Right to Work

Jonathunder, Wikimedia Commons

Both sides of the right-to-work controversy say a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Louisville was fair. 

U.S. District Judge David Hale heard arguments on whether local governments can pass right-to-work laws.  A group of labor unions sued Hardin County after magistrates there approved an ordinance earlier this year. 

  To date, Kentucky supporters of right-to-work laws have run into multiple roadblocks — namely, the Democratic-controlled House and a Democratic governor.

Jonathunder, Wikimedia Commons

A court date has been set for a judge to hear arguments in a right-to-work lawsuit against Hardin County.

Oral arguments will take place in U.S. District Court in Louisville on August 4th. 

Less than a month shy of the primary election, three of Kentucky’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates debated Tuesday night in Bowling Green. 

The event at WKU featured Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, and former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner. 

If elected, all three pledged to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange known as Kynect. 

Comer said the state took on a lot of responsibility that it can’t afford.

"Eighty-two percent of the people who got on Kynect ended up on Medicaid," Comer explained.  "What Kynect became for Governor Beshear was a way to greatly expand Medicaid to the point to where we have 25 percent of the state on Medicaid, one out of four people.  That's not sustainable."

As governor, Comer said he would get more Kentuckians into private health coverage while changing eligibility requirements for Medicaid. 

Matt Bevin said he would transition those who signed up on Kentucky’s exchange to the federal exchange.

"Frankly, it's a level of redundancy we can't afford.  It's as simple as that," Bevin suggested.  "We were lured into participation through the use of federal dollars."

Starting in 2017, the state must begin bearing a share of the cost of expanding Medicaid.  Currently, the federal government is picking up the entire tab.

Hal Heiner suggested tying the Medicaid expansion to workforce training so people could get a job, get off of Medicaid, and obtain private insurance.  He criticized the Medicaid expansion for lacking any level of personal responsibility.

"It doesn't have what you're seeing conservative governors in other states adopt in their plans which build in incentives to use preventive care, to use primary care providers rather than emergency care, and to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the overall cost," Heiner stated. 

The candidates were mostly in agreement on range of economic topics from making Kentucky a right-to-work state to protecting the coal industry. 

The other GOP gubernatorial candidate, Will T. Scott did not attend the debate, citing a scheduling conflict.

lrc.state.ky.us

The Kentucky General Assembly passed several important pieces of legislation in the just-concluded 2015 session, including a comprehensive heroin bill and a freeze to the state’s tumbling gas tax.

WKMS/John Null

Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer says passing a statewide right-to-work law would be his first priority if elected as Kentucky's next governor.

Comer, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner,  predicts the issue will be hotly debated during the general election, given that Democratic front-runner Jack Conway opposes such a law.

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In response to a handful of Kentucky counties passing right-to-work ordinances, Marshall County has become the first in the commonwealth to approve an anti-right-to-work resolution.

The measure was drafted by Kentucky AFL-CIO president William Londrigan and Marshall County union member Howard “Bubba” Dawes and approved unanimously Tuesday by the Marshall County Fiscal Court.

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After Republicans failed to take control of the Kentucky House of Representatives in November’s election, five counties have now passed local right-to-work ordinances in the face of grim prospects in Frankfort. But Attorney General Jack Conway says the ordinances don’t have legal standing and the Kentucky AFL-CIO president says litigation is coming.

Hardin County is in line to become the fifth county in Kentucky to pass a local right-to-work law. 

The fiscal court is expected to give final approval Tuesday afternoon to a measure that allows workers in unionized companies to choose whether to join the union and pay dues.  Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry believes a local law is necessary to attract economic growth.

"We have a mega site that's just south of Elizabethtown in a community called Glendale with some 15,000 acres," Berry told WKU Radio Radio.  "It's a large site that is prime and ready to go."

Berry says local leaders are ready to go what Frankfort has not.

"I'd like to see the state do it statewide.  If the state had been successfully over the years of doing it, we wouldn't be in the position of counties trying to do this individually," added Berry.  "You might ask why we haven't done it before now and it's because we didn't realize we had the ability to do it before."

The matter is expected to wind up in court as legal opinions vary on whether local governments have the authority to pass right-to-work laws. 

Hardin County would join Warren, Simpson, Todd, and Fulton counties in approving local measures.

LRC Public Information

Paducah’s State Representative Gerald Watkins says although Republicans succeeded in passing Right-to-Work legislation in the Senate yesterday, it won’t gain much traction in the House.

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