3:08 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Kentucky Coping with Black Lung Backlog

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, poses a question during the June meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Labor and Industry.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky has a backlog of more than 1,000 coal miners who have filed workers compensation claims because of black lung disease.

Department of Workers' Claims Commissioner Dwight Lovan told lawmakers Thursday that as more coal miners lose their jobs more of them are filing black lung claims. The department has had more than 300 claims filed so far this year, and none of them have been processed.

A 2010 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling resulted in the cases being evaluated by a doctor at the University of Louisville or the University of Kentucky. But Lovan said the increase in claims has caused delays. Lovan said he hopes to contract with two private health clinics to speed up the evaluation process.

Lovan said the department could have 500 new claims this year.

3:05 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Kentucky Supreme Court Overturns Bullitt Smoking Ban

The Kentucky Supreme Court has overturned a smoking ban in central Kentucky.

The court ruled Thursday that the Bullitt County Board of Health went too far in passing a smoking ban three year ago. Bullitt Fiscal Court and the county's eight cities sued to stop the countywide ban, and it never went into effect.

Bullitt County Circuit Court found the regulation invalid, but the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling. The case then went to the Supreme Court, which reversed the appellate ruling on Thursday.

The Supreme Court's opinion said health boards are given authority to adopt regulations to protect people's health but that the Bullitt County board exceeded that authority.

The ban would have required bars, restaurants and all places open to the public, including some outdoor areas, to go smoke-free.

3:43 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Kentucky Gay Marriage Appeal Part of Nationwide Trend

A WKU professor says when an appeals court takes up Kentucky’s case over gay marriage, it will be a “historic showdown.” 

Earlier this year, a federal judge struck down part of Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.  The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 6 as the day it will consider Kentucky’s appeal, as well as similar cases in Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan. 

"There's a total of 31 states where there are cases involving marriage equality pending, and that number correlates to the number of states that have same-sex marriage bans, so every single state that has a ban has a case in federal court right now," says WKU legal and constitutional historian Dr. Patty Minter.

Legal experts say hearing all the cases in one day is unusual, but not unprecedented.  It's unclear whether the three-judge panel will issue a individual rulings for each case or a blanket ruling, but there are two issues at hand, including the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages and whether state-level marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Arguments were held in the 4th Circuit in Virginia in May and the 10th Circuit in Denver in April. Rulings in those cases are expected to be issued before Kentucky's case is heard. 

Dr. Minter says a clear trend has been set since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"There has not been a single decision that went against the idea that marriage is a fundamental right for all people," adds Minter.

Ultimately, the losing sides in each case will likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

3:43 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Lexington Mayor Suspends Rupp Renovation

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has suspended efforts to renovate the home of the University of Kentucky men's basketball team.

The proposed $351 million project to renovate Rupp Arena and build a new convention center in downtown Lexington has languished for some time.

Gray said Wednesday he suspended work on the project after UK withdrew its support for a proposed annual $10.7 million lease on Rupp, beginning in 2018. Gray said officials had designed the proposed renovation based on what the university said it needed.

Gov. Steve Beshear said he still thinks the original project is what Lexington and the university need. The governor said he hopes UK will eventually be ready to move forward with the project.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the university did not have any immediate comment.

1:52 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Bunning Talks Politics, Baseball During Appearance in Bowling Green

Former Kentucky Senator and Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning signs autographs Wednesday in Bowling Green
Credit Emil Moffatt

Former Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning says there’s a good chance the man who took his place in the Senate will run for president in two years.  Bunning says Rand Paul has done a “good job so far” in the Senate, but still has some time to gauge who his primary opponents might be.

“Right now, my answer is ‘yes’,” said Bunning when asked about Paul’s prospects of a White House run in 2016.  “My gut feeling is, he will feel out the primary field and see. If he thinks he can win the primary, then I think he will continue.”

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9:18 am
Wed June 18, 2014

State Proposes New Office Building in Frankfort

The Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet is asking developers to bid on a proposed 334,000-square-foot office building in the state capitol.

State officials want the developer to pay for the building up front and lease it back to state government for several years until the state can purchase it. The state wants the building on some state-owned property off of Sower Boulevard near the Public Service Commission. But officials said they will consider other sites.

Cabinet spokeswoman Pamela Trautner said state officials don't know how they would use the building. She said the state is always looking for the most efficient ways to house state employees.

The deadline to bid on the project is 10:30 a.m. on June 27.

4:56 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Beshear Addresses National Healthcare Conference

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear addressed a national healthcare conference Tuesday in Washington, where he touted Kentucky’s success in implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Beshear told attendees at the State of Enrollment conference that while Kentuckians continue to hold a negative view of President Barack Obama and his health care law, people are big fans of the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect.

“Another thing we did was carefully separate the politics of the Affordable Care Act from the health care impact of Kynect," said Beshear. "That was a very fine line to walk, and I’m still walking it.”

State Democrats have picked up on the messaging, frequently referring to the state’s implementation as “Beshearcare.”

More than 421,000 Kentuckians have enrolled through Kynect during its six-month opening signup period.

4:08 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

LBL Raising Endangered Red Wolf Cub

Credit LBL Nature Station

Land Between the Lakes is raising an endangered red wolf cub in partnership with the Red Wolf Recovery Program. The six-week-old female pup comes after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service selected LBL and five other sites out of forty other finalists for the project.

John Pollpeter is the lead naturalist at LBL's Woodlands Nature Station. He says these wolves once dominated the southern ecosystem, but excessive hunting and habitat destruction crippled the population.

“Currently in the south there's only one or two locations that you'll find red wolves. There's a small island in Florida and then there is a peninsula in northeastern North Carolina that you can find about 100 red wolves in the wild,” said Pollpeter

Pollpeter says the region's coyote population is preventing reintroduction efforts. Red wolves and coyotes compete for resources while also interbreeding, further diluting the gene pool.

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3:13 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Pair of New Insurers Interested In Joining 'Kynect'

An operator at a Kynect call center
Credit Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

At least two new health insurance companies say they want to sell policies on Kentucky's health insurance exchange.

The exchange, named kynect, is the website where people can sign up for the state's Medicaid program or purchase discounted private health insurance plans, depending on their income.

Ohio-based CareSource and Florida-based WellCare have filed paperwork with state regulators indicating their interest in selling policies through kynect. Both companies provide Medicaid plans in Kentucky but have not sold on the individual market.

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1:48 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Contract Awarded to Complete Next Phase of I-69 Project in Henderson, Hopkins, Webster Counties

The next phase of the Interstate-69 project is to completed by Aug. 1, 2015.
Credit Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

Governor Beshear has announced the awarding of a contract that will lead to the next round of highway improvements related to the Interstate-69 project. Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. won the contract with a bid of just under $12 million.

The new project involves upgrading a 36-mile stretch of the Pennyrile Parkway that runs through Henderson, Hopkins, and Webster counties. The improvements will  include new pavement and lighting, and the widening of overpass bridges.

The project’s targeted completion date is Aug. 1, 2015.

The ultimate goal is to have Interstate-69 in Kentucky run from the Ohio River in Henderson south to the Tennessee border at Fulton. Before that can happen, portions of three parkways have to be upgraded—the Pennyrile, Western Kentucky, and Purchase.

Those three parkways were all once toll roads. One of the challenges of finishing the I-69 project has been the rebuilding of interchanges originally designed to handle motorists stopping at toll plazas, as opposed to merging and exiting from 70 miles per hour interstate traffic.