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Equestrian Games Ticket Sales Lag in Preliminary Rounds

Ticket sales are slow for some of the World Equestrian Games’ early rounds. So organizers are running a sale on certain events through September 6th.

Spokesperson Amy Walker says ticket sales have been strong for the final rounds of the eight world championships, and they’ve sold about 260-thousand tickets so far. But, she says, the preliminary rounds leading up to those finals have seen sluggish sales.

With the 30% off sale, Walker says they’re hoping to target people who live nearby.

“And hopefully to incentivize those who maybe are less knowledgeable about the sports,” says Walker, “but who are curious and who may not want to spend the money to purchase the ticket for a finals round of competition, but would spend a little bit less just to come out and see what these events are all about.”

Walker says the sale only applies to early rounds of five of the event’s eight disciplines.

The World Equestrian Games are set for September 25th through October 10th in Lexington.

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Indiana Ends Fiscal Year in the Black

Indiana State Auditor Tim Berry says the state is financially stable despite the economy. Today, Berry released his report of the fiscal year that just ended.

He says early recognition of the nation’s economic state led to good decisions from the state’s leadership.

“I think certainly putting the brakes on spending when we did, when we first recognized the downturn in revenue, controlling our expenditures at that point and time has allowed us to continue to remain in the black,” says Berry.

Indiana brought in $957-million less in revenue than was budgeted, but still preserved more than half its reserve funds. Berry says agency spending reductions are largely to be credited.

The Hoosier state now has just over $830-million in the reserve fund.

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Cabbage Patch Celebrates 100 Years, Renovation

Louisville’s Cabbage Patch Settlement House is celebrating its centennial this year plus a recently completed seven-million dollar renovation of its facilities.

But Executive Director Tracey Holladay says they’re one-point-seven million dollars behind on fundraising for the project.

“And that’s a problem,” says Holladay, “and, of course, even the annual fund is struggling as most non-profits in this economy right now. But we felt like it was the right thing to do, and as I say, I think we’ve positioned ourselves to serve for another 100 years at least.”

Holladay says the new project means they now have 40-thousand square feet of new activity space and renovated the gym.

The Cabbage Patch is a Christian, non-profit group that provides a range of services for youth, including education programs and recreation.

Holladay spoke on today’s State of Affairs.

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Superintendent Berman's Evaluation Underway

The Jefferson County Board of Education convenes Friday to publicly discuss its evaluation of the district’s Superintendent, Sheldon Berman. The board began meeting Thursday behind closed doors to begin the process; another closed session is set for Friday at 2:00pm, with the public portion of the evaluation set for about 4:00pm.

Berman has just started the final year of his four-year contract. The board moved his evaluation from mid-June to after July 15th, the effective date of a new state law that allows school boards to conduct such superintendent evaluations in private.

The board did so last year, the results of which were challenged by the Courier-Journal, saying the board violated state open-meetings laws, a claim that was upheld by the attorney general and a circuit judge.

Under the new law, preliminary discussions on the superintendent’s performance may take place in executive session, but the final evaluation must be disclosed and voted on in public.

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Pew Says Most Kentuckians Support Food Safety Act

by Stephanie Crosby

The Pew Health Group is working to rally support for legislation on Capital Hill known as the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The group released a poll today that says 85% of Kentuckians support strengthening food safety regulation.

The poll of 500 Kentucky residents was conducted last month.

Pew Food Safety Campaign Director Sandra Eskin says, among other things, the bill would give the Food and Drug Administration more authority over farmers and food manufacturers.

“So one major component of the legislation is to require food processors, food companies, to develop food safety plans, look at their operation, identify where contamination can occur, institute measures to try to prevent that contamination or minimize it, and then monitor it,” says Eskin.

But organizations that represent small farms oppose the bill, saying the new mandates are too costly for small operations. They say the farms would be put out of business by larger corporations that can afford to comply with the new rules.

The bill was introduced last year, but is still awaiting a vote in the Senate.

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Yarmuth Says Jobless Benefits Extension is Crucial for Kentucky Economy

by Stephanie Crosby

Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville says the longer Congress takes to act on an extension of unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans, the more Kentucky suffers.

Democrats on Capitol Hill want to extend jobless benefits by six months, at a cost of $34-billion. A number of Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are holding up the measure, saying they want to make sure spending is cut elsewhere to fund the extension.

Yarmuth wants to add the cost to the deficit, saying there’s no time to waste.

“The ramifications for Kentucky are enormous,” says Yarmuth. “If we don’t act soon, within a couple weeks, 125-thousand people in Kentucky will have lost their unemployment benefits, at roughly a thousand dollars a month per person, that’s $125-million that will not be spent in the Kentucky economy per month.”

Todd Lally, Yarmuth’s Republican opponent in the general election, says he’d oppose the extension as it stands now.

“If we could get it in through the pay-go rules, and we could find a way to fund it, then I’d be more open to it,” says Lally, “but to take on additional debt at this point, with our debt as high as it is, I think that would be a bad move.”

Yarmuth made his remarks on today’s State of Affairs.

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Holliday to Promote Virtual Learning Program to Offset Disaster Days

by Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

The head of Kentucky public schools believes virtual learning on the Internet may be the best way to avoid losing instructional days to disasters.

Last school year, disaster days, which don’t have to be made up, were granted to 11 Kentucky school districts, including nine days each in Knox and McCreary counties. But Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is trying to figure out a way to avoid disaster days, and believes virtual learning may be the answer.

“The solution we think might be possible is to build upon a system we already have in place and it’s our virtual learning system,” says Holliday.

He wants five districts in eastern Kentucky to participate in a pilot project to see if the system can work. Holliday wants to present the proposal to lawmakers in January.

Among the obstacles to be overcome are computer availability and Internet access in rural areas.

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Labor Cabinet to Hold Employer Seminar in Louisville

by Stephanie Crosby

A two-day seminar will be held later this week to train some 200 Louisville-area employers on various labor laws. The Kentucky Labor Cabinet is holding the session.

Policy advisor Mike Donta says many employers statewide are interested in the training.

“We get requests on a regular basis to hold specific trainings for people,” says Donta. “Yet with the budget situation within our cabinet, we weren’t able to meet each of those needs, so we decided to do it on a regional basis and take it to the employers instead of them coming to us.”

Donta says it’s the first time they’ve conducted these on-the-road seminars. Classes have already been held in Paducah and Owensboro.

The Louisville seminar is set for Wednesday and Thursday at the Hartford Building at Kentucky Community and Technical College.

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State Workers to be Furloughed Six Days

by Stephanie Crosby

State workers will be furloughed a total of six days in the upcoming fiscal year, according to a proposal released today by the Personnel Cabinet.

The budget approved by the General Assembly requires $131-million in expenditure reductions this fiscal year and $169-million dollars the year after that. Some of that savings will come in furlough days.

Personnel Cabinet Secretary Nikki Jackson says three of those days will be ‘common days’ – over Labor Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day weekends – and the remaining three will be at the discretion of the cabinet heads.

“This is all still very new,” says Jackson. “We’ve not had to cross this road before in state government, so some of this we’ll have to build the ship as we sail it, if you will.”

Jackson says the three remaining days must be taken in October, March and June, and must be approved by the Personnel Cabinet.

Agencies that operate around the clock – like mental health and correctional facilities – must submit plans to take furlough days that won’t disrupt service.

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Temporary Walkway on Main Street Pleases CART

by Stephanie Crosby

A protest that was planned for this afternoon at Second and Main Streets in Louisville has been scrapped. CART – or the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation – had planned the protest because construction zones there had no temporary walkway for pedestrians, forcing them to walk in the street.

But CART Vice-President Dave Morse says such walkways were erected yesterday. He says while it comes a few weeks after the start of the project, it’s a welcome addition.

“We’d like to see this technique used more often,” says Morse. “We’d like to see this technique incorporated into the planning phase of a project, so that there’s never a time when pedestrians are wading out into the street.”

Morse says they would have liked to see wheelchair ramps for the temporary walkways, but understands the project is temporary.