State Senators John Schickel (R-Union), left, and Jack Westwood (R-Erlanger) confer in the Senate chamber on the first day of the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly in Frankfort.
Credit Patrick Reddy / Kentucky Enquirer
An agenda laden with redrawing political boundaries, a tough state budget and many other issues greeted state legislators as they convened Tuesday for the first day of the three-month regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly. “This is my sixth year, and this is probably the biggest agenda of issues that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said state Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. “Hopefully the spirit of cooperation exists, and we can plow through a lot of this stuff.”
The 2012 Kentucky General Assembly is starting its 60-day budget session with a laundry list of issues to work out. The highlights are obvious: gambling, the budget, and redrawing congressional districts. Lawmakers must also figure out how to shore up the state's unemployment insurance and deal with Medicaid managed care problems. And there are always pet projects, like the debate over pseudophedrine, various constitutional amendments and more.
When noon EST rolls around today, the state Capitol in Frankfort could resemble a different Kentucky icon: the starting gate at a horse race. Once the House and Senate kick off the 2012 General Assembly Tuesday, the legislature will officially have 60 days to try to address 200 bills filed ahead of the session and craft a budget that takes into account a shortfall believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, they’ll need to find time to fulfill their constitutional obligation of redistricting congressional and senatorial lines, a process that could hinder the regular session or require a special session.
The debate over charter schools is one Kentucky educators and legislators have heard and argued over for the last several years. But supporters of the education reform feel one party left out of those discussions is ready to be brought into the fold. A newly formed group called Kentuckians Advocating Reforms in Education(KARE) is launching TV ad buys across the commonwealth today to educate the general public about charter schools. KARE has spent $8,950 to air the ad on WLKY in Louisville. Former Metro Councilman and Republican mayoral candidate Hal Heiner is the group’s chairman.
Work redrawing Kentucky’s legislative districts should begin today, just after the General Assembly convenes for its 2012 regular session. Last night on Kentucky Educational Television, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the lower house is nearly ready with its proposal.
For the second straight year, it’s all about jobs for Gov. Steve Beshear. “Attracting and protecting jobs” topped the list of his most notable accomplishments in 2011, which his office released Wednesday. Beshear has released a year-end list of his top accomplishments for the past few years, said spokeswoman Kerri Richardson. “It’s a good way for us to look back and review,” Richardson said. Beshear said that, thanks to the work of the state economic development office, there was an investment of more than $2.6 billion that could lead to 13,178 jobs created or retained.
Although he acknowledges methamphetamine manufacturing is a "growing problem" in Scott County, one local lawmaker said he would oppose legislation some lawmakers believe will stem the tide of the homemade drug. Among the bills prefiled for the General Assembly's 2012 session, three address the sale of psuedophedrine, an active ingredient used in the production of methamphetamine, but state Sen. Damon Thayer-R. Georgetown, said he will support only one of them.
Governor Beshear says a study of the feasibility of adding the University of Pikeville to the state public system will begin in the weeks ahead. The governor’s office will issue a request for proposals this week to hire a consultant to lead the review. Spokeswoman for the governor, Kerri Richardson says it will be a 360 degree look at the issue.
Several bills pre-filed by lawmakers ahead of the Kentucky General Assembly's regular session next month deal with either drug use among recipients of state and federal funds, or limiting access to illegal drugs. A new version of District 36 Rep. Lonnie Napier's amendment requiring drug testing for people seeking public assistance, including food stamps, has been submitted for consideration after a similar bill was killed in committee previously. He said he expects a different outcome once the legislature returns Jan. 3.
Former Harlan County Judge-Executive Delzinna Belcher has been appointed as magistrate for District 5 by Gov. Steve Beshear. The seat has stood vacant since magistrate Jimmy Roark passed away in September. Belcher said she won't seek election to the seat in November 2012.
The Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory, the primary record of Kentucky's historic places, has now topped 90,000 entries, according to the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office. The registry contains detailed information about historic buildings and sites throughout the Commonwealth, with files dating to the first statewide survey in 1971.
Education – for both residents and city staff – will be the next step for Frankfort and the pay-as-you-throw garbage ordinance, says Public Works Director Jeff Hackbart. During Monday’s City Commission meeting, the new garbage ordinance amendment was approved by a 3-2 vote. After the nearly yearlong discussion, Commissioners Sellus Wilder, Katie Hedden and Michael Turner voted for the system, while Commissioner Bill May and Mayor Gippy Graham opposed it.
A key lawmaker called for the resignation of Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller on Monday, saying the agency has misled legislators regarding child abuse records and other key issues. Republican Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said Miller's cabinet has not provided lawmakers with accurate information about children who die or nearly die from neglect and abuse.
Governor Steve Beshear got an early Christmas gift from anti-mountaintop removal activists today. Protesters spent several hours in the governor’s office waiting for a chance to present him with lumps of coal. The protest was an extension of a weekly event that’s been going on since February, but this time it had a holiday twist. Lexington teacher Martin Mudd dressed up as Santa Claus, and says he brought gifts for the governor.
Kenny Colston has been named the State Capital Bureau Chief for Kentucky Public Radio. Beginning in January, Colston will investigate and report news for statewide broadcast through a consortium of seven public radio stations, including Louisville Public Media/WFPL, WEKU, WUKY, WNKU, WKMS, WMKY, WKYU.
The Fair Oaks office buildings are off Wilkinson Boulevard in Frankfort.
Credit Tricia Spaulding/The State-Journal
State government will be paying rent to U.S. Bank this year after the bank foreclosed on three office buildings in Frankfort. The buildings, near Buffalo Trace distillery, house offices for state agencies, including the Department of Revenue, Division of Air Quality, Division of Water and Department of Public Advocacy. The bank took action against the buildings’ Floirida-based owners in 2010 after the companies defaulted on a $31 million loan from 2005 to buy the office buildings.
In his inauguration speech, Gov. Steve Beshear spoke about education and the importance of building a generation that can lead Kentucky in the future. But it was a far cry from the pro-coal rhetoric that dominated some of his speeches earlier this year. Beshear’s avoidance of the issue didn’t surprise many observers, who know where the governor stands on coal.
Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear wave to the crowd as they are announced before the Inaugural Celebration Tuesday night at the Convention Center.
Credit Tricia Spaulding / Frankfort State Journal
State representatives Derrick Graham and Carl Rollins believe there’s support for a constitutional amendment on expanded gaming, but Sen. Julian Carroll says any proposal must be vetted before there’s a vote. That’s in response to Gov. Steve Beshear’s inaugural address, in which he called on leaders to “find the political courage and the will to lay the foundation” for the future before saying he’ll again push for a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling. Beshear shared broad plans for his second term during his 20-minute inaugural address Tuesday, mentioning job creation, education, gambling and restructuring the state’s tax code when the recession ends.
A proposed bill that would abolish the elected office of constable awaits lawmakers when they return to Frankfort next month. Sen. Julie Denton, R-Jefferson County, pre-filed BR 449, which, if passed, would ask voters to amend Kentucky’s constitution and do away with constables. Constables are county peace officers who are elected every four years the same as other county officials such as judge/executive, clerk, county attorney, sheriff, jailer, coroner, and surveyor. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Association of Counties supports legislation that might remove constables' duties and arrest powers
Inauguration day at the state capital can be a long day for state officials. But, it’s the governor who has the longest day. Steve Beshear was officially sworn in for his second term just after midnight. After a little rest, the governor then participates in everything from an early morning worship service to an evening ball.
Critics of Kentucky’s child welfare system say the recent release of over 80 child abuse records by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is just the beginning. The child welfare system was at its best when the Cabinet for Families and Children was separate from the Cabinet for Health Services, said Anita Barbee, professor at University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work. She has also consulted with the cabinet for 20 years.
FRANKFORT - Ignoring overcast skies and chilly temperatures, Gov. Steve Beshear shared his vision for tomorrow with Kentuckians during his inaugural speech Tuesday afternoon on the Capitol’s steps. Beshear became only the second Kentucky governor in modern times to serve consecutive terms. Paul Patton was the first.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will introduce a constitutional amendment on expanded gaming during the 2012 General Assembly. The governor told reporters an amendment is a better option than changing state law through the legislature, which convenes in January.
When Gov. Steve Beshear is sworn in Tuesday to his second term as Kentucky’s highest state official, he will embrace many of Kentucky's historic and colorful inaugural traditions. Beshear has pledged Kentucky’s 59th Inauguration will be economical – thanks to many cost-savings measures – but the all-day celebration will still feature many inaugural customs that have become synonymous with the event over the past 219 years.
Fiscal Court has passed an ordinance 5-2 that permits Buffalo Trace and other local distilleries to hand out samples and sell packaged liquor on Sundays.It passed after a heated discussion at Thursday’s work session, which the court was forced to move to the courtroom after nearly 30 showed up in support or opposition. Jason Underwood, a lobbyist for Buffalo Trace, said the ordinance was proposed to help Buffalo Trace “level the playing field” with other nearby distilleries.
For the 51st year in a row, the Kentucky Human Rights Commission has heard more complaints about racial discrimination than any other issue. The commission handles cases of discrimination for any protected class in Kentucky. That includes race, gender, age, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion and smoking status. The panel released its annual report of filings this week (read it here). It covers any complaints sent to the panel between July of last year and July of this year.
Kentucky Secretary of State-elect Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her transition team on Friday as she prepares to take office in January. The Lexington attorney easily defeated Todd County businessman Bill Johnson by a 21-point margin, keeping the statewide office in the Democratic Party column. Grimes appointed former state Rep. Tim Firkins, D-Louisville, to chair the group, which will be organized into six working teams.
A Frankfort man charged with stealing flat screen TVs from stores in three counties was arrested Wednesday. A tip led the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to arrest Seth Witherby, 34, for shoplifting in Anderson, Scott and Franklin counties, Sheriff Pat Melton says. His accomplice is still at large. “They were going into department stores, and walking out the front door with flat screen TVs,” Melton said.