With three storage centers throughout Frankfort, tracking down state records can be a hassle. But a consolidated facility should make archives easier to sort through, a state official says. The construction schedule hasn’t been set, but the new records center will take about seven months to complete, Finance and Administration Cabinet spokeswoman Pamela Trautner said.
There’s currently a break in the action. State lawmakers don’t return to Frankfort until February 5th. They’ll face three pressing issues…tax reform, underfunded public pensions, and legislative redistricting. The governor has already mentioned special sessions are a possibility, but, House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover doesn’t want to wait to begin the discussion.
Money coming into Kentucky’s state accounts recently indicates a positive trend, but an official who studies the figures warns against reading too much into them. For the first six months of the fiscal year, receipts have increased almost four percent. The official revenue forecast for the entire year calls for two point four percent growth. Greg Harkenrider with the Office of the State Budget Director says there’s still reason for concern.
State Sen. Julie Denton has filed two bills that would put control of implementation of the Affordable Care Act into lawmakers’ hands. Gov. Steve Beshear created a state-run health exchange through an executive order and is mulling whether to expand Medicaid. Both are parts of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Denton says her goal is to let lawmakers have some say in either matter.
Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer at the microphone and Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer in the aisle.
The G-O-P has long dominated the state senate and the house remains solidly under the control of Kentucky Democrats. But, their actual numbers are always in flux. For example, this year, there are more Republicans in both chambers….perhaps making collaboration between the parties a bit more attractive.
A swearing-in ceremony for returning state Senator Albert Robinson.
Kentucky lawmakers, many for the first time, have taken their seats for this winter’s legislative session. The gavel fell in both the house and senate around noon today. While many rookie legislators got their first taste of Frankfort politics, veterans were already at work throughout the capitol building, setting the general assembly’s agenda.
The second meeting of the state’s Industrial Hemp Commission will soon begin sorting through the details of its efforts to bring legalized hemp to Kentucky. The commission will work on the details of a new legislative bill proposal, such what the bill will include and which legisators will sponsor it during the 2013 session, said the chairman, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
The State Senate Republican Caucus has officially nominated Senator Robert Stivers for Senate president. Stivers’ new role won’t be official until it’s voted on by the full chamber in early January. But the GOP holds a 24-14 advantage, meaning Stivers is all but certain to succeed former Senate President David Williams. Williams left the Senate to take a position as a circuit judge.
Just weeks before Lexington gets down to the nitty gritty work on a new budget, it’s lost two top fiscal experts. City Budget director Ryan Barrow is moving onto the state Office of Financial Management. Plus, in January, Lexington Finance Commissioner Jane Driskell will become the governor’s budget director. “Working in local government you keep up with trends at the state budget level and also at the federal budget level, so hopefully my learning curve will be shorter than somebody coming in that didn’t have that prior experience,” said Driskell.
Kentucky's state pension plans have problems, and a bipartisan legislative task force has approved sweeping recommendations to overhaul them -- including putting new employees in a hybrid plans akin to 401Ks. The task force -- with an 11-1 vote -- is recommending that the General Assembly start fully funding their pension contributions starting with the next budget in 2014. Lawmakers’ inability to do that is part of the pension plans problems.
Kentuckians who owe state taxes now have just two weeks to take advantage of an amnesty program. Delinquent taxpayers can pay what they owe and avoid penalties, fees, and additional interest. Kentucky Secretary of Finance and Administration Lori Flanery says it’s been ten years since Kentucky has offered tax amnesty. “The amount of money that is anticipated is about 55 million dollars. In the 2002 effort, there was actually 40 million dollars collected,” said Flanery.
Kentucky Democrats successfully defended their control of the state House -- but they're now stranded on a political island. It appears that Republicans will take control of the Arkansas House of Representatives, leaving Kentucky as the only southern state with a Democratic-controlled House. And that will make Kentucky House Democrats a big blue target in future years.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is recovering from minor eye surgery. Beshear developed a detached retina this past weekend and his office says he had minor surgery on Monday to reattach it. Spokeswoman Kerri Richardson says there was no injury that caused the retina to detach. The surgery will require the governor to limit his travel for the next week.