- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014
Senate proposal would reduce legislative sessions

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Senate’s top leader Wednesday proposed reducing the number of days lawmakers meet each year, saying it would save millions of dollars each year and entice a broader range of people to run for the General Assembly.

Senate President Robert Stivers took to the Senate floor to promote his bill, which seeks to amend the Kentucky Constitution to revamp the legislative calendar. The measure would go on the November ballot for Kentucky voters to decide if it clears the legislature.

In his Senate speech, Stivers said lawmakers “need to lead by example” at a time when they are considering another round of budget cuts. The Manchester Republican estimated his proposal would save the state about $7 million each year.

“I’ve had many members come up to me saying this is returning back to a true citizen legislature,” he said.

The current schedule discourages some people from running for the General Assembly because they can’t afford to be away from work for sessions that last so long, Stivers said. For example, more educators used to serve as lawmakers, he said.

“Differing people can’t come up here and afford to keep their jobs,” he said.

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Gay-rights bill gets hearing from Ky. House panel

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A former police officer who claims he lost his job because of his sexual orientation joined gay-rights advocates Wednesday in urging Kentucky lawmakers to protect homosexuals and bisexuals from discrimination in the workplace, in public places and housing.

Gay-rights supporters said the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the anti-discrimination bill represented a historic step forward. For more than a decade, similar anti-discrimination measures died without receiving hearings in the General Assembly.

The committee did not vote on the measure Wednesday, and panel members didn’t ask questions after presentations by a series of bill supporters.

“I’m a proud Christian, a Republican, a gun owner and I’m gay,” said Kile Nave, a former police officer in a small urban community in Jefferson County. “And I deserve to be protected from discrimination like everyone else.”

Nave said he lost his job in 2012, more than two decades into his police career. After he filed a complaint, the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission found probable cause that he was fired because of his sexual orientation, he said.

Louisville is among a half-dozen Kentucky cities with ordinances banning discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. The legislation reviewed Wednesday would ban anti-gay discrimination in those same settings across Kentucky.

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4 Fort Knox schools to close with Army unit’s exit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - With a combat brigade departing as part of military base realignment, Fort Knox will shutter four schools for the coming year as enrollment at the institutions drops.

The shutdown will take place at the end of the current school year as the central Kentucky military post prepares for the deactivation of its lone combat unit, the 3,000-member 3rd Combat Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The school shutdowns are part of a ripple effect as the U.S. Army seeks to shrink its ranks to about 450,000 active duty soldiers.

“Obviously, the big issue is the shock of closing four schools and the shock of people being laid off,” Fort Knox Community Schools Superintendent Frank Calvano said.

The four schools - Kingsolver Elementary, Mudge Elementary, Pierce Elementary and Walker Intermediate - account for 877 students. With students transferring with their parents, enrollment for the next school year at the four schools remaining at the post is expected to be about 1,350 students. The shutdown marks at least the third time schools on the iconic post known for the federal gold depository have been shuttered. Schools also were closed at Fort Knox in 1992 and in 1999 because of declining enrollment.

Military posts around the country, including Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, offer elementary, middle and high schools for the children of active duty soldiers. Defense Department officials on Wednesday said they couldn’t say whether schools on other military posts would be closing.

“That’s hard to speculate,” said Elizabeth Middlemiss, interim director for domestic dependent elementary and secondary schools.

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Coal firm to pay record fine for water pollution

WASHINGTON (AP) - One of the nation’s largest coal producers will pay a $27.5 million fine and spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into hundreds of waterways across five Appalachian states, according to a proposed settlement Wednesday.

The agreement includes the largest fine ever for violations of water pollution permits, with many of the violations reported by the company to state environmental officials. The Associated Press obtained details about the settlement before it was filed Wednesday in federal court in West Virginia.

The discharges occurred at mines and coal processing plants in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

“This is the largest one, period,” Cynthia Giles, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement office, told the AP. “It’s the biggest case for permit violations for numbers of violations and size of the penalty, which reflects the seriousness of violations.”

The government says that between 2006 and 2013, Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and dozens of subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times. They discharged heavy metals and other contaminants harmful to fish and other wildlife from nearly 800 outfall pipes directly into rivers, streams and tributaries, according to the government. There is no evidence that any of the violations contaminated drinking water, EPA officials said.

Monitoring records attached to the complaint show that in some cases, the releases exceeded permit limits by as much as 35 times.

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