Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Kim Davis obeying orders in gay marriage case, judge rules

(AP) — A federal judge ruled that Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has obeyed his orders in the months since she spent five nights in jail for refusing to license same-sex marriages.

United States District Judge David Bunning wrote Tuesday that Davis has allowed her deputies to issue marriage licenses and dismissed a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to consider ordering her to reissue licenses she altered to remove her name.

After the United States Supreme Court legalized gay marriage last summer, Davis refused to allow her office to issue marriage licenses. She relented during a turbulent court battle, but altered the licenses.

The ACLU asked the judge to make her reissue the marriage licenses.

Bunning on Tuesday found that request to be "moot;" he said the altered licenses are valid.

A Coeburn Virginia man convicted on a charge accusing him of spitting on a sheriff's deputy

Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp said 42 year-old Christopher Scott Hale was convicted by a jury of felony assault and battery of a law enforcement officer.

Slemp said the evidence presented at trial revealed that on Jan. 10, Wise County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to the Coeburn area on a call of a man knocking on doors at Sheffield Apartments in the middle of the night. Upon arrival, they found Hale, who they believed to be intoxicated. He was placed under arrest on a drunk in public charge.

While officers were processing the arrest at the Sheriff's Office in Wise and awaiting Hale's transportation to the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail at Duffield, Hale repeatedly told officers that he was going to spit on them, Slemp said. Without provocation, Hale then lunged forward and spat on Deputy Zachary Clifton, hitting Clifton on the chest near his face, the attorney added.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 7. Hale also faces a charge of violation of probation on the Commonwealth's motion that he be ordered to serve previously suspended sentence from a similar incident last year for spitting on a Coeburn Police Officer.

Big Sandy Singers Open Legislative Session

FRANKFORT – Senate Democratic Floor Leaders Ray S. Jones II (second from the right), D-Pikeville, and Senator Johnny Ray Turner (far right), D-Prestonsburg, honored The Big Sandy Singers today on the floor of the Senate.  The Big Sandy Singers opened the session today with an acapella performance of “My Old Kentucky Home.”  Also, pictured with the group are Actress Jennifer Garner and Mark Shriver, who were in Frankfort today on behalf of Save our Children.  Photo by LRC Public Information

Senate approves new rules for drivers passing bicyclists

(AP) — Drivers overtaking bicyclists on Kentucky roads would have to leave at least 3 feet between their vehicle and the bicycle under a bill that cleared the state Senate.

The Kentucky Senate voted 33-4 to approve a bill that governs how drivers are to pass bicyclists. The bill also gives drivers permission to cross over onto the left side of the road to avoid a bicyclist, even if it is a no passing zone. The bill says the driver must first check to see that the left lane is not obstructed.

Four senators voted against the bill. Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville said it would encourage people to ride bicycles on state highways, which could cause accidents.

Bill sponsor Democratic state Sen. Robin Webb of Grayson said the bill would heighten awareness of bicyclists.

Speaker Stumbo, Sen. Jones file “Noah’s Law” to help Pike County boy with rare condition

FRANKFORT – Hoping to help a young Pike County boy with a rare medical condition, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II have filed identical bills that would extend health insurance coverage to include the treatment he and others with similar illnesses need.

The legislation would benefit Noah Greenhill, the nine-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis and whose plight was featured on EKB-TV.

The condition attacks his esophagus, making it extremely difficult for him to eat any food beyond nine items doctors have found he can tolerate.  As a result, he has to administer an amino acid-based formula into a feeding tube four times a day, at a daily rate of more than $40.  His insurance does not cover that cost.

The legislation – House Bill 353 and Senate Bill 146 – would change that by including this formula among the therapeutic food that health plans are already required to cover by law for other metabolic and genetic conditions.

“After I heard about Noah, and learned about Senator Jones’ bill, I pledged to join with him and move that cause forward in the House,” Speaker Stumbo said.  “This is a sensible clarification that needs to occur.  I’m confident we can do this and have Noah’s Law on the books by the end of the legislative session in April.” 

“We would never allow an insurance company to deny insulin for a juvenile diabetic, so why would we allow an insurance company to deny amino acid-based elemental formula that is needed for these children to live,” added Jones.  “I look forward to working with Speaker Stumbo to see this become law for Noah and other children like him.”

The House and Senate legislation is based on Illinois’ model law.  According to Noah’s family, 17 other states mandate this type of coverage. 

Senate passes bill raising minimum age of marriage

(AP) — The Virginia Senate has passed legislation requiring a judge's approval for 16- and 17-year-olds to get married.

GOP Sen. Jill Vogel said before the Senate voted Tuesday that the legislation would help prevent young women from being taken advantage of.

Current law sets the minimum age to be married at 16, with the consent of a parent or guardian. There's an exception allowing women younger than 16 to get married under current law.

But Vogel said the current system needs to be tightened because there are children getting married in Virginia as young as 13.

Democratic Sen. John Edwards spoke against the bill, saying parents are in better positions than judges to decide if their children should get married before the age of 18.

W.Va. Senate OKs bill to drug test some welfare applicants

(AP) — A proposal to drug test some welfare applicants has cleared the West Virginia Senate.

On Tuesday, senators voted 32-2 for the three-year statewide drug-testing pilot program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program applicants.

The bill would seek federal approval to test applicants determined to have a "reasonable suspicion" of drug use.

A caseworker would decide if someone demonstrates "qualities indicative of substance abuse."

A drug-related conviction within five years would also constitute reasonable suspicion.

Failing a first test would require substance abuse treatment, counseling and a job skills program.

A second failure would spur up to a one-year benefits suspension. A third would cause a permanent ban.

Children of parents who test positive would have their benefits funneled through a third party.

The bill next moves to the House.