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Preliminary East End Bridge Work Set for August

Indiana officials are advertising for bids for preparatory work on the state‘s portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield says construction will begin this summer on a road extension between Utica, Indiana and the River Ridge Commerce Center.

It’s the first step toward construction of a new east end bridge.

“We anticipate with bids opening July 11 that we’ll be breaking ground about August in terms of beginning work there. The road extension would open about June, 2013, and obviously we still have the larger procurement for the east end bridge that will be ongoing at that time,” Wingfield said today.

Wingfield says officials hope to have the east end bridge finished by 2018, if not sooner.

Kentucky officials are working with potential contractors on the larger portion of the bridges project, construction of a span in downtown Louisville and the reconfiguration of Spaghetti Junction.

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State Tax Overhaul Panel Begins Regional Hearings

From Chad Lampe, Kentucky Public Radio

Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson and Kentucky’s Blue Ribbon Tax Commission are seeking public comment to help develop recommendations on overhauling the state tax code.

Abramson says around 100 people attended the first of six regional public hearings last night in Paducah. The commission wraps up public meetings in August and will have three months to finish the plan by a November deadline. Abramson is hopeful the plan will pass the legislature.

“I’m sure there will be people that will disagree with whatever the consensus decision recommendations are from this blue ribbon group. But, you need a majority. The hope is that we’ll be able to with democratic and republican legislators on the commission that they that they will help us with their respective caucuses to move the proposals forward,” he said.

With the plan complete before Thanksgiving, the governor could call a special session to pass the recommendation, which would only require a simple majority of votes in each chamber. If Gov. Beshear waits until the next legislative session in January it would take a super majority in each chamber to pass the legislation.

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NIH Conference Begins in Louisville Wednesday

Hundreds of entrepreneurs, researchers and small business owners from across the country will be in Louisville starting tomorrow for a conference focusing on research into health and life sciences.

The National Institutes of Health provides more than $700 million for small businesses to do research and this conference at the downtown Marriott will feature workshops for start-up companies to learn the funding process and access those funds.

University of Louisville Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation Dr. Bill Pierce says the conference will give the university an opportunity to showcase its facilities.

“We are offering tours of some of our laboratories. We’ll have them go to see the Nucleus Research Park, which is coming up out of the ground at the old Haymarket. And we’re telling them this is a great place to be,” he said.

Conference speakers include U of L President James Ramsey, Gov. Steve Beshear and officials from the National Institutes of Health.

The annual NIH Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer conference runs through Friday.

(Information for this story came from the Associated Press)

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Local News Politics

Indiana Begins Gathering Input for Raw Milk Study

Indiana officials begin gathering online input this week for a study on the sale of raw milk. The information will be turned to the 2013 General Assembly.

Current Indiana law prohibits the sale of milk that has not been pasteurized. But its proponents say raw milk from pasture-fed animals contains beneficial nutrients depleted by the process and should be available for sale.

The dairy industry and other opponents contend any raw milk can contain dangerous pathogens such as E.coli or salmonella and should be treated before it’s sold.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health will host a virtual public hearing for its study starting this Friday. Spokeswomen Denise Derrer says if lawmakers consider lifting the ban, they’ll have a lot of questions to answer.

Will they allow retail sales in grocery stores, or do you have to go directly to a farm, or are herd share agreements going to be approved? What kind of labeling will be required, packaging, distribution? There’s a whole gamut of just associated issues that need to be addressed,” Derrer said.

The sale of raw milk is banned in about two dozen states, including Indiana and Kentucky.

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U of L Researchers Using Grant To Develop Spinal Cord Treatment

Researchers at the University of Louisville say a $6.3 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will allow them to develop new technology toward the goal of helping paralyzed people walk again.

U of L Professor of Neurological Surgery Dr. Susan Harkema’s team and researchers elsewhere are getting promising results using electrical stimulation on the lower spinal cords of patients.

But Harkema says the current technology has limitations and can only be used in a laboratory setting.

“We’re still working on that project. Nobody’s walking from epidural stimulation, but we have individuals who can stand for minutes at a time and can actually move toes, ankles, knees and legs).

Harkema says the Helmsley grant announced last week will help researchers develop a better electrical stimulator that can be used in a patient’s home.

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Drought Conditions Raising Concerns in Western, Central Kentucky

Thanks to Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky farmers are concerned about an early drought that’s affecting western and central sections of the state.

A level one drought has been declared for 24 counties, meaning conditions have developed that affect soil moisture and vegetative health.

University of Kentucky Agricultural Meteorologist Tom Priddy says the drought could quickly settle into other areas of the state.

“Now everything’s still pretty green, but it won’t take long, without getting a good shot of rain. And you know we’d like to have an inch of rain a week for agriculture. And we’re not getting that. Even in the Bluegrass area we’re not getting that,” Priddy said.

Priddy says the dry conditions starting to take a toll on some western Kentucky corn crops.

The outlook for the next ten days shows warm temperatures and only a slight chance of rain for much of the commonwealth.

(Drought monitor map courtesy of National Drought Mitigation Center)

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Eggners Ferry Bridge to Reopen Ahead of Schedule

Officials say western Kentucky’s Eggners Ferry Bridge will reopen Friday, two-and-a-half days ahead of schedule.

The bridge, which carries US 68 and KY 80 traffic across Kentucky Lake, has been closed since it was struck by a cargo ship on January 26.

Crews have been conducting emergency repairs on the 80 year old span. The incident forced some motorists to take a long detour around the closure.

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Racing Commission Considering Ban of Anti-Bleeding Drug

From Josh James, Kentucky Public Radio

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has set a town hall meeting to discuss a proposal that would phase out the use of an anti-bleeding drug on race days in the U.S. The drug, furosemide, also known as Lasix, is given to horses to prevent bleeding in the lungs caused by the stress of racing. Eric Mitchell, editor-in-chief for Bloodhorse magazine, says Kentucky is among the first states to debate a limited ban on the practice.    

“There’s one side that says ‘we know enough, we’ve looked at the drug, we know what it’s impacts are. There’s no reason that North America should be using this race day medication when the rest of the world isn’t.’ The pro Lasix (people) will make a point that bleeding is an important health issue, this is a medication that we’ve used a long time. It’s proven safe,” he said.

The ban would initially apply to two-year-olds, starting next January, and then to two  and three-year olds starting the following year. By 2015, the ban would be in effect for all horses entered to race in graded or listed stakes races in the state. The meeting is set for June 5 in Frankfort.

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Study: Indiana Gun Deaths Outpaced Motor Vehicle Deaths in 2009

From the Associated Press:

A new study says the number of people killed by guns in Indiana in 2009 has surpassed those who died in traffic accidents.

The study released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center says Indiana is one of 10 states where there were more gun deaths than traffic deaths in 2009. The other states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

In Indiana, 735 gun deaths were reported in 2009, compared with 715 people who died in motor vehicle accidents.

Nationally, there were more than 31-thousand firearm deaths and more than 36-thousand motor vehicle deaths in 2009.

The report cites data from the Centers for Disease Control.

The Violence Policy Center is a national educational and advocacy organization that says its goal is to stop gun death and injury.

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Local News

Audit Finds Insufficient Oversight of Indigent Care Fund

An audit of the taxpayer funded trust that helps pay for indigent care at University of Hospital has found that the trust lacks sufficient oversight.

The review of the Quality and Charity Care Trust by State Auditor Adam Edelen released today also found weaknesses in the structure of the QCCT board.

Edelen says the audit found no misuse of funds. The trust receives more than $30 million in state and city money each year for indigent care.

QCCT board chairman Dr. David Dunn (at left in photo with U of L Medical Center President Dr. James Taylor) says the board is pleased with Edelen’s report.

“What we consider to be a very positive series of statements about QCCT. We will be putting additional governance in place per his request in the first seven points,” Dunn said.

The audit also says that better processes are needed to insure that indigent funds are being spent only on those who cannot afford care, but University Medical Center President Dr. James Taylor says record gathering can be difficult in emergency situations.

“We give our best effort but we’re not going to deny people care because they won’t fill out a form and there are some people, who, frankly, we can’t find after they leave. So we will try very hard to get an application but we’re not going to deny care because there is no application,” Taylor said.

The audit was requested by U of L President James Ramsey following reports that the QCCT board was not holding regular meetings as required under its bylaws.