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2016 National Farm Machinery Show 2016 National Farm Machinery Show

Feb. 15-18 event billed as the country's largest indoor farm show

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
The Courier-Journal

 

Later start to school year clears Ky. Senate

Some say new law would help Ky. Tourism

Back to school later in August?Back to school later in August?

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
The Courier-Journal

 

 

Small towns in Ky. Small towns in Ky.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 07, 2017 -- Rural experts say the long-term trends hurting small towns—urbanization, globalization and mechanization—won't change much under President Trump, Brian Mann reports for NPR. Trump won by big margins in many rural areas, largely because of his promise to revitalize them.

Experts say "taking a tougher line with China or Mexico likely won't cause a surge of new manufacturing in small towns," Mann writes. Chuck Fluharty, who heads the Rural Policy Research Institute, told Mann, "About 65 to 80 percent of the manufacturing losses in our country are directly related to automation and technology," and those kinds of job cuts "can't be reversed by tariffs or trade deals." Mann writes, "What rural America needs is an investment in what he describes as human capital, health care and education. He also says small towns need to open their doors to immigrants." He told Mann, "The rural regions that will thrive in the future are the ones where that diversity is strongly expressed."

Mann writes, "But efforts to create any kind of path to citizenship for undocumented families living in rural America seem unlikely to move forward. Rural economists say the new administration could boost some regions in the short term with big investments in infrastructure, roads and bridges. Parts of the country could also see a boom from increased oil or gas production."

One problem is migration, with large numbers of young people leaving rural areas for metros, Mann writes. Dave Swenson, a rural policy expert who studies rural counties for the state of Iowa—where two-thirds of counties have seen population declines—said the people left behind feel angry and humiliated. He told Mann, "What's left out in many of these places are the people that were unable to migrate, people who were unable to find new occupations or re-educate themselves into new trades."

Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 2/07/2017 01:33:00 PM

 

For better-paying jobs, improved public education and increased access to health care

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky House Democrats unveiled their 2017 legislative agenda today by calling for a “United Kentucky” to support rural and urban job creation, strengthen public education and increase access to health care.

“We want to bring Kentuckians together by focusing on legislation that will improve the lives of middle class and working families throughout the Commonwealth, from our rural areas to our urban centers,” said House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins. “My colleagues and I have put together a legislative agenda that we believe will not only improve the lives of our constituents, but bring Democrats and Republicans together to solve some of our state’s toughest issues.”

State House of Rep. Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, left, talks over legislation with fellow Democrat Hubie Collins. Both have been routinely ignored along with fellow Dems that are now only about 25% of the House when they held a majority for 50 years or more.State House of Rep. Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, left, talks over legislation with fellow Democrat Hubie Collins. Both have been routinely ignored along with fellow Dems that are now only about 25% of the House when they held a majority for 50 years or more.

The House Democratic initiatives center on the health, wealth, and safety of Kentuckians through the sponsoring of more than a dozen bills and resolutions, including a rural jobs initiative to increase capital access for businesses and entrepreneurs; a brownfields redevelopment tax credit to create urban jobs; a legislative directive to maintain operations at Education and Workforce Cabinet Career Centers recently closed by the Bevin administration; a restoration of budget funding for colon, cervical and breast cancer screening; a reauthorization of last year’s effort to expand eligibility for preschool children, and a resolution urging Congress to pass Congressman Hal Rogers’ bill to return abandoned mine lands money to coal counties, among others.

Details of the “United Kentucky” agenda include:

House Bill 182, sponsored by Rep. Chris Harris of Forest Hills, would establish a tax credit to promote investments for businesses in rural communities still struggling with the downtown in the coal economy and the lingering aftereffects of the economic recession.

“Too many of our community banks have been forced to close because of a one-size-fits-all regulatory system that has placed tremendous stress on smaller lending institutions,” Rep. Harris said. “Our goal is to take action at the state level to increase access to capital in rural areas so our entrepreneurs can have access to the resources necessary for economic revitalization in these communities.”

In that same vein, Rep. Dennis Keene of Wilder is developing a House Bill that will create tax credits for brownfields redevelopment in an effort to create jobs in urban areas.

House Bill 176, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Sinnette of Ashland, mandates that employment offices recently shuttered by the Bevin administration remain open to maintain the current level of services. “Now is not the time to force dislocated employees to drive an extra 50 miles or more to access services at one of these career centers,” Rep. Sinnette said. “These centers provide a direct service to people in need in these local communities, and I see no justification for creating supposed ‘efficiencies’ on the backs of working people.”

House Concurrent Resolution 50, sponsored by Rep. Angie Hatton of Whitesburg, urged Congress to pass the RECLAIM Act. “The Abandoned Mine Land fees that would be released upon passage of RECLAIM would provide a vital, much-needed resource to help revitalize the economy in the coal fields,” said Rep. Hatton. “I look forward to joining with my colleagues from both parties to support this bipartisan effort in Congress.”

House Bill 250, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington and Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, seeks to restore budget funding for screens for colon, cervical and breast cancer screening, as well as increase eligibility for the state’s pre-school pilot program from 160 percent of the federal poverty line to 200 percent. Efforts to expand screenings and pre-school eligibility were also approved overwhelmingly by both legislative chambers in 2016, but vetoed by Gov. Bevin.

“The need for increased screening still exists, and we all recognize that healthy families and healthy workers are imperative to Kentucky’s quality of life and long-term economic success,” Rep. Flood said. “I also believe – as did the majority of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle – that there are many working families and middle class homes that deserve to have their hard work rewarded through increased access to quality preschool in our public schools.”

House Bill 264, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, relates to the “Work Ready” scholarship program which was passed by both the House and the Senate in 2016, but was later vetoed by Gov. Bevin. The “Work Ready” program was eventually established by the governor’s executive order and currently provides free tuition for eligible students to attend a state community and technical college for two years, along with Kentucky’s four year public and private institutions that offer associate degrees. House Bill 264 seeks to codify the program into state law. Rep. Rand said his bill would also expand the number of students eligible for the program to its original intent after the governor’s executive order restricted the program to a certain number of fields.

“Our Work Ready program now puts a two-year college degree within reach of every graduating high school student, while also ensuring Kentucky’s industries have the skilled workers they need to thrive,” Rep. Rand said. “Because of the program’s success and its importance to our state’s long-term goals, Work Ready should be placed in the state statute to ensure it continues well past the present administration.”

House Concurrent Resolution 49, sponsored by Rep. James Kay of Versailles, reaffirms the Kentucky General Assembly’s commitment to maintaining pension benefits for state and local government retirees, employees and teachers. “My resolution underscores the General Assembly’s commitment to our 540,000 public servants and teachers who rely on the pension benefits they have earned and have been promised,” Rep. Kay said.

House Bill 113, sponsored by Rep. Jody Richards of Bowling Green, relates to occupational licenses for military veterans and would allow experience and training gained in military service to help qualify honorably discharged veterans for state-issued occupational licenses. “I think we have improved the bill and I expect broad bipartisan support,” Rep. Richards said.

House Bill 62, sponsored by Rep. Dean Schamore of Hardinsburg, relates to the use of KEES funds for apprenticeship programs. “This legislation will give people access to their KEES funding in fields that are in high demand. This money was earned by them to prepare themselves for a skill and future employment. From a practical standpoint there is no reason a good student shouldn’t be able to use earned KEES money to start a career in a building trade or technical education,” said Rep. Schamore.

House Bill 52, sponsored by Rep. Russ Meyer of Nicholasville, relates to fentanyl trafficking. “The drug epidemic is a multi-faceted problem that demands similarly broad-based solutions. This bill is meant to target one particular component of the problem, and I have received a lot of positive input from several sources, including local law enforcement and the state Attorney General’s office,” said Rep. Meyer.

House Bill 197, sponsored by Rep. Overly, relates to academic credit in postsecondary institutions for military experience. This legislation would require the Council on Postsecondary Education to develop a uniform standard for the award of academic credit earned by virtue of military service.

House Bill 196, also sponsored by Rep. Overly, relating to misclassification of employees. “Misclassification of employees as independent contractors, especially in the construction industry, is a growing problem nationwide,” said Rep. Overly. “This results in negative effects on misclassified employees, construction employers who abide by the laws, and government agencies from the loss of workers’ compensation premiums, unemployment insurance contributions, and general tax revenue.”

In addition, House Bill 179, sponsored by Rep. Overly, relates to pay equity and non-discrimination as to gender, race, and national origin among employees performing equivalent jobs, a bill passed out of the House on several occasions in the past. Rep. Overly also has sponsored a minimum wage increase bill, House Bill 178. “No discussion of pay equity, or wage growth, or creation of a broad middle class is complete without some discussion of the minimum wage. The Democratic Caucus realizes that support inside the General Assembly for this idea has room to grow. We want the opportunity to educate our colleagues about how broadly the wage increase would affect adult Kentuckians in the workforce. Raising it would help immensely.”

Finally, Rep. Darryl Owens is working on legislation to broaden felony expungement. The bill would make pre-1975 convictions for low-level felonies eligible for expungement. These were not previously included because they are not in the current criminal code. It would also make expungement more attainable by lowering the fee from $500 to $200. “Making it possible for more low-level former felons to clear their record gives them a chance to remove one more hurdle when looking for a job and help them feel less ostracized from their communities,” Rep. Owens said.

“This is an ambitious agenda based on a simple premise – that Kentuckians deserve our best, bipartisan efforts to create jobs that result in increased wages, to promote efforts that strengthen our public schools, and to advance efforts that improve the overall health of our middle class and working families throughout the Commonwealth,” Leader Adkins said.

 

 

Campaign challenges legal community to raise 600,000 pounds of food or $150,000


FRANKFORT, KY. (Feb. 7, 2017) – Today Attorney General Andy Beshear announced the launch of a statewide competition that challenges Kentucky’s legal community to donate food and funds to aid Kentucky families and children suffering from hunger.

Beshear announced the Legal Food Frenzy campaign at the Capitol Rotunda as part of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks (KAFB) Rally to Solve Hunger.

The competition is a collaborative effort among the Office of the Attorney General, KAFB, Kentucky Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Office of the Secretary of State.

Beshear said his office and partner organizations launched the campaign to help address the lack of access to enough food that nearly one in six adults and one in five children in Kentucky face.

“My first priority is to protect Kentucky families and children, and each day far too many are struggling to obtain enough food for a healthy, active life,” said Beshear. “The Legal Food Frenzy is an opportunity for the state’s legal community to challenge each other outside the courtroom for the noble cause of reducing hunger.”

Rebecca Schafer, chair of Kentucky Bar Association Young Lawyers Division said the goals of the campaign are to raise 600,000 pounds of food or $150,000 from March 27 to April 7, 2017.

“We are excited to partner with so many great organizations to provide the first statewide hunger relief effort by Kentucky’s legal community,” said Schafer. “The campaign, with the support of attorneys across the Commonwealth, will help bring Kentucky one step closer to ensuring that all of its citizens have access to adequate food.”

Every $1 donated through the competition will return $8 or more in food to the community. Kentucky law firms, law schools and legal organizations are encouraged to sign-up online.

Proceeds and goods generated from the competition will directly aid the members of the KAFB – an organization that distributes over 50 million meals to 1 in 7 Kentuckians annually in partnership with a network of 800 local charitable feeding organizations. Its members serve all 120 counties in Kentucky.

Tamara Sandberg, executive director of KAFB, hosted the rally and said this campaign will help food banks prepare for the increase demand for food assistance during the summer months.

“Only one in 13 school-aged children who receive free and reduced-priced lunch during the school year have access to such meals during the summer months,” said Sandberg. “We are grateful to Kentucky’s legal community for taking action against hunger and helping the food banks go into summer strong and well-stocked to meet the increased demand for food among families with school-aged children.”

The organization or firm that raises the most food and funds will win the Attorney General's Cup, signifying their accomplishment in aiding hunger-relief in Kentucky.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Bar Association Board of Governors and Kentucky Supreme Court Justices also attended today’s event to support the Legal Food Frenzy and rally.

The Rally to Solve Hunger also included remarks from Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles; Mark Barker, Farm Credit mid-America; Kurt Reiber, chair of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks; and Debbie Fannin with Grayson County Alliance Food Pantry.

To learn more about the Legal Food Frenzy and view a complete list of competition rules and award categories, visit http://kyfoodfrenzy.com.