Kenny Colston, KPR-Frankfort

KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief

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12:45pm

Fri March 30, 2012
State Capitol

Unemployment Insurance Deal Passes Senate

The Kentucky Senate has passed an amended bill that would help the state repay interest on a federal unemployment insurance loan. And despite concerns that the Senate amendments would derail the proposal, the bill’s original House sponsor has agreed to the changes.The amendment by Senator David Givens would defer an increase in the taxes employers pay on wages once the unemployment insurance fund is healthy again.

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3:48pm

Thu March 29, 2012
State Capitol

Lawmakers Compromise on Tax Amnesty Program

Kentucky lawmakers seem to have reached an agreement on a bill to restart a tax amnesty program. The program allows Kentuckians with delinquent taxes to apply for reduced payments. Governor Steve Beshear proposed the program to help raise revenue. The House scaled back Beshear’s original proposal, and the Senate made further revisions. But legislative leaders have decided to remove most of those revisions and pass the bill.

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1:49pm

Thu March 29, 2012
Education

Coal County Kids Get College Scholarships

A scholarship program intended to serve college students in far eastern Kentucky has been expanded. What was originally called the Appalachian Scholarship Fund has been expanded to all coal-producing counties in Kentucky, including those in the western portion of the state. The program applies to students in the last two years of their education who attend a university, public or private, in a coal-producing county.

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1:47pm

Thu March 29, 2012
State Capitol

No Expansion of Preschools Budgeted

An effort by Governor Steve Beshear to expand preschool services in the Commonwealth did not make it into the final state budget. Beshear put a $15 million appropriation for preschool in his budget proposal. The House cut that figure in half and funded other education programs with what was left. The Senate struck all the money, saying it wouldn't be right to expand some programs while slashing others.

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5:41am

Thu March 29, 2012
State Capitol

Early Morning Agreement on State Budget

After a night of discussions, Kentucky lawmakers have finally reached a budget agreement.  Negotiations on a budget compromise began Monday. By Tuesday, talks had stalled. Lawmakers were unable to work out differences over funding school construction, paying for indigent care at University Hospital in Louisville and reducing bonded debt. House and Senate leaders resolved their differences shortly before 3 am today. The compromise includes the House’s planned funding for school construction and U of L Hospital. It also cuts the state’s bonded debt, which was a Senate priority.

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5:39am

Thu March 29, 2012
State Capitol

More Work Ahead on State Road Plan

The Kentucky state Senate has approved two and four year road plans that have major differences with the House versions.  The biggest difference is with the Louisville bridges project.  Combined, the plans will fund the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville with bonds for two years, then federal highway funds for the following four years.  That's a change from the House plan, which calls for highway funds to be used for all six years.

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5:36am

Thu March 29, 2012
State Capitol

Drug Bills Passed

State lawmakers have approved two major pieces of legislation dealing with drug abuse in Kentucky.  House Bill 4 tightens regulations on prescription pills. It passed the full Senate Wednesday afternoon. Around the same time, the House passed Senate Bill 3, which caps the amount of pseudoephedrine Kentuckians can buy every month without a prescription.  Since both bills were amended, they will now return to their original chambers, where lawmakers must decide whether to agree with the changes or send them to conference committees for compromises

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3:10pm

Wed March 28, 2012
State Capitol

State Budget Talks Stall, Again

Budget talks in Frankfort appear to have stalled. Lawmakers have met for three straight days, usually twice a day, to resolve differences between budget proposals passed by the House and Senate. But there are firm disagreements over school construction, cuts to the governor’s office and coal severance projects.

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2:01pm

Wed March 28, 2012
State Capitol

Debt Payments on Jobless Benefits Reworked in Senate

A Kentucky Senate committee's changes to a bill to repay a federal loan could derail the plan. The state borrowed nearly a billion dollars during the recession to shore up the unemployment insurance fund. In 2010, lawmakers approved a plan to repay the loan through higher taxes on employers. This year, the House approved a plan to interest payments on the loan through higher taxes as well.

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12:19pm

Wed March 28, 2012
State Capitol

Road Budget Undergoes Further Changes

The Kentucky Senate Transportation Committee has amended the state road plan a second time. The committee met this morning to update and pass a two-year and a six-year road plan. Combined, the plans will fund the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville with bonds for two years, then federal highway funds for the following four years. That's a change from the House plan, which calls for highway funds to be used for all six years.

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5:11am

Wed March 28, 2012
State Capitol

School Construction Debated in Budget Negotiations

Kentucky lawmakers continue to work on a budget compromise.  Both chambers of the General Assembly have approved budget bills and a conference committee has been meeting since Monday to work out the differences. One major point of disagreement is funding for school construction. It's a priority for the House. But Senators were not ready to haggle during a Tuesday morning session.

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4:32pm

Tue March 27, 2012
State Capitol

Senate Committee Passes Prescription Bill

A Kentucky Senate committee has approved a bill that aims to toughen laws against prescription pill abuse. House Bill 4 is a collaborative effort between House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Attorney General Jack Conway and Governor Steve Beshear. The bill puts the KASPER prescription tracking system under Conway’s command and requires clinics that distribute pain medications to be owned by medical professionals. The Senate Judiciary committee made minor changes to the bill before passing it out of committee. And the bill will likely be changed further before passing the full Senate.

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4:15pm

Tue March 27, 2012
State Capitol

Plans for Education Reform Unlikely

An attempt to piggyback charter school legislation on another bill has likely killed two plans for education reform in Kentucky. The state Senate Education committee today added language legalizing charter schools to a charter alternative plan sponsored by Representative Carl Rollins, who chairs the House Education Committee. Charter supporters hoped Rollins would allow the amendment in order to see his alternative become law, but it’s unlikely the plan will work.

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2:37pm

Tue March 27, 2012
State Capitol

Senate Committee Passes Road Plan Changes

The Kentucky Senate is proposing a change in funding for the Ohio River Bridges Project. Governor Steve Beshear’s road budget calls for $50 million in spending on new bridges and reconfigured highway interchanges in Louisville. Both the House and Beshear favor using a mix of bonds and federal highway maintenance funds to do so. Senate Transportation Chairman Ernie Harris says his chamber prefers to use bonds almost exclusively to fund the project.

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2:35pm

Tue March 27, 2012
State Capitol

Lawmakers Attempt Compromise on Dropout Bill

Kentucky lawmakers are trying again to raise the state’s dropout age. Currently, students can drop out of school at 16 years old with parents’ permission. But lawmakers and Governor Steve Beshear have pushed to raise the dropout age to 18, regardless of parental consent. The latest proposal before the legislature would let local school boards decide  whether to adopt the higher dropout age. But once 70 districts opt in, it will become mandatory statewide.

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12:00am

Mon March 26, 2012
Education

Appalachian Scholarship Compromise in Trouble

A proposal to create a scholarship fund for far eastern Kentucky college students could be in jeopardy. The Appalachian scholarship fund was intended as a compromise, after a measure to move the University of Pikeville into the state system couldn’t garner enough support. In the House’s version of the budget, lawmakers funded the scholarships with coal severance tax money.

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12:00am

Mon March 26, 2012
State Capitol

Legislators Reflect on Accomplishments

As the 2012 legislative session winds down, lawmakers aren’t touting a long list of accomplishments. They say that’s not due to a lack of work, but mainly a lack of extra money to fund new programs or expand others. Instead, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the main highlights will be a three-bill attack on Kentucky’s drug abuse problems and passing general and road budgets before the end of the session.

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11:12am

Fri March 23, 2012
State Capitol

Few Differences between State Budget Proposals

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says his chamber's priorities for the next two-year budget are not that different from the Senate's. Both chambers have passed their own budget bills for each branch of state government. The two sides must now work out a compromise. Stumbo says he doesn’t have many concerns with the Senate's changes and he expects a conference committee to hatch a compromise quickly.

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6:54am

Fri March 23, 2012
State Capitol

Senate Takes Budget Action

After hours of closed-door meetings, the Kentucky Senate approved budgets for the three branches of state government Thursday night.  The House previously approved its own versions of the budgets. The Senate kept the House's legislative plan intact but modified the executive and judicial budgets.  The two chambers must now form a conference committee to work out the differences.

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1:36pm

Thu March 22, 2012
State Capitol

Lawmakers Move to Protect Nuclear Industries

Kentucky lawmakers are set to pass a bill with the hope it will help a uranium enrichment plant in Paducah create new operations. House Bill 559 would allow the Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah to use depleted uranium tails and either re-enrich or sell those tails.

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3:18pm

Wed March 21, 2012
State Capitol

Lowering the Minimum Age on Elected Offices

The minimum age to run for office in Kentucky could soon drop. House Bill 112 is a on track to clear the General Assembly soon. It would allow 21-year-olds to run for mayor and 18-year-olds to run for councils in Kentucky cities and towns. Currently, council members must be 21 and mayors must be 25. The bill has already cleared the House and it passed a Senate committee today.

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2:15pm

Wed March 21, 2012
Civil War Sesquicentennial

Closing Kentucky's Confederate Pension Fund

A bill that would eliminate all Kentucky laws relating to pensions for former Confederate soldiers is on the fast track to becoming law. House Bill 85 is sponsored by state Representative Adam Koenig. The bill passed a Senate committee today and is on the consent calendar for the full Senate. After it passes the Senate, it will go to the governor for his signature.

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10:59am

Wed March 21, 2012
State Capitol

Sales Tax Break for Tornado Survivors

A bill granting sales tax refunds for Kentuckians hit by this month's tornadoes is swiftly moving through the General Assembly. The measure cleared the House Appropriations and Revenue committee less than 12 hours after it was first proposed. The language granting the refunds had to be inserted into another bill, House Bill 165, because the deadline to introduce new House bills passed weeks ago.

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2:17pm

Tue March 20, 2012
The Commonwealth

Lawmakers Propose Tax Relief for Storm Victims

Kentucky lawmakers are planning to help home and business owners in tornado-stricken areas. Earlier this month, tornadoes ripped through Northern and Eastern Kentucky, causing millions of dollars in damage. But lawmakers are working on legislation to give storm victims refunds on sales tax for building materials. The plan addresses a concern that people won’t rebuild destroyed towns.

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1:02pm

Tue March 20, 2012
State Capitol

Debt Limit Hits Road Block in House

A proposal to cap Kentucky's debt has hit a roadblock in the House. The House Appropriations and Revenue committee took up Senate Bill 1 today. The bill wouldn't allow the state to accrue debt worth more than six percent of the general fund revenue, but doesn't cap debt in the road fund or most education budgets. The bill easily sailed through the Senate, a point bill sponsor Senator Joe Bowen made to the House committee.

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12:16pm

Tue March 20, 2012
State Capitol

Incentives for Making Autos in Kentucky

A bill that would give tax incentives to Kentucky auto manufacturers and related businesses is a few steps away from becoming law. State Representative Larry Clark is the sponsor of House Bill 400. The bill would re-open a 2007 law that gave Ford Motor Company tax incentives. Those incentives encouraged a one billion dollar investment at Ford's two Louisville plants.

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12:13pm

Tue March 20, 2012
All Politics are Local

Presidential Politics Arrive in Commonwealth

Santorum's campaign has sent mailers to Kentucky Republicans asking for their time and money. In the three-page letter, Santorum says he has the best grassroots political operation of any GOP candidate, then he asks for a $35 donation. The letter also asks potential supporters to help correct what he calls the mistake of 2008, when conservative voters allowed John McCain to receive the GOP Presidential nomination.

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7:24am

Tue March 20, 2012
State Capitol

Compromise Meth Bill Moves On

After a week of negotiations, the House Judiciary Committee has passed an amended version of a bill that would regulate pseudoephedrine.  The drug—often called PSE—is a key ingredient in allergy medicines, but it is also used to make methamphetamine. In the fight against meth, lawmakers have long debated various proposals to control PSE. The bill currently making its way through the General Assembly restricts how much PSE Kentuckians can buy without a prescription. It also blocks recent drug offenders from buying PSE entirely. On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee changed the latter provision to only block meth offenders from buying PSE.

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5:23pm

Mon March 19, 2012

12:00am

Mon March 19, 2012
State Capitol

General Assembly Winds Down

Kentucky’s General Assembly is heading down the stretch in the 2012 legislative session. Lawmakers have ten legislative days left to pass budget and road plan bills, in addition to any other matter. Many important topics that were priorities for some lawmakers—like raising the dropout age, fixing the state’s problems with Medicaid Managed Care Organizations and drug abuse legislation—has yet to pass both chambers in the same form. This means for the bills to become law, legislators will have to form conference committees and reach an agreement.

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