Friday, February 28, 2014

Kentucky House Panel Approves Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana took another step toward becoming legal in Kentucky. The House Health and Welfare Committee passed House Bill 350 on a 9-5 vote Thursday afternoon.

A panel of advocates testified in front of the committee. Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat of Louisville, sponsored the bill. She was joined by a doctor from Arizona and a disabled veteran that uses medical marijuana.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, a Republican from Lexington, spoke out against the measure. He said it would be dangerous for the people of Kentucky and more research was needed.

The measure will go to the full House.

A Senate committee passed a bill to allow a trial use of cannabis oil to treat children suffering from severe seizures on Wednesday. That measure is headed to the full Senate.

300K in Marijuana Plants seized

One Johnson County home contained about 155 marijuana plants, which police seized Thursday morning.

According to authorities, this was a fairly elaborate setup that the individual had in the Van Lear area of the county.

It included irrigation and lighting equipment, which police also seized.

Police arrested Larry Conley, charging him with cultivation of five or more marijuana plants, according to records from the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center.

The marijuana had a value of about $300,000, according to Kentucky State Police.

House Panel Says no Kids Allowed in Tanning beds

A Kentucky House panel has passed a measure saying minors shouldn't be allowed to use tanning beds.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. David Watkins, a Democrat of Henderson, would make exceptions for minors who have been prescribed the use of tanning beds by physicians.

Watkins says that rising cases of skin cancer among young women, and recent regulations on tanning beds, spurred him to carry the bill.

One concern was raised by Rep. Julie Adams, a Republican of Louisville, who says she's wary of removing the parental consent clause from current tanning bed law.

The measure cleared the House Health and Welfare committee on Thursday with a 13-1 vote and now moves to the full House for consideration.

The legislation is House Bill 310.

Kentucky Speedway Owes KSP Nearly $300K

While race car drivers were burning up the track at Kentucky Speedway over the past couple of years, state troopers were keeping watch over the crowds and traffic. Now, State Police say they're just spinning their wheels trying to get paid.

"We have never had an issue of not being paid for services like this in the past," said Sgt. Michael Webb of the Kentucky State Police.

According to documents from the State Police, the total amount due for the troopers' services from races in June and September of both 2012 and 2013 is just over $299,000.

In the late summer into fall of 2013, State Police began to question Speedway officials about payment. They said the last payment they received was in 2011. According to the emails, though, Speedway officials said the checks for 2012 had been written and sent on to their headquarters for approval. Police say those payments never reached the agency.

While State Police say the lack of payment isn't keeping them from doing their jobs, it does make a big dent in their budget. They say that money could pay for 14 cruisers.

Maker’s Mark expansion bringing new jobs to Kentucky

Governor Steve Beshear announced plans Thursday to expand the Maker's mark Distillery.

The producers of the Kentucky bourbon will spend $67 million dollars to create a replica of its existing stills, add new barrel warehouses and make other infrastructure improvements.

"Maker's Mark is known and enjoyed the world over," said Gov. Beshear. "This expansion will allow the company to meet that growing global demand while still continuing to handcraft the product in the same manner that it has for six decades. We are very excited that this iconic Kentucky brand continues to grow in popularity."

The expansion will increase production by 50% and create 30 new jobs. 

Panel Approves Bill to ban e-cigarette sales to minors

A bill aimed at banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors has cleared a Kentucky Senate panel.

The measure is sponsored by Republican Sen. Paul Hornback, a Shelby County tobacco farmer. He says e-cigarettes are adult products and youngsters should not have access to them.

The bill was approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It now goes to the full Senate. A similar House bill has been introduced.

Gov. Steve Beshear has urged lawmakers to take action to keep e-cigarettes away from minors. He has also proposed a tax on e-cigarettes. Hornback's bill doesn't deal with the tax issue.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes. They heat a liquid solution, creating vapor that users inhale to get nicotine without the smoke of regular cigarettes.

The legislation is Senate Bill 109.

UNITE Group asking FDA to reconsider approving new pill

A coalition of health care and drug addiction treatment groups is urging the FDA to revoke approval of a new prescription drug.

UNITE is one of the groups that say Zohydro is a Hydrocodone-based painkiller that should not be allowed on the market.

They say pills' potential to become addictive will cause more harm than good.

Both Zohydro's maker and the FDA say the pill's benefits outweigh it's risks. 

Abingdon man charged in meth lab bust

Washington County, Virginia Sheriff's Deputies arrested a man in connection with a meth lab bust.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Update on Officer Involved Shooting in Pike County

Kentucky State Police responded to an assault complaint regarding a reported stabbing on Island Creek in Pike County last night where they were met by 53 year old James D. Sallette.

Sallette came out of his house with a firearm and threatened Troopers who issued several commands for Sallette to drop his weapon. 

Sallette refused to drop his weapon and pointed it at Troopers who then fired striking Sallette who was taken to Pikeville Medical Center for gunshot wounds.

Sallette has been charged with Assualt 1st degree in regards to the stabbing and Wanton Endangerment 1st degree on a police officer, Terroristic Threatening and Possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.

Troopers involved in the incident were Trooper Ryan Hamilton, Trooper Jamie Rose, Trooper Derek Coleman and Trooper Adam Wright.

The incident remains under investigation.

KSP Investigation Trooper Involved Shooting in Pike County

An investigation is underway in Pike County following an officer involved shooting.

It happened just before midnight Thursday morning at a home in the Island Creek community, just outside the city of Pikeville.

The Kentucky State Police, who are in charge of the investigation, are not releasing much information at this time.

Police are not releasing the names of the trooper or the person involved at this time.

Troopers from other posts are being called in to help with the investigation.

Jury Finds Former Martin Mayor and daughter Guilty

A former Eastern Kentucky mayor is now a convicted felon.

A federal jury has found former Martin mayor Thomasine Robinson guilty of scheming to defraud the Social Security Administration and misusing government money.

Robinson, 69, faces several years in prison after being found guilty on eight counts, including theft of social security disability benefits during her time as mayor of the Floyd County city.

The jury also convicted Robinson's daughter, Christine Whicker, 42, on the same charges.

All charges were dropped against city bookkeeper Ethel Clouse.

Robinson and Whicker are scheduled to be sentenced July 9.

Another former city employee, Ginger Michelle Halbert, pleaded guilty last week to one charge of theft of government money. She is set to be sentenced July 6.

State Senate Panel Approves Trial use of Cannabis Oil

A Kentucky Senate committee has advanced a bill to allow trial use of cannabis oil to treat children suffering from severe seizures.

Republican Sen. Julie Denton predicted Wednesday that her bill has enough support to pass the Senate and House. The measure now goes to the full Senate.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee heard emotional testimony from parents who pleaded with lawmakers to legalize cannabis oil for their ailing children.

Rita Wooton of Hyden says her young son has been plagued by severe seizures since birth. She says they've tried more than a dozen drugs but nothing has worked.

The bill would allow use of the non-intoxicating medical marijuana oil when it's recommended by doctors practicing at a state university research hospital.

Ky. Health Care System not at high security risk

Kentucky is not among the more than two-thirds of states that were rated as "high risk" for security problems related to its computers tapping into the federal health insurance exchange system.

The federal data hub is used to check Social Security, Internal Revenue Service and Homeland Security records to verify key personal information for determining coverage eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.

Federal cybersecurity experts worry that the identified state computer systems could become a back door for hackers and identity thieves.

The Obama administration says the issues have been resolved or are being addressed through specific actions and that no successful cyberattacks have occurred.

Ky. Senate Approves Cabinet Change

The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would increase legislative influence over the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in the executive branch.

The measure would create a nine-member board, chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. The board would select three candidates from which the governor would pick an undersecretary for the cabinet.

Sen. Julie Denton, a Republican from Louisville, is sponsoring the bill. Denton says the bill will bring more transparency to the functions of the cabinet.

Minority Leader R.J. Palmer of Winchester expressed concern that the measure goes too far in micromanaging the executive branch.

The bill passed on a 23-15 vote down party lines and now moves to the House for consideration.

The legislation is Senate Bill 82.

Officials Break Ground on Elk Creek Project

Elk Creek in Buchanan County is isolated from the rest of Virginia.

The road only connects to Kentucky, and people there must pass through a flood-prone tunnel that occasionally leaves them completely cut off.

Pike and Buchanan County officials broke ground Monday on a project they say will remedy a problem that has existed since Kentucky became a state in 1792.

The problem prompted the Virginia legislature to act, and soon people will have a safe railroad crossing.

Norfolk Southern recently gave the official green light on the project, which has community members pleased.

Once the project is complete, officials say the people of Elk Creek will be more connected, without giving up the land they have called home for generations.

Officials say the project should be complete in two or three months.

Proposed Ban on Junk Food on School Grounds

Say good-bye to ads for junk food and sugary drinks on school grounds.

The Agriculture Department is proposing new rules to ensure that marketing to students is brought into line with the health standards already in public schools.

That means a scoreboard at a high school or basketball game eventually wouldn't be allowed to advertise Coca-Cola. Same with the front of a vending machine. Cups, posters and menu boards that promote foods that don't meet federal standards would also be phased out.

Many soda companies have already started shifting their sales and advertising in schools from the sugary stuff to other products they produce. The Agriculture Department says the companies spend $149 million a year marketing to kids.

The announcement came at the White House as part of the events marking the fourth anniversary of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program.

Man Arrested for Scam in Pike County

Police say a man scammed people by pretending to be raising money for a child's funeral.

Police say David Pugh went door-to-door in the Virgie community, of Pike County, to get donations.

But police say the child Pugh claimed to be raising money for doesn't exist.

After receiving multiple calls about him, police arrested him outside of a business Tuesday.

So far, police have charged Pugh with disorderly conduct.

They say he admitted using the money he collected to support his drug addiction.

Ky. House Panel Votes against Pipeline Land Grabs

A House committee has passed legislation that would bar private natural gas liquid companies from using eminent domain laws to acquire property.

Landowners from across Kentucky testified to the committee Wednesday that they have been harassed by companies involved in the Bluegrass Pipeline project and been threatened that the state's eminent domain laws would be used to seize their land if they refuse to sell.

Gov. Steve Beshear has said he would welcome the legal clarification.

A statement released from the Bluegrass Pipeline public relations team, RunSwitch PR, maintained that singling out natural gas liquid pipelines for exclusion from eminent domain laws is unnecessary.

The bill passed from the committee Wednesday on an 11-1 vote.

The legislation is House Bill 31.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

University of Pikeville makes major Announcement

The administration at the University of Pikeville will make a major announcement this morning at 11:00.  No other details are available at this time but if you can’t make it to Booth Auditorium you can listen to the press conference live on the stations of East Kentucky Broadcasting.

House Panel Approves bill that would eliminate Constable positions

Some Kentucky lawmakers Tuesday approved a bill that would amend the state's constitution to allow counties to do away with the office of constable.

The House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee approved the measure, otherwise known as House Bill 158.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said the office of constable is obsolete.

But Ben Fields, a constable in Letcher County, disagrees. Rural areas like Eastern Kentucky need constables, Fields said.

Fields, who is also a deputy jailer, said constables are just as important as other law enforcement agencies he works with on a daily basis.

A similar bill sponsored by Koenig did not pass the General Assembly last year.

Constables are elected and have the same law enforcement powers as sheriffs.

Kentucky's 2 largest universities involved in institutes to boost high-tech manufacturing

Kentucky's two largest universities are involved in two Pentagon-led institutes to boost advanced high-tech manufacturing announced by President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

A center in Chicago will concentrate on high-tech digital manufacturing and design, with manufacturing partners and research sites across the country, including one at the University of Louisville.

The University of Kentucky in Lexington is one of nine universities joining with companies and organizations for a hub outside Detroit specializing in light metal manufacturing.

U of L said being chosen is expected to help its efforts to build an applied science and engineering park on a 39-acre site south of the Belknap Campus as well as help Kentucky manufacturers compete, provide opportunities for students and create jobs.

UK Engineering Dean John Walz says participation will benefit UK as well as the partnership and the state.

Kentucky Senate passes bill creating new undersecretary position for health cabinet

The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would increase legislative influence over the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in the executive branch.
The measure would create a nine-member board, chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. The board would select three candidates from which the governor would pick an undersecretary for the cabinet.

Sen. Julie Denton, a Republican from Louisville, is sponsoring the bill. Denton says the bill will bring more transparency to the functions of the cabinet.

Minority Leader R.J. Palmer of Winchester expressed concern that the measure goes too far in micromanaging the executive branch.

The bill passed on a 23-15 vote down party lines and now moves to the House for consideration.

The legislation is Senate Bill 82.

Ky. Panel Creates ‘No Phone Zones’

A bill that would restrict the use of cell phones in Kentucky's school and construction zones has cleared its first panel Tuesday.

Rep. Terry Mills, a Democrat from Lebanon, sponsored the bill. Mills says it would be illegal to initiate a call or input a phone number while in one of the "no phone zones."

Current state law forbids texting while driving, but the bill would also increase fines for those found doing so.

The bill was amended in committee to exempt drivers using hands-free devices.

The measure cleared the House Transportation Committee on a 17-3 vote. It now moves to the House for consideration.

The legislation is House Bill 33

Ky. Panel Approves Alternative School Testing

A bill allowing those Kentucky school districts known as Districts of Innovation to develop new standardized testing models cleared its first panel Tuesday.

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, the bill's sponsor, says it would affect 10 Kentucky school districts.

Clark says the measure is an outgrowth of the 2012 Districts of Innovation law allowing schools to apply for waivers of regulation as they develop alternative curriculum models.

Clark says his bill builds on this by exempting those schools from statewide assessment testing and allowing them to develop alternative assessment methods that meet state standards.

The bill cleared the House Education Committee on a 23-0 vote. It now moves to the full House for consideration.

The legislation is House Bill 424.

Ky. Lawmaker Seeks to end Daylight Saving Time

A Kentucky lawmaker says it's time to get rid of Daylight Saving Time.

Representative Kevin Sinnette, A Democrat from Ashland, introduced a bill that would exempt the state from advancing to Daylight Saving Time in the Spring, like the rest of the country.

That means that the State would stay on Standard time year round.

The bill is now being considered by a house committee. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mingo corruption: Charges dismissed in George White case

Claiming the case was “a setup from the beginning” and part of a broad corruption ring, the attorney for Delbarton sign-maker George White celebrated the dismissal of drug charges against his client Monday.   
In 2013, White was charged by then-Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum for allegedly selling prescription drugs. Investigators said Crum trumped up the charges to keep from paying White a $3,000 campaign debt for political signs.
After White began talking to a federal grand jury about Crum and illegal drug use, the sheriff drew protection from then-Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, county commissioner Dave Baisden and then-county prosecutor Michael Sparks. They leaned on White to change attorneys and plead guilty for a lighter sentence, which he did.
Thornsbury and Sparks have now both resigned and pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating White’s constitutional rights. Baisden was convicted on a separate federal charge.
White’s attorney, Dave Barney, said it was evident there were problems with the drug case from the beginning and Judge John Cummings made the right decision Monday to dismiss the charges following a motion from Special Prosecutor Keith Randolph.
“It was a little scary when you look that there was essentially nothing there, in terms of charges, and they had forced George White into a plea deal,” Barney said. “He would have spent some serious time in jail and only now to find out and discover there were no basis to those charges.”
Barney said Thornsbury was the ringleader.
“Michael Thornsbury signed off on this from the very get-go. He was the one pushing this whole thing and then he had a whole other group with him that went along for the ride,” Barney said.
In a separate case, Crum was shot and killed last April in the parking lot of the Mingo County Courthouse. Thornsbury and Sparks are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court later this year.
Barney said White looks to restart his sign-making business with the 2013 primary election just around the corner.
“He has received a lot of support from the community. So hopefully this will turn the page and start a new chapter in his life,” Barney said.
White’s attorneys plan to file a motion for their client to be refunded a $10,000 forfeiture he originally paid and equipment that was seized from his business at the time of his arrest. White has also said he’ll file a lawsuit of being wrongly prosecuted.

The drug charge was dismissed with prejudice meaning it cannot be refiled.

Social Security Fraud Trial Underway for Former Martin Mayor and Others

The federal Social Security fraud trial for the former Mayor of Martin, Ky. and two other people, gets underway with jury selection Monday morning.

The trial for Ruth Thomasine Robinson, her daughter Rita Christine Whicker, who formerly directed the Martin Community Center, and Ethel Lee Clouse, a bookkeeper for the city, is taking place in U.S. District Court in Pikeville. Jury selection was set to begin at 9 a.m.

A fourth co-defendant, Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, of Martin, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy, federal program fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The four were indicted in October 2013.

According to the U.S. Attorney, all four women are charged with conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration, theft of social security benefits and aggravated identity theft.
Whicker and Robinson are also charged with misappropriating money from a federal program.

In December, Halbert and Robinson and several others were indicted on separate federal vote-buying and civil rights conspiracy charges.

Report Ranks Kentucky second most miserable state in nation

Are you miserable? If not, you might consider yourself lucky. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicates Kentucky is the second most miserable state in the nation. Neighboring West Virginia tops the list.

According to the data, hunger and unhealthy habits play a big role in making Kentuckians so sad.

The study shows this is not just an eastern Kentucky problem however. Statewide, less than 60 percent of Kentuckians said they ate well every day, which is the worst among all 50 states. In addition, about 30 percent of the state's residents are obese. That is the ninth highest in the nation.

Tennessee and Ohio also landed in the top ten for most miserable states.

Consumer Alert: Beware of Deeply Discounted Drugs sold Online

Over the counter drugs sold at deeply discounted prices. It sounds like a great deal, but you might want to think twice before you make the purchase. Many of the drugs were stolen in an elaborate shoplifting ring.

"Shoplifters will go into stores, they will steal the product, ultimately they will sell it to a middle man," says U.S. Postal Inspector David Arminio.

That person will try to sell the product online, sometimes for 30% less than retail stores. The crime poses a real physical danger.

"A lot of these products have temperature requirements, they have to be stored within a certain degree, when they are stolen they are either stored in big warehouses, cars in hot weather," says Arminio.

Postal inspectors say the criminals involved in these schemes are focused on money, not temperatures or expiration dates.

"If someone consumes a product that is possibly spoiled they can get sick and one of our main concerns was a lot of products in this scheme were baby formula," says Arminio.

Beware of online deals with price tags far below typical market value.

"When it is that much cheaper than the store, you kind of have to wonder where is that product from. No one has more buying power than the national retail chain," says Arminio.

The suspect in this case was discovered from leads provided by some retail stores. Postal inspectors made undercover buys to make their case. 

EPA Wood Stove Proposal Prompts Backlash

A federal proposal to clean up the smoke from wood-burning stoves has sparked a backlash from some rural residents, lawmakers and manufacturers.

Proposed regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would significantly reduce the amount of particle pollution allowed to flow from new residential wood-powered heaters.

Some manufacturers contend the proposed standards are so stringent that the higher production costs would either force them out of business or make their products unaffordable to lower- and middle-income consumers.

In Missouri, some lawmakers are fighting back with state legislation seeking to discourage the enforcement of tougher standards on wood-burning stoves. Concerns over wood-stove pollution and regulations also have been simmering in other states, including in some places where local officials are pushing for stronger environmental standards.

Ky. Senate Approves Home Care Worker Bill

A bill passed by the Kentucky Senate on Monday would exempt home care workers from the state's seven-day overtime law.

Under current Kentucky law, if an in-home caregiver works for seven consecutive days, the employer must pay time and a half on the seventh day.

Bill sponsor Sen. Julie Denton, a Republican from Louisville, says the rule inhibits scheduling flexibility and can drive up employer costs.

The measure received no opposition in its committee hearing or on the Senate floor.

The bill passed out of the Senate on a 34-1 vote. It now moves to the Kentucky House for consideration.

The legislation is Senate Bill 49.

McConnell Voices Support for plaintiffs in EPA Supreme Court case

Kentucky's senior senator Monday voiced his support for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republican Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor in support of a lawsuit that challenges the EPA's authority to regulate gases from power plants and factories that are blamed for global warming.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Monday.

"The administration has attempted to use statutes like the Clean Air Act to regulate things those acts were never intended to regulate," McConnell said. "And the administration itself effectually acknowledges that if it actually followed the plain language of the Clean Air Act in regulating carbon emissions, that would lead to absurd results."

Legal experts predict the case will be decided by a narrow vote.

Monday, February 24, 2014

House votes to guarantee teachers planning time

A bill that would guarantee teachers have time for lesson-planning has passed the Kentucky House.

The measure would require teachers to be provided a minimum of 150 minutes per week for educational, nonteaching activities.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Rita Smart of Richmond, says that while some teachers are afforded time for classroom planning, others are not.

Opposition to the bill came from Republican Rep. Kim King of Harrodsburg, who says that school-based decision-making councils should continue to make choices about allotted planning time for teachers.

The measure passed from the House on an 85-8 vote. It now moves to the Kentucky Senate for consideration.

Mining Fatality

According to Tarah Kesterson with the Department of Mines Minerals and Energy, a miner was killed in Buchanan County, Va. at the the Dominion Coal Corporation Number 30 Mine Friday afternoon.

ATV Accident results in Man Airlifted to Hospital

One man had to be flown to the hospital Saturday night following an ATV accident.

According to Lawrence County EMS, it happened on an old mine property about 1 to 1.5 miles from Ky. 1760.

Emergency workers say the victim was trying to help move the ATV, which was stuck, but he got trapped underneath.

The victim was flown to St. Mary's Hospital in Huntington.

Emergency workers say his injuries were minor.

Mine Blowout in Floyd County

Officials say the recent warmer temperatures in Eastern Kentucky caused one abandoned mine to burst.

The Sunday morning blowout at the Bill's Hall Branch mine outside of McDowell is just one of many recent weather-related messes.

The Floyd County Sheriff's Office, Kentucky mining officials, and Department of Natural Resources workers were all on hand at the McCoy Elkhorn mine.

Officials say they're now gathering evidence and doing investigations to figure out what their next step will be.

The blowout caused minor property damage, but no injuries. 

KSP Investigation Pike County Double Fatal Accident

One driver's attempt to stay on the road ended with him and his passenger dead.

Michael Wellman, 46, and Jennifer Wellman, 37, both died after a two-vehicle crash along U.S. 460 in Justiceville, Saturday.

Kentucky State Police say Michael's vehicle dropped off the side of the road. Troopers say he overcorrected; causing him to go into oncoming traffic and hit another vehicle.

Jennifer was pronounced dead at the scene. Michael was taken to the hospital where he died.

The accident remains under investigation.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Drug Bust in Johnson County

The Johnson County, Kentucky Sheriff's Office held another drug roundup Thursday.

After a year-long investigation, A Johnson County Grand Jury recently indicted 12 people on more than two dozen charges including trafficking oxycodone, meth, marijuana and suboxone strips

Operation Broken Heart is their first roundup of the year.

The Sheriff's Office was able to pick up six of those wanted. Sheriff Dwayne Price says two of the suspects are out of the county and have made arrangements to turn themselves in, another person was in an auto accident that occurred before the indictments were issued, and three others are at-large.

Sheriff Price says his office will continue to fight the drug problem in the county, even though he has had to lay off two deputies.

The following were wanted as part of "Operation Broken Heart":

Simon Bradley Castle
Kenneth Lash
Ashley Ralph
David Blevins
Kendra Wells
Justin Fields
Brett Boyd
Genia D. McCarty
Joshua R. Johnson
Tyler W. Runnels
Michael R. Eldridge
Haley J. Ramey

Ky. Governor Sets Health Goals in Commonwealth

Gov. Steve Beshear has rolled out a wide-ranging plan aimed at improving Kentucky's overall health.

The goals include cutting Kentucky's high rates of smoking, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease by 10 percent by 2019. Another key objective is reducing Kentucky's uninsured rate to less than 5 percent.

Beshear said Thursday that Kentucky's dismal health status hurts productivity, from workplaces to classrooms. The state ranks among the worst nationally in smoking, obesity, cancer deaths and other chronic ailments.

Beshear says the goals will be met through executive and legislative actions, public-private partnerships and higher enrollments for health care coverage.

He says the push to lower smoking rates includes proposed legislation to impose a statewide smoking ban at workplaces and in public buildings. It also includes a proposed higher state cigarette tax rate.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

House Panel Hears Eminent Domain Bill

A Kentucky bill that would protect landowners from having their land seized for a pipeline to pump natural gas liquids has received its first committee hearing.

The measure would require private non-utility companies like those responsible for the hotly disputed Bluegrass Pipeline to obtain consent from a landowner before building.

Emotional testimony came from current residents of the counties where the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline would be installed. They say that after refusing to sell land to the pipeline companies, they have been threatened with land seizure under current eminent domain laws.

Oil and gas company representatives complained the measure could prevent the Bluegrass Pipeline from being installed in the counties.

A vote on the bill was postponed Wednesday to allow for further testimony.

The legislation is House Bill 31.

Ky. Senate Passes Bill to Create Review Panels

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would create panels of medical experts to review pending legal claims against health care providers.

The 23-13 vote Wednesday evening came after a contentious debate. A series of proposed changes by Democratic Sen. Ray Jones II were ruled out of order.

The measure now goes to the House, where it faces a much tougher challenge. The bill would create three-member expert panels to review evidence in cases.

Supporters say the bill would reduce frivolous lawsuits without denying people access to the courts.

Opponents said the review panels would give an upper hand to defendants in malpractice cases.

Influential groups have weighed in on the measure. Supporters include the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, while opponents include AARP.

The legislation is Senate Bill 119.

UPike Business Startup Challenge

The University of Pikeville's Coleman College of Business is looking to reward innovative thinking by launching a business startup challenge.

College leaders are encouraging folks throughout Eastern Kentucky who have a business idea to enter the contest.

The first place business plan will receive $5,000...$1,500 will go to second place, and third will receive $1,000.

Business Professor David Snow says, "Entrepreneurship is the driver behind economic development and we just had the SOAR Summit where that was one of the main to increase entrepreneurship."

You have until March 24th to submit plans...the top eight will then present their plans at UPike on April 5th.

Booth Energy Cuts 30 Jobs at Kentucky Mines

Booth Energy says it has cut jobs and reduced production at some its surface mines in Kentucky.

In a press release, the company says on February 7 it cut 30 surface mining positions and support staff due to the continued weakened Central Appalachia coal market.

James H. Booth, CEO of Booth Energy said, "This has been a very difficult decision and we are deeply saddened by the loss of jobs that will result from the reduction of our operations."

The company did not say in the release which mines were impacted by the cuts.

Child Dies after being hit by tractor trailer

Investigators say a 7-year-old girl has died after a crash on the Hal Rogers Parkway near Manchester early Wednesday evening.

The Clay County coroner says Jasamine Collins was trying to cross the parkway with another child, when she was hit by a tractor trailer.

Police say no adults were with the children.

Collins was taken to Manchester Memorial Hospital, where the coroner says she was pronounced dead.

The driver of the tractor trailer was also taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Police say the child who was with Collins was not injured.