The Kentucky legislature has acted to stem the drop in gas tax revenues that are used to repair and build roads across the Commonwealth. Passage of a measure to stabilize the state's road fund was a priority of Governor Beshear's.
Officially, it came very early Wednesday morning when House members put their stamp of approval on the gas tax agreement. Owensboro Representative Tommy Thompson voted yes. "We need our roads for convenience, we need them to be safe, but we need them for commerce," said Thompson.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is backing a proposal to prohibit the use of Lasix in some races. The Courier Journal reports the commission approved the regulation Monday. The rule would ban the drug from being used within 24 hours of post times for particular races. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer believes it's the right move to make. "I do know that it is therapeutic for horses, but I also believe there is good evidence that it is performance enhancing and the public perception is it's performance enhancing," said Thayer.
Kentucky lawmakers have yet to reach agreement on what many consider to be this session's priority issue. Legislators are working until the final hours of the 2015 session trying to reach consensus on a bill aimed at reducing the state's heroin problem.
Governor Beshear is expressing confidence that Kentucky lawmakers will approve heroin and dating violence legislation next week. General Assembly members return Monday for the two final days of the 2015 session. Beshear expects passage on both pieces of legislation. "There's so much pressure from the public behind both of those bills, so that I don't really think these folks will leave here on March 24 without having accomplished both of those things," said Beshear.
Tax breaks related to the high profile Breeders Cup Championships at Keeneland have been signed into law. The ceremony was held Tuesday at the state capitol. The law exempts the pari-mutuel tax on wagering on live races during the two-day event. Breeders Cup President Craig Fravel says when it was held in California, the event had an $80 million impact on the local economy. "When you combine this year's event with the thoroughbred sales that will follow immediately, you're gonna have people coming to Lexington, coming to Kentucky for a much longer period of time that has historically b
First term state Senator Danny Carrol says the current 30 day session of the Kentucky General Assembly has been a learning experience. Carrol says, in business, decisions tend to be black or white. He says he's quickly learning that in the legislative process there are a lot of gray areas. "And I've already had an incidence where you get two bills combined like that and one of them you're very supportive of, the other one, you know, you're really not supportive of," said Carrol.
The State Division of Forestry is looking to the Kentucky legislature for help in dealing with persistent logging violators. Legislation to that end has passed both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly and has been sent to the governor. Division of Forestry Director Leah McSwords says the bill focuses on repeat offenders. "If we find a three or more 'bad actor' who has not paid the penalty or has not cleaned up the site, we can shut them down wherever they're harvesting in the state," McSwords said.
Kentucky lawmakers are considering legislation that would recognize the cowboy profession. House approved legislation to designate the fourth Saturday in July as the National Day of the Cowboy is awaiting action in the state Senate. The bill is sponsored by Cynthiana Representative and farmer Tom McKee. "It's important that we realize what a heritage we have with cowboys taking care and cowgirls taking care of our herds," said Mckee. "You know, they don't all ride horses."
A number of widely debated issues await Kentucky lawmakers when they return to the capitol on March 23. One piece of legislation that remains in limbo is related to taxation and the upkeep of Kentucky's roads.
Legislation aimed at cracking down on dog fighting in Kentucky remains a topic for debate. A bill pertaining to bees was amended Wednesday in the House to include anti-dog fighting language. Louisville Representative Mary Lou Marzian says, beyond the argument that animals should be treated humanely, there are also image issues to consider. "You know, do we want Kentucky to look like we're the dog fighting capital of the world?” asked Marzian. “We are out here trying to recruit businesses, large companies, to move to Kentucky."
Many Kentucky lawmakers are probably a bit worn out after another late night session in Frankfort Wednesday. It's become a tradition for state legislators to work a long day right before the end of the session break.
The debate over heroin legislation in Kentucky will continue over the next week. The state House Wednesday night voted on a second version of the bill which includes penalties for traffickers, treatment funding, and a needle exchange provision. Judiciary Committee Chair John Tilley has led the heroin legislation effort in the House. "I think this bill once passed, will represent the most comprehensive, common sense, evidence based, data driven approach to what is a public health epidemic," said Tilley.
Legislation to toughen Kentucky's vehicle booster seat law is moving closer to becoming a reality. The Senate Transportation Committee approved its version of the measure Wednesday. The modification raises the age and height requirement for children riding in vehicles. Louisville Representative Steve Riggs says the Senate revision relates to the age restriction. "My bill was, you had to be less than nine and this changes it to less than eight, which matches most of the other states,” said Riggs. “Only Tennessee is higher and Utah is higher."
The Kentucky legislature is working to keep up with relatively new on-line ride-sharing services. The House Transportation Committee Tuesday approved a Senate measure which impacts the ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber.
The bill's supporters say it serves to protect riders and company drivers by guaranteeing adequate insurance coverage. Oldham County Senator Ernie Harris is sponsoring the bill. "It clears the way for them to continue to operate and be regulated and have a level playing field with regard to insurance requirements," said Harris.
Additional regulations regarding hydraulic fracking appear headed for legislative approval in Frankfort. Supporters of the measure include members of the oil and gas industry.
A group of farmers, environmental activists, and members of the oil and gas industry have worked together on the bill for months. Andrew McNeil with Kentucky's Oil and Gas Association called it 'consensus legislation.' "They're regulations that we think meet the needs of protecting the environment, but it's not gonna be something that will create an impediment to investment," said McNeil.
Kentucky court costs will be going up in the future under a measure approved in a state Senate committee Monday. Proponents say the additional funds would help increase investigations of internet crimes against Kentucky children. The bill calls for an additional $10 fee in both circuit and district courts.
A proposed measure that would give more clarity in police disciplinary matters is moving through the Kentucky General Assembly. With just a few days left in this session, the House bill passed out of a senate committee Monday.
A legislative proposal aimed at better regulating undocumented drivers in Kentucky has been heard in the House Transportation Committee. The measure will not be voted on this week.
The measure establishes what's called a 'Certificate for Driving' for drivers who have lived in Kentucky for three years, but are not citizens. 20 year old Fredy Encarnacion has his driver's license but his immigrant parents do not. "You don't have fear of driving down to the corner store or to pick up your daughter or your son from school," said Encarnacion.
Kentucky winemakers are asking state lawmakers for approval to use waste products like grapes, stems, and seeds to make fortified wine.
The Kentucky House easily approved the measure Monday and sent it on to the Senate. Kentucky Winery Association Treasurer Eddie O'Daniel says the bill would help wineries and vineyards recover lost money. "Many times the vineyards in Kentucky, because of erratic weather conditions, the grapes are not the highest quality,” said O’Daniel. “Up to now, they've had to just waste the fruit."
Major telephone companies won’t have to offer basic land line service to residents in the 15 largest markets in the state if Gov. Steve Beshear signs a bill that passed the state Senate on Monday.
The so-called AT&T deregulation bill removes a requirement that “carriers of last resort” offer packages with 911 calling, operator service and unlimited local calls to those who ask for it in markets of more than 15,000 people.
The Kentucky Senate has acted to require public school students to use the bathroom of their biological sex. Much of the committee discussion centered on a Louisville high school's decision to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity. The bill is sponsored by Senator C.B. Embry of Morgantown. "This bill is about student privacy; it also deals with choices, common sense," said Embry.
Paducah Senator Danny Carrol argued that the concerns of students who not feel comfortable sharing restrooms with transgender students, need to be considered.
The Kentucky Senate has approved legislation that could shut down internet sweepstakes cafes in the Commonwealth. The computer based businesses give away chances to win monetary prizes with the purchase of a service or product.
Proponents of the bill say the games the businesses offer are equivalent to gambling. Bowling Green Senator Mike Wilson says the establishments in his town are impacting charitable groups. "It has taken away from, in Warren County, the revenue that comes from charitable gambling for our veterans' organizations," said Wilson.
Work continues to determine the specific strategies of the 'Shaping Our Appalachian Region' initiative, usually referred to as SOAR. Legislation to establish a grant framework has passed the Kentucky Senate.
The first SOAR Summit was staged in December of 2013 in Pikeville. Discussions focused on the economic and social needs of eastern Kentucky. Since then, working groups have met several times. New legislation would create the Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development Fund. The measure does not specify how it will be funded.
Under a bill making its way through the Kentucky House, multi-passenger bicycle cart businesses that shuttle riders to area bars could be allowed to serve alcohol on board. The measure emerged from the Licensing and Occupations Committee Wednesday. Shelbyville Representative Brad Montell says the bill could boost tourism in cities like Louisville and Lexington. "It permits businesses like the 'Thirsty Pedaler' to be licensed and then to transport their customers from site to site while they have an alcoholic beverage in hand," said Montell.
A bill to include workers compensation protections for certain types of cancer found in firefighters is headed to the Kentucky Senate. The House approved the measure Wednesday. Chris Bartley represents firefighters in Lexington. He says studies show that firefighters are at a higher risk of cancer affecting the prostate, brain, and colon, among others. "It gives the presumption that this is a job related injury," said Bartley.