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by Robert (LRC) Weber
FRANKFORT—College basketball fans have been enjoying buzzer-beating basketball tournament finishes for the last two weeks, but the General Assembly may have one more “buzzer beater” for them as time dwindles for the 2016 regular session.
With only four legislative days remaining in the session, lawmakers made progress in getting Kentucky’s budgets passed this week. On Thursday, members from both the House and Senate were gathered at a conference table, trying to iron out the differences in their budget proposals before the scheduled veto recess begins on Tuesday.
This past Tuesday, the House tipped off its budget week with a proposed Road Plan that includes proposed road, bridge and other transportation projects totaling $4.58 billion. The House also passed legislation that would require new steps to fund the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System on an actuarially sound basis starting in 2017. Under provisions of House Bill 1, state employers would be required to pay additional contribution rates to fully fund the pension system. The Senate is now reviewing the bills.
A day later, on Wednesday, the Senate responded to the House’s executive branch budget proposal with its own amended version of House Bill 303.
Working from the House’s bill passed last week, the Senate reinstated many of the initiatives unveiled by the governor in January including a 9 percent reduction in spending on Kentucky’s colleges and universities. The Senate plan increased proposed funding for anti-heroin efforts, in comparison to the plan approved by the House, and also called for setting aside $250 million in a “permanent fund” for future pension fund payments.
While the conference committee works to find agreement in the budget that will ultimately land on the governor’s desk, other legislation made its way through both chambers with sponsors hoping for their “One Magic Moment.” Among topics considered were:
Restoring voting rights. On Monday, the Senate passed a bill that could give some felons a clearer path to regaining voting rights Senate Bill 299, if passed by lawmakers, would let voters decide on a proposed constitutional amendment giving the General Assembly authority to establish a process for non-violent felons who have served their sentences to recover their voting rights. SB 299 is now awaiting House approval.
DUI offenders. The House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 56 on Wednesday, sending it back to the Senate for approval. SB56 would strengthen penalties for driving under the influence by making a fourth offense within 10 years a felony charge. Currently, a felony charge comes after a fourth offense in five years. The amended version passed by a 98-0 vote. The bill would take effect immediately with the governor’s signature. The Senate originally passed SB 56 in January, 35-1.
Enhanced ID cards. Senate Bill 245, which would bring Kentucky drivers’ licenses and other identity cards into compliance with the federal REAL ID initiative, was passed by a 26-12 Senate vote on Tuesday. Without compliant IDs, Kentuckians may have future trouble flying on commercial airlines or may face other restrictions after a federally mandated deadline passes. REAL IDs include more personal information and anti-counterfeit facets like barcoded information. So far, only 23 states have compliant IDs even though the original deadline was in January. The bill, which received a favorable vote from a House committee soon after the bill was delivered from the Senate, is now awaiting consideration of the full House.
Open records. House Bill 80, passed by the Senate Committee on State and Local Government on Tuesday, seeks to narrow open records exemptions for private companies providing goods or services normally provided by government agencies. Under HB80, firms who derive at least 25 of their total revenue from governmental sources would have open records apply to it just as if it were a public agency. The bill awaits a vote by the full Senate.
First responders. Senate Bill 195, which would allow firefighters with certain types of lung or other cancer presumed to be tied to their employment to be eligible for lump-sum state death benefits, passed in the House on Monday. The bill, along with a similar bill providing benefits for emergency medical personnel killed in the line of duty, is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Parents’ rights. House Bill 129 would expand legal grounds for stripping parental rights in cases of abuse or murder – or the attempted abuse or murder – of a child. Those rights could also be terminated in cases of complicity in the death or injury of a child’s parent, step-parent guardian or custodian. The bill passed a House vote on Monday, sending it to the Senate for consideration.
To stay atop of the legislative process, track the progress of bills, offer feedback to your lawmakers or merely to ask questions about your state government, call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.
UPS announced Monday that it would expand its next-day air service by another 12,680 ZIP codes to create an earlier guaranteed delivery option for customers where only end-of-day guarantees were offered.
But while the Louisville area already has the service due to its proximity to Worldport, a large swath of Kentucky will benefit, spokesman Mike Mangeot said in an email.
More than 300 Kentucky communities in outlying areas, from Pike County in the east to Graves County in the west, Mangeot said.
Under the expansion, UPS Next Day Air Early service will reach 98 percent of businesses nationwide, up from 94 percent. UPS expanded the guaranteed service in two phases, the first phase in November 2015 and again this month. Saturday service is also available to certain destinations.
“Already we’ve seen manufacturers, healthcare companies and professional services, such as financial firms, respond to the expansion,” Alan Gershenhorn, executive vice president and chief commercial officer said in a statement. “Getting a package by noon or 2 p.m. has proven to be attractive. For example, businesses use those additional hours to process documents faster, or to turn inventory or lab specimens around quicker.”
For details on the service guarantee and committed delivery times, visit ups.com/early.
By Grace Schneider
MARCH 16, 2016
Washington, DC. -- March, 17, 2016 – Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced the availability of $65.8 million through the Obama Administration’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative to develop new strategies for economic growth and worker advancement for communities that have historically relied on the coal economy for economic stability. With this announcement, communities and regions that have been negatively impacted by changes in the coal economy -- including mining, coal fired power plants and related transportation, logistics and manufacturing supply chains -- can apply for resources to help strengthen their economies and workforces. Funds are available for a range of activities, including:
* Developing projects that diversify local and regional economies, create jobs in new and/or existing industries, attract new sources of job-creating investment and provide a range of workforce services and skills training;
* Building partnerships to attract and invest in the economic future of coal-impacted communities;
* Increasing capacity and other technical assistance fostering long term economic growth and opportunity in coal-impacted communities.
“Through the POWER Initiative, the Obama Administration has committed to helping coal-impacted communities diversify their economies amidst the changing power sector landscape,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams. “EDA is pleased to lead this important initiative with our federal partners to help communities across the nation access federal support to create jobs, attract capital investments and strengthen workforce development in their regions.”
“Many communities across Appalachia – from coal mines to Main Streets – are being impacted as the world changes the way it produces and consumes electricity.” Said ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl. “The POWER Initiative can be a game-changer for Appalachia by partnering with these communities and investing Federal resources to support local initiatives that will forge sustainable economic paths for the future.”
The POWER Initiativeis a multi-agency effort aligning and targeting federal economic and workforce development resources to communities and workers that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production. The POWER Initiative is part of President Obama’s POWER+ Plan, a broader set of investments in coal-impacted communities, workers, and coal technology that is in the President’s FY 2017 Budget.
Additional information about the POWER Initiative, including application materials, is available at www.arc.gov/power or www.eda.gov/power. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Awards will be announced later this year.
About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) (www.arc.gov) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.
About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The Economic Development Administration marks 50 years of public service, leading the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.
March 18, 2016
FRANKFORT—An eventful week at the Capitol saw the arrival – finally – of a full House.
Four new state representatives were sworn in on Tuesday, filling vacant seats in the chamber in time for the legislative scramble as the 2016 General Assembly session heads into its home stretch. The newcomers: Lewis Nicholls, D-Greenup, a former judge and son of a former state legislator; attorney Daniel Elliott, R-Gravel Switch; Jeff Taylor, D-Hopkinsville, an economic development professional; and Chuck Tackett, D-Georgetown, a farmer and former county magistrate.
The ceremony was a prelude to a flurry of legislative action as the House and Senate passed bills focused on improved public safety, civil rights and education as the week progressed. As expected, though, the real focus of the 11th week of the General Assembly session was the biennial budget as the House passed its version with a 53-0 vote on Wednesday. The budget, House Bill 303, and related budget legislation were forwarded for Senate consideration.
The nearly $21 billion budget bill would roll back some funding cuts proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin to many areas of state government and authorize less debt than proposed in the governor’s proposal. The HB 303 budget would eliminate cuts for constitutional agencies and select education programs while fully funding the troubled Kentucky Employees’ Retirement System by tapping into $500 million the governor wanted to set aside as a permanent fund for future pensions.
With only nine legislative days remaining, the Senate now gets a chance to craft its reply. After next week, March 28-29 are concurrence days set aside for floor passage of bills from the opposite chamber. The 10-day governor’s veto recess follows, with the final two days of the regular session scheduled for April 11-12.
The legislature must agree on a budget before then or face a possible special session.
While much focus was on the budget and associated bills this week, numerous other measures took steps forward, including:
Bible classes in public schools. Senate Bill 278, which would allow public schools to offer Bible literacy classes, passed on Monday. The classes, which proponents say would not be evangelical in nature but focus on the book as literature and a sociological study, would be taught as a social studies elective. The measure has been sent to the House for consideration.
Community college tuition. House Bill 626 would provide Kentucky high school graduates with two years’ worth of paid tuition at a state community college under a bill that passed the state House by an 86-11 vote on Thursday. The bill would create the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program to cover Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) tuition for recent Kentucky high school grads or GED recipients under the age of 19 who complete applications for financial aid, enroll in at least 12 credit hours a semester, and maintain a cumulative 2.0 grade point average. The bill has been sent to the Senate.
Protected rights. Senate Bill 80 states that it would promote the rights of people to exercise their freedom of speech, conscience and religion. The bill, which was filed in response to a case in which a lawsuit was filed against a Lexington custom T-shirt shop for refusing to make shirts celebrating a gay pride event, would prevent lawsuits or punishment in such cases. The bill specifies that it protects the freedom of religion for individuals who offer customized artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial or spiritual goods and services.
Voting. House Bill 290, passed by a 57-37 vote in the House on Monday, would allow no-excuse, in-person voting at least 12 working days – including two Saturdays – before an Election Day. Kentucky currently only allows voting before an election by absentee ballot with a qualified excuse. HB290 was forwarded to the Senate for consideration. The bill has been sent to the Senate.
Coal mines. Senate Bill 297 would end Kentucky’s mine safety inspection program by converting the state’s 62 inspectors to “safety analysts” whose responsibilities would include correcting dangerous practices through “behavior modification” instead of issuing costly citations. State inspectors currently test underground mines for hazards six times a year in addition to the four federal inspections. Surface mines are tested four times: twice by state inspectors and twice by MSHA. The measure, which passed the Senate on a 25-11 vote on Thursday, now awaits consideration in the House,
Sexual assault kits. Senate Bill 63, a measure aimed at eliminating a backlog of more than 3,000 sexual assault examination kits – some as much as 40 years old. The bill also would expedite the testing of new kits, directing police to retrieve the evidence from hospitals within five days and submit the evidence to the state crime lab within a month. The bill has been sent to the House for consideration.
The legislative pace is sure to increase as the 60-day General Assembly heads into its 12th week. To stay informed on the progress of bills, to offer feedback to lawmakers or to ask questions about legislative topics, call the Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.
The Louisa Rotary Club opened their meeting on a very somber note Thursday, March 10, 2016, as the announcement was made by President, Steve Montgomery, that member, Valerie Smith had passed away.
Valerie, a manager with Louisa Walmart, was a very active Rotarian. Pastor Dan of the Louisa United Methodist Church, spoke of her fondly, remembering some conversations they had. "She was one of the first people I met when I came here" he said. He went on to say just how precious life is, and that "the best way to honor her is to love one another."
Other announcements included Lt. Governor of Kentucky, Jenean Hampton, will be a guest speaker at the March 24th meeting. That meeting will be held at the Lawrence County Public Library due to Holy Week activities at the First Baptist Church.
Catrina Vargo, Economic Development Coordinator, introduced the guest speakers. "I am so excited for you all to see this presentation. This is exactly the kind of entrepreneurial business we need to enhance the lake, and increase tourism in our area," she said, in introducing Andie Maddox and Jamie Smith, co-partners of Legend Outfitters, the first business of its kind in Lawrence County.
Andie and Jamie, along with their spouses, revived the South Side Roller Rink last year, when they took over the building and brought skating back to Louisa.
There are 13 children between the two couples, a few of which have disabilities. "We began thinking about how our children can become gainfully employed, and we started thinking differently; about starting or managing our own business." Smith said that's how the idea came about for the roller rink, which she says has been "wildly successful." "We want to teach our kids that there are many possibilities if you are willing to work for it."
Smith then gave a presentation which outlined the entrepreneurs' new venture, Legend Outfitters. This business will provide guided kayak river trips and plans are in the works to lease the beach area near the marina at Yatesville Lake, where kayaks can be rented, as well as fishing poles, mountain bikes, beach chairs and umbrellas. Other plans include water trampolines, water blobs, a slide, and a floating dock. Party packages will be available as well, using the picnic shelter.
"We want people to enjoy our beautiful natural resources here in the county, and learn how to have fun as a family, and without drugs" said Smith, who along with her family and the others, have been kayaking a long time. "I'm not a small woman, and I am an avid kayaker, anyone can do it."
They plan to keep the activities affordable.
"With this many kids, we know how important it is to keep costs down" she said. Kayak rentals would be $7 an hour, and a small transportation fee if you use your own on the river. Kayakers would meet at the river mural building, where kayaks would be loaded on a trailer, and the group would be transported to a put in spot to begin their trip. The shuttle would pick them up and take them back to their vehicles.
For the water features at the lake, a $5 wrist band would be good for all day, and fishing poles could be rented for $3 per hour. Concessions will also be available. "The possibilities are endless" said Smith. "We want to bring an element of professionalism that hasn't been seen, and offer activities that other lakes in this area do not have."
Smith said there would be a trained, certified lifeguard staff on duty, and they plan to cross market with other area attractions and kayak clubs, including local group, the Kentucky River Pirates. "For us, this is not just about making money, it's also about educating people on what they can do in their community, how to think differently, and how to use and enjoy what God has given us."
Legend Outfitters plan to begin the river trips in April, and start the lake rentals as soon as they get approval. For more information, call 606-253-8187.