2014 General Assembly

Education
2:46 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Computer Programming Course Would Count as Foreign Language Class Under Kentucky Bill

A bill that would allow computer programming courses to count toward foreign language requirements in Kentucky schools has passed out of a Senate committee.

Republican Sen. David Givens of Greensburg sponsored the measure and told the committee it's needed to prepare Kentucky’s students for a modern economy.

“Part of the challenge goes to the fact that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and the numbers continue to decline as the job opportunities increase."

Givens also says his bill would help close a knowledge gap for women and minorities, groups he says are under-represented in the fields of computer science.

Politics
3:44 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Abortion Measure Requiring In-Person Meeting With Medical Professional Passes KY Senate

Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, debates an informed consent bill up for consideration in the Kentucky Senate as Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, the bill's sponsor, looks on.
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill to require any woman seeking an abortion to have a "face-to-face" meeting with a medical professional before the procedure.

The measure seeks to update the state's informed consent law. It requires women to receive counseling and then wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

The bill passed the Senate on a 33-5 vote Wednesday and now goes to the House.

Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, the bill's lead sponsor, says abortion providers have "found a way around" the law's intent by providing the information through recorded telephone messages.

Gregory, R-Monticello, says in-person meetings would ensure women are fully informed before making a potential "life-ending decision."

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, says the bill is intended to cause a "guilt trip" for women seeking abortions.

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Politics
1:04 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Gambling Opponents: Increased Gaming Will Mean More Addiction and Crime

Opponents of expanded gambling in Kentucky are focusing on the social costs of casinos.

Testimony from anti-gaming groups in Frankfort Wednesday connected expanded gambling with increases in crime and gambling addiction.

Former Representative Stan Cave is now with the anti-gaming Family Foundation. He says in addition to the vices associated with gambling, he’s concerned with a lack of transparency governing gambling interests.

“The gambling bill enables concealment, and licenses secrecy," he said. "For example, section four expands the exceptions to the open records law, to whatever the new gambling commission considers, quote, ‘confidential, proprietary information of the commission.’”

Legislation has been filed to amend the state constitution to allow expanded gambling and to put the issue before voters on the November ballot.

The legislation in the House includes funds for treating gambling addiction.

Neither chamber has taken up the issue for a vote on their respective floors.

Politics/Education
1:45 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Thompson: Hoping for Increased State Funding for Primary Education, Capital Projects

Lawmakers are in Frankfort Tuesday to hear Gov. Beshear give his 2014 budget address.
Credit Kevin Willis

A Daviess County lawmaker believes one of the few bright spots in Tuesday's budget address by Governor Beshear could be restored funding for primary education.

Democratic Representative Tommy Thompson told WKU Public Radio he's hoping the governor will announce a boost for the statewide education funding formula known as SEEK, or "Support Education Excellence in Kentucky".

"It's really being funded at the 2009 level," Rep. Thompson said. "And then the strands of education--things like professional development and afterschool services and I.T. Those things have been dramatically cut some 30 to 40 percent over the last four or five years."

Thompson thinks there is also a chance the governor will announce funding for some capital projects around the state.

"Technology buildings, science buildings, education buildings--those types of things that are about reinvesting in communities that not only provide construction jobs, but also provide opportunities for workforce training and skill development," the Philpot Democrat said.

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Politics
7:45 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Beshear to Present Funding Priorities During Budget Address Tuesday Evening

Gov. Steve Beshear is set to deliver his budget proposal to a joint session of the Kentucky House and Senate. It marks the starting point for months of haggling over a larger pool of state revenues still not expected to meet funding demands.

Leading up to his Tuesday night speech, the governor warned lawmakers face a "tough budget situation," despite the projected upswing in revenue flowing into Kentucky's General Fund in the next two years.

Beshear says the extra revenue will be consumed by big-ticket spending obligations, including shoring up the government pension system.

The governor has said he's willing to propose cuts in parts of state government to free up money for education.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer predicts lawmakers will say "no" to most requests for additional funding.

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Health & Safety
1:57 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Bill Would Strengthen Kentucky's Booster Seat Law

Child-safety advocates are asking Kentucky lawmakers to strengthen the state’s booster seat law and bring it in line with national guidelines.

A 2008 law passed by state lawmakers requires that children be in a booster seat until they reach the age of 7 or a height of 50 inches. National standards go further, however, with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recommending that children be kept in booster seats until they reach the age of eight or a height of 57 inches.

The Herald-Leader reports that a bill filed in the General Assembly would bring the commonwealth in line with neighboring states. House bill 199 would require boosters  for children younger than nine who are 40 to 57 inches in height.

Advocates say the need for change is supported by research. A study done by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that using a booster seat for children ages 4 to 8 reduced the risk of injury during a car wreck by 59 percent.

Business/Politics
8:23 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Two Kentucky Lawmakers Want to Allow Private Development on Some Public Land, Including State Parks

Two Kentucky lawmakers are supporting a bill that would let the state lease public land for private development.

Under legislation from Republican Representatives Richard Heath and Ken Imes, hotels and other private developments could be built in public parks, with the state's permission.

But Imes says the bill isn’t about privatization.

“We’re not trying to privatize parks. Basically, I like to use the word ‘franchise.’ What I’m trying to do is save our parks system in Kentucky. It’s deteriorating rapidly through nobody’s fault other than we just can’t keep ‘em up.”

The previous state budget slashed the parks budget by over eight percent, which led to shorter park operating hours across the commonwealth.

Imes says his bill could open the door to private management of some state parks, which he says would reduce their operating cost to taxpayers.

Politics
10:27 am
Sat January 18, 2014

Stumbo: Heroin Bill has "Good" Shot of Passing Kentucky House

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (left) speaks with Rep. Jeff Hoover at the state capitol.
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Speaker of the Kentucky House is signaling that a bill designed to fight heroin stands a good chance of passing his chamber this year.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo was quoted by the Courier-Journal as saying the odds of the bill passing the House are “pretty good”, given that lawmakers have shown a bipartisan ability to back legislation battling illegal drugs. A bill sponsored by Senate Republican Katie Stine seeks to increase the punishment of those convicted of selling high-volumes of drugs while increasing access to substance abuse treatment centers for addicts.

Stine’s bill passed the full Senate on Thursday and is now being considered by the House.

The northern Kentucky lawmaker says her part of the state has seen its treatment centers and law enforcement agencies swamped by a major surge in heroin abuse.

The Courier-Journal reports defense attorneys are objecting to a part of the bill that would help prosecutors convict some drug dealers of homicide when the sale of illegal drugs results in overdose deaths.

Politics
3:20 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Future of Bill Restoring Voting Rights for Some Felons Uncertain as It Heads to Kentucky Senate

A bill that would automatically restore voting rights for non-violent felons in Kentucky has passed the House and heads to the Senate, where it has historically stalled.

Republican Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer says he won't support the bill unless it includes an amendment that would create a waiting period before the rights are restored.

“I can’t support it the way it’s written, with automatic restoration; the minute they walk out of jail, and have served all their time and parole, etc.”

U.S. Senator Rand Paul has voiced support for the bill. He favors a five-year waiting period.

Thayer says he isn’t sure yet whether a provision to require a photo ID to vote will be added to the bill.

Politics
4:11 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Legislation Seeking to Track Kentucky Economic and Tax Incentives Passes Committee

A bill that would establish a public database of economic development and tax incentives offered in Kentucky has cleared a House committee.

Rep. Larry Clark filed the bill that would require the state’s Economic Development Cabinet to provide information on how much money the state gives to private companies for the purposes of job creation.

“This will track everything," the Louisville Democrat said. "It’ll be accountability, transparency, first for the website, we’ll let the public know how to access everything that’s going on in each cabinet. Secondly, they’ll have to report back to us, and then we can evaluate the return on our investment, what activities goin’ on across the state, and especially how effective we are.”

Clark’s bill would also make public the number of jobs created and wages paid by the project.

The New York Times has reported that over a billion dollars in incentives has been handed out in Kentucky. Currently, the state does not have an official mechanism to account for that.

Nearly $600 million of that annual sum goes toward “energy development” and the coal industry.

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