectively address the deficit, Bush’s plan backfired as aircraft, jewelry and yacht industries laid off middle-class Americans who manufactured these items.

In the end, more money was paid out in unemployment benefits than was received in new tax revenue.

It might be worth noting for our progressive friends: wealthy individuals and companies don’t bear the brunt of tax increases or government wage mandates.

They simply pass the cost and consequences on in the form of pink slips for workers, reducing salaried managers to hourly workers and higher prices for consumers – all of which negatively impacts the very people they design such policies to assist.

On the other hand, reducing government interference in the marketplace and increasing incentives for entrepreneurship – accomplished by welfare-reform legislation passed by a politically divided federal government in the 1990s – can refuel and spark an economic recovery.

The Obama administration uses current employment numbers of salaried workers to support its claim that its new overtime rules will result in bigger paychecks for 4.7 million Americans, including 70,000 Kentuckians.

This assumes that David Douglass, CEO of Nashville-based Back Yard Burgers, Inc., doesn’t carry through with his plan reported by the Wall Street Journal to “figure out an arrangement” that places many of currently salaried general managers on hourly pay “so their total compensation doesn’t increase significantly, even accounting for overtime.”

If that could happen to salaried general managers, what might be in store for Kentuckians who are hourly employees but who dream of a brighter future with a salary and an opportunity?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

BROWN: Kentucky’s same sex-marriage ban should be upheld


(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In 2004, Kentucky voters went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly for an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that makes it unlawful for the Commonwealth of Kentucky to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. The referendum was approved by 75 percent of the voters. As the Boone County GOP Chairman at that time, I voted for the amendment and supported and passed a Republican Party resolution supporting the passage of the amendment.

The strongest argument for the amendment was to protect the moral and historical importance of traditional marriage as a sacred institution in our society. Sadly, Kentucky’s marriage laws, along with those of many other states, have come under attack over the past decade by pro-gay marriage advocates claiming states with same sex-marriage bans are in violation of the U. S. Constitution.

I fully support and believe the religious and moral arguments made to maintain Kentucky’s current laws defining marriage. But the Supreme Court justices must address the constitutional question of a state’s right to define marriage. This should be where the clear answer to this debate is found, no matter what side of the gay marriage issue one is on.

Gay marriage activists claim their individual rights are violated by same-sex marriage bans, but their argument is invalid and illogical because the U.S. Constitution does not include a right to marry. (I am not a lawyer but thankfully our founding fathers wrote the Constitution simply enough for any ordinary citizen to understand.) In fact, the word “marriage” does not even appear in the document. The U.S. Constitution is perfectly clear in the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States [federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

So, does any provision of the Constitution delegate power over marriage to the federal government? I can find none. This is clearly a states’ rights issue and the only potential violation of rights would be on our state if Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage is overturned.

The debate has worked its way through our Federal Court system and is now being considered by the highest court in the land. The U.S. Supreme Court will render its decision this month. I hope the court will rule in favor of our Constitution and not with the activist federal judges in the lower courts.

WATERS: Obamacare’s Kentucky success: A real fish tale

Jim Waters head

I spot some information on Obamacare’s far seas where the Kentucky Department of Insurance rides on high waters, indicating the leak that began forming last year in the creaky boat carrying Kynect – Kentucky’s version of Obamacare – is expanding.

Is water filling this boat?

I listened closely as the insurance department on Wednesday revealed rate increases being requested for 2016 by insurers offering plans through the Kynect health exchange, and could have sworn to hearing gurgling noises coming from air pockets as Obamacare drowns in the sea of broken promises offered by its namesake.

President Obama while campaigning for office in 2008 promised: “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”

The fact that the Kentucky Health Cooperative, which was created with taxpayer-funded loans for the express purpose of providing coverage to Kentuckians seeking subsidized insurance, is seeking a whopping 25-percent increase in its rates makes the president’s claims equivalent to a big fish tale from the high seas.

After the real size of this whopper was revealed, Obamacare defenders tried to walk it all back, claiming that what they really meant was the situation would have been much worse without their reforms.

“It’s an indication of just how much the health insurance reform debate has changed that Obamacare defenders are now thrilled that premiums are going up, on average, only 7 percent or 8 percent,” Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, told the Heartland Institute’s Health Care News. “They now proudly claim that’s no worse than it was before Obamacare – even though the promise had been that premiums would go down.”

This fish tale grows even longer when combining Kentucky Health Cooperative’s demand for a 25-percent rate this year with last year’s requested – and granted – 20 percent increase, which makes it a 45-percent increase just during the past two years.


Other states have their own favorite Obamacare fish tales.

Health Care Service Corp., the primary insurer in New Mexico’s exchange, wants a 52-percent spike.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee asked for an increase of 36 percent – which, since it’s an average like Kynect, means the smallest increase any Tennessean enrolled in the plan will get socked with is 20 percent while some get hooked with ginormous 60-percent hikes next year.

Similar ranges will occur within the Kentucky Health Cooperative Plan. Some Kentuckians will get hit with a much-larger increase in 2016 than the 25-percent “average” being sought by the financially struggling cooperative.

Rate increases aren’t the only factor contributing to the leak in Obamacare’s boat.

High-deductible plans purchased through exchanges have resulted in one in four of their customers skipping doctor’s appointments and important medical tests, according to a new Families USA study.

Even though these lower and middle-income Americans are ineligible for Medicaid and have purchased plans through a government-run exchange, they cannot afford to pay their premiums and out-of-pocket deductibles – a minimum of $1,500 on exchange plans – while still going to the doctor and obtaining important tests.

Even as they struggle, these enrollees are held up by Obama and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear as evidence of the Affordable Care Act’s success.

In this year’s State of the Commonwealth speech, Beshear praised Obamacare, claiming “Kentuckians will visit the doctor half-a-million more times” and that the program will result in “a higher quality of life.”

That claim has all the elements of a really good, developing fish tale, a real whopper – Obamacare-style.

It’s like being on a sinking boat in the ocean’s midst while dreaming you’re on dry land.

Wishing doesn’t make it so.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

The Kentucky Revolution starts with Matt Bevin

Matt Bevin was supposed to be dead in the water.  Mitch McConnell was supposed to put Matt Bevin’s life and career on the ash heap of political history.  Mitch McConnell promised he would permanently crush Matt Bevin. Mitch McConnell and his henchman warned Matt Bevin he wouldn’t even be acknowledged at his own church, if he chose to run against Mitch McConnell. After 2014’s loss, Mitch McConnell counted on Matt Bevin’s political pursuits to be passive.  Mitch McConnell counted wrong.

Matt Bevin, the presumed Republican nominee for Governor currently leads Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by 83 votes after last week’s Republican primary. Comer has asked for a review of the state’s voting machines and absentee ballots, a process known as “recanvassing” which should start and conclude this Thursday. Historically, this process has not yielded any change in the election and this race should be no different.

Matt Bevin ran the most positive, well articulated and strong vision to reclaim Kentucky in recent political history.

Plain and simple, Bevin ran the best campaign.

It wasn’t just the “Food fight” ad. Bevin and campaign manager Ben Hartman, whose last campaign also lost to an establishment U.S. Senate candidate in a 2014 primary, made all the right moves at all the right times.Bevin2

As the candidates spent their weekends this spring at Lincoln Day dinners across the state, Bevin began turning heads.

McConnell loyalists, slightly alarmed, reported that they were hearing from supporters in every corner of the state that at every dinner, Bevin was blowing away the field with his remarks.

Bevin didn’t make his millions by accident. He is a great salesman, and he sold himself with aplomb at those dinners.

He had, after all, become a student of the dinners, regularly attending them in 2014 long after he had been vanquished by McConnell.

Aided by his personal fortune, Bevin hit the ground running in late January, and he tirelessly campaigned across the state, giving voters his “Blueprint for Kentucky” and asking them, just as he did in 2014, just to “kick the tires” on what he was proposing.

Matt Bevin’s message has been a clear bold contrast to the Democrats and the only Republican candidate who has spelled out a written consistent conservative message with his Blueprint For A Better Kentucky.


Mitch McConnell and his minions know this.  The last thing they want is to see Matt Bevin succeed in being the next Governor of Kentucky.  It would mean that Matt Bevin is not in Mitch’s back pocket.  You’ve already seen early on Mitch and his minions running interference and trolling social media for Conway to help defeat Matt Bevin.

“According to the Herald Leader, Bevin also said that if anyone doubted that he worked hard to support McConnell in that campaign, Larry Cox — and old friend and advisor of McConnell — would vouch for him.

In a phone conversation with Insider Louisville, Cox did nothing of the sort, saying that Bevin was completely making that up.

‘No, I cannot do any of that,’ said Cox, struggling to contain shocked laughter. ‘I don’t know why he would even invoke my name. That is inviting the discrediting of what he had to say. I am lost, I really am lost. No, there was never any evidence of support for Mitch McConnell of which I’m aware at all.”

Cox said he wants to see the Republican Party unite for the fall elections, but Bevin’s falsehoods right off of the bat aren’t doing the party any favors.

“It’s in my interest as a longtime Republican activist to see a party that pulls together, but my gracious, I also would like to protect my integrity just a little, too,” said Cox. “Surely you know it really is up to the nominee to pull the party together. And when you pick out somebody like me… and quote them with what is nothing but a lie, that is probably not doing a whole lot to help party cohesion. So I don’t know where it goes from here. This is not an element of unity building.”

How do we know that Larry Cox isn’t lying about Bevin’s conversation with him?  A better question who really cares about 2014?  Mitch and his minions do.  It’s not about party unity for them, instead it’s about continuing to throw distractions Matt Bevin’s way in order to boost the Democrat nominee, Jack Conway.  Mitch McConnell sees a path where Matt Bevin is continually distracted with trying to reach out to him in the same way that Cuccinelli in Virginia was obsessed with trying to suck up to Bill Bolling.


Cuccinelli should have instigated Bill Bolling to run as an Independent.  While conventional wisdom was that Bolling would have taken more votes from Cuccinelli than McAuliffe, it’s pretty clear looking at the results that Bolling would have cut significantly into the McAuliffe vote, and won many high-income “moderates” who ultimately voted for McAuliffe anyway.”

You will hear over the next couple of months that Matt Bevin desperately needs Mitch McConnell and his influence to win Kentucky.  Mitch’s minions will drive this home.   The Kentucky media will drive this home.  You will continue to see false stories of how Mitch is the one who wants to unite and Matt Bevin is still bitter about 2014 and all the while it will be Mitch McConnell and his pack of wolves working in the shadows to undermine Matt Bevin’s campaign. The good news is that it won’t work.  Mitch McConnell is too distracted to kill off Matt Bevin’s chances.  Mitch McConnell is too unpopular to have the political capitol to pull it off.

“Republicans can fool some of the people some of the time, but they can’t fool all the people all the time.  They can only go so far in reneging on every campaign promise before the public begins to realize the extent of the betrayal.  Now, a new comprehensive poll from the Pew Research Center confirms that this time has come. 

Pew asked respondents if GOP leaders, in charge of the newly-minted Republican Congress, have kept their promises.  Only 23% of those polled answered affirmatively that indeed Republicans have kept their promises.  More importantly, only 37% of Republicans believe that their own party has kept their campaign promises.  And only 41% of Republicans approve of their party leadership—that is lower than the percentage of people from all political affiliations who approve of Obama.” 

There’s also something happening in Kentucky.  Kentucky is sick of the smears evidenced by Hal Heiner’s significant loss in the primary.  Mitch McConnell is not going to get away with these kind of tactics if he chooses to continue with this line of attack even in the shadows voters will see through it.  They have had enough.   McConnell’s tactics will backfire like they did with Hal Heiner.   If you are afraid that Bevin will be distracted because Mitch McConnell is running interference for Conway think again.  Bevin has mastered maneuvering through the mindfield. 

“Being ignored or underestimated worked to Bevin’s advantage, and he capitalized.

 Revelations, allegations, controversy and scandal gave Bevin a path to victory.

The latch lifted on his window of opportunity after the Herald-Leader revealed links between the Heiner campaign and a Lexington blogger who for months circulated rumors that Comer had assaulted his college girlfriend. Then the window flung open after the woman made the allegations of abuse in a letter to The Courier-Journal.

Bevin played it perfectly.

He had already been chipping away at Heiner after pro-Heiner super PACs started attacking him, accusing Heiner of having “soiled the bed” with negative attacks.

After the reports about Heiner and Comer came to light, Bevin kept his focus on Heiner. He said Heiner had “disqualified” himself and offered during a debate on Kentucky Sports Radio that Heiner had told him about the allegations “months and months ago.”

In that debate, Bevin could’ve piled on Comer. Instead, he ensured that Heiner was equally damaged.

With the help of Jason Miller, a Ted Cruz spokesman and a partner at Jamestown Associates, Bevin deployed the best ad of the cycle, taking full advantage of the long war between Heiner and Comer.

The ad, “Food fight,” perfectly characterized the nastiness of the race in a funny way, and Bevin’s promise of “grown-up leadership” at the close of the ad, put him in position to be the beneficiary of some of the worst political fighting I have ever seen.

Just as important, Heiner’s last ad, which introduced the allegations against Comer to the larger electorate, resulted in what was known during the Cold War as MAD (mutually assured destruction), and Heiner and Comer were both damaged beyond repair.”

Kentucky’s primary was a bell weather event for 2014. What happened in Kentucky set the tone for what happened nationwide. Mitch McConnell handily defeated Matt Bevin. After that primary took place, an overwhelming victory for establishment republicans nationwide took place. Kentucky is a bell weather for 2015 and 2016.  The most powerful Republican in the country Mitch McConnell has lost the ability to do permanent damage to those that run against him and Matt Bevin’s victory is evidence of that. Matt Bevin being the next Governor of Kentucky will do irreparable damage to Mitch McConnell’s iron fisted control of Kentucky politics.  A Revolution started in Kentucky. Welcome to the Revolution! Tell Mitch McConnell that the conservatives are coming and we are bringing hell with us!

WATERS: EPA rules threaten aluminum’s revival

Jim Waters head

Aluminum may not cost as much as it did when special guests at banquets hosted by Napoleon III were offered a prized set of cutlery made from the metal while less-favored guests used knives and forks laden only with gold.

However, its value to Kentucky’s economy – and threats looming against it on the horizon – must be understood.

I reported in July 2012 that the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory jolts cast a net much wider than just over the coal mines the Obama administration promised to bankrupt.

The EPA’s proposed rules fired in the direction of Kentucky’s new and existing power plants also threaten the aluminum industry, which is attracted to states where energy supplies are plentiful and cheap. Thus, the Bluegrass State – which has lots of coal and among the nation’s lowest electric bills – has proven so attractive to the industry that nearly 40 percent of America’s aluminum is produced within our borders.

Just a few short years ago, not only were Century Aluminum and Rio Tinto-Alcan considering shutting down their two Kentucky smelters, but the commonwealth itself questioned whether the industry deserved help.

A 2012 report commissioned by the General Assembly concluded that in light of rising electric rates, competitive factors, the location of new smelters (China now has 120 smelters compared to the United States’ 15 such facilities, two of which are in Kentucky) and “the long-term decline of the smelter industry in the U.S., a reasonable person might wonder whether the U.S. smelter business is a good long-term bet.”

Yet the aluminum industry less than three years later is enjoying a renaissance unlike any other segment of Kentucky’s manufacturing landscape.

The industry not only kept its doors open, but it’s expanding  – not because of handouts from Frankfort, but due to some old-fashioned market magic reflecting the automotive industry’s desire for lighter-weight auto parts.

InsiderLouisville’s David Serchuk reports in an article entitled “Aluminum: Kentucky’s fast-growing stealth mega-industry” that we’re in the “beginning stages of sea changes that will result in far more cars and trucks being made of aluminum, not steel.”

Serchuk reports that the Kentucky Center for Economic Development projects the use of aluminum sheet for vehicle bodies will “increase from 200 million pounds in 2012 to 4 billion pounds by 2025.”

Contributing to such growth are plans by Ford to build the newest edition of its iconic F-150 pickup truck mostly from aluminum, resulting in a vehicle that’s 700 pounds lighter with improved fuel economy.

Serchuk reports that aluminum production accounted for $2 billion in Kentucky’s 2013 gross domestic product, employed 20,000 Kentuckians – more than twice the bourbon industry – and paid an average – average – wage of $86,000.

Still, while talk of closing down smelters has faded, it hasn’t completely disappeared.

Lurking in the shadows are ongoing concerns about whether the EPA’s power-plant regulations, which remain “proposed” at this point, will be enacted and demonstrate that supply drives demand in reverse as well: less coal means higher electricity costs – at least 17 percent higher, according to the National Economic Research Associates.

Increased demand in the marketplace granted Kentucky’s aluminum industry a reprieve from concerns it would be forced to close its doors because of higher energy rates caused by mine closures. Still, the EPA’s stifling regulations have yet to move from the proposal stage to actual implementation.

What could happen to the commonwealth’s aluminum industry – because of what might happen to our coal industry because of what might happen to other manufacturers – when those rules actually are executed?

The very real possibility exists that an industry just beginning to flourish again might still be forced to close its smelters and move from rural Kentucky to the vast mainland of China.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

GASPARD: KY Primary election offers voters extraordinary opportunity


The upcoming primary election offers voters an extraordinary opportunity to select from among four highly qualified candidates to be the next republican nominee for Governor of Kentucky.

As GOP Chairman of one of the largest conservative strongholds in the state, I am often asked my views on various political races, and usually happy to oblige with a response. In doing so, although, I initially like to articulate the key responsibilities of republican officers.

Predominantly, the key role of party officials is to promote the values and principles outlined in the GOP platform. Further, it is incumbent upon us to recruit, educate and support candidates for office. Equally important – though far more stressful – is the need to hold elected officials accountable to those values and principles, especially in light of their written pledge to honor the party platform.

Aside from these core tasks, whether or not elected officials and party officers choose to back particular candidates in primaries is a completely independent decision. In the past, I have opted to help recruit and endorse high caliber candidates to run for office because I believed them to be exceptional choices able to move our nation back towards its constitutional roots – strong voices such as Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Thomas Massie. Happily, both of these gentlemen ran very clean, upbeat and positive campaigns focused on the issues. They won in landslides.

Unfortunately, in this year’s republican gubernatorial election to be held next week on May 19, Kentucky voters have been confronted with an alarming degree of misinformation and smear attacks completely unrelated to the actual voting record or public statements of the candidates. Sadly, no matter how often folks say they dislike negative advertising and are not influenced by it, the data continues to validate this type of campaign strategy works. We must change that reality.

Let’s start that process by setting the record straight now. We ought to make note that allegations of a personal nature should be viewed with much skepticism. Elections should be based on issues. Voting records are fair game. Personal attacks involving family or business are usually not, and should be quickly spurned. That being said, the following is what we know about the candidates:

halFormer Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner was the first person to announce. He is a prominent developer who has personally infused millions of dollars into his campaign war chest. His principal issue has been a focus on creating jobs, but has been called to account for supporting tolls in Louisville, helping move jobs to Indiana, and opposing local concealed carry ordinances.


comerAgriculture Commissioner James Comer was the second candidate to enter the race. He is a former state legislator and earned a reputation for leading the hemp initiative in Kentucky. Having served in elective office for some 15 years, his public record is the most extensive. Commissioner Comer has earned kudos for cleaning up the Agriculture Department, but has also been chided for votes to supersize legislator pensions, increase the gas tax, enable tolls, and escalate the minimum wage.

JusticeScottRetired Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott was the third person to join the fray. Although lagging far behind in the polls, he is popular in Eastern Kentucky and well-known in political circles for being honest, direct and colorful. Like all judges, he has made decisions that please some while upsetting others. A former paratrooper, Scott recently jumped from an airplane to gain attention for the campaign. His most notable issue has been the support of expanded gaming and casinos.

rsz_download_2Louisville businessman Matt Bevin was the final republican who filed to run for Governor. While he is best known for challenging Mitch McConnell to represent Kentucky in the United States Senate, Bevin has also gained national attention for his successful pension management background, chiefly due to the looming debt and pension crisis facing our Commonwealth. As a Tea Party favorite, Bevin has been the recipient of constant negative advertising, even though nearly every accusation has been thoroughly rebuffed or disproved. Only time will tell if the damaging attacks hit their mark.

Having been an extremely engaged volunteer activist for 20 years, I can state with confidence that most contested elections involve a high level of anxiety and division among the respective factions. Some people pick sides due to a genuine divergence of philosophy. Others have a serious difference on key issues. Still more line up behind one team or another because that’s what friends are doing. I’ve even witnessed decisions made based on negative rumors, proving false advertising does work. Ultimately, it is incumbent upon We, the People, to weigh all the factors important to us – including the urgent financial and social issues confronting our families – then cast our vote for the candidate who best and most consistently represents our values and principles.

Therefore, after spending this entire election cycle allowing the campaigns to unfold, the candidates to articulate their positions and clarify statements, I am reluctantly ready to share my comments – reluctant because all four candidates are worthy of consideration and certainly present a stark contrast to Jack Conway this fall. In presenting my thoughts, it should be made explicit that I am a steadfast constitutional conservative who strongly supports the Republican platform and patently views abortion as the greatest evil in our land crying to Heaven for vengeance.

That stated, I believe it is imperative for elected leaders to be clear and unambiguous when it comes to the individual right to keep and bear arms, support of states’ rights, and the need to reject federal intrusion into our lives. After two terms under the socialist leaning agendas of President Obama and Governor Beshear, we immediately require a radical change of course and bold new leadership. We cannot settle for a measured response. Accordingly, here is my take on each candidate:

Will Scott is one of the nicest guys you could meet and an old school conservative, but even with a major surge is unlikely to catch the leading candidates. And, while we could discuss his strong and weak points, it seems unnecessary under the circumstances.

Hal Heiner remains statistically tied in the polls with the other leading candidates, but has seen his numbers slip after negative attacks aimed at Bevin and Comer. I have concerns with his reluctance to dismantle Kynect (the state-run Obamacare health insurance exchange) and his lack of focus on traditional conservative issues. Job creation is important, but we also need a leader who has a track record of fighting against federal government intrusion and defending constitutional principles.

James Comer has done a yeoman’s job arguing against federal government overreach and valiantly fought the Obama Administration to ensure hemp could be grown and studied in Kentucky. Further, despite being a tenured elected official, he has also made vital inroads with many Tea Partiers, but unsubstantiated claims that he abused his college girlfriend continue to plague him. Additionally, overcoming his past votes to increase legislator pensions and the fuel tax are difficult for some conservatives to swallow, though he has apologized for the pension faux pas. In the end, Comer’s path to victory will depend on his ability to hold enough support from Tea Party crossovers and establishment incumbents already lined up to pull him across the finish line.

Matt Bevin’s campaign has affably pitched him as “The Real Deal Conservative” in much of their outreach efforts and heavily played up the fact that he is the only military veteran and concealed carry permit holder in the mix to win. Unlike his counterparts, Bevin is also the only candidate who has not held elected office and can properly claim to be a political outsider. However, having faced the Washington Machine of Mitch McConnell in his first run for office and been the recipient of perhaps the most ugly attack ads and patently false accusations I have ever witnessed, the greatest hurdle Bevin faces in this campaign is clearing his good name as the same negative ads resurface.

In sharing my thoughts on the gubernatorial race, I have already exhausted more space than is typically expedient to read, but if you have followed along this far you can likely guess or already know the person for whom I will personally cast my vote. In fact, I purposely chose to highlight each candidate twice so readers could follow along with the process. Still, I want to reiterate the importance of republicans uniting after the primary in order to change regimes in Frankfort. We cannot afford to have another liberal leading in Frankfort over the next four years.

Just to be clear though, here is what I expect from elected officials and candidates: (1) Absolute commitment to conservative values and principles; (2) Unconditional support for the individual right to keep and bear arms; (3) Solemn devotion to the sanctity of life for all ages and a pledge never to harm innocent life in the womb; (4) An unwavering defense of States’ Rights and visible efforts to push back federal intrusion and overreach; (5) Complete respect for private property rights and outright resistance against infringements thereof; (6) Rejection of any federal program, regulation, or agency not specifically enumerated in the U.S. Constitution; (7) Extreme prejudice against any new or increased taxes, a willingness to repeal existing punitive taxes, and the solid recognition that our current tax code is broken and needs repair; (8) Fervent respect for both the United States and Kentucky Constitutions; (9) Gratitude for our men and women in uniform in all public service capacities; (10) Acknowledgement of our nation’s Christian heritage with obedience to the oath of office and reverence for the unalienable rights endowed to mankind by our Creator.

Because these principles are so important – and in light of the fact that most candidates for public office sign a pledge to uphold their Party Platform as well as swear an oath on the Holy Bible to defend the Constitution – I believe it is important to remind folks of them. All told though, there is little doubt that the four republican gubernatorial candidates are devoted to these principles. There may be differences in strategy and approach, but all seem to be men of deep personal faith. Yet, it is often that unique variance in style that tends to set bold leaders apart.

To that end, after much reflection, I agree with the Kentucky Enquirer’s endorsement of Matt Bevin for setting himself apart by “having clarity and specifics about his ideas” and being “most impressed with his focus on Kentucky’s looming public employee pension crisis – the same kind of crisis that threatened Cincinnati and helped send Detroit into bankruptcy.”

While no candidate is perfect, our state desperately requires someone unafraid to take bold stances, but who also has the business savvy to spark economic growth and avoid financial calamity. Unlike other candidates, Matt Bevin has demonstrated that he is more willing to uproot federal programs. Further, he has managed to stake out a sharp contrast by highlighting his successful experience in the investment and pension business, his ability to turn around floundering companies, his humble roots and deep Christian faith, his military background, and his specific plan to build the economy.

Please vote for the candidate of your choice on Tuesday, May 19.

WATERS: Ideologues’ selective concerns are for the birds

Jim Waters head

Pollution containing large amounts of ideologically driven hypocrisy and political correctness seeps from unbalanced environmental extremists’ efforts to ensure that Americans don’t forget the catastrophe of the largest accidental oil spill in the nation’s history that occurred five years ago.

We should remember and then some.

Let’s do all that’s humanly possible to prevent a repeat of the sad destruction caused in the Gulf of Mexico by the explosion and ensuing seepage of 5 million barrels of crude oil into one of the world’s most productive ecosystems.

It was a helpless feeling watching those heavily oiled birds being pulled from water as far away as 40 miles from shore while being limited to helplessly hoping that rescuers could work miracles.

Most didn’t survive.

Estimates place the number of birds that died because of the spill at 800,000 with concerns that the Pelican population in the Gulf decreased 12 percent.

Yet while activists ardently supported the severe punishments heaped upon BP for its negligence (no penalty could be severe enough for these corporatist oil producers), they offer deafening silence concerning the slaughter of 2.9 million birds caused by wind turbines nationwide since Gulf catastrophe in 2010.

Such developments are inconvenient for agenda-driven ideologues who will be satisfied only when we quit drilling, mining or using another drop, gallon or ton of fossil-fuel energy.

The devil on the left shoulder says that extremists used the widely watched oil-drenched Gulf catastrophe to advance an Orwellian energy policy rocketing America into a post-coal age that fills the landscape with those huge ugly wind turbines or heavily subsidized solar panels while sending us back to a lifestyle dominated by horse carriages and candle burning.

However, the angel perched on my right says you won’t see those hugely obtrusive wind-turbine farms in Kentucky anytime soon since it takes at least 9 miles per hour to make wind a viable power source; the commonwealth’s highest winds found near the Fayette, Scott and Bourbon county lines average only 6.5 miles per hour, according to the state energy cabinet.

Yet I didn’t see any zealots, who claim to really care about these endangered birds, protesting beneath huge wind farms that I traveled through on a recent trek through northern Indiana.

Could it be that these zealots, many of whom also advocate for shutting down Kentucky’s entire coal industry, care more about advancing their anti-fossil fuel, energy controlling ideology than they do about saving birds or people?

They claim their top priority in Kentucky is ensuring a safe environment and putting citizens’ needs first. But how can those assertions be considered credible considering their stated objective of bankrupting the entire coal industry?

Researchers warn that meeting the Department of Energy’s goal of having 20 percent of the nation’s electricity generated from wind by 2030 would result in killing 1.4 million birds annually.


Pembina Institute

A natural query is: Why don’t birds being slaughtered by these blades just avoid them?

Birds were created to look down.

“When hawks, falcons and eagles are flying, they’re usually looking down at the ground for prey, not glancing up to watch for a knifelike blade whipping down on them from above,” LiveScience’s Marc Lallanilla writes.

Plus, the speed of those blades are deceptive.

“Though it can appear as though they’re turning at a slow, almost relaxed pace, wind-turbine blades actually move very rapidly,” Lallanilla writes. “The outer tips of some turbines’ blades can reach speeds of 179 mph (288 kilometers per hour) and can easily slice off an eagle’s wing.”

So why aren’t the extremists campaigning to shut down these wind farms? I thought they really cared about the birds.

They’re too busy worshiping at the feet of the gods of the First Temple of Renewable Energy – which itself is for the birds, if you ask me.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Matt Bevin needs NKY, NKY needs Matt Bevin

Fellow Northern Kentuckians:

My name is Adam Meier and I’m an attorney, member of the Fort Thomas City Council, member of the Northern Kentucky Young Republicans, and active in promoting conservative ideals and candidates. On Tuesday, May 19, you have the opportunity to nominate the Republican ticket for Governor.  Please take a moment to read this letter and understand why it is so critical that you vote this Tuesday, May 19.

Republicans in Kentucky continue to have increasing success in Federal (even-year) elections. However, Republicans historically struggle to win state office (odd-year) elections, in particular, the Office of Governor. This dichotomy, to some extent, can be attributed to low voter turnout in Northern Kentucky.  So while we might see 63 percent statewide turnout in a presidential election, only 13 percent of Republicans turned out in the 2011 primary for statewide offices—and it was even worse in Northern Kentucky where turnout in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell ranged from 8.7 percent to 9.9 percent.[i] We can do better. We must do better.

Northern Kentucky is a donor region—revenues generated in Northern Kentucky are disproportionately utilized for programs elsewhere in the state. While new highways are built in Eastern Kentucky, we fail to receive the funding needed to properly maintain the Brent Spence Bridge, let alone replace it. If you, as a taxpayer, are tired of Northern Kentucky being ignored by Frankfort, we must send the message that Northern Kentucky is an engaged electorate by showing up to vote on Tuesday, May 19.

I would also like to ask that you please consider my friend, Matt Bevin, as the Republican nominee for Governor. Bevin is the type of conservative leadership we need in Frankfort. He is a successful businessman, a political outsider, a proven job creator, and he knows what it will take to make Kentucky more competitive in attracting businesses to our Commonwealth.

He is best qualified to fix what is arguably Kentucky’s biggest financial issue—the unfunded pension liability. Matt Bevin started an investment management business that today manages over $5 billion in pension assets—so pension issues are not hypothetical for him. He has the experience, the ideas, and the willingness to get the pension crisis back on track.

Bevin also has the best plan to upgrade the Brent Spence Bridge. Unlike the other candidates, Bevin has not voted for or supported tolls in the past.[ii]  Further, Matt is the only one with a viable plan on how to fund the bridge upgrade—he will do so by utilizing Federal funding that the state already receives.

The Cincinnati Enquirer recently endorsed Matt Bevin in the GOP primary[iii] and the most recent Bluegrass Poll [iv] shows Matt Bevin with a slim lead. All of this means nothing if Northern Kentuckians stay home on Tuesday, May 19. I urge you to show up and vote, and to please consider Matt Bevin for Governor. You can find out more about Matt by visiting

Give Northern Kentucky the voice it deserves.  Please Vote Matt Bevin for Governor.




Adam Meier

[i] All voter turnout statistics were retrieved at:
[ii] “Styles contrast at GOP governor forum,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/29/2015
[iii] “Bevin Best GOP Candidate for Ky. Governor”, The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 10, 2015
[iv] “Bevin by a nose in WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll”,, May 12, 2015

Kentuckians are voting for Matt Bevin

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Matt & Glenna Bevin with their nine children

Dear Editor:

All we want out of Kentucky’s next Governor is a better business climate with less taxes and regulations. Everything we read about Matt Bevin makes us believe he will greatly help our Commonwealth. It is also good to hear that Matt Bevin will fight against the EPA’s war on the energy sector in Kentucky, in particular the relentless attacks on Kentucky’s coal industry. We need to keep energy costs reasonable in Kentucky to enhance industry and bring in new businesses.

Our votes are reserved for the Honorable Matt Bevin on May 19th.  Please join us to make a more prosperous Kentucky and a better way of life for all our citizens.


Ben & Theresa Goldade
Dry Ridge, Kentucky

Gubernatorial Candidate Matt Bevin is who Kentucky voters are standing with

Dear Editor:

Parents should be especially concerned with the federal government’s role in pushing Common Core on our teachers and students. Federal law prohibits the Department of Education from setting specific content standards, but using the Race to the Top program, the federal government has enticed many states to adopt the Common Core and develop curriculum and assessments aligned to the Common Core. Parents should also be disturbed by the efforts of the Department of Education and the Department of Labor—in connection with Common Core —to begin collecting large amounts of personal information on students from their pre-school years through their entry into the workforce. This is extremely dangerous for the privacy of American schoolchildren.

Also, we thank God that Kentucky has Matt Bevin running for Governor of Kentucky. He will work to remove Common Core in Kentucky and restore local control and the rights of parents and children.

Please, I encourage you to vote for Matt Bevin on May 19th.

Marianne Byrne
Florence, Kentucky

Matt Bevin earns the votes of Kentuckians

Dear Editor:

Having watched and listened to the Republican candidates for Governor of Kentucky, one cannot help but be impressed with the integrity, genuineness, and consistency of Matt Bevin. While other candidates devolve into petty squabbles and character assassination, Matt Bevin takes the high road and concentrates on Kentuckians and our needs.  I encourage all Republican voters to go to and study the issues and Mr. Bevin’s realistic plan for Kentucky. Matt Bevin has earned our votes for the May 19th Primary. He deserves to be the next Governor of our Commonwealth.

Joe Dehner
Union, Kentucky

WATERS: Social worker’s right-to-work ‘research’ is shaky

Jim Waters head

Not only is there a real gap in economic growth between states with and without right-to-work policies, but the chasm between those who write papers from ivory towers and local leaders fighting in the trenches to bring jobs to their communities has never been wider.

Take, for instance, a recent attempt by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy to slow the momentum of counties passing right-to-work laws by issuing a paper denying the reality of many locally elected county leaders statewide: losing out on attracting jobs for their constituents because our state lacks a right-to-work law, which simply allows individual employees who work at union plants to say “yes” or “no” to paying dues without losing their jobs or otherwise being penalized.

“Local leaders maintain that the push to turn Kentucky into a RTW state, county by county, is motivated by the idea that doing so will create jobs, but that idea is not supported by rigorous research,” writes Anna Baumann, the policy center’s research and policy associate whose bio shows a background in social work.

“Plus, she also considers herself a farmer,” her website bio states.

But an economist she is not. In fact, I couldn’t find the bio of a single economist on the entire Kentucky Center for Economic Policy website.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a social worker or farmer – those are worthy endeavors that play vital roles in our society.

However, if you’re going to challenge local leaders with claims that “rigorous research” nullifies their actual experience of losing jobs and investment that manufacturers would bring to their counties if the state had a right-to-work policy, shouldn’t you at least possess the economic chops to make such claims?

Also, you shouldn’t ignore what’s happening in Michigan, where, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 142,000 more people are employed and private-sector weekly earnings have increased 5.4 percent since the Great Lakes State became the 24th state to pass a right-to-work law in December 2012.

Before the fiscal court in Boone County – the commonwealth’s fourth-largest county – recently became the 12th Kentucky locality to approve such a policy, Trey Grayson, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, told magistrates that Boone “needs this is our economic toolbox.”

Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore told the court that leaders of Tri-ED, an economic-development group in the greater Cincinnati area in northern Kentucky, informed him that passing a right-to-work ordinance would give his county a significant competitive advantage over regions without such policies.

Baumann mentions “conversations with site consultants and economic development officials” in downplaying the impact that the lack of a right-to-work policy has on Kentucky’s growth and yet fails to identify her sources.

Meanwhile, many site-selection consultants are on the record – including in this column – who clearly have the expertise and experience to speak to this issue.

What they say, without fail, is that right-to-work policies matter to companies – particularly manufacturers – with whom they consult and that are looking to expand or relocate.

Before Boone County’s court passed its right-to-work ordinance – becoming the largest county in the commonwealth to do so – Jim McGraw of KMK Consulting, a site-selection consultant who works frequently with Northern Kentucky counties, said “on any kind of level playing field, right to work is going to make the difference.”

It certainly is in Michigan, Indiana and even in Warren County Kentucky, where phones are ringing briskly as local leaders field calls that represent the potential of new jobs, expanded opportunities and the kind of economic growth being enjoyed by other states.

Isn’t this the kind of economic progress that “progressives” like social workers, farmers and even the Democratic leaders at the state House should support?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate Matt Bevin meets with students

PADUCAH, Ky. — Conservative Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Matt Bevin along with his running mate for Lt. Governor, Jenean Hampton attended and spoke at the annual McCracken County Reagan Day Dinner at the Carson Center last Friday evening.

His opening remarks praising the freedoms experienced in America were well received with applause: “I hope we do not take for granted for one moment what a privilege it is to live in the United States of America”, Bevin said.

Bevin went on to share his humble upbringing well below the poverty level. Mapping his journey from paying his own way through college to his military service as an army officer, to working in the private sector as a successful business owner. During the event, he spoke on a wide range of topics concerning voters in Kentucky.

Matt Bevin has made youth involvement a huge part of his campaign. He has spoken to groups of students all across Kentucky, including home-school groups. As a supporter of school choice and against Common Core, his message resounds with parents and students alike.

Matt in Somerset with homeschool group

Matt Bevin in Somerset, Ky. with a local home school group. Photo: Elizabeth Fraser

The Bevin-Hampton campaign has a large number of Millennials involved as part of “Youth for Bevin“. Students are using their energy to support the campaign in various ways, such as info graphics, precinct walking, phone banking, sign waving, writing letters to the editors and promotion through social media.


Emma Creason from Carlisle county with Matt Bevin.


” I am so excited after getting to meet Matt! I’ve always loved Matt Bevin, but after meeting him in person I LOVE him! He did such a great job speaking. It is such a privilege to support a candidate I can trust. I am so excited to be on his team.” – Emma Creason from Carlisle county.


Kaitlyn Creason, from Carlisle county with Matt Bevin.


“Matt Bevin is uniquely a strong Constitutionally Conservative candidate. He passionately stands for our Founding Principles that makes America great. As an outsider, and not a politician, he has the experience Kentucky needs. I am happy to support him in every way I can to see that he is my next Governor.” – Kaitlyn Creason, from Carlisle county.




Alyssa with Matt

Alyssa Hodge, McCracken County with Matt Bevin.


“Matt Bevin is one-of-a-kind. He is honest, sincere, but most importantly he is genuine. He deeply believes in his message and speaks about his Blueprint with passion. I am willing to do anything it takes to see to it that a man, with his values, is Kentucky’s next Governor.” – Alyssa Hodge, McCracken County.

Matt is a Christian, husband, father of nine, business owner, and problem-solver. He knows how to create jobs because it’s what he does. It’s about the jobs.

His “Blueprint for a Better Kentucky” is the plan Kentucky so desperately needs.

The Republican Primary for Governor is Tuesday, May 19, 2015.

You can learn more about Matt by visiting
Like him on Facebook and Follow him on Twitter!



WATERS: States should light federalism’s candles, curse EPA’s darkness

Jim Waters head

Did you hear the one about Washington’s power outage that caused the Department of Energy to go dark?

The day Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced his presidential run, the electricity went out in a wide swath of Washington, stranding frightened people on elevators, causing traffic lights to go dark at the busiest intersections and there – in the Washington Post – was a photo of scores of DOE employees leaving work as the building was shut down.

During past blackouts, backup power was supplied by the Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria, Va. But the station was shut down after becoming a target of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s wacky “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Of course, a man with Bloomberg’s resources can conveniently ignore blackouts and pretend there’s no cost to killing coal.

But the head of the D.C. public utility commission doesn’t enjoy that luxury, telling Congress three years ago that her staff “prayed for mild weather” during the summer so that air conditioners don’t overload the grid.

Americans might also want to pray that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., succeeds in his efforts to get the nation’s governors to ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s unconstitutional and likely illegal attempt to force states through its Clean Power Plan (CPP) to submit their plans for achieving a whopping 30-percent reduction in carbon emissions at existing power plants.

In a letter to governors, the Senate Majority Leader outlines his “serious policy and legal concerns” with the EPA’s dictate:

  • Quoting Obama supporter and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe’s assertion that the CPP is “constitutionally reckless,” McConnell rightly notes the EPA is trying to force states to do more concerning carbon-emissions reductions “than what the agency would be authorized to do on its own.”

Tribe, who taught the first-ever course in environmental law in the United States, warns the EPA’s plan “usurps the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts – all at once.”

  • The EPA’s mandate for states goes beyond long-established legal boundaries.

While the Supreme Court has permitted the agency to regulate carbon dioxide by requiring improved efficiencies at coal-fired power plants through the installation of pollution-control technology such as smokestack scrubbers, it never allowed for policies forcing coal plants to close or mandating quotas for conservation through unreliable energy sources like wind and solar.

  • The EPA admits it cannot quantify “and has refused to estimate the impact” that the CPP would have on its stated goal of addressing global warming.

If the EPA itself cannot provide evidence that its plan will positively impact global warming, why should states act with any urgency?

The reason, as McConnell articulates, is that the feds hope that by pushing states to propose their own compliance plans – which the EPA has ruled must be “federally enforceable” – Washington can wrest control of energy policy away from the states, further weakening our federalist system.

  • The CPP’s price tag is astronomical, including double-digit electricity rate increases in at least 43 states with total costs of nearly $479 billion over 15 years.

McConnell notes that the EPA’s proposal “is projected to shrink (Kentucky’s) economy by almost $2 billion, jeopardizing electricity delivery and throwing countless individuals out of work. Its impact would be devastating at a moment when the Kentucky coal industry has already shed nearly 8,000 jobs.”

While the blackout was occurring in Washington, Sen. Paul was in Louisville declaring that those who still care about freedom “need to go boldly forth under the banner of liberty that clutches the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other,” understanding that Washington is “broken” and “can’t be fixed from within. We the people must rise up and demand action.”

A good place for such an uprising to begin might be on the steps of the arrogant and out-of-control EPA in Washington.

If you decide to show up, you might want to bring along a candle – just in case.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate James Comer speechless in response to bad vote

Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate James Comer speaking to WAVE 3 News in Louisville, Ky.

Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate James Comer speaking to WAVE 3 News in Louisville, Ky.

LOUISVILLE, KY — Last week, political action group super PAC “Citizens for a Sound Government” began running television ads attacking Kentucky gubernatorial front-runners James Comer and Matt Bevin.

While the attacks on Bevin were copycats to the overwhelmingly debunked ads used by the McConnell campaign in last years’ Kentucky senate primary, the attacks on Comer have brought information into the spotlight that many voters may not previously have seen.

The attacks allege that Comer, in his prior capacity as a legislator, voted to approve an increase to state pension payouts, benefiting him by nearly tripling his pension with his new role as the Agricultural Commissioner, and further benefiting him should he be elected governor.

Kentucky legislators fund their own pension plan, exclusively for the legislation.  State officers, like the AG Commissioner, receive pension from the state retirement system (KERS).  The bill Comer voted to pass in the House, enacted a reciprocity provision, that allowed anyone serving as a legislator to calculate their legislative pensions based upon their best years in ANY state capacity.  The legislative positions are a part time position, and the pensions are funded by part-time employees, but the bill allowed anyone climbing the ladder within the state, to be reimbursed from this pension plan as a full-time employee, at potentially much higher rates of return from increased salaries.

By support of HB 299 in 2005, known as “The Greed Bill”, Comer’s legislator pension increased from $13,100 a year, to $34,369 per year, after moving to his new office.  Legislator pensions  are calculated based upon years of service, a service credit rate, and the average of the three highest years of salary.   Additionally, Comer has started a new KERS pension in his new role, meaning he will draw a second pension in addition to his legislator pension, once retired.

At the Gubernatorial debate in Louisville, Commissioner Comer was left searching for words, in response to his vote for “The Greed Bill”.

Comer has since gone on record stating he would opt out of his state pension, if elected Governor , but made no mention of reforming this practice to protect the pool of state employee pensions.

The second attack from the ads allege that Comer was paid $87,429 in subsidies (from 1995 – 2012), and further explains that Comer’s father has received $128,000 in the same subsidies since 1995.

Comer, while campaigning, has been vocal of his opposition to the subsidies and about the need for their reduction.

In quick response, Comer stated “He’s (Heiner) gotten more farm subsidies per acre than I have, significantly more.”

Heiner has repeatedly denied that his campaign has any involvement with the negative attacks on Bevin and Comer.