- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014
Ky. Senate passes bill creating malpractice panels

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A panel of medical experts would review proposed medical malpractice claims against health care providers before they could be pursued in court under a bill the Kentucky Senate passed Wednesday.

The party-line vote in the Republican-led Senate followed a contentious debate on an issue that has drawn powerful interest groups on both sides.

The measure now goes to the Democratic-run House, where it faces a much tougher challenge.

Sen. Julie Denton, the bill’s lead sponsor, said it is meant to speed up the review process and eliminate meritless medical malpractice suits that she claimed are forcing medical providers out of the state.

“This bill is about ensuring that we have access to the best health-care providers possible in our commonwealth,” the Louisville Republican said. “And we are going to lose them, or we are not going to be able to attract them, if we don’t address this issue.”

Democratic Sen. Ray Jones II of Pikeville countered that inserting medical review panels into the medical malpractice process would hurt “the weakest, most vulnerable people in our society.”

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Senate OKs revised felons’ voting rights bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A proposed constitutional amendment aimed at restoring the voting rights of some felons cleared the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday after being rewritten to include a five-year waiting period.

The measure returns to the House. It passed a much different version last month that proposed automatically reinstating voting rights for eligible felons after completing all conditions of their sentences.

The proposal, which cleared the Senate on a 34-4 vote, would go on Kentucky’s fall ballot if it clears the Legislature.

Some senators said they voted for the stricter Senate version in hopes of advancing it toward a better product crafted by House-Senate negotiators. They said the waiting period amounts to another punishment for people who paid their debt to society and should be eligible to vote.

“Why do we want to punish them again, put another five years on them?” said Democratic Sen. Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville.

Senate President Robert Stivers defended the waiting period, saying he couldn’t support automatic restoration of voting rights for people convicted of such crimes as assault and drug trafficking.

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House panel hears eminent domain bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky bill that would protect landowners from having their land seized for a pipeline to pump natural gas liquids has received its first committee hearing.

The measure would require private non-utility companies like those responsible for the hotly disputed Bluegrass Pipeline to obtain consent from a landowner before building.

Emotional testimony came from current residents where the pipeline would be installed. They say they have been threatened with land seizure under current eminent domain laws.

Oil and gas company representatives complained the measure could prevent the pipeline from being installed in those locations.

The head of one of the companies involved in the project said Wednesday the in-service target has been put off by as much as a year to “align with the needs of producers.”

A vote was postponed Wednesday to allow for further testimony.

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Pipeline project delayed until 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - One of the companies wanting to build a controversial pipeline to transport natural gas liquids says the project has been delayed up to a year.

In year-end 2013 financial results, Williams Co. President and CEO Alan Armstrong said the in-service target of the Bluegrass Pipeline project was being shifted to mid- to late 2016 “to better align with the needs of producers.”

The 500-mile pipeline, being built by Williams Co. of Tulsa, Okla., and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners of Houston, would carry liquids through northern and central Kentucky.

A group of Catholic nuns successfully redirected the route of the pipeline off their land last year, and other religious leaders joined them to oppose the project, delivering thousands of signatures to Gov. Steve Beshear’s office in November.

On Wednesday, Beshear endorsed legislation that would protect landowners from having their land seized for the project.

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