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Senate committee approves bill to let Rand Paul run for re-election and president in 2016

State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-GeorgetownUPDATED AT 2:15 P.M.

By Sam Youngman

A revised bill that would allow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to run for re-election and the presidency on the same Kentucky ballot in 2016 cleared a state Senate committee Wednesday, picking up one Democratic vote along the way.

State Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, joined Republicans on the Senate State and Local Government Committee in voting to send the proposal to the full Senate after it was changed to specify that the bill only applies to candidates running for president or vice president of the United States.

State law now says no candidate can appear on the same ballot twice in a general election. Primary elections appear to be excluded from the current law.

“What this simply does is clarifies that when you have a candidate in the federal delegation who is either seeking the presidency or is chosen to run for the vice presidential seat, that person can also run at the same time for their seat in the United States Senate or the United States Congress,” said Sen. Damon Thayer of his revised bill.

House panel approves statewide smoking ban in Kentucky

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — Smoking would be banned in all public places and indoor workplaces in Kentucky under a bill approved Tuesday by a House committee, but a sponsor of the bill said it is unlikely to become law this year.

The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 10-2 to approve HB 289 at a special meeting Tuesday. It now goes to the full House.

Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said after Tuesday’s vote that she doesn’t think there are enough votes to pass the measure in the Republican-controlled Senate even though Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has said previously that he supports a statewide smoking ban.

Westrom said the bill is unlikely to get a vote in the full House, because leaders in the Democratic-controlled chamber are hesitant to call a vote on the controversial measure, knowing that it will be rejected by the Senate. All 100 members of the House are up for re-election this year.

House Republicans boycott meeting over drug testing of welfare recipients

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — Six House Republicans boycotted a committee meeting Thursday because the chairman refused to take a vote on a measure that would require random drug testing of those who receive welfare and other public benefits.

But House Health and Welfare Chairman Tom Burch said Thursday that House Bill 26 would have been defeated if the committee had taken a vote.

“I didn’t want to embarrass him,” Burch said of Rep. Lonnie Napier, the primary sponsor of HB 26.

Napier, one of the longest serving members of the House, announced earlier this year that he was not seeking re-election.

Despite the Republican boycott, Napier, R-Lancaster, presented his bill to the committee. The measure has 64 co-sponsors, or more than half of the 100-member House. Napier filed a similar bill last year but Burch’s committee never voted on it.

Lawmakers hope to hold hearing about Kentucky child-death records

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — Two key lawmakers say they hope to hold a hearing in December about the state’s handling of records regarding deaths and near deaths of kids in Kentucky’s child-welfare system.

State Rep. Tom Burch and Sen. Julie Denton on Wednesday said they want to hold hearings on whether the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees child welfare, is being transparent in the way it reports deaths and near deaths of children under its supervision.

Burch, D-Louisville, and Denton, R-Louisville, are co-chairs of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare. Denton said she and Burch are still waiting for approval from legislative leaders to hold a meeting of the committee in December.

“We want full transparency,” Burch said on Wednesday.

Bill allows secret reprimands of nursing home heads

State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears –

The state board that oversees nursing home administrators revokes and suspends licenses, levies fines and assigns periods of probation to administrators who violate regulations. All of those board actions are public.

But House Bill 414, sponsored by State Rep. Tom Burch, adds a new twist to the board’s oversight. It allows the board to give out private reprimands that “shall not be subject to disclosure and shall not be considered a disciplinary action against the licensee.”

Documents obtained through the Kentucky Open Records Act and board minutes show that the Kentucky Board of Licensure for Nursing Home Administrators last year reviewed a range of serious offenses allegedly committed by nursing home administrators.

Twenty-nine complaints were referred to in the February 2010 board minutes. One was from 2006 and the rest were from 2007 through 2010. Among the cases was a nursing home administrator who did not contact authorities when aides abused a resident, an administrator criminally charged with stealing prescription drugs and an administrator sentenced to 10 years in prison for theft and exploiting an adult.

Proposals to curb nursing home abuse faltering in Frankfort

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears – vhoneycutt@herald-leadercom

Two proposals aimed at preventing and investigating abuse of nursing home patients appear to be dead or stalled in the ongoing state legislative session, according to their sponsors.

In Kentucky, nursing home deaths from neglect and abuse often aren’t criminally prosecuted because the coroner isn’t called to investigate. But a bill that would require Kentucky nursing homes to report all deaths to the local coroner will not go forward this session because of opposition, its sponsor said.

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said he won’t call House Bill 69 for a vote in his House Health and Welfare Committee, citing opposition from the nursing home industry and budget concerns from the state’s chief medical examiner, Tracey Corey.

Four abortion bills defeated in House committee

State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville

By Beth Musgrave –

FRANKFORT — Four measures that would strengthen the state’s abortion laws died in the House Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday.

Anti-abortion advocates say the Democratic-controlled House is not giving the abortion bills — which traditionally pass the Republican-controlled Senate and die in the House — a fair hearing. The measures were defeated along party lines with Democrats voting against the bills and Republicans voting in favor of them.

Rev. Patrick Delahanty of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky said the bills are sent to the Health and Welfare Committee because the panel includes 10 Democrats and six Republicans. Committee Chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, is one of the most liberal-leaning members of the legislature.

“It’s a sham,” Delahanty said of the hearings. “The committee make-up is planned.”

Concerns raised about cost of calling coroners for nursing home deaths

By Valerie Honeycutt Spears –

Kentucky prosecutors, law enforcement officers, coroners and officials have said they believe it would be helpful if coroners were called whenever someone dies in a nursing home. Evidence could be gathered and, if abuse or neglect had occurred, cases could be prosecuted.

But a bill that would require Kentucky nursing homes to report all deaths to the local coroner is in trouble in the General Assembly.

Tracey Corey, the state’s chief medical examiner, estimates that if even 10 percent of the additional cases generated by the proposed law are turned over to her office for further evaluation, she would need three more doctors, more support staff and additional equipment for the required investigations, said Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Justice Cabinet.

Despite concerns about costs, Corey supports the intent of the bill, Brislin said.

Legislation calls for more scrutiny of nursing home deaths

State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville


By Valarie Honeycutt Spears –

An overhaul of the system for investigating deaths in Kentucky nursing homes is proposed in a bill pre-filed by state Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, for the 2011 General Assembly.

Central to Burch’s legislation is a provision that would require a specific staff member at long-term care facilities and hospices to report all deaths to the county coroner within 24 hours.

BR 67 also requires coroners to involve police or prosecutors if they suspect maltreatment. But Burch said Monday the bill is intended to give coroners discretion in choosing which deaths need review by other officials.

Currently, state law does not require nursing homes to report most deaths to coroners, who are rarely called even when abuse or neglect is suspected.

Burch’s proposal acts on recommendations made by Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration following an internal review earlier this year of how nursing home abuse and neglect allegations are investigated. The review came after the Herald-Leader published a series of reports this summer about gaps in the system used to investigate nursing home abuse.

Child death reporting bill passes House

State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville

FRANKFORT — The House on Monday unanimously passed a bill that could lead to the release of more information about child deaths in Kentucky — a measure that had appeared dead because of an anti-abortion amendment.

House Bill 192 was one of six bills that had passed a committee and were headed to the House floor for a vote when two legislators who oppose abortion, Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, and Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, filed floor amendments to add legislation that would require a doctor to present women with the results of an ultrasound before receiving an abortion.

The ultrasound bill had been defeated in a House committee in February.

Floyd and Moore have said the full House would vote for the abortion measure if given the opportunity. Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, and chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, opposed the move and said the two Republican legislators were playing politics with bills that could improve health for children and increase the safety of social workers.

On Monday, Burch amended Senate Bill 62, which would establish Mesothelioma Awareness Day, to include House Bill 192, which would direct the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to study whether information about children who have died as a result of abuse and neglect should be released to the public.