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Hill Town Hall Meeting on Health Care Civil

Congressman Baron Hill of Indiana’s ninth district held his first town hall meeting on proposed health care overhaul legislation last night in New Albany. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Nearly 600 people came to the Indiana University Southeast campus to hear from and ask questions of Hill. The overflow crowd included 200 people in an area just outside. The crowd was civil with supporters and opponents of the proposals for health care now in Congress.

Hill repeated his priorities for any health care legislation several times.

“Make sure that people who can’t get insurance now can get it — that’s priority number one,” he says. “If you’re sick; if you got diabetes; if you got multiple sclerosis you’re not excluded — that’s number one. Number two: we’ve got millions of Americans who do not have health insurance and we need to bring them in to the pool. Number three: the bill has to be deficit neutral.”

Hill says he disagrees with some government agencies that report the government could save $2 trillion by overhauling the system,  and that government needs to make the new system deficit neutral.

“Probably, there’s going to have to be some kind of tax increase somewhere,” he says. “And the proposal that is out there is a tax — a surtax on people who make $250,000 or more or $350,000 or more if you’re someone filing jointly.

Kay and Don Novak of Floyds Knobs were among about 200 people in an overflow area outside the hall where Hill spoke. Both have doubts about the proposed legislation.

“I just don’t like how they’re rushing everything through,” Kay Novak says.
“Rush, Rush,” says Don Novak.
“Yeah,” Kay says.
“Where’s the money going to come from?” he asks before answering, “Us.”
“Right,” says Kay. “And if they cut different things, you know, we don’t want to be disposable.”

Hill is a so-called Blue Dog Democrat who has questioned some of the details of the proposals. He holds another meeting in Bloomington, Ind., tomorrow.

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Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

House Bill on Education Concerns Arts Advocates

The Kentucky House of Representatives will consider a bill this week to revamp the state’s student testing system. Some say it could weaken arts and humanities instruction. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

House Bill 508 is a response to Senate Bill 1. Both would overhaul testing in public schools to improve school, student and teacher performance.

Some arts advocates and educators aren’t happy with either bill because both do away with testing on the arts and humanities. They also say the House bill, which offers criteria for reviewing schools’ arts and humanities programs, is too vague.

David Cupps of the advocacy group Arts Kentucky says the legislation doesn’t ensure that students will get arts and humanities instruction.

“There’s so many issues that they’re trying to solve with this legislation that it’s easy for the arts to get lost or for them not to completely get all the language in there that they need to,” Cupps says.

Many educators and lawmakers say the current testing system is too time consuming and does not offer constructive information.

Cupps says instruction in the arts and humanities should be mandatory and that any program evaluation should guarantee schools are adequatly teaching these subjects.

“We are suggesting that if they’re not going to have it in the testing — of course, we would like some testing in there — but if it’s not going to be part of the testing, then this program evaluation could still be part of the accountability matrix that they are being held accountable for,” Cupps says.

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Local News

Secretary of State Begins New Email, RSS Service

Near real-time email notifications are now available for those tracking legislation the Governor has signed or vetoed in Kentucky.

The Secretary of State’s Office has started an email and RSS service. Spokesperson Les Fugate says it works quickly.

“The Governor will either sign legislation or veto it, it will come down to our office, we will scan it and upload it immediately, so citizens can know, basically at the moment that it has occurred, what the Governor has decided on that particular piece of legislation,” he says.

Fugate says the information has been available at the secretary’s website for a number of years, but few people were looking at it.

He says more than 200 people have signed up for the service; most of them are lobbyists and reporters, but it’s available to everyone.New S

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Local News

Stumbo Files Video Lottery Terminals Legislation

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

As promised, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo has filed legislation calling for video lottery terminals at the state’s horse tracks. The Kentucky Lottery would license and oversee the gambling devices.

Stumbo says VLT proceeds would be used to support primary education throughout the commonwealth and reduce taxes.

“I think it’s time we gave middle income Kentuckians and all Kentuckians in these hard times a bit of a tax break, with the automobile tax and the property tax. I think it’s past time that we helped our counties,” says Stumbo.

Stumbo predicts the games could generate as much as 700-million dollars a year for the state. He does not believe a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling is necessary because gambling is already permitted at the horse tracks.

Senate President David Williams opposes the bill.

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KY Lawmakers Propose Efficiency Measure

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Some reform-minded legislators in Frankfort are seeking rules changes designed to make the Kentucky House of Representatives more efficient.

On April 15th, when time ran out on the 2008 legislative session, the clock in the House was stopped and work continued past midnight.

The governor’s road plan was among legislation approved after the deadline and a lawsuit is challenging its legitimacy.

Rep. Carl Rollins says the clock-stopping maneuver caught him off-guard.

“That was a shock. You know, it was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Rollins said. “Of course it was my first term, but it was my second session.”

Clock stopping will be a thing of the past if House members approve an efficiency resolution being offered by Rollins and several co-sponsors.

The measure also puts a 30 minute limit on House introductions and entertainment, makes it harder to remove House members from committees and requires better communication between the House and Senate.

Because it applies only to House rules, the resolution will not require Senate approval.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Bill Filed Giving Rights to High School Journalists

Legislators have already begun filing bills for the next legislative session that starts in January. One measure concerns press rights for high school journalists. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Just after finishing his freshman year studying journalism at Western Kentucky University, Josh Moore met with his State Representative, Brent Yonts. Moore told Yonts he wanted state law to protect high school journalists from censorship, and Moore had done research to back up his request.

“I found that the Student Press Law Center has model legislation and so I set up a meeting with my representative Brent Yonts this summer and presented him that model legislation,” Moore says. “And told him that I felt that it was important.”

The bill guarantees student journalists the right to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of the press in school-sponsored publications.

Moore says the law would give students the same rights benefiting professional journalists, but also would preserve a role for school administrators.

“It doesn’t eliminate prior review so administrators still have the right to look over students’ work to make sure there is no libel or nothing that shouldn’t be published,” Moore says.

Under the bill school boards are immune from civil and criminal liability based on the work of students in school-sponsored media.

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Obama’s Victory Means High Expectations for Arts

During the primary campaign, some journalists reported on what the candidates were proposing for the arts. Early on, arts leaders and enthusiasts buzzed about how Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican candidate. (During his tenure, Huckabee supported arts education, including music and art instruction by certified teachers in elementary school.) Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton posted fairly detailed policies on their Web sites.

Between the two presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain offered a vague policy statement consisting of 110 words, while Sen. Obama proposed a platform that included investing in arts education, increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and promoting cultural diplomacy.

Now, artists and art leaders will eventually be looking for the spoils with President-elect Obama taking office.

Yesterday, Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that lobbies for the arts, sent out a letter saying the election results will have “tremendous impact on the nation’s arts community, public schools and creative workforce.” It also credited the Congressional elections with having “expanded the base of support for the arts in Congress.”

What the letter neglected to mention was the loss of U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, the last New England Republican in the House who will leave his position after serving 10 terms. Rep. Shays also will leave his position as the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus. The caucus is a bipartisan organization for Congressional members who support the arts through federal initiatives, including preserving NEA funding. That body has 178 members with 23 Republicans. (Thhe caucus includes Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth, who were reelected to represent Kentucky, and Peter J. Visclosky, who won to continue representing Northwest Indiana).

The caucus has helped boost appropriations for the NEA, which fell sharply from $176 million in 1992 to $97.6 million in 2000. Funding has increased in recent years, with $144.7 million appropriated in 2008. The reductions meant less money for the NEA to allocate to states. The NEA and the Kentucky State Legislature provide all funding for the Kentucky Arts Council programs, grants and services. From 1996-2004, the money the Kentucky Arts Council received from the NEA fell from 18.6 percent to 13.5 percent.

There is no word on which Republican will replace Shays, who received an A+ from the Americans for the Arts for his support of arts-oriented legislation. The remaining Republicans with the next highest scores are Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, who was just elected to his sixth term; Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, who was elected to Congress in 2002; and Rep. Todd Platts of Pennsylvania, who just won a fifth term in Congress.