- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014
Louisville raises minimum wage, 1st in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Workers in Kentucky’s largest city will earn at least $9 per hour after the Louisville Metro Council voted Thursday to raise the minimum wage.

Louisville becomes the first city in Kentucky - and the first in the South - to raise the minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 per hour, according to the National Employment Law Project. Louisville joins 20 other local governments across the country.

The vote follows months of intense debate about the benefits of higher wages for the poor versus the impact on local businesses and the city’s ability to attract new jobs. Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer said he will sign the ordinance into law.

“It is a balanced compromise solution that gives hardworking families a raise while minimizing the risks of job losses in our city,” Fischer said.

The increase means workers earning the current minimum wage will get a 24 percent raise and could earn $3,640 more per year before taxes if they work at least 40 hours per week. But many workers are exempt, including farm workers, waiters and others who work for tips and employees of small businesses whose average gross sales are less than $95,000 per year.

“I am one of the many teens in this city and across the country that work part time not to buy high priced tennis shoes and clothes but to assist in making sure our families have their most basic needs met,” said Ivan English, a 10th-grader at Western High.


Health insurer receives $65 million federal loan

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky nonprofit that is one of the largest insurance providers on the state’s health exchange received a $65 million federal loan last month to keep it afloat just days before the second open enrollment period began.

The Kentucky Health Cooperative received the loan from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Nov. 10. That was five days before Kentuckians began purchasing private health plans on kynect, the state-run health exchange where qualified individuals can purchase health insurance with the help of a federal discount.

CMS announced the loan this week. It drew sharp criticism from Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who said it “raises serious questions” about the stability of the program.

“If Obamacare were really such a success story in Kentucky, why did this co-op need a taxpayer bailout?” asked McConnell, the incoming Senate Majority Leader. “Even more disconcerting, why was that bailout kept a secret from the very people who were about to enroll in it?”

CMS also awarded a $22 million solvency loan to a Wisconsin co-op on Tuesday. A CMS representative said they waited until all of the loans had been awarded before announcing them.

It is not unusual for nonprofit co-ops to receive so-called “solvency loans” from the federal government. To date, co-ops in seven other states have received more than $355 million in additional solvency loans, according to the CMS website. Co-ops have 15 years to repay the loans, with interest, to the federal government.


Court rules in cases involving police disciplinary action

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Police officers accused of misconduct are entitled to administrative reviews set out by state law regardless of whether the complaints stemmed from internal police allegations or came from people outside of law enforcement, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The divided court’s ruling came in cases involving a University of Louisville police officer who was fired and a Mount Washington officer who was temporarily suspended without pay and had his rank reduced. The cases sprang from allegations initiating within their own departments.

Both officers requested administrative reviews, citing a section of state law known as the “Police Officer Bill of Rights.” A hearing was set for the UofL officer, Jeffery Pearce, but his request to have an attorney present was denied. Mount Washington Officer Stephen Hill’s request for a hearing was denied.

The officers lost their circuit court appeals, and state Court of Appeals panels ruled the officers weren’t entitled to the procedural process. The appeals court said the procedural protections apply only when the disciplinary action was initiated by a citizen’s complaint.

In his majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Daniel Venters said the law setting the procedural rights for officers applies both to disciplinary actions originating from internal police allegations and complaints from people outside of law enforcement.

“The dichotomy of a ‘citizen’s complaint’ vs. an intra-departmental complaint is wholly a creation of the lower courts rather than the legislature,” Venters wrote in the decision, which sent both cases back to the circuit courts for further proceedings.


Kentucky unemployment rate drops to 6-year low

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky officials say the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent in November, the lowest rate in more than six years.

The state Office of Employment and Training said Thursday that last month’s seasonally adjusted rate was down from a revised 6.2 percent jobless rate in October. Officials say last month’s rate was Kentucky’s lowest since April 2008, when the rate was 5.9 percent.

They say the preliminary November rate was 2.1 percentage points below the state’s 8.1 percent jobless rate in November 2013.

Officials report broad employment gains in Kentucky. The trade, transportation and utility sector added 2,300 jobs in November from a month earlier.

Manufacturing jobs in the state held steady from October to November, while employment in the mining and logging sector dropped by 400 in November.

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