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LRC Public Information

The Kentucky House is expected to vote on its version of the state budget as early as Tuesday. 

In the six years Representative Michael Meredith has been in Frankfort, a budget has been passed by a Democratic governor and House.  The Brownsville Republican says this budget process is interesting to watch.

"This year will be really different because you have a Republican governor sending a budget to the House.  the House is going to have a totally different budget, I think, and send that to the Republican Senate that will do something totally different than the what the Democratic House did," Meredith told WKU Public Radio.  "I think the reconciliation through the conference committee process is going to be really interesting to see how that all works."

The House budget restores some of the cuts proposed by Governor Matt Bevin.  He wants to reallocate $650 million in government spending to address the state's pension obligations.

Rae Hodge

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says his chamber’s version of the state budget will likely include no cuts to higher education in the current fiscal year. 

Speaker Stumbo said Friday that he could almost assure there will be no cuts this fiscal year to any universities in the House budget.  The Courier-Journal reports the Democratic leader made the comment shortly before lawmakers went into session.  Stumbo went on to say that the goal of his chamber would be to restore all proposed cuts to higher education and public school programs. 

Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed budget would make 4.5 percent cuts to universities this year and reduce state funding by nine percent in the next two years.  Bevin argued the cuts are necessary to help make up a shortfall in the state pension system. 

House lawmakers will vote on their version of the budget early next week.  Governor Bevin has said that he will not sign any budget that includes more debt.

LRC Public Information

A state Senate committee unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that would set deadlines for law enforcement to test sexual assault kits.

An investigation from former state Auditor Adam Edelen’s office last year showed there are more than 3,000 untested rape kits in the state, and 41 percent of Kentucky law enforcement agencies don’t submit all kits to the state crime lab.

The bill would require hospitals to submit sexual assault kits to law enforcement within 24 hours of collecting evidence. Local law enforcement would have 30 days to submit the kits to the state crime lab. The crime lab would then have 90 days to analyze the evidence by 2018 and 60 days by 2020.

The legislation also requires that those who complete sexual assault kits be notified of the progress of the testing.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Douglas McCoy

A bill that would forbid owning, training or selling a dog to be used for dogfighting has passed a House committee.

Kentucky already outlaws dogfighting, a class D felony. The House legislation would also make it a class D felony to own, train or sell a dog for dogfighting.

Jefferson County prosecutor Susan Jones said the current state law isn’t effective enough.

“Without eyewitness testimony or a confession, it’s very difficult to actually prove that the animals were being fought,” Jones said.

The legislation differs from a Senate anti-dogfighting bill — supported by hunters organizations — that would require prosecutors to prove that a dog’s “primary purpose” was for dogfighting.

Creative Commons

After years of efforts, a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Kentucky received its first legislative hearing on Wednesday, but it failed to advance the House Judiciary Committee by one vote.

The bill would have replaced the death penalty with life without parole.

“We have tried to perfect the system, but human beings are flawed and we make mistakes,” said Rep. David Floyd, a Republican from Bardstown and the bill’s sponsor. “When the state imposes a death penalty it will never be perfect, it never will be so and we have to acknowledge that.”

Kentucky has executed three people since it reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Joe Gutmann, a former assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Jefferson County, said he used to argue capital punishment cases but lost faith in the process.

“The fact that an innocent person could have been killed in carrying out a death sentence proves the stakes being so irrevocably high that our law must be changed,” Gutmann said.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 156 people sentenced to death in America since 1973 have been acquitted, had charges dismissed or pardoned.

About two-thirds of Kentuckians support capital punishment, according to a Bluegrass Poll from 2013.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Thomas Hawk

A bill intended to curb dogfighting in Kentucky is scheduled to be heard by a state House committee on Wednesday.

The legislation differs from a bill the Senate approved two weeks ago that critics say would make it more difficult to prosecute those who use dogs for fighting.

Rep. Wilson Stone, a Democrat from Scottsville and sponsor of the House bill, said his legislation is designed to tighten anti-dogfighting rules. The bill would make it a class D felony to knowingly own, possess, breed, train or sell a dog “for the purpose of that dog being used to fight another dog for pleasure or profit.”

“Any language that would make it difficult or would make it prohibitive to prosecute is counterproductive to what we’re trying to do,” Stone said.

Dogfighting is already a class D felony in Kentucky, but prosecutors say catching dogfighters in the act is sometimes difficult.

WFPL

Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin went viral with a video he made Monday in the Kentucky Capitol building, chastising the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for not working to pass a budget.

Democratic House and state party leaders have called Bevin’s video misleading.  Bevin was filmed in the empty House chambers saying House Speaker Greg Stumbo has ignored his call to “get serious” about passing a budget.

“It is 11 o’clock on a Monday. There is nobody in here," Bevin pointed out.  "This House – we have less than 19 days left now for this House to be in session together with the Senate and there’s nothing being done.”

House Democrats responded with their own social media posts depicting a busy transportation budget meeting in the Capitol annex.

Kentucky Democratic Party Chair and State Representative Sannie Overly released a statement saying Bevin either, quote “doesn’t know how the process works or he was trying to distort the truth and mislead people."

Kentucky Secretary of State's Office

Kentucky’s Secretary of State says lawmakers have a way to increase voter participation statewide. 

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes spoke in Frankfort Monday in support of early voting legislation. 

Under a bill proposed by Secretary Grimes, Kentucky voters could cast early in-person ballots without an excuse.  Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early.  Grimes points to the success of no-excuse early voting in other states. 

"Tennessee has early voting without a qualifying excuse, and in their presidential primary they held just six days ago, they saw a record number of Tennesseans coming out to participate early in the election," Grimes told WKU Public Radio. 

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett testified alongside Grimes to a House committee.  Hargett said his state also saw more people voting early during the 2012 presidential election than on election day.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Before landing a $3.1 million no-bid state contract on Gov. Steve Beshear’s last day in office, the software company that counts a former Beshear cabinet secretary’s husband as a “partner” had already received $8.1 million worth of state business outside of the competitive bidding process.

SAS Institute, a Cary, N.C., technology company, was hired in 2012 to develop a fraud-detection system for Kynect, the state-owned health insurance exchange. It didn’t have to bid for a state contract of its own. Instead, according to Kentucky Finance & Administration Cabinet records, it piggybacked into the job through a “modification” of the main contract with Deloitte Consulting.

As the arrangement was taking shape, one man — Frank Lassiter of Midway, Ky. — had connections on both sides. For SAS, he had just begun serving as one of more than 1,000 technology “partners” listed on its website. For the Beshear administration, Lassiter was executive director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Office of Administrative and Technology Services until 2011. His wife, Mary Lassiter, was state budget director before being named secretary of Beshear’s Executive Cabinet in 2009. Both contributed money to Beshear’s re-election campaign in 2011.

Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, said the governor’s office is weighing the possibility that political — and marital — connections paved the way for SAS.

LRC Public Information

New Kentucky abortion clinics would have to meet more strict medical standards before they could open under a bill that has cleared a state Senate committee.

The bill would require abortion clinics to get a certificate of need from state regulators and meet standards of an ambulatory surgery center. The bill would apply to abortion clinics licensed after July 1. The state legislature exempted abortion clinics from the requirements in 1998.

Derek Selznick with the ACLU of Kentucky said the bill is designed to shutter the state's few freestanding abortion clinics. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration supports the bill, saying the state needs power to regulate the clinics to keep the procedures safe.

The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a similar law in Texas.

Republican Governor Matt Bevin's administration says it will cost $236,000 to dismantle kynect, Kentucky's popular health insurance exchange.

Former Democratic Governor Steve Beshear set up the exchange with an executive order based on the federal Affordable Care Act. Before leaving office, Beshear said it would cost $23 million to dismantle the system.

Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson said Kentucky will move to a supported state exchange model. That means Kentucky will move to the federal system, but share in the costs with the federal government. The federal government will pay for most of the cost, with the state paying for some administrative functions.

Nearly 100,000 people have purchased private health plans through kynect with the help of a federal subsidy.

Creative Commons

Kentucky law enforcement would have to follow new guidelines while conducting suspect lineups under a bill proposed in the General Assembly.

The legislation would tweak police procedure to try and prevent a witness’ memory of a suspect or incident from being “contaminated” by suggestion.

Jennifer Thompson, a rape survivor who misidentified her perpetrator in 1984, said it’s easy to misremember events.

“We don’t record things the way we think we record them. Our brains are so malleable, they’re so prone to suggestion. It isn’t hard to plant false information into a person’s memory,” Thompson said.

“We do it all the time, either innocently or intentionally.”

The bill would require police departments to follow four new guidelines:

LRC Public Information

Kentucky’s new health secretary says her state agency will meet proposed budget reductions through a variety of cost-cutting measures, such as not filling vacant positions and cutting back on travel.

Under Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed spending cuts, the cabinet’s budget will be reduced by $64 million over the next two years and $31 million this year.

Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, who heads up the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said Wednesday that implementing the cuts allows her a “clean look” at the cabinet’s programs and services.

“It does give us an opportunity to evaluate areas that certainly haven’t been delivering a satisfactory return on investment,” Glisson said.

Flickr/Creative Commons

Referees would be able to pull a student athlete out of a game if they suspected the player had a concussion and wasn’t being given a medical evaluation, under a bill under consideration by Kentucky lawmakers.

The legislation passed the House Education committee Tuesday, though several lawmakers expressed concerns it would put too much responsibility on sports officials.

Chad Collins, general counsel for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, said that the measure might discourage people from becoming referees.

“Our concerns are putting an official in a position where they might be doing more getting closer to practicing medicine or diagnosing and we want to avoid that,” Collins said.

If a player is suspected to have a concussion, state law already requires teams to bench the player until a licensed health care provider conducts a medical evaluation.

Ryland Barton, Kentucky Public Radio

The wording of legislation intended to curb dogfighting in Kentucky may have the opposite effect, making the prosecution of dogfighters more difficult, critics say.

The bill would ban owning, training and breeding dogs for the “primary purpose” of dogfighting, making it a class D felony. The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation last week.

But prosecutors would have difficulty proving that a dog spent its time “primarily” dogfighting, said Rob Sanders, the Kenton County commonwealth’s attorney.

“I think it’s basically impossible that the dog could do more fighting than anything else,” Sanders said. “A criminal defendant could claim that the primary purpose — which is whatever the dog does the most of — which could be lying around the kennel for all we know.”

The bill would exempt owners with dogs engaged in hunting, field trials, or dog training authorized by a hunting license or the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Also exempted would be activities sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club “or other accredited national organizations.”

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