2014 General Assembly

Politics
2:29 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Bill Allowing Simultaneous Campaigns Passes Kentucky Senate Committee

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul

A revised bill that would allow Rand Paul to run for Senate re-election and the White House at the same time is gaining ground.

A Kentucky Senate committee passed the measure after it was changed to specify that the bill applies only to those running for either President or Vice-President of the U.S. Every Republican and one Democrat on the committee voted to forward the bill on to the full Senate.

Current Kentucky law disallows a candidate from appearing twice on a general election ballot.

Bill sponsor Damon Thayer told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the changes to the bill were modeled after a statute in Wisconsin that allowed GOP Congressman Paul Ryan to run for Vice President and the U.S. House in 2012.

Senator Reggie Thomas, one of the Democrats who voted against the measure, said it “defies common sense.”

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Regional
2:13 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Senate Committee Passes Bill to Reduce Length of Legislative Sessions

Senate President Robert Stivers and Floor Leader Damon Thayer during the 2014 General Assembly
Credit Kentucky LRC

A proposal to limit the number of days lawmakers spend in session in Frankfort has passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee.  The bill sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers would reduce the length of the session from 60 days to 45 days in even-numbered years, like this one. 

Odd-numbered year sessions would go from 30 days to just five days, with an option to add 10 more days. Stivers says the bill would save the commonwealth seven million dollars. If the legislation clears the full Senate and house, voters must approve it in a November referendum.

Politics
10:00 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Bill Regulating Use of Drones by Police Languishing in Kentucky General Assembly

House Bill 342 would require police in Kentucky to first get a warrant before using drones to gather evidence on suspects.

A bill that seeks to define how drones could be used by Kentucky law enforcement groups has yet to get a hearing in the General Assembly. 

Under the measure, police would have to secure a warrant before using a drone to gather evidence against an individual.

Kentucky ACLU program director Kate Miller says it’s important to note that House Bill 342 does not ban all uses of drones by law enforcement groups.

“There was recently a train derailment in Louisville. If they wanted to take images of that in order to help out with the cleanup, they would be allowed to use a drone for that," Miller told WKU Public Radio. "But if they think I’m a suspicious character and want to check out what I’m doing, they’re going to need a warrant for that.”

Miller says the bill would continue to allow police to use drones to search for missing persons without getting a warrant.

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Politics
9:20 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Beshear's Budget, Mostly Intact, Begins to Make Its Way Through Legislature

Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

A number of budget bills are moving through the Kentucky legislature, including a modified version of Gov. Steve Beshear’s $20.3 billion biennial budget.

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee cleared bills that would fund the state’s legislative, executive, judicial branches for the next two years.

Louisville Rep. Jim Wayne was one of the few lawmakers who voted against Beshear's planned budget. He lamented a provision in the bill that would cut funds for indigent health care at the University of Louisville Hospital.

“This is a real concern in our community because the city had to cut back its share also, and just recently there was a case where someone who was burned on 50 percent of their body who was put on the street ended up in the Wayside mission because he had no insurance, even though they tried to register him," the Jefferson County Democrat said. "Somehow bureaucracy got delayed.”

The funds were reduced as a part of savings assumed by the governor through the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the House is poised to pass the budget bill Wednesday.

The legislature has until April 15 to pass a new state budget.

Regional
5:56 am
Wed March 12, 2014

One Strike Insurance Law Advancing in Kentucky General Assembly

A Kentucky House panel says when it comes to letting your vehicle insurance lapse, one strike and you're out.

Currently, Kentucky law allows a driver's insurance to lapse three times before the vehicle registration is revoked. But under a bill passed Wednesday, that number would drop to one time.

The bill's sponsor is Democratic Representative Keith Hall of Phelps. He says drivers would still have 60 days from the time insurance lapses to restore coverage. Republican Representative David Floyd of Bardstown asked for an amendment to allow some members of the military to be exempt from the penalties.

The bill cleared the House Transportation Committee Tuesday with a unanimous vote. It now moves on to the full House for consideration.

Education
3:42 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Snow Day Relief Bill Advances, Despite Concerns From Some Lawmakers

The full House will vote on legislation to allow local school districts to shorten their instructional calendar by up to ten days.  The measure is being promoted as a way for schools to deal with a higher-than-normal number of snow days.  Dry Ridge Representative Brian Linder says educators in his home community realize it often takes a while for bills to become laws.  

“I told them I would bring the urgency that we need to make sure that we get this pushed through as quickly as possible so they can get their schedule figured out,” said Linder.

Bill sponsor John Will Stacey says school districts will not lose state funds, if they opt to reduce their calendars by one to ten days.  Still, Richmond Representative Rita Smart has some concerns.  

“Is it fair for districts that don’t take as many days that other districts are gonna take those ten days?,” asked Smart.

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Regional
1:44 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Local Sales Tax Option Passes House Committee

A plan to give local governments the ability to pay for capital projects with a temporary, one percent, sales tax increase is headed to the Kentucky House. The measure has cleared a committee, but faces difficult prospects.

Because it would amend the state constitution, the measure will need a super majority in both the House and the Senate. It would then go to the public on the November ballot.

House Democratic leaders are split over the bill. Speaker Greg Stumbo says rural taxpayers will end up with the bill for projects that will be used more by their urban counterparts.

But Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, says Stumbo hasn’t really made up his mind.

“We’ll just keep educating folks. I mean, the input for Speaker Stumbo’s coming from all over the state, in terms of who’s for this bill, both rural and metropolitan areas,” said Fischer. “So we’ll hope he’ll listen to the people and be for the bill.”

Fischer has been the issue's chief cheerleader for years.

Bill Sponsor Tommy Thompson of Owensboro realizes passage before the full house will be challenging.

“We’ll go to the floor, talk to the members, continue to discuss, continue to provide information and we’ll see where it goes.  This is a fluid process.  I think this particular bill has some great momentum for a good reason,” said Thompson.

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Health
5:22 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Bill Aimed at Minors and Tanning Beds

The Kentucky House has passed a measure aimed at blocking minors from using tanning beds. The measure cleared the House on a 61-31 vote Monday and now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Representative David Watkins of Henderson. He cites rising rates of skin cancer, especially among young women, as the reason for his proposal to keep people under the age of 18 from becoming customers at tanning facilities.

The bill would make exceptions for minors who have been prescribed the use of tanning beds by physicians.

Education
4:14 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Kentucky House Budget Would Let Schools Forgive 10 Days

Kentucky public school students would not have to make up as many as 10 canceled school days under a proposal in the House budget.

State law requires public schools to have a minimum of 170 days and 1,062 hours of classroom instruction. But 31 of the state's 173 school districts have missed at least 20 days because of snow and ice, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Lawrence County School District in eastern Kentucky was one of the hardest hit. Superintendent Mike Armstrong said the district has missed 32 days so far. In January, students were in school just five days.

House lawmakers are considering a separate bill that would let school districts lengthen the school day to make up missed time because of an emergency.

A check of school districts in our listening area reveals Warren and Hardin County schools have missed 13 days a piece, while Daviess County schools have missed 14 full days.

Regional
12:40 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Kentucky House Budget Plan Mirrors Beshear's Blueprint, Including Education Funding Requests

Rep. Jim Stewart (left) and Rep. Rick Rand in the Kentucky House chamber
Credit Kentucky LRC

A budget proposal to be unveiled by the Kentucky  House of Representatives will closely resemble the $20 billion biennial budget outlined by Gov. Steve Beshear.

House Appropriations and Revenue chair Rick Rand says that that chamber’s budget will be virtually the same as the governor’s, specifically in the area of education. It  largely preserves Beshear’s requests for the funding formula known as SEEK  and implements raises for teachers.

He says that the biggest differences between the House’s proposal and the governor’s plan include rejecting new fees for county property valuation administrators, as well factoring in pay hikes for Legislative Research Commission staff despite cuts to that agency.

“The challenges we had to face were twofold. One was the PVA issue, which obviously we didn’t accept. And then we really felt that, you know, with the governor just took the LRC budget and cut it five percent. it didn’t allow for state employees pay raises, or LRC employee pay raises, or increased cost of retirement, so we added those in.”

Rand says the committee will likely pass a budget bill Tuesday, and he expects the full House to approve the measure on Wednesday.

After that, it will head to the Republican-led Senate.

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