2014 General Assembly

4:44 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Bill To Give Incentives To Coal Industry Advances From House Committee

Rep. Rocky Adkins (left) and House Speaker Greg Stumbo earlier pictured earlier in the 2014 General Assembly
Credit Kentucky LRC

A state House panel has unanimously approved a bill to provide tax incentives to the ailing coal industry.

House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says his bill will permit tax breaks on machinery and manufacturing for coal-related companies. The Democrat says the breaks are similar to incentives enjoyed by car manufacturing plants in the state and reduce economic strain on the industry.

“Those are everything from sales tax credits on the materials, pieces and parts it takes to build an assembly line, or put the pieces and parts in whatever operation or manufacturer or industrial complex that it may be, whether it be at AK Steel in the Ashland area, whether it be at Toyota or Ford.  That’s going on at Toyota and Ford as we speak,” said Adkins.

According to the New York Times, Kentucky gave nearly $570 million in incentives to the coal industry in 2012 alone.

Last year, coal jobs in Kentucky reached their lowest point since 1927, with over 2,300 jobs lost in 2013.

The bill now heads to the House floor.

4:32 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Effort Underway to Allow Elections Legalizing Alcohol by the Drink at State Parks, Golf Courses

Barren River Lake State Resort Park currently does not allow alcohol sales.
Credit Kentucky State Parks

A Kentucky House lawmaker is predicting the General Assembly will pass a bill allowing alcohol sales at many state parks.  

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark’s bill would give residents in precincts containing state park lodges or golf courses the ability to petition for an election allowing alcohol by the drink. Clark’s bill has passed out of a Senate committee, and the Louisville Democrat says Senate leaders have told him they believe the measure will make it through the legislature this session.

The Herald-Leader reports State Parks Commissioner and former Bowling Green mayor Elaine Walker said expanded alcohol sales at state parks and golf courses would be substantial.

The list of Kentucky State Resort Parks that do not serve alcohol includes Barren River Lake, Cumberland Falls,  Dale Hollow Lake, Pennyrile Forest, and Rough River Dam.

Opponents of the bill say alcohol sales would interfere with the family-friendly atmospheres found at Kentucky’s state parks.

3:25 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Kentucky Senate Passes Bill Allowing Rand Paul to Run for Two Offices at Same Time

A bill that would allow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to run for both the Senate and the Presidency of the United States passed out of the Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate Tuesday.

Senate Bill 205, sponsored by GOP Floor Leader Damon Thayer, would allow a candidate who is running for statewide election to also run for the office of the presidency or vice-presidency. It passed by a 25 to 13 vote.

Paul is widely considered to be front-runner for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2016, when he is also up for re-election, but the Bowling Green Republican has not announced any specific plans.

Thayer's bill now heads to the House, where Speaker Greg Stumbo has laughed at the idea.

3:57 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Kentucky Senate Takes Turn Considering New Two-Year Budget

Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate works this week to put its mark on a two year budget.  Members have been reviewing spending and program needs the last few weeks, but now it's decision time.  Budget Committee Chair Bob Leeper says it's likely to make for some late nights.  

"We haven't made any concrete decisions at this point.  Want to watch and see how the House affected the budget, see what their priorities were," said Leeper. "Our job now is to spend late nights working on it and try to put what we think is a responsible budget forward when we get through with it."

The Kentucky House passed its version of the 20 million dollar budget last week.  Senate leaders have complained the House plan contains too much borrowing.   

"A pretty notable contrast that we want to do what we believe is fiscally responsible, that we want to have reasonable debt, we want to limit out structural imbalance," said Senate President Rob Stivers.

Stivers says the House sent the budget down to the Senate a couple of days earlier than previous years.  He and House leaders anticipate getting together in a couple of weeks to attempt to iron out differences between the budgets passed in each chamber.  ​

12:25 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Democrat Accuses Kentucky Republicans of Injecting 'Washington Style Politics' Into Budget Process

Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, presents the House version of the state budget before the Kentucky House.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky Public Radio's Jonathan Meador reports on the House budget process

After much debate, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed its budget to fund state government for the next two years this week. The $20.3 billion spending plan is nearly identical to one proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear, and it largely preserves funding for K through 12 education, which has been a stated priority of the governor.

The sparring over the plan on the House floor could be a sign of things to come in November, when many lawmakers are up for re-election.

In a sprawling five-hour debate, House members argued over how best to spend the money of Kentucky taxpayers.

“Mr. Speaker, this is an important budget. And I think anyone who votes yes on this budget today can feel good about that vote,” said Rick Rand, Democratic House budget chair.

Rand sponsored a last-minute substitute to the budget that counteracted a slew of Republican amendments, including one from GOP Rep. Joe Fischer that would repeal the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and defund Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, Kynect.

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8:24 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Kentucky House Passes Budget Blueprint, with Vote Mostly Along Party Lines

Rep. Rick Rand (right) is chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky House has passed a $20 billion, two-year state budget that closely follows the governor's spending recommendations.

House members voted 53-46 Thursday to send the bill to the Senate. It was generally backed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans.

The plan would pump more money into the state's main funding formula for K-12 education.

State employees, teachers and other school workers would receive pay raises.

It targets spending cuts for an array of state agencies to free up money for schools.

Republicans complained the plan includes too much new spending and more bond payments to support projects.  

Budget committee Chairman Rick Rand said its priorities will improve lives.

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12:51 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Right to Work Bill Fails to Clear Kentucky Panel

House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, follows debate in the House Labor and Industry Committee as they consider his "Right To Work" bill.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Right-to-work legislation has died in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

The Republican-backed bill was met with stiff opposition from labor unions and House Democrats.

Committee Room 149 was standing room only, with union members crossed-armed along the edges of the packed hearing on a bill that would prohibit workers from paying union dues as a condition of employment.

They say the measure filed by House GOP Floor Leader Jeff Hoover would lower wages for all workers.

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan says the decline in American jobs is related to free-trade agreements.

“It’s happening alright. Thirty-six-thousand-four-hundred jobs since 2001 due to our flawed trade agreements with China. Maybe we should be talking about that, and not right-to-work," Londrigan said to applause from many in the audience.

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Kentucky Budget
10:48 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Kentucky House Expected to Vote on Governor's Budget Proposal Thursday

Gov. Beshear's budget plan in before House lawmakers in Frankfort.

The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved a bill that would increase the state’s gas tax by two percent.

Filed by Rep. Rick Rand, the measure passed by nine votes. It will also tax instant horse racing, and retroactively fix issues with library taxing districts.

But the body delayed an anticipated vote on its version of Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget proposal, which funds state government for the next two years. House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says lawmakers need extra time to study the measure.

“I think this is a good budget for education, for economic development, for health and human services," Rep. Adkins said. "The other items that we’ve tried to build back in after $1.6 billion of cuts since 2008, so we think that, we’re very confident that we have the votes.”

The House is expected to vote on its budget Thursday.

4:21 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Kentucky Senate OK's Cannabis Oil Bill

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe, and patients to use, cannabis-based oil for medical purposes. The non-intoxicating cannabidiol has been used in other states to treat severe seizures in children, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Julie Denton of Louisville who says the oil would be studied by Kentucky research universities. Doctors would be able to send patients to those universities to acquire the oil. The bill drew no vocal opposition in the Senate chamber.

It cleared the state Senate on Wednesday with a unanimous vote. The bill now moves to the Kentucky House for consideration.

4:35 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

More Doubt Cast on Prospects for Statewide Smoking Ban

Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

The sponsors of a pair of bills that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses in Kentucky say their proposed legislation has been stalled in the General Assembly.

Louisville Republican Julie Denton filed one of the bills in the Senate. And she's been frustrated by what she sees as the inability of both parties to support the issue.

“There are so many compelling things that I don’t understand why we can’t get this to move forward in either chamber," said Rep. Denton. "So obviously it’s not a partisan issue, it’s both sides. It’s all sides. I’m frustrated.”

Last week, Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom declared her smoking-ban bill “dead” after House leadership refused to bring the measure to the floor.