Politics

Political news

J. Tyler Franklin

House Republicans have advanced a bill that would ban mandatory labor union membership in Kentucky.

A House committee approved the bill Wednesday. Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover said lawmakers plan to approve the bill this week.

Hundreds of union workers packed the hallways outside of the committee room, chanting “working people matter” and “suits in there, boots out here.”

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Lawmakers gave initial approval to two anti-abortion bills Wednesday as Republicans assume control of the legislative process and fast-track conservative policies previously stymied by Democrats.

Protesters came out in force to oppose the measures during committee hearings, at times groaning when elected officials argued in favor of the measures and cheering lawmakers who voted against them.

The bills could be signed into law as soon as this Saturday. Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover said the legislature would likely meet over the weekend to give final passage to what Republicans consider high-priority legislation.

LRC Public Information

Women wouldn’t be able to get abortions if they are more than 20 weeks pregnant under a bill proposed in the Kentucky Senate Tuesday.

The legislation has a good chance of passing the full legislature and governor’s desk, which are controlled by Republicans for the first time in state history.

Senate President Robert Stivers said that the bill would protect unborn fetuses because they don’t get to decide whether to go forth with an abortion.

“There is at this point in time two viable beings in this decision,” Stivers said. “One had a choice early on to make a decision to conceive or not conceive. But once conception starts there becomes another life involved. And the legislature has its ability to control how that life may proceed or how it may be terminated.”

Ryland Barton

Republicans are officially the majority party in the state House of Representatives for the first time since 1921, putting the party in control of the legislature and the governorship for the first time in state history.

As expected, Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, was elected House Speaker after serving as the leader of the minority party for 15 years.

On Tuesday, the first day of the legislative session, Hoover called for unity.

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Community groups in counties across Kentucky are starting the new year with a Bible reading marathon, which Governor Matt Bevin marked in a proclamation earlier this month. In the proclamation, Bevin declared 2017 “The Year of the Bible.”

The Kentucky 120 United Bible Reading Marathon is a four-day event in which volunteers sign up for time slots to read the Bible from beginning to end. Hopkins County event coordinator Lynda Crick says it is a great way to bring the state together.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says his office will ramp up efforts in 2017 to combat human trafficking. 

With assistance from the attorney general's office, 28 people were arrested this year in Kentucky, accused of forcing others into sex or labor trading.  One of the arrests was in Louisville during the week of the Kentucky Derby where a 14-year-old girl was rescued. 

Beshear says human trafficking is occurring in every county of the state.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has reorganized the state’s agency for public defenders — attorneys who represent those charged with crimes who can’t afford legal representation.

The realignment of the Department for Public Advocacy creates three new trial offices by shifting employees and resources from existing offices in order to reduce travel time for public defenders.

Kentucky Public Advocate Ed Monahan says the revamp will make the agency more efficient in the face of mounting caseloads.

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A state lawmaker has proposed sentencing those convicted of three or more Class A or B felonies to life in prison without the opportunity for parole.

Rep. Gerald Watkins, a Democrat from Paducah, said by the time someone has committed three severe felonies, they’ve missed the window to change their behavior.

“They are not going to take advantage of the opportunities to be productive citizens when they get out of prison,” Watkins said. “They usually just graduate to more and more violent crimes as they go through the system.”

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Hal Heiner, secretary of the state’s Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, said a new free college tuition program would help people who have exited the labor force get back to work.

Gov. Matt Bevin created the program by executive order last week after vetoing a similar measure during this year’s legislative session.

The scholarship would be the “last dollar in” for students seeking two-year degrees at schools in Kentucky, paying for the rest of tuition and fee expenses not covered by federal financial aid.

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Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is warning Kentucky lawmakers against any legislation that could stymie economic interest in the state or its largest city.

He said the state legislature, now controlled by Republicans in the House and Senate for the first time in history, can “achieve anything they want.”

“Let’s make sure that nothing negative happens in our community, in our state, regarding our ability to discriminate against anyone,” he told WFPL News during an hour-long discussion last week.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin has issued an executive order creating the Work Ready Scholarship Program, which will provide free tuition to eligible Kentucky students getting a two-year degree that could be used in “high-demand” industries like healthcare and manufacturing.

“[T]he Commonwealth of Kentucky is committed to increasing the currently low workforce participation rate by expanding the skilled, competitive workforce necessary to attract new businesses to the state,” Bevin wrote in the executive order.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The sponsor of a so-called “religious freedom” bill says it may have to wait until 2018. Laurel County Republican Senator Albert Robinson said the bill would have passed this year had it not been for House Democrats.

The religious freedom bill would prohibit the government from forcing businesses to serve individuals if doing so would violate the business owner’s religious beliefs. Supporters say the bill’s passage is important to protecting an individual’s right to live according to their religious beliefs. Opponents of the bill say it would allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Kentucky would shift significant resources to its growing family court docket under a plan that would overhaul the state’s judicial system for the first time in 40 years.

Kentucky would get an additional 16 family court judges while losing 15 district and circuit court judges under a plan released Tuesday by Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton. The potentially divisive plan will be a test for the new Republican majority in the state legislature, which is scheduled to convene next month with super majorities in both chambers. If approved, the plan would go into effect in 2022 when all of the state’s judges would be on the ballot.

Kentucky State Government

Republican lawmakers will seek fixes to the state’s ailing pension systems during the upcoming legislative session. And with commanding majorities in both the state House and Senate, they won’t have to listen to Democrats if they don’t want to.

It’s also increasingly likely that Gov. Matt Bevin will call a special legislative session over the summer to address tax reform and pension issues, opening the door for deeper changes to the pension system.

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A Kentucky lawmaker wants to establish a minimum age at which juveniles could be held legally responsible for committing crimes.

The bill would set the minimum age of 11 years old for a criminal offense. Louisville Representative and bill sponsor Darryl Owens said that young children have not fully developed their impulse control or decision making skills, making them unable to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

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