State Capitol

State Senate Leader Blasts Management of Kentucky Horse Park

50 minutes ago
Stu Johnson / WEKU News


The Senate Majority Leader is calling for a performance audit of the Kentucky Horse Park.  Senator Damon Thayer is proposing legislation to alter the make up of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.

Floor Leader Damon Thayer brought to light his concerns during a speech to members.  “Things are not as good as they seem at the Kentucky Horse Park,” said Thayer.

Kentucky’s House Health and Welfare Committee has voted to make it illegal to sell tobacco and vapor products to anyone under age 21.  The current legal age to purchase cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or electronic cigarettes is 18.  Bill Sponsor David Watkins of Henderson believes raising the legal age would reduce tobacco related illnesses.  “If we could get people to get a little bit older before they start smoking, then the odds are there would be a lot less of them who actually start smoking,” said Watkins.

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University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto says his school is an economic engine that deserves more, not less.  Capilouto testified Thursday before the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education.  Governor Bevin is proposing a 4.5% cut for the current year, and 9% over the next two years. Capilouto says the reductions would impact the gains UK has made.  “These cuts will have a chilling effect on our momentum," Capilouto said. "And we can’t simply absorb these cuts, even with our size."

Legislation calling for two separate marriage license forms at Kentucky county clerk’s offices has won the backing of a senate committee.  The proposal comes five months after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer says his republican led chamber has given thoughtful consideration to the issue.  “We made this one of our priority bills, Senate Bill 5. And you would have thought, ‘Oh they’re gonna rush that bill through and try to get it down to the House,’” said Thayer.  “We did exactly the o

A bill that would officially define ‘bullying’ within schools across Kentucky is headed for the House floor.  The measure, sponsored by Richmond Representative Rita Smart, emerged from the House Education Committee Tuesday.  Smart says in Madison County more and more children are being home schooled because of bullying.  “They used to have a few children in a home bound program because of a broken leg or infection, but now they have more because of anxiety and mental health issues, and it costs them," Smart said. "They have to have a teacher for those children.” 

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Actress Jennifer Garner spent the day in Frankfort on Tuesday. Garner is artist ambassador for ‘Save the Children,’ an international non-profit that promotes children’s rights and supports them through education and relief supplies.  It Kentucky affiliation began 80 years ago in Harlan County.  Garner visited the Capitol to ask state lawmakers to preserve funding for the organization’s efforts in the commonwealth.

Legislation to prohibit localities from banning certain dog breeds is under review in the Kentucky Senate.  The measure got the backing of the Senate Agriculture Committee last week. Lee Greenwood with Best Friends Animal Society says it’s a property rights issue.  “The science is pretty clear, as we said, there really is no connection between breed and a dog’s propensity for acting in one way or another,” said Greenwood.

Greenwood says any type of dog can be dangerous and communities should make laws that focus on the behavior of every dog, not one particular breed. 

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    A panel of college freshmen and high school seniors is urging Kentucky lawmakers to do more to assist low income students who have higher education aspirations.  Their testimony focused on two needs based scholarship programs.

Senate Republicans Continue to Refine Priority Education Bill

Feb 8, 2016

Kentucky Senate Republicans are still at work on their priority bill and it could be a few weeks before the measure is sent the floor.  Senate Bill 1 would create a new review structure for state education standards and student testing.  Senate President Robert Stivers says the legislation is undergoing further review.  “We’re still talking through it and working through it because it is an important policy change, but not only that but it is a big policy change,” said Stivers.

Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet secretary is not expecting any short term rebound in the eastern Kentucky coalfields.  Charles Snavely appeared before the senate’s natural resources committee this week.  Snavely was asked about the issue by Pike County Senator Ray Brown.  “Is there any hope for a rebound in the central Appalachian coalfields? Asked Jones.

“Well, I regret you ask me that question in a public forum because if you ask me a question, I’m gonna give you the answer,” replied Snavely.

Bicycling Bill Makes Room for Cyclists on Kentucky Roadways

Feb 5, 2016

The Kentucky Senate Transportation Committee has unanimously backed a bill to require motorists to give bicyclists three feet of space when passing them.  Lexington biking enthusiast Bill Fortune attended this week’s hearing in Frankfort.  He believes the three foot requirement is a safe and reasonable distance.  Fortune would also like to see related signage.  “It is signed in many states so that on highways where, particularly where there are cyclists, it will show a cyclist and say ‘give them three feet’, something along those lines," Fortune explained.

Kentucky Senate Passes Religious Freedom Bill

Feb 5, 2016

The Kentucky Senate has voted overwhelmingly in favor of the so called ‘religious freedom’ bill.  Among other things, the measure would allow students in Kentucky elementary and secondary schools, as well as universities, to voluntarily express religious viewpoints in class assignments.  Lexington Senator Reggie Thomas cast an Aye vote Thursday.  “We ought to have freely as a society here in Kentucky the ability to express our religious opinions in schools, on the sports fields, in plays and whatever,” said Thomas.

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Governor Bevin’s proposed higher education cuts came under review during a house budget subcommittee meeting Thursday.  The governor is suggesting trimming university budgets by nine percent over the next two years.  Budget Review Subcommittee Chair Arnold Simpson expressed concern about the impact on tuition.  “For every dollar we cut for higher education, approximately 70 cents has been charged in additional tuition,” said Simpson.

A revision in Kentucky law related to the disposal of mustard and nerve agent munitions at the Blue Grass Army Depot is being sought in Frankfort.  Members of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved the reclassification of secondary waste Wednesday. 

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A Kentucky House Committee has approved a measure that would increase penalties for the possession and trafficking of synthetic drugs. Proponents of the measure are hopeful it will curb the spread of a very trendy synthetic.

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Hundreds of people with disabilities rallied at the state capitol Tuesday to highlight the importance of state-supported services for the disabled. Governor Bevin told participants that he’s recommending more funds for programs that assist the disabled.

Senate Passes Pension Accountability Bill

Feb 3, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The state legislature continues to search for a way to address the $31 million needed to shore up its pension funds for state workers, and teachers.  For now, the state senate has acted on what’s being called a pension transparency and accountability measure.  Owensboro Senator Joe Bowen explained the bill on the floor Tuesday.  “This bill is about this body, the legislature, to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Bowen.

Kentucky Establishes Automotive Caucus

Feb 2, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The newly formed Kentucky Automotive Caucus membership includes about half of the state general assembly.  The group was officially recognized during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday.  Toyota’s Kim Menke says Governor Bevin’s comments on workforce development during his budget address touched on a key issue.  “We want to continue to be able to operate with our existing businesses with the retirement waves that are coming,” Menke said. “Being able to back fill those positions and then we all want to grow as well.”

House Speaker Makes Case for Campaign Finance Bill

Feb 2, 2016

A campaign finance bill that would clear the way for larger donor contributions is on the move in the Kentucky House.  The Elections Committee approved the measure Monday.  Among other things, it would allow for individual and political action committee donations to increase from $1,000 to $2,000 dollars.   House Speaker Greg Stumbo is chief sponsor of the bill.  “One of the things that’s wrong with American politics these days is this influx of huge out of state dark money, soft money, whatever you want to call it,” said Stumbo.  “All this does is try to level the playing field a bit.”

Voting Restoration Measure Again Heading House Floor

Feb 2, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Kentucky House members will consider a constitutional amendment measure this session that would restore voting rights to nonviolent former felons. It won the approval of the Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Monday.


The Kentucky Senate has voted to require cardiopulmonary resuscitation training for all public high school students across the state.  Proponents say the bill is aimed at broadening the number of people trained in CPR.

Tanning Bed Bill Moves to House Floor

Jan 28, 2016

Minors would be prohibited from using tanning beds in Kentucky under a bill heading to the House floor.  The measure passed out of the House Health and Welfare Committee Thursday.   Testifying in support of the bill was Deputy Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Connie White.  “We used to never see melanoma in someone before they were 50 because it took you 50 years of ultra violet exposure before this happened,” White said.  “And as tanning beds have increased in use, that’s when we starting seeing that spike.”

Prohibition on Sale of Fetal Body Parts Passes Kentucky Senate

Jan 28, 2016


A measure to prohibit the sale of fetal body parts in Kentucky easily won approval Wednesday in the state Senate.  The sale of fetal body parts is already prohibited by federal law.

State Senate Committee Approves Medical Review Panel Bill

Jan 27, 2016

Legislation requiring medical review panels for all cases of doctor negligence in Kentucky is again headed to the full senate.  The measure passed out of the Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday.  Sponsor Ralph Alvarado says three doctors would form a review panel to make a non-binding determination. “I know from my training, I know how physicians are," Alvarado said.  "We are brutally honest.  I’ve reviewed cases of nursing homes where they didn’t do anything wrong, but the doctor did and I exposed that information.” 

University Presidents React to Governor Bevin’s Budget Plan

Jan 27, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News


Governor Matt Bevin’s budget speech Tuesday night contained some sobering news for those in the higher education community.

Governor Bevin’s first budget plan calls for cuts to state cabinets and higher ed by 9% each over the next two years.  The proposal caught Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson a bit off guard.  “Well I think we’re all kind of stunned," Benson said. "We had heard a cut was coming, but nothing to the magnitude of what we heard tonight."

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Lexington’s ‘Black Males Working’ program has been detailed before a legislative committee in Frankfort.  The faith based program offered in Fayette County schools was discussed during Tuesday’s House Education Committee meeting on charter schools. BMW's mission statement says they aim to educate, motivate, and activate the potential for excellence.   Founder Rosz Akins says out of BMW Academy’s 300 young men, 15 are members of the founding Baptist church.  “We have Muslims, we have all kinds of denominations; other faiths, no faiths at all," Akins said.

State Leaders in Both Houses Optimistic About Fall Elections

Jan 26, 2016

The deadline to file to run for office in Kentucky is at 4:30 pm Tuesday  afternoon. Leaders in both houses of the state general assembly are predicting a good cadre of candidates in this fall's elections. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he’s pleased with the crop of democrats signing up to run.  “We’ve had some folks we hoped would run again like Ashley Miller down in Jefferson County,” said Stumbo.  “She got really close last time, but you know, we’ve got some surprises too.”


Governor Matt Bevin will present his first two year budget plan Tuesday evening.  Two eastern Kentucky lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hope to hear about infrastructure funding.

Hyden Republican Representative Tim Couch would like to see road projects move forward.  While the expansion of the mountain parkway has gotten a lot of attention, Couch believe a similar approach to the Hal Rogers Parkway could foster economic opportunities.  “You’ve got a straight shot; the only bottle neck from Prestonsburg to Bowling Green is the Hal Rogers Parkway,” said Couch.

Taxing Coal in Kentucky

Jan 25, 2016

Two bills before the Kentucky House of Representatives would change the way the state taxes coal that’s left in the ground.  They would give exemptions to mineral rights owners if the coal isn’t going to be mined soon.

This “unmined minerals tax” adds up to a substantial amount: in 2014, Kentucky collected more than $39 million. Most of that—$34 million—went to the individual counties where the minerals are. The remainder went to the state.

Bills Focused on Child and Pet Safety

Jan 25, 2016

Efforts to provide civil protections for people who break into vehicles to rescue a child or pet are detailed in two bills moving through the state senate.  Both passed out of the judiciary committee last week.