The Chatter: Gov. Bevin's office disputes Democratic lawmaker, emails show knowledge of right-of-way issues in delayed road project
10/22/2016 12:34 PM
Gov. Matt Bevin’s office released internal Transportation Cabinet emails on Friday that indicate state Rep. Russell Meyer knew of right-of-way issues on a road project in his district months before its delay in March.
It’s the latest development in a back-and-forth between Bevin’s administration and Meyer, a Nicholasville Democrat who has accused the Republican governor of delaying an $11 million expansion of East Brannon Road after rebuffing offers to join the House GOP caucus.
The email release came the same day that a House panel tasked with looking into the matter met for the first time.
In an Oct. 13, 2015, email, then-Deputy Transportation Cabinet Secretary Russell Romine wrote that “Rep. Meyer has been keeping close tabs on the project,” referencing the extension of East Brannon Road.
“That said, he recognizes that need to clear (right of way) before letting the project,” Romine wrote. “He also understands we made some last minute adjustments/accommodations, and those things don’t happen without impact to schedule.”
Blake Brickman, Bevin’s chief of staff, said in a statement that the emails show that “Meyer knew there were serious complications that would delay the Brannon Road project.”
“Meyer should immediately apologize to his constituents in Jessamine County and the Bevin Administration for lying to further his own political agenda,” he said. “He should also call on Speaker Stumbo to call off his silly investigation and stop wasting taxpayer money on political theater less than three weeks before the elections.”
Meyer countered that the $11 million contract was signed days into Bevin’s administration, telling CNHI News that “it was when I said no that East Brannon became road kill.”
Much of the work on the contract, including letting and awarding, had been completed under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. The road project’s delay cost the state $625,000, with another $850,000 due to the contractor if work doesn’t begin by May 1.
Hillary Clinton vetting Beshear for agriculture post
Politico, citing unnamed sources, reported Friday that Beshear is among five top contenders for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s agriculture secretary.
Beshear is another potential Clinton pick that seems to come somewhat out of left field. While he was governor of the Bluegrass State from 2007 to 2015, Beshear played a limited role in Kentucky’s farming industry.
“He really had no interest in agriculture when he was governor,” said the agriculture policy insider, adding that some in Kentucky farming circles were surprised Beshear made the list.
Beshear stood in opposition to an effort by James Comer, Kentucky’s former agriculture commissioner, to legalize the cultivation of hemp as a way to create jobs and spur economic growth in rural areas. Beshear ultimately allowed a bill to become law without his signature in 2013.
Beshear, who played a prominent role in Kentucky politics dating back to 1973 when he served in the state House of Representatives, did focus on expanding agricultural exports during his tenure as governor and launched an initiative in 2010 aimed at strengthening ties to international partners, going on trade missions to countries like Canada and Taiwan.
But he has a stronger record on health care, overseeing one of the most successful state implementations of the Affordable Care Act, and has been floated as a potential Clinton choice for secretary of the HHS.
Beshear told The Courier-Journal that he was “flattered that my name is being mentioned for such a prestigious position, but I have no expectation one way or the other.”
Gray outraises Sen. Paul in latest fundraising report
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray has outpaced U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in third-quarter fundraising.
Gray’s campaign reported that it collected $1.8 million in the latest fundraising quarter, with $500,000 of that coming from the Lexington mayor’s pocket.
Paul, running for his second term in the Senate, raised more than $1 million in the three-month fundraising period.
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