Kentucky House Committee Passes Outpatient Mental Health Bill

Jan 15, 2016

Legislation to mandate outpatient mental health treatment in Kentucky is going before the full House.  The measure won committee approval Thursday from the House Health and Welfare Committee.  Advocate Sheila Shuster says it would apply to people who have been involuntarily committed twice and don’t understand they have an illness.  “The court could order an evaluation and order the person to outpatient treatment and then monitored that they’re compliant with the treatment protocol,” Shuster explained.  “In other words, taking their medications, seeing their therapist and so forth.”

Omnibus Alcohol Bill Sails Through State Senate

Jan 15, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News


The Kentucky Senate has overwhelmingly approved extensive legislation pertaining to the state’s bourbon, beer, and wine industries.  Passage came with little floor debate on Thursday.

The lengthy bill allows for the expanded sale of bourbon in distillery souvenir shops, and also permits microbreweries and small farm wineries to double production. Northern Kentucky Senator John Schickel is the bill’s sponsor.  “And the bourbon industry in Kentucky, members of this chamber, is booming," said Schickel. "They can’t make enough of it.” 

New Tourism Secretary Committed to Upgrading Kentucky State Parks

Jan 14, 2016

Kentucky’s new Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet Secretary is pledging a renewed effort to fix up the state park system.  Don Parkinson appeared before the Senate Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee Thursday. Repairs and renovations needed at Kentucky’s parks are estimated to cost $241 million.

A state Senate committee has passed a bill that would crack down on habitual drunk drivers.

The bill would double the five-year “look-back period” for driving under the influence, meaning someone convicted of the charge multiple times in 10 years would face increased penalties.

Kentucky’s current law imposes escalating fines, license suspensions and possible jail time for each DUI offense within five years. The fourth offense is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison.


A measure related to legislative pensions won unanimous approval Wednesday from a state senate committee.  Legislation that could change the state constitution and move the election of statewide office holders to even numbered years also emerged unscathed.

Bill to Require CPR Education in Kentucky High Schools Advances

Jan 13, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Legislation requiring hands on CPR education for all Kentucky high school students has passed out of a senate committee.  17 year old Tanner Demling appeared Wednesday before the Health and Welfare Committee.  Two people performed CPR on Demling for 30 minutes when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in 2014. Demling believes teenagers will take such instruction seriously.  “Yeah I think they will cause it’s easy to learn and its practical to everyday life,” said Demling.

Legislative Research Commission

A legislative committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure.

Since 2001, women seeking an abortion have been able to have the so-called “informed consent” meeting over the phone.

Kentucky state universities have endured regular budget cuts for years, and they’ve offset the losses in part with tuition increases.

A Republican state senator wants to stop the latter.

State Sen. Dan Seum, a Louisville Republican, is proposing a freeze on state universities’ tuition rates. He said state universities have increased their tuition at a rate that outstrips cuts to higher education.

Kentucky House Members Receive Anti-Harassment Training

Jan 13, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News


As part of the second week of the 2016 General Assembly, members of the Kentucky House have undergone anti-harassment training.  The annual exercise stirs memories of previous sexual harassment allegations.

Bourbon, Beer, Wine Legislation Clears Senate Committee

Jan 12, 2016

Omnibus legislation related to alcoholic beverages is headed to the full Kentucky Senate.  The measure, which contains provisions related to bourbon, beer, and wine businesses, came out of a committee Tuesday.  It allows for increasing the distillery souvenir shop sale of bourbon from four to twelve bottles.  Jason Underwood with Buffalo Trace Distillery favors keeping the current standard, “If someone just wants to buy a case and they never visit of the retail stores, well they’re not gonna find any of our other products.”  “Nor will they find the other products of the other distillers in

Kentucky Lawmakers May Again Discuss Capital Punishment

Jan 12, 2016

    Legislation to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky is once again before state lawmakers.  It’s unlikely the measure will be heard in the republican controlled senate.

This isn’t the first time veteran Louisville Senator Gerald Neal has filed legislation to do away with the state’s death penalty. And Neal says he’s waited as long as seven years to clear a bill in the general assembly.  “This is one of those kinds of bills cause it has a cultural base to it and change in this area is gonna be difficult,”  Neal said.

Senate Session Moving Slower Than 2015

Jan 12, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The pace in the Kentucky Senate during the 2016 session of the state general assembly is quite different from that of last year. During 2015’s 30 day session, senate republicans moved some of their priority measures during the first week.  Senate President Robert Stivers says it’s possible, but not likely, bills could make it to the floor by weeks’ end.  “We’re not under the time constraints that we were last year with the 30 day session.  We have a 60 day session this year, so we don’t feel pushed to move bills quickly,” said Stivers.

  Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has notified the federal government that Kentucky will dismantle its state health insurance exchange, Kynect.

The move will direct Kentuckians seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to use the federal health insurance site,

More than 500,000 people have gotten health insurance through Kynect.

Kentucky LRC

A Louisville state senator has proposed requiring police departments to submit rape kits to the state testing lab within 30 days of receiving them.

Victims would also be notified of the testing progress. The backlog rape kits tests were the subject of a critical state audit last year.

Louisville Democratic Sen. Denise Harper Angel said the bill is “absolutely necessary.”

“Any victim of rape needs to know and deserves to know that their test is going to be tested and we have to get criminals off the streets,” Harper Angel said.

Via the WEKU Facebook page, Marcia wrote to us, “Sick of hearing about Trump. There are other candidates who deserve coverage.” 

We had an exchange of messages with Marcia, explaining that WEKU does not determine the coverage, or extent of it, within the national news shows such as Here and Now, Morning Edition and All Things Considered but that we will certainly make sure her concerns are shared with producers of those shows.

Committee Vote Expected This Week on Expansion of Safe Infants Act

Jan 11, 2016

A committee vote is expected this week on legislation to change requirements in Kentucky’s Safe Infants Act.  The current law allows parents to leave babies younger than three days old at a designated safe place.

Close Political Party Divide in Ky. House Could Impact Lawmaking

Jan 11, 2016

    Special elections for four vacant positions in the Kentucky House will take place on March 8.

The future political makeup of the state house is on the minds of more than a few legislators.  Special elections could result in a 50-50 democrat-republican tie in the House.  Lexington Democratic Representative Susan Westrom says entrenchment has been a problem in the past.  “We can’t always get every single thing that we want,” said Westrom.  “This job over here is about compromise and sometimes the compromise has been very difficult to get.”

Noah Day

Since September 11th of 2001, many Americans have feared or even shown hatred to practitioners of the religion of Islam. That fear and hatred have also affected members of the Sikh community, a culture in which the men wear beards and turbans and women often cover their heads.

Now a group known as the Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass is raising concerns about hate-filled rhetoric and actions against Muslims and Sikhs in Kentucky.


Lexington Mayor Jim Gray Considering U.S. Senate Run

Jan 8, 2016


Lexington Mayor Jim Gray is reportedly considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Rand Paul.  The news received a mixed reaction Friday in the state capitol.

Kentucky Senate Honors American Pharoah

Jan 8, 2016

    More than two months after American Pharoah’s historic race at the Breeders Cup in Lexington, the champion thoroughbred is continuing to receive accolades. A resolution was heartily embraced Thursday by the Kentucky Senate that recognizes the bluegrass birthplace of the grand slam racing winner.  

Kentucky Ag Department Forms New Commission on Hunger

Jan 7, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is establishing a new Commission on Hunger. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles made the announcement Thursday at the state capitol during a rally against hunger.  Quarles says the commission’s initial goal is to develop an inventory of agencies working to help hungry Kentuckians.  Quarles says the commission will consists of “A coalition of folks who are currently solving the problem, folks who are best abled positioned to solve the problem and folks who may not even know that they have the capacity to address this issue.”


Kentucky senate members are expected to consider a joint resolution pertaining to concealed carry regulations in Virginia.  The matter looks to have strong bipartisan support in the 38 member chamber.

House Committee Hears Presentation on Propane

Jan 6, 2016

Kentucky lawmakers will be asked to consider incentives for commercial haulers to convert from gasoline to propane fuel.  The legislation is being developed by Louisville Representative Steve Riggs.  Riggs chairs the House Local Government Committee which heard a presentation Wednesday on propane fuel.  “For commercial fleets it would be more things like rebates or tax incentives or something of that nature,” said Riggs.

Fort Knox

The aging Ireland Army Community Hospital at Fort Knox is being replaced with a new medical clinic.  It’s one of several wins for the Hardin County post contained  in the latest defense bill passed by Congress.

During a visit to Fort Knox Tuesday, Senator Mitch McConnell announced $80 million in federal funding for the project.  The current hospital was built nearly 60 years ago, making it one of the oldest in the Army.  

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The first day of the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly brought with it the first citizen rally of the session.  Dubbed the ‘We are Kentuckians’ rally, the emphasis was on issues including racial equality, fairness, and clean air and water.  Ben Vivona attended the rally at the capitol rotunda. He held one corner of a large sign which read ‘people over profit.’   “It’s a human issue; everyone deserves to have a living wage,” Vivona said.  “If they’re working full time, they should be able to support themselves at the very least.”

State Senate GOP Leaders to Release Priority Bills Wednesday

Jan 5, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News


The 2016 Kentucky General Assembly session is underway in Frankfort.  Senate majority leaders say they will unveil their legislative agenda Wednesday.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer says priority bills are likely to focus on issues such as right to work, medical review of malpractice claims, repealing prevailing wage, and religious freedom.  "It’s going to look very similar to the priority list that we’ve passed the last several years and very similar to the campaign platform that Governor Bevin ran on last fall,” said Thayer.

Commonwealth Fund

States initiatives to expand health insurance coverage through either traditional Medicaid or private insurance have equally good outcomes for low-income adults, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Harvard’s School of Public Health study compared survey results from 5,600 low-income adults in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas.

The study was released as Kentucky’s new governor mulls reforming the Medicaid expansion. Kentucky expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act while Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was in office. Arkansas, however, used federal dollars to pay for private health insurance for low-income adults.

State House Democrats will once again try to push through a bill that would allow the state to borrow $3.3 billion to shore up the ailing teacher pension system, which is short $24 billion to make future payments.

Last year, the bill passed out of the House but was met with stiff opposition from leaders in the Republican-led Senate, which favored studying the problem to come up with structural changes to the pension system.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the top Democratic official in Frankfort, said even if lawmakers come up with changes to the pension system, the fund needs an influx of cash.

The 2016 session of the Kentucky General Assembly begins on January 5th.  Kentucky Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Dave Adkisson joined Tom Martin for a look at the business organization’s top priorities for the 2016 session.

New Year Marks Spike In Gun Violence In Lexington

Jan 5, 2016

Lexington Police are investigating two fatal shootings and three other gun related incidents.  All of the cases occurred between January 1 and 3.  Police Spokeswoman Sergeant Ann Welch says some states are seeing an increase in violent crime.  “And while nationally that might be true, we are seeing more consistent statistics here in Lexington,” Welch said.  “But what we have seen is an increase in our shootings.”