2013 General Assembly

Business
11:09 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Kentucky Metro Leaders to Draft Legislation for Local Option Sales Tax

Though the effort for a local option sales tax lacks support from principals in the General Assembly, Mayor Greg Fischer and other leaders from Kentucky's largest communities still went to Frankfort on Tuesday to push for a constitutional amendment.

Calling themselves the Metropolitan Alliance for Growth, the group is creating its own draft of legislation for a local option sales tax—but they call it LIFT, for Local Investments for Transformation.

The alliance is encouraging lawmakers to tackle pension reforms and a constitution to allow a local option tax for infrastructure projects, to be decided by voters.  The alliance—which Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray lead— is made up of local officials from the state's metro areas, including Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green and Northern Kentucky.

Bearing in mind legislative leaders' reservation about the local option sales tax, Fischer said the alliance is on a campaign to education people.

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Politics
6:50 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Bill Deregulating Kentucky's Telephone Industry Passes Senate Committee

Kentucky Lawmakers are again considering a telephone deregulation bill that drew heavy opposition last year before it was withdrawn.

The Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee passed the bill on Monday, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

Critics of a similar measure last year charged that Kentucky's poor could lose basic landline service if the measure passed. Proponents offered lawmakers assurances Monday that that wouldn't happen.

Sen. Paul Hornback said the measure now specifies that providers would have to ensure telephone service to everyone, including those living in exchanges with fewer than 5,000 customers.

Agriculture
2:15 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Hemp Bill Sails Through Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee

(From right) U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, Congressman John Yarmuth, D-KY, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer, and Congressman Thomas Massie, R-KY, testify in favor of an industrial hemp bill up for consideration in the Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee.
Credit Kentucky LRC

After testimony from a bevy of high-level supporters, the state Senate agriculture committee unanimously approved Monday a bill that would establish oversight for Kentucky  industrial hemp farmer if hemp were made legal federally.

Agriculture Commission James Comer—the leading proponent of industrial hemp in Kentucky—recruited U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie and John Yarmuth to speak in favor of the bill at the committee, as well as U.S. Sen.  Rand Paul. But the bill has opposition from many law enforcement agencies, including the Kentucky State Police and Operation UNITE, a federally-funded program.

The crop could create jobs in Kentucky in agriculture and other industries through hemp's use as a strong material, said Comer, a Republican. The legislative approved in committee Monday, Senate Bill 50, is Comer's chief legislative priority.

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Agriculture
11:33 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Hearing on Industrial Hemp Set for Monday in Frankfort

Should hemp laws be changed? Kentucky lawmakers are taking up the issue Monday.

The effort to legalize industrial hemp is gaining steam nationally and in Kentucky. State lawmakers will hold a hearing today in Frankfort about the issue, and some heavy-hitters are lined up to back the effort.

Appearing at Monday's hearing will be U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie, and former CIA Director James Woolsey. Also appearing will be Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has made the legalization of industrial hemp his number one legislative priority.

Law enforcement groups remain opposed to legalizing hemp because they say it will be impossible to distinguish between hemp and marijuana. Supporters say it's not difficult to tell the difference between the two plants.

Kentucky Public Radio Frankfort Bureau Chief Kenny Colston is covering today's hearing on hemp and we'll have updates online, at our Facebook page, and during our state and regional newscasts later today on All Things Considered.

Politics
5:00 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Kentucky Legislative Leaders Opposed to Local Option Sales Tax

Gov. Steve Beshear (left), Senate President Robert Stivers, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky's top two legislative leaders say the local option sales tax isn't likely to come up this year.

The local option would allow cities and counties to put temporary sales tax increases to a public vote. It would typically be used to pay for infrastructure projects.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray are the major forces behind the option, and a bill amending the state Constitution to allow it has been filed in the Senate.

But Senate President Robert Stivers says his chamber doesn't want to put more tax burdens on individuals.

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Politics
11:18 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Two Seperate Abortion Measures Pass Kentucky Senate

Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, debates an abortion bill up for consideration in the Kentucky Senate as the bill's sponsor, Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, looks on.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Doctors would be required to make ultrasound images available to women seeking abortions under legislation passed by the Senate on Friday.

The Senate also passed a separate measure that would require women get face-to-face consultations with medical professionals before undergoing abortions.

Both measures passed the Republican-controlled Senate 31-4.

Similar proposals have repeatedly cleared the Senate in recent years only to die in the Democratic-controlled House. And the prognosis is no better this year.

Rep. Tom Burch, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, said he doesn't believe the proposals have enough support to clear his panel.

Politics
11:05 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Special Taxing Districts Reform Sails Through Kentucky State House

A bill reforming how the state's special districts are categorized and making them more transparent easily passed the state House this morning, 96-1.

State Rep. Lynn Belcher, a Republican from Crittenden County, was the lone "no" vote.

Many local library boards, sewer districts and fire districts are considered special taxing districts separate from other types of government.

House Bill 1 is a partnership between Auditor Adam Edelen and House Speaker Greg Stumbo. It helps create a central registry of special districts as well as reforms how they file their financial information and sets penalties when they fail to do so.

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Education
6:48 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Kentucky House Passes Bill Allowing for University Capital Projects 97-1

A proposal to allow six of Kentucky's  public universities to start more than $360 million in infrastructure projects overwhelming passed the House Thursday afternoon, 97-1. 

House Bill 7 allows the universities to issue their own agency bonds to build new dorms, academic buildings and other improvements, including a stadium renovation at the University of Kentucky. 

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

House budget chairman Rick Rand, a Democrat from Bedford, is the sponsor of the bill and told his colleagues that no state money would be used for the projects.

"This bill does not take any General Fund dollars, zero General Fund dollars," Rand said. "It will be all agency funds and restricted funds from the universities."

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Kentucky Pension Reform
6:34 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Kentucky Senate Passes Pension Reform Recommendations

Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown)

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would reform the majority of the state's pension system.

Senate Bill 2 contains the recommendations of a legislative task force on the underfunded pension system. It suspends cost of living adjustments and creates a hybrid, 401-K style pension plan for new hires.

Bill sponsor Damon Thayer says the bi-partisan support for the bill shows the need for continued cooperation on pensions.

"This is not a perfect bill," said the Georgetown Republican. "There are certainly other ways that this can be done. But in this town and in this building, when have we ever given up the good for the sake of the perfect. This is a good bill, Mr. President."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says his chamber is still debating ways to handle the pension issue. Stumbo says any legislation must fully fund state pensions, and Senate Bill 2 currently does not.

Health
2:12 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Statewide Smoking Ban Bill Clears Kentucky House Committee

Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington)
Credit Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky is one step closer to enacting a statewide smoking ban after legislation sailed through the House Committee on Health and Welfare Thursday.

House Bill 190, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, a Democrat of Lexington, would prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment.

It's the third year the bill has been proposed, but only the second time it's been heard in committee. Gov. Steve Beshear endorsed the proposal  Wednesday night in his State of the Commonwealth address.

Sylvia Suhl, of the Central Kentucky of the American Heart Association spoke at length about the bill's support from the medical community.

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