Politics

Politics
6:17 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Statewide Smoking Ban Moving in Kentucky Legislature

A Kentucky House committee has approved a ban on indoor smoking in public places and private businesses across the commonwealth.

The House Health & Welfare Committee voted 10-3. It would provide an exemption for open spaces, and will also apply to e-cigarettes.

Sponsor Susan Westrom says the ban is needed to improve the health of all Kentuckians regardless if they smoke, and will affect a variety of workplaces.

“What they haven’t considered is, we’re not just talking about restaurants and bars. We’re talking about people who work in manufacturing companies, who work in law practices, who work in insurance companies. It’s amazing, the different types of places people work. It’s not just restaurants and bars.”

Dissenting Republicans questioned what the ban would mean for personal freedoms.

The bill now heads to a floor debate in the House.

Senator Julie Denton, who testified in support of the bill, has filed companion legislation in the Senate.

Politics
5:15 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Minimum Wage Increase Clears Kentucky House

After more than two-and-a-half hours of debate, the Kentucky House passed a bill Thursday afternoon that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.

The issue drew impassioned speeches from supporting lawmakers. 

The debate’s most incendiary comments came from Rep. Jim Wayne.  The characteristically soft-spoken Louisville lawmaker criticized what he called an economic caste system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

“The free market system will guarantee everyone a quality job. Not so; a big lie," argued Wayne.  "The only way capitalism works if for government to step in and set the rules. Now you don’t wanna hear that, but it’s the truth. And that’s what the New Deal was all about.”

Opponents said the higher wage would force some employers to cut jobs. They said it would add costs for school districts and local governments to pay low-wage employees.

The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Politics/Health
8:11 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Kentucky Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Bill Mandating Ultrasound Before Abortion

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory ultrasound.

The measure passed 33-5 Wednesday with wide Republican support. This is the tenth year the bill has cleared the Senate. All previous efforts have gone on to die in the Democratically-controlled House.

The bill does not provide an exemption for victims of rape. Bill sponsor Whitney Westerfield acknowledges that transvaginal ultrasounds could be traumatic for rape victims.

“I’m not compelling that particular use, and I think that probably would be traumatic and I don’t know, I don’t presume to know what a woman would be thinking in that position, but I think it probably would be," the Hopkinsville Republican said. "They oughta have the option of which ultrasound. That’s why I didn’t write it so it’d be compelled.”

Dissenters say the bill is degrading to women, and  similar laws in other states are costing taxpayers money as a result of legal challenges.

Westerfield said he had not had a chance to review those cases.

Politics
11:09 am
Wed February 5, 2014

McConnell: Immigration Debate an "Irresolvable Conflict" for Senate, House

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Credit WKU PBS

Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator is expressing doubts on the prospects of major immigration law overhaul this year.

Republican Mitch McConnell told reporters he doesn’t believe House and Senate leaders will be able to overcome their differences. Senator McConnell describes the differences between the House and Senate as an “irresolvable conflict.” The website Politico reports the Louisville Republican says the problem isn’t specific policy differences between the two chambers, but rather how each side wants to move forward procedurally.

Some Senate Democrats have said they want to tackle immigration overhaul in a comprehensive fashion, by putting all changes in one massive bill.

House Republicans have spoken in support of taking on the issue step-by-step, and passing several smaller bills along the way. While President Obama and some Congressional Democrats have recently indicated they’d be willing to look at piecemeal reform, McConnell says the gulf between the two parties is too great to get reform passed this year.

McConnell is facing a Senate primary challenge this spring by Tea Party activist Matt Bevin, who says he’s opposed to any measure that offers amnesty to illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Politics
5:28 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Move to Abolish Kentucky Treasurer's Office Passes State Senate

The Kentucky Senate has passed a proposed ballot measure seeking to abolish the state treasurer's office. The proposal would amend the Kentucky constitution to allow the treasurer's duties to shift to the state finance cabinet.

The measure cleared the senate on a 23-15 vote Tuesday. It now goes to the state House.

Republicans backing the measure say it could save the state $1.4 million each year. State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach disputed that, saying his abolishing his office wouldn't save any money. Democrats opposing the bill said the treasurer's office provides needed oversight of state finances.

Minority floor leader R. J. Palmer said the treasurer's office generates more revenue than other state constitutional offices. Republicans said the state auditor would provide needed oversight of executive spending.

Politics
10:08 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Grimes Pushes Higher Minimum Wage

Kentucky Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes says increasing the federal minimum wage would be at the top of her agenda if she's elected to the U.S. Senate. 

Grimes said in a release that a higher minimum wage would raise the income and spending power for tens of thousands of Kentucky families.

The issue presents a stark contrast between Grimes and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who is seeking a sixth term this year.

McConnell says a higher minimum wage would force businesses to reduce jobs.

A Democratic push to boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is seen as a long shot in Congress this year. President Barack Obama made a push for the increase in his State of the Union speech.

Grimes is the Democratic front-runner for the seat held by McConnell.

Politics
1:45 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Kentucky's Health Exchange Reaches Milestone

Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, has topped 200,000 enrollees, according to the Governor’s Office.

New data says an average 1,600 people are signing up each day.

As of Friday, three fourths of those who have signed up have enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program. And the remaining quarter have enrolled in new private plans.

Those without insurance have until the end of March to sign up for coverage or face tax penalties.

Politics
11:29 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Haslam to Deliver State of State Speech Monday

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam
Credit Tennessee State Government

Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee is giving his fourth State of the State address on Monday evening.

The governor will unveil details of his annual state spending proposal and lay out some of his top legislative priorities for the year.

Haslam has warned that flagging state revenues combined with growing health care costs will put the squeeze on other programs the state would like to spend money on.

State lawmakers expect the governor to emphasize his goal of improving Tennessee's graduate rates from colleges and universities from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025.  Haslam calls the initiative "Drive to 55."

Other items on the governor's agenda include creating prescription requirements to purchase large amounts of cold medications used to make illegal methamphetamine.

Politics
9:41 am
Sun February 2, 2014

Beshear to Discuss Tax Plan with Kentucky House and Senate Leaders

Kentucky’s legislative leaders will meet Monday with Governor Steve Beshear who will offer up his plan to reform the state’s tax code. 

Beshear argues a more modern tax system will generate new revenue and make Kentucky more competitive with other states.  Still, he acknowledges lawmakers' reluctance to tackle the issue.

"All of the House members are on the ballot for election, or re-election and half of the Senate.  That is always in the back of their minds obviously and affects sometimes what you can get the legislature to address."

There's been no movement on comprehensive tax reform since a commission chaired by Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson offered recommendations in 2012.  The group suggested raising the cigarette tax, expanding the sales tax, and allowing local governments to levy a sales tax on special projects, among dozens of other recommendations.

Politics/Health
8:01 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Bill Requiring Women to Undergo Ultrasound Before Abortion Passes Kentucky Committee

A Kentucky Senate committee has passed a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory ultrasound procedure.

Senate Bill 8 is the latest anti-abortion measure to clear the panel.

Lawmakers heard testimony from Derrick Selznick, who is director of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Selznick opposes the bill on the grounds that it’s demeaning to women.

“So for the majority of women that this will effect in Kentucky, there will have to have [sic] a vaginal ultrasound," Selznick said. "And the courts have ruled that the only way a woman can dissent, even though it is written into the law that they can avert their eyes, the only way she can can fulfill that is to wear blinders and noise cancelling headphones. And if that isn’t degrading, I don’t know what is.”

Bill sponsor Whitney Westerfield says the measure is designed to protect innocent life.

Another anti-abortion bill, Senate Bill 3, passed in that chamber last week.

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