House Approves Record Loan for Teachers' Pension Fund

Feb 24, 2015

The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved the largest loan in state history to help rescue the troubled teacher's retirement system.

The Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System pays $144 million in benefits every month but only has a little more than half the money it needs to continue making those payments. House lawmakers approved a $3.3 billion loan on Monday that would take advantage of historically low interest rates to help keep the system afloat by lowering the state's required annual contribution.

But the bill faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers say they are worried about borrowing money to pay off a debt. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers argued the state should make wise investments with the pension fund's assets to stop the system from deteriorating.

Legislation on Transgender Student Bathroom Use Passes on Surprise Second Attempt

Feb 24, 2015
Credit Jessica Dockery, Lead Reporter for the The Madisonville Messenger newspaper

After failing on the initial vote last week, legislation to require most public school students in Kentucky to use the bathroom of their biological sex is now headed to the full Senate. The measure was approved during a surprise vote Monday by the Senate Education Committee.

Louisville Atherton High School Sophomore Christina Kelty testified in favor of the legislation. She feels her school's decision to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their sexual identity is not a good one. "I know of several girls at my school who are uncomfortable with my school's policy and afraid to speak out about it because they know the school's not on their side and they're afraid of judgment from their peers," said Kelty.

Also attending the legislative meeting was transgender student Henry Brousseau, who testified at the first meeting when the bill failed to pass. "It really is a step back in terms of moving our society forward to really include everybody," said Brousseau.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that since last Friday, the committee's agenda for Monday was listed as "pending." The bill's reconsideration came as a surprise to many. Chris Hartman, chair of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign anticipates passage by the full Republican-led Senate, but believes the measure will not pass the Democratic House.

Industry groups from around the state have filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping Louisville’s minimum wage ordinance from going into effect.

Brent Baughman is an attorney representing the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation and Packaging Unlimited.

“Unlike other litigation, this is a pure question of law for a court to decide," Baughman says.

Mackenzie Cantrell, an attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, said the judge’s decision could have larger implications for state municipalities that are enacting laws that don’t get passed on the state level.

Louisville’s ordinance will increase the minimum wage to $9 dollars over the next three years. The ordinance is still set to kick in July 1.

Flickr/Creative Commons

MillerCoors has joined the so-called “beer battle” between Anheuser-Busch and craft brewers in the Kentucky General Assembly.

Craft brewers and local beer distributors support a bill that would forbid out-of-state brewers from owning beer distributors in the state. Breweries that make fewer than 25,000 barrels of beer per year are not allowed to own their own distributors under Kentucky law.

In a letter sent earlier this month to Speaker Greg Stumbo, who sponsored the bill, MillerCoors Vice President Timothy Scully threw his support behind the proposal. Scully wrote that the bill would create a level playing field for brewers doing business in Kentucky.

“This fair and equitable proposal ensures that all brewers can continue to enjoy open and fair competition when selling beer through an independent distribution system,” Scully wrote.

Office of Ky Governor

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says the national Democratic Party is paying the price for not putting enough resources into winning Congressional and state legislative races.

Beshear made the comments over the weekend during the release of draft recommendations made by a task force charged with helping the party prepare for the 2016 election cycle.

Beshear is one of the 11 members of the task force, and says the Democratic National Committee needs to implement a “National Narrative Project” that will gather input from party leaders and members to create a “strong values-based national narrative that will engage, inspire, and motivate voters to identify with and support Democrats.”

Beshear also called upon the party to rebuild “its bench” by recruiting stronger candidates for state legislative seats over the next three election cycles, something he said would help Democrats influence the redrawing of Congressional districts after the next Census is completed.

The nonprofit group Shaping Our Appalachian Region Inc. has received approval for a $200,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The grant money will help pay for the nonprofit organization's startup costs. The group's aim is to improve economic diversity in eastern Kentucky. The money is the first of four installments of an ARC grant announced last year totaling $750,000 to be distributed over four years.

Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR, says the seed funding will help pay for essential staff and office equipment.

Update at 3:42 pm:

All lanes of I-65 north are now open.  

Original post:

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet issued the following advisory Saturday morning:

Traffic advisory for I-65 north in Hardin County:

I-65 Northbound is reduced to one lane between Sonora and Glendale at Mile Point 83. A semi has lost a load in the median and is also blocking the left lane. Traffic is backing up. Time to clear is estimated to take until noon central/1:00 pm eastern.

With reduced traction due to icing and ponding of water conditions, we are particularly concerned as motorists slow down upon approach to the traffic queue.

Motorists are asked to please slow down well in advance. Driving the posted speed is still too fast for current weather conditions. This is in a construction zone, so responding to crashes is complicated and will require longer durations to clear. Even if crashes happen at low speeds with no injuries, the backup and effects along detour/alternate routes is extraordinary and hazardous for motorists on I-65 and for local traffic.

All eyes are on Kentucky’s state senators to see if they’ll move on the House’s proposed statewide smoking ban.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, has said he doesn’t see support for the bill in the upper chamber.

“If there is, and individuals want to vote on it and can get committee votes and want to get it to the floor it will move in the normal and ordinary course,” Stivers said.

Supporters had initially hoped the bill would be assigned to the Health and Welfare committee, chaired by bill sponsor Sen. Julie Raque Adams, a Republican from Louisville. However the legislation was assigned to the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, signaling there might be a tough road ahead for the smoking ban.


Update at 4:12 p.m.:

A series of weekend events hosted by Kentucky churches aimed at connecting minority students with higher education information is being postponed because of the weather.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System and churches throughout the state were scheduled to host “Super Sunday” events, targeting African-American and Latino students. Events in Bardstown, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Henderson, Leitchfield, Owensboro, Somerset and several other cities  are being postponed to later dates.

You can see which Super Sunday events are impacted by the postponements here.

Original post:

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is making a special effort this weekend to reach out to prospective minority students. 

The fifth annual “Super Sunday” will be held at churches across the state.  KCTCS President Jay Box says the recruitment initiative targets African-American and Latino students.