Political news

Kentucky LRC

This is the last full week of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 session—and just one major piece of legislation has passed both the House and Senate.

Some in Frankfort have high hopes that a few bills will become law in the session’s waning days, including a bill meant to address Kentucky’s growing heroin problem and a constitutional amendment that would allow local governments to fund local projects with a temporary sales tax.

At the end of day 21 of a likely 28 day session, here’s where some of the big bills stood:


The House and Senate have each passed their own bills that seek to combat Kentucky’s growing heroin problem. Both proposals set aside money for addiction treatment, increase penalties for traffickers and make an overdose-reversing drug called naloxone more available.

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky is one step closer to providing victims of dating violence with the same protections that married victims have.

A Senate committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow people to file an interpersonal protective order against an abusive dating partner. The bill has passed the House and now heads to the full Senate.

Kentucky is the only state that doesn’t offer civil protection to victims of dating violence. Currently only couples who are married, share a child or cohabitate can file protective orders against their partners.

Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat, said the bill can solve problems quickly without entering the criminal justice system.

“More than half of those who enter this system, the violence stops with a civil protected order,” Tilley said. “In other words, criminal sanctions aren’t necessary. Sometimes the victim doesn’t want to go through the criminal justice process.”

Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky House unanimously passed two bills to combat sex trafficking and child pornography in the state.

One bill would prevent those charged with having sex with a child prostitute from claiming they thought the child was over 18. Democratic Representative Sannie Overly says the bill goes along with legislation working its way through the U.S. Congress that amends federal trafficking statutes in the same way.

“It is essentially ‘buyer beware’ and you don’t get to claim later that you didn’t know how old the victim was," Overly said.

The other bill would increase funding for a task force which investigates crimes against children on the internet.

If either bill succeeds, this would be the third year that Kentucky has passed a human trafficking law.

Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce spent the most cash lobbying in the General Assembly in the month of January.

According to the Legislative Ethics Commission groups spent nearly $1.8 million that month.

The Kentucky Chamber dropped more than $30,000 trying to influence legislators on matters like public-private-partnerships, the local-option sales tax and charter schools.

Another notable big-spender in January was the tobacco company Altria, which also spent the most on lobbying the legislature last year at $323,000.

The Kentucky Hospital Association helped cap the top three spots. That group has been lobbying for the implementation of medical review panels and the smoking ban.

A record-high 677 businesses and organizations are currently registered to lobby the Kentucky General Assembly.

A bill intended to reduce state debt over time is on its way to the Kentucky House. The Senate voted 28-8 Friday in favor of the measure, which limits general fund-supported debt to six percent.

Sponsor Joe Bowen of Owensboro says, taking into account courthouse construction borrowing, the Commonwealth's current debt ratio is eight percent.

Somerset Senator Chris Girdler says attitudes about borrowing are troubling.

"It reminds me of the T.V. show, 'Are YouSmarter than a Fifth Grader?' It's a simple philosophy, debt is bad, saving is good,” said Girdler. “And I feel like Mr. President sometimes; we need to repeat that to ourselves. Debt is bad, saving is good."

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones voted 'no', saying the measure could be considered unconstitutional. He says it would tie the hands of future general assemblies to address potential problems.

House OKs Income Tax Checkoff to Support Cancer Research

Feb 27, 2015
LRC Public Information

The Kentucky House has passed a bill aimed at helping young cancer patients by allowing taxpayers to contribute portions of their state income tax refunds to support research.

The Senate has passed its own version of a bill to generate money for pediatric cancer research.

The House voted 93-0 Friday on its bill. Among those watching the debate was a young boy who has battled cancer. The boy and his family basked in applause on the House floor.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, whose young son has battled cancer since infancy.

It's not the first time an income tax refund checkoff has been proposed to combat disease. State officials say the Breast Cancer Trust Fund has received more than $445,000 since 2006 through its tax check off program.

Transgender Bathroom Bill Passes Kentucky Senate

Feb 27, 2015
Credit Ted Eytan/taedc / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The Kentucky Senate has easily passed legislation Friday requiring public school students to use the bathroom of their biological sex.

Debate on the bill has centered on whether transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms of their gender identity. Bowling Green Senator Mike Wilson said 'modesty' is a factor in these decisions.

"I don't want that situation, for my daughter to be in a place in a state of undress in front of the opposite sex, whether they identify with her sex or not," Wilson argued.

Opponents claimed passage of the bill amounted to unfair treatment of transgender students. Louisville Senator Morgan McGarvey cast a 'no' vote.

"If we impact the life, in a negative way, of just one student with this policy, isn't that one too many," asked McGarvey.

The Republican controlled Senate approved the bill with a vote of 27 to nine. It now heads to the Democratic-led House where it is expected to face an uphill fight.

Kentucky’s Judicial Nominating Commission has nominated three candidates to replace former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott.

Will T. Scott resigned in January to enter the Republican race for governor. He has represented the 7th Supreme Court District, which covers much Eastern Kentucky since 2004.

The candidates are all Eastern Kentucky attorneys: David Allen Barber from Prestonsburg, Roger Donald Riggs from Mount Sterling and Janet Stumbo from Van Lear.

Barber is an advisor for House Speaker Greg Stumbo and a former Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge. Riggs was a judge in the Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims, which deals with worker’s compensation claims in the state. Janet Stumbo has been a Kentucky Court of Appeals judge for the last seven years. She held the 7th District seat from 1993 to 2004, until she was defeated by Will T. Scott.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has 60 days to appoint one of the nominees to the seat.

Senate Votes To Limit How Much Kentucky Can Borrow

Feb 27, 2015
Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate voted 28-8 to cap the state's debt at 6 percent of its general fund revenue. The bill exempts the state's road fund, specific state agency debt and it also provides an exemption in case the governor declares an emergency.

The bill had bipartisan support and dissent, with and handful of Republicans and Democrats voting against it. Republican Sen. Tom Buford of Nicholasville said it was hypocritical to vote for a debt limit and then vote to borrow about $130 million for a new cancer research building at the University of Kentucky, which the Senate is scheduled to do next week.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said the debt limit would prompt future lawmakers to consider things differently.

Senate Acts to Shut Down Internet Cafes

Feb 27, 2015

The Kentucky Senate has approved legislation that could shut down internet sweepstakes cafes in the Commonwealth. The computer based businesses give away chances to win monetary prizes with the purchase of a service or product.

Proponents of the bill say the games the businesses offer are equivalent to gambling. Bowling Green Senator Mike Wilson says the establishments in his town are impacting charitable groups. "It has taken away from, in Warren County, the revenue that comes from charitable gambling for our veterans' organizations," said Wilson.