Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear have announced the creation of a 15-member executive committee to lead their SOAR initiative. They held a joint press conference Monday at Hazard Community College to discuss the appointments. Rogers and the Governor will co-chair the panel, which will be composed of public officials and leaders from the private sector.
The congressman says the group will keep listening to ideas to boost the region’s economy and improve its quality of life.
One of the executive committee’s first tasks will be hiring a permanent director, which it hopes to do by September. SOAR stands for “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” and was created to help eastern Kentucky recover from the slump in the coal industry and the loss of thousands of jobs.
Police are searching for suspects who stole $150,000 worth of Rolex watches from a store at the Lexington Convention Center. Police say the watches were taken from Sheila Bayes Fine Jewelers in the Shops at Lexington Center on Saturday afternoon.
Store employees said two men used a sledgehammer to break display cases containing the Rolex watches. Police say the suspects ran out of the Center and hopped into a getaway van without being caught. Police said the suspects were able to get away because the Center was busy with foot traffic due to the Boys Sweet 16 basketball tournament.
A similar robbery took place at a Memphis mall in January. In that case, five men were arrested after $537,000 worth of Rolexes were stolen.
Thousands of Kentucky residents and business owners are facing yearly flood insurance premium increases as the federal government seeks to erase billions in debt from the National Flood Insurance Program.
Congress passed a law in 2012 requiring about a million policyholders to begin paying rates based on the true risk of flooding at their properties. But Congress amended that law this month after an outcry over the one-time increases. Policyholders would instead pay premiums that increase gradually each year.
About half of the 24,000 properties in Kentucky with flood coverage will have adjusted premiums, including about 8,000 single family homes or condominiums that will see annual increases in premium costs of up to 18%. About 1,400 businesses across the state will see a flat 25% rate increase.
Just over a week from now is the deadline for Kentucky’s uninsured to get coverage through the state’s health care exchange known as Kynect. The state is working to reach as much of the uninsured population as possible.
On Saturday, several Bowling Green residents turned out for a sign-up event at the Greenwood Mall. Among them was 32-year-old Jason Abney who was frustrated trying to navigate the website on his own.
"I didn't know exactly which website to go to because when you pull up Kynect on the Internet, it goes to three or four pages at a time, and it was just a hassle," remarked Abney.
Abney has been without health insurance the past year-and-a-half. He lost coverage when he left his job at a Bowling Green manufacturing plant.
“I used to have insurance when I worked for Magna and it was pretty good insurance. I had a car wreck and they paid a bunch of hospital bills, so it pays to have insurance," he added.
Abney got assistance from Sandra Lindsey with Community Action of Southern Kentucky. She’s a ‘Kynector,’ someone who’s been trained by state officials to help the public navigate Kentucky’s health care exchange.
House and Senate negotiators have put together a draft proposal to give relief to Kentucky school districts struggling to make up lost days this winter.
The proposal would let districts extend school days to a maximum seven hours daily. The goal is to give districts scheduling flexibility to reach the required 1,062 instructional hours in a school year.
For districts unable to reach that threshold, the school year would automatically end June 11.
Democratic Rep. John Will Stacy and Republican Sen. Mike Wilson say the proposal will be presented to lawmakers Monday to get feedback.
Stacy says the proposal is a "middle ground" giving school employees and parents some certainty about the end of the school year.
Some districts have missed more than 30 days due to snow and ice.
WKU President Gary Randsell says the decision to privatize the campus health center was a budgetary one.
"We believe one of our local hospitals or health care providers will win that bid and operate that center in a way that will sustain the quality service for our students, faculty, and staff, and maybe even open it up to the public," comments Ransdell. "We'll lease the building or share in the revenues. One way or another, we might even create a revenue stream for the campus."
President Ransdell adds that having a private provider run WKU Health Services will save the university more than a $1 million per year. Those savings, he says, will be spread across the university budget, minimizing each department’s budget cut. The proposed state budget for the next two years cuts WKU’s funding by $1.8 million.
He tells WKU Public Radio the university has already privatized other services with success, including the bookstore and restaurants.
The university plans to issue a request for bids in April and have a private provider in place by July.
WKU Health Services will operate as normal for the rest of the semester.
Three bills that would place more restrictions on abortion access in Kentucky have been rejected in party-line votes.
The House Health & Welfare Committee voted down two similar bills that would require ultrasounds for women seeking abortions and penalize doctors who don’t comply. The committee also rejected a measure requiring women to meet in person with their doctor prior to obtaining an abortion.
Derek Selznick is executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Reproductive Freedom Project. He says the mandatory ultrasounds would be traumatic to a woman who conceived a child after being raped.
“While a doctor or somebody is actually holding a transvaginal wand inside of a woman and must explain what they’re seeing on the screen. And that, you know, for, once again, for a woman who’s been raped, that is just adding trauma to that experience,” said Selznick.
Michael Janocik with the Kentucky Right-to-Life Association says one measure contains language permitting exemptions in case of a medical emergency, though rape is not explicitly listed as one of them.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has turned away a request from a convicted sex offender to reconsider his bid to take the bar exam and become a practicing lawyer.
The seven justices on Thursday unanimously rejected a rehearing in the case of Guy Padraic Hamilton-Smith.
The case is the first of its kind in Kentucky. The court in December declined Hamilton-Smith's bid and a move by the state Office of Bar Admissions to create and endorse a blanket rule that would have kept all registered sex offenders from gaining access to the bar.
Hamilton-Smith was convicted of a charge related to child pornography in 2007. He graduated in the top third of his class from the University of Kentucky law school but has not been allowed to take the bar exam.
The next addition to the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green will hold special significance to Logan County native and astronaut Terry Wilcutt.
"Not only did Terry Wilcutt himself fly this airplane, but just about every astronaut that any of us have ever heard of has actually flown this very airplane," explains Dan Cherry, Executive Vice President of the Aviation Heritage Park.
The supersonic jet, called a T-38 Talon, was used by NASA for training exercises. The plane is en route from Arizona to Bowling Green. Cherry returned this week from Tucson where he oversaw the plane’s disassembly.
"It's been sitting in the desert in an Air Force storage area for about three years. It's a bit dusty and needs a new paint job, but other than that, it's in excellent condition," adds Cherry.
The dismantled plane will arrive on a flatbed trailer at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport Saturday afternoon. It will stay in a hangar there while being restored.
The aircraft was made in 1966 and retired by NASA in 2011.
The WKU women’s basketball team has made a habit of coming back in games this season.
A big rally last week against Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference championship propelled them to an NCAA tournament appearance on Saturday. The Lady Toppers will travel to Waco, Texas to face No. 2 seed Baylor. WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard says her team can’t afford to fall behind against the Lady Bears.
“They can put up numbers fast,” said Clark-Heard. “If you can’t withstand that first four minutes, it’s going to be crucial for us. It becomes very crucial that we continue to have the confidence that we had. It’s going to be a different atmosphere, but the floor is going to be the same length and the rim is going to be the same height.”