2013 General Assembly

Health
2:51 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Kentucky Hospitals, Health Department Voice Concerns, but MCOs Say Groups Aren't Engaging With Them

Representatives of the state's health department and various hospital executives say almost two years later they are still having payment issues with Medicaid managed care organizations.

Speaking before a House budget subcommittee on health issues, the two groups described situations in which payment for care they administrated months ago were still outstanding claims.

Scott Lockard works in the Clark County Health Department and told lawmakers the state public health department was still owed more than $18 million in late payments. More than $14 million of that is with Kentucky Spirit, which is trying to break its contract and leave the system.

But he added that conversations about those payments are ongoing.

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Elections
1:58 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Should Kentucky's Governor Be Chosen in Presidential Election Years? Senate Committee Says Yes.

Kentucky's governor and other statewide constitutional officers would be elected in the same year as presidential elections under a bill approved Wednesday in a state Senate committee.

Without a change, statewide constitutional officers—including the secretary of state, state auditor and others—would be next up for election in 2015.

Under Senate Bill 55, those elections would move to 2016.

Those elected positions  will keep four-year terms, sticking with the presidential cycle. To do this, the bill extend the terms of the current officeholders by one year until the end of 2016.

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Health
7:39 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

HIV Testing Bill Unanimously Clears Kentucky House

Bill sponsor Rep. Joni Jenkins (R-Shively)
Credit Kentucky LRC

A bill aimed at allowing victims of sexual assault to ask for quick HIV testing of their alleged attackers has cleared the Kentucky House.

Under current laws, only prosecutors can ask for HIV testing of the accused person, and they can only ask after a conviction. The bill would allow a victim or the prosecutor to ask for such a test before a conviction.

Bill sponsor Joni Jenkins says medical advances can prevent HIV from advancing into AIDS if caught early, but convictions often take up to three years.

"So it's critical for victims to know the offender's HIV status as soon as possible and not wait 1 to 3 years for the completion of trial for such information," said Rep. Jenkins.

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Economy
7:32 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Stumbo: No Kentucky Tax Overhaul Coming This Session

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he doesn't expect a tax reform package to be brought up for a vote in the current legislative session.

Stumbo told reporters Tuesday that such a package doesn't have the 60 votes necessary to pass in the House.

A special commission appointed by the governor proposed reforms that could generate about $690 million a year in additional revenue.

Stumbo said one of the proposals made by the commission could surface in days ahead as a method of shoring up Kentucky's weakening pension system for government retirees. That proposal calls for raising the cigarette tax from 60 cents to $1 a pack, which could generate $100 million for the pension system.

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Politics
11:06 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Kentucky Governor: Casino Bill Dead for 2013 Session

Gov. Steve Beshear says he's a fan of Instant Racing for Kentucky's horse racing tracks—but he's not sure if legalizing the gambling format would be used to fund the state's struggling pension system.

Meanwhile, Beshear said casino gambling is not happening this year.

House Democratic leaders says they are looking at legalizing the slots-like game statewide to help generate at least $25 million a year to help fully fund pension obligations. Only two tracks, Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs, currently have the game.

Beshear did not commit fully to the idea, but said he will not allow lawmakers to ask for budget cuts in 2014 to help pay for pensions.

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Expanded Gambling
7:56 am
Sat February 16, 2013

Kentucky Senate President: No Chance for Casino Gambling this Session

The capitol dome in Frankfort
Credit Kevin Willis

Senate leaders are sensing little interest in a bill that could legalize casinos in Kentucky and won't consider the issue in the current legislative session.

Senate President Robert Stivers, the Republican from Manchester, said Friday lawmakers would have little time to deal with the issue amid an already heavy agenda that includes shoring up the state's pension system for government retirees.

Despite a long history of wagering on horses, Kentucky has never allowed casinos. And lawmakers have been reluctant to change that in the Bible-belt state, knowing they may face disapproving constituents in future elections.

Gov. Steve Beshear, a leading proponent of casino gambling, said last week that passing casino legislation this year would be unlikely because the proponents were divided on how to proceed.

Elections
7:05 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Kentucky's Senate Bill One Ensures Voting Rights of Soldiers Overseas

Senate President Robert Stivers kept a pledge Friday by sponsoring legislation aimed at ensuring Kentucky soldiers deployed overseas can cast their ballots back home through an electronic transmission system that the secretary of state will be required to develop.

The bill was given the designation "Senate Bill 1," signifying it is the Senate's top priority in the legislative session.

Secretary of State Alison Grimes, who backs the legislation, said 121 soldiers from Kentucky didn't have their ballots counted in last year's election because they didn't arrive back in the state by Election Day.

The biggest proposed change is that soldiers would no longer have to rely on traditional mail to return their ballots. The bill also would allow late ballots to be counted as long as they're back in the state before elections are certified, which happens three days after Election Day.

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Politics
12:59 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Kentucky House Leaders Considering Instant Racing Legalization to Help Pay for Pensions

Instant racing machines

Kentucky House leaders are considering legalizing Instant Racing across Kentucky to help plug the funding gap in the state's pensions.

Instant Racing is a slots-like game currently played at two Kentucky tracks, Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs. The legality of the game is also currently being litigated at the Kentucky Supreme Court.

But if the General Assembly passes a bill authorizing it, the court case would be moot.

The Democratic caucus is considering the Instant Racing option as one of many to fully fund state pensions going forward, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said.

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Politics
8:35 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Kentucky Senate Passes Phone Deregulation Bill, Despite Opposition of Many Rural Lawmakers

A bill that would end requirements on phone companies to provide landline services in parts of Kentucky where other options are available has cleared the state Senate.

Nicknamed the AT&T bill because of the phone company's support, the legislation was largely opposed by rural lawmakers who argue that the bill would end landline service to their areas without proper alternatives.

But Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville, said the goal is to expand broadband and wireless in those rural areas before Kentucky falls behind other states in having those services available.

"It's time we changed our laws to reflect that reality," Hornback said. "Other states are moving forward. The question is, will Kentucky keep up or we'll be left behind again by other states like Indiana and Tennessee."

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Economy
6:57 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Daviess County Lawmaker Wants to Cap Kentucky's Debt

Sen. Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro)
Credit Kentucky LRC

Legislation to bar state General Fund debt from exceeding 6% has been approved by the full Senate. Republican Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro has been pushing the measure since last year when a similar measure passed the Senate but died in the House.

Bowen said Kentucky now has $6.3 billion in debt and that, he says, translates to $14,589 in debt for every man, woman and child in Kentucky.

Bowen said lawmakers need to do the right thing by putting a limit on the legislature's credit card. The bill now goes to the House where it faces a shaky future.

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