News

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Flickr Creative Commons)

Kentucky's ban on corporate contributions to political parties and state candidates is being challenged by a group pushing right-to-work legislation opposed by organized labor.

Protect My Check Inc. filed a lawsuit Thursday in Kentucky seeking to overturn the corporate contribution ban.

The federal lawsuit claims the ban violates equal protection and free-speech rights.

Protect My Check says it wants to make political contributions but is prohibited by Kentucky law. The group pushes legislation allowing employees at unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union dues without losing their jobs.

Protect My Check notes unions and limited liability corporations can contribute to candidates and political parties in Kentucky.

Defendants are Kentucky Registry of Election Finance officials. Registry officials declined immediate comment, saying they had not yet seen the suit.

Indiana state health officials say they’re working to transfer more responsibility to local officials dealing with the response to the HIV outbreak in the southeastern part of the state. Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams and Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall  outlined the transition and long-term sustainability efforts in a news conference Wednesday.

Adams said he wants to make it clear that the Indiana health department is not leaving Scott County, where 170 people have been newly-diagnosed with HIV since December.

“This is a transition to more local control, more local empowerment. But the state will remain partners with Scott County. We’ll continue to be involved with and go down to Scott County for the foreseeable future,” he said.

There are now 170 confirmed HIV cases related to the outbreak. Adam said that 86 percent of those with HIV also have Hepatitis C.

Independent candidate for Kentucky governor and internet pioneer Drew Curtis needs to get 5,000 signatures by August 11th in order to appear on the ballot in November’s general election.

But Curtis won’t be allowed to gather signatures online.

Drew Curtis says he has 50,000 loyal readers from Kentucky on the news aggregation website he founded, Fark.com.

He was hoping to have supporters sign a petition online to support his candidacy, but secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes says officials wouldn’t be able to compare signatures online to voter registration cards, so Curtis is stuck gathering signatures on paper.

University of Kentucky election law professor Joshua Douglas says that there hasn’t been much of a precedent for allowing e-signature petitions across the country.“Traditionally you always get a decent number of signatures more than what’s needed but for major party candidates that’s rarely a problem because the party apparatus helps them. They know how to do signature drives.”

Curtis announced his candidacy in January along with his wife, Heather, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Ft. Campbell

Local leaders around Fort Campbell are waiting for a decision by the end of this month regarding possible troop reductions at the base on the Kentucky/Tennessee border.

The Army is looking at cutting around 40,000 troops in total due to military budget constraints. One scenario called for as many 16,000 personnel cuts at Fort Campbell.

Katie Lopez is the director of military and governmental affairs at the Christian County Chamber of Commerce. She says she isn’t sure if recent efforts to fight the potential reduction through lobbying and community outreach will be successful.

“We do know that after our listening session in January, we did get a lot of great feedback from the Department of the Army,” Lopez said. “They were very impressed with our turnout and with our responses. So, I’m confident in saying that we made a really great impression on them.”

Lopez says she isn’t expecting the possible reductions to be on the high end of projections. She says an increase is even on the table when the decision comes down from the Department of Defense.

Adam Edelen, Facebook

Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen announced the launch of an investigation into issues surrounding Bowling Green’s Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district Wednesday at the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

The TIF program allows local governments to use tax revenues they would get in the future to fund current improvements.

In Bowling Green, $25.5 million in bonds were issued for construction of business properties surrounding a parking garage. But Edelen said it’s not clear where that money has gone.

“The project collapsed this year after restaurants in the commercial wrap of the parking garage in Block 6 of the Bowling Green TIF district, and contractors alleged they hadn’t been paid.”

Edelen said two auditors have been assigned to examine all the parties and contracts  involved in the project.

As natural gas speculation increases in the Rogersville Shale in Eastern Kentucky, scientists are beginning research into the region’s existing seismic activity.

Right now, several test wells have been drilled into the Rogersville, which is thought to cover 4 million acres in Kentucky and West Virginia. The results of those test wells are confidential, but if the reserves prove profitable, companies could begin drilling large-scale oil and natural gas wells in the formation.

Tapping the Rogersville will also involve hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is used to extract oil and gas from deep below the earth; the practice includes injecting water and chemicals miles underground. The dirty water is eventually discarded in deep disposal wells. In some oil and gas drilling areas, numerous earthquakes have been recorded, and scientists are becoming more confident that these quakes are linked to the industry.

From the Associated Press:

Earthquake activity in Oklahoma in 2013 was 70 times greater than it was before 2008, state geologists reported. Oklahoma historically recorded an average of 1.5 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater each year. It is now seeing an average of 2.5 such quakes each day, according to geologists.

Seven new members will be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame Wednesday night in Louisville.

The inductees include former WKU women's basketball coach Paul Sanderford and former Major League Baseball umpire Randy Marsh, a native of Northern Kentucky.

Hall of Fame President Jim Ellis says Marsh worked dozens of big events during his 28 year career, including five World Series and four All-Star games. “Kind of guy you could sit and listen to forever," Ellis said, "He’s got stories about past players that a lot of us grew up watching on television, and he actually umpired and got nose-to-nose with some of them.”

Other inductees include Keeneland Race Course, former Fairdale High School basketball coach Lloyd Gardner, Laurel County basketball standout Sharon Garland, track star Shandy Boyd Smith of Louisville, and Mel Purcell, who played on the pro tennis tour and is the men’s tennis coach at Murray State University.

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky farmers are planting more than 1,700 acres of hemp  as part of the second year of the state’s industrial hemp research program, with 256 of those acres in west Kentucky.

State Kentucky Industrial Hemp Coordinator Adam Watson said this year there are 1,742 acres approved for hemp, up from 33 acres last year. Watson said the significant increase in acreage was possible because of new processors coming to the table.

“A lot of processors have been eyeing hemp for a long time. But of course the federal status basically prevented anyone from being able to work with it. So it’s something that they’ve been on the sidelines for a while. And when Kentucky was able to give them a home and give them the ability to move forward with their work, they were very eager to work with us,” Watson said.

Watson said 9 western counties have acres approved for industrial hemp. He said hemp would fit well in western Kentucky’s large scale farming of agronomic crops, but wouldn’t replace staples like corn or soy any time soon.

Bill Clift of Caldwell County is planting 30 acres on his farm. Clift said he was interested growing hemp because of the possibility of getting in on the ground floor of a new and prosperous industry.

iStockPhoto

It doesn't sound all that serious, but the problem of horse manure has been all anybody's been talking about in one Logan County town for months. It's dividing long-time friendships and threatening the very way of life for a group of people who just want to be left alone.

The manure problem got so bad, the Auburn city council passed a revised city ordinance over the winter requiring what they called "collection devices" be placed on all horses or other large animals to collect their waste before it landed on the street. They say it's for all animals but it's directed at the Amish and their traditional way of travel, horse and buggy.

Just before 8:00 on a recent Saturday morning, Amish elder Amos Mast and his wife pull into Auburn's Minit Mart. The 150 or so Amish in the county don't need much from town, their religion and life-style demand self-sufficiency, but on this morning Amos Mast needs some gas for his table saw at his woodworking and furniture making shop.

Kentucky’s chief public defender says his department is overstretched and needs more funding from the state. He says savings could come from reducing the state’s jail population.

Ed Monahan is the head of the Department of Public Advocacy, which represents accused criminals who can’t afford a lawyer. He says that statewide, public defenders make less than prosecutors—their average salary is about $58,000."It’s not enough for me to attract or retain the kind of people that we need." he said, "We need help with salaries.”

To pay for higher salaries, Monahan suggests that the state cut costs in its jails and prisons. He wants alternative sentencing programs that rehabilitate criminals in the community instead of prison and to avoid incarcerating low-risk inmates longer than necessary.

He also suggests reducing the number of cases in the system by reclassifying low-level misdemeanors as violations.

Attorneys in the statewide defender program average 472 new clients each year, not including cases that carry over from previous years.

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