John Cheves, Lexington Herald-Leader

Last week a paper copy of the Ten Commandments once again found its way to a place of prominence: the front door of the Shelby County Courthouse.

The 8-by-11-inch copy was taped to the inside of the door, next to the sign banning food and drink.

Circuit Court Clerk Lowry Miller, who took down a framed copy of the document after Shelby County resident Linda Allewalt took issue with it being posted in the driver’s license office, said he had seen the copy on the front door of the courthouse but didn’t know who put it there.

“I’ve been on vacation, so I don’t know how long it was there,” he said.

A reporter snapped a pho


The University of Kentucky violated the state Open Records Act by refusing to release documents about surgeries at Kentucky Children's Hospital, the state attorney general's office has ruled. The attorney general's opinion carries the weight of law in open records cases, although it can be appealed to circuit court. UK spokesman Jay Blanton said Monday that the university was reviewing its legal options.

Campaigning for the Kentucky House last year, Brian Linder said state lawmakers do not need public pensions. This year, newly elected state Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, has joined other legislators in the $63 million Legislators Retirement Plan. What happened? Linder and several other conservatives elected to the General Assembly in November said they belatedly learned that lawmakers legally cannot reject their pensions

A sharp drop in Eastern Kentucky coal production has created million-dollar budget shortfalls that could bring layoffs and tax increases to some coal counties. In Knott County, the fiscal court appointed a committee last week to recommend ways to deal with a projected shortfall of $1.2 million in budgeted coal severance tax receipts. "You can't pay your bills at this point," Andrew Hartley, staff attorney for the state Department for Local Government, told officials at the fiscal court meeting.

For every $5 the city of Lexington spends, $1 goes to public pension obligations, proof that "our pension costs have spiraled out of control," Mayor Jim Gray said at a news conference Monday. Gray, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and other local government leaders spoke to urge the 2013 General Assembly to pass pension reform, which could include a reduction in retirement benefits and a massive infusion of extra state cash into the Kentucky Retirement Systems. The various pension funds of KRS have a $13.8 billion unfunded liability.

Kentucky fails to make the coal industry pay enough to clean up the environmental wreckage it leaves behind, according to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining. Though state and federal regulators are negotiating this summer in an attempt to solve the problem, Kentucky lawmakers said Thursday the criticism is another example of President Barack Obama's "war on coal."

The non-profit Hospice of the Bluegrass has spent more than $1.82 million since 2005 on business deals with several of its board members and the spouses of its executives. Ethics experts say such insider deals are legal, but because they create potential conflicts of interest, they should be handled carefully, if done at all. The Lexington-based Hospice provides care for hundreds of terminally ill patients and their families in a 32-county region. Its 2010 income of $66.6 million came from public and private sources, including Medicare and charitable donations.

The Kentucky Senate has approved a mandatory pay raise for circuit court clerks, at a possible cost to taxpayers of $2 million to $3 million a year, after a Senate Republican leader quietly added the proposal to an unrelated House bill. Under the proposed state budget agreed to early Thursday, state workers will not get a pay raise next year, and state retirees will not get a cost-of-living adjustment in their pensions.

A Senate committee on Tuesday killed a measure that would establish outside oversight of Kentucky's troubled child-protective system, but a House committee revived it minutes later through a procedural maneuver. The Kentucky Press Association opposes the measure because it would exempt the investigations and records they collect from the state Open Records Act, which the state's newspapers have used to report on problems with the child-protective system.

A Senate panel unanimously approved a bill Thursday morning that would require applicants to government welfare programs to provide official proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency. Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving most forms of welfare, including Medicaid, food stamps, public housing and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Their U.S.-born children, if they have any, automatically are citizens and are eligible.

Citing "terrible" public feedback, a senator is scrapping a bill that would have further diminished state regulation of major phone carriers and allowed them to end basic land-line phone service in unprofitable areas. Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, on Thursday said he decided to drop Senate Bill 12, referred to as "the AT&T bill," after meeting with Senate Democrats and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, to try to address their concerns.

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill drafted by AT&T that would further diminish state regulation of the company and allow it to end basic phone service in less profitable parts of its service areas. Opponents said Senate Bill 12 would let the state's three major phone carriers — AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell — abandon rural communities where poor and elderly residents depend on basic land-line service, including operator assistance and 911. AT&T hopes to force those residents to upgrade to more expensive service plans they don't need and can't afford, such as wireless or broadband, opponents said.

Some targets of critical news stories and state audits from recent years could avoid scrutiny under changes that lawmakers are proposing to the Kentucky Open Records Act. Presently, any organization that gets at least 25 percent of its revenue from local or state government must share most of its records under the act, which is meant to bring transparency to public spending. But House Bill 496, set to be heard next week in committee, would change the act to exempt from disclosure any money awarded by a government "for goods or services that are provided by a contract obtained through a public procurement process."

Chris Ware/Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky's telephone industry wants the option to end basic phone service in less profitable parts of their territories if other communications options, such as cell phones or the Internet, are available in the area. The industry hopes to build on its 2006 legislative success in deregulating basic land-line phone service, arguing that it needs to shift its resources to cell phone and broadband communications. But consumer advocates warn that rural communities, the poor and the elderly could be among those left behind if basic phone service disappears.

Court Battle over Redistricting Costly

Feb 14, 2012

The battle over Kentucky's newly-drawn legislative districts went to the state Supreme Court on Monday at a potential cost of $220,000 in legal fees, most of that to be footed by taxpayers. The Legislative Research Commission, which represents House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams in defending the districts from a constitutional challenge, has budgeted $95,000 for Louisville attorney Sheryl Snyder, although it may end up paying less depending on how much work is necessary.

David Perry / Lexington Herald Leader

A House committee reversed itself Wednesday and approved "Cooper's Law," which would nullify deed restrictions on small outdoor structures deemed medically necessary for children 12 and younger. House Bill 160, which proceeds to the full House, is named for a Lexington boy whose parents are feuding with the Andover Forest Home owners Association. 

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear accused Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, on Tuesday of trying to intimidate Republican senators who support Beshear's casino gambling proposal. "He is using intimidations and threats against fellow senators, including some in his own party," Beshear said. Williams denied Beshear's claim. He told reporters that he opposes the expansion of gambling in Kentucky, but that he is not punishing senators who support it. No one is losing their committee chairmanships or other choice assignments because they disagree with him, Williams said.

The Kentucky Office of Homeland Security has the right to publicly declare "dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth," the state Court of Appeals ruled Friday. State law requires the Office of Homeland Security to publicize God's benevolent protective powers in its official reports and on a plaque posted outside the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort. State Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, a Southern Baptist minister, placed the "Almighty God" language into a 2006 homeland security bill without much notice at the time.

President Barack Obama is using a crumbling Kentucky bridge over the Ohio River as a prime example of the need to rebuild the nation's aging infrastructure. "There's a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America," the president told Congress Sept. 8. But it was a second Kentucky bridge over the Ohio River that officials ordered closed the next day after engineers found cracks in its steel beams. That closure is forcing tens of thousands of vehicles through jammed city streets and onto a third Kentucky bridge over the Ohio River, this one rated by inspectors as even less sufficient than the others to remain in service.

Disability Pension Could Cost Lexington

Aug 21, 2011

Embattled Lexington fire Chief Robert Hendricks already draws a service pension from his first career as a Lexington firefighter, from which he retired in 1997. He wants more. Hendricks' request is common in a city where disability pensions are more generous and easier to win than elsewhere. During the past five years, 38 percent of the 119 Lexington police officers and firefighters who retired were awarded disability pensions. That compared to 3 percent for Kentucky State Police and 7 percent for Louisville hazardous-duty workers, including police officers and firefighters.

Kentucky Republicans on Tuesday chose Lexington developer John T. Kemper III as their nominee to be the state's elected Auditor of Public Accounts. Kemper, 47, is in personal bankruptcy and preparing to lose his home in a foreclosure auction following the failure of his construction business. He defeated state Rep. Addia Wuchner of Florence. Kemper, who last year unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for Congress in Central Kentucky, did not return phone messages left Tuesday night.