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.
Kentucky lawmakers will likely make the trip back to Frankfort before fall. They will try to finalize new legislative boundaries. Within the next week, Governor Beshear expects to announce the dates for a special session. Madison County Senator Republican Jared Carpenter says the realignment of lawmaker districts should be a bit easier in his legislative chamber.
With some important work undone, Kentucky state lawmakers will likely meet in a special session before year’s end. Governor Steve Beshear recently met with House and Senate leaders to set what he calls ground rules for a special legislative session. The only apparent agenda item is legislative redistricting. Special sessions cost about $60,000 a day. But, Governor Beshear says leaving the issue to the courts is not the way to go.
State Rep. Regina Bunch, R-Williamsburg, was cited shortly after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday by Lexington police for traveling 109 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone on I-75 near the 108-mile marker. Bunch, who represents the 82nd House District of Whitley and part of Laurel County, said in a telephone interview that she did not think she was going that fast "because I was traveling with the traffic." Read more...
State Rep. Derrick Graham has been named the new chairman of the state House Education committee, Democratic leaders announced today. Graham is a Frankfort native who recently retired as a social studies teacher at Frankfort High School. He is a well-known education advocate and previously chaired a budget subcommittee on education.
Governor Steve Beshear has named a longtime tourism veteran to oversee the part of his cabinet dealing with travel and the arts.Bob Stewart is a familiar face in state government, having worked for 11 years as commissioner of travel from 1992 to 2003. And now, he'll be the new Tourism Secretary, having been appointed by Beshear to fill the post vacated by Marcheta Sparrow, who’s retiring.
Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says a recent setback shouldn't cause hemp supporters to give up hope of getting the crop legalized. James Comer says he's not surprised that language legalizing industrial hemp wasn’t added to the first drafts of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate. Last week, a group of Kentucky U.S. Senators and House members tried--and failed--to get the provision included in the legislation. Comer says the federal farm bill has a long way to go before it gets passed, and a lot of things will be added and taken out in the next few months
Kentucky's Tourism Secretary, Marcheta Sparrow will retire at the end of this month. Sparrow was one of Governor Steve Beshear's first cabinet appointments, taking office in 2007. Beshear did not return a request for comment, but in a statement, he praised Sparrow for the state's recent uptick in tourism, including a 4.4 percent jump last year. Beshear says he will name a new secretary soon. The secretary oversees many departments, in addition to tourism, including parks, fish and wildlife and other humanities-related offices.
The trial date for former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has been rescheduled to 10 a.m. Oct. 22, a federal judge ordered Wednesday. Farmer’s attorney, Guthrie True, had asked U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove to delay the proceeding to February from its original July 2 trial date.
A lawyer for former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer wants federal prosecutors to turn over all documents that might used against Farmer at trial and all criminal records of any potential government witness. In documents filed in federal court Monday, lawyer J. Guthrie True asked a judge to compel prosecutors to turn over reams of information to Farmer's defense team. Federal prosecutors have already turned over 16 compact discs to Farmer's lawyers, according to previous court filings. Farmer has pleaded not guilty to charges relating to the alleged misuse of approximately $450,000 in taxpayer funds. Read more...
The newest justice on Kentucky's Supreme Court will formally be sworn in this week, giving the court a record three women on the bench at one time. Justice Michelle Keller will take the oath tomorrow in the Capitol. The swearing in will take place at 11 a.m. and is open to the public. Keller previously served on the state Court of Appeals, and Beshear appointed her to the 6th Supreme Court District in April. There are seven justices on the Supreme Court. Never in state history have three of them been women.
The General Assembly came away from the 2013 regular session with a host of accomplishments, but the biggest for many lawmakers was Senate Bill 2, known as the pension reform bill. SB 2 changed the current public employee pension system from a defined-benefit plan to a hybrid plan, in which the employee and the employer both contribute funds. The bill put a stop to the state’s ballooning $33-billion pension shortfall. But while SB 2 saves the state’s pension fund from getting any bigger, it also saves cities in Kentucky from having to pay their employees the same benefits they had in the past.
After months of deliberations, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has decided to expand Medicaid in Kentucky under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—a move that's won praise from Democrats and health advocacy groups. Beshear said Thursday that expansion benefits Kentucky in many ways. "This move makes sense not only for our health but also for our pocketbook. More important it makes sense for our future," he says. The expansion will insure more than 308,000 Kentuckians. And according to studies done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville, Medicaid expansion would bring about $800 million to Kentucky between next year and 2021.
When conducting a background check on a person buying a gun, Kentucky’s Attorney General says they’re still limited by the information available in the system. And, with many mental health care providers already under a financial strain, Jack Conway says inputting all that data can be a hardship. “Not only do those agencies have to provide mental health services, they have to interface with the data bases and law enforcement and provide the information and make sure it gets captured, make certain it’s available to people that need to access the information. So, we’re in the process of looking, making certain that all of our information is getting into the system,” said Conway.
In a historic appointment, Governor Steve Beshear has named Court of Appeals Judge Michelle M. Keller of Fort Mitchell to the Kentucky Supreme Court. The appointment increases the number of women on the state's highest court to three. It is the first time the state Supreme Court has had three female justices on the bench. Keller replaces Justice Wil Schroder, who resigned January 17 due to health reasons.
Kentucky's legislative leaders have passed two bills to shore up the state's underfunded pension systems, effectively staving off a special session on the issue. The new plan would reduce a personal tax credit of $20 to $10, generating roughly 33 million in revenue that would go to General Fund, but lawmakers would use for pensions. It would also use revenue from technical changes in the state's tax code, as well as money from federal tax changes.
Kentucky lawmakers have achieved a compromise that would set up a regulatory framework should the federal government legalize industrial hemp. The so-called hemp bill—Senate Bill 50—gives control of licensing of future hemp farmers to the Industrial Hemp Commission, but allow the Kentucky State Police to do background checks on the farmers. The state Department of Agriculture would be given many administrative roles for licensing hemp farmers and the University of Kentucky would be charged with researching the issue.
Kentucky military personnel serving overseas will be able to get ballots electronically under legislation approved late Tuesday in the Kentucky General Assembly. How they send them back is still to be determined. Working until the last minute of the 2013 session, legislators went back to the original Senate version of the military voting bill that allowed for electronic sending of ballots to overseas military, but snail mail return of the ballot.
Kentucky House and Senate leaders have changed the schedule of this year's legislative session, in hopes of avoiding a special session. A potential—and costly—special session has loomed over the General Assembly in recent days, as lawmakers continued work on pension reform. Instead of convening Friday, lawmakers will work on Tuesday, with hopes that talks started Thursday night could lead to an agreement on pension reform by then.
The commonwealth last deregulated telephone services in 2006. Now, another effort, prompted by the popularity of cell phones and wireless access to the internet, is underway. However, opposition from rural residents who worry they’ll lose access to reliable land lines has left the measure in limbo. Phone companies like A-T-and-T promise they’ll improve cell phone and internet service in rural Kentucky if they can back away from traditional phone services.