Gov. Steve Beshear has concluded a meeting with a bipartisan group of legislative leaders without breaking an impasse on pension reform legislation.
The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate have been at loggerheads on how to shore up the financially troubled pension plans for state and local government retirees.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo called the Friday morning meeting a first step. He's said everyone involved wants to resolve the issue now to avoid the cost of a special legislative session later.
Among the major sticking points: A Senate proposal to create a 401(k)-like retirement plan for new employees and a House proposal to use money from the lottery and horse tracks to boost the state's yearly pension contribution.
Kentucky House and Senate leaders have changed the schedule of this year's legislative session to avoid a special session.
A potential—and costly—special session has loomed over the General Assembly in recent days, as lawmakers continued work on pension reform. Instead of convening Friday, lawmakers will work on Tuesday, with hopes that talks started Thursday night could lead to an agreement on pension reform by then.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says those talks have included the Governor and Senate leaders.
"The only conversation that we've had with them has obviously revolved around pensions, funding of pension liabilities and just a brief conversation about redistricting," he says.
Changes to a bill reforming how special taxing districts operate in Kentucky could kill the legislation in the final days of the General Assembly session.
State Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican and the majority floor leader, introduced the changes in committee on Wednesday which give local governments veto powers over possible rate increases by special districts. Those changes later passed off the Senate floor.
Special taxing districts are usually sewer districts, library boards or other quasi-governmental public service entities.
Auditor Adam Edelen—the main promoter of the reforms—said the changes were completely unacceptable.
A Warren County lawmaker says he's not panicking yet about the new redistricting maps passed by a House committee Tuesday. If the maps became a reality, Republican Representative Jim DeCesare would find himself in a new district alongside two other House GOP colleagues--Mike Meredith of Brownsville and C.B Embry of Morgantown.
DeCesare told WKU Public Radio he wasn't shocked by the new maps.
"I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not,” said the Rockfield Republican. “It's kind of what they tried to do last year. Apparantly the House Democratic leadership is trying to eliminate three Republican members in one fail swoop."
Redistricting is often used as a tool by the majority party to protect their own, while modifying or eliminating districts friendly to the minority party. The new maps still have a long way to go before becoming law. They would have to pass the full House and Senate, and then be signed into law by Governor Beshear.
Voting along strict party lines, the Kentucky Senate has approved a bill that would allow persistently low-performing public schools to become charter schools.
Under the legislation, school officials would submit applications to the local board of education to turn a school into a charter, the board of education would decide whether to allow them to become a charter school. A two-thirds majority vote by the school board would decide whether a school would become a charter school.
"I believe that we need to give everybody a great education here," said state Sen. Mike Wilson, a Republican from Bowling Green, the bill's sponsor.
"Otherwise, I would not have agreed to serve as the chair of the Senate Education Committee I have a passion for education, to see our kids educated properly."
The House State Government committee has advanced a new redistricting map to the House floor after weeks of closed door debate.
Last year's state House and Senate districts were ruled unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court after House GOP members challenged them in court. The new House districts would create seven new districts all across Kentucky, where no current lawmakers reside.
Those districts are:
House District 1 -- Fulton, Hickman Carlisle and Ballard counties, with parts of Graves County.
House District 19 -- Warren County/Bowling Green
District 36 -- East Louisville
District 49 -- Bullitt County
District 54 -- Anderson, Shelby and part of Bullitt county
District 88 -- Fayette County/Lexington
District 96 -- Powell, Estill and part of Madison county.
Much-called-for changes to Kentucky's prescription drug law are on their way to the governor.
The Senate on Monday passed the final version of a bill that would loosen the law's restrictions to accommodate the seriously ill and elderly, groups that were subjected to the same scrutiny as would-be prescription drug traffickers. The vote was 36-0. The House passed the proposal last week.
The law requires doctors, dentists, optometrists, registered nurses and podiatrists to check their patients' drug histories on the state's prescription monitoring system, known as KASPER, before writing prescriptions. The bill's changes would exempt patients in hospitals and hospital care as well as people receiving cancer treatment, among others.
"This just went back to some practical common sense things," Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters after the vote.
Supporters of a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky are once again trying to persuade a House committee to pass the the legislation this session.
The House Judiciary Committee is the second committee—after House Health and Welfare—to hear the smoking ban bill sponsored by State Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat.
This time, property rights and business rights were the main topic of questioning, but Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson told the committee that Kentucky's businesses have long supported smoking bans.
"Some say the ban will have a negative impact on business," Abramson said. "And as I said to you, the Chamber of Commerce back at home and at the state made it clear that asthma and lung cancer keep employees out of their jobs."