Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

Stu Johnson

 

An early morning explosion at a Lexington UPS maintenance facility Wednesday sent eight people to the hospital and caused substantial damage to the building.  Authorities are working to pin down the cause of the blast.

With the Kentucky Derby less than two weeks away and the summer travel season approaching, state tourism officials are in full advertising mode right now.

 Now is the time to roll out the bluegrass carpet to visitors from far and near. Kentucky Travel and Tourism Commissioner Kristen Branscum  admits the Derby attracts visitors through tradition. But Branscum says the term “Kentucky Derby’ can benefit attractions three hours away from Louisville. And the state focus is on out of state visitors.

Eastern Kentucky University’s Board of Regent adopted a two-year, $25 million savings plan Friday.  It includes reducing Eastern’s workforce by about 140 jobs. Some of those jobs are currently vacant but 96 others will be cut. EKU President Michael Benson said the board faced a difficult task.

Stu Johnson

Kentucky lawmakers return to Frankfort later this morning to act on remaining bills including a possible vote on a two year spending plan.  Legislators from the House and Senate have been trying to reach consensus on the biennial budget.

When this discussion between House and Senate conferees began over a week ago there were some significant differences.  The House plan included calls for a 50 cent cigarette tax and a 25 cent levy on prescription opioids at the distribution level.  The senate backed plan didn’t include any tax increases.  

WMKY

A work group studying Kentucky’s prison system predicts additional incarceration costs totaling more than a half billion dollars over the next decade, if further legislative remedies aren’t pursued. 

The group projected that the inmate population increase 19 percent over those ten years.

The information compiled by the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council’s Justice Reinvestment Work Group puts the inmate growth at 4,400 in the next decade, if no substantial changes are made. 

LFUCG

With financial spending uncertainty ahead, the Lexington city council is considering setting aside more money in a contingency account.  One of the primary unknowns is how much the local government will need to spend following anticipated state pension reforms.

Finance and Administration Commissioner Bill O’Mara got council budget committee approval Tuesday for a $10 million budget stabilization reserve. 

Stu Johnson

Residents of Lexington and Fayette County will soon have a new option for cable television, Internet and even telephone service.

Mayor Jim Gray announced Tuesday that the community will soon be one of the nation’s only “Gigabit Cities.”    


wkms.org

Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover has reached a confidential settlement over sexual harassment allegations made by a woman who works on his staff.

That's according to a report from the Louisville Courier Journal. The report claims the agreement was made last week after the leader of the House received a demand letter from the woman’s lawyer over allegations dating back to 2016. 

In keeping with tradition, the spring meet at Keeneland opens this weekend with the running of the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes. Seven three-year-olds are in the field for the Kentucky Derby prep race.

Kentucky.com

The state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control is implementing monthly alcohol serving classes across the state aimed at creating a consistent training schedule as the number of wet counties grows.

The Server Training in Alcohol Regulations or STAR classes are for ABC licensees and their employees.  Classes are intended for people who serve or sell alcoholic beverages.  They'll be held monthly at state park venues.  Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner Christine Trout said the training is not state mandated.

Ag.Ky.Gov

A controversial bill affecting the operation of the state attorney general's office won approval in the Kentucky House today and is expected to get a favorable reception as it moves to a vote in the Senate.

In addition to requiring the attorney general to explain why outside counsel is needed, the bill sets a cap at $20 million dollars that an attorney can recover in any given case. 

Providence Representative Jim Gooch said that can mean more dollars for taxpayers in large civil cases, “The more you have to pay one of these attorneys, the less money you’re going to get.”


Kentucky.com

The Kentucky House overwhelmingly approved anti-gang legislation today which that  to go after gang recruiters.  The measure, backed by a 91-3 vote would make gang recruitment a felony crime.  During floor debate the cost for additional prosecution and incarceration was estimated at $38 million. 

Lexington Representative Robert Benvenuti said cost of caring for hundreds of shooting victims runs hundreds of millions of dollars.

“What kind of a price tag should we put on the young men and women who are being slaughtered in our streets,” he said.

Whitneywesterfield.com

A Kentucky Senate panel voted Thursday for a bill supporting an effort to gather statistics on how minorities are treated in schools, juvenile courts and other institutions.

 

Officer.com

The Kentucky House Judiciary Committee has overwhelmingly approved legislation focused on reducing gang-related violence in the state.  

The bill makes recruitment of gang members a felony and defines a gang for criminal purposes as three or more people.  Current law sets the standard at five or more.  Louisville Assistant Police Chief Kim Kraeszig said last year 40 percent of a record number of homicides were under 26.  “Last year we had over 400 shootings.  We are losing so many lives in our community,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

 

Legislation to remove the state entirely from regulating telecommunications firms like AT&T, Windstream, and Cincinnati Bell is moving to the full Kentucky Senate. 

The Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee Tuesday approved the deregulation bill.  

Kentucky.com

Legislation that would change how Kentucky’s public universities are funded is moving to the full Senate. The Appropriations and Revenue Committee easily approved a performance-based funding measure Tuesday.


Genome.gov

Kentucky’s genetic counselors could be licensed under senate legislation now before house members. 


Forestry.Ky.Gov

Kentucky lawmakers are considering ways to reduce timber thefts. 

Much of the committee testimony on the senate bill involved loggers who cross property boundaries during their harvesting. 


Filson Historical Society

Kentucky’s bourbon industry is looking for legislative approval to open the door to new in-state sale of whiskey dating back decades.  Under current law, these, often discovered, bottles of aged distilled spirits can’t be resold. 

Stu Johnson/WEKU

The Kentucky Senate voted to double the amount of campaign contributions allowed for some donors after an emotional floor debate.

Kentucky.com

The Kentucky senate voted Wednesday to make all public school campuses tobacco free 

Bill Sponsor Dr. Ralph Alvarado told senators Kentucky’s youth smoking rate is higher than the national average for adult smokers. The Winchester physician was asked about having tobacco products in a vehicle on school grounds.


Kentucky.com

The current heroin abuse problem in Kentucky is causing lawmakers on the House Education Committee to look for new ways to prevent sometimes deadly consequences of opioid use.


Ky.gov

The Kentucky General Assembly is looking at ways to improve foster care and adoption, although the real push for reforms is likely a year away.

Gov. Matt Bevin is calling for change when it comes to state adoptions and foster care.  He raised the issue during his State of the Commonwealth address last week.


Pages