The state House of Representatives has passed two-year and four-year financial plans for building Kentucky roads and bridges. The House passed three infrastructure bills this morning, 88-4. The bills are full of projects… from sidewalks to building interstate bridges across the Ohio River and widening other highways across the commonwealth. The plans have less opposition than the general fund budgets do, although they are still likely to be changed in the state Senate. Representative Sannie Overly says part of the reason is because there’s more money in the bank for infrastructure projects.
A Senate panel unanimously approved a bill Thursday morning that would require applicants to government welfare programs to provide official proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency. Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving most forms of welfare, including Medicaid, food stamps, public housing and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Their U.S.-born children, if they have any, automatically are citizens and are eligible.
Citing "terrible" public feedback, a senator is scrapping a bill that would have further diminished state regulation of major phone carriers and allowed them to end basic land-line phone service in unprofitable areas. Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, on Thursday said he decided to drop Senate Bill 12, referred to as "the AT&T bill," after meeting with Senate Democrats and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, to try to address their concerns.
A bill that would alter the section of the state Constitution dealing with redistricting is moving through the state legislature. The Senate took up the measure today. The bill passed mostly on party lines in the Republican-controlled chamber, 27-11. Senate Bill 18 provides more guidance to lawmakers drawing new districts in split counties and gives preference to federal rules over previous state law.
The Kentucky House budget committee has approved the next two-year road plan for the commonwealth.The committee easily passed the plan and the Transportation Cabinet’s operating budget today. The road plan funds many of Governor Steve Beshear’s big initiatives, such as widening both Interstate 65 around Bowling Green and the Mountain Parkway. Bill sponsor Sannie Overly didn’t offer specific details about the committee’s changes to the measures, but says there are some.
Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday joined lawmakers and veterans’ groups from across Kentucky to unveil a bronze plaque listing the names of Kentucky’s 60 Medal of Honor recipients. Three of Kentucky’s five living Medal of Honor recipients attended the event. “It’s a privilege to present this plaque that proudly lists the names of individuals who have selflessly served our country and fought for our freedom,” Beshear said.
A longtime Kentuckian with experience running state and national organizations, including a turn as a senior staffer to President Bill Clinton, will serve as the new Secretary for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Gov. Steve Beshear announced Thursday that Audrey Tayse Haynes will begin her new role as secretary on April 16. “Audrey brings a dynamic mix of large-scale organization management, policy development, and government experience to this position, and I’m very pleased that she is bringing those talents back to us in Kentucky,” Beshear said in a statement about Haynes' appointment.
Chelsea Hoover told state lawmakers on Wednesday that when her years of being a Kentucky foster child ended, social workers did not give her enough information about programs that could ease her transition into adulthood. After hearing from Hoover, the Senate Health and Welfare committee unanimously passed a bill that requires state social workers to give foster children specific information and support when they are 17 ½ . The bill also gives them extra time to decide whether they want to extend their commitment to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
A Senate bill drafted by AT&T that could limit the availability of land-line phone service in Kentucky ran into trouble Wednesday. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he has problems with the bill because there are some areas of the state, including parts of his district in Eastern Kentucky, where there is no cell phone service. "I live in an area of the state where it is difficult to communicate with certain rural parts of my county via cell," he said. "If you eliminate land lines in their entirety, you eliminate access in case of emergencies and for elderly people who don't have or are not accustomed to cell phones."
Gov. Steve Beshear Wedneday signed an executive order that will prohibit insurance companies from cancelling policies or changing rates for policy holders in counties affected by the deadly storms and tornadoes on Feb. 29 and March 2. This is the first time this type of order has been executed in Kentucky. “As our families begin to repair their homes and get their finances in order, their policies for health, life or property insurance are more important than ever,” Beshear said in statement issued by his office.
Smoking would be banned in all public places and indoor workplaces in Kentucky under a bill approved Tuesday by a House committee, but a sponsor of the bill said it was unlikely to become law this year. The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 10-2 to approve House Bill 289 at a special meeting Tuesday. It now goes to the full House. Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said after the vote that she didn't think there are enough votes to pass the measure in the Republican-controlled Senate even though Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has said he supports a statewide smoking ban.
A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill drafted by AT&T that would further diminish state regulation of the company and allow it to end basic phone service in less profitable parts of its service areas. Opponents said Senate Bill 12 would let the state's three major phone carriers — AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell — abandon rural communities where poor and elderly residents depend on basic land-line service, including operator assistance and 911. AT&T hopes to force those residents to upgrade to more expensive service plans they don't need and can't afford, such as wireless or broadband, opponents said.
The Kentucky House of Representatives has endorsed the creation of an adult abuse registry. The bill that would create that registry has been a priority of lawmakers for years, but funding hasn’t been there. But this year, Governor Steve Beshear allocated funds for the registry in the budget. Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo is the bill’s sponsor, and has supported the idea for the past several years. The measure would list anyone convicted of elder abuse on the new registry, which Palumbo says is key.
Lawmakers in both chambers have passed a bill aimed at reducing the cost of uncontested special legislative elections. Kentucky House lawmakers passed the measure weeks ago, while it passed the Senate today. The bill was proposed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to help cut costs to her office and county clerks.
A bill designed to help pay federal interest payments is one step closer to becoming law. The measure passed the House unanimously today, although a few Republicans expressed concerns over the bill. The bill would let the state borrow money to help make federal interest payments on a loan Kentucky took out during the recession. The state borrowed more than $900 billion to help pay for unemployment insurance, but didn’t account for interest payments.
Kentucky’s House of Representatives cleared several big items off their agenda today. The full House passed a bill that changes how law enforcement implements synthetic drug laws. Another measure would create a child fatality review panel. The House also passed a compromise to House Bill 260, which originally would have made the University of Pikeville the ninth state university.
A proposal to restrict the purchase of pseudoephedrine-containing medicine is now up for discussion in the Kentucky House of Representatives. The cold medicine is a key ingredient in meth production, and lawmakers hope restricting PSE will reduce meth use in the commonwealth. Earlier this month, the Senate passed a compromise proposal. That bill limits consumers to seven point two grams of PSE-medicines over the counter each month. The House Judiciary Committee heard from supporters of that compromise measure today.
A bill that would allow slow-moving vehicles to use reflective tape instead of an orange triangle is moving through the House. The triangles have become an issue in Kentucky’s Amish community, where the symbol and loud color run counter to religious beliefs. Some Amish men have been arrested for refusing to use the triangles on their buggies. Both the House and the Senate passed separate bills addressing the issue. But the Senate proposal has fewer requirements, and the House decided to take up the Senate’s version.
Kentucky lawmakers are at odds about the effectiveness of anti-bullying legislation that took effect in 2008. A proposal meant to strengthen the law failed in a state legislative committee Tuesday. Lawmakers in the House Education Committee heard testimony from friends and family members of bullying victims. Despite the bullying law, they say children are still tormented and harassed at school.
The House Judiciary Committee has posted a bill that would create a statewide fairness law to its schedule, which means the anti-discrimination legislation may receive its first ever hearing in the General Assembly as early as next week. Gay rights advocates have been lobbying state lawmakers for over a decade to bar discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A compromise to help employers avoid high federal unemployment insurance taxes has easily cleared a House committee. The proposal would allow Kentucky to borrow money from a bank or other organization to repay federal loans. Kentucky borrowed nearly one billion dollars from the federal government to pay for unemployment insurance during the recession. Up until now, the state had no plan on how to keep up with interest payments on that loan. If the state is late on payments, the federal government can put a higher tax on employers to recoup the funds.
Kentucky state senators will get their first budgetary reports in committee this week, which starts the final step in the budget process. The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee received a report today on the differences between the budget Governor Steve Beshear originally proposed and the changes the House made to that plan. Many senators didn’t raise questions about the changes in the meeting. But committee chairman Bob Leeper says that’s because the Senate is likely to include even more changes.
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer visited Hopkinsville on Monday, encouraging donations to Kentucky 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs. Comer met with Christian County Clerk Mike Kem as well as children from local FFA and 4-H programs. He is a supporting a program that asks for a $10 donation from farmers when they renew their farm license plates.
The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice has changed its entry screening policy after a federal judge questioned a juvenile detention facility's practice of screening juveniles while naked. The change came Dec. 9, a day after U.S. Senior Judge Karl S. Forester said in a court document that, based upon preliminary research, he believed the "Body ID process" at the Breathitt Regional Juvenile Detention Center, in which juvenile detainees were "subjected to a visual, unclothed examination upon intake to the facility," was unconstitutional.
After being delayed twice, a House committee is prepared to finally vote on a bill that would establish a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky. The House Health and Welfare committee has been plagued by absences. Without a quorum, it could not vote on the smoking ban bill. But Chairman Tom Burch says he’ll get his members to a special meeting tomorrow morning, where he’ll have the votes to pass the bill.
A change in the way lawmakers draw redistricting lines is likely to end up in front of voters this fall. Senate Bill 18 would give legislators more direction in how to split counties during redistricting, as well as require them to follow federal law. It would throw decades of past state precedent out the window. The bill is partly a response to this year’s redistricting lawsuit, in which the state Supreme Court threw out new maps.
The legislative session is winding down, but budget negotiations are just beginning for Kentucky’s Senate. The House passed their version of budgets for all three branches of state government last week. But Senate Budget Chairman Bob Leeper says that doesn’t mean the Senate will be able to act quickly on the plan. Leeper says the Senate will compare three separate budgets: Governor Steve Beshear’s original proposal, the House’s changed plan and the last two-year budget. That means it could be some time before the Senate passes the budget.
Supporters of legislation to restore voting rights to felons say the offenders have paid their debt to society and should have full suffrage granted automatically. House Bill 70 is a constitutional amendment that would allow for that restoration, which is currently banned. The House has already advanced the measure, but like in years past, the bill seems dead on arrival in the state Senate.
Kentucky lawmakers and their staffs have raised more than twenty thousand dollars for disaster relief this week. Members of the Kentucky General Assembly had set a goal of ten thousand dollars to donate to the Red Cross in the wake of tornadoes that struck eastern and northern Kentucky last week.
Differing proposals to regulate pain clinics in Kentucky wound their way through the House and a Senate committee on Thursday, but leaders of both chambers predicted they will strike a compromise to tackle the scourge of prescription drug abuse. An average of 82 people a month die from prescription drug abuse in Kentucky.