- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Kentucky Budget bill goes to governor’s desk

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky General Assembly approved a $20.3 billion biennial spending plan Monday that authorizes $20.3 billion in spending for education, Medicaid, pensions, and other state government services while cutting spending in many state agencies by 5 percent through fiscal 2016.

The budget bill passed Monday by final votes of 89-11 in the House and 37-1 in the Senate and was sent to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear before both chambers adjourned. They return April 14 for a two-day session to review any vetoes of legislation passed in the recent session.

Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Bob Leeper, an Independent from Paducah, said the final budget package approved by lawmakers sets Kentucky on a good stead for the future.

“It makes me feel good about what you all will face in the next biennium,” Leeper said.

Democratic leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the Senate spent most of Monday in closed-door meetings finalizing the plan.

The bill would allow state university budgets a 1.5 percent cut rather than 2.5 percent as proposed by the governor, and restores bond authorizations for university projects.

___

Kentucky legislature finishing work for 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky General Assembly on Monday banned electronic cigarette sales to minors and approved the state’s first use of a medicinal marijuana product, among other measures, on the legislature’s last day before the upcoming veto session.

Notable bills that are likely dead include bills banning natural gas companies from seizing private land for a proposed oil pipeline and a bill restoring voting rights to some convicted felons.

Democratic leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the Senate spent most of the day in closed-door caucus meetings finishing work on the state’s $20 billion biennial budget and working out compromises on various pieces of legislation.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, lamented what he called divided government hindering the work of the lawmakers.

“There are only four states like Kentucky where we have divided government. We have deep philosophical differences with (Democratic House) Speaker (Greg) Stumbo and his caucus,” Thayer said. “They have deep philosophical differences with us about the role of government and about debt and about spending. So it’s difficult to work through those.”

Once they finish working Monday, lawmakers will adjourn for two weeks, giving Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear time to either sign or veto legislation.

___

Kentucky gas tax will not increase

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky drivers will not pay more at the pump this summer as House Democrats dropped their support for an increase in the state gas tax.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he has told legislative leaders to prepare the state’s two-year road spending plan without the extra $107 million that would have come from a 1.5 cents-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax. And state lawmakers approved a two-year revenue bill Monday without the gas tax increase.

House Democrats narrowly approved the gas tax increase earlier this month, saying it was needed for road projects throughout the state. But the Republican-controlled Senate rejected the increase. That set up four days of contentious debate between House and Senate leaders, culminating with a marathon closed-door meeting that ended at 5:30 Sunday morning.

“There will be less money going back to counties and cities to repair the roads, that’s just the fact of life,” Stumbo said.

One casualty could be $37 million for the Brent Spence bridge in northern Kentucky. The double-decker bridge, which connects Covington with Cincinnati, opened in the 1960s. It carries more traffic than it was designed for, causing frequent traffic jams and safety concerns and has become a symbol of the nation’s aging infrastructure.

Kentucky owns the bridge and is responsible for its maintenance. It will cost about $2.6 billion to replace the bridge. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear proposed using tolls to help pay that cost, but state lawmaker rejected that proposal. The Senate added an extra $37 million to the state’s two-year road plan to pay for the land acquisition necessary for the project to get started.

___

Warren Co. considering veteran court

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Officials in Warren County are considering setting up a special court for veterans who have landed in the criminal justice system.

The courts are typically designed like drug courts, where treatment is used to help veterans avoid incarceration.

The first such court in Kentucky was established in Jefferson County about a year ago, and Hardin County followed after that. Fayette and Christian counties have also carved out slots from their drug courts to establish veterans courts.

“Fifteen years ago, we would periodically have (veterans) in our court systems,” Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron told the Daily News in Bowling Green (http://bit.ly/1jQsHfE). “Obviously, since the length of time that we have had people in combat zones and returning, we have seen both men and women veterans, unfortunately, enter into the criminal justice system. Obviously, as troops are drawing down, we are seeing more and more individuals. We are going to be dealing with more and more veterans having to adapt to civilian life.”

There were 481 defendants who identified themselves as veterans in the Warren County court system between July 2010 and February, and 170 of those said they had seen combat. That’s out of about 16,700 who were arrested and booked into jail during that time.

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will Scott said the veterans court concept is appropriate in cases where defendants can work with an outreach officer and the Veterans Administration to achieve a better result for that veteran.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide