2013 General Assembly

Education
6:52 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Kentucky Lawmakers Target High School Dropout Ages for Both U.S. and Foreign Born Students

Students wouldn't be allowed to drop out of school before their 18th birthday under legislation that's passed the Kentucky House. The House also passed a bill sponsored by Bowling Green Democrat Jody Richards that would allow foreign born students to stay in school until they're 23.

Governor Beshear has been promoting the drop out legislation for years, most recently in his annual State of the Commonwealth speech last month. The proposal would increase the dropout age incrementally from 16 to 17 to 18 over a period of six years, giving both students and school districts time to adjust to the change.

The Democratic-controlled House has approved the measure in past years, but it has never been passed by the Republican majority in the Senate. Critics fear, among other things, that classrooms would be disrupted by students who don't want to be there.

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Business
6:42 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Bill Blocking Groceries from Selling Wine and Liquor Advances to House Floor

A bill that would effectively block grocery stores from selling wine and liquor—and ban wine and liquor sales in new pharmacies—was approved today in a state House committee.

Under the legislation, grocery stores could still sell alcohol from an adjoined structure with a separate entrance. 

Current law does not allow people younger than 21 to enter a place which sells wine and package liquor, which has prevented sales in grocery stores in the past.

Last year, a federal judge overturned the ban against wine and alcohol in grocery stores. U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn said that it was unfair to ban grocery stores from selling wine and liquor while allowing sales in drug stores.

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Education
4:42 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

University Bonding Projects Bill Steps Away from Becoming Law in Kentucky

A bill authorizing more than $360 million in bonds for university projects is just steps away from becoming a reality.

House Bill 7 allows six of the state's eight public universities to use bonds and other means to fund projects like building renovations, construction and renovations to Commonwealth Stadium. And it passed the Senate budget committee unanimously Thursday.

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

The bill won't use any general fund dollars. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said the universities hope to start construction on the projects immediately.

"We think that every one of these projects lead to better outcomes in terms of our student's success, we want construction to begin within the year," he said.

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Health
12:41 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Former Wildcat Derek Anderson, Gov. Steve Beshear Join Rally for Statewide Smoking Ban

Supporters of a statewide smoking ban brought high-profile help from the world of sports while rallying Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda  for their cause.

Urging Kentucky lawmakers to pass a statewide smoking ban, Gov. Steve Beshear and former University of Kentucky basketball player Derek Anderson spoke in favor of House Bill 190 at the rally. Currently more than 20 Kentucky communities have smoke-free laws, spanning across the state. And recent polls said that most Kentuckians support a ban.

Based on those facts, state Rep. Julie Raque Adam says the bill should be passed with bipartisan support.

"This is not a Republican or Democrat issue," said Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican who is sponsoring a House bill. "It's just one that makes sense for public health and Kentucky's economy."

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Justice
6:45 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Kentucky House Passes Bill to Take DNA After Arrests

Twenty-five states currently take DNA tests following felony arrests. Some lawmakers want Kentucky to join that list.

Police in Kentucky would take DNA samples from people arrested on felony charges under a bill approved  by the House Judiciary Committee.

If the measure is passed by the full Legislature, Kentucky would join the federal government and 25 other states that take DNA samples from felony arrestees, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The panel vote was unanimous. The measure will proceed to the full House for consideration.

Jefferson Democrat Mary Lou Marzian, who sponsored the bill, said federal grant money would be available to help cover startup costs, which would be between $1.3 and $1.6 million.

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Health
5:51 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

After Tough Debate, Kentucky Senate Passes Bill Allowing Panel Reviews in Nursing Home Abuses Cases

The Kentucky Senate on Wednesday approved that sets up a panel to review abuse cases from nursing homes.

Three doctors would be put on the panel to review abuse cases; the bill would not prevent patients from filing lawsuits, but the findings from the panel could be admissible in court.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 9 on a party-line vote—Republican for, Democrats against.

The bill sponsor, Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican, said the goal is to crack down on bad lawsuits, while still protecting nursing home patients.

"No one wants to see someone hurt, someone abused, someone neglected and I'm not here to say there aren't some horrible things that have happened to people and that they don't deserve justice, because they do and this in no way precludes that," Denton said.

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Health
12:46 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Senate Committee Backs Bill Requiring Kentucky Medicaid Providers to Publish Prescription Prices

A bill requiring Kentucky Medicaid managed care operators publish a list of prescriptions and reimbursement prices on Wednesday passed a state Senate committee, following prodding from  independent pharmacists asking for access to pricing standards before they fill prescriptions.

The group of independent pharmacists told lawmakers that they are still having trouble with reimbursements from the state's Medicaid managed care operators. And they said they were also still being dramatically undercut on prescription reimbursements when they did receive them.

Pharmacist Jonathan Van Lahr  said his goal was  to see transparency in the process.

"We are not asking to be paid exorbitant prices for these medications we dispense, just not to lose money. Or at least, let me know I'm going to lose money before I fill it," he says.

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Politics
6:49 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Kentucky House Speaker: Use Cigarette Tax Hike to Fund Pensions

A leading Kentucky lawmaker says raising the cigarette tax to $1 a pack would generate about $100 million a year that could be used to shore up the pension system for government retirees.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo told reporters that that's one of several options House lawmakers are considering to bolster the pension system, which has a $33 billion unfunded liability.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill last week that requires the state to make its full contribution to the pension system but doesn't identify a funding source to do that. Stumbo said the Democratic-led House wants a designated funding source.

The Senate bill also would create a 401(k)-like hybrid retirement plan that some House lawmakers want to remove from the legislation.

Health
2:01 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Health Sharing Bill Moves Onto Full Kentucky Senate

A bill that would allow exemptions for Christian health sharing organizations to operate in Kentucky sailed over it first hurdle in a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 3 is known as the Medishare bill, named for the health sharing organization Christian Care Medishare, which was recently kicked out of Kentucky by the Department of Insurance. Medishare operates by pooling money to help pay for members medical bills.

The bill would allow Medishare to re-start operations in Kentucky by giving it an exemption under current state insurance law.

DeWayne Walker was a member of Medishare and said the group helped pay a large amount of the medical bills when his wife got cancer.

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Elections
11:13 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Report: One in 14 Kentucky Adults Ineligible to Vote Due to Felony Conviction

A new report shows nearly a quarter-million Kentuckians are denied access to voting booths because of felony convictions.

The report released Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky says the state has the third highest rate of people who lost their voting rights despite completing felony sentences. Among blacks, Kentucky has the second highest disenfranchisement rate.

The report says one of every 14 adults in Kentucky is ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction, well above the national rate.

It says Kentucky is one of four states that permanently disenfranchise all felons, even after they complete their sentences.

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