- Associated Press - Saturday, February 14, 2015
In state with tobacco ties, Kentucky House OKs smoking ban

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - In a state where tobacco interests once had a firm grip on the levers of politics, the Kentucky House of Representatives on Friday passed a ban on smoking in workplaces and indoor public places.

The legislation faces tougher odds in the Republican-controlled state Senate, but passage in the Democratic-led House marks a milestone for a proposal that previously had been snuffed out, year after year, in a state that leads the nation in burley tobacco production.

Years ago, cigarette smoke was ubiquitous during legislative sessions, in committee meeting rooms and in the Senate and House chambers.

On Friday, lawmakers debated individuals’ right to light up versus public health concerns in a rural, conservative state with some of the nation’s highest rates of smoking, cancer and heart disease.

Supporters said no one has the right on impinge on someone else’s health.

“Your rights to liberty stop when you harm other people,” said Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, the bill’s lead sponsor. Westrom said about 950 people die every year in Kentucky due to secondhand smoke exposure.


Deadline is Sunday to avoid penalty for not having insurance

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - With all of the controversy surrounding the Affordable Care Act last year, self-employed welder Tom Sudduth figured there was no way the law would survive.

So he ignored it.

But this year, the 57-year-old had to pay a tax penalty because he did not have health insurance for at least nine months last year. So on Friday, Sudduth was one of a few dozen people in line at the kynect store in the Fayette Mall to sign up for health insurance ahead of Sunday’s deadline.

“There are no benefits when you are self-employed,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with good health, but like I said, I can feel the years coming on.”

A family of four in Kentucky earning more than $24,250 a year has until midnight Sunday to sign up for health insurance to avoid a federal tax penalty - $325 per person or 2 percent of household income, whichever is larger. The penalty only applies to people who earn more than 100 percent of the federal poverty level, including those who earn between 100 percent and 138 percent that are eligible for the Medicaid expansion.

People who are eligible can sign up for Medicaid at any time. But everyone else has until midnight Sunday to purchase a qualified health plan through kynect, the state exchange, which could include federal subsidies to lower your monthly premiums depending on your situation.


House endorses $132.5 million for cancer research building

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky House has passed a bill that would allow the University of Kentucky to use $132.5 million of taxpayer money to build a new cancer research building.

The measure cleared the House on an 83-9 vote Friday.

The bill now goes to the Senate. Senate President Robert Stivers has endorsed the bill.

UK President Eli Capilouto has said the school has run out of quality space for researchers at its Markey Cancer Center in a state with one of the highest cancer rates in the country.

Kentucky lawmakers approved the state’s $9.6 billion spending plan last year, and it is unusual for lawmakers to vote to amend that plan in a non-budget year.


Bill to combat ‘scourge’ of heroin use passes Kentucky House

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Fighting back against the scourge of heroin abuse, the Kentucky House passed its version of legislation Friday to combat the drug that has taken a toll on a growing number of families.

During the debate, some lawmakers recounted tragedies caused by heroin addiction in their own families or among friends and constituents. The measure is the latest anti-drug offensive by lawmakers who in past years took aim at fighting prescription drug abuse, synthetic drugs and methamphetamine production.

“The heroin scourge is an epidemic,” said Democratic Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville. “It’s a public health nightmare. … Families changed forever, lives lost.”

The Republican-led Senate passed its legislation to fight heroin use last month.

Now, the attention turns to efforts to resolve differences between the chambers. The state’s top lawmakers have listed heroin legislation as a top issue in the legislative session ending next month.

The Democratic-run House passed its bill, 98-0 after a heated debate over a provision allowing local governments to create programs in which heroin users could swap dirty needles for clean ones. An effort to remove the needle exchange provision, and instead study the issue, was defeated Friday.

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