Frankfort Local News

Lawmakers Hold Ninth Annual Celebration of Black History Month

Kentucky lawmakers held their annual celebration of Black History Month in Frankfort today, the ninth such celebration.

The program included a presentation of the book Two Centuries of Black Louisville and three new inductions into the Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians—the late higher education advocate William Blakey, the late Urban League Director Arthur Walters and current state Senator Gerald Neal

“It’s important to celebrate what we call Black History because in doing so we are actually celebrating our history,” said Governor Steve Beshear at the event. “Kentucky’s history as a commonwealth and as a people and as a human race.”

In his remarks, House Speaker Greg Stumbo agreed with Beshear’s remarks.

“[The] History of Black America and African Americans is the history ofAmerica,” he said. “It’s a struggle for freedom, for equality, for decent educational opportunities, a decent place to raise your children.”

The program was presented by the Black Legislative Caucus, which is made up of state representatives and senators.

Local News Politics

Bill Requiring Prescriptions for Cold Medicines Would Only Apply to Certain Convicts

by Brenna Angel, Kentucky Public Radio

A Kentucky state lawmaker has pre-filed legislation that would require a prescription for cold and allergy medicines, but it would only apply to convicted meth offenders.

Many over-the-counter cold remedies contain pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used to make meth. Democratic Representative Brent Yonts wants to create a block list for anyone convicted of meth-related crimes.

“If they go in and try to buy at the local pharmacy, behind the counter, this system would instantaneously tell the pharmacist not to sell it,” he says. “It punishes those who abuse the law and not the about 98 percent of the people who do not abuse the law regarding meth.”

Yonts’s bill would also reduce the maximum amount of pseudoephedrine that can be bought per person from 9 grams a month to 7.5 grams.

Previous attempts to make all cold medicine prescription-only has failed in the General Assembly. Yonts says his proposal punishes meth users while allowing law-abiding citizens to easily get the medicine they need.


Local News Politics

State Lawmakers Discuss When to Begin Redistricting

by Dan Conti, Kentucky Public Radio

Members of the Kentucky General Assembly’s Task Force on Elections are at odds over when to begin redrawing legislative districts based on the 2010 Census.

It could either be done during a special session this year or during the regular session which begins in January.

“It can be done relatively easy in about a five day session if everybody comes prepared with their plans, vote them up or vote them down, amend them if we have to. I truly believe we ought to have one probably in September or October,” says Senator Walter Blevins, an eastern Kentucky Democrat.

The General Assembly will have to approve a state budget in their next session, and Blevins says the special session would allow lawmakers to focus only on redistricting.

“It is time consuming and it’s very personal with each member. I don’t think we’ll have to have a special session,” says Representative John Will Stacy,” who is also a Democrat from eastern Kentucky. “We’ve done it both ways. I’ve been on the General Assembly long enough to have been through it a couple of times. We’ve done it in a special session, but we’ve also done it in regular sessions.”

Stacy further argues that a special session would cost the taxpayers money.

Local News Politics

In-Depth: Despite Investigations and Complaints, For-Profit Colleges Have Supporters in Frankfort

Complaints about for-profit colleges in Kentucky continue to raise eyebrows in Frankfort. But the schools also have many legislative defenders.

Currently there are 141 for-profit colleges in Kentucky, which are seeing significant growth. National enrollment in proprietary colleges is nearing two million students, compared to a half-million in 1998. The schools cater mostly to students seeking employment skills. But complaints about for-profits are on the rise, especially concerning high student loan default rates, credits that don’t transfer and unrealistic employment promises.

Local News Politics

Frankfort Prison to Become State Police Training Academy

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has decided to close a minimum security prison and make it a training academy for Kentucky State Police.

Beshear says the state no longer needs the Frankfort Career Development Center, which houses 205 low-risk inmates.

“Our inmate population has dropped, more than 1600 inmates, between February 15, 2008 and April 20 of this year. This is a sustained drop and we expect that trend to continue,” he says.

KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer is happy with th development.

“I’d like to thank Secretary Brown and Governor Beshear for their innovativeness and their leadership in allowing us to do that – and definitely the Department of Corrections for their generosity. It’s not many days that you get a 362 acre complex deeded over to you,” he says.

Positions at other correctional facilities have already been found for the 47 staff members at the Frankfort prison. The inmates will be sent to county jails, halfway houses and community supervision. KSP will get keys to the prison on July 1st.

Local News

Kentucky Receives Stimulus Funds to Help Struggling Homeowners

Financial help is available for unemployed Kentuckians having difficulty meeting their mortgages.

Kentucky is one of 18 states receiving federal stimulus money from the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. Kentucky’s share is $149 million dollars. Richard McQuady of the Kentucky Housing Corporation says homeowners can receive up to $20,000 or 12 months of assistance, whichever occurs first.

Local News Politics

Senate Adjourns Special Session

Kentucky’s special session on Medicaid officially ended Wednesday evening. Adjournment came after Senate Republicans approved resolutions symbolically overriding Governor Beshear’s line-item vetoes of the Medicaid bill. Eleven Democrats in the chamber, including Representative Robin Webb of Grayson, refused to support the resolutions.

“My outrage is we had to come back for a special session. It was unnecessary. It’s been costly. And we’re here today and we have no purpose today. Purpose here today is sheer politics. We’ve heard bashing the governor. We’ve heard all that. That’s the purpose here today,” he said.

Constitutionally, lawmakers must be paid for the entire 24-day session, but Senate President David Williams promises no Senate member will be paid for any day past March 24th.

“Either they can make refunds voluntarily, or I will withhold the days over the next several months,” he said.

That’s the day the House adjourned, went home and refused to come back. The cost to taxpayers for the special session was nearly 64-thousand dollars a day.

Local News Politics

State Senate Reconvenes

As expected, the Kentucky Senate reconvened the special session on Medicaid. But not much has happened yet.

Senate President David Williams gaveled the session to order, and 27 members recorded their presence. A couple of resolutions were read, and then Senate Republicans went behind closed doors to caucus, where they remain.

Democratic Senatir Walter Blevins is still trying to figure out why the Senate’s even meeting.

“It’s a waste of time. I’d rather be home working, trying to make a living and trying to work on the problems of the people I represent. Today, we’re not going to be doing anything. It’s just all political theater,” he says. “It’s just all politics.”

The House officially went home March 24th and did not return for what the Senate is calling a veto override day. But no vetoes can be overridden, because overrides require majority votes in both chambers.

Local News Politics

Reviewing The 2011 Legislative Session

Despite the need for a special session, the General Assembly’s legislative pace this year more or less matches last year’s.

In regular sessions, Kentucky lawmakers meet for 60-days in even-numbered years and 30-days in odd numbered years, so the 2011 session lasted 30-days.

During that time, lawmakers introduced 653 bills, and approved 102 of them. That’s in line with the 2009 session, when 101 bills were approved.

Governor Steve Beshear vetoed a couple of bills this year, but the Republican-controlled Senate adjourned early, so lawmakers couldn’t override the vetoes.

Because the General Assembly failed to balance Medicaid during the regular session, Beshear immediately called a special session, which effectively ended March 24th, when the Democratically-controlled House adjourned and went home.

The Senate still intends to reconvene on Wednesday, which is sure to reignite festering arguments over legislative pay for the special session.

Local News Politics

Beshear Vetoes Portion of Medicaid Bill

As promised, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has vetoed large sections of the Medicaid bill approved by state lawmakers.

Across-the-board cuts to state agencies, including education are out. So is language preventing additional furloughs, face-to-face interviews of Medicaid applicants, debt restructuring, and legislative pay during the veto recess.

“And I would certainly suggest to the Senate majority that they can step up and voluntarily write a check back to the commonwealth for any pay that they receive after March 24th,” he says.

The vetoes will allow Beshear to move forward with his original plan for balancing Medicaid, which includes projected savings from managed care. Senate President David Williams predicted the House would want to return to Frankfort to override some of the vetoes, but Speaker Greg Stumbo issued a statement saying Beshear “did what he said he would do.”