Kentucky's state pension plans have problems, and a bipartisan legislative task force has approved sweeping recommendations to overhaul them -- including putting new employees in a hybrid plans akin to 401Ks. The task force -- with an 11-1 vote -- is recommending that the General Assembly start fully funding their pension contributions starting with the next budget in 2014. Lawmakers’ inability to do that is part of the pension plans problems.
Kentuckians who owe state taxes now have just two weeks to take advantage of an amnesty program. Delinquent taxpayers can pay what they owe and avoid penalties, fees, and additional interest. Kentucky Secretary of Finance and Administration Lori Flanery says it’s been ten years since Kentucky has offered tax amnesty. “The amount of money that is anticipated is about 55 million dollars. In the 2002 effort, there was actually 40 million dollars collected,” said Flanery.
Kentucky Democrats successfully defended their control of the state House -- but they're now stranded on a political island. It appears that Republicans will take control of the Arkansas House of Representatives, leaving Kentucky as the only southern state with a Democratic-controlled House. And that will make Kentucky House Democrats a big blue target in future years.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is recovering from minor eye surgery. Beshear developed a detached retina this past weekend and his office says he had minor surgery on Monday to reattach it. Spokeswoman Kerri Richardson says there was no injury that caused the retina to detach. The surgery will require the governor to limit his travel for the next week.
The first ever Republican state Senate president will end his 12-year reign by taking a circuit court judgeship back home. David Williams will resign his leadership position and Senate seat next week to start a judgeship that he was appointed to by his chief rival, Gov. Steve Beshear. It ends Williams' nearly 30-year legislative career, which included more than a decade as his chamber's leader. Williams leaves his party with a "super majority" in a Senate that's part of a divided state government
The state’s leading authority on juvenile justice says he would like to see status offenders kept out of incarceration facilities. A status offense is something a youth gets in legal trouble for, but an adult wouldn’t. Common status offenses are running away from home or skipping school. Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Hasan Davis says he believes status offenders shouldn’t be held in a detention center for minor offenses.
Kentucky Senate Republicans have established a succession plan in the case their current leader, David Williams, is appointed into an open judgeship in his district. Williams is considered a leading candidate for the open circuit court judgeship that covers his home county. Governor Steve Beshear, Williams’s main enemy in Frankfort, has the final say over who is appointed to finish the two year term. And Beshear hasn’t ruled out appointing Williams if his name shows up on the nomination list.
More than two thousand absentee ballots have been sent to Kentuckians in military service and other voters overseas. With the presidential election less than six weeks away, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says it’s important to allow for time and distance. “The process of receiving, filling out, and returning an absentee ballot, whether you are in the middle east or here in the United States, it can take weeks, especially for those active duty military members that I saw,” said Lundergan Grimes.
A second legislative hearing on Kentucky’s federally-mandated health insurance exchange led to a dramatic walkout by Democrats to Wednesday. For the second consecutive time, the interim joint Health and Welfare committee saw their meeting devolve into arguments over the exchange. And this time, a motion by Republicans to register a vote of disapproval against the exchange led every Democrat to get up and leave in the middle of the meeting.
Kentucky Republicans have unveiled a new legislative platform to help boost their chances of winning the state House this fall. The GOP needs to win 9 seats in order to take the House majority. Wednesday, they unveiled the agenda they'll enact if they win those seats in November. House Republican leader Jeff Hoover says, among other goals, the GOP wants to change the state tax code.
State Forecasters predicted 3% revenue growth this year, but so far this summer, state revenues have been flat. While there’s no need yet for alarm, Budget Director Mary Lassiter says steady declines in income and sales taxes is cause for concern. It’s still early in the state’s fiscal year, and the Commonwealth has until next summer to improve revenues.
Governor Steve Beshear has promoted his deputy chief of staff to the top spot. Louisville native Larry Bond was named chief of staff today. He replaces Mike Haydon, who died unexpectedly earlier this month. Bond was named to the deputy spot two years ago, after spending years in various roles in state government. He also worked in Louisville city government for years, including time as the city’s chief administrative officer.
Kentucky lawmakers will consider a medical marijuana bill in 2013. The legislation has been pre-filed by Louisville Senator Perry Clark. It would allow patients with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana to treat multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, cancer, and other serious medical conditions. The measure also establishes a network of state regulated dispensaries where patients could purchase medical marijuana.
A second chance for thousands of Kentucky businesses to make required filings with the Secretary of State’s office is about up. Entities authorized to transact business in Kentucky were required to file annual reports and pay a 15 dollar fee no later than July second of this year. Those businesses which missed the July deadline were notified they were no longer in good standing with the state. Officials with the Secretary of State’s Office say they now have until September tenth to remedy the delinquency before being administratively dissolved or having their certificates of authority revoked.
Governor Steve Beshear says he will appoint a new chief of staff soon, despite still being saddened by the sudden loss of his former chief of staff, Mike Haydon. Haydon died suddenly of a heart attack earlier this month. Haydon worked in government for more than three decades, and had been Beshear's chief of staff since 2010.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he is restarting the long-dormant Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission. The General Assembly created the commission ten years ago to look into hemp's potential in the commonwealth, but it has never met. This morning, Comer announced that he is reforming the commission and, per state law, he will be the chairman.
Two of Kentucky's highest profile Democrats say they are not interested in taking on U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in 2014. Attorney General Jack Conway, who ran for Senate in 2010 against Republican Rand Paul, says he isn't interested in running for the chamber again.
A leading advocate of Kentucky's new prescription pill law says he's ready to listen to doctors who want to change it. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has made fighting prescription pill abuse one of his top priorities. Earlier this year, he was a leading supporter of House Bill 1, which mandates that most doctors use the KASPER pill tracking system.
Governor Steve Beshear says he's interested in a so-called hybrid approach to pension reform. Lawmakers are discussing how to fix the flailing public pension plans for state and county employees. They'll make recommendations at the end of the year. Beshear says he would support a plan, that allows current to employees keep their pensions, but require new employees to pay into a 401k-type plan.
Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen is encouraging local officials to help him find out about the state’s hundreds of special taxing districts. A special taxing district is a quasi-governmental agency—such as a local sewer system or public library—that gets its funds from a separate tax. No one knows how many such districts there are in the state. And since the spring, Edelen has set out to find and catalog all of the districts, then see if any are abusing public funds.
The chair of Kentucky’s tax commission says a sweeping overhaul of the state's tax code isn't in the works. Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson says, in his heart, he wants to see a major change in the tax code.
A federal judge's ruling could open the door to the sale of hard liquor and wine in grocery stores. Currently state law allows grocery stores to only sell beer, while liquor stores and drug stores can sell beer, wine and liquor. After years of unsuccessful lobbying to change the law, grocery associations sued in federal court last year. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in Louisville handed down a ruling in their favor today, declaring that the ban is unconstitutional.
Mike Haydon, Governor Beshear’s chief of staff passed away over the weekend. In a statement, the governor said ‘Jane and I are shocked and devastated by the sudden death of my chief of staff and good friend, Mike Hayden.’ The Lexington Herald reports Hayden suffered a heart attack. The 62 year old Hayden spent more than 30 years in public service at both the state and local level.
Drought-stricken Kentucky farmers in need of hay or other forages for their livestock can seek help through a state Department of Agriculture website. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says a forage sales directory is up and running that can match up farmers with forages for sale with those whose pastures and fields have been dried up by the drought. A similar program is also available for farmers in Indiana.
FRANKFORT – Kentucky begins a transition to a new driver’s license this month that, while similar in appearance to current licenses, contains security features for greater protection of privacy and resistance to tampering.
One week from today , courthouses across the commonwealth will be closed. The closures are part of a cost saving measure. The Kentucky Judicial Branch shuts down on August sixth for the first of three furlough days this year. Leigh Ann Hiatt with the state Administrative Office of the Courts says the furloughs are part of the state’s budget reduction plan. “No judicial center or courthouse in Kentucky will be open that day. It also means, just in general, you can’t get a new driver’s license or one renewed,” said Hiatt.
Despite accounting mistakes and unforeseen disaster relief expenses, state government is closing the 2012 budget with another surplus. Originally, the budgetary surplus was 83 million dollars, now it's almost halved to 45 million dollars. State Budget Director Mary Lassiter informed lawmakers of the surplus at an interim committee meeting today. And she says the remaining surplus will be put into the legislature’s savings account.