6:21 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Budget Deal Includes Language to Prohibit Kentucky General Funds to Be Used for ACA Implementation

Provisions to block state money from being used on Kentucky's implementation of the Affordable Care Act will remain in the budget agreement reached over the weekend by state lawmakers. Sparring between House Democrats and Senate Republicans over the ACA dominated negotiations.

The ACA covers the costs of implementation through 2017, after which the tab will be split with the state.

Now, Senate President Robert Stivers says lawmakers will send the governor a budget that blocks general funds from going toward the state's health insurance exchange, Kynect, and the expansion of Medicaid.

"I think everybody saw that we have worked hard over the last three or four days," the Manchester Republican said. "There's been a lot of discussions. At points in time there may have been a little bit of political theater involved but we've reached an agreement, compromising and understanding the realities of each person's positions and each region's positions and each party's positions."

Currently, over 320,000 people have been insured through Kynect, with two-thirds obtaining Medicaid coverage.

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5:00 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Final Sign-Up Day is Here for Kentucky's Health Exchange

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear visits the Kynect call center in Lexington.

Today marks an important deadline for the thousands of Kentuckians still without health insurance.  It’s the last day until November to sign up for Medicaid or private insurance on the state’s health exchange known as Kynect. 

Gwenda Bond in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says there will be some exceptions for qualifying events.

"If people lose their health insurance coverage for some reason, a job loss or change, a marriage or divorce, then they'll be able to sign up and apply for subsidies," says Gwenda Bond in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  "In addition to that, people will be able to sign up for Medicaid after the 31st."

Small businesses may also enroll in coverage at any time. 

Over the weekend, the state increased personnel and extended hours at the Kynect call center to accommodate a last-minute surge of enrollments. 

As of Friday afternoon, more than 350,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in coverage on the health exchange.

9:49 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

Budget Deal Reached by House and Senate Lawmakers Cuts Funding for State Universities by 1.5%

Kentucky legislative leaders have struck a deal on the state's next two-year budget.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Top Kentucky House and Senate lawmakers appear to have reached an agreement on the state's next two-year budget.

The Herald-Leader reports that negotiators from both chambers hammered out a budget deal after being cloistered in a committee room at the Capitol Annex in Frankfort Saturday night. They emerged from the room at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

Many of the sticking points worked out in the overnight meeting involved funding for higher education and money for K-12 education.

The blueprint would cut the operational budgets of state universities by 1.5 percent, which is less than the 2.5 percent cut proposed by Governor Steve Beshear. Most schools, like WKU, would be allowed to choose a top priority building project that would be paid for by general fund bonds and agency bonds.

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5:15 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Bill Requiring Parental Notification of Teen Traffic Tickets Wins Final Approval

Kentucky lawmakers have given final approval to a bill requiring parents to be in court when their teenage children are accused of traffic violations.

The Senate passed the bill on a 38-0 vote Friday, sending it to Gov. Steve Beshear. The bill previously passed the House.

Supporters say the bill stems from the death of a Kentucky teenager who died in a traffic crash while speeding.

They say the same teen was stopped for speeding previously, but his case went through the courts without his parents' knowledge.

The bill seeks to ensure parents know when their children are accused of traffic violations. It would apply to cases involving youngsters under age 18. In most cases, their parents or guardians would have to attend their court proceedings.

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2:42 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Kentucky Beefs Up Technology, Manpower Ahead of Health Insurance Deadline

Workers field calls about Kynect at a call center in Lexington.
Credit Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentucky is taking measures to handle an expected last-minute surge in applications for health insurance ahead of Monday’s deadline. 

The state has added phone operators at the Lexington call center and increased server power on Kynect, the state’s health exchange. 

"We've been seeing a tremendous increase in the number of people applying and approved each day," says Gwenda Bond in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  "We've been seeing about 3,100 each day and I suspect that's even higher this week."

According to the state, 350,386 uninsured Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid or private coverage as of Friday afternoon.

With a few exceptions, Monday, March 31 is the deadline to enroll in coverage that will take effect this year.  The next open enrollment period begins in November for coverage that would take effect in 2015.

When the current enrollment period began last October 1, an estimated 640,000 Kentuckians were uninsured.  Governor Steve Beshear told WKU Public Radio this week that he is "astonished" by the number of enrollments so far, and expects it will take two to three years to reach everyone.

"I think long-term you're going to see this grow, expand so hopefully every Kentuckian will finally have access to affordable health coverage," commented Beshear.  "We're going to be a much healthier state because of this effort."

For more information, call 1-855-459-6328  from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET or go to Kynect.ky.gov.

2:22 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

In Frankfort, Budget Talks Break Down As End of Session Looms

House Republican Whip John Carney, R-Campbellsville (left), talks with Rep. Jim Stewart, R-Flat Lick, during a recess period of the budget conference committee.
Credit Kentucky LRC

House and Senate lawmakers are far from agreeing on how to spend $20 billion in tax money during the next two years.

Talks broke down early Friday afternoon over $1 million for expanded cancer screenings and $500,000 to replace a roof at a domestic violence shelter in Louisville.

Senate Republicans argued the cancer screening money is unnecessary now that Medicaid and private insurance plans are required to pay for them under the federal Affordable Care Act. Democrats say the money is still needed because not everyone has signed up for insurance yet.

Lawmakers have yet to discuss big issues in the budget, including a 1.5 cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax and $65 million for the renovation of Rupp Arena in Lexington.

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11:17 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Bowling Green, Warren County Schools Set Last of Day of Classes

School systems across Kentucky can finalize their calendars now that state lawmakers have reached an agreement over making up days missed because of snow. 

The Warren County Board of Education, at a special meeting Thursday night, voted to make up the remaining seven days and end the school year on June 4.  The board's action means that all 13 days missed due to inclement weather will be made up. 

Meanwhile, the Bowling Green City School District missed five days this year. Three of those days were made up using designated make-up days in the school calendar. City schools will make up the additional two days by being in session April 18 and May 23, both also designated make-up days in the school calendar.

May 23rd will be the last day of school for Bowling Green students.

11:02 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Westbound Lanes of WK Parkway Now Open Following Morning Accident

Update at 11:02 a.m.:

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has announced that the westbound lanes of the Western Kentucky Parkway have reopened to traffic at the 65 mile marker.  All lanes are now open at this site

Update at 10:13 a.m.:

The westbound lanes of the Western Kentucky Parkway at mile marker 65 at the Muhlenberg-Ohio county line will likely remain closed until 11:30 a.m.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reports that Ohio County emergency management reports some additional work is required to prepare the westbound lanes for traffic.

Original post:

The eastbound lanes of the Western Kentucky Parkway at mile marker 65 are open Friday morning following a commercial vehicle crash.

Both westbound lanes, however, will likely remain closed until 9:00 a.m. The accident took place at the Muhlenberg-Ohio County line, and involved a truck loaded with plywood crashing into the end of a bridge.

We'll update this post as soon as more information becomes available.

10:58 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Somerset Officials Consider Selling Gasoline

Officials in Somerset plan to discuss the possibility of the city getting into the gasoline business.

Mayor Eddie Girdler told council members this week that a plan is in place that would allow the city to sell regular gasoline if councilors approved it.

Girdler told The Commonwealth Journal that the move is in response to complaints about high gas prices in the area.

Girdler said the city has a gas processing plant equipped with pumps that is already used to fill up city vehicles such as police cars and ambulances. He said the city is in negotiations to purchase enough gasoline to open it to the public.

A finalized plan is expected to be presented to city officials in the next two months.

9:21 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Tennessee Senate Leader: Pay Raises, Higher Ed Funding Face Cuts

Credit capitol.tn.gov

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says worse-than-expected revenue collections could force Tennessee to cancel planned pay raises for state employees and reduce planned investments in higher education.

The Blountville Republican told reporters at his weekly news conference on Thursday that he had not yet heard the outlines of fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's proposals to deal with the shortfall, but Ramsey expressed a preference for finding the savings among bigger ticket items rather than spread among a large number of small projects.

The state's general fund revenues have fallen $260 million short of projections through the first seven months of the budget year.

Haslam is expected to release his proposed spending adjustments next week for the budget year beginning in July.