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.
A Senate committee on Tuesday killed a measure that would establish outside oversight of Kentucky's troubled child-protective system, but a House committee revived it minutes later through a procedural maneuver. The Kentucky Press Association opposes the measure because it would exempt the investigations and records they collect from the state Open Records Act, which the state's newspapers have used to report on problems with the child-protective system.
Seven months after a brain-injured resident disappeared from a Falmouth personal care home and died, a bill aimed at preventing similar deaths moved closer to becoming law Tuesday. The House Health and Welfare Committee made one change to Senate Bill 115 before unanimously approving it and sending it to the full House for consideration in the final days of this year's legislative session. The sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon, said Larry Lee never should have been placed in the personal care home.
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.
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.
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.
There are a number of long-serving state senators and representatives retiring this year from the General Assembly. I wish we had time to interview or showcase all of the retiring legislators on KET. I’ll bet it would be a rather entertaining program.
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.
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.
House and Senate leaders have agreed to cut a $30,000 annual living expense for Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson. That was one of few noteworthy agreements between the Republican Senate and the Democratic House on the first full day of negotiations over a two-year, $19 billion budget. House and Senate leaders met three times Monday to work out differences between the two budgets. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Robert Leeper, I-Paducah, said early Monday that there are few major differences between the House and Senate budgets. Once some global decisions are made — particularly involving debt — there will be few decisions left to make, he said.
The state Senate is expected to vote this week on House Bill 189, which would ensure the law regarding unification of local governments is clarified to state cities whose voters opt out of unification would not be absorbed into a unified government. Should the bill pass, it would succeed where a similar bill, HB 190, faltered after other cities interested in merged government expressed some concerns about its language, said Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown.
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.
A former state worker could face 10 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to theft by deception of $25,605 from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Forty-five-year-old Taressa Woolums stood with her co-defendant and boyfriend, Johnny Patterson, 40, as they pleaded guilty to the theft charge Friday in Franklin Circuit Court, accepting a plea agreement. Woolums submitted false invoices to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, requesting money be paid to an address owned by Patterson called Bluegrass Solutions, according to court records.
More than five years after Frankfort enacted a smoking ban, Fiscal Court is considering extending it to all of Franklin County. “There’s been several citizens over the last few years that’s mentioned it to me,” Judge-Executive Ted Collins told The State Journal Friday. “I just finally realized that it’s time for county government to step up and do their part.”
Three bills that would put more requirements on abortion providers failed in the House Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday. Senate Bill 103 would require that women be shown ultrasounds before abortions and calls for fines for doctors who do not do the ultrasounds. Women would be allowed to avert their eyes if they do not wish to see the ultrasounds, said Sen. Joe Bowen, the bill's sponsor.
State representatives on Thursday approved setting up a task force to study possible changes in how Kentucky administers the death penalty. The American Bar Association released a study last year that cited problems in the system, including a lack of protections against executing seriously mentally ill people; no rule to preserve evidence for as long as someone is in prison, meaning they might miss a chance for DNA tests that could exonerate them; and confusion among jurors about their role in deciding whether to recommend a death sentence.
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.
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.
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.
A bill that would require a certain percentage of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources is scheduled for a hearing in the Kentucky House of Representatives tomorrow. The bill has little chance of passage this late in the session, but its advocates are hoping to set the stage for next year. House Bill 167—the Clean Energy Opportunity Act—would gradually increase the percentage of Kentucky’s energy that’s from renewable sources. Right now, about 94 percent of the state’s energy comes from coal.
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.
The House approved a measure Tuesday that would limit tanning bed use for teens. If passed by the Senate, Kentucky teens under age 18 could only use a tanning bed with written permission from a parent. House Bill 249 originally prohibited teens under the age of 14 from using tanning bans. Rep. David Watkins, D-Henderson, a doctor, said exposure to ultra violet light, particularly in tanning beds, can accelerate skin cancer.
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.
On a 10-4 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved a controversial anti-methamphetamine bill Monday that would limit the amount of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine that Kentuckians could buy without a prescription. Some members supporting the bill said it did not go far enough to attack the meth scourge in Kentucky, but it was a step in the right direction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A tax incentive touted by Northern Kentucky leaders and Gov. Steve Beshear as a way to generate jobs and revenue won’t likely get through the General Assembly this year, legislators say. Some blamed personal politics while others blamed the state’s lean budget for the apparent failure of the angel investment tax incentive this session. While proponents vow to lobby the Senate for an amendment or some way to get the incentive, many think they’ll have to wait until next year for the tax incentive.