The Chatter: FBI wants contracting documents from Transportation Cabinet, support for smoke-free law tops 70 percent, McConnell on SCOTUS and more

04/04/2017 11:38 AM

The FBI has launched an antitrust investigation involving state road contracting, subpoenaing records dating back to 2010, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Monday.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet confirmed the probe, telling the newspaper that officials there received a federal subpoena March 22 regarding contracts it has awarded since 2010.

The cabinet posted a March 29 letter from Matthew Henderson, the agency’s deputy executive director of legal services, to Rachel Mills in the Division of Construction Procurement, to its website directing contractors to retain documents requested by the FBI.

“The Cabinet is immediately notifying all contractors who have interacted with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet from 2010 to present to preserve any and all documents, communication, and data in their possession that is in any way related to Cabinet construction, paving, or road projects,” the letter reads.

Naitore Djigbenon, a cabinet spokeswoman, told the Herald-Leader that the agency is cooperating with the inquiry while Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lexington, declined to confirm or deny an investigation.

Smoke-free law support tops 70 percent

The Foundation for a Health Kentucky released the results of a new poll Tuesday that shows support for a law banning smoking inside public spaces has hit 71 percent.

That’s a 5 percent increase from the previous three years, when about 66 percent of respondents backed a statewide indoor smoking ban.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, which polled 1,580 respondents throughout the state, found that 76 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of independents supported such a law, with opposition dropping from 31 percent last year to 25 percent this year.

“There is absolutely no doubt that second-hand smoke causes cancer, heart disease and stroke,” Foundation for a Health Kentucky CEO Ben Chandler said in a statement. “It also leads to numerous health problems in children who are far too young to have ever touched a cigarette — problems such as severe asthma, respiratory and ear infections, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And new dangers of secondhand smoke are being identified all the time.”

McConnell chastises Senate Democrats on SCOTUS nominee

A day after telling a national audience on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch would be confirmed “one way or the other” this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appealed directly to Senate Democrats in a floor speech as they plan to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation.

Keeping Gorsuch’s confirmation short of the 60 votes necessary to move him to the high court would likely prompt a change in the Senate’s rules to approve Supreme Court picks. Republicans hold a 52-seat majority in the U.S. Senate, with only three red-state Democrats offering their support for Gorsuch.

McConnell called the threatened filibuster “a new low” during a floor speech Monday, adding that “there’s no principled reason to block an up-or-down vote on this supremely qualified nominee.”

“It’s not too late for our Democratic colleagues to make the right choice,” he said. “This week the Senate will continue to debate Judge Gorsuch’s nomination here on the floor. This is a matter of great importance, which is why we’re planning to dedicate this week’s floor time almost entirely to continued robust debate of this nomination rather than double-tracking it with legislative items as has been done in the past.”

Watch McConnell’s remarks here:

Bevin restores voting rights

For the first time since taking office, Gov. Matt Bevin has restored the rights to vote and hold office for some convicted felons.

The restorations affect 24 people who served their sentences and were not convicted of violent or sexual crimes, bribery or treason and do not restore other civil rights, such as owning a firearm or serving on a jury.

“We have always been a nation of second chances,” Bevin said in a statement.

“The criminal justice system should not exist solely to punish offenders, but also to rehabilitate and assimilate them back into society. Through this executive action, we are empowering men and women with the opportunity to become contributing members of our communities.”

Trump hits the links with Rand Paul

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a staunch critic of efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with what he called “Obamacare lite,” talked health policy during a round of golf with President Donald Trump on Sunday.

Trump, Paul and Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, golfed at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia.

Paul called the outing a “great day” with the president, according to a report by The Washington Post.

“I continue to be very optimistic that we are getting closer and closer to an agreement on replacing Obamacare,” he said.


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