By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear on Monday defended a plan to give $10,000 grants to more than 50 school districts if they increase their dropout age from 16 to 18 in coming months.
“I think it’s money well spent,” Beshear told reporters during a news conference Monday on an unrelated topic.
House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, sent Beshear a letter last week questioning why the state would spend $570,000 on the plan when there are so many other needs in Kentucky schools.
“I find it disturbing the Commissioner of the Department of Education is offering more than $500,000 in public education funds to advance this agenda while tens of thousands of children in Kentucky are desperately in need of textbooks,” Hoover said in his letter to the governor. “Ten years from now it will not matter that we have raised the minimum age for high school dropouts if we continue down this path of spending money which without a doubt no member of the legislature or the public was told was available.”
Beshear said Monday that money for the grants comes from a $570,000 fund that is earmarked to help keep kids in school longer.
“The money comes from dropout prevention monies that have been appropriated to the department, so it’s exactly what the money should be spent on,” Beshear said. “The money could not be used for textbooks anyway.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Eastern Kentucky is well represented in key positions in the state House, thanks to committee assignments announced Thursday by House Democratic leadership.
Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, is the new chairwoman of the influential House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation, which helps develop the state’s road-building plan.
Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, will replace Combs as chairman of the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee, giving him an opportunity to work on coal issues.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, is the new chairman of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance and Public Protection, a panel that holds the purse strings for several key areas in government.
Their appointments come from the five-member House Democratic leadership, two members of which are from Eastern Kentucky — Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg and Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook.
By Jack Brammer — firstname.lastname@example.org
FRANKFORT — The top Democrat and Republican in the Kentucky House are at odds about when to tackle Round Two of legislative redistricting.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Monday that House Democratic leaders will recommend to the majority caucus that the 2013 General Assembly, which begins in January, take up the redrawing of state legislative districts to conform to population changes.
But House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said lawmakers should first focus on fixing the state’s public pension problem and tax reform in the 2013 session, which has only 30 working days compared to 60 days in even-numbered years.
Redistricting could occur later in 2013 in a brief special legislative session, Hoover said.
House Republicans and Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington successfully challenged new legislative maps that were approved earlier this year by the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate.
Three veteran journalists will join host Ferrell Wellman on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.
They are Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky; Ronnie Ellis, Frankfort reporter for CNHI, Inc.; and Jack Brammer, political writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The show airs live at 8 p.m. Friday EDT on KET1.
On the Monday, Aug. 20, edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. EDT on KET1 and at www.ket.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss the 2012 election.
Scheduled guests are State Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville; Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville; House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown; and Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton.
Viewers with questions and comments may send email to email@example.com or use the message form at ket.org/kytonight.
Viewers also may submit questions and comments on Twitter @BillKET, #kytonight, or 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 Janet Patton
Mike Haydon, Gov. Steve Beshear’s chief of staff and former mayor of Springfield, died Sunday.
“He’s passed away,” said Springfield Mayor John Cecconi Sr. “He had a heart attack. … Springfield will miss Mike a lot. … Last time I talked to Mike, he was upbeat as he could be, probably at the African-American celebration last week. He showed no signs of illness.”
News of Haydon’s passing made waves across political lines in Frankfort and throughout the state Sunday.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — The Legislative Research Commission must pay the legal fees of House Republicans and Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein, who successfully challenged the redrawing of legislative district boundaries earlier this year, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd granted the plaintiffs’ motion for attorney fees in a six-page order.
Shepherd ordered negotiations over the amount of the legal bills to be completed by Aug. 30. If the parties can’t reach a resolution, they must file documents in support of their request for legal fees by Sept. 14, he said.
Bobby Sherman, director of the administrative arm of the Kentucky General Assembly, could not immediately be reached for comment.
House Republicans and Stein, of Lexington, successfully challenged redistricting maps approved in this year’s state legislative session.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – The legislature’s top two leaders have decided the General Assembly will pay a $19,758.94 legal bill for its representation in a lawsuit over the redrawing of state legislative district boundaries.
The action by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, ignores a vote earlier this month by the 16-member Legislative Research Commission against using tax dollars to pay the bill.
“The decision to pay legal fees and to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars, without any accountability to other members of the General Assembly, is plain wrong, and under Kentucky law, it is illegal,” House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Thursday in a statement.
Hoover said state law says the commission, not individual lawmakers, may contract for services needed by the General Assembly and that approval is needed by a majority of the LRC to spend any funds to defend a lawsuit.
UPDATED AT 1:25 P.M.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — The two major bills of the special legislative session cleared the Democratic-led House on Wednesday and now head to the Republican-led Senate, where they face an uncertain future.
The measures — an operating budget for the Transportation Cabinet and a bill aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse — won approval from the House on the third day of the session, which costs taxpayers about $60,000 a day.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Gov. Steve Beshear told him Wednesday morning that he is close to finalizing his review of the state’s two-year road plan. Senate President David Williams has said he will not allow the Senate to vote on the transportation operating budget until Beshear signs the two-year road plan, which details more than 1,000 transportation projects, into law.
If Beshear signs the road plan by the end of this week, the special legislative session could conclude on Friday, the earliest day a bill could complete the law-making process.
By Jack Brammer and Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — The state House gaveled into a special session shortly after noon Monday that will cost taxpayers about $60,000 a day.
The House on Monday introduced bills to provide a transportation budget and curb prescription drug abuse, the two tasks Gov. Steve Beshear put on the agenda of the special legislative session.
Committees will act on the bills on Tuesday, and the full House will vote on them and send them to the Senate by noon Wednesday, said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.
Stumbo said he did not know what will happen in the special session after that.
The Senate is set to convene at 4 p.m. Monday.
By Beth Musgrave, Jack Brammer and John Cheves
FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear said he will call a special legislative session for Monday after lawmakers ended the 2012 General Assembly at 11:59 p.m. Thursday without approving funding for a $4.5 billion road-building plan and a measure to curb prescription drug abuse.
Beshear, after meeting with House Democratic leaders in his Capitol office, said at about 12:45 a.m. Friday that Senate President David Williams was responsible for the Senate’s failure to approve a road plan budget bill on the final day of the 60-day regular session.
“Without the transportation budget bill, you can’t fund any of the projects in the transportation plan that has been passed,” said the Democratic governor who won re-election last November in a contentious campaign against Williams, R-Burkesville.
Beshear also charged that Williams was responsible for the Senate’s inaction Thursday on a bill that would more closely regulate pain management clinics and put the state’s electronic prescription reporting system in the attorney general’s office instead of in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
“We need that bill. We need the transportation budget bill. So I’ll be issuing a call for a special session of the General Assembly,” Beshear said. “They should have and could have been passed by the Senate today.”