HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
The Legislative Ethics Commission’s hearing on former state Rep. John Arnold will be among the key topics discussed on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.
Joining host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV will be three journalists — Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Jonathan Meador of Kentucky Public Radio and Mike Wynn of The Courier-Journa.
The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.
On the Monday, April 14 edition of “Kentucky Tonight at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss the 2014 General Assembly.
Scheduled guests are Dave Adkisson, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates; Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; and Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Viewers with questions and comments may send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the message form at KET.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions and comments on Twitter to @BillKETor on KET’s Facebook page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.
“Kentucky Tonight” programs are archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET and KET KY. Archived programs, information about podcasts, and broadcast schedules are available at KET.org/kytonight.
“Kentucky Tonight” is a weekly KET production, produced by Deidre Clark. Goodman is host and managing editor.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law several major bills Thursday, including limited use of marijuana oil for people with seizures, tax breaks for a proposed 21c Museum Hotel in Lexington and the state’s bourbon and beer industries and a ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors.
Beshear has not yet vetoed any legislation sent to him by this year’s General Assembly. Lawmakers are to return to Frankfort on Monday after a two-week recess to consider any gubernatorial vetoes. The legislative session cannot run any longer than April 15.
Beshear put his signature Thursday on Senate Bill 124, which allows the hospitals at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville to provide oil derived from marijuana and hemp to children who suffer from certain severe seizures. The benefits also could apply to adults. The substance would be allowed when recommended by doctors practicing at the research hospitals. The bill also would allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with the oil.
The measure was one of the most emotional discussed in this year’s legislative session. Several parents with children who suffer with seizures lobbied for it.
The legislation marks the first time Kentucky has used any extract from marijuana plants for medicinal purposes.
Likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes said Wednesday she was disappointed that former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, won’t be punished by a state ethics panel for his alleged sexual harassment of three legislative aides.
After refusing Tuesday night to take questions about Arnold from reporters for the Herald-Leader and cn|2 Pure Politics, Grimes released a statement Wednesday that said she is glad Arnold resigned last September.
The Legislative Ethics Commission fell one vote short of punishing Arnold Tuesday. The deciding vote was cast by Elmer George, who has contributed $5,200 to Grimes’ campaign and was appointed to the commission in January by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has played a major role at several campaign events for Grimes.
“As I have always said, I will never tolerate discrimination or workplace harassment,” Grimes said in her statement. “Though I am disappointed in yesterday’s decision, I am glad that the representative resigned. Protecting women from violence and harassment is personal to me. As secretary of state, I led the effort to shield domestic-violence victims, and my support for Kentucky women is unmatched in this race. I am the only candidate for U.S. Senate who supports the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay for equal work, and raising the minimum wage.”
When the Arnold scandal erupted last summer, the only statewide elected Democrat to call for his resignation was state Auditor Adam Edelen.
FRANKFORT — Several Kentucky senators shouted “amens” Monday when a Frankfort minister opened the state Senate with a prayer thanking God for the University of Kentucky basketball victories.
The prayer offered by Rev. Gary Hager, senior minister of Westivew Baptist Church, drew the most responses from legislators of any prayer in the chamber this session.
Hager also thanked God for the civility in the chamber wrought by Senate President Robert Stivers.
By John Cheves
FRANKFORT — Top Kentucky lawmakers emerged from a closed room about 5:30 a.m. Sunday to announce they had reached a deal on a $20.3 billion, two-year state budget that does not provide major money for a proposed renovation of Rupp Arena.
“I think it’s responsible. It makes a pretty significant and strong statement toward education,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters after the conclusion of an 18-hour negotiating session between House and Senate leaders.
One high-profile casualty was the $65 million in bonds Gov. Steve Beshear proposed in January for the renovation of Rupp Arena and the attached convention center in Lexington. Instead, the state budget will include “a small sum,” to be matched with local funds, so Lexington can move ahead with more planning, engineering and programming on the project, Stivers said.
If Lexington publicly produces a formal financing plan for the Rupp Arena renovation and a signed lease agreement with the University of Kentucky, which uses the venue for its men’s basketball games, then it can return for more money in the 2015 legislative session, Stivers said.
“There are mechanisms in place for it to go forward,” Stivers said.
Some lawmakers on the budget conference committee said they were unimpressed by a personal appeal Lexington Mayor Jim Gray made for Rupp Arena funding on Saturday. Gray said UK has not yet signed a future lease deal for the arena, and he said he could not publicly disclose the proposed terms of UK’s next lease or his own plan to pay for the renovation project.
State Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, said she believes Gray did the best he could Saturday fielding queries from lawmakers.
“There are some very good questions about the plan that right now the mayor simply cannot answer,” Flood said Sunday afternoon. “I sense right now that the Senate really does want to keep the project moving forward, but they want more assurances about how the financing would work. If he (Gray) can come back, even in our next session (in 2015), having rolled out a formal financial plan, there could be some more help then. I don’t think it would have to wait until our next budget in 2016.”
Gray had not seen details of the budget agreement as of early Sunday afternoon, said spokeswoman Susan Straub.
“We need to see it and make sure we understand it before we comment on it,” Straub said.
Gray also has asked lawmakers to let Lexington raise its hotel and motel tax from 6 percent to 8.5 percent, which would yield about $3.5 million a year for the $328 million reinvention of Rupp. That proposal, which is not part of the state budget, appears to face an uphill battle in the Senate during the final days of this year’s legislative session.
House and Senate leaders, who spent the night cloistered in a committee room of the Capitol Annex, reached a consenusus on hundreds of differences in their proposed budgets. Most were relatively minor, but some involved huge sums of money or made significant changes to state policy, including:
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – The House Judiciary Committee signed off on a bill Wednesday to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system with the aim of jailing fewer children.
Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would reduce the incarceration of children younger than 18 charged with noncriminal “status” offenses, such as skipping school or running away from home.
Some judges now sentence such nonviolent offenders to detention centers, where they are housed with young people who have committed serious crimes. In 2010, for example, 1,541 youths were locked up in Kentucky for status offenses.
SB 200 could save the state as much as $24 million over five years by placing more juveniles in community-based treatment instead of putting them in detention centers, Westerfield said.
The state could reinvest the savings to expand community-based programs for status offenders, he said.
Also, the bill would require increased data collection on juvenile offenders and a state system to track juvenile recidivism rates. An oversight council would be formed to manage implementation of the bill.
The committee vote to send the measure to the full House was 17 in favor with no opposition. Four members cast a “pass” vote.
By Jack Brammer and Janet Patton
FRANKFORT — A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would make it a crime to film farm operations on private property without the owner’s consent.
A spokesman for the Kentucky Farm Bureau said the measure is one of its priorities in this year’s legislative session and is needed to protect farmers’ property rights.
The Humane Society of the United States contends that the legislation, if enacted, would keep consumers in the dark about the sources of their food. A spokesman said that whistle-blowing employees who have made such videos have played a vital role in exposing animal abuse, unsafe working conditions and environmental problems on industrial farms.
The Senate Agriculture Committee attached the legislation as a committee substitute to House Bill 222. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, initially would have set euthanasia standards for animal shelters.
The committee substitute added that a person could be subject to a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine, for secretly recording farm operations on private property.
Jenkins said she opposes the change to her bill and would not call it for a vote in the House if the Senate approves it and sends it to the House for its consideration.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – A newly-launched program allows victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Kentucky to remove their addresses from publicly-available voter registration records in an attempt to stay safe from their abusers.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, at a Capitol news conference, said the Address Confidentiality Program will “allow people to register to vote and vote without fear for their safety, or the safety of their children.”
The program was created by House Bill 222 in last year’s General Assembly. Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, sponsored the measure.
To be eligible to participate in the free program, a person must have either a current emergency protective order or domestic violence order or be a victim of a specified sex offense in a criminal case that is ongoing or has resulted in a conviction.
Grimes said victims can apply for the program by contacting her office, going to sos.ky.gov/elections/ACP or calling 1-844-292-KACP.
Grimes, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate this year in Kentucky, acknowledged that there are other ways for people to get addresses of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, but said “this is a good first step to try to keep people safe.”
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer said the program gives such victims “a valuable way to protect themselves in trying to vote freely.”
Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt said Kentucky now is one of 36 states that have address confidentiality programs.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday he does not expect lawmakers, in the dwindling days of this year’s legislative session, to act on any expanded gambling measure.
Beshear said he has worked on expanded gambling since taking office in December 2007 and this year it “has run into the same issues that it has run into before.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear is ready to act quickly on signing into law a legislative plan to provide relief for school districts that have missed several weeks of classes due to snow days.
“I understand they are close to having a final agreement on that,” Beshear said early Monday afternoon in a brief news conference after declaring April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month in Kentucky.”
“As soon as they pass it, I’ll be signing it.”