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January 2, 2018

 

Before session, legislators filed bills on state employees, sports wagering, marijuana, ethics, disabled veterans

 

State government is shrinking under Gov. Matt Bevin, and state Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, pre-filed a bill last month that aims to address that decrease.

Over the past two years, the number of full-time executive branch jobs has dropped to 30,609 from 31,355, or 2.4 percent, according to the state’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. That number will only decrease as state employees retire at a faster pace. Since the end of the 2017 fiscal year on June 30, Kentucky Retirement Systems has logged 1,800 retirements in state government, an increase of 31.2 percent over the same period last year, according to data posted on its website.

But while full-time executive branch jobs dwindle, the number of part-time and temporary executive branch employees has increased to 1,661 from 1,575, or 5.5 percent.

With the General Assembly convening Tuesday, a bill filed by Carroll, Bill Request 409, could make it easier to convert that growing pool of part-time employees into full-time employees.

B.R. 409 calls on the secretary of the Personnel Cabinet to promote administrative regulations for an internal mobility program that would not differentiate between full-time and part-time employees in filling full-time positions. Carroll told The State Journal that he’s raising the issue after being contacted by a part-time state employee who was overlooked for an open full-time position. The state senator declined to give the name of the employee or the department for which the employee works.

Today, state agencies looking to fill a full-time position typically request registers from the Personnel Cabinet of either external or internal candidates. But internal mobility registers don’t include part-time and temporary employees, who are instead lumped with external candidates.

“If you’ve got a part-time employee who knows what’s going on and is qualified but they can’t apply for a full-time position, that does not make any sense to me,” Carroll said.

Attracting employees to work for state government in the first place is becoming more difficult, Carroll said.

“We no longer have a retirement system that attracts people to state government, so we’re fortunate when we find someone willing to work for state government for a not very good salary,” Carroll said. “My goodness, why overlook the opportunity to pick up a good employee because they’re not full-time?”

 

Other bills filed by local legislators include:

• Bill Request 155, filed in September by Carroll, would shore up Kentucky’s public pension systems. B.R. 155 would allow sports wagering in Kentucky, with revenue generated to be deposited into the Kentucky Employees Retirement Systems Non-Hazardous and Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems.

• Bill Request 163, filed in October by Carroll, would expand the use of medical marijuana by allowing a physician to recommend the use of cannabidiol or cannabidiol products.

• Bill Request 388, filed by state Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, would strengthen the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, address nepotism and cronyism and improve transparency by requiring more financial disclosure, Kay said in a written statement. He calls it the “Clean Up Frankfort Act.” The bill would also add publicly owned computers or cell phones to the definition of records available for public inspection.

• Bill Request 398, also filed by Kay, aims to aid disabled veterans by amending the Kentucky Constitution to increase the property tax exemption to full assessed value from $37,600 for owners with a permanent and 100 percent service-connected disability. The exemption would also be transferrable to a spouse upon the veteran’s death.

 

By Alfred Miller
Frankfort State Journal

 

January 1, 2018

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce will be at Legislative session advocating for businesses across the state

Chamber to ask for $1 cigarette tax

Ky chamber of commerce logoKy chamber of commerce logo

When the Kentucky General Assembly gavels the 2018 session to order on Tuesday, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce will be there advocating for businesses across the state.

"The two biggest issues are pension reform and a new two-year budget," David Adkisson, the state chamber's president, said recently. "I don't see how you can do one without the other. It might be best to consider them together."

He said, "Some people are talking about doing pension reform the first week of the session. But that would require complete agreement between the governor, the House and the Senate. And I don't see that right now."

Adkisson, a former Owensboro mayor, said, "We've been talking about this for years. We're the 49th or 50th worst state with unfunded pensions. We've dug this hole for ourselves. And we have to get ourselves out of it."

He said the state chamber is in favor of tax reform "if it makes Kentucky more competitive for jobs."

And Adkisson said the chamber isn't opposed to tax reform increasing the state's revenue.

But he said getting tax reform completed during the session is "a tall order to do that on top of the budget and pension reform."

State officials, Adkisson said, have to try to determine what impact the federal tax reform will have on the state's revenues.

"Right now, it looks like Kentucky will be a beneficiary state," Adkisson said, getting more revenue from the federal tax code change.

"But that's still a question mark," he said.

There are other issues the state chamber would like to see addressed, Adkisson said.

"We want to see essential skills -- soft skills -- added to the K-12 curriculum," he said. "Our workers comp system is outdated. It needs to be updated. It's a tax on every employer. We'd like to see peer review for doctors to allow them to share information in confidence. We're one of two states that doesn't have that."

$1 increase for cigarettes

Adkisson said the chamber is also pushing for a $1 increase in the state's cigarette tax.

That would raise the tax from the current 60 cents a pack to $1.60 -- the national median tax among the 50 states.

New York has the highest rate at $4.35. Missouri has the lowest at 17 cents.

Kentucky's cigarette tax ranks 43rd out of 50 states.

"The idea is to stop more people from smoking and to provide much needed revenue for the state," Adkisson said.

He said the chamber also wants to "see reforms to slow the growth of the prison population. It takes three times as much money to incarcerate someone as it does to send them to community college."

Adkisson said recent sexual harassment accusations in Frankfort have created a lot of drama that's taken attention away from legislation.

"The drama in Frankfort is pretty pervasive," he said.

Adkisson said the chamber also wants changes in the fuels tax that finances the state's transportation system.

"The road fund comes from a fuels tax," he said. "So electric cars pay nothing for maintenance of our highways. We're woefully short on money for highway repairs. We have to look at changes in where the money comes from."

All members of the House of Representatives will be up for election this year along with half of the Senate.

If a lot of challengers surface early, the election will add another dimension to the session, Adkisson said.

"But we can't run from these problems," he said. "Our budget challenge is probably the worst we've had in several decades. During the recession, the federal government bailed us out. But Washington isn't going to bail us out from this one. The pension deficit is something we did to ourselves. There will be no stimulus rescue this time."

 

December 30, 2017


ASHLAND, Ky., December 30, 2017 – Kentucky Power is among U.S. utilities sending crews to Puerto Rico to assist with ongoing restoration after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September. Seven line personnel from Ashland, Pikeville and Hazard will be among 50 American Electric Power personnel who will be working in the Caguas region of Puerto Rico beginning in January.

Trucks from American Electric Power operating companies, including Kentucky Power, are in Portsmouth, Virginia, where they will be loaded onto barges headed for Puerto Rico. Kentucky Power is participating as part of an AEP restoration team.  Trucks from American Electric Power operating companies, including Kentucky Power, are in Portsmouth, Virginia, where they will be loaded onto barges headed for Puerto Rico. Kentucky Power is participating as part of an AEP restoration team.



“Our Kentucky Power employees work in some of the toughest terrain in the United States and have expertise that is especially needed in Puerto Rico,” said Kentucky Power President Matt Satterwhite. “They are experts in making repairs in remote areas inaccessible by bucket trucks and have extensive pole climbing experience. Kentucky Power wanted to be sure to provide its unique expertise to assist our brothers and sisters in need in Puerto Rico while still ensuring we have adequate staffing in Kentucky to provide safe and reliable service at home. It is a balance we think we properly weighed.”

Some of the equipment from AEP’s operating companies, including Kentucky Power, was in Portsmouth, Virginia, on Friday awaiting loading onto barges headed to Puerto Rico. Crews will fly to Puerto Rico in early January. Restoration is to begin Jan. 15 after crews pick up their equipment and participate in orientation briefings. Crews will work 12 to 16 hours a day for 30 days.

Kentucky Power’s participation in restoration efforts is through the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which will add nearly 1,500 additional workers and support personnel to accelerate ongoing power restoration efforts across the island. EEI is the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies. This new wave of workers brings the total number of power restoration workers to more than 5,500 supporting the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). PREPA requested mutual assistance in early November.

“Mutual assistance among power companies is vital because we all need assistance from outside our operations at one point or another,” Satterwhite said. “Mutual assistance allows each utility to better respond during emergencies that lead to significant damage to the energy grid.”

Electric companies providing mutual assistance do so on a not-for-profit basis. In this case, mutual assistance is being provided to support PREPA, and companies will submit their expenses to PREPA. PREPA will then submit these expenses to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Under FEMA’s Public Assistance program, costs associated with emergency power restoration are eligible for consideration for reimbursement.

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Kentucky Power, based in Ashland, serves about 168,000 customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties and is an operating company of the American Electric Power system. AEP, based in Columbus, Ohio, serves nearly 5.4 million regulated customers in 11 states.

 

JANIARY 1, 2018

East Ky. man helps support county of his roots after making it big in industry...

One of the biggest attractions at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is the “Coat of Many Colors” parade every evening before the park closes. According to Dollywoood officials, the recent upgrade of the floats is due to the efforts of a Pike County man.

Johnson Industries provides Portable Power System Johnson Industries provides Portable Power System

Elkhorn City High School alumni Barry Joe Stiltner has worked at Dollywood for about 21 years. An electrician by trade, he started as a ride technician before working his way up to becoming the director of rides maintenance — responsible for the inspection, maintenance and repair for all the rides in the theme park.

“It was in May of last year when we started looking around to make our floats more environmentally friendly,” said Stiltner. “Up until then, they were gas-powered, which made the music hard to hear. So we took a look at what we needed — electric, could pull a large amount of weight and low to the ground. There are only a few manufacturers that fit that bill.”

One of those companies is Johnson Industries in Pikeville. 

“Since I was from the area, I was aware of Johnson Industries and what they did. Since the down-turn of the coal industry, I know supporting mining businesses had fallen on hard times, so I wanted to give them a chance to show what they could do,” said Stiltner. 

Stiltner was able to convinced the park to go with the Pikeville company. 

“Barry did indeed suggest the carts be used for Dollywood’s Parade of Many Colors,” said Dollywood Media Director Pete Owens Dollywood Media Director “Their use has been very success in the season and a half we have run the parade.

Stiltner’s decision to support the Pikeville business was richly rewarded.

“Johnson Industries was able to design and build six chassis based on a pre-existing mine-cart design that perfectly suits our needs within six months,” said Stiltner. “No other company could do that.”

Stiltner traveled back and forth to Pikeville during the production process. “We went with Johnson Industries for many reasons,” he said. He said Johnson Industries provides maintenance and repair on site in Pigeon Forge and was willing to work with the park to deliver the chassis to the Orlando-based float design company. 

“Johnson (Industries) are doing a fantastic job and delivered great products,” said Matt Young, Dollywood special events coordinator. “We first started to use them in November last year opening the Christmas season and have had no problems since then.”

Young said that thanks to the success of working with Johnson Industries, they are looking at the possibility of expanding the parade and will continue to work with the Pikeville company to do so.

“We saved a lot of money on transport and inspection costs during the production process, but it is the customer-based service on a local level where the biggest benefit is,” said Stiltner.

By Elaine Belcher
Appalachian News-Express

 

December 28, 2017

Hemp extract has positive and profound influence on health care industry

Kings Royal Biotech of KY has partnered with an Industrial hemp development company from China, which produces the only commercially produced pharmaceutical grade (99+%) CBD isolate in the world.

Carlisle County, KY was selected for the site to build a processing plant, and using the GMP modern extraction process, make Kentucky home of the only commercially produced pharmaceutical grade CBD Isolate in the United States.

Kings Royal made known just a few months ago that it had selected Kentucky for the location of this plant because of Kentucky's great potential for growing hemp. Kings Royal has contracted with farmers in Carlisle and Hickman Counties to grow 2,300 acres of hemp.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture on Thursday issued permits for growing of the hemp and for processing of the plant into CBD the non-psychoactive ingredient in hemp. The hemp will be harvested this fall and processing will allow the first pharmaceutical grade CBD to be produced in late 2018.

Industrial hemp has been legal in China for thousands of years and the Chinese government, farmers and scientists have been quietly revolutionizing this hemp whole industrial chain development for decades.

Scientists have discovered some amazing health benefits from CBD which is extracted from the flower of the hemp plant. It is widely accepted that CBD can prevent seizures and epilepsy, along with many other documented health and wellness contributions. We now have scientific evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) could be an effective replacement for opioid addiction, as well as useful in treating pain. CBD blocks the reward of opioids, and may be used in treating those addicted to them by blocking their rewarding effects, according to a new medical study. The study was conducted by University of Mississippi researchers and published in the journal Planta Medica.

CBD has been available in the United States however, much of this oil was coming from Marijuana plants which meant it had THC in it and could potentially give its user a psychoactive affect. Kings Royal CBD to be produced in Kentucky meets all federal laws because it contains essentially no THC.

Under Federal Law industrial hemp cannot contain more than .3 percent THC, so there is no chance of any users having an altered state of mind from this product.

Kentuckians need no longer travel to western States because what they are looking for is in Kentucky, and it will not require a prescription. Kings Royal will be producing CBD in commercial quantities for sale all over the United States. The industrial hemp crop contributes four basic components which can be turned into tens of thousands of different end products and Kings Royal intends to contribute every aspect of their yield to the industrial ecological chain.