Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has joined a multistate antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat heroin and other opioid addiction by blocking cravings for the substances.

The suit alleges that Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals — now Indivior — switched Suboxone from a tablet to a mouth-dissolving film so that the Food and Drug Administration would grant the drug maker more years of exclusivity before generic alternatives could hit the market.

“Substance abuse is the single greatest threat to our Commonwealth,” Beshear said in a news release. “For these companies to allegedly try and monopolize the market on a treatment drug is beyond belief and borderlines on inhuman.”

Beshear said in order to win the battle over heroin in addiction in Kentucky, the state needs “every resource available and affordable.”

Administrative Office of the Courts

During his annual State of the Judiciary address on Friday, Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton asked lawmakers to raise salaries for the state’s 284 judges and justices.

Minton said the state compensates judges at the lowest rate compared to surrounding states, which he said makes judges feel discouraged and undervalued.

“It also provides little incentive, really, for the best and brightest lawyers to leave a lucrative law practice to mount an expensive campaign for election to judicial office,” Minton said.

Salaries for judges and justices range from $112,668 to $140,504 per year. Minton proposed that during the 2018 budget-writing session, lawmakers grant a 5 percent pay raise each year for two years. The total cost would be about $5.7 million.

Hillary Clinton continues to beat out Donald Trump when it comes to raising cash from Kentuckians.

The Democratic candidate for president raised roughly $167,000 in the Bluegrass State in August, according to data released this week from the Federal Election Commission. Trump reported receiving just more than $128,000.

Clinton also outpaced Trump in the number of individual contributions: 2,556 to 805.

Creative Commons

Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. says the number of expungement requests have doubled since a new law went into effect allowing some convicted felons to clear their records.

Minton told lawmakers during his annual State of the Judiciary address that the Administrative Office of the Courts has received 8,400 criminal record reports for expungement since the law went into effect on July 15. He said that number is about double the number of requests at this time last year.

Minton said the number includes requests for misdemeanors and felonies, adding officials cannot separate the two categories. But he attributes the increase in requests to the passage of the expungement bill.

HB.40 allows people convicted of certain non-violent felonies to clear their records if they have no other pending charges.

Naomi McCulloch

J.D. Vance's memoir of growing up poor in Appalachia, both in Kentucky and Ohio, Hillbilly Elegy, has been on the New York Times best-seller list since it came out early this summer.

It's the story of his life, but also the story of white, working-class "hillbillies"--people he describes as having a very deep affiliation with Appalachia and the communities that make up the region.

Vance says the "elegy" in the book's title doesn't imply the death of the culture but it shows a "sad reflection" of parts of the area. "It's important to note it's not what's going on in every part of hillbilly country," he says. "There are some good things along with the bad. But there are some very significant problems."

Vance admittedly had a lot of things work out for him. He joined the Marines right out of high school, graduated from Ohio State University right after that and then onto Yale Law School. "This isn't a 'boot-strap' story about how one kid through grit and determination and brain power made it," he says. "It's more a story of how one kid got really lucky. People feel pretty kicked and down in this part of the world, the world has been tough in this area."

WFPL

The U.S. Senate has blocked a measure that would have halted the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. 

Kentucky Republican Rand Paul was one of four lawmakers who forced a vote on the issue.

On a 71-27 vote, U.S. Senators approved continuing to support Saudi Arabia, including the sale of more than a billion dollars in Abrams tanks and other military equipment. 

Senator Paul has called Saudi Arabia an uncertain ally with an abysmal human rights record. 

While the resolution didn't pass, Paul acknowledged the debate was significant in and of itself.

J. Tyler Frankin

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin does not have the authority to make mid-year cuts to state university budgets if the state isn’t experiencing a shortfall.

In a 5-2 ruling, the state’s high court declared that Bevin exceeded his authority by issuing an executive order cutting last fiscal year’s fourth quarter higher education allotment by $18 million.

“Whatever authority he might otherwise have to require a budget unit not to spend appropriated funds does not extend to the Universities, which the legislature has made independent bodies politic with control over their own expenditures,” the majority opinion stated.

The court reversed an earlier opinion by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate, which said that Bevin had authority to unilaterally cut the budgets of state colleges and universities because they are part of the state’s executive branch, which Bevin is the head of.

The opinion stated that Bevin does have the authority to make mid-year budget cuts if the state experiences a budget shortfall of 5 percent or more, however the commonwealth experienced a surplus last fiscal year.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Louisville has been chosen for a federal pilot program aimed at attacking the city’s heroin and prescription opioid problem.

The program, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is called the “360 Strategy.” It takes a multi-faceted approach to the problem and will involve law enforcement, medical and public health organizations and service groups.

It will include the formation of a Heroin Investigation Team, made up of Louisville Metro Police detectives and DEA agents.

U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said the team will investigate overdoses as crime scenes. Dealers whose drugs cause overdoses will be prosecuted in federal court and could go to prison for 20 years to life without parole, he said.

“Today, we have a message for heroin dealers,” Kuhn said. “You are killing people in this city, and we cannot allow this to continue.”

Bowling Green International Festival

Downtown Bowling Green will be a showcase for more than 50 international cultures this weekend.

The 27th annual Bowling Green International Festival is being held Saturday at Circus Square Park.

The event will feature information booths, musical performances, and food from more than 50 cultures. Festival board member Hannah Barahona says it’s a showcase for the many refugee and immigrant communities in Bowling Green.

“It’s a good opportunity for people to come learn about other cultures, and experience new things and new foods, and new music. But at the same time, we’re really unique in that we offer the international community here in Bowling Green an opportunity to showcase and share the things that are most special from their cultures.”

Barahona says the event has seen major growth since she started volunteering eight years ago.

Wikimedia Commons

On Wednesday, Kentucky legislators listened to a presentation about the benefits of medical cannabis from Don Stacy, a cancer doctor and medical liaison for pro-legalization group Alliance for Innovative Medicine.

Stacy said he had several patients who regularly used cannabis to mollify pain and nausea associated with cancer and chemotherapy, and despite early skepticism of their habits, had come to believe that the drug had benefits.

“Patients all the time are telling me ‘I am using cannabis and I feel a lot better,’” Stacy said.

But there’s no legal way for Stacy to scientifically study his patients’ claims or find out the content and dosages of the cannabis they use.

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