2013 General Assembly

Politics
7:12 am
Sat February 23, 2013

Bill Would Allow Public-Private Partnerships For Big Construction Projects in Kentucky

The Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky

State Rep. Sannie Overly has filed a bill that will allow the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to explore public-private partnerships to help construction projects with big price tags.

The bill doesn't specifically name any projects, but Kentucky currently has multiple instances where the bill could help work start, namely the Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky and Interstate 69 in western Kentucky.

Overly, a Paris Democrat, said the goal is to help the state have one more avenue to help fund its infrastructure projects.

"This bill is not designed for any one particular project, it is really nothing more than an additional tool in the toolbox of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet," she said.

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Politics
3:47 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Tax on Kentucky Lottery Sales Under Consideration for Pension Fix

Rep. Brent Yonts (left), speaks with fellow Rep. Rick Nelson in the Kentucky House.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Lawmakers are looking to the lottery for a source of revenue to shore up Kentucky's financially troubled pension system for government retirees.

Rep. Brent Yonts, chairman of the House State Government Committee that oversees pensions, said Friday the latest proposal would institute a 6 percent sales tax on lottery ticket sales and implement new games, which could include Keno.

The Greenville Democrat said a lottery tax could generate $49 million a year and that adding more games could generate $70 million to $90 million. He said those actions could be enough to cover the state's full contribution to the pension system, which has a $33 billion unfunded liability.

Yonts' committee is scheduled to vote on pension legislation next Tuesday. The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee would vote separately on the lottery proposal.

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Education
7:03 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Kentucky Legislators Debate New School Safety Standards

A bill that would create new statewide school safety standards has unanimously passed the House Education Committee and will soon be considered on the floor. The bill's sponsor, Mt. Sterling Democrat Richard Henderson, says he worked with a special task force for months before the start of this legislative session to come up with the plan.

It would require each school to have an emergency plan, have electronically controlled outside doors or a greeter to manage who gets in and to lock classroom doors when practical. the bill also creates a uniform system of numbering all schools' doors and windows, created by a Franklin County school resource officer.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton says he recently tested it on more than 150 superintendents and law enforcers and most were able to learn the system in about five minutes.

Politics
6:32 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Kentucky House Passes DNA Testing Plan for Criminals, Coal Scholarship Fund

The Kentucky House has passed a bill that would require police to take DNA samples from people they arrest on felony charges.

The vote was 68 to 27 Thursday. The bill will proceed to the Senate for consideration.

If the measure becomes law, Kentucky would join the federal government and 25 states that take DNA samples from felony arrestees. The U.S. Supreme Court this year will consider the constitutionality of the testing based on a Maryland case.

Louisville Democrat Mary Lou Marzian, who sponsored the bill, has said federal grants would help cover startup costs of $1.3 million to $1.6 million. She did not offer a figure for ongoing costs. Defense lawyers and other groups have said the bill would threaten a defendant's rights.

Coal Region Scholarship Bill Passes, Too

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Education
4:40 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Kentucky Universities Can Start Construction Immediately As Projects Bill Signed Into Law

Six Kentucky's public universities can immediately start construction on more than $300 million in construction or renovation projects, including a $110-million renovation of Lexington's Commonwealth Stadium.

Governor Steve Beshear signed House Bill 7 into law on Thursday.

The bill authorizes bonds and other funds to help build academic buildings, dorms and other necessities at the universities. It assures no public money will be used for the projects.

WKU will receive authorization for $22 million in bonds for a new Honors College and international center.

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Elections
10:48 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Under Amended E-Voting Bill, Kentucky Military Voters Would Have to Continue Mailing Ballots

Kentucky military personnel could get their election ballots electronically—but the ballots would have to be printed and returned to county clerks via snail mail, under changes made to a bill Thursday in a state Senate committee meeting.

The bill—a priority for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes—originally called for military personnel to be able to get and return ballots electronically.

Senate President Robert Stivers, the bill's sponsor, said concerns for the security of completed ballots returned electronically led him to amend it.

The bill, as amended, advanced Thursday through the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection committee to the senate floor.

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Politics
9:29 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Kentucky Legislative Session Halfway Done, with No Pension Reform Deal in Sight

Will pension reform get done this session in Frankfort?
Credit Kevin Willis

Kentucky lawmakers have passed the halfway point in the current legislative session without a deal in sight to shore up the financially troubled pension system for government retirees.

They have only 14 working days remaining before adjourning for the year. However, Gov. Steve Beshear has said he may call lawmakers back into special session if they adjourn without taking action to bolster the pension system, which has a $33 billion unfunded liability.

The Senate passed a measure earlier this month that requires the state to fully fund the pension system but that did not specify where the money would come from.

The House is considering a variety of options to pay the state's contribution, including raising the cigarette to $1 a pack to generate about $100 million a year.

Education
6:47 am
Thu February 21, 2013

University Bonding Bill Passes Both Chambers, Likely to Be Signed by Gov. Beshear Immediately

Under the plan, WKU would get bond approval for a new international center and Honors College.
Credit Kevin Willis

A bill allowing most of Kentucky's public universities to start more than $360 million in bonding projects has officially cleared both legislative chambers.

The Senate passed the bill 36-1  Wednesday, with Sen. John Schickel, a Union Republican, as the lone dissenting vote. 

The bill allows six of the state's eight public universities to start projects such as dorm renovations, construction of academic buildings and renovation of Commonwealth Stadium.

The plan includes $22 million in bonds for a new Honors College and international center at WKU.

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Politics
7:52 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Gunning for Three Bills, Fairness Campaign Hopes at Least for Kentucky House Hearing

Protesters at a rally in the Capitol Rotunda for the Kentucky Fairness Campaign
Credit Rae Hodges

Seeking the passage of three pieces of legislation protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, more than 200 people rallied on Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda with Kentucky's Fairness Campaign. 

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat of Louisville, is  sponsoring a bill that would prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. The bill, along with Senate Bill 28, would also make it illegal for landlords and real estate agents to discriminate on those grounds.

"I think the realistic hope is that we might get the first ever hearing on the anti-discrimination fairness law in House Judiciary this year," Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman said. "That's really what we're gunning for. Even if it's an informational only hearing it would be the first time they've ever discussed the bill on the record."

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Politics
3:06 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Bill Would Order Breathalyzers into Cars of Repeat DUI Offenders

Kentucky judges could order breathalyzers installed into the vehicles of drunk driving offenders under a bill approved Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee.

Under current law, some DUI offenders qualify for hardship licenses. Those allow the offender to drive to and from specified locations at limited times—such as work and school—even though their regular drivers license has been suspended. 

The bill would give judges  the option of instead installing an Ignition Interlock Device in the offenders vehicle. Before starting the vehicle, the driver would have to breathe into the device. If the device detects that the driver has a heightened blood alcohol level, the engine won't ignite.

The bill would also require random breath samples from the driver after the engine has been started.

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