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FRANKFORT, Ky. – State Rep. Chris Harris, joined by a bipartisan team of Eastern Kentucky legislators, filed two pieces of legislation Thursday aimed at reducing electrical rates for Eastern Kentucky customers of Kentucky Power.
House Resolution 109 requests the Kentucky Public Service Commission (KPSC) to reconsider its approval of more than $100 million in rate increases and more than $68 million in riders not counted in base rates.
House Bill 455 would expand the PSC’s supervisory control over utility matters as necessary to protect and promote the public interest. The bill also requires the KPSC to rehear utility rate cases in circumstances where an out-of-state public utility fails to approve a multistate transaction or imposes any new conditions that are materially different than those imposed by the Kentucky commission’s order.
“This is a simple case of shifting the burden of doing business onto the backs of some of the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in the America,” Rep. Harris said. “While Kentucky Power’s profits soar, the citizens of our region are left to dig deeper each month under a dizzying array of rate increases and riders. We simply can’t do it.”
The resolution notes that Kentucky Power’s service territory includes some of the poorest counties in the state and the nation, with high levels of poverty and unemployment resulting from the decline of the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky. The job loss has resulted in population decline from migration and a decline birth rate, with a great many of Kentucky Power’s customers living on fixed incomes and government benefits.
Rep. Harris said Kentucky Power sought the least cost alternative to achieve compliance with anticipated EPA regulations and testified to the KPSC that the best option was for Kentucky Power – a regulated subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP) – was to buy a half interest in the Mitchell generation station owned by AEP Ohio, a deregulated subsidiary. AEP reported to its shareholders that moving the service territory of the Mitchell station from deregulated Ohio to regulated markets in Kentucky and West Virginia would improve corporate profitability.
When the KPSC authorized a rate increase for Kentucky Power customers in 2015, it also included a variety of new surcharges that appear as line items on the ratepayer’s monthly bill. These include the cost of retiring the Big Sandy units at a cost of $16 million a year for 25 years. They also include the cost of environmental compliance at the Mitchell plant which has already been paid for in part by AEP.
“The rate hikes and riders imposed by Kentucky Power have placed enormous financial pressure on far too many of our citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet,” said state Rep. Angie Hatton of Whitesburg, who co-sponsored both HB 109 and HB 455. “These increases cannot be sustained over time and we must do everything in our power to seek relief on behalf of the people we represent.”
The resolution and bill were also co-sponsored by House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins of Morehead; state Rep. Kevin Sinnette of Ashland; state Rep. Rick Nelson, Middlesboro; state Rep. Chris Fugate of Chavies; state Rep. Tim Couch of Hyden; state Rep. Larry Brown of Prestonsburg; state Rep. John Blanton of Saylersville; and state Rep. Danny Bentley of Russell.
A full description of both bills can be found at
Rep. Harris represents the state’s 93rd House District in Pike and Martin counties.
Date: 02-12-2017 --The 52nd annual National Farm Machinery Show is expected to draw more than 300,000 agriculture-minded visitors from across America to the Kentucky Exposition Center for four days next week.
The event, Feb. 15-18, is billed as the country's largest indoor farm show.
It also is one of the most lucrative trade shows staged annually in Louisville. It likely will generate at least $17 million in spending to shore up the area's economy, the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau has estimated.
The farm show is locally produced by the Kentucky State Fair Board. It is open to the public and has no admission, but there is an $8 per vehicle fairgrounds parking fee. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
You might want to get our your earplugs for the show within the show — the revving and roaring 49th annual Championship Tractor Pull. The monster machines will take center stage at Freedom Hall, with competitions each of the four days and ticket prices from $20 to $45.
The late Kentucky Gov. Edward T. Breathitt opened the first farm show at the expo center in 1966. The 2017 farm equipment expo will spread out over 1.2 million square feet at the fairgrounds, filling nearly every square inch of available exhibit space in eight interconnected halls.
Melissa Lord, a marketing services official with Syngenta, a large seed and fertilizer company that is sponsoring the tractor pull, said the annual agriculture event has 'an environment where we can connect with our customers and show our appreciation for them. We're able to share the latest from Syngenta with those who know us and with others who might be meeting us for the first time.'
The farm show will have more than 850 exhibitors who will showcase nearly every line of farming equipment. The show seeks to educate farmers and agribusiness representatives and focuses on 'innovative technology, new product launches, and alternative energy,' the fair board said in a news release.
In addition to seeing the newest products, 'visitors can attend free seminars led by industry experts. Seminar topics include unmanned aerial vehicles, cloudbased data handling, and weather and commodity trends,' the release said.
A gift and craft market in the South Wing will have more than 70 booths offering jewelry, clothing, cowboy gear, tractor-branded merchandise, handcrafted gifts, toys, collectibles, snacks, and many other items. The market is open daily, also from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The tractor pull is a major draw in its own right — featuring screaming monster engines, the smell of burning rubber, and pounding vibrations, the fair board officials said. Some tractors are powered by modified aircraft engines.
Top drivers vie for the grand championship and a cut of the more than $200,000 in prize money. Drivers will compete in 10 divisions, based on the weight of their machine. Entrants will include Rowan Zeinstra of the Netherlands — and his 8,000-pound tractor — and what is expected to be a record number of women participants.
Tickets and schedule information for the Championship Tractor Pull are available at the Kentucky Exposition Center Ticket Office, or online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 1-800-745-3000. A detailed tractor pull schedule is at www.champpull.org.
By Sheldon S. Shafer
Date: 02-10-2017 -- Kentucky students’ first day of school may happen later than usual if state lawmakers approve legislation that allows for more flexibility in designing the annual calendar and incentivizes end-of-August start dates.
The state Senate easily passed Senate Bill 50, which encourages school districts to delay the first day of school, with bipartisan support Thursday afternoon. Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, was the only person who voted against it.
Now the proposal will be reviewed by Kentucky’s House of Representatives. “This was a really strong vote,” said Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, SB 50’s sponsor. “I feel really strongly about the bill and feel good that it’s heading down to the House with a full head of steam.” In general, Kentucky requires public school districts to have a minimum of 170 days of instruction per year with at least 1,062 hours of instructional time.
But if SB 50 becomes law, districts could opt to delay their start date at least until the Monday closest to Aug. 26, beginning with the 2018-19 schedule. If they do, the state would allow them to use a “variable student instructional year” that still must meet the state-mandated minimum of 1,062 hours but would not have to fulfill the 170-day requirement.
“The reason for this is simple: I believe that schools start too early in Kentucky,” Thayer told the Senate. He said the bill would not affect teachers’ pay. The proposal incorporates compromises that preserve school districts’ independent control of their institutions’ schedules, Thayer said. The Senate approved this type of bill last year, but it died in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, which is now in Republican hands. “It does not mandate a later school start ... This is the ultimate in local control,” he said. There already is a great deal of flexibility under current Kentucky law that allows districts to determine when the school year begins, how long school days will last, and when breaks will be, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.
This school year, one Kentucky school district had its first day for students in July, while the rest started in August. The latest first day of school for any Kentucky district this past fall was Aug. 24, according to records from the Department of Education. Jefferson County Public Schools started school Aug. 10.
Thayer said he doesn’t think it’s good for students to go to class during the hottest time of the year. He also said the late July and early August start dates hurt local tourism since children will be in school rather than at water parks or other attractions with their friends and family.
Not long before the full Senate voted on SB 50, the Senate education committee reviewed and approved the measure.
No one spoke against the bill during Thursday’s committee meeting.
Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, indicated he was open to the proposal. But he questioned how allowing school years of under 170 days might affect Kentucky’s efforts to close the achievement gap among students.
Thayer, however, cited data showing a connection between later school start dates and higher scores on the ACT college entrance exam. He also said he has doubts about how well students can concentrate in the sweltering heat of Kentucky summers.
The date that students head back to classes is often a topic of great interest to families, as it can affect their vacations and their childcare needs. It’s also an often-discussed topic around the country. Indeed, this year alone, there has been news that an Ohio state senator wants to delay the start date of schools until after Labor Day, and Delaware is debating legislation that would require all public schools to start after Labor Day, too.
Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University who has studied school calendars, said the start of school is “very different in different places.” He said a typical demarcation for the start of the school year is around Labor Day, but that can vary widely depending on the state and district.
Cooper said some districts look at the length of the summer to try to mitigate what is known as summer learning loss — that slide where students may forget things they learned during the school year. He pointed to balanced calendars like that seen in the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., which has shorter summers but more breaks during the school year.
He also said districts want to consider things like how many instructional days they can get in before students must take standardized tests, such as Advanced Placement exams.
Cooper noted that some states’ calendars are driven by tourism or agricultural considerations.
“If you’re a coastal state, tourism wants families to have the opportunity to go on vacation for as late as possible while the weather is still nice,” Cooper said.
In Kentucky, SB 50 would add a new requirement that makes school boards appoint a calendar committee tasked with developing recommendations for the next annual schedule. That committee’s members would include two people involved in the local business community and two parents of students who go to school in that district.
Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said decisions about school calendars ought to be left to the local community.
“Different parts of the state, different districts, have different needs and different realities as far as the weather goes when it comes to planning their calendars,” Hughes said. “A one-size-fits-all from Frankfort puts some districts at a disadvantage.”
By Morgan Watkins