11:41 am
Tue March 25, 2014

As Negotiations Enter Crucial Phase, Budget Funding for Higher Ed, University Projects Unclear

The Gatton Academy for Math and Science is housed at WKU.
Credit WKU NPR

The budget passed by the Kentucky Senate this week has mixed news for WKU. Money for a capital project at the school was removed while other WKU-related funds were left intact.

The Senate’s budget deleted funding for most university capital projects, including bonds to fund a renovation of the Thompson Complex Center Wing, home to numerous WKU science classes.

However, the Senate budget does include funding for the Gatton Academy for Math and Science to support 80 additional students beginning in 2015.

The budget passed by the House includes bond funding for the Thompson Complex project and money to expand the Gatton Academy. But it also contains a 2.5 percent cut to higher education funding.

The Senate spending plan restored that higher education funding cut at the expense of most university capital projects.

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9:37 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Mine Safety Advocates Worried about Loss of Money for Inspections

The Kentucky House reduced the amount of money for mine safety inspections in a recent version of a state budget the chamber passed.
Credit flickr

A slash to Governor Steve Beshear’s proposal for mine safety in the Kentucky House budget bill passed this month has many safety advocates concerned. They say there might not be enough money to conduct required inspections.

Gov. Beshear has proposed $7.6 million in each of the next two years for the state program that inspects and licenses coal mines. But when the budget bill was passed by the House, Beshear’s budget office noticed the number had been reduced to $5.3 million per year.

The Courier-Journal reports the 15 percent reduction was not discussed during the budget committee meeting or floor session when the bill was passed. In response, Gov. Beshear says his administration is “very concerned about the lack of sufficient funds to ensure safety” for miners, and the House and Senate will work together to ensure the funding is there “to cover critical needs in the agency.”

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4:39 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Derby Trophy Delivered to Churchill Downs

Credit Churchill Downs

With Kentucky Derby 140 less than six weeks away, the solid gold trophy that the owner of the winning 3 year old will receive is being delivered to Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The trophy is 22 inches tall with a 14-karat gold horse and rider atop it and horseshoe-shaped wreath handles. It sits on a jade base and weighs about five pounds. It'll be unveiled at the track Tuesday.

Churchill Downs says the company that makes the trophy began work on it in November. The process takes about 2,000 hours.

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4:32 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Still No Agreement On Making Up Snow Days

Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky state lawmakers have failed to agree on a bill that would relax the state's school attendance laws because of the unusual number of snowstorms this winter.

State law requires school districts to have at least 170 days and 1,062 hours of classroom instruction each school year. But some school districts have missed more than 30 days this year because of snow, pushing the school year for some districts toward the end of June or even into July.

House and Senate negotiators could not agree Monday on when the school year should end. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the bill is so important, he'd be willing to appoint new negotiators to try again. Lawmakers have just eight legislative days left to reach a compromise.

In fact, more than 250 bills are in limbo as the Kentucky state legislature enters the final week of their session. Just 22 of the 824 bills filed this year have passed both the House and the Senate and, of those, only eight have become law.

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5:42 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Renters' Handbook Looks to Even The Playing Field for Renters, Landlords

Barren River Area Renters' Handbook

Those who rent apartments and houses in the Bowling Green area now have a resource they can use to protect their rights as renters.  The “Barren River Area Renters' Handbook” is the culmination of an 18-month-long project organized by The Homeless and Housing Coalition of South Central Kentucky. 

The handbook comes from information compiled from several legal sources, including Fort Knox legal services and Kentucky Legal Aid, according to coordinator Dana Beasley Brown.

Brown says they worked with several organizations to complete the project, including WKU-Glasgow sociology classes which collected stories from renters with bad experiences.

“They put together a curriculum for a workshop to accompany the handbook.  Through this workshop, we’re able to engage renters one-on-one and sort of walk through some common problems that renters face and how to avoid them by learning how to look at your lease carefully,” said Brown.

The workshops will be available for local organizations and their members. The coalition says there are more than 67,000 renters in the Barren River area. The book is available in English, Spanish, Swahili and Arabic.

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4:43 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Kentucky Senate Passes New Two-Year Budget

The Kentucky Senate by a vote of 25-2 has passed a $20 billion, two-year state budget that differs from the House-passed plan on some key points. Eleven senators passed.

The version that emerged Monday significantly reduces the amount of bonded projects.

The proposed Senate version restores a 2.5 percent cut in operating funds for universities included in the House's budget.

But the Senate plan removes a number of bonded construction projects for the universities that the House backed.

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1:45 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Rogers, Beshear Announce Creation of Committee to Lead SOAR

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers

Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear have announced the creation of a 15-member executive committee to lead their SOAR initiative. They held a joint press conference Monday at Hazard Community College to discuss the appointments.  Rogers and the Governor will co-chair the panel, which will be composed of public officials and leaders from the private sector.

The congressman says the group will keep listening to ideas to boost the region’s economy and improve its quality of life.

One of the executive committee’s first tasks will be hiring a permanent director, which it hopes to do by September. SOAR stands for “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” and was created to help eastern Kentucky recover from the slump in the coal industry and the loss of thousands of jobs.

9:44 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Remembrance Ceremonies Planned for WKU's Dr. David Coffey

Arrangements have been announced following the death of a longtime WKU agriculture professor.

Dr. David Coffey passed away last Thursday after a brief illness. A remembrance ceremony will be held Sunday, March 30, at 2 p.m. at the WKU Alumni Center, and April 5 at 2 p.m at the Burkesville United Methodist Church.

Dr. Coffey’s cremains will be distributed to the WKU Chapel, the Coffey family farm on the Cumberland River, and Ecuador.

Dr. Coffey led numerous Study Aboard trips to Ecuador, Australia, Argentina, and Costa Rica. He gained a reputation as an outstanding instructor during his three-plus decades at WKU, with his course in rural sociology proving especially popular.

You can find more information on Dr. Coffey's life and remembrance ceremony arrangements here.

4:52 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Thieves Use Sledgehammers in Rolex Watch Heist

Police are searching for suspects who stole $150,000 worth of Rolex watches from a store at the Lexington Convention Center. Police say the watches were taken from Sheila Bayes Fine Jewelers in the Shops at Lexington Center on Saturday afternoon.

Store employees said two men used a sledgehammer to break display cases containing the Rolex watches. Police say the suspects ran out of the Center and hopped into a getaway van without being caught. Police said the suspects were able to get away because the Center was busy with foot traffic due to the Boys Sweet 16 basketball tournament.

A similar robbery took place at a Memphis mall in January. In that case, five men were arrested after $537,000 worth of Rolexes were stolen.

4:37 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Flood Prone Kentucky River Towns To See Insurance Hikes

Thousands of Kentucky residents and business owners are facing yearly flood insurance premium increases as the federal government seeks to erase billions in debt from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Congress passed a law in 2012 requiring about a million policyholders to begin paying rates based on the true risk of flooding at their properties. But Congress amended that law this month after an outcry over the one-time increases. Policyholders would instead pay premiums that increase gradually each year.

About half of the 24,000 properties in Kentucky with flood coverage will have adjusted premiums, including about 8,000 single family homes or condominiums that will see annual increases in premium costs of up to 18%. About 1,400 businesses across the state will see a flat 25% rate increase.