Kevin Wheatley, State Journal en Legislators Recall Martin Luther King, Jr. March <p>Sen. Gerald Neal knew he was part of something historic when, as a freshman at Kentucky State University, he joined a mass of 10,000 who marched peacefully on the Capitol with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders 50 years ago today.<br /><br />Some of the excitement he felt that day — “We thought we were on the path of eliminating racism in society, bigotry,” he said — has resurfaced as organizers recognize the Freedom March on Frankfort.</p><p></p><p> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 00:04:03 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 56422 at Legislators Recall Martin Luther King, Jr. March Lawmaker Will Target Kentucky Constables In 2014 Session <p><a href="" target="_blank">The push to abolish Kentucky constables</a> will continue in the 2014 legislative session, despite failed efforts in recent years.&nbsp;Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said Tuesday he will reintroduce a constitutional amendment in the 2014 session that would give fiscal courts authority to eliminate the office of constable by ordinance.&nbsp;Franklin County has six constables, who have law enforcement powers similar to sheriffs by law. They largely perform fee-based duties such as serving court paperwork and traffic control. Wed, 24 Jul 2013 17:43:36 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 47605 at Lawmaker Will Target Kentucky Constables In 2014 Session Richie Farmer Faces Lengthy Trial <p><a href=",%20prosecutors%20said%20Thursday%20during%20Farmer%E2%80%99s%20arraignment.%20%20In%20addition,%20U.S.%20Magistrate%20Judge%20Robert%20Wier%20told%20Farmer%20he%20could%20not%20take%20a%20planned%20vacation%20to%20Mexico%20and%20must%20remain%20in%20the%20state%20until%20his%20trial%20begins.%20%20Farmer,%20who%20played%20on%20the%201992%20University%20of%20Kentucky%20basketball%20squad%20dubbed%20%E2%80%9CThe%20Unforgettables,%E2%80%9D%20pleaded%20not%20guilty%20to%20four%20counts%20of%20misusing%20state%20resources%20and%20one%20charge%20of%20accepting%20property%20in%20exchange%20for%20a%20Department%20of%20Agriculture%20grant." target="_blank">Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer may be on trial for three weeks in Frankfort’s federal courthouse,</a> prosecutors said Thursday during Farmer’s arraignment. In addition, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier told Farmer he could not take a planned vacation to Mexico and must remain in the state until his trial begins. Farmer, who played on the 1992 University of Kentucky basketball squad dubbed “The Unforgettables,” pleaded not guilty to four counts of misusing state resources and one charge of accepting property in exchange for a Department of Agriculture grant. Fri, 26 Apr 2013 21:13:03 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 43313 at Pension Proposal Rejected, Deadline Looms <p><a href="" target="_blank">House and Senate leaders will attempt a last-minute compromise to reform Kentucky’s</a> beleaguered public pension system during the session’s final day Tuesday. Negotiations on the pension issue, arguably the largest unresolved item on the General Assembly’s agenda, lasted throughout the day Monday. Gov. Steve Beshear met with House and Senate leadership, and House Democrats discussed proposals for several hours. Tue, 26 Mar 2013 16:23:19 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 41827 at Pension Proposal Rejected, Deadline Looms Pension Negotiations Continue Through Recess <p><a href="" target="_blank">Lawmakers continue to work toward a resolution on public employee pensions,</a> arguably the top unresolved issue of the 2013 legislative session. House and Senate leaders have been at an impasse on systematic changes to pension plans for future state and municipal workers, legislators and judges, as well as funding methods to pay for pension contributions expected to cost up to $120 million more in fiscal year 2015. Thu, 21 Mar 2013 17:06:36 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 41591 at Pension Reform Talks Continue <p><a href="" target="_blank">House and Senate leaders met with Gov. Steve Beshear Friday,</a> looking to find common ground on a plan to reform Kentucky’s ailing public pension system and avoid a special session this year. Those involved described the meeting as productive, and talks are expected to continue during the upcoming 10-day veto recess. The two legislative chambers have passed fundamentally different retirement plans for future state and municipal workers, and the House has proposed a dedicated funding stream to pay full pension contributions, something the state has not done in years. Sun, 10 Mar 2013 17:15:10 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 41036 at Pension Deal Could Include Lottery Tax <p><a href="" target="_blank">House Democratic leaders will likely propose</a> adding a 6 percent sales tax on Kentucky Lottery ticket sales and expanding available lottery games to fund future pension contributions. Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, said the lottery sales tax would generate $49 million annually, and new lottery games could bring in between $60 million and $90 million over time. Sun, 24 Feb 2013 16:45:55 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 40322 at Pension Deal Could Include Lottery Tax State Finance Outlook Dims <p><a href="" target="_blank">Standard &amp; Poor’s</a> Rating Services has downgraded Kentucky’s financial outlook from “stable” to “negative” amid concerns over unfunded liabilities in the state’s pension systems. While S&amp;P noted the state is experiencing a healthy recovery in its economic base and has moderate debt burden, the ratings service said structural imbalances in the budget and sizable pension debts drove its outlook down.</p><p> Sun, 03 Feb 2013 20:56:05 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley 39303 at Senate Expected to Vote on Public Pension Reform <p><a href="" target="_blank">A public pension reform package</a> is expected to get a vote on the Senate floor about a week after it’s filed, Senate Republican leaders said Wednesday. GOP and Democratic senators heard recommendations from a pension task force co-chaired by Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer in a private meeting Wednesday. Thu, 31 Jan 2013 20:01:16 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin 39173 at State to Merge Archive Facilities <p><a href="" target="_blank">With three storage centers</a> throughout Frankfort, tracking down state records can be a hassle. But a consolidated facility should make archives easier to sort through, a state official says. The construction schedule hasn’t been set, but the new records center will take about seven months to complete, Finance and Administration Cabinet spokeswoman Pamela Trautner said. Tue, 15 Jan 2013 18:13:31 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 38415 at Tax Reform and Pensions will Highlight 2013 General Assembly <p><a href="" target="_blank">Retooling Kentucky’s tax code</a> and reining in multibillion-dollar unfunded liabilities in the state pension systems should be top priorities for the General Assembly when it convenes for an abbreviated session Tuesday, legislators say. Those matters may require a special session given the brevity of odd-year, 30-day sessions, but challenging decisions are ahead, they told The State Journal. Sun, 06 Jan 2013 18:07:55 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wh 38009 at Hemp Bill Receives Support from Lawmakers <p><a href="" target="_blank">The push to legalize industrial</a> hemp production in Kentucky will begin in the state Senate, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says. The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which met Friday for the second time since its decade of dormancy, discussed possible legislation for the upcoming 30-day session. Finding a bill sponsor won’t be difficult, Comer told the panel. Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, was mentioned among those mentioned as a possible sponsor. Sun, 09 Dec 2012 18:47:50 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 36868 at Kentucky Retirement System Projected to Decline <p><a href="">Kentucky’s largest retirement</a> fund for state employees, the Kentucky Employees Retirement System non-hazardous plan, has less than a quarter of the money needed to pay projected benefits, say actuaries with Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting. Tom Cavanaugh, CEO of the actuarial firm, told the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees Wednesday that the KERS non-hazardous plan is projected to dip below 10 percent funded in 2019 before improving. Thu, 06 Dec 2012 22:23:46 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 36768 at Franklin Constables Dispute Recent Reports <p><a href="">Some constables agree they should be required to complete law enforcement training once elected, but they dispute the claim that their office is outdated and irrelevant. The Department of Criminal Justice Training released a lengthy report Thursday that found the office of constable, established in the state’s 1850 Constitution, had no viable role in modern law enforcement. But Franklin County constables interviewed by The State Journal say they provide a valuable service to the community, primarily serving legal notices, conducting evictions, controlling traffic at schools and churches, and handling security details at local businesses.</a> Mon, 12 Nov 2012 00:48:29 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal & Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 35687 at Medication Regulations Predicted to Change <p><a href="">Regulations governing the prescription of certain medications are expected to change next month following criticism from physicians and patients of House Bill 1, a recently enacted law that targets so-called “pill mills” and doctors who over-prescribe addictive painkillers and other drugs. Officials, including Gov. Steve Beshear, have lauded HB1 for shuttering 10 pain management clinics, reducing the number of prescriptions of commonly abused medications and increasing the number of investigations into suspicious prescribing patterns since it went into effect July 20. However, doctors and patients alike have voiced concerns to legislators over regulations set by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, such as drug screens prior to and during certain prescriptions for long-term treatment that generally cost about $100 each, as well as the potential criminal and civil implications of failing to follow the law.</a> Thu, 18 Oct 2012 16:48:07 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 34520 at Tea Party Rally Focuses on Health Care Reform <p><a href="">Kentucky’s U.S. senators</a> told a crowd of supporters they will repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, when given the opportunity. About 400 stood on the Capitol steps in Frankfort at a rally headlined by Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and organized by the Louisville Tea Party Tuesday. All of the speakers focused on President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform law. Tue, 21 Aug 2012 19:01:56 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 31652 at Tea Party Rally Focuses on Health Care Reform Record Crowd Attends Retirement System Meeting <p><a href="">Two Kentucky Retirement Systems</a> trustees laid out their concerns with a proposed change in health insurance for retirees older than 65 before a record crowd Tuesday. More than 150 retirees attended the monthly meeting of Kentucky Public Retirees Bluegrass West chapter at Frankfort&#39;s VFW Post 4075, which dwarfed the previous record of around 90, KPR officials said. KRS elected trustees Susan Smith and Robert Henson spoke at length about the possible switch from a self-insurance plan to a Humana Medicare Advantage plan for those 65 and older. Wed, 18 Jul 2012 20:14:56 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 29783 at State Board to Further Investigate Richie Farmer <p><a href="">The Personnel Board will formally</a> investigate alleged personnel abuses at the Department of Agriculture under Richie Farmer &ndash; many of which were uncovered in the blistering audit released earlier this year. The board voted unanimously Friday to open an investigation into personnel matters found in Auditor Adam Edelen&rsquo;s report on the department during Farmer&rsquo;s second and final term as commissioner, which ended in 2011. Sun, 15 Jul 2012 17:07:26 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 29608 at State Lawmaker Retires From Teaching <p><a href="">After teaching high schoolers</a> the ins and outs of government, history and economics for 27 years, state Rep. Derrick Graham has retired from Frankfort High School. Leaving his alma mater was a difficult decision, but Graham, 52, says he&rsquo;ll be able to focus more on his increasing legislative duties as well as visit family who&rsquo;ve moved away. Sun, 10 Jun 2012 14:57:13 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 27831 at Retirement System Assets Decline <p><a href="">The Kentucky Retirement Systems&rsquo; </a>net assets have fallen $680 million in this fiscal year&rsquo;s first nine months as investment income and contributions failed to cover rising retirement benefits and other expenses. Total assets in the KRS pension and insurance funds dropped from $14.8 billion July 1 to $14.1 billion as of March 31, KRS trustees learned at a board meeting Thursday. KRS collected more than $860 million in contributions and more than $44 million in investment income during those nine months, but paid benefits in that period totaled more than $1.5 billion with about $33 million in additional expenses, according to unaudited KRS financial statements. Fri, 18 May 2012 19:16:25 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 26699 at Personnel Board to Examine Richie Farmer's Actions <p><a href="">The Personnel Board will consider</a> on Monday whether Richie Farmer broke the state merit law at the Department of Agriculture when he was its commissioner. It&rsquo;s the first time the board will take action on the scathing audit by State Auditor Adam Edelen, but the Personnel Board has recently investigated hiring practices at the department. Sun, 13 May 2012 16:48:12 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 26377 at Agency Warns Against Legalizing Hemp <p><a href="">Legalizing industrial hemp would create</a> enforcement and perception problems for Kentucky, the head of a federal drug enforcement agency says. Ed Shemelya, a former Kentucky State Police commander and head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy&rsquo;s Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, testified Wednesday against legislative proposals that would make marijuana&rsquo;s botanical cousin available for harvest. Thu, 15 Mar 2012 18:27:51 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 23250 at Hemp Could Make a Comeback <p><a href="">Industrial hemp could make a comeback</a> as one of Kentucky&rsquo;s top cash crops if lawmakers legalize the harvest of marijuana&rsquo;s botanical cousin, legislators have told a House committee. The Agricultural and Small Business Committee on Wednesday heard from key sponsors of two pieces of legislation &ndash;House bills 272 and 286 &ndash; that would make hemp a legal crop if the federal government lifts restrictions on it. The bills didn&rsquo;t come to a vote, but Rep. Tom McKee, a Cynthiana Democrat and the committee&rsquo;s chairman, said the discussion would continue so both sides of the argument could be heard. Thu, 08 Mar 2012 20:18:04 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 22839 at Legislators Want to Limit Constable Duties <p><a href="">A &ldquo;compromise&rdquo; bill that would allow local</a> governments to limit duties of constables by ordinance has passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The legislation, Senate Bill 30, which originally sought a constitutional amendment to abolish the office, would give fiscal courts and merged governments more authority over the roles of constables. Local governments could not abolish the office outright, though, and must leave at least one duty for the elected peace officers. Thu, 16 Feb 2012 19:41:01 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 21584 at Placement Agent Bill Clears House Panel <p><a href="">A bill that would make placement agents</a> &ndash;financial middlemen who help locate investors for investment funds &ndash; register as lobbyists has unanimously cleared a House panel. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an informal inquiry on the use of placement agents in investments by the Kentucky Retirement Systems. Fri, 10 Feb 2012 17:19:05 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 21229 at Republicans Challenge House with Lawsuit <p><a href="">A Frankfort legislator says he expects the House&rsquo;s redistricting</a> map will be declared unconstitutional while another says the process itself needs to be revised. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover and others filed a lawsuit challenging the House&rsquo;s redistricting map in Franklin Circuit Court Thursday. The suit seeks an injunction to delay implementing the redistricting plan and postponing Tuesday&rsquo;s election filing deadline until the matter is resolved. It says the Democratic House&rsquo;s map of new legislative districts is unconstitutional because it divides too many counties, places some counties in noncontiguous districts and puts some Republicans in districts with higher populations than their Democratic counterparts. Fri, 27 Jan 2012 19:45:00 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 20483 at Republicans Challenge House with Lawsuit Board Evaluates Department of Agriculture <p><a href="">The Department of Agriculture broke state law</a> and regulations when it hired two non-merit employees into merit positions, according to a report by the Personnel Board. The report found the department&rsquo;s selection process &ldquo;totally arbitrary&rdquo; and ordered the agency by a 6-0 vote to attend training on how to advertise for future openings.</p><p> Sun, 15 Jan 2012 19:58:50 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 19793 at Beshear Pushes Gaming on Day One <p><a href="">State representatives Derrick Graham and Carl Rollins </a>believe there&rsquo;s support for a constitutional amendment on expanded gaming, but Sen. Julian Carroll says any proposal must be vetted before there&rsquo;s a vote. That&rsquo;s in response to Gov. Steve Beshear&rsquo;s inaugural address, in which he called on leaders to &ldquo;find the political courage and the will to lay the foundation&rdquo; for the future before saying he&rsquo;ll again push for a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling. Beshear shared broad plans for his second term during his 20-minute inaugural address Tuesday, mentioning job creation, education, gambling and restructuring the state&rsquo;s tax code when the recession ends. Wed, 14 Dec 2011 18:13:01 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 18002 at Beshear Pushes Gaming on Day One Medical Board Cracks Down on Doctors <p><a href="">Months after sharp criticism from lawmakers </a>over how it tracks prescription drugs, the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board says it has taken steps to improve the system and crack down on over-prescribing doctors. But there&rsquo;s lots of work ahead, chiefly getting more doctors familiar with the system and making it easier for physicians to spot so-called doctor shoppers, officials and lawmakers say. Officials with the licensure board testified before the legislature&rsquo;s Program Review and Investigations Committee Thursday. Fri, 09 Dec 2011 20:14:38 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 17729 at Painting to Resume on Historic Frankfort Bridge <p><a href="">An Ohio contractor has been awarded a $1.3 million contract</a> to finish painting downtown Frankfort&#39;s Singing Bridge, according to the state Transportation Cabinet. The bridge, which dates back to the 1890s, crosses the Kentucky River. The bridge has a metal mesh floor which causes tires on vehicles to make a sing-song noise - hence the name Singing Bridge.</p><p> Fri, 02 Dec 2011 20:41:36 +0000 Kevin Wheatley, State Journal 17319 at