News

A federal report says raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to higher than 18 would likely prevent premature death for hundreds of thousands of people.

The report issued Thursday by the Institute of Medicine was commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration and mandated by a 2009 law that gave it authority to regulate tobacco.

The law set the federal minimum age at 18. Congress would have to act to raise it nationally.

Most states currently have set the age at 18. Four set the age at 19 and several localities, including New York City, have raised the minimum to 21.

The report looks at the impact of increasing the age to 19, 21 or 25, but it does not make any recommendations.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Aaron Vowels

John Schnatter’s long-running, multi-generational ties to the University of Louisville just grew $4.64 million deeper.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the university’s College of Business, President James Ramsey confirmed a $6.3 million, seven-year grant that will fund the establishment, staffing and operation of the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise. Scheduled to open in the fall, the center will “engage in teaching and research that explores the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing society.”

The source of Schnatter’s wealth, the publicly owned Papa John’s International pizza chain, is already emblazoned across the UofL campus. Through gifts exceeding $20 million, the company and John and Annette Schnatter have helped build Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for football and Cardinal Park for mens’ and womens’ sports.

“We’ve been fairly successful in business at Papa John’s and we want to share that with entrepreneurs and teach these kids how to be successful,” he said. “If we can get just one or two kids from the $6 million, it will be money well spent.” Their share of the gift is equal to the cost of 515,555 small pepperoni pizzas at Papa John’s.

The $4.64 million from Schnatter’s family foundation will be boosted by $1.66 million from the Charles Koch Foundation.The $6.3 million will go toward two tenure-track and two visiting professors, up to five research grants and up to four doctoral fellowships, as well as classes, a speaker series, seminars and salaries for center staff.

Free enterprises centers funded by the Charles Koch Foundation at George Mason University, Florida State University, the University of Kansas and other U.S. colleges have ignited controversy in their collision with dominant liberal arts cultures. Opponents have objected to contracts that give the Koch Foundation authority over hiring and curricula.

Kevin Willis

The Kentucky General Assembly adjourned late Wednesday night for a week and a half while Gov. Steve Beshear considers vetoes—and no bill addressing the state’s rising heroin problems had been passed.

Lawmakers will have two days to pass a final bill: March 23 and 24.

Both chambers have selected members for a conference committee, which will now try to hammer out the final details of a compromise.

Senate President Robert Stivers remains confident that a heroin bill will be finalized over the course of the break.

“I think the discussions when we come back everything would be resolved by that time, because when we get back on the 23rd and 24th I think the die will be cast and hopefully everything will be prepared,” Stivers said.

The starting point of discussion will be a bill sponosored Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat, who has worked with House and Senate leader to come up with a compromise piece of legislation.

“It represents some advancement in the progress that we’ve had in meeting with our Senate counterparts over the last several weeks,” Tilley said during a House Floor speech on Wednesday.

The bill looks a lot like a version the House passed last month: it would punish heroin traffickers with increasing penalties depending on how much of the drug they have, and it would allow local health districts to set up needle exchanges.

WKU Athletics

Update:

The WKU Lady Hilltoppers will face Old Dominion in the Conference USA semifinals Friday afternoon in Birmingham.

The game begins at 12:30 pm central. The winner goes on to play in the championship game Saturday, with the winner of that contest earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

WKU beat Charlotte 70-67 Thursday in the C-USA quarterfinals.  

Original post:

The WKU Lady Hilltoppers enter their first-ever Conference USA basketball tournament this week as the team to beat.

They won the conference regular season crown, and they boast the league’s Player of the Year, Chastity Gooch, as well as Conference USA Coach and Defensive Player of the Year winners.

Kentucky LRC

The chair of the state Senate Transportation Committee is still confident that something will be done to adjust Kentucky’s gas tax before the legislative session ends.

But the committee chair, Sen. Ernie Harris, said it’s still unclear what a final bill would look like or where it would come from.

“We’ve been talking about it in leadership and in our caucus. We don’t have a resolution yet, we’re not sure the exact direction that we’re going, but I’m confident that we will address it at some time,” said Harris, a Prospect Republican.

Senate Republicans are discussing not allowing the fuel tax to swing by 5 or 10 percent over the course of a year, Harris said. Currently, the gas tax is based on the average wholesale price of gasoline.

The state’s road fund, which funds maintenance and construction on state highway and bridge projects, has been dwindling because low gas prices have led to fewer tax receipts.

Harris had written a bill that would have set a “floor” to the gas tax—meaning the tax rate would stop adjusting once gas prices fell below a certain amount. That legislation was once a likely contender, but Harris said the legislature will not take it up. He said a final bill will depend on leadership of both chambers working together to decide what bill to advance.

Lawmakers have until 11:59 Wednesday evening to pass bills before the governor’s week-and-a-half long veto session—currently there is no fuel tax bill that has passed both the House and Senate. Lawmakers also have an optional two days to pass bills after the veto session.

If nothing is done to adjust the gas tax, local governments stand to lose up to 40 percent of revenue for routine maintenance of roads, Harris said.

“And that’s not just new asphalt—that is potholes, and after the snows that we’ve had you see the potholes cropping up on fairly new-laid asphalt,” Harris said.

Hal Heiner campaign

Hal Heiner leads other Republican candidates for this year’s gubernatorial election, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The former Louisville Metro Council member leads with 28 percent of the vote in a poll conducted by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal, WHAS, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT. The poll surveyed 1,917 registered voters.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Matt Bevin tied for second with 20 percent of the vote. Bevin unsuccessfully ran last year as a tea party candidate in the Republican Senate primary. He was defeated by now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Heiner not only lead in the polls. According to financial disclosures, Heiner’s campaign is also millions of dollars ahead of the other GOP candidates.

According to his latest disclosure, Heiner has almost $3.5 million in his campaign coffers. So far, Heiner has donated more than $4 million of his own money to his campaign.

Greg Blair, Heiner’s new campaign spokesman,, said money and airtime is not what’s driving these numbers, though.

“I don’t think anyone has worked harder than Hal Heiner to get out and talk to people and listen to people and hear what they are concerned about,” Blair said.

WKU

WKU is one step closer to offering a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

The Council on Postsecondary Education has approved the school’s proposal, which would allow students to pursue degrees in four tracts: fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and script-writing for film.

WKU is hoping the film component is something that will help the school’s new program stand out.

“We’re an hour away from Nashville, which has a thriving film industry. We’re about five hours away from Atlanta, which has a thriving film industry. And we have many undergraduates already working in film in Nashville, Atlanta, New Orleans,” said Dr. David Bell, English Professor and Director of Creative Writing at WKU.

If WKU receives approval from The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, it will admit its first class of students seeking the MFA in creative writing this fall.

Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Access to Addiction Medication

Mar 11, 2015

A federal lawsuit says Kentucky is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because it prohibits drug addicts from taking medication for their addiction while they are out of jail on bond.

The Kentucky Enquirer reports Stephanie Watson filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Pikeville.

The suit names the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, which runs the Monitored Conditional Release program that forbids those arrested and released on bond from taking drugs such as methadone and Suboxone, even though they have a prescription.

The Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman Leigh Anne Hiatt said on Tuesday that the office hasn't been served with the complaint and declined further comment.

Watson's lawyers say the outcome of the case could affect "thousands" of people in Kentucky's court system.

The Kentucky state Senate is poised to pass a bill that would restore funds to several programs associated with the 1998 tobacco settlement.

Revenue from the tobacco settlement has flagged as fewer people have bought cigarettes in the state, leading to shortfalls in programs dealing with agriculture, early childhood, cancer research and programs that help people quit smoking.

“It’s what our revenue’s based on and as that goes down, the divisions to each one of those agencies goes down also,” said Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville who sponsored the bill.

The extra money comes from a new settlement the state made with tobacco companies in 2014. Under the agreement, the state received an additional $110 million in fiscal year 2014 and over the next three years will receive $57.2 million more than the state had budgeted to receive from the tobacco settlement.

The bill also ensures that the money from the settlement can only be appropriated by the legislature. Last year Gov. Steve Beshear used the money to restore $42.5 million in budget cuts to lung cancer research, agriculture and other health assistance.

Several Senate Republicans suggested that Beshear’s use of the funds was a breach of power and that budget appropriations should be left to the legislature.

A former state mine inspector plans to plead guilty to bribery charges in federal court next week.

Kelly Shortridge was indicted in October, along with former Democratic legislator Keith Hall. Federal prosecutors allege that Hall paid Shortridge $46,000 over a five year period to ignore violations at a Pikeville mine Hall owned.

Shortridge is also accused of attempting to extort Hall; he allegedly told Hall that if he didn’t pay him owed money he’d get another inspector to cite Hall’s mine for serious violations. In documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Shortridge’s attorney indicated he will enter a plea deal to one count of bribery.

The charge could bring up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Shortridge is scheduled to appear in court in Lexington next Wednesday.

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