Backers of an effort to ban smoking in all public places in Kentucky are taking their message on the road this week in hopes of getting legislation passed in the 2013 legislation session. Smoke Free Kentucky, a coalition of non-profit, business and other groups, stopped Tuesday at the Frankfort headquarters of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, a longtime supporter of a statewide smoking ban.
Kayla Mosley had been dead several hours by the time her drug-addled parents realized something was wrong and called an ambulance to take her to the Pineville hospital, her cold, nude body wrapped in a blanket. The gut-wrenching story is one of many contained in thousands of pages of documents released last week by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees child protection in Kentucky. The files give an unprecedented look into how Kentucky's abused and neglected children die and how the state's child-protection system operates. The cabinet and the state's two largest newspapers, the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal of Louisville, have been fighting in court for more than two years over access to the case files of children who were killed or critically injured in 2009 and 2010 as a result of abuse and neglect.
The top Republican in the Kentucky House wants Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to halt an expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. The expansion of Medicaid is a central element in President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which says the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs to add certain people to the program in 2014. After three years, the states must pick up some of the costs of the expansion, which Kentucky can't afford, House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown said.
The story behind 9-month-old's death is featured in a video produced by the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse, a coalition of medical schools and children's hospitals from Kentucky and Indiana. The kickoff event for the partnership was held Wednesday at Kosair Children's Hospital. The partnership will launch a media blitz soon to raise awareness about the signs of child abuse.
Medicaid provider Coventry Cares has reversed an earlier decision and will continue paying for a costly medication that helps drug addicts stop using opiates, a company spokesman said Monday. Matt Eyles, a spokesman for Coventry, said the company decided to reverse course after talking to representatives of a chain of addiction treatment clinics that threatened last week to sue Coventry.
Medicaid provider Coventry Cares plans to stop paying for an expensive medication that helps addicts kick opioid addictions, a move state officials quickly condemned Thursday as a contract violation. The Medicaid managed care company's decision to stop paying for buprenorphine, a drug used to curtail cravings for drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, also brought the threat of a lawsuit from a group of addiction treatment centers. Buprenorphine is more commonly known as Suboxone.
One of the state's Medicaid managed-care companies has told Baptist Healthcare System that it wants to renegotiate its contract with the chain, which has hospitals in Lexington, Louisville, La Grange, Paducah and Corbin. Coventry Cares notified Baptist Healthcare System on Friday that it wanted to renegotiate, said Ruth Ann Childers, a spokeswoman for Baptist. If an agreement cannot be reached by Nov. 1, when the current contract expires, Coventry has told the health care system that it would allow the contract to expire, Childers said.
The Democratic-led House passed a measure Wednesday that supporters hope will curtail Kentucky's prescription pill addiction, but the bill's future in the Republican-led Senate remains uncertain. House Bill 1 would allow only doctors to own pain clinics and would move the state's prescription electronic monitoring system from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to Attorney General Jack Conway's office. But many of the "no" votes in the House, where the bill passed 70-28, were cast by Republicans, who questioned whether the attorney general's office was given too much power over the state's doctors.
The Kentucky Senate will approve a $4.5 billion operating budget for the Transportation Cabinet on Friday and end a special legislative session that began Monday, Senate President David Williams said late Wednesday. The announcement came after Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law a two-year road plan, but not before vetoing about $50 million in funding for road projects in or near Senate President David Williams' Southern Kentucky Senate district. Williams said Beshear's vetoes were "vindictive and unconstitutional. But since he just directed them at me, we will proceed."
The House is set to vote Wednesday on a more than $4.5 billion transportation budget bill and a measure aimed at curbing prescription pain pill abuse after the proposals cleared separate committees on Tuesday. House Bill 2, the transportation operating budget, and House Bill 1, the prescription drug measure, are the sole pieces of legislation to be considered in the special legislative session that started Monday. It's unclear how long the special session will last.
Gov. Steve Beshear has ordered the Kentucky General Assembly to convene an extraordinary session at noon Monday to consider a transportation budget and a bill aimed at battling prescription drug abuse. Beshear's call for a special legislative session came about 12 hours after lawmakers ended their regular 60-day session Thursday night without approving the Transportation Cabinet's operating budget. In his call, Beshear blasted Senate President David Williams for blocking approval of the bills on Thursday.
Child advocates are praising the General Assembly's passage of a handful of key bills aimed at making life better for Kentucky's vulnerable children. Terry Brooks, executive director of the non-profit Kentucky Youth Advocates, said Monday that he was pinching himself because so many pieces of legislation that could improve the lives of children were approved this session. "We think there were some really big wins for kids," Brooks said.
The Kentucky General Assembly is poised to vote Friday on a $19 billion, two-year state budget that provides $3.5 million to help the Kentucky Horse Park and $2.5 million to start the redevelopment of Rupp Arena. Leading lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget just minutes before a self-imposed deadline of 3 a.m. Thursday, giving legislative staffers enough time to make requested changes in the bill before rank-and-file members vote on it Friday.
House and Senate leaders have agreed to cut a $30,000 annual living expense for Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson. That was one of few noteworthy agreements between the Republican Senate and the Democratic House on the first full day of negotiations over a two-year, $19 billion budget. House and Senate leaders met three times Monday to work out differences between the two budgets. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Robert Leeper, I-Paducah, said early Monday that there are few major differences between the House and Senate budgets. Once some global decisions are made — particularly involving debt — there will be few decisions left to make, he said.
Three bills that would put more requirements on abortion providers failed in the House Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday. Senate Bill 103 would require that women be shown ultrasounds before abortions and calls for fines for doctors who do not do the ultrasounds. Women would be allowed to avert their eyes if they do not wish to see the ultrasounds, said Sen. Joe Bowen, the bill's sponsor.
The House approved a measure Tuesday that would limit tanning bed use for teens. If passed by the Senate, Kentucky teens under age 18 could only use a tanning bed with written permission from a parent. House Bill 249 originally prohibited teens under the age of 14 from using tanning bans. Rep. David Watkins, D-Henderson, a doctor, said exposure to ultra violet light, particularly in tanning beds, can accelerate skin cancer.
Smoking would be banned in all public places and indoor workplaces in Kentucky under a bill approved Tuesday by a House committee, but a sponsor of the bill said it was unlikely to become law this year. The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 10-2 to approve House Bill 289 at a special meeting Tuesday. It now goes to the full House. Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said after the vote that she didn't think there are enough votes to pass the measure in the Republican-controlled Senate even though Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has said he supports a statewide smoking ban.
Six House Republicans boycotted a committee meeting Thursday because the chairman refused to take a vote on a measure that would require random drug testing of people who receive welfare and other public benefits. But House Health and Welfare chairman Tom Burch said House Bill 26 would have been defeated if the committee had taken a vote. "I didn't want to embarrass him," Burch, D-Louisville, said of Rep. Lonnie Napier, the primary sponsor of HB 26. Napier, one of the long est-serving members of the House, announced earlier this year that he was not seeking re-election.
The state House approved a measure Tuesday that would allow long-term care facilities to complete fingerprint background checks on potential employees. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has received a $3 million grant from the federal government to start the fingerprint background check. The state will also kick in $1 million in matching funds.
The Kentucky House will probably vote Wednesday on a two-year, $19.5 billion state budget that calls for 8.4 percent cuts to some parts of government and very little new borrowing for capital projects. The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee voted 26-2 Tuesday to approve House Bill 265, the executive branch budget. The House made some modest tweaks to Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed budget, which was introduced in January.
A camouflage hunting rifle was shattered in half, its scope and barrel possibly buried in rubble off Opossum Hollow Road. A queen-size mattress was wrapped around a post, and white dominoes littered the ground as friends and relatives of the Bowman family tried to collect what was left of their home on Saturday. One member of the family died and a second was at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital in surgery after a violent storm Friday night hopscotched over ridge lines in the Possum Hollow area of Menifee County, killing at least two people and injuring 50, Menifee County officials said early Saturday.
A bill that would create a pilot project to allow open proceedings in family courts was approved unanimously by a House panel Wednesday and is expected to win the full House's approval. House Bill 239 would create at least one pilot project in each of the seven Supreme Court districts to open family court proceedings, including abuse, neglect and dependency hearings. The pilot project would last four years and would allow the courts to determine what information in those court proceedings could be released.
The state's prosecutors warned lawmakers Tuesday that they will have to lay off or furlough workers under Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed two-year state budget. "We've got two options — layoffs or furloughs," said Chris Cohron, the commonwealth's attorney for Warren County and legislative chair for the state's commonwealth's attorney association.
Negotiations between the state House and Senate have stalled over the redrawing of Kentucky's six congressional districts. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Monday that a federal judge could end up redrawing lines for the state's congression al districts if lawmakers fail to reach a compromise. The Prestonsburg Democrat didn't seem troubled by that prospect in a state where Republicans hold four of the state's six congressional seats.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" On the day the nation paused to remember the civil rights leader's life, thousands of people in Kentucky and millions across the country spent Monday answering King's question.
Therapists who work with abused, neglected and at-risk children told a legislative panel Wednesday that they might have to close their doors if they don't receive back payments from the state soon. "Our business is struggling to keep the doors open," said Peggy Smith-Puckett, a licensed family and marriage therapist from Glasgow. "We have received only a small fraction of the money we have billed."
Gov. Steve Beshear projected deep cuts in the next two-year state budget, pushed for a constitutional amendment to allow expanded gambling and called for overhauling the state's tax structure in his fifth State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday. The cuts could be as deep as 7 percent to 9 percent during the next two years, state officials said. Beshear, speaking before a joint session of the House and Senate, asked legislators to be "decisive and aggressive" and to take bold steps to fix the state's finances, better prepare its work force and attack Kentuckians' addictions to prescription drugs.
There is a move afoot to make the private University of Pikeville a state-supported school, and lawmakers could be asked to consider the proposal in the upcoming legislative session. It's been four decades since the legislature last took a private, four-year university — the University of Louisville — into the state's public higher-education system, so adding Pikeville is a significant public-policy issue. The idea raises concern among officials at other state universities that bringing Pikeville into the system could eat into their funding.
Madaline Grace Reynolds needed medicine to treat her cystic fibrosis, but her parents seemed more interested in getting their own prescriptions filled, a tipster told a Kentucky child-protection worker in November 2008. Madaline's parents always picked up their own pills, including pain pills, but sometimes went months without getting medicine needed by the 20-month-old Lincoln County toddler, according to a state report.