- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Ky. Senate OKs bill aimed at attorney general

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Senate reacted Monday to the attorney general’s refusal to appeal a ruling allowing state recognition of same-sex marriages, passing a bill that would allow top legislative leaders to intervene in such situations.

The measure would enable the state Senate president or House speaker to intervene in a court case when the attorney general or governor fail to defend a state law or part of the state constitution. The measure passed 31-6 and now goes to the House.

The measure stems partly from state Attorney General Jack Conway’s recent decision not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that overturned parts of a 2004 state constitutional amendment barring recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Conway said that appealing the case would be “defending discrimination.”

Gov. Steve Beshear stepped in and hired a private law firm to handle the appeal.

The fallout from Conway’s refusal to appeal reached the Senate floor Monday. Republican Sen. Sara Beth Gregory pointedly said her bill would allow the intervention by top legislative leaders when the attorney general “is not doing his job.”


Ky. Senate OKs bill offering snow days relief

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Senate offered its approach Monday to assisting schools struggling with a mounting number of missed days because of the harsh winter.

Senators sent their version to the House on a 38-0 vote. It coincided with another day of wintry weather that forced some school districts to call off classes yet again. Long bouts of snow and ice have forced some districts to miss more than 30 instructional days this winter.

Those recurrent absences have school employees and parents wondering how long the school year might be extended to make up for lost time. That could conflict with summer vacations, sports tournaments and continuing education plans by teachers.

Under the Senate’s plan, local school boards could submit revised calendars to the state education commissioner to adjust for lost instructional time. Changes could include extending school days or having students in session on days off. School days could not exceed seven instructional hours. If districts are still struggling to make up all lost time, school boards could request a state waiver from the required 1,062 instructional hours in a school year.

The Senate attached those provisions to a House bill and then passed it. The measure next returns to the House.

The House passed its own bill last week that would allow districts to have up to 10 missed instructional days waived.


Jack Daniel’s opposes changing Tenn. whiskey law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - If it isn’t fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, it isn’t Tennessee whiskey. So says a year-old law that resembles almost to the letter the process used to make Jack Daniel’s, the world’s best-known Tennessee whiskey.

Now state lawmakers are considering dialing back some of those requirements that they say make it too difficult for craft distilleries to market their spirits as Tennessee whiskey, a distinctive and popular draw in the booming American liquor business.

But the people behind Jack Daniel’s see the hand of a bigger competitor at work - Diageo PLC, the British conglomerate that owns George Dickel, another Tennessee whiskey made about 15 miles up the road.

“It’s really more to weaken a title on a label that we’ve worked very hard for,” said Jeff Arnett, the master distiller at the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn. “As a state, I don’t think Tennessee should be bashful about being protective of Tennessee whiskey over say bourbon or scotch or any of the other products that we compete with.”

Republican state Rep. Bill Sanderson emphasized that his bill wouldn’t do away with last year’s law enacted largely on the behest of Jack Daniel’s corporate parent, Louisville, Ky.,-based Brown-Forman Corp. The principal change would be to allow Tennessee whiskey makers to reuse barrels, which he said would present considerable savings over new ones that can cost $600 each.

“There are a lot of ways to make high-quality whiskey, even if it’s not necessarily the way Jack Daniel’s does it,” Sanderson said. “What gives them the right to call theirs Tennessee whiskey, and not others?”


Tobacco company in $3 million dispute with feds

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky-based tobacco company that makes Golden Harvest, Millennium and Red Buck cigars is asking a judge to prevent the government from taking its equipment to settle a disputed $3 million tax bill.

Tantus Tobacco of Russell Springs, Ky., wants a federal judge to prevent the U.S. Treasury Department from putting liens on or seizing its equipment to settle the debt, which it says it does not owe.

U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. has scheduled a hearing for March 25 in Bowling Green on a request by Tantus Tobacco for a temporary injunction against the Treasury Department.

The dispute, laid out in a lawsuit and accompanying letters and memos filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville on Friday, centers on whether Tantus properly set prices for its products from September 2009 through November 2011 and paid the proper amount of excise taxes on the sales. Tantus Tobacco works through two companies - Tantus Manufacturing, which makes the smokes, and Tantus Sales, which markets and sells the products.

Tantus paid $182,570,213 in federal excise tax on tobacco products manufactured at its Kentucky facility since September 2009.

Tantus Tobacco sells its cigarettes and cigars through Tantus Sales and three customers that buy the products and sell them on their own. Florida State Distributors sells the Stampede brand cigar, Wholesale Outlet has the rights to the Millennium brand name and Rouseco Inc. has the rights to Golden Harvest Cigars. Tantus Sales sells Red Buck and Richwood cigars.

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