Just before the federal government declared default, the U.S. Senate announced Wednesday afternoon it reached a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff and get the federal government working again. But the Senate must still vote on the measure and so must the House of Representatives. Only then can a bill emerge that President Obama must sign -- before midnight tonight.
Potential Lexington Senate Candidates left to right, Richard Moloney, Reginald Thomas, Chuck Ellinger.
Credit Lexington Herald Leader
Three people are mentioned as possible successors to Kentucky State Senator Kathy Stein. The governor this week named the Lexington Democrat to a judicial post in Fayette County. Richard Moloney has experience in local and state government. During his time in Frankfort, Moloney says he worked well with lawmakers from both parties on proposed fee increases.
A select committee investigating sexual harassment complaints against a former lawmaker will consider sending letters to all legislative staffers inviting them to come forward with grievances. Members of the panel will vote on that proposal from Republican state Rep. Robert Benvenuti next Wednesday.
A popular tourist attraction at the Kentucky Capitol is being repaired. The State Journal reports that repairs began this month on the Floral Clock and are expected to take a couple of months to complete. Sam Ruth, commissioner of the Department of Facilities and Support Services, said several cracks are visible on the bottom of the clock. Some are a foot long and an inch wide.
While major savings have come through the reform of Kentucky’s criminal justice system, it’s also caused a financial squeeze for county jailers. The reforms were enacted to reduce prison populations and cut corrections costs. Fewer drug offenders are now jailed and more are in drug treatment programs. As a result, Kentucky Association of Counties Director Tommy Turner says local jails don’t get as much state money to help run their facilities.
FRANKFORT— Interim Joint Committee on Local Government co-chair Rep. Steven Riggs, D-Louisville (right), confers with Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, prior to the start of the committee's September meeting.
During a legislative hearing, proponents, including the mayors of Kentucky’s two largest cities, argued cities should have the freedom to levy a local sales tax for special projects. Plus, they want the question to go before Kentucky voters next year. If approved, individual communities could then ask taxpayers to impose up to a one percent local sales tax. It would be temporary and Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher says it would likely go for specific projects.
FRANKFORT — Kentucky's capital city on Thursday became the fifth in the state to adopt an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. With the 3-2 passage of the ordinance by its city commission, Frankfort joined Lexington, Louisville, Covington and Vicco in Perry County as cities with similar ordinances. Mayor Bill May and Commissioners Katie Flynn Hedden and Tommy Haynes voted for the ordinance, while Commissioners Robert Roach and Lynn Bowers opposed it. Read more...
Over the next few months, the federal health care law moves into a new phase. Beginning in October, Kentuckians can buy health insurance through a new, state-operated exchange. The federal government is also financing an expansion of Medicaid coverage in Kentucky. Nevertheless, Monticello Representative Ken Upchurch still worries coverage for many people will remain unavailable and unaffordable.
Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Bob Leeper (right).
Credit Legislative Research Commission
In just over four months lawmakers will be back in Frankfort for a full 60 day session. This winter, legislators must approve a new two year budget. While the state finished last year with a budget surplus, Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Bob Leeper doesn’t anticipate any big increase in state revenue. So, Leeper says building a budget will remain difficult.
With legislative redistricting behind them, many lawmakers say it’s time to reform the process for redrawing those boundaries. Some, like Richmond representative Rita Smart think a change in the state’s constitution is the answer. When asked about specific suggestions, Smart said last week more study is need to determine what needs to change. Smart has an ally in House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
Come 2014, the Kentucky General Assembly will likely consider ‘animal protection’ legislation. Melodie Zentall is with the Kentucky Coalition for Animal Protection. She says the Commonwealth ranks poorly when it comes to watching over its animals. “We are ranked 50th, dead last by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, that’s a national group. They look at animal protective laws across the nation, Kentucky is ranked dead last, dead last,” said Zentall.
FRANKFORT— Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester (left), confers with Senate Democratic Floor Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, prior to the start of the day's legislative session in the Kentucky Senate.
WEKU's Stu Johnson reports on the special session's final day.
FRANKFORT: New legislative boundaries for 138 members of the general assembly have been approved by the general assembly and signed into law by Kentucky’s governor. The final votes in favor of legislative redistricting were overwhelming; 35 to two in the Kentucky Senate and 79 to 18 in the House. Most of the debate occured as the full Senate took its first vote on the bill. Senate President Robert Stivers says the impact of these new district boundaries will be seen across the Commonwealth.
WEKU's Stu Johnson reports on the reservations expressed by some lawmakers over new legislative districts.
The Kentucky House has adopted new boundaries for its 100 members, but not without some lawmaker grumbling. The bill to redraw legislative boundaries passed the full house 83 to 17. Before the votes were cast, House Speaker Greg Stumbo told colleagues there was no intent to punish anyone or either political party.
The leader of the Kentucky House says he doesn’t have the power to discipline any lawmaker who serves in his chamber. House Speaker Greg Stumbo also says he has no direct knowledge of complaints filed by two statehouse staffers against against Sturgis Representative John Arnold. The two women, Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner accuse Arnold of a pattern of sexual assault and harassment dating back to 2010. Stumbo says his office was contacted by LRC director Bobby Sherman.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A legislative redistricting bill has breezed through the House and now heads to the Senate for consideration. Legislative leaders removed many of the partisan overtones that had been in previous proposals, a move that led to broader support among rank-and-file lawmakers of both parties. The House passed the bill 83-17 Wednesday morning. The Senate is expected to rush the measure to a vote on Friday.
Two longtime Kentucky statehouse employees have filed ethics complaints against Democratic state Rep. John A. Arnold Jr., alleging a pattern of sexual assault and harassment dating back to early 2010. Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, in separate complaints, allege Arnold inappropriately touched them and made lewd and vulgar comments in numerous incidents over several years. Arnold is a veteran legislator from Sturgis. Read more...
FRANKFORT— Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, discusses a plan to redraw legislative district boundaries during a meeting of the House Committee on State Government.
Credit Legislative Research Commission
A legislative redistricting bill is expected to get a vote on the House floor this morning. House Speaker Greg Stumbo predicted that it will pass overwhelmingly and be sent to the Senate to be acted on by Friday. The House State Government Committee approved the measure 25-4 on Tuesday.
A rally today in Frankfort urged state leaders to spend surplus dollars on programs that provide child care. Since April, no new additions have been made to the list of low-income families eligible for child care or kinship care assistance. That’s when the governor ordered cuts in both programs. Without a restoration of funding, Michelle Sanborn with Children’s Alliance predicts more foster parents will be needed.
FRANKFORT— House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg (left), confers with House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown (right) as House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, looks on.
Credit Legislative Research Commission
Kentucky’s aviation industry is looking for some tax relief. Airport representatives came to Frankfort today for National Aviation Day. Kentucky Aviation Association President Rob Barnett says Kentucky’s aviation industry lags behind its neighbors and needs state assistance.
House Republican leader Jeff Hoover unveils House GOP plan for redistricting.
Credit Jack Brammer / Lexington Herald Leader
House Republicans unveiled a legislative redistricting plan Thursday that places eight current House members together — one district with two Republicans, one district with two Democrats and two districts with incumbents from both parties. The GOP plan, introduced 11 days before a special legislative session on redistricting begins in the state Capitol, also splits 24 counties — the minimum number required by the Kentucky Supreme Court and splits only two precincts in the entire state. It does not divide any districts three ways as some plans have. Read more...
Kentucky drivers will soon be assessed three "penalty points" against their licenses each time they're convicted of texting while driving. The new penalty will be enacted through administrative regulations ordered by Gov. Steve Beshear, who announced the change in Louisville on Wednesday morning. Drivers rack up points against their licenses upon a conviction on various highway law violations—three points for speeding 11 to 15 miles per hour on a limited access highway, for example. Read more...
Governor Beshear is reacting to state audit findings today which are highly critical of the Kentucky Department of Emergency Management. The Lexington Herald Leader reports the audit shows more than five million dollars were spent on alcohol, entertainment, hotels and other items. The document also states agency workers were told to stay quiet about it.
Prior to serving on the Court of Appeals, Judge Allison Jones presided over workers’ compensation claims as an administrative law judge.
Credit Commonwealth of Kentucky
A former administrative law judge from Oldham County has been appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Gov. Steve Beshear's office announced Monday that he appointed Allison Jones to fill the unexpired term of Justice Michelle M. Keller, who was appointed to the state Supreme Court in April.
Kentucky corrections officials say they failed to take DNA samples from between 6,300 and 7,000 felons as required by law over a four-year period. Justice Cabinet Secretary and Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson said during a news conference Thursday in Frankfort that they are now trying to locate about 3,900 people no longer in state custody or on probation or parole to take samples from them.
The agency that's home to most of Kentucky's human services and health care programs is seeking public input to help reconstruct its website. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services is offering an online survey for Kentuckians to fill out. Cabinet officials are seeking feedback on how to improve the usability and features of the agency's website.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says he's been surprised by the progress made in fighting prescription drug abuse in the year since a state law took aim at the problem. Beshear told reporters Thursday that the law has made some "swift changes" in combating a chronic state problem.
The push to abolish Kentucky constables will continue in the 2014 legislative session, despite failed efforts in recent years. Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said Tuesday he will reintroduce a constitutional amendment in the 2014 session that would give fiscal courts authority to eliminate the office of constable by ordinance. Franklin County has six constables, who have law enforcement powers similar to sheriffs by law. They largely perform fee-based duties such as serving court paperwork and traffic control.
For another year, property tax rates in Kentucky remain unchanged. WEKU's Stu Johnson reports.
Property owners across the Commonwealth will once again pay just over 12 cents for every 100 dollars in land value. So, a homeowner with a 100-thousand dollar house would pay 120-dollars in property tax next year. The property tax rate is set by the State Department of Revenue and Policy Advisor Tom Crawford says that tax rate’s been constant for several years.
WEKU's Stu Johnson reports nearly no action expected on state tax reform.
In just over a month, lawmakers are back in Frankfort for a special session on new boundaries for Kentucky’s legislative districts. But, there are no plans yet to resolve another issue facing the state.