Two legislative bills that would legalize industrial hemp could offer a transition crop for farmers in Nelson County. Central Kentucky was the largest producer of hemp during World War II for rope production, but state officials say it isn’t legislation but law enforcement that will decide hemp’s future in the state or Nelson County. Industrial hemp is a non-psychoactive variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. Given its low THC content, it would not be attractive as a recreational drug like marijuana, but the stigma has helped stop its legalization.
A supposed compromise on a bill aimed at cracking down on meth production in Kentucky is once again making its way through the state Senate. The bill passed committee quickly this morning. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Robert Stivers, says the bill could be voted on the Senate floor as soon as this afternoon. The compromise will allow pseudoephedrine—a key ingredient in meth—to continue to be bought over the counter, but will limit consumers to only three point six grams, which is equivalent to one box of cold medicine, a month.
For the first time in Kentucky, a legislative committee is considering a move to abolish the death penalty. The bill received a hearing in a Senate committee today. Senate Bill 63 would abolish capital punishment in the commonwealth, a move few other states have accomplished by statute.
FRANKFORT – Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters Thursday named Jerry F. “Freddie” Lewis Sr., as the new executive director of the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing (OMSL). Lewis most recently was manager of Safety and Training for Alliance Coal Co. Prior to that position, he worked for more than nine years in the regional OMSL office in Pikeville as a mine safety analyst, mine inspector, mine safety rescue team member and classroom instructor.
Neither rain nor hail nor tornado activity could keep Agriculture Commissioner James Comer from appearing Wednesday at the Warren County Clerk’s Office. Comer was in Bowling Green to promote an annual fundraising drive asking citizens to make an optional $10 donation when renewing farm license plates. The total amount collected will be split three ways – between the Future Farmers of America organization, 4-H and the Kentucky Proud program. Comer was a few minutes late for the event, saying the severe weather Wednesday slowed his pace.
LOUISVILLE – Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday welcomed more than 600 professionals representing more than 300 companies to the first step in selecting the team that will build the downtown portion of the long-awaited Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project. “The Bridges Project is about improving safety and mobility for the citizens of this region,” Beshear said in a statement. “But make no mistake: the Bridges Project means jobs – thousands of good-paying jobs.”
The Kentucky House Judiciary Committee has overwhelmingly passed two bills to overhaul the state’s fight against drugs. One bill deals with synthetic drugs. It would ban the manufacture of any drug that simulates an illegal substance or that contains certain chemical compounds.
A legislator has introduced a bill aimed at closing loopholes in the fight against what are commonly known as synthetic marijuana and “bath salts” and imposing stricter penalties for distributors. Franklin County Attorney Rick Sparks, Frankfort Police Chief Walter Wilhoite and Sheriff Pat Melton were on hand in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday when Rep. John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, introduced the bill that uses a comprehensive “class approach” to identify synthetic drugs.
State Auditor Adam Edelen has released ten recommendations for a more efficient Medicaid Managed Care system in Kentucky. For weeks, the MCOs, lawmakers, health care providers and patients have tussled over the new system, which was implemented quickly to plug a budget gap.
A deal to help Kentucky repay a federal loan is officially on the table. During the recession, the commonwealth borrowed more than $900 million from the federal government to shore up the unemployment insurance fund. In 2010, the General Assembly approved a plan to repay the debt over time. But when that measure passed, lawmakers and the governor believed the federal government would defer interest payments. That didn’t happen, and the state was left on the hook for millions of dollars in interest. If Kentucky doesn’t make the interest payments, employers will face government fees and the loss of federal tax credits on unemployment insurance.
Proposals to allow the Amish to use reflective tape on their buggies instead of state-mandated orange triangles have passed both Kentucky legislative chambers. The House voted today in favor of a bill that requires the Amish to put 200 inches of red tape on their buggies. The bill passed overwhelmingly, 90-9, despite objections from lawmakers in areas where the bill would matter the most. Among the no votes was Representative Martha Jane King of Logan County.
A bill creating an alternative diploma for special needs students in Kentucky is just a signature away from becoming law. Senator Dennis Parrett's bill soared through the General Assembly. It passed the state Senate 36-0 last week and cleared the House 100-0 Tuesday.
Kentucky Tea Party groups are joining others around the country in complaining about inquiries from the Internal Revenue Service. Many of the groups are not-for-profit 501(c)(4)s. Such organizations may engage in elections and political campaigns, but the activities must primarily promote social welfare. The IRS has sent several groups questionnaires about their activities. The surveys ask about the groups’ fundraising activities, political rallies and candidate endorsements.
Kentucky lawmakers are doubling down on efforts to fight synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs are chemically-altered substances meant to simulate other drugs. House Bill 481 would drastically increase penalties for crimes related to synthetic drugs. The measure is the General Assembly’s latest attempt to catch up with increasingly-popular methods of getting high.
Governor Steve Beshear has announced the appointment of veteran Thoroughbred trainer John Ward as the new executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Ward, who along with his wife Donna operate John T. Ward Stables in Paris, Ky., as well as training and racing operations in New York and Florida, will assume his new role April 1. He succeeds Lisa Underwood who resigned in November 2011 to return to private law practice.
Legislative leaders in Kentucky say the issue of redistricting is over for the current session. Lawmakers drew new maps of their districts earlier this year to reflect the latest census data. But the state Supreme Court ruled that the maps were unconstitutional and threw them out. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says there’s no need to redraw maps this year because,after this November, there are no legislative elections until 2014.
The leader of the Kentucky House of Representatives says his chamber will make few changes to Governor Steve Beshear’s budget. Beshear released his two-year budget plan earlier this year. It calls for cuts of more than eight percent to most state agencies. And it includes roughly six percent cuts for higher education. House leadership has been reviewing the plan for the last few days. Speaker Greg Stumbo says they plan to pass it off to the Senate by the beginning of March.
On this week's edition of Kentucky Tonight, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss expanded gambling. The program that airs on Kentucky Educational Television (KET) Monday at 7:00 pm/8:00 Central will be re-broadcast on WEKU Tuesday at 11:00 am.
The state House is expected to propose a two-year state budget with no new taxes that mostly will keep Gov. Steve Beshear's recommended 8.4 percent spending cuts for many agencies and provide no salary increases for state workers and teachers. House Democratic leaders worked during the weekend on their chamber's financial plan for the state. They mulled over the budget Beshear unveiled in January, one of the most austere in recent history.
Although two major issues have been nearly resolved, Kentucky lawmakers still have a full agenda this session. Redistricting and expanded gambling dominated the first half of the session. The gambling bill was defeated last week and redistricting was settled by the Kentucky Supreme Court. But that doesn’t mean the legislative work is over. Lawmakers still have a two-year budget to pass. Senate President David Williams says that's just one of several pressing issues.
A new bill in Kentucky would allow students to go to school outside of the district they live in, as long the new district allows it. State Senator Ken Winters is sponsoring the bill because of concerns he's heard from parents in his district. He says the measure isn’t aimed at getting students out of low-performing schools, but is instead tailored to parents who commute outside their home county.
A judge has ordered the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to continue releasing complete child abuse records, but the Cabinet is likely to continue redacting information in those records pending an appeals court ruling. Earlier this year, Judge Phillip Shepherd made a final order for the Cabinet to release thousands of pages of child abuse records. Because it was a final order, the Cabinet appealed the decision. Shepherd has now changed his ruling to keep the matter in his court, and to keep the records moving.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the latest maps of state legislative districts are unconstitutional. Lawmakers approved new lines for state House and Senate districts earlier this year. But a circuit court judge declared them unconstitutional, citing a precedent that districts can’t be more than five percent larger or smaller than their ideal size. Lawyers for the Legislative Research Commission promptly appealed the ruling on behalf of House and Senate leadership.
The fight over redistricting has moved to the Kentucky Supreme Court. Lawmakers approved new lines for state House and Senate districts earlier this year. But a judge declared them unconstitutional, citing a precedent that districts can’t be more than five percent larger or smaller than their ideal size. Lawyers for the Legislative Research Commission promptly appealed the ruling.
A Senate bill that would have made pseudoephedrine available by prescription only has surprisingly been killed by its sponsor. State Senator Robert Stivers withdrew Senate Bill 50 Thursday, to the objection of several of his colleagues. Pseudoephedrine, or PSE, is a key ingredient in both over-the-counter cold medicines and meth. The bill was meant to curtail meth production by restricting pseudoephedrine sales.
The Kentucky Senate has rejected a measure that would amend the state constitution to legalize casinos in Kentucky. The issue has long been a legislative priority of Governor Steve Beshear, and this year was the first in which he attempted to expand gambling by amending the constitution. The bill cleared committee yesterday, but failed on the Senate floor with a vote of 16-21.
Kentucky lawmakers were reminded today of a 96 dog rescue in western Kentucky. The animals were retrieved in the community of Wingo through the efforts of Animal Rescue Corps. Corps President Scotlund Haisley was at the state capitol today for ‘Humane Lobby Day.’
The Fairness Coalition in Kentucky is continuing its push for a statewide anti-discrimination law. The coalition held a rally in Frankfort on Wednesday to urge state lawmakers to favor legislation that would bar discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, online the cities of Louisville, Lexington and Covington have laws giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals civil rights protections.
Kentucky lawmakers are once again ready to approve a bill capping the state’s debt at six percent of revenues. The issue has been in and out of committee multiple times this session. It started as a constitutional amendment, then changed to a regular bill. And state Senators have renamed the measure to show their commitment to it. It is now called Senate Bill 1.
Governor Steve Beshear’s constitutional amendment to legalize casinos in Kentucky has cleared its first legislative hurdle. The bill passed the Senate's State and Local Government committee 7-4 today. The measure would allow up to seven casinos in Kentucky. But the committee changed the bill, dropping language that requires five of the casinos to be at horse racing tracks. The measure still requires a 60-mile buffer zone between tracks and independent casinos.