2014 General Assembly

Regional
5:15 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Bill Requiring Parental Notification of Teen Traffic Tickets Wins Final Approval

Kentucky lawmakers have given final approval to a bill requiring parents to be in court when their teenage children are accused of traffic violations.

The Senate passed the bill on a 38-0 vote Friday, sending it to Gov. Steve Beshear. The bill previously passed the House.

Supporters say the bill stems from the death of a Kentucky teenager who died in a traffic crash while speeding.

They say the same teen was stopped for speeding previously, but his case went through the courts without his parents' knowledge.

The bill seeks to ensure parents know when their children are accused of traffic violations. It would apply to cases involving youngsters under age 18. In most cases, their parents or guardians would have to attend their court proceedings.

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Regional
2:22 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

In Frankfort, Budget Talks Break Down As End of Session Looms

House Republican Whip John Carney, R-Campbellsville (left), talks with Rep. Jim Stewart, R-Flat Lick, during a recess period of the budget conference committee.
Credit Kentucky LRC

House and Senate lawmakers are far from agreeing on how to spend $20 billion in tax money during the next two years.

Talks broke down early Friday afternoon over $1 million for expanded cancer screenings and $500,000 to replace a roof at a domestic violence shelter in Louisville.

Senate Republicans argued the cancer screening money is unnecessary now that Medicaid and private insurance plans are required to pay for them under the federal Affordable Care Act. Democrats say the money is still needed because not everyone has signed up for insurance yet.

Lawmakers have yet to discuss big issues in the budget, including a 1.5 cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax and $65 million for the renovation of Rupp Arena in Lexington.

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Politics/Business
8:12 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Kentucky Senate Approves Measure Creating Public-Private Partnerships for Infrastructure Projects

A bill that would permit private corporations to partner with government to finance infrastructure projects is one step closer to becoming law.

Filed by Rep. Leslie Combs, House Bill 407 passed the Senate by a 27-9 vote, and would allow local governments to partner with businesses to fund infrastructure projects.

Dissenting members worried that the legislation would afford private companies too much influence on public projects, and expressed concern over accountability of the process.

Sen. Perry Clark cited a Brookings Institute study that says public private partnerships, or “P3’s,” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

“They have over a two-thirds failure rate," the Louisville Democrat said. "Of the construction roads, they looked at 11 of them that were completed, seven of those ended in bankruptcy, and several of them ended in foreclosure. Oftentimes it was at great cost to the taxpayers that had to foot the difference.”

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Regional
5:14 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Stivers: Senate Budget To Restore Number of Mine Inspections

Senate President Robert Stivers
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate will likely restore funding to conduct coal mine inspections in the state budget. Currently, mines get six state inspections a year.

A previous draft of the budget cut the number to two. Senate President Robert Stivers says his chamber will likely restore funding for six inspections.  But that doesn't mean Stivers wants to keep the amount of money exactly the same. He says the House budget didn’t address the reduction in the number of coal mines, which he argues requires fewer inspections.

“They funded it at the level that it has been without recognition of closures and loss of jobs,” said Stivers.  “So it’ll be a function of that, looking at closure and loss of jobs and seeing what’s actually out there.”

The Senate’s budget initially reduced the number of mandatory mine inspections from six per year to just two, prompting criticism from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, which said in a statement that further reductions in its budget would put coal miners at increased risk.

Politics
7:50 am
Thu March 27, 2014

House Commitee Passes Bill that Toughens Laws Against Heroin Dealers, Increases Treatment Options

A bill that would raise penalties on heroin traffickers and provide new treatment options for opiate addicts narrowly cleared a Kentucky House committee Wednesday.

The House Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 5 with 12 yes votes, and 8 members abstaining due to concerns over the measure’s constitutionality regarding charging drug traffickers with homicides for overdose deaths and the bill’s emphasis on prosecution.

Louisville resident Melissa Halfhill testified before the committee that the homicide provision would have allowed authorities to charge the dealer who she says gave her daughter, Katie, a fatal dose of heroin.

“I talk to the homicide detective about pressing charges. He said the laws are in effect, there’s nothing we can do unless we see him actually sell the heroin to someone. So in essence, there’s was nothing they could do," Halfhill told lawmakers.

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Regional
4:33 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Kentucky Lawmakers Come To Agreement on Snow Days

Kentucky public school students won't have to cancel their summer vacation after state legislators agreed to relax school attendance laws following an unusually snowy winter.

House and Senate negotiators agreed Wednesday night to suspend the state law requiring school districts to have 170 days of classes, as long as they have at least 1,062 hours of classroom instruction.

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Education
5:25 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Senate Passes Charter Schools Bill, But Fate In House Remains Doubtful

Sen. Mike Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican, follows the vote tally on a charter school bill he sponsored in the Kentucky Senate.
Credit Kentucky LRC

A bill that would allow persistently low-achieving public schools to convert to privately-run charter schools has cleared the Kentucky Senate.

The measure passed the Republican-led chamber by a 22-14 party line vote. It would allow certified teaching staff and parents to petition the school’s principal to hold a vote on whether a privately run charter organization should be in charge of the school.

Sen. Mike Wilson, a Republican from Bowling Green, sponsored the bill.

“It’s only allowed in conversions for these low-achieving schools, and schools do remain accountable to the local board, who is, that who is the contract is with, and it’s only for a period of five years,” said Wilson.

Wilson filed similar legislation last year, only for it die in the Democratic-controlled House.

Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Louisville, spoke against the bill on the Senate floor. He took issue with the notion that charter schools are a cure-all for education.

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Regional
2:33 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Full Senate Approves $5.4 Billion Road Plan; Conference Committee Awaits

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Ernie Harris (right) pictured earlier in the 2014 General Assembly session
Credit Kentucky LRC

The state Senate's approach to building and maintaining roads and bridges across the Commonwealth is moving forward.  The Senate adopted the six-year road plan Wednesday.  Committee Chair Ernie Harris says the $5.4  billion dollar transportation program contains no tax increases.  

"As those projects have been moving along, we are entering the most expensive phase, because we're entering the construction phase for many of those projects, so that's why we had to be very careful when we developed this plan to make sure it was balanced so the projects that are in the plan can continue to move," said Harris.

Included is funding for the Louisville bridges project, expansion of the mountain parkway and widening Interstate 65.  Hazard Senator Brandon Smith called it a "responsible approach for transportation."  

"I can put bridges in there that are never gonna be built.  It used to be the running joke for those of us in the mountains that we'd have a 20 year project in the six year road plan," said Smith "But, I will tell you that you didn't do that, that the stuff on here is real.".

Members of the Senate and House will sit down over the next few days to work to iron out a compromise road plan. ​

Politics
9:13 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Republican-Led Kentucky Senate Wants to Defund ACA Through Next State Budget

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester)
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate’s $20 billion budget proposal aims to defund the Affordable Care Act in the commonwealth, but its provisions won’t affect the program.

The Senate’s executive budget that was passed Monday disallows state general funds from being used to fund the ACA, the commonwealth’s Medicaid expansion and the state health insurance exchange, Kynect, all of which are federally funded until the year 2017.

But the state budget only affects fiscal years 2014-2016, making the measure largely a political one in advance of November’s elections.

When asked what his chamber would do if the 321,000 Kentuckians enrolled via Kynect lost their coverage due to the ACA being defunded, Sen. President Robert Stivers said he would support “supplemental programs,” like health savings accounts, to help insure them.

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Regional
9:54 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Senate Amendement Would Ban Undercover Videos on Kentucky Farms

Photos like this one taken by the Humane Society would be outlawed under a bill amended by the Kentucky Senate Tuesday.
Credit U.S. Humane Society

An undercover video released in February by the Humane Society showed – what it described – as inhumane conditions at a hog farm in Owensboro.  Under an amendment proposed by the Senate agriculture committee on Tuesday, taking secret videos like that would be against the law.  

The amendment was added to the House bill that dealt with the ways animals could be euthanized.The amendment declares that any photographs or video taken without a farmer's permission would be considered a crime.  

Paul Shapiro with the Humane Society of the United States called it an attempt to silence the investigations they conduct. 

“Animal cruelty exposés often rely on video and photographic evidence,” said Shapiro.  “The meat industry’s response to our exposés is to try to criminalize the mere act of whistle blowing at their operations, which shows you just how much they have to hide.”

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