KET Legislative Coverage

Disconnect over Kynect Fans Flames in Senate Race

by John Gregory | 06/02/14 11:52 AM

If Obamacare is repealed, what happens to Kynect?

That's a key question on the minds of journalists as the Affordable Care Act looms large in the U.S. Senate race between Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell. The issue also opened this weekend's edition of Comment on Kentucky.

Lawrence Smith of WDRB-TV in Louisville says McConnell continues to call for a "root-and-branch" repeal of Obamacare, but now says Kentucky should have the option of keeping Kynect, its implementation of the ACA.

The Lexington Herald-Leader ran an editorial last week stating Kynect and Obamacare are the same, and repeal of the federal law would end the state health insurance exchange. The editorial fanned the flames in the argument between McConnell and Grimes over the issue. Sen. Rand Paul even joined the debate by claiming other states had exchanges before the ACA. Linda Blackford of the Herald-Leader says that's technically true, but the federal funding from Obamacare helped fund Kynect.

Smith says the ongoing debate puts Grimes in the uncomfortable position of having to support, if only a little, Obamacare. Blackford says that plays into McConnell's strategy of tying Grimes to the president as much as he can.

New Carbon Regulations
This week the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to call for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. Blackford says the Kentucky Coal Association believes the proposal would devastate the state's economy since about 93 percent of Kentucky's power comes from the burning of coal.

This presents Grimes with another interesting balancing act, according to Blackford. While Grimes is a vocal supporter of the coal industry, she's also endorsed exploration of energy alternatives. Meanwhile, McConnell stands ready to attack the EPA plan. Smith reports that the senior senator will file a bill June 2 to block the proposed carbon reductions. Smith says this is another issue where McConnell will seek to connect Grimes to the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Gun Ownership
Mike Wynn of the Louisville Courier-Journal reports some 59,000 concealed-carry gun permits were granted last year in the commonwealth. That's a 447 percent increase in permits issued in the past decade. Wynn says that in that time the legislature has given overwhelming support to about a dozen measures to make it easier for Kentuckians to apply for permits and receive them more quickly. Wynn says the National Rifle Association is successful at gaining passage of these laws despite not giving much campaign money to legislators. Instead, the group's political clout comes from widely publicizing the grades it gives individual lawmakers on gun issues.

Watch the full Comment on Kentucky program to see more discussion on these issues, as well as the Rupp Arena renovation project, wait times at state Veterans Administration hospitals, and the unfunded liability dogging the Kentucky Retirement System.