By Linda B. Blackford
The Kentucky General Assembly approved stiffer penalties Monday for those convicted of killing peace officers and sent the measure to Gov. Steve Beshear, who is expected to sign it into law.
Senate Bill 15 is known as the Bryan Durman Act, in honor of a Lexington police officer who was killed in 2010 by a hit-and-run driver. The driver, Glenn Doneghy, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and must serve 20 percent of his 20-year sentence before becoming eligible for parole in 2014.
What some perceived as a light sentence sparked SB 15, sponsored by Lexington Republican Alice Forgy Kerr.
The original version of the bill, approved by the Senate last month, would have required anyone convicted of second-degree manslaughter to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Defense lawyers argued that the 85 percent requirement went too far and took away discretion from judges.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a compromise version of the bill last week. In the latest version, those convicted of second-degree manslaughter of a clearly identified police officer or firefighter would have to serve 85 percent of their sentence. Those convicted in a case where the peace officer was not clearly identified would have to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — A bill that would help CentrePointe developers recoup costs for a long-delayed downtown development project cleared the General Assembly Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature or veto.
The Senate gave final passage to House Bill 260 late Thursday night.
The measure lowers the amount of money CentrePointe developers will need to spend before they can start recouping money spent on infrastructure improvements, such as a parking garage. The bill lowers the threshold for a so-called signature tax increment financing project from $200 million to $150 million.
By qualifying as a signature tax increment financing program, financing costs for the project also will count toward the $150 million threshold.
According to Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington and sponsor of HB 260, the CentrePointe development will cost approximately $160 million.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – A bill to stabilize Lexington’s police and fire pension system took another big step forward Wednesday in Kentucky’s General Assembly.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved House Bill 430 at the urging of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
Gray told the panel that the bill “will save” Lexington’s pension system for police and firefighters.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, would reduce the police and fire pension plan’s $296 million unfunded liability by almost half, to $160 million.
If the legislature approves the deal, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government would commit $20 million a year – up from the current $11 million – to more aggressively pay off the pensions’ unfunded liability over the next 30 years.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — A bill that would give subpoena powers to committees in Lexington and Louisville that investigate alleged ethics violations within local government is heading to the full House.
The House Local Government Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 117 Monday. The Senate approved the bill 35-1 last month. The bill only applies to urban county governments.
Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, said the bill was in response to alleged ethics violations of council members in Louisville.
SB 117 would give ethics committees administrative subpoena power to gather documents and compel witnesses to testify.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — An overhaul of Kentucky’s pension system will probably have to wait for a special legislative session, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday. But there’s still hope lawmakers will quickly approve a separate plan to stabilize Lexington’s police and fire pension system.
State Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, filed a bill Tuesday containing a compromise plan for the city’s pension system that was hatched last month by Mayor Jim Gray, police and fire unions and pension board members.
The plan was ratified in recent days by 76 percent of active and retired police officers and firefighters.
House Bill 430 would reduce the police and fire pension plan’s $296 million unfunded liability by almost half, to $160 million.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer joined several other local government officials Tuesday to tout legislative approval of public pension reforms and a local-option sales tax.
In a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, Gray said the financial problem with public employee pensions is the primary concern of a group called The Metropolitan Alliance for Growth. It is made up of mayors and county judges from the state’s largest metro areas who lobby the state legislature.
By John Cheves — firstname.lastname@example.org
FRANKFORT — For every $5 the city of Lexington spends, $1 goes to its public pension obligations, proof that “our pension costs have spiraled out of control,” Mayor Jim Gray said at a news conference Monday.
“For Lexington and Kentucky, if ever there was a ‘going out of business’ model, this is it,” Gray said. “Our pensions are unsustainable. There is no more kicking the can down the road.”
Gray, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and other local government leaders spoke to urge the 2013 General Assembly to pass pension reform, which could include a reduction in retirement benefits and a massive infusion of extra state cash into the Kentucky Retirement Systems. The various pension funds of KRS have a $13.8 billion unfunded liability.
The 30-workday legislative session begins Tuesday, but it’s unclear whether the legislature will seriously consider pension reform during this session, largely because nobody has identified where to get the several hundred million dollars a year needed to shore up the pension funds. An overhaul of state taxes proposed by a task force last year could raise some or all of the money, but the fate of tax reform also is uncertain in the 2013 session.
Election Day is almost here, but there’s still time to find out where the candidates stand on the issues most important to you. Click the links below to see our Voters’ Guide for each race (all links are PDF’s).
• State Senate District in Fayette County (Contested races only)
• Urban County Council Districts 1-8 (Contested races only)
• Urban County Council Districts 9-12 (Contested races only)
Also, view a list of candidates in Kentucky’s contested state and federal races, along with candidates in contested local races in Fayette, Bourbon, Clark, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Scott and Woodford counties.
Key Voter Info:
• Polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. Anyone in line by 6 p.m. may vote.
• To find out whether you are registered to vote, where you vote and which races you may vote in, go to the Voter Information Center at the State Board of Elections Web site, Elect.ky.gov .
• Voters must produce identification or be known by a precinct officer before voting.
• If you see problems, call Attorney General Jack Conway’s election-fraud hotline, 1-800-328-8683 (press release).
• It is illegal for retailers to sell malt beverages, distilled spirits and wine during polling hours.
By Jack Brammer and John Cheves – email@example.com
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear is recommending $3.5 million in state bonds to help Lexington plan and design a new 46-acre downtown arts and entertainment district, including a renovated Rupp Arena, which falls far short of the $20 million for which city leaders had hoped.
Beshear said the state money would be matched by $1.5 million from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, for a total of $5 million.
“I know you all have seen some figures like $20 million being thrown around for this project’s planning and design,” Beshear told reporters Tuesday as he shared his two-year budget proposal. “Obviously, we didn’t have that kind of money. … This will at least let them begin.”
Gov. Steve Beshear urged eligible Kentuckians Monday to apply when filing taxes for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for low- and middle-income working people.
“This tax credit is an extremely valuable resource for low-wage earning taxpayers struggling in this difficult economy, and I want to make certain that every Kentuckian eligible for this benefit receives it,” Beshear said at a news conference with U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray at the United Way of the Bluegrass in Lexington.