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.
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.