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Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says he is starting an advocacy group to oppose Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's plans to dismantle Kynect and scale back the state's Medicaid expansion.

Beshear is scheduled to announce "Save Kentucky Healthcare" during two events Thursday. In a news release, Beshear said he is troubled by Bevin's plans to roll back what he called Kentucky's nation-leading progress in improving the health of its people.

wkyt.com

Legislation calling for two separate marriage license forms at Kentucky county clerk’s offices has won the backing of a senate committee.  The proposal comes five months after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer says his republican led chamber has given thoughtful consideration to the issue.  “We made this one of our priority bills, Senate Bill 5. And you would have thought, ‘Oh they’re gonna rush that bill through and try to get it down to the House,’” said Thayer.  “We did exactly the o

Blue Grass Stockyards Ready to Move Forward with Rebuild

20 hours ago
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The chief operating officer of the Blue Grass Stockyards is expecting a thorough cleanup of fire debris at the Lexington site to begin in earnest very soon.  Jim Akers appeared before the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday to discuss the massive blaze that destroyed the 70 year old livestock auction complex in late January. 

This year marks the first legislative session under Governor Matt Bevin, and the first budget year of his administration as well.

A lot of important issues affecting many Kentuckians are making their way into this legislative session. Significant budget cuts, and legislation aimed at addressing issues like abortion, coal, and heroin addiction as well as many other important issues.

This week’s program originates from the State Capitol in Frankfort and with us to discuss some of these issues will be:

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A bill that would officially define ‘bullying’ within schools across Kentucky is headed for the House floor.  The measure, sponsored by Richmond Representative Rita Smart, emerged from the House Education Committee Tuesday.  Smart says in Madison County more and more children are being home schooled because of bullying.  “They used to have a few children in a home bound program because of a broken leg or infection, but now they have more because of anxiety and mental health issues, and it costs them," Smart said. "They have to have a teacher for those children.” 

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Actress Jennifer Garner spent the day in Frankfort on Tuesday. Garner is artist ambassador for ‘Save the Children,’ an international non-profit that promotes children’s rights and supports them through education and relief supplies.  It Kentucky affiliation began 80 years ago in Harlan County.  Garner visited the Capitol to ask state lawmakers to preserve funding for the organization’s efforts in the commonwealth.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    

A new program aimed at expanding training to better protect children from sexual abuse is being launched across Kentucky.  Attorney General Andy Beshear and First Lady Glenna Bevin are partnering in the effort.

Beshear said 1 in 10 Kentucky children will be sexually abused before age 18.  He says we have a moral obligation and a legal duty to report abuse.  “The abuse affects their interaction with society, impacts their education and careers, and often leads to substance abuse and mental health issues later in life,” said Beshear.

 A major shakeup has occurred in the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, less than a month after 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen died in a state-run detention center.

Commissioner Bob D. Hayter, who had run the agency since November 2014, is gone, according to sources and an employee in Hayter’s former office. Hayter had been with the department since 2006, first as a regional director, later as deputy commissioner of support services.

livescience.com

Legislation to prohibit localities from banning certain dog breeds is under review in the Kentucky Senate.  The measure got the backing of the Senate Agriculture Committee last week. Lee Greenwood with Best Friends Animal Society says it’s a property rights issue.  “The science is pretty clear, as we said, there really is no connection between breed and a dog’s propensity for acting in one way or another,” said Greenwood.

Greenwood says any type of dog can be dangerous and communities should make laws that focus on the behavior of every dog, not one particular breed. 

UK Doctors Offer Advice Regarding Zika Virus

Feb 9, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

  The Zika virus cases in Central and South America are certainly getting attention in the U.S.  Health officials at the University of Kentucky are offering some advice.

Dr. Derek Forster, UK’s medical director in Infection Prevention and Control, says there are no known Zika cases in Kentucky.  Still, pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant are advised not to travel to countries where the mosquito borne virus is causing birth defects. 

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    A panel of college freshmen and high school seniors is urging Kentucky lawmakers to do more to assist low income students who have higher education aspirations.  Their testimony focused on two needs based scholarship programs.

Here’s a Thursday call to our Listener Comment Line from a listener choosing to remain anonymous,

“Your news broadcasts are skipping. The same thing has happened a couple of times in the last couple of days. I don’t know if you listen to your own stations or not but, it was very obvious that something was interfering with the broadcasting of the news. ”

Focus On Business: Bill Bissett on Kentucky Coal

Feb 8, 2016

Near the end of 2011, about 19,000 people were employed by Kentucky coal mines and preparation plants.  By this past October, the number for all of Kentucky was down to about half that.  The decline was worse than that in the Eastern coalfields.  Nationwide, production dropped as much as 10% in this past year and companies have been filing for bankruptcy.  Tom Martin discussed these issues with Dr. Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.  

Senate Republicans Continue to Refine Priority Education Bill

Feb 8, 2016
kentucky.com

Kentucky Senate Republicans are still at work on their priority bill and it could be a few weeks before the measure is sent the floor.  Senate Bill 1 would create a new review structure for state education standards and student testing.  Senate President Robert Stivers says the legislation is undergoing further review.  “We’re still talking through it and working through it because it is an important policy change, but not only that but it is a big policy change,” said Stivers.

state.com

Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet secretary is not expecting any short term rebound in the eastern Kentucky coalfields.  Charles Snavely appeared before the senate’s natural resources committee this week.  Snavely was asked about the issue by Pike County Senator Ray Brown.  “Is there any hope for a rebound in the central Appalachian coalfields? Asked Jones.

“Well, I regret you ask me that question in a public forum because if you ask me a question, I’m gonna give you the answer,” replied Snavely.

Bicycling Bill Makes Room for Cyclists on Kentucky Roadways

Feb 5, 2016
kentucky.com

The Kentucky Senate Transportation Committee has unanimously backed a bill to require motorists to give bicyclists three feet of space when passing them.  Lexington biking enthusiast Bill Fortune attended this week’s hearing in Frankfort.  He believes the three foot requirement is a safe and reasonable distance.  Fortune would also like to see related signage.  “It is signed in many states so that on highways where, particularly where there are cyclists, it will show a cyclist and say ‘give them three feet’, something along those lines," Fortune explained.

Kentucky Senate Passes Religious Freedom Bill

Feb 5, 2016
wkyt.com

The Kentucky Senate has voted overwhelmingly in favor of the so called ‘religious freedom’ bill.  Among other things, the measure would allow students in Kentucky elementary and secondary schools, as well as universities, to voluntarily express religious viewpoints in class assignments.  Lexington Senator Reggie Thomas cast an Aye vote Thursday.  “We ought to have freely as a society here in Kentucky the ability to express our religious opinions in schools, on the sports fields, in plays and whatever,” said Thomas.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    

Former State Senator and civil rights legend Georgia Powers was remembered Thursday during a service at the Capitol Rotunda.   Powers was the first African American elected to the Kentucky senate and a key organizer of the 1964 civil rights march in Frankfort.   KET’S Renee Shaw opened the ceremony as Powers lay in state just a few feet away.  “It is indeed a high honor to participate in this capital farewell to civil rights trail blazer and icon, Senator Georgia Davis Powers,” said Shaw.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Governor Bevin’s proposed higher education cuts came under review during a house budget subcommittee meeting Thursday.  The governor is suggesting trimming university budgets by nine percent over the next two years.  Budget Review Subcommittee Chair Arnold Simpson expressed concern about the impact on tuition.  “For every dollar we cut for higher education, approximately 70 cents has been charged in additional tuition,” said Simpson.

peoacwa.army.mil

A revision in Kentucky law related to the disposal of mustard and nerve agent munitions at the Blue Grass Army Depot is being sought in Frankfort.  Members of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved the reclassification of secondary waste Wednesday. 

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    

A Kentucky House Committee has approved a measure that would increase penalties for the possession and trafficking of synthetic drugs. Proponents of the measure are hopeful it will curb the spread of a very trendy synthetic.

Flickr/Creative Commons / U.S Dept. of Agriculture

Thousands of Kentucky residents have two months to look for work or job training to keep their food stamp benefits.  Anya Weber of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says food stamp recipients have until April 1 to comply with the new requirements.  

"Able-bodied adults without dependents will need to meet a 20-hour work or training requirement," says Weber. "This is going to affect approximately 17,500 able-bodied adults in eight counties."

Those counties are Bullitt, Daviess, Fayette, Hardin, Henderson, Jefferson, McCracken and Warren.

Wikipedia

Rand Paul is suspending his presidential campaign, saying that he’ll focus his energy on running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat.

“Although, today I will suspend my campaign for President, the fight is far from over,” Paul said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“I will continue to carry the torch for Liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term.”

The pressure for Paul to drop out of the presidential race had been mounting after spending much of the past six months polling in the single digits.

Paul finished fifth in the Iowa Republican Caucus, taking 4.5 percent of the vote.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    

Hundreds of people with disabilities rallied at the state capitol Tuesday to highlight the importance of state-supported services for the disabled. Governor Bevin told participants that he’s recommending more funds for programs that assist the disabled.

Senate Passes Pension Accountability Bill

Feb 3, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The state legislature continues to search for a way to address the $31 million needed to shore up its pension funds for state workers, and teachers.  For now, the state senate has acted on what’s being called a pension transparency and accountability measure.  Owensboro Senator Joe Bowen explained the bill on the floor Tuesday.  “This bill is about this body, the legislature, to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Bowen.

Kentucky Establishes Automotive Caucus

Feb 2, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The newly formed Kentucky Automotive Caucus membership includes about half of the state general assembly.  The group was officially recognized during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday.  Toyota’s Kim Menke says Governor Bevin’s comments on workforce development during his budget address touched on a key issue.  “We want to continue to be able to operate with our existing businesses with the retirement waves that are coming,” Menke said. “Being able to back fill those positions and then we all want to grow as well.”

Associated Press

It was quick, albeit unorthodox, when Kentucky's governor signed into law an abortion bill as soon as a delegation of lawmakers presented it to him.

The first bill signed by Gov. Matt Bevin since taking office updates the state's informed consent law requiring women seeking abortions be told of medical risks and benefits at least 24 hours beforehand.

The bill gives patients and doctors the option of meetings in person or by video.

Gary Burke / Flickr

State legislators are once again being called upon to allow casino gambling in Kentucky as a way to pump revenue into the ailing pension systems for public employees.

Expanded gaming has been pushed during legislative sessions for years as an answer to Kentucky’s financial woes, but it’s never gotten enough traction to pass.

That doesn’t mean the supporters will stop pushing. On Tuesday, Greater Louisville Inc. announced its support for a bill proposed by two Louisville state senators. In a news release, GLI noted that Kentucky loses tax revenue each year to casinos in bordering states.

“These are dollars that could be going toward our state deficit and our significant pension obligations,” GLI President Kent Oyler said in the news release.

kentuckytourism.com

State House Democrats say they likely will not approve $650 million worth of state spending cuts as outlined in Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's budget proposal.

The resistance sets up a budget battle one month ahead of four special elections that could shift the balance of power in the legislature.

commons.wikimedia.org

Producers of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey are toasting another year of strong sales and revenue growth. Leading the way is growing demand for high-priced, super-premium brands.

The Distilled Spirits Council said Tuesday that combined U.S. revenues for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey shot up 7.8 percent to $2.9 billion in 2015. Domestic volume rose 5.2 percent.

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