A Senate bill that would give county governments more control over constables could have enough support to become law. Originally, both chambers pursued constitutional amendments to eliminate the office of constable altogether, spurred by several recent instances of constables abusing their power. But an agreement not to crowd the fall ballot with constitutional amendments led to the Senate proposal.
A bill to raise Kentucky’s high school dropout age is making progress in Frankfort, but the state House and Senate may not be able to come to an agreement on the issue. The House passed it’s version of the dropout bill Thursday. It would remove loopholes that allow parents to let their children drop out of school before age 18.
Changes may be coming to Gov. Steve Beshear's proposal for as many as seven casinos in Kentucky. Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he is open to revisions that address concerns raised after he introduced the constitutional amendment Tuesday. Some lawmakers were concerned that a casino might land in their community while others were upset about being excluded.
Mickey Inez, right, Thomas Madison, center, and Lisa Abbott carry the mountain's as they protest mountaintop removal Tuesday at the Capitol. The mountain, covered by pinwheels, was placed on the Governor's Mansion lawn.
Credit Tricia Spaulding/The State-Journal
For the last several years on Valentine’s Day, hundreds have gathered at the Capitol to protest mountaintop removal mining, saying the process pollutes Kentucky’s waterways and causes health problems. Now they say they can prove it. “We finally have the peer-reviewed studies to back what we’ve been saying all along, that mountaintop removal’s been killing our people,” said Teri Blanton, a Berea resident and member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, as she prepared for Tuesday’s rally at the Capitol.
Kentucky lawmakers are backing away from a measure that would eliminate the office of constable in every county. Every county has an elected constable. But in the last year, many constables have been accused of being either unnecessary or corrupt. Originally, Senate Bill 30 was a constitutional amendment to eliminate constables. But the bill was unlikely to pass due to a gentlemen’s agreement in the legislature that each chamber would only push one amendment each session.
Officials with Kentucky's Medicaid managed care organizations say they're on track to resolve any problems with reimbursements to doctors and pharmacists. CoventryCares, WellCare and Kentucky Spirit began administering Medicaid statewide last fall, and they're off to a rocky start. Executives with the three organizations are in Frankfort this week for a series of committee hearings. Doctors, hospitals and other health care providers spent previous weeks telling lawmakers horror stories about working with the MCOs. One such story included a pre-authorization to deliver a baby that didn't come through until weeks after the child was born.
The wait is over! A 131-word constitutional amendment to expand gambling in Kentucky was announced this morning by Republican Senator Damon Thayer and Democratic Governor Steve Beshear. Let the war of words on the expansion of casino-style gambling in the Commonwealth begin. Here is an excerpt released this morning from the governor’s press office: “We’ve been debating this issue in Frankfort for more than 15 years. The citizens of our state are clamoring to have their voices heard,” Gov. Beshear said. “Two recent polls show more than 80 percent of Kentuckians want to cast a ballot on gaming. Are we going to listen to them or not?”
Kentucky Senate President David Williams has several criticisms for Governor Steve Beshear's recently-appointed tax commission. Williams proposed creating such a commission during his bid for governor last year. But says Beshear’s commission lacks the guidance and experience to change Kentucky’s tax code. The Senate President says the majority of the commission is made up of Beshear’s friends and political allies.
Ella Lemley-Fry, right, holds a flag as members of the Buddhist Nipponzan Myohoji play the drums while chanting a prayer for peace Monday afternoon as they travel down U.S. 60 from Versailles into downtown Frankfort.
Credit Tricia Spaulding/The State-Journal
Dozens of protesters have staged sit-ins outside the governor’s office leading up to “I Love Mountains Day,” but the last shift before today’s big rally went to Footprints for Peace. The group deserved a break – its members spent the last two weeks walking here from Eastern Kentucky. About a dozen people, hailing from New Jersey to rural Kentucky, spent the last 12 days walking from Prestonsburg to Frankfort – about 150 miles – to protest mountaintop removal mining.
The first statewide audit from new Auditor Adam Edelen has uncovered some familiar problems. Edelen is required to conduct an audit of all state agencies every year. His first report was released this morning. In it, Edelen takes many state agencies to task. That includes the Department of Military Affairs and the Kentucky Horse Park, which the report says incurred expensive and unnecessary fees for paying invoices too late.
The battle over Kentucky's newly-drawn legislative districts went to the state Supreme Court on Monday at a potential cost of $220,000 in legal fees, most of that to be footed by taxpayers. The Legislative Research Commission, which represents House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams in defending the districts from a constitutional challenge, has budgeted $95,000 for Louisville attorney Sheryl Snyder, although it may end up paying less depending on how much work is necessary.
FRANKFORT – Calling it “the best way to keep hundreds of millions of dollars here at home,” Gov. Steve Beshear and Sen. Damon Thayer Tuesday announced their plan to introduce an expanded gaming bill in the Senate today. The bill would authorize a statewide vote to amend the state’s constitution to allow expanded gaming in up to seven locations in Kentucky.
Representatives from the Black Alliance for Educational Options are asking state lawmakers to move forward with charter school legislation this year. BAEO representatives held a forum at Quinn Chapel Church in west Louisville Monday night. Nearly 50 people attended the event, where advocates rallied in support of charter school legislation. The key note speaker was Dr. Howard Fuller, a former superintendent of Milwaukee Public School District and co-founder of BAEO.
Kentucky's Medicaid Managed Care Organizations say they have fixed a number of issues with reimbursements to pharmacists. CoventryCares, WellCare and Kentucky Spirit took over management of the state's Medicaid system last year. Since then, doctors and pharmacists have come forward to say the organizations are poorly managed and the reimbursements for care are too low. Executives from the organizations told a legislative committee Monday that the early kinks have been worked out of the system. But there were pharmacists in attendance who disagreed.
The battle over new state legislative districts may move to the Kentucky Supreme Court this week. At the direction of General Assembly leaders, the Legislative Research Commission this week will file an appeal to overturn an injunction against the district maps lawmakers approved last month. In it’s filing, the LRC will also argue that the new districts should be in effect for this year's elections.
A newly-formed coalition of businesses, unions and education groups have teamed up to get a constitutional amendment for gambling on the ballot in Kentucky. The group is called the Kentucky Alliance for Jobs. It's a 501(c)(4), meaning it can raise money and advertise to support casino gaming.
Twenty-three Kentuckians, representing a broad spectrum of public and private sector experience and from all corners of the state, will serve on the new Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Thursday. The Commission, to be led by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, will work over the coming months to develop recommendations to make the state’s tax code more responsive to the ups and downs of the economy, as well as to make taxes more equitable for Kentuckians.
Members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth are preparing for next week's I Love Mountains Day rally in Frankfort. Several members performed a skit in the Capitol Rotunda today depicting fake legislators and coal operators trading cash while the sick and needy looked on. KFTC member Chris Schimmoeller says the point of the skit was to show the cozy relationship coal companies have with lawmakers.
Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday he will wait "a few more days" to unveil his long-anticipated constitutional amendment to expand gambling because of the uncertainty of legislative redistricting. Beshear said in December that he would present in the 2012 General Assembly a constitutional amendment to expand gambling. Wednesday is the 24th day of the 60-day session, which must end by April 15.
Cooper and his mother, Tiffiney Veloudis, walk back to the family home after playing in the playhouse (background) on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Cooper's sisters Ally, 4, and Jordan Wade, 22, are on the playhouse porch.
Credit David Perry / Lexington Herald Leader
A House committee reversed itself Wednesday and approved "Cooper's Law," which would nullify deed restrictions on small outdoor structures deemed medically necessary for children 12 and younger. House Bill 160, which proceeds to the full House, is named for a Lexington boy whose parents are feuding with the Andover Forest Home owners Association.
Efforts to redraw Kentucky's U.S. House districts are dead in the General Assembly. State House Speaker Greg Stumbo made that declaration after the state Senate could not agree to the latest compromise on district maps. “I think that ship has sailed, that bell’s rung," Stumbo said. "I think the Secretary of State will have to certify those folks as the candidates and so the current status of law is that in my opinion they would run in the current Congressional district.”
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says an appeal is likely in the ongoing court battle over redistricting. Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd declared new district maps unconstitutional Tuesday. Stumbo says he'd like to take the ruling to the state Supreme Court. The only question is whether the Legislative Research Commission or House leadership will file the appeal.
A proposal to raise Kentucky’s dropout age to 18 years old has passed a major hurdle. The state Senate approved a bill today that allows individual school districts to decide whether to raise the dropout age and requires participating schools to have alternative education programs. The bill passed overwhelming, 35-2, with two Democratic senators voting against because of the local option.
Kentucky Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown has named an acting deputy commissioner for the Department of Juvenile Justice. The position has been vacant since the beginning of the year. It will now be filled by Diana McGuire. McGuire served as division director for the department since 2001. She was responsible for overall administration of the Eastern Region Division for Juvenile Justice.
A Franklin Circuit Court judge has thrown out new legislative district maps, saying they violate the basic principles of the Kentucky Constitution. Judge Phillip Shepherd’s ruling is based on the so-called “five percent rule.” It says new districts must be within five percent of their ideal size. Shepherd added that the maps of both the House and Senate districts divided too many counties. Shepherd also extended the deadline for candidates to file to run for the General Assembly until Friday. Unless the ruling is overturned or new districts are drafted, candidates will run in the current districts.
Students from all eight of Kentucky’s public universities have once again descended on Frankfort with a familiar message… stop cutting higher education. At the annual Rally for Higher Education today, the messages were familiar. Students called on lawmakers to restore or increase funding for higher education. In one of the toughest budget cycles yet, that call is once again likely to go unanswered.
More than 40 U.S. states have agreed to a nationwide settlement over foreclosure abuses. The deal would force the five largest mortgage lenders to reduce loans for about 1 million households. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway questions the settlement, saying he still has concerns about how mortgage loans are recorded and mortgage-backed securities.
Kentucky lawmakers are protesting a current trade agreement that they say would hurt tobacco. The U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which includes countries like New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam. But the lawmakers say the proposal excludes tobacco protections. At a news conference in Frankfort today, Democratic and Republican lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to add provisions for tobacco to the agreement.
Changes to Kentucky's special elections procedures could be imminent. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is supporting a bill to reduce the number of polling places for uncontested special elections for legislative seats. Grimes says the change will save money for her office, county clerks and taxpayers.
Kentucky lawmakers are struggling to finalize new Congressional districts. Both chambers approved new maps of the districts last month and have been in a conference committee for weeks to work out the differences. Last week, legislative leaders thought they were close to an agreement that would leave the maps relatively unchanged, but no compromise was made.