Politics

Politics
8:17 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Kentucky House Committee Gives OK to Bill Expanding Domestic Violence Protections

A bill that would extend domestic violence protections for unmarried couples in Kentucky has passed a state House committee.

The bill would expand domestic violence protections to couples who are or were in a romantic relationship. Currently, the law protects individuals who have been married to, have a child with or have lived with their abuser.

Kentucky Domestic Violence Association President Darlene Thomas said the law must be expanded to protect all victims of domestic violence.

“Our criminal justice system, rightfully so, is purposeful and cautious, as a means to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected," she said. "However, for a victim of domestic violence, that process is cumbersome and lengthy

Gov. Steve Beshear expressed support for the measure in his State of the Commonwealth address this week.

Similar legislation has easily cleared the House before, but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Politics
4:13 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Lawmaker Whose Gun Accidentally Went Off at State Capitol Won't Face Criminal Charges

Rep. Leslie Combs (D-Pikeville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

No charges will be filed after a Kentucky lawmaker accidentally fired her personal handgun in her Capitol office.

Democratic Rep. Leslie Combs released a statement acknowledging that the gun went off indoors Tuesday, hitting a wall and a bookshelf.

Combs says she has had a concealed carry permit for years, and she still believes in protecting Second Amendment rights. The state police have ruled the shot an accident and won't press charges.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the incident doesn't mean the laws that allow guns in the capitol should be changed.

“I don’t see anything that needs to be changed," the Floyd County Democrat said. "Somebody’s gonna have to convince me otherwise. I mean, it was an unintentional discharge. I think it’s good policy that people like Leslie who, females, who work here late, have to go to their cars, go to functions, sometimes they’re trying by theirselves [sic], have the right to carry and protect theirselves.”

The story has gained national attention, but Stumbo says he doesn't think it will hurt the state's reputation.

Politics/Health
1:32 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Statewide Smoking Ban Put Forth by Bipartisan Duo of Kentucky Lawmakers

Two Kentucky lawmakers plan to file bills that would create a statewide smoking ban—an idea supported by Governor Steve Beshear.

The smoking ban measures are being championed by a bipartisan duo: Democratic Representative Susan Westrom of Lexington and Republican Senator Julie Denton of Louisville. The lawmakers point out that January marks the 50th anniversary of the first-ever report from the U.S. Surgeon General on smoking and health. That report is credited with helping to change public attitudes on the dangers of smoking.

Several Kentucky towns have passed ordinances that don’t allow smoking at work or public places. But supporters point out that nearly two-thirds of the commonwealth remains uncovered by such a ban.

Opponents say individual businesses should be able to determine whether or not they allow smoking on their premises.

Gov. Beshear voiced his support for a comprehensive ban during his “State of the Commonwealth” address Tuesday.

Politics
11:25 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Kentucky Lawmaker Accidentally Discharges Handgun in Capitol Annex

Rep. Leslie Combs (D-Pikeville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

Rep. Leslie Combs has confirmed that her handgun accidentally fired in her office Tuesday at the Capitol Annex in Frankfort.

No one was injured in the incident. Combs says she was unloading the gun when it went off, and was following proper safety procedures at the time of the incident.

The Courier-Journal quoted Combs, a Pikeville Democrat, as saying she was "going through the process as I have been trained to do. I had it pointed in the proper direction."

Politics
10:58 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Kentucky Lawmakers Receive Training Designed to Combat Sexual Harrassment

Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky lawmakers have finished their first-ever training on sexual harassment.

Over a hundred lawmakers heard a lecture from Aime McFerren, a Louisville attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She shared strategies for identifying sexual harassment, and the benefits of preventing it.

“Sex harassment, retaliation, it’s prevalent still," McFerren said. "It’s costly in a monetary sense, but also in a non-monetary sense. I’m sure you can understand that when a workplace is involved in an investigation where someone has alleged discrimination or retaliation it can be very upsetting to the workplace.”

This has become a larger issue in the General Assembly after revelations that former lawmaker John Arnold allegedly harassed female state employees.

Rep. Will Coursey has also been accused of retaliating against a female state employee who  spoke out about his alleged treatment of a female intern.

Both men have denied the charges.

Politics
9:22 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Kentucky House Committee Considering Expansion of Domestic Violence Protections

A bill that would extend domestic-violence protection to dating partners is being taken up Wednesday by members of a Kentucky House committee.

House Bill 8 received an endorsement Tuesday night by Governor Steve Beshear, who spoke in favor of the bill during his “State of the Commonwealth” address. Supporters have been trying to get such legislation passed since 2007.

Kentucky House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Tilley of Hopkinsville sponsored a bill last year that died without receiving a floor vote.

Tilly is again sponsoring legislation this session that would allow dating partners to obtain domestic violence protective orders.

Politics
8:13 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Beshear Asks Lawmakers for Tax Code Reform in Order to Help Fund Education

In his seventh state of the Commonwealth address, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told lawmakers that he will seek to reinvest in education, while also urging the General Assembly to reform the state's tax code.

The nearly 50-minute speech touched upon a variety of topics, including the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, gains in auto manufacturing and the implementation of new education standards.

In stressing his latest priority, Beshear said that he would make cuts to other programs in order to  reinvest in education. To make up some of the funds, the governor pleaded with lawmakers to act on tax reform this year.

“I realize that tax modernization is a sensitive topic, especially in an election year. But the people elected us to tackle difficult issues. So engage with me. I ask you to engage with me on a core weakness that is keeping the Commonwealth from reaching its potential.”

Beshear offered few details on the kind of changes he wants to see in the tax code.

After the speech, Senate President Robert Stivers said he will need specifics in order to have a discussion on the issue.

Politics/Economy
4:39 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Stumbo: Expanded Gambling Should Start With Constitutional Amendment

Kentucky lawmakers are once again expected to debate expanded gambling measures during the 2014 General Assembly.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says expanded gaming legislation would ideally begin with a constitutional amendment.

Stumbo told reporters Tuesday in the Capitol that by passing only the enabling legislation in the House, the measure could avoid the kind of horse-trading that Senate President Robert Stivers has warned will threaten his support for it.

“I would envision that the House would pass simply enabling legislation, and not spend the money, and that will alleviate his concern. If the voters were to -- I think the voters need what the enabling legislation is. For example: how the commission will be set up; who’ll get the licenses, that sort of thing; where will they be located? That’s the big question.”

Two measures to expand gaming and introduce casino gambling in the state have been introduced in the House and Senate.

Politics
3:10 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Nearly $4 Billion Needed to Fully Fund Requests Kentucky Agency Requests

As Kentucky lawmakers kick off the inaugural day of the 2014 General Assembly, the scope of the state's dire budgetary situation is coming into focus: Legislators will have to find a way to come up with $3.6 billion to fully fund agency budget requests.

Data from the Office of the State Budget Director shows that budget requests from all three branches of state government as well as state agencies totals over $23 billion for the next two fiscal years.

The state’s general fund, however, is expected to have less than $20 billion in revenue.

The state’s budget director, Jane Driskell, has warned that budget cuts are likely.

Gov. Steve Beshear will submit his budget proposal to lawmakers on Jan. 21.

Politics
2:13 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

First Day on the Job for Western Kentucky Special Election Winner

Representative Suzanne Miles takes the oath of Office from Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton, Jr.
Credit Kentucky House Republican Leadership

Kentucky’s newest House member was sworn into office Tuesday on the opening day of the 2014 General Assembly session. 

Representative Suzanne Miles of Owensboro was also appointed to serve on the House Agriculture, Judiciary, and State Government Committees. 

“I’m excited about serving on these committees, and hope to utilize my background as a small business owner, an advocate for our farming community, and my passion for government to help move our Commonwealth forward,” said Rep. Miles.

Miles, a Republican, won a special election in December to serve the remaining term of former Representative John Arnold.

Miles' victory eroded the Kentucky Democratic Party’s margin of control in the House. The Democrats now have 54 seats against the Republicans’ 46.

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