FRANKFORT – Citing concerns that alcoholic beverage laws in Kentucky are outdated and sometimes contradictory, Gov. Steve Beshear has announced the creation of the Governor’s Task Force on the Study of Kentucky’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws.
Supporters of instant racing in Kentucky are once again trying to take their case to the state supreme court. Instant racing games allow players to wager on previously-run horse races using slot-machine like-devices. The Franklin Circuit Court previously ruled that the games are legal, but an appeals court sent the decision back, saying the anti-gambling Family Foundation should've been allowed to gather evidence in the case. Now horse industry officials are appealing that decision in hopes of taking the case to the state supreme court.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has issued a potentially groundbreaking opinion that a landlord can be held liable when a tenant’s dog attacks someone, but the ruling didn’t help a Newport family that brought the lawsuit. Kentucky landlords may now be forced to pay higher premiums for their insurance, may be less likely to allow tenants to have dogs or may more strictly enforce policies that tenants carry renter’s insurance, say landlords’ advocates.
FRANKFORT – In order to ensure that state agencies meet the policies and standards expected in cases of child abuse and neglect, Gov. Steve Beshear Monday issued an executive order to establish the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel. The independent, multi-disciplinary panel will conduct comprehensive reviews of child fatalities and near fatalities that are determined to be the result of child abuse or neglect.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is not joining other Kentucky officials in calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Many leading Republicans in the state—including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—have pushed for full repeal of the healthcare law. But in an interview with NPR, Beshear said they're playing politics.
GEORGETOWN – Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson Monday joined federal, state and local leaders at a dedication ceremony to officially open the state’s newest wildlife recreation area, in Scott County, for public hunting, fishing, hiking and sightseeing. The Veterans Memorial Wildlife Management Area, named in honor of veterans, will be managed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and will offer hunting opportunities for deer, turkeys and small game, such as squirrels.
The Personnel Board will formally investigate alleged personnel abuses at the Department of Agriculture under Richie Farmer – many of which were uncovered in the blistering audit released earlier this year. The board voted unanimously Friday to open an investigation into personnel matters found in Auditor Adam Edelen’s report on the department during Farmer’s second and final term as commissioner, which ended in 2011.
Former Republican state lawmaker Dewayne Bunch, who suffered a severe head injury last year while trying to break up a fight at Whitley County High School, has died. Bunch, 50, resigned his seat last year after being critically injured in April 2011. He was trying to stop a fight between two students as breakfast was being served at the school, where he had taught math and science for 17 years. His wife, Regina Bunch, was the only candidate from either party to seek his seat in a special election.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals has denied a request from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services that would further prevent the release of certain child abuse records. Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ordered the Cabinet to release nearly 180 case documents earlier this year. The Cabinet released some documents but redacted information that could be useful in determining whether the agency is operating appropriately.
Despite dim outlooks, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has turned a budget surplus for the second year in a row. The last fiscal year closed with an additional $83 million in the General Fund. The road fund has a $31 million surplus. The extra revenue has two potential uses. First, the state can make emergency payments, like putting additional money to cleaning up tornado damage in Eastern Kentucky.
For the fifth time, a Northern Kentucky lawmaker will attempt to undo a ban on alcohol sales on election days. Currently, no alcohol can be served or sold while polls are open. Representative Arnold Simpson has filed legislation to scrap the ban four times in the past. And Friday, he will once again present the proposal to an interim legislative committee. Many states originally passed such bans in order to crack down on voter fraud and vote buying. Now, South Carolina is the only other state that still bans alcohol sales on election days.
Kentucky’s Blue Ribbon Tax Commission is continuing its road show to get citizen input on what changes should be made to the tax code. The 23-member group has visited Paducah and Bowling Green so far. Its halfway point in the travel meetings is Tuesday in Louisville. The commission’s chairman, Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, says that two public input meetings haven’t yielded definite changes yet. But he says one of the biggest questions citizens have is why there are so many exemptions in the tax code. “And then you have these anomalies, there’s 161 pages of tax exemptions and they haven’t been looked at in maybe, forever, and lobbyists have had them put in session after session going all the way back to the 1930’s and 1940’s.”
A Louisville lawmaker is again preparing to unveil legislation that he will introduce in next year's legislative session that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Louisville’s Democratic state Sen. Perry Clark is promoting what he has dubbed the "Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act." “One of his favorite statements was it’s food, fuel, fiber and medicine and I think we’re finding that out from all the research and everything that we find," said Clark.
The state property tax bill delivered to homeowners this fall will look familiar. This year’s tax rate of just over 12-cents per 100 dollar assessed property value has remained unchanged since 2008. Decades ago, state lawmakers limited the size of property tax increases. David Gordan with the State Department of Revenue says the state property tax rate was once 30 cents.
A group of Kentucky lawmakers has a new summer assignment…shoring up the state’s failing pension systems. At least two of Kentucky’s six pension plans are at a high risk for failure. And their troubles have been highlighted by Bloomberg, the New York Times and the Pew Center. In response, the state has formed a public pension task force. Co-chairman Mike Cherry says he's dedicated to find a solution, and it may not be pretty.
After two years of interim leadership, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has a permanent Medicaid Commissioner. Lawrence Kissner is the current CEO of Magnolia Health Plan, a managed care operator in Mississippi. He will start as Kentucky's new Medicaid commissioner July 1.
Legislative leaders are going to take another crack at approving payments to lawyers who fought to defend last year’s redistricting maps. The Legislative Research Commission hired the attorneys earlier this year to fend off challenges to new district maps. The attorneys were unsuccessful. At the last scheduled LRC meeting, absences allowed minority leaders to block approval of payment to the attorneys.
LOUISVILLE – Metal recyclers in Kentucky will soon be required to register and keep records of their purchases under legislation sponsored by Rep. Tanya Pullin which becomes law July 12. During a ceremonial signing of House Bill 390 Monday at the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Third Division, Gov. Steve Beshear said the bill will ensure that recyclers are not inadvertently receiving stolen metal such as copper, brass, aluminum, bronze, lead or zinc.