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LRC Public Information

10:40 p.m.: The state legislature approved a two-year, $21.5 billion budget that delivers deep cuts to state programs while putting more than $1.2 billion in savings into the pension systems.

The spending bill now heads to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk. He’ll have until April 27 to veto all or parts of the budget.

“This budget sends a strong signal to the financial and business communities that we take our financial obligations seriously,” Bevin said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing the details of the final bill over the coming days and signing a fiscally responsible budget into law.”

The legislature will not be able to override any vetoes because they ran out the clock on the legislative session. They normally have two legislative days to override.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

On Friday, lawmakers have one last opportunity to approve bills, override vetoes and — most importantly — pass a state budget before the legislative session gavels out midnight Friday night.

Gov. Matt Bevin has signed more than 100 bills into law, vetoed six and line-item vetoed parts of a seventh. If the governor vetoes a bill, lawmakers can override the decision with a majority vote in each chamber.

On Friday, lawmakers will have the opportunity to override vetoes Bevin has made so far, but once the legislature adjourns, they won’t be able to override.

Both chambers gavel in at noon on Friday. The General Assembly will end at the stroke of midnight.

Bills In Striking Distance:

Needle Exchange Regulations: Would require the department for public health to establish guidelines for disposing needles. The bill unanimously passed the House, but the Senate amended it to require exchanges to only hand out as many needles as they take in. The House is now considering the changes.

Creative Commons

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that the Zika virus is “scarier than we initially thought” and that states need to be ready for potentially widespread infections.

And the agency confirmed for the first time on Wednesday that the virus causes birth defects.

The organization said the mosquito carrying the virus may be present in about 30 states. It was previously thought to be found in a dozen U.S. states.

Last month, Kentucky officials — led by Gov. Matt Bevin — held a news conference meant to reassure the public that Zika was not a threat in the commonwealth, and that they had been preparing for potential cases. There have been three confirmed cases in Kentucky. Two were people in Louisville, and each person had recently traveled to an area affected by the virus.

Here’s what state officials said then:

WKU

The faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University are being asked to give input related to the search for the school’s next president.

A forum for faculty is being held Friday afternoon, April 15,  on campus, and staff members are invited to a forum Friday, April 22.

WKU President Gary Ransdell has announced he’ll retire at the end of June 2017.

Doctor Phillip Bale of Glasgow, chair of the presidential search committee, says the early announcement by Ransdell gives the committee ample time to do a thorough job.

“I envision the next several months will be spent mainly developing our position profile—that is, what sort of skill set and what sort of attributes do we want the next president to have,” Dr. Bale said.

Ransdell will have served as WKU president for 20 years when he steps down.

LRC Public Information

State lawmakers have come to an agreement on a budget that makes nearly across-the-board spending cuts, enacts performance funding for higher education and puts more money into the ailing state pension systems.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo called it “an adequate and effective blend” of the House, Senate and Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget priorities.

Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill was ready for a vote.

“I believe we have an agreement on all issues related to the budget,” Stivers said.

The final document is expected to be approved by both legislative chambers on Friday, the last day of the General Assembly.

Grant Short

An Owensboro man who hopes to replace Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator says lawmakers need to do more to strengthen working-class families. 

Grant Short is seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Republican incumbent Rand Paul. 

In Bowling Green on Wednesday, Short talked about his Family Values Plan that calls for child care subsidies, federal sick days, and universal Pre-K, among other things.  Short added that he has a plan to pay for it all.

"I've high-balled this at $1.8 billion to implement over ten years," Short told WKU Public Radio.  "The way you pay for it is by subsidizing human beings the same way as subsidized global oil companies.  We subsidize them on a rate of a trillion dollars, so I think we can find one-tenth of that to subsidize the American family who is struggling."

NPR

A coal-mining giant has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid an industrywide slump.

Peabody Energy — which is the biggest coal miner in the U.S. and says it is the largest private-sector coal company in the world — is looking to restructure its heavy debt load and gain relief from its creditors. It hopes to continue operations unimpeded.

The St. Louis-based company said in a statement that the pressure on the coal industry is “unprecedented.” It cited a drop in prices, weaker demand from China, the rise of competition from fracking and “ongoing regulatory challenges” as reasons for the restructuring.

Earlier this year, Arch Coal — the second-largest coal miner in the U.S. — filed for bankruptcy. Bloomberg noted that three other major coal miners went bankrupt the year before that, and many industry watchers had expected Peabody to follow suit.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Budget negotiations are scheduled to resume in Frankfort this afternoon. Lawmakers have only hours to hammer out a final compromise in time for the end of the legislative session.

Legislators have to come to an agreement by early Thursday morning to get a budget document prepared for a vote in both legislative chambers sometime on Friday, when the General Assembly officially ends.

Budget talks are expected to go into the early morning.

The stakes of meeting the deadline are high: Yesterday, Gov. Matt Bevin announced he would not call a special legislative session to give lawmakers more time to negotiate.

If lawmakers don’t reach an agreement by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the state will be thrown into a partial government shutdown, with only necessary government services staying open.

Donald Trump Is Coming Back To Louisville

Apr 13, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and controversy magnet Donald Trump is due back in Louisville next month.

He’s scheduled to join Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, Gov. Matt Bevin and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association.

The meeting is set for May 19 through May 22 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Trump is scheduled to speak on Friday, May 20, according to a tweet from the NRA.

Trump’s previous visit to Louisville earlier this year for a campaign rally sparked protests and led to several alleged assaults. Three people who attended the rally have since filed a lawsuit against the business mogul, alleging he incited and encouraged violence.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed a bill that will allow some Class D felonies to be cleared from criminal records five years after a sentence is completed.

The felony expungement bill failed in the legislature for more than a decade largely because of Republican opposition from the Senate. But Bevin, a Republican, said he would support the bill on the campaign trail last year and has now followed through on the promise, signing it into law on Tuesday.

“It is critical that there is an opportunity for redemption, that there is an opportunity for second chances, because America is a land that was founded on these principles,” Bevin said.

The new policy would apply to 61 Class D felonies, which constitute about 70 percent of Class D felonies committed. Some of the most frequently committed offenses are failure to pay child support, possession of a controlled substance and theft.

LRC Public Information

If lawmakers fail to pass a state budget by the end of the legislative session on Friday, Gov. Matt Bevin says he won’t call a special legislative session to give them more time.

If a two-year budget doesn’t pass by June 30, the state will be thrown into a partial government shutdown. Nonetheless, Bevin is adamant that he won’t give lawmakers more time.

“I will not reward the inability to do the job that people were sent here for by paying them extra money,” Bevin said. “The job can get done. I believe the job will get done because the job should get done.”

The Legislative Research Commission estimates that it costs about $63,000 each day the legislature meets.

Only the governor can call a special session.

Lawmakers have been deadlocked over the budget for weeks and have now run into a hard deadline: The constitution won’t allow the legislative session to go past April 15.

Creative Commons

Kentucky adults still have a hard time affording health care, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

In 2015, one in five Kentucky adults either didn’t get care or delayed care due to cost, according to the report. That’s down from 2014 and 2009, when 22 percent and 32 percent, respectively, went without needed care due to cost.

Susan Zepeda, president of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said having insurance coverage is a great start, but it doesn’t always get the whole job done.

“Although more and more Kentuckians are able to get the care they need in a timely manner, they’re is still work to be done,” she said. “There are still people who are delaying care or finding that they’re unable to handle the medical bills after they receive care.”

WKU Public Radio

Tennessee’s Attorney General is warning that the state could lose federal funding if a controversial bathroom bill clears in the General Assembly. 

The bill would require Tennessee students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.  Supporters say the legislation is necessary to protect the privacy of students.  Opponents argue the bill is discriminatory. 

State Attorney General Herbert Slattery issued an opinion Monday saying the bill would violate Title IX, which means the state could lose millions of dollars in federal funding. 

The Tennessean reports that Governor Bill Haslam and the state Education Department have raised similar concerns, but the Governor has not said if he would veto the legislation should it reach his desk.  The bill has so far cleared a House committee.

Gabe Bullard

An environmental nonprofit has named an Eastern Kentucky river as one of the nation’s 10 most endangered.

American Rivers released its annual list Tuesday, and it includes the Russell Fork River.

The Russell Fork is on the border between Kentucky and Virginia, and flows through the Breaks Interstate Park. It’s used for whitewater rafting and fishing, but it’s coal mining that landed it on the annual list.

For the past few years, the Russell Fork has been threatened by a mountaintop removal mine proposed by Paramount Coal, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources. The Doe Branch mine was proposed several years ago but hasn’t moved forward. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued objections to the project, citing existing pollution problems in the watershed.

Tarence Ray of nonprofit Appalachian Voices said the juxtaposition of the Doe Branch permit and the Russell Fork River is emblematic of the choice many coalfields communities are facing.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

As Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration and a private consulting firm work to fix Benefind, the troubled one-stop portal for health and social services in Kentucky, the blame game over who’s responsible for its problematic rollout continues.

At a hearing of the state Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee on Monday, a top Bevin administration official blamed the federal government and previous Gov. Steve Beshear for the problems plaguing the system. The online portal, which launched Feb. 29, has been marred with long wait times, lost services and erroneous notices of canceled benefits.

Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told lawmakers that federal officials tested Benefind before it was released and gave the green light to launch.

“If there’s a problem, someone should take it up with the federal government. They said ‘you need to move forward,’” she testified to the committee.

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