2013 General Assembly

Politics
8:42 am
Thu January 24, 2013

Kentucky Governor Talks Legislative Priorities, Including Tax Reform, Hemp, and Gambling

Gov. Steve Beshear

The 2013 Kentucky General Assembly reconvenes February 5 to take up some major pieces of legislation. Lisa Autry spoke with Governor Steve Beshear about his priorities for the session. The two discussed state pension reform, the prospects of legalizing industrial hemp, Beshear's stance on increasing gambling in the commonwealth, and other topics.

On the subject of casino gambling legislation, Gov. Beshear told WKU Public Radio he isn't optimistic such a bill will pass in this year's General Assembly. The session is only 30 days, leaving little time for the much-discussed issue.

Unlike in the past, however, the Governor says future casino discussions may not focus just on the horse industry. Past legislation called for placing casinos at the state's racetracks, but Beshear says there isn't enough support that idea in the legislature.

He says he's willing to look at having free-standing casinos in the Bluegrass State. Opponents of expanded gaming say the state shouldn't depend on gambling to raise revenue, and some question what they consider overly-optimistic projections of how much money more gaming would really bring to the Bluegrass State.

Environment
9:22 am
Sat January 19, 2013

Kentucky Lawmaker Wants to Disincentivize Use of Natural Gas by Power Plants

A Kentucky lawmaker has filed a bill that would block automatic utility rate increases for power plants that use natural gas.

The Courier-Journal reports Democratic Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence, the chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, is sponsoring the measure that would prevent utilities from utilizing a provision in state law called the "fuel adjustment clause", which allows utilities to adjust what it charges customers based on changes in cost of fuel or purchased power.

In an interview with the newspaper, Gooch called the measure a "consumer protection bill."

Gooch represents a House seat that covers Daviess, Hopkins, McLean, and Webster counties.

Business
4:00 am
Sun January 13, 2013

Robert Stivers: Let's Exhaust Legal Appeals Before Reforming Liquor Laws

Work on reforming some of Kentucky’s liquor laws may wait until a federal appeals court rules on a current challenge.

A federal circuit judge threw out state laws dealing with where wine and distilled spirits can be sold, calling them unfair. Currently only select stores — such as liquor stores and pharmacies — can sell those beverages, while others — such as groceries — can only sell beer.

The judge’s ruling challenging that disparity is being appealed to the 6th Circuit and Senate President Robert Stivers wants to wait until that is resolved before his chamber gets involved.

“We have had some discussion of the issue, but we feel it appropriate and it’s my opinion and I feel it appropriate that until it is litigated and gone through the legal system, we don’t know if Judge Heyburn’s decision will be affirmed, or remanded or reversed,” he says.

So far, no proposals on how to change the law that would withstand the judge’s ruling has been put forth, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.

Agriculture
2:39 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Joins Hemp Supporters

The push to legalize industrial hemp in Kentucky has picked up another major supporter.

The state’s largest business group, the Kentucky Chamber, announced Friday that it supports hemp as a crop for oil and fiber.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer touted the support on Twitter quickly after securing it. Comer has long said hemp could help struggling farmers in Kentucky turn profits.

Many of the state’s federal lawmakers support the issue as well, including Congressmen Andy Barr, John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie and Senator Rand Paul.

Kentucky Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jerry Wagner says his group hasn't decided on supporting or opposing legalizing industrial hemp.

A bill to legalize hemp was filed in the Kentucky Senate Friday by the  agriculture committee chair.

Comer does not support legalizing hemp's cousin crop, marijuana.

Politics
10:58 am
Fri January 11, 2013

Kentucky Legislative Leaders Undecided On Whether to Delay Redistricting in Kentucky

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield (right), discusses legislation with Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville (left), and Rep. David Osborne, R-Prospect, in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky legislative leaders say they haven't responded yet to Gov. Steve Beshear’s request to delay General Assembly redistricting in the 2013 session.

Senate President Robert Stivers says his leadership team has not yet decided on a response and that many in his chamber are conflicted on when to address redistricting.

“And we all have varying opinions on what needs to be done and when it needs to be done and one thing I don’t think we need to do is a special session,” he says.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he’d like to get the issue out of the way, but will work with Stivers and the governor on a resolution during the legislature’s upcoming two week break.

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Education
11:22 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Beshear Announces Bonding Plan for University Projects, with No State Funding Attached

A new honors college and international center at WKU and renovations to the University of Kentucky's football stadium and the University of Louisville are among the projects that will benefit from a bipartisan General Assembly agreement is allowing state universities to use their own ability to issue bonds for capital projects.

The soon-to-be approved projects were rejected during 2012 budget negotiations, but will be revived once lawmakers pass an authorization bill, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.

The plan allows for $363-million in renovation and construction projects at six of Kentucky's eight state universities.

Stumbo says the projects were rejected because of election-year politics — because House lawmakers are elected in even-numbered years — and secondly because universities made unreasonable bonding requests.

And while many projects were rejected last year, the newly agreed upon ones are ready to start immediately.

“We had asked at the end of the last session to bring us a realistic list, what can you accomplish, what is shovel ready, what do you have the funding sources identified for, what can you accomplish in this next year,” Stumbo says.

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Health
8:05 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Denton Files Two Bills To Place Affordable Care Act Decisions in Kentucky Lawmakers' Hands

State Sen. Julie Denton has filed two bills that would put control of implementation of the Affordable Care Act into lawmakers’ hands.

Gov. Steve Beshear created a state-run health exchange through an executive order and is mulling whether to expand Medicaid. Both are parts of the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

Denton says her goal is to let lawmakers have some say in either matter.

“Well all those pieces of legislation will do is say that only by the authority of the General Assembly can we expand our Medicaid program or can we set up the health benefit exchanges,” she says.

But House Speaker Greg Stumbo says his chamber will likely ignore Denton’s bills.

And the governor says he’s not worried about them either.

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Politics
4:35 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Yonts in Line for Key Position in Kentucky Legislature

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville (left), speaks with Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Democratic state Representative Brent Yonts of Greenville could be in line to become the next chairman of the House State Government Committee, a key post with the legislature working to find a way to restore solvency to the pension program for government retirees in Kentucky.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he intends to nominate Yonts for the position and that he considers Yonts a front runner.

Lawmakers have been trying to find a way to erase a $33 billion unfunded liability in the pension system. A legislative task force that spent months studying the issue recommended pumping in more money without saying where that money would come from.

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Politics
4:14 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Gov. Beshear Wants to Delay Redistricting, But Not Everyone Agrees

Gov. Steve Beshear is urging legislative leaders to delay General Assembly redistricting.

In a letter to House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers, the governor says he’d like them to hold off redistricting in the 2013 legislative session and instead take up other important issues, such as pension and tax reforms.

Beshear is opening the door to handling redistricting in a special session instead, because the issue tends to cause hard feelings after lawmakers see their districts changing.

“If we drop redistricting on top of all of that, it might well create such turmoil that we couldn’t get anything done,” Beshear says.

Lawmakers must still re-draw their own districts — after the Kentucky Supreme Court threw out maps drawn in 2012 — calling them unconstitutional. Redistricting of Congressional districts is already finished.

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Health
3:21 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Kentucky Senate Chair Wants Legislative Approval for Health Exchange, Medicaid Expansion

The chairman of a Kentucky Senate committee is promising to file legislation aimed at preventing Gov. Beshear from setting up two major pieces of the federal health care law without legislative approval.

The Courier-Journal reports Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair and Louisville Republican Julie Denton says she doesn’t want the Governor to be able to unilaterally establish a new statewide health care exchange or expand Medicaid services to more Kentuckians. Denton and other Obamacare opponents say the state can’t afford the exchange or expanded Medicaid offerings.

Denton’s bill would make such moves contingent on General Assembly approval. Gov. Beshear has already taken steps to create a statewide health care exchange by 2014, which would allow those who don’t get insurance at work to buy a plan from a private company and receive government subsidies in the process.

The Medicaid expansion would allow those earning less than 133 percent of the poverty rate to qualify for the program. Beshear says he is still considering the Medicaid expansion, while House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he fully supports the move.

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