- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Top House Dems downplay chances for gambling bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Top House Democrats on Tuesday downplayed chances of passing legislation that could bring casinos to Kentucky, one day after Senate Republicans declared it lacks enough votes to pass in their chamber.

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark said he’s still negotiating with racetrack owners in hopes of crafting a version that could win broad enough support to put the issue on the ballot for Kentucky voters to decide. But he seemed pessimistic.

House leaders weren’t budging on their insistence that the Senate take up the issue first. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said there’s no reason for the House to take up a bill that’s “just going to die over there.”

“I don’t see any reason to put any effort into it,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Senate Republicans who control their chamber met Monday night to discuss expanded gambling, a perennial issue that has routinely died in this Bible-belt state with a long history of wagering on horses.

After that meeting, Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Dan Seum said he wasn’t giving up on his proposal to put the casino issue on the November ballot. Any legislation proposing a change to the state Constitution needs at least 23 supporting votes in the 38-member Senate.


Committee OKs bill to allow concealed guns in bars

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A bill to allow concealed deadly weapons in Kentucky bars has passed its first committee hearing in the Legislature.

The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee approved the measure Tuesday. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. John Schickel of Union, is the committee’s chairman.

Current state law prohibits concealed firearms from being carried into bars, but Schickel’s bill would allow it as long as those who carry them do not drink. He called that a matter of self-defense.

Schickel said current law allows people to openly carry visible weapons into bars at the proprietor’s discretion. Schickel also said his bill would not interfere with a bar owner’s right to prohibit guns at an establishment. He said that 25 other states have similar gun laws.

“The bad guys can take guns in bars now, and do,” Schickel. “So it only stands to reason that a person who is not drinking, that has a concealed carry permit, be allowed to defend themselves,” he said.

When asked whether the measure might make bars more dangerous, Schickel responded: “That’s always been an argument, but the results are the complete opposite, that these establishments become safer. Every time we’ve expanded concealed carry permits, crime rates have gone down, not up.”


Ky. lawmakers start review of tax overhaul plan

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson told lawmakers Tuesday that a wide-ranging tax plan unveiled by his boss represents the administration’s “best shot” at making Kentucky more competitive by reshaping the tax code.

A week after Gov. Steve Beshear outlined his 22-point plan, Abramson went before the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee to delve into details affecting virtually every Kentucky taxpayer.

“Nothing in here is in stone or in concrete,” Abramson told the panel during its first public review of the proposal. “We’re at a point where the discussion needs to begin. … And this is our best shot in terms of what we see in a balanced approach that will move the commonwealth forward.”

Committee Chairman Rick Rand praised the second-term Democratic governor for having the “political courage” to present a comprehensive tax overhaul plan, which comes in an election year.

“We all know what happens - it gets picked apart, holes shot in it,” Rand said. “But nevertheless, it has to be out there so we know what we’re talking about.”

Then came a series of questions and critiques from committee members.


Ky. governor and his wife attend state dinner

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and his wife were among the guests at the White House’s state dinner honoring French president Francois Hollande.

Kentucky’s first couple found themselves among hundreds of people invited to the lavish dinner Tuesday.

Beshear and his wife, Jane, also participated in the arrival ceremony for the French president.

Beshear says it’s a wonderful opportunity for the state anytime a governor can be in the same room with so many leaders. The guest list included leaders in business, government, arts and sports.

France is the seventh-largest consumer of Kentucky products.

It’s the second time in recent weeks Beshear has found himself in the Washington spotlight. The governor was among the guests who sat with first lady Michelle Obama at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech.

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