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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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We are making great strides this year to drive up coal production and revive our communities in the coalfields through economic development. The Obama Administration's War on Coal is over, but we have a lot of work ahead to restore and diversify our economy.

I was incredibly proud to join Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to file the RECLAIM Act of 2017 in both the U.S. House and Senate. It will expedite access to $1 billion in available funding through the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Fund for reclamation and economic development on AML sites in coal-producing states.

Kentucky would benefit from more than $100 million over the next five years. I appreciate Sen. McConnell's leadership on this legislation in the Senate and I look forward to working further with him in an effort to get this worthy and vital bill signed into law.

On April 5th, I will testify in support of RECLAIM before the House Natural Resources Committee. For more information about the RECLAIM Act of 2017, visit halrogers.house.gov.

 

Date: 03-31-2017

$15 Million for mystery project in final hours of session

FRANKFORT - In a last-minute surprise, lawmakers were asked by the Bevin administration Thursday night to approve up to $15 million for a “mystery” economic development project somewhere in Eastern Kentucky.

Just hours before the legislature adjourned for the year, the Senate and House obligingly approved an amended version of House Bill 482 containing approval for the $15 million bond and sent it to Bevin for his signature.

During a House floor debate, after several Democratic members asked for more information about the project, House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell said it would provide 1,000 construction jobs — 500 permanent jobs once the project is finished — with an average salary of $75,000. Other top lawmakers said the project would be located in the financially-struggling region of Eastern Kentucky.

Kentucky is competing with one other state for the project, Shell said.

Economic Development Secretary Terry Gill said the funding is needed as “an option for us to respond to a competitive situation that we’ve been pursuing for several months.”

Some lawmakers know details of the potential project but “we have a pretty tight non-disclosure,” Gill said.

Asked if the proposal had anything to do with Bevin’s recent economic development trips to Germany and Switzerland, Gill said, “not directly.”

“It is the result of the improving climate in the state,” he said.

A public announcement could be coming within six to 10 months, Gill said.

By Jack Brammer
Lexington Herald-Leader

 

Date: 03-30-2017

UPS recruits rural high school students with tour of Worldport

About a dozen high school students from Lewis County, Kentucky, stood along a railing to gaze down four stories of conveyor belts that carried UPS packages under the watchful red eyes of label scanners.

UPS Customer Relations Specialist Jeff O’Dell, who led the tour on Tuesday, dazzled the students with impressive statistics about the operation: It covers 5.2 million square feet, contains 155 miles of belts and 8,800 miles of fiber optic cables.

UPS started the tours this year to familiarize high school students with potential careers its Louisville hub. Like many other companies, the logistics giant is fighting a tight labor market and taking unusual steps to encourage more young potential employees to consider a career in logistics.

The tours are part of the UPS Kentucky LOOP program, which offers students living outside of Louisville and adjacent counties, two years of housing assistance of $325 per month, tuition at Jefferson Community Technical College and a part-time job at UPS that pays $10.20 an hour.

Students stood on a catwalk as conveyors delivered small packages to slides, from which UPS employees moved them, label side up, onto individual tilt trays. The trays carried the packages under a scanner, from where a computer would determine when the trays had to be tilted to deposit their cargo in nearby bags. UPS Worldport includes 18,000 tilt trays, more than any other facility in the world.

“Crazy how it works,” said Lewis County High School senior Tristan K. Corns, 17, as he stepped out of the small package sorting area.

Corns will graduate May 19 and is still weighing his options. He likes numbers and math — his classmates call him a human calculator — and he may attend community college and eventually Morehead State to get a degree in accounting.

However, the LOOP (Living Options and Opportunities Path) program’s housing and tuition help sound enticing, he said, and the job seems interesting, too, especially driving the trucks that load the UPS planes.

Summer Bryant, a counseling coordinator at Morehead State who chaperoned the students, said that the tuition and housing assistance helps students overcome some of the barriers that keep them from attending college.

While UPS previously has offered some incentives for employees in and around Louisville, the low unemployment rate has forced the company to try to attract employees from a greater radius. The program is unique to Louisville.

Armando Unzueta, a UPS human resources specialist, said that while Louisville area employers are struggling to find employees, many people in more rural areas of the state are looking for work — but sometimes do not know about available jobs or how to afford education or housing.

“All the companies are fighting as much as they can to bring in people,” he said. “We’re trying new things.”

The LOOP program requires candidates to work between 15 and 25 hours per week while they go to JCTC. Once they obtain a degree, they can get jobs much more easily, in areas including engineering, accounting, finance and aircraft maintenance, especially if they take the management route, Unzueta said.

UPS initiated the program about a year ago but began tours just this year — about 50 students take the tour every month — to give potential employees — and school counselors — a firsthand look at the great variety of available jobs and to reduce the intimidation factor when the job applicants arrive at the enormous facility.

By Boris Ladwig
Insider Louisville

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 2017

Annual County Health Rankings are released; can be a great starting point for local coverage

Alabama counties ranked by health factors

The University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute has released its annual County Health Rankings. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the rankings are a good resource for assessing a county's overall health status and for comparing counties within the same state. Counties are ranked within each state based on quality of life, length of life, health factors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

This year's rankings found that rural counties by far had the highest rates of premature deaths, continuing if not accelerating a recent trend. Nearly one-fifth of rural counties have experienced worsening premature death rates over the past decade, while nearly all large urban areas have seen declines. One reason for the higher rates in rural areas could be an increase in drug use. Drug-overdose deaths have increased 79 percent overall since 2002, but are highest in rural counties, especially Appalachia, the study found.

Rural areas generally rank poorly in adult obesity, adult smoking, teen births, uninsured, preventable hospital stays, childhood poverty, injury deaths and college education. Favorable rankings for rural areas included the lowest amount of violent crime and shortest commutes to work.

SEE LAWRENCE COUNTY, KY. STATS HERE


Some places have seen big declines in their health status. For example, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (Wikipedia map), an Appalachian coal community, dropped over the past year from 26th to 40th in health behaviors and from 20th to 34th in physical environment. (The state has 67 counties.) One key may have been physical inactivity, with 28 percent of adults reporting living inactive lifestyles, the sixth worst total in the state, Mark Guydish reports for the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre.

Dr. Tina George, a local family practice doctor who thinks the county's poverty and excessive drinking levels were under-reported for the rankings, "said part of the problem is simply the physical environment of municipalities built before urban design was a thing," Guydish writes. She told him, “We don’t have cities like they do out west, where communities were planned and laid out to be walkable, to have places for exercise, to have food markets. We didn’t have the advantages of making a community that promotes a healthy lifestyle."

In Iowa, rural Black Hawk County was ranked 85th of 99 counties in health, its lowest spot since the rankings were started in 2010, Christina Crippes reports for The Courier in Cedar Valley. The county ranked low for obesity, lack of physical activity, high rate of sexually transmitted diseases and a rise in violent crime.

 

Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 3/29/2017 12:17:00 PM

 

 

Enhanced driver's license bill also becomes law

With the stroke of his pen, Gov. Matt Bevin resolved a potentially troublesome issue for air travelers in Kentucky.

Bevin signed legislation into law that creates an enhanced driver’s license can be used as a source of identification to board commercial airline flights. Notification of the governor’s action was posted on the secretary of state’s website on Wednesday.

The new law allows Kentuckians to choose drivers’ licenses that meet the requirements of the federal Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005 to prevent terrorists from creating fakes to use as IDs.

Kentucky had been granted more time to address the issue, but were facing a June deadline.

If the new law had not been enacted, Kentuckians would have needed to present passports or other documentation approved by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security to board commercial airline flights or to enter federal facilities such as military bases.

Bevin vetoed a similar measure passed by lawmakers last year, saying “good governance demands the courtesy of time.”

Under the new law, an option is available for people to keep their standard drivers’ licenses that costs $43 or opt for the one that complies with federal requirements for $48 and that will be valid for eight years.

Anyone can opt to keep a standard driver’s license, said Republican state Rep. Jim DuPlessis of Elizabethtown, who sponsored the legislation. “But,” he said, “that person will have to take their standard driver’s license along with some supplemental ID that the federal government has approved.”

 

Schools encouraged to extend summer break under new law

A new Kentucky law will encourage school districts to delay the end of summer break to late August.

Bevin signed Senate Bill 50 into law, allowing allows local districts to lower the number of instructional days from 170 as long as the school year still consists of 1,062 instructional hours. It also provides that districts taking advantage of the provision cannot begin classes prior to the Monday closest to August 26.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, who sponsored the bill, said it will benefit Kentucky’s tourism industry.

According to the Legislative Research Commission website, the governor signed the bill on Tuesday.

 

Major highway safety legislation signed into law

A highway safety issue sponsored by Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, to standardize the color of vehicle headlights and rear lights was signed into law Wednesday.

Ridley was able to get his idea to restrict modifications of vehicles with certain replacement headlights and other rear lights through the legislative process with compromise.

The new law, which will take effect on July 1, has been referred to as the biggest highway safety measure since the passage of the seatbelt law in Kentucky.

The issue was brought to Ridley’s attention by citizens and law enforcement officers from across the state.

“Several people complained to me about the super bright headlights and different colors on some vehicles and they were distracting. It was becoming a real safety issue. This distraction was presenting a real danger for drivers,” said Ridley, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Ridley worked with local law enforcement officers, the Kentucky State Police, the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and other agencies across the state to get this issued resolved.

The new law will prohibit vehicles from:

· Emitting anything other than white light,

· Require all headlamps to meet US Department of Transportation regulations,

· Prohibit headlamps that appear to emit a solid color other than white,

· Prohibit headlamp covers or film that changes the color of the light emitted,

· Outline provisions for front and rear lighting of a vehicle, and
· Exempt original equipment lighting installed by the manufacturer.

Ridley said that this new law will not have any effect on the original equipment installed on cars and trucks by the manufacturer, but will only affect changing of the color of lights added after the vehicle is rolled off the assembly line.

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The LRC Public Information Office also contributed to this story