New legislative and judicial districts are just a signature away from becoming law. The General Assembly has given final approval to House Bill 1, sending the new maps to the governor’s desk. The battle over redistricting has been brutal. It ended with members of the minority parties in each chamber drawn into unfavorable districts.
At the age of 23, Elizabeth Fricke is one of the youngest elected officials in the state. Fricke has started serving her third year on the city council of Kenton Vale, a city of about 110 people situated in between Covington and Fort Wright. Legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly might encourage even younger politicians by dropping the minimum age to run for city offices to 18. Kentucky law sets the minimum age to run for mayor at 25 and for a city legislative body at 21.
Kentucky lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle admit crafting a state budget this session will certainly include spending cuts. Governor Beshear is suggesting an eight point four percent cut for most departments. House Speaker Greg Stumbo doesn’t anticipate a great deal of change when the document emerges from the legislature. Madison County G-O-P Senator Jared Carpenter agrees in an equal cut philosopy. “There’s gonna be some sacrifices that everybody is gonna have to make..and I glad to see the governor is basically making those cuts across the board..I think everybody is gonna have to share in that sacrifice,” said Carpenter.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he expects to change little of Governor Steve Beshear’s budget this session. Speaking to reporters after Beshear gave his budget address Tuesday night, Stumbo said times are tough, and there's little the governor could change in his proposal to please lawmakers.
Governor Steve Beshear predicted his next state budget would be bleak. Now, many state agencies are being told to cut another 8.4 percent of their budgets for the next two years. That means some agencies will have taken cuts of up to 38 percent during Beshear's term as governor. The hardest hit are the Labor and Finance cabinets. Universities are cut 6.4 percent, but the KEES program that funds scholarships is fully funded. State police are cut 2.2 percent. But the budget is not all bad. The governor proposes almost $8 million in funding for a substance abuse program in Medicaid for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. The budget also includes $1 million for colon cancer screenings for the uninsured. That will be matched by $1 million in private donations.
One of Governor Steve Beshear’s main priorities is once again making its way throughKentucky’s General Assembly. A bill sponsored by state Representative Jeff Greer would gradually raise the school dropout age from 16 to 18 by 2017. The bill has been received very well in the Democratic-controlled House in the past two session. But the state Senate has killed the bill each time, saying it doesn’t account for extra expenses or provide alternative means of education. The governor signaled his favorability toward technical education as an alternative in his state of the Commonwealth address. But Greer told the House Education Committee that he believes raising the dropout age and dealing with technical education should be separate issues
Gov. Steve Beshear will address the General Assembly at 7 p.m. EST Tuesday with a message that is likely to detail state spending cuts of 7 to 9 percent for the next two-year state budget. Agencies that escaped earlier rounds of cuts are unlikely to receive such exemptions this time around.
Calloway County and Murray school superintendents are skeptical of the benefit of proposed legislation that would allow school districts to sell advertising on the exterior of school buses. House Bill 30 is currently awaiting a full vote in the state House scheduled for Tuesday. Districts already sell advertising in their sports arenas, and in school yearbooks, but Murray Independent Schools Superintendent Bob Rogers said there is such a thing as too much commercialization. He remarked that his district would likely not stand to benefit from the option, if it was made available.
Last week's redistricting battles may increase the partisanship in the Kentucky General Assembly. That’s what the Republican House Leader Jeff Hoover told his peers on the House floor after that chamber passed new district lines unfavorable to Republicans. Issues such as the budget and making the University of Pikeville a public institution are still on the table for lawmakers, but Hoover says when a House Democrat asked him about the UPIKE issue, he wanted to laugh it off.
The Department of Agriculture broke state law and regulations when it hired two non-merit employees into merit positions, according to a report by the Personnel Board. The report found the department’s selection process “totally arbitrary” and ordered the agency by a 6-0 vote to attend training on how to advertise for future openings.
After two hours of heated debate, the Kentucky House of Representatives has approved new district lines. House Bill 1 passed 63-34 with only two representatives not voting. Many Republicans took to the floor to argue against the plan, calling it ugly politics. There are nine Republican members who will have to run against one another under the new redistricting map, and nearly all of them took to the floor to argue against the bill. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, maintained there aren’t any malicious ideas behind the new plan.
A proposed constitutional amendment that would restrict how much debt the Commonwealth can carry took its first steps in Frankfort Wednesday. The amendment is sponsored by state Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro. It caps state spending to six percent of annual revenue. Currently, the state has spent 6.3% more than it has taken in. The measure passed the Senate State and Local Government committee today.
A seasoned mine reclamation official has been chosen to lead the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters announced Steve Hohmann’s appointment today. Hohmann has been the director of the department’s Abandoned Mine Lands program since 1995. In his new job as Natural Resources Commissioner, he’ll oversee his old division, plus the divisions of forestry, mine reclamation, oil and gas and mine safety, among others.
Sen. Rand Paul says he’s fulfilling a campaign promise by giving back $500,000 of operational funds to the U.S. Treasury. Paul said the U.S. Senators are appropriated $3 million a year for their office budgets and he’s been able to save nearly 15 percent of his annual costs. He hopes to set an example with his frugality, he said.
A new constitutional amendment that restricts how much debt the Commonwealth can carry took it’s first steps in Frankfort today. The amendment is sponsored by state Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro. It caps state spending to six percent of annual revenue.Currently, the state has spent 6.3 percent more than it has taken in. The measure passed the Senate State and Local Government committee today.
A plan to redraw all 100 Kentucky House districts is being pegged as unfair to Republicans because it forces up to nine GOP incumbents to run against each other. The plan cleared the State Government Committee today despite complaints from Republicans.
With education a prime target for budget cuts, Kentucky state lawmakers are looking for new ways to fund schools. State Representatives Brad Montell, a Shelbyville Republican and Terry Mills, a Lebanon Democrat, have teamed up on a bill that would allow advertising on school buses. The bill was first introduced last session, but didn't make it out of the Senate.
House Education Chairman Carl Rollins, D-Midway, is once again trying to reform how Kentucky’s teachers are evaluated. The latest incarnation of Rollins’ idea is House Bill 40, which the committee passed Tuesday morning. The legislation would create a statewide teacher evaluation system run by the state Department of Education starting in the 2013 school year.
A vote on legislation that would allow charter schools may finally have it’s day in the Kentucky state House education committee. House Education Chairman Carl Rollins says he’s considering allowing a charter school bill to receive a hearing and a vote in his committee this session. That’s been unheard of since Rollins assumed the chair of that committee.
Should 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds face criminal charges? In 2009 and 2010, complaints were filed against at least 748 Kentucky children younger than 11 for offenses that included being out of control, minor injury assaults and criminal mischief. Sixty-three of those children were ages 5, 6, and 7, according to a 2011 Herald-Leader analysis of state records. Eight of those children were 5 years old. State Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, last week introduced House Bill 143, which would prohibit children 10 or younger from being charged with criminal offenses. Instead, those children could be found neglected or dependent on the state for services.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her communications staff Monday, appointing Lynn Sowards Zellen to serve as her chief spokeswoman. The Lexington attorney will coordinate office communications, respond to media inquiries and devote attention to legislative initiatives related to the secretary of state’s office. Zellen worked as a business litigation attorney, advocating for clients before courts across the commonwealth, including cases before the Kentucky Supreme Court.
It could be only a matter of days before Governor Steve Beshear unveils his plan for a constitutional amendment for expanded gambling. The governor has been in talks for weeks with Democratic and Republicans lawmakers about how to word the amendment to ensure it’s passed. In the Senate that means getting help from Republican state Senator Damon Thayer of Georgetown.
The fight over making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription is heating up again in the Kentucky legislature. The state Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the bill on Thursday morning. Last week, senators made passionate speeches on the chamber floor in favor of the bill. The idea is supported by most of Senate leadership, as well as Kentucky State Police. But the Consumer Healthcare Products Association says the bill is too restrictive on the average family.
The Kentucky House of Representatives has hit a road block in drawing new district lines for state lawmakers. After planning to release and vote on a new House redistricting map first thing this week, chamber leaders had to delay a committee meeting until at least Tuesday.
An attempt to add the University of Pikeville to the commonwealth’s public university system has slowed amid a flurry of technical questions. House Speaker Greg Stumbo is leading the attempt to make the private UPIKE Kentucky’s ninth state university. If UPIKE is accepted into the state system, the commonwealth would control all of the school's assets, including campus property. But former Kentucky Governor and current UPIKE President Paul Patton wants to know if the university will get the assets back if state funding falls through.
Senate President David Williams is staying out of the mud when it comes to commenting on Governor Steve Beshear’s new tax commission. Williams proposed his own commission last legislative session. It would have included tax experts, economists and others and charged them with completely re-writing Kentucky's tax code. The new tax code would then be subjected to an up or down vote in each chamber of the General Assembly.
A state Senator from Louisville has come under fire for trying to legislate that the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville play each other in basketball and football. Democratic Senator Tim Shaughnessy has filed a bill that includes language that requires UK and U of L to play each other every year. But Shaughnessy says that’s not the point of his bill.
Rep. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, was one of several legislators who posed for pictures with UK head basketball coach John Calipari on Thursday at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort.
Credit David Perry/Lexington Herald-Leader
UK coach John Calipari and UK President Eli Capilouto visited Frankfort Thursday to meet with state legislatgors. Calipari, for one, came to talk to lawmakers about UK's need for new academic buildings. He was the big draw, signing basketballs and taking pictures with various legislators before he told them about UK's construction needs amid a campus full of aging buildings.
A push to crack down on drug abuse in Kentucky’ has re-opened old disputes in the state Senate. Governor Steve Beshear has promised to propose comprehensive anti-drug legislation this session. One Republican senator, Robert Stivers of Manchester, says he agrees with the governor’s plan, but wants to add one provision. Stivers wants a bill that would make pseudoephedrine—a key part of over-the-counter cold medicines and meth production—available by prescription-only to pass the General Assembly as well.
No Kentucky state agencies or budget line items are safe this year, according to House Budget Chairman Rick Rand. In the past few budgets, education funding has been largely protected from cuts. But now, there’s little left to trim in many state agencies, leaving everything on the table. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has warned that pending cuts to the state budget will be painful. Beshear hasn't given any indication of how painful the cuts will be, but Rand has an idea.