Senator files bill to let legislative leaders intervene when attorney general does not defend state law
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – A state lawmaker has filed a bill to allow the Senate president or House speaker to intervene in a legal action when the attorney general fails to defend a state law or provision of the Kentucky Constitution.
Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, said Tuesday she filed Senate Bill 221 in part due to Attorney General Jack Conway’s decision last week not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages from other states and countries.
Gov. Steve Beshear has said he would appeal the ruling by U.S. District John Heyburn.
Gregory also said her bill would allow the top two legislative leaders to intervene in court cases in which attorney generals submit an order to the court giving them sole discretion to spend funding from a settlement.
Senate President Robert Stivers, who supports Gregory’s bill, said the provision dealing with funding stems from Conway’s decision earlier this year to use more than $32 million collected from lawsuit settlements with two drug companies to expand substance abuse treatment in Kentucky.
Stivers said the money should have gone to the state’s General Fund, which provides money for most state programs.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s bill aimed at allowing candidates running for governor and other state constitutional offices to compete on a more level financial playing field won bipartisan support Tuesday in a state House committee.
Under House Bill 366, once a candidate for governor or his or her running mate donates $1 million or more to their own campaign committee, all other candidates would be able to accept donations of $2,500 per individual, instead of the current $1,000 limit.
The changes would apply to primary and general elections. However, if a self-funding candidate fails to advance out of a primary election, the $1,000 donation cap would be reapplied through the remainder of the general election.
Candidates for Kentucky’s other statewide constitutional offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, Auditor of Public Accounts, State Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture – would all have to follow similar procedures if a candidate for these offices chooses to self-fund his or her campaign.
However, for these offices, the contribution limit would increase once a candidate or his immediate family donates $500,000 to the campaign.
Stumbo told the committee that Illinois has had such a system for about 10 years.
He later told reporters that his bill was not directed at any particular candidate and would not favor him if he should decide to run for governor in 2015. The only candidate who has formally announced a gubernatorial campaign so far is Hal Heiner, a Republican businessman and multimillionaire from Louisville.
The House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee gave unanimous approval to the bill, which now goes to the full House for its consideration.
The House committee also approved Tuesday a constitutional amendment that would establish an independent commission to set salaries for state legislators and state constitutional officers. The commission’s work could be subject to a public referendum.
House Bill 182 is sponsored by Rep. Dwight Butler, R-Harned.
Stumbo said he was not familiar enough with the proposal to comment on its prospects in the House.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — A proposal to give cities and counties the option of asking voters to support a sales tax increase for local projects cleared a state House panel Tuesday, but it’s future in the full House looks doubtful.
Minutes after the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs approved House Bill 399 on a 6-3 vote, House Speaker Greg Stumbo called it “bad policy” and said he did not know if the House will vote on it.
The five House Democratic leaders, which control the flow of bills to the full House, are divided on the issue.
Stumbo, of Prestonsburg, and House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark of Louisville expressed concern that the bill would limit the state’s ability to increase the sales tax statewide at some point in the future.
But House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson of Owensboro and House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly of Paris favor the bill, which is backed by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT – Over protests that children were being ignored, the state Senate approved a bill Monday that would open to the public some juvenile court proceedings under a four-year pilot project.
Senate Bill 157, sponsored by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, would require approval by the Chief Justice, local judge and county attorney for a court district to participate in the pilot project.
Givens claimed his bill would provide more transparency in court proceedings that are now closed to the public.
But Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, and several other Democrats said the bill is only trying to please the media that want more openness and ignoring the well-being of children.
She said publicity about the proceedings could follow children all their lives.
Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, said she is “thrilled” by the bill because it will expose “bad characters” in juvenile court proceedings.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the bill is about the children because it will show whether the courts and public agencies are doing their job in protecting children.
The Senate approved the bill on a 30-7 vote and sent it to the House for its consideration.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT – State revenue jumped 6.2 percent in February compared to the same month last year, the state budget director’s office reported Monday.
That was an increase of $33.7 million. Total revenues for the month were $578.2 million, compared to $544.5 million during February 2013.
Receipts have now grown 1.4 percent for the first eight months of fiscal year 2014, which began last July 1.
The state’s official revenue estimate calls for 2.1 percent growth for the entire fiscal year.
To meet the official revenue estimate, receipts must grow 3.6 percent over the last four months of the fiscal year.
State budget director Jane Driskell said in a release that strong collections in February in individual income and sales and use taxes were enough to offset declines in the majority of the other taxes .
“Both individual income tax as well as sales and use tax collections rebounded nicely from poor showings in December and January. Our take-away message remains consistent: year-to-date receipts are in line with our forecasted levels, so despite some volatility overall receipts remain on track to meet the official revenue estimate.”
Among the major accounts:
• Sales and use tax receipts increased 5.1 percent for the month and have grown 2.8 percent year-to-date.
• Corporation income tax receipts declined $2.7 million in February but have increased 13.1 percent for the year.
• Individual income tax collections grew 24.6 percent in February following a poor showing in January, and have now grown 2.4 percent though the first eight months of this fiscal year.
• Property tax collections decreased 30.4 percent and are down 4.2 percent year-to-date.
• Cigarette tax receipts fell 11.8 percent for the month and have fallen 3.8 percent year-to-date.
• Coal severance tax receipts were particularly weak in February with nominal collections of $13.3 million, a decline of 26.0 percent for the month.
Meanwhile, Road Fund receipts grew 1.4 percent in February 2014 with collections of $124.0 million.
The official Road Fund revenue estimate call for an increase in revenues of 6.1 percent for the fiscal year.
Based on year-to-date tax collections, revenues must increase 6.4 percent for the remainder of this fiscal year to meet the estimate.
Among the accounts, motor fuels rose 2.6 percent. The relatively low growth in motor fuels tax receipts is due in large part to the decline in the tax rate. Motor vehicle usage revenue decreased 1 percent, and license and privilege receipts fell 1.8 percent.
FRANKFORT – The state Senate gave final approval Friday to a bill that would require more training for Kentucky doctors to recognize and prevent abusive head trauma in children.
House Bill 157 now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear for his consideration. No legislator voted against it in either the Senate or House.
The measure would require the State Board of Medical Licensure to include training on recognizing head trauma caused by child abuse in its continuing education requirements for pediatricians, radiologists, family practitioners, and emergency medicine and urgent-care physicians.
It was recommended by the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel that Beshear created in 2012.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – With no discussion, the Senate approved a bill Thursday on a 36-2 vote that would prohibit anyone from under the age of 18 to buy or possess electronic cigarettes. .
The sponsor of Senate Bill 109, Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, said the measure would put e-cigarettes under the same restrictions as tobacco products.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes. They heat a liquid solution, creating vapor that users inhale to get nicotine without the smoke of regular cigarettes.
They are billed as a safer way to get a nicotine fix, but some doctors and researchers dispute that claim. The nicotine has been blamed for poisonings.
Hornback, a tobacco farmer, said e-cigarettes should be limited to adults.
His bill does not deal with taxing e-cigarettes. Gov. Steve Beshear has called for legislation to deny access to e-cigarettes to young people and has proposed a tax on them.
SB 109 would impose a penalty fee of $50 for minors possessing e-cigarettes. It carries penalties of up to $2,500 for stores that sell the e-cigarettes to minors.
Twenty-six states now prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
The bill now goes to the House for its consideration. The House is considering a similar bill and the Federal Drug Administration is considering whether to regulate all e-cigarettes. The FDA now regulates only e-cigarettes used for therapeutical purposes.
The Senate also unanimously approved and sent to the House SB 125, which would allow honorably discharged service members to waive the training requirement for a concealed deadly weapon license.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – A “deeply frustrated” state Auditor Adam Edelen accused Senate Republican leaders, especially Majority Leader Damon Thayer, of blocking for political reasons a cyber security bill he is pushing.
Edelen, frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, said at a news conference Thursday that Thayer is preventing a bill that had near unanimous support in the House from moving forward.
House Bill 5 would require most state and local government agencies to notify citizens of any electronic breaches of personal information within 35 days. Almost 30 groups have endorsed the bill, including AARP of Kentucky, Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Thayer, at a news conference an hour after Edelen called him “the chief obstructionist” to HB 5, said he finds “it kind of comical that the auditor has become so hysterical about the fact that his bill hasn’t moved yet.”
FRANKFORT – House Speaker Greg Stumbo filed a constitutional amendment Tuesday to allow expanded gambling in Kentucky.
It is the third bill filed in this year’s legislative session to ask voters whether they want casino gambling in Kentucky.
Stumbo’s House Bill 584 simply says the General Assembly should not be precluded from authorizing other forms of gambling by general law.
It does not specify how many casinos may be built or where proceeds from them should go.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he notified Gov. Steve Beshear about his bill but did not talk to track officials about it.
House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, has filed a bill that calls for a constitutional amendment to let Kentucky voters decide in November whether they want casino gambling in the state and an accompanying bill that outlines a plan to license and regulate casino gambling at five horse racetracks and three standalone casinos.
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, has a proposed amendment that would allow casino gambling at no more than seven places in the state, with 10 percent of the revenue guaranteed “to promote equine interests” and the state’s share dedicated to “job creation, education, human services, health care, veterans bonuses, local governments and public safety.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly will not meet Monday because of bad weather.
The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday for the 38th day of the 60-day session.
The Senate is scheduled to go into session at 2 p.m. Tuesday and the House will reconvene at 4 p.m.
State lawmakers still will get paid Monday.
During a legislative session, lawmakers are paid seven days a week, including holidays. This year’s session is not scheduled to end until April 15.