Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

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The Kentucky Senate has once again voted overwhelmingly to modify the state informed consent law regarding abortions.  As in years past, the senate approved a measure to require a face-to-face medical consultation at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed.  Lexington Senator Reginald Thomas voted no.

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Governor Steve Beshear says ‘harsh’ budget cuts to some state agencies are needed to move the Commonwealth forward in the areas of education and economic development.  The governor outlined his budget strategy last night during a joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Lexington’s mayor would like the city to have the ability to support specific projects with dedicated tax funds.  This was one of many of items in Mayor Jim Gray’s state of the city address, delivered Tuesday during a luncheon sponsored by the Lexington Forum.

Stu Johnson

(Part 1 of 2) - One of Lexington’s poorest neighborhoods is waiting for a newly developed neighborhood.   Many homes were demolished to make room for a new road way…in return residents were promised better housing and a restored community.  However, tired of waiting, many residents have moved on.

Stu Johnson

Downtown Lexington is usually an active place on Martin Luther King Day.  And so it was this 20th day of 2014.  But, some participants in this year's annual march say more work is needed to further the efforts of the slain civil rights leader.  While special Martin Luther King festivities occur at places like the children’s museum and historic Kentucky Theater, the march through downtown remains the city's highest profile event.  

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Beginning this fall, utility customers in Lexington can expect slightly higher bills. For months, Lexington’s Council has wrestled over the best way to pay for street lights.  Administrators say the property tax does not generate enough revenue for maintenance and new lights. 

Whole grains, low fat dairy products, and fruits and vegetables have long been recommended for preschoolers. Those recommendations could become a mandate over the next year.  Organizations, like Head Start, that participate in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program are already preparing. Cindy Willmarth led a training session at Eastern Kentucky University.

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 Regardless of age, Kentuckians seem willing to accept tougher penalties for people who both text and drive.  The state Wednesday made it easier to revoke the licenses of repeat offenders.  Current state law prohibits sending text messages by a vehicle’s operator. This week, through executive order, the Governor made the revocation of a driver’s license easier.  If they get enough points, the license is revoked. Lexington’s Curtis Gentry agrees with a stiffer approach.

Eastern Kentucky University

Come July first, the Eastern Kentucky University workforce picture takes on a new look.  The Richmond school has been undergoing restructuring as part of work by the Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force.  127 employees at Eastern are taking a voluntary buy out package.  Their last day at E-K-U will be June 28th.  Human Resources Director Gary Barksdale says it’s unclear now how many ‘forced layoffs’ might occur.

Lexington’s City Council has given initial approval for food trucks to conduct business on certain public streets.  The matter was debated at length during this afternoon’s work session at city hall.  In the end the count was 13 yes votes, one no vote, and one abstention.  Now the matter will go on the council docket for a formal vote.  If given final approval, food trucks could be found during the day in specific zones by the first part of June.

Kentucky Agriculture Department

Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says a recent setback shouldn't cause hemp supporters to give up hope of getting the crop legalized. James Comer says he's not surprised that language legalizing industrial hemp wasn’t added to the first drafts of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate.   Last week, a group of Kentucky U.S. Senators and House members tried--and failed--to get the provision included in the legislation.  Comer says the federal farm bill has a long way to go before it gets passed, and a lot of things will be added and taken out in the next few months

Two Central Kentucky Red Cross volunteers are heading out today to Oklahoma to assist in tornado relief work.   Recovery efforts are continuing today in the town of Moore where many of the casualties are children.  Red Cross Spokesman Winn Stephens says the two volunteers are taking a Red Cross emergency response vehicle to the tornado site.  Russ Hoff of Lexington and Ramona Hibbard of Manchester are traveling to Oklahoma with the Red Cross vehicle.  Stephens says the two are expected to be there for ten days to two weeks.

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Long lines are likely at Eastern Kentucky University tomorrow evening during a visit by America’s First Lady.  Michelle Obama addresses some 600 Eastern Kentucky University graduates, families and friends. "You’ll not be able to bring bottled water, an umbrella, items like pocket knives as those items will have to be disposed of as you’re coming into the building,” said EKU spokesman Marc Whitt.

Kentucky businesses, both large and small, are running out of time to prepare for new federal health care regulations.  In just over seven months, the so called ‘pay or play’ provision kicks in.  Starting next year, employers with more than 50 workers are required to provide health insurance coverage or risk penalties.  Kentucky health care lawyer Vicki Yates Brown says such a policy may not result in immediate employee reductions.  But, she says it could impact future hiring.

Lexington Food Truck Debate Goes On

May 6, 2013

By early summer, an increased number of food trucks could be noticeable in downtown Lexington.  But, their impact on the food scene remains uncertain.  After much wrangling, a panel created by the city last week made recommendations.  For the first time, they would allow food trucks in some metered parking spots during dayight.  After ten p-m until three in the morning, the vendors could set up shop in any downtown, public metered area.  There are other restrictions.  The food trucks couldn’t operate within 100 feet of a residential area, and could occupy not more than half of the available metered spots.

The Kentucky Derby victory by  ‘Orb’ represents yet another feather in the Commonwealth’s horse breeding hat.  The central Kentucky Thoroughbred, which ran down several horses in the stretch at Churchill Downs, is expected to compete in the Preakness on May 18th.  Kentucky Thoroughbred Association Director David Switzer says Bluegrass bred horses are on quite a run.  “The past 22 triple crown races have been won by a Kentucky bred.  It was 21 going into Saturday and Orb being a Kentucky bred made it 22.  We are hoping for 23 and 24 with this horse coming up yet,” said Switzer.

Even locally-grown and organic produce impact the environment.  Researchers at the University of Kentucky are working up a method for measuring those impacts.  U-K Sustainable Agriculture Extension Specialist Lee Meyer says they want to fully understand farming’s impact on the quality of air, soil and water quality.

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For the first time, a Lexus vehicle will be produced in the United States and it will be made at the Georgetown Toyota plant.  The formal announcement came this morning from officials in New York and Scott County.  Governor Beshear says it means 750 new Kentucky jobs at Toyota.  “We realize the care and the pride that you take in that vehicle and that it requires the utmost in a skilled workforce, not to mention top quality components.  Your confidence in the quality of Kentucky’s workers, especially our team here in Georgetown is appreciated and well placed,” said Beshear.

Her personality, the times and her background gave Mary Todd Lincoln a place in history and made her one of the more controversial first ladies to occupy the White House.  The Lexington native is the subject of a documentary airing Monday on C-Span.  Producer Mark Farkas says his documentary fills gaps left by Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster film “Lincoln.”  Reporter Stu Johnson spoke with Farkas.

Charles Compton / WEKU News

Eastern Kentucky University’s next president sees fundraising as a key priority.    Dr. Michael Benson, who’s currently president of Southern Utah University, says private contributions may be the best way to advance a science building under construction at Eastern.

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One of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings comes to life the next couple of days in a Versailles church.  It’s a play called ‘The Living Lord’s Supper.’  Director Linda Roscoe says actors depicting Jesus and his disciples take a turn in front of the table.  “They drop pose and they step out of the painting.  So, many of them get up from the table, come around to the front of the table and then they tell how they came to know Christ and their relationship with him and some of the other disciples sitting at the table,” said Roscoe.

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Typical Spring like temperatures are arriving late in the bluegrass.  That could impact the timeline for allergy sufferers this year.  Beth Miller, Chair of UK’s Division of Allergy-Immunology, says last year’s early warmth followed by a freeze cut short the tree pollen season.  She says a late start for warmer temperatures could mean a longer life for tree pollen.  “If we want a good pollen season as far as high pollen counts, better to have a late start with a continued warm trend than have a cold spell in the middle of the spring,” said Miller.