Prospects remain uncertain for a bill that would regulate industrial hemp if the crop ever makes a comeback in Kentucky.
The House Agriculture and Small Business Committee heard nearly two hours of testimony but took no vote on the bill Wednesday morning in Frankfort. A motion calling for a vote on the bill was ruled out of order by committee chairman Tom McKee.
McKee is pushing to rewrite the bill to have a university study of hemp, which thrived in Kentucky decades ago but is now illegal. The bill, which would allow hemp to be grown in the state if a federal ban is lifted, had easily passed the Senate.
McKee says he plans to reconvene the committee later Wednesday to review the legislation.
The Kentucky House budget committee has advanced a bill designed to provide extra revenues for the state's underfunded pension systems.
House Bill 416 would use revenues from the expansion of Instant Racing if the state Supreme Court upholds the legality of the game. It will also use expanded lottery sales and the proceeds from a new Keno game.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the bill does not ask lawmakers to legalize Instant Racing.
"We're simply saying if it is upheld, here is a fund that captures this money that's used to pay off this unfunded liability in our pension fund. So we're not asking you to vote to expand gaming," said Stumbo.
The founder and CEO of a hemp foods company will appear Wednesday morning in Frankfort to speak on behalf of an industrial hemp bill. The measure—which has passed the Kentucky Senate—would set up a regulatory framework should federal laws criminalizing hemp be changed.
The House Agriculture and Small Business Committee will hear from Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and John Roulac, CEO of Nutiva, the fastest growing hemp foods company in the U.S.
Despite Republican support for the hemp bill, there appears to be too much Democratic opposition to the measure for it to pass this legislative session. Both Governor Steve Beshear and House Speaker Greg Stumbo have said they are siding with Kentucky law enforcement groups that say legalizing hemp will make it too difficult to distinguish between the crop and marijuana.
Kentucky's persistently low-achieving schools would be able to become charter schools to improve performance and test scores under a bill discussed Tuesday in the state Senate Education Committee.
The bill adds charters as a fifth option for what the state now calls "priority schools—schools that persistently get low scores. The current options include re-staffing of teachers, firing the principal, giving the school up to outside management or closing the schools.
Kentucky is one of seven states that doesn't allow for some sort of charter school—public schools that are generally governed independently from local school boards and given flexibility in teaching methods. Past efforts which would have opened charters to schools that weren't persistently low-performing have failed to pass through the General Assembly.
This legislation, Senate Bill 176, offers a different path, because only those schools who qualify as low-achieving could apply for charter status to their local school board.
The state Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a nullification bill that would prohibit Kentucky from enforcing new federal gun control laws if they're enacted, despite concerns about the bill's constitutionality.
The vote was 34-3. Three of the Senate's 14 Democrats voted no, stating that the measure would be trumped by the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause.
Sen. Jared Carpenter, a Berea Republican, sponsored the bill. He said the Supremacy Clause applies only if Congress is acting in pursuit of its constitutionally authorized powers, which he said wouldn't apply to stricter gun measures.
"If I thought the bill would be symbolic, I would've written a resolution," Carpenter told the Associated Press. "I thought it needed more than that."
Lawmakers won't pursue a 6 percent tax on lottery tickets as a source of revenue to shore up Kentucky's financially troubled pension system for government retirees.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said that idea was rejected out of concern that a tax might stifle sales of lottery tickets that generate money for education programs in Kentucky.
Instead, Stumbo said lawmakers will unveil legislation on Tuesday that will call for the lottery to create new games, including Keno, that he said could generate about $25 million for the pension system.
He said the legislation would also call for tax revenue from slot-like machines, called Instant Racing machines, at horse tracks to be designated for pensions. He said that could eventually net $100 million a year for pensions.
A bill addressing problems with last year's prescription pill mill bill has cleared the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring the bill, which reduces some tough regulations that followed the pill mill bill. The legislation, House Bill 217, requires hospitals and long term care facilities to still pull KASPER reports, but lessens other regulations on them. The Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System (KASPER) tracks controlled substance prescriptions dispensed within the state.
Stumbo told lawmakers that the bill would help codify easier regulations that were recently published and that the effort to crackdown on prescription pill abuse was effective.
"But you have a reason to be proud if you supported that bill because it's working. It's working from Pikeville to Paducah," he says.
A majority of Kentuckians favor amending the state constitution to allow convicted felons to regain their right to vote once they’ve completed their sentences. A new Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll found that 51 percent are in favor of the move, while 38 percent oppose it.
Kentucky is one of five states that bar all felons from the polls unless their voting rights are restored by a pardon by the Governor or another state agency.
Thirty-six states automatically restore the voting rights of ex-felons. Bills have been introduced in the Kentucky House for six years that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot restoring ex-felons’ voting rights, but those efforts have always fallen short in the state Senate. Last week such a bill passed in the House on a vote of 75 to 25.
A bill moving Medicaid late payment claims to the Department of Insurance appears to have some support in the state Senate.
House Bill 5 would take prompt pay issues with the Medicaid managed care system and put it through the Insurance Department's current claims process. Currently, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services deal with late claims.
Sen. Julie Denton, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she plans to give the bill a hearing and supports the bill's attempts to make managed care organizations pay providers.
"I think anything we can do to have more oversight and more assistance in keeping them in compliance with their contracts is a welcome breath of fresh air," she said.