Associated Press

Kentucky LRC

A refurbishing project for the House and Senate chambers at the Kentucky Capitol is set to start soon.

Plans call for refinishing the desks of all 138 legislators, new carpet, plaster repair work, new paint and updated electrical equipment.

Work on the $800,000 project is set to begin after the current legislative session ends on March 24 and should be complete in November.

David Buchta, who is the state curator and director of the state historic properties division in the Finance and Administration Cabinet, says the chambers haven't been restored in more than a half-century.

The division maintains historic properties owned by the cabinet including the Capitol.

Buchta says refinishing the desks, which have been in place since 1909, accounts for more than half the project's cost.

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.

A winter storm has dumped more than a foot of snow on the state capital, knocking out power at the statehouse and cancelling the legislative session.

According to an email, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers made the decision early Thursday morning. Frankfort officials have reported snowfall of as much as 14 inches.

The cancellation comes at a crucial time for lawmakers, with just five scheduled work days left in the 2015 session. Several key bills are pending, including measures to address the state's heroin epidemic and make Kentucky the last state in the country to offer some sort of civil protections for abusive dating relationships.

A spokesman for Stivers says the two leaders will talk later Thursday about the possibility of adjusting the schedule.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has declared a state of emergency for the second time in less than a month after more than 20 inches of snow fell overnight in some parts of the state.

The declaration authorizes the National Guard to help with relief efforts and empowers state officials to close roads in the interest of public safety.

A full day of rain on Wednesday meant it was impossible for road crews to prepare roads in advance of the snowfall that began about 5 p.m. EST and continued well into Thursday morning.

Kentucky has received a $3.6 million grant that could help rural families with children get more money for food.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said the grant would test giving families an extra transportation deduction to account for the long journeys rural families often have to get to a grocery store. Some research suggests families could receive an extra $50 per month in federal food benefits.

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A Kentucky lawmaker says more time is needed to study the issue of licensing alcohol consumption at tailgating events before college games.

The tailgating language proposed by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian was removed from her bill by the House Licensing and Occupations Committee on Wednesday.

She floated the idea of creating a new liquor license to provide a legal framework for tailgating.

The Louisville Democrat says the issue was more complex than she expected. Marzian says she'll work on the issue ahead of next year's legislative session.

She says one question deals with enforcement of alcohol consumption at tailgating on private property near a university stadium.

The part of the bill that remains intact would allow passengers on certain cycle taxis to drink alcohol.

The committee approved that portion of the bill.

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.

Gun owners in Kentucky can get permits to carry concealed weapons under a new online application process.

The Courier-Journal reports that the process requires state police to either issue or deny a license within 15 days of receiving an electronic application. That's quicker than the 60-day processing period allowed for paper applications.

Supporters say the change improves access to concealed-carry permits at a time when demand is high. The newspaper reports that Kentucky issued more than 59,500 permits in 2013, compared with 10,900 in 2004.

Environmental activists and eastern Kentucky residents are heading to the state Capitol next week to protest surface mining in Appalachia.

The annual protest in Frankfort is called "I Love Mountains Day." Now in its 10th year, it attracts hundreds of protesters to the steps of the state Capitol building.

Organizers say they are protesting the destructive effects of mountaintop removal coal mining in eastern Kentucky. The mining practice uses blasting and earth movers on mountaintops to get at coal seams.

A task force formed by Gov. Bill Haslam meets Thursday in Nashville to examine Tennessee's sentencing structure and examine ways to reduce the state's high recidivism rate.

It's the group's third meeting since being formed by Haslam last year in an overall effort to reduce crime and improve public safety.