Friday, January 29, 2016

Deadline for candidate filing approaches in West Virginia

(AP) — The deadline to file to run for public office in West Virginia is approaching.
Certificates of announcement and filing fees must be received in the appropriate office or postmarked by the end of the day Saturday.

State and federal candidates must file with the secretary of state. Candidates for positions included entirely in one county will file with the county clerk, and city candidates will file with the municipal recorder.

Six partisan statewide offices, including an open governor's race, are on the 2016 ballot.

One Supreme Court seat is in play. The nonpartisan race will be decided during the May primary election.

Every House of Delegates seat and 17 of 34 state Senate seats are on the ballot.
The filing period began Jan. 11.

In Kentucky, a push for engineers over French lit scholars

(AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin wants state colleges and universities to produce more electrical engineers and less French literature scholars.

The first term Republican governor has a workforce shortage on his hands, and he says part of the problem is the state's public colleges and universities are not turning out degrees for the jobs companies have open. He has proposed a performance-based funding model for colleges and universities that would give them more funding for producing engineers instead of French lit majors.

Critics say students do not need limits on what they can learn, and that adding a broad education contributes to a person's overall knowledge and can be helpful in choosing a career.

Virginia Senate allows reporters back on floor

(AP) — Reporters in Virginia will once again be able to get an up-close look at how the state Senate is operating.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment said Friday that he plans to allow reporters back on the floor, where they had worked for decades until he banned them earlier this month at the beginning of the 2016 session.

Norment said he'd reached an agreement with members of the Capitol press corps on new rules for reporting from the floor.

His action to ban reporters meant they had to watch the proceedings from an upstairs visitors' gallery, which offered only a partial view of the proceedings.

Norment faced criticism for the move from Democrats, as well as national press organizations and some members of his own caucus.

December US mine inspections result in 163 citations

(AP) — Federal inspectors issued 163 citations and five orders at U.S. mine operations in December.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says the inspections were conducted at 10 coal mines and seven other mines in 13 states.

The impact inspections began in 2010 after the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia killed 29 coal miners. Since April 2010, MSHA has issued 15,695 citations and 1,299 orders.

Mines targeted by the inspections are those that have compliance concerns or poor compliance history.

Jobless rates up in 109 Kentucky counties

(AP) — Kentucky officials say jobless rates rose in 109 counties between December 2014 and December 2015.

The state Office of Employment and Training said Thursday that unemployment rates fell in six Kentucky counties during that span and stayed the same in five more.

Woodford County had the state's lowest jobless rate at 3.5 percent. It was followed by Oldham County at 3.8 percent, Fayette and Spencer counties at 3.9 percent each and Shelby County at 4.1 percent.

Magoffin County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 15.5 percent. It was followed by Wolfe County at 12.4 percent, Elliott and Letcher counties at 11.8 percent each and Harlan County at 11.6 percent.

Kentucky Senate sets potential final vote on abortion bill

(AP) — Republicans say the Kentucky Senate will take what could be a final vote on an abortion bill next week.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said Friday the Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to accept House changes to a bill amending the informed consent law.

Thayer says Monday's session "promises to be momentous." If the Senate accepts House changes, the measure would go to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Senate President Robert Stivers predicts the Senate will accept the changes.

The House-passed version would allow real-time video consultations between doctors and women as an option at least 24 hours before an abortion. The Senate earlier voted to require patients to meet with doctors in person at least 24 hours before an abortion.

The legislation is Senate Bill 4.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Funding issues plague Kentucky's proposed high speed network

(AP) — Kentucky officials say they do not know how they will pay for the state's share of a new high-speed Internet network meant to boost the struggling economy of eastern Kentucky.

Kentucky Wired is a joint project between state taxpayers and a group of private companies to install 3,400 miles of fiber optic cables throughout the state. But a key portion of how Kentucky was to pay for the deal has fallen apart. Finance Secretary William Landrum said that could put taxpayers at risk for paying back a $289 million loan issued last year to build the project.

Landrum said Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration supports the project. But he said he does not know how Kentucky will pay for its share of the cost. He said he does not have a timeline for a solution.

Kentucky Senate OKs bill to require CPR training in schools

(AP) — The Kentucky Senate has voted to require that public high school students receive basic CPR training.

The measure passed the Senate on a 32-6 vote Thursday. It now goes to the House.
Republican Sen. Max Wise, the bill's lead sponsor, says basic CPR skills learned in school could help save lives. He says people never know when they might be put in a lifesaving situation.

Wise says the requirement would not be a burden for schools. The training could be given as part of health or physical education courses or during a Junior ROTC course.
The training would not have to be provided by a certified instructor.

Opponents included Republican Sen. Stephen West. He says he heard from school administrators worried it would be an unfunded mandate.

The legislation is Senate Bill 33.

KTRS survivor benefits bill heads to House

Spouses of deceased Kentucky public school teachers could remarry without losing survivor benefits from the state teachers’ retirement system under a bill passed today by the House State Government Committee.

“If this bill were to pass, if they were to go ahead and get married, they would not lose their spouse benefits. And I think that’s only fair because their spouse paid into the system,” said House Bill 172 sponsor Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro.

There are now 459 surviving spouses receiving Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) survivor benefits who would lose those benefits if they remarry, said KTRS General Counsel Robert Barnes. The average monthly benefit drawn per individual is $1,777, he said.

While the system has not tracked those who have lost survivorship benefits due to remarriage before 2015, Barnes said retirement survivor benefits were revoked in two cases last year because the surviving spouses remarried. The revocation of those benefits, he said, cost the surviving spouses a combined $7,000 a year. 

“It would appear historically that the cost of this bill would be pretty minimal,” said Barnes, adding true actuarial analysis is pending.

Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, said he thinks “it’s a shame that we do encourage folks to remain single even though they do wish to marry” but that the bill may need a qualifier for retaining benefits, perhaps based on length of marriage to the deceased spouse. “Maybe we can talk about some kind of qualifier to make sure the late spouse was a lifelong companion, but I think it’s a good bill,” he said.

A few other lawmakers on the committee also suggested tweaking the bill should it come to a vote on the House floor.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said HB 172 is a “pro-marriage bill” which he feels needs no added language. “This is a good bill as it is,” he said.

HB 172 now goes to the full House for consideration.

McAuliffe, Republicans to announce deal on guns

(AP) — Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican lawmakers are set to announce a major deal on gun legislation.

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the governor and GOP leaders will announce Friday a compromise on gun legislation that strengthens some gun control measures while relaxing others.

As part of the compromise, Democrats will reverse course and not revoke reciprocity agreements with 25 states for concealed handgun permits.

In exchange, Republicans will include a measure that will prohibit the subjects of permanent protective orders from having firearms. GOP lawmakers have called similar measures in past years a non-starter.

Republicans will also agree to require state police to be present at gun shows, where they can provide voluntary background checks on gun purchasers.

Bill advances to make coal sector eligible for incentives

(AP) — Kentucky's struggling coal industry would become eligible for some state economic development incentives under a bill advanced by a state House committee.

House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says the bill would "right a wrong" by letting coal companies seek the same economic incentives already available for other businesses and industries. The measure won bipartisan support Thursday when the House Economic Development Committee approved it.

If the bill becomes law, coal mining or processing companies could seek approval for various tax incentives rewarding job creation and investment.

The coal industry's struggles have taken center stage in recent Kentucky elections.

Thousands of coal mining jobs have disappeared in recent years, sending ripple effects through coalfield towns, especially in Kentucky's Appalachian region.

The legislation is House Bill 202.

House panel advances bill to raise Ky. minimum wage

(AP) — A bill to gradually raise Kentucky's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour has cleared a House committee, but it drew opposition from Republicans and business interests.

Under the bill, the state's $7.25-per-hour minimum wage would rise in three steps, each time by less than a dollar a year, until reaching $10.10 an hour in 2018.

The measure cleared the House Labor and Industry Committee Thursday.

The bill's leading proponent is House Speaker Greg Stumbo. He says the majority of minimum-wage workers are women, many with children.

Business groups say a higher minimum wage would raise prices and cause some employers to cut jobs or workers' hours.

The bill would exempt businesses with annual gross sales up to $500,000.

Similar bills have died in the Senate.

The legislation is House Bill 278.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

KSP Warns of Individuals Targeting Elderly Victims in Letcher County Robberies

Kentucky State Police Post 13 in Hazard is advising residence in Letcher and surrounding counties to be aware of individuals who appear to have targeted elderly victims during a robbery and attempted robbery recently in Letcher County. 

On Monday, January 25, Trooper Donnie White responded to a robbery complaint on Beaver Dam Road in the Colson community.  Two subjects in a small, red, 4-door passenger car pulled into a residential driveway where an elderly woman was exiting her vehicle.  A white male approached the woman, asking to use her phone, when he grabbed her purse before fleeing in the car.  On the same day, Whitesburg Police Department responded to a call of a subject approaching an elderly woman in the Rite Aid parking lot, attempting to take her wallet.  The description of a white male wearing a camouflage jacket, driving a small, red, 4-door passenger car, matched the description from the incident in Colson.

Anyone with information relating to these two incidents and the subjects involved are urged to contact KSP Post 13 at 606-435-6069 or Whitesburg P.D. at 606-633-3714.  KSP has a toll-free number (1-800-222-5555) that citizens can call to confidentially report impaired drivers or criminal activity. They can also download the free KSP mobile phone app. The app provides quick, direct access to KSP including weather, road and traffic information as well as text, voice and photo tip capabilities to report criminal behavior. The app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android applications and can be easily downloaded free of charge through Apple and Google Play stores.

W.Va. House to hold public meeting on gun bill

(AP) — West Virginia lawmakers will hear from the public about a proposal to lift permitting requirements to carry concealed handguns.

The House of Delegates Judiciary Committee will hold a public meeting Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

Currently, it's legal in West Virginia to carry a gun without a permit openly, like in a holster.

A bill by Republican Del. Saira Blair would let people cover up guns without a permit in public; for instance, by wearing a coat. People ages 18 through 20 years old would still need a permit under the proposal.

Only a handful of states do not require concealed carry permits.

The bill also increases penalties for felonies committed with a gun.

Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a similar bill last year over safety concerns from law enforcement.

West Virginia House to vote on repeal of prevailing wage

(AP) — The Republican-led West Virginia House of Delegates is set to vote on repealing the state's prevailing wage for public construction projects.

House lawmakers are likely to cast that vote Wednesday.

On Thursday, House Democrats offered an amendment that would have only repealed the wage for five years and studied its impact before a full repeal. Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead ruled that the amendment was improper for a repeal bill.

Republican leaders aren't happy with the outcome of a compromise last year that let Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration retool the wage. So they are looking to strip the wage out of state law entirely this year.

If the bill passes the House on Wednesday, it will head to the Republican-led Senate for further consideration.

Bill offers lease protections for domestic violence victims

(AP) — Domestic violence victims could break their rental lease agreements without fear of financial penalties under a bill that has cleared a Kentucky House committee.

Supporters say the measure seeks to provide more safety for victims who need to get away from their abusers. The bill won strong bipartisan support from the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

A key part of the bill would allow victims who have obtained long-term protective orders to break their rental agreements without penalties after giving 30 days' notice to their landlords.

The bill also would protect people from being evicted or refused a lease simply because they are victims of domestic violence
The measure is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins.

The legislation is House Bill 41.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bevin calls for spending cuts in first budget proposal

(AP) — Matt Bevin's first budget will not take effect until July 1, but Kentucky's new Republican governor is not waiting to slash government spending.

Bevin said Tuesday he is immediately cutting 4.5 percent from the current budget enacted by his Democratic predecessor, $117 million worth of cuts he says do not require legislative approval.

The cuts continue over the next two years. For every dollar state agencies received this year, they will get 91 cents in 2017 and 2018.

But Bevin's cuts are not across the board. He shielded spending on K-12 public education, programs for military veterans, health insurance for the poor and disabled and drug treatment programs. He wants to spend $21.7 million to give raises to state troopers, corrections officers and entry level social workers and clinicians.

Unemployment rates increase in most West Virginia counties

(AP) — Unemployment rates increased in 49 of West Virginia's 55 counties in December.

WorkForce West Virginia says unemployment rates fell in Pocahontas and Webster counties, while four counties saw no change.

Jefferson County's 3.1 unemployment rate was the lowest in the state, followed by Berkeley County at 3.7 percent and Monongalia County at 3.9 percent.

Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate at 13.1 percent. Mingo was next at 12 percent, and Logan was at 10.8 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point in December to 6.3 percent.

Survey shows continued drop in food prices in Kentucky

(AP) — The Kentucky Farm Bureau says retail food prices across the state were down again at the end of 2015.

The Farm Bureau says its Market basket Survey showed that during the final quarter of 2015, the average price of retail food items fell by 1.8 percent to $119.43, a drop of $2.21 from the third quarter.

It marked the fourth straight quarter in which retail food prices have fallen in Kentucky.

The survey is taken quarterly and denotes the average total cost of 40 basic grocery items.

Overall, the Farm Bureau says the cost of surveyed items fell $9.71, or 7.5 percent, since the beginning of 2015.

Democratic mayor to challenge GOP's Rand Paul in Senate race

(AP) — Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has drawn a viable Democratic challenger in his Kentucky Senate race.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray filed for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline. Gray, the wealthy former CEO of a construction company, made history in 2010 when he was elected Kentucky's first openly gay mayor. Since then, he has wrangled the city's pension funds and raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Gray's campaign comes as Republicans have increased their grip on Kentucky politics. Republicans hold all but one of the state's federal offices and four of its six statewide offices, including governor.

But Paul will be distracted, at least initially, as he continues to campaign for president in Iowa and New Hampshire.

2 state officials depart from Bevin Administration

(AP) — There have been two departures from Governor Matt Bevin's administration: John Rittenhouse from the Kentucky Department of Parks and Arnita Gadson from the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission.

Media outlets report Rittenhouse submitted his resignation on Friday, and Gadson departed on Monday.

Rittenhouse stepped down from his post as Director of Resorts after details of astate ethics violation were made public through a Kentucky Open Records Law request filed by the Louisville Courier-Journal. The ethics commission charged that Rittenhouse "knowingly" violated an ethics provision in 2013 when he entered into a contract to buy a restaurant that subleased its location from the state.

Gadson says the Bevin administration told her that her services as executive director weren't needed. She says the commission's budget had been drastically cut, and she wasn't given any answer about whether the commission would continue.

State Rep. Leslie Combs decides not to seek re-election

(AP) — Another veteran Kentucky House Democrat has decided not to seek re-election this year.

Rep. Leslie Combs of Pikeville announced on her Facebook page Tuesday that she will not be on the ballot when Democrats try to maintain their historic control of the House.

Combs did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but the secretary of state's office confirmed she had withdrawn her name from the ballot.

Tuesday is the filing deadline for candidates wanting to run in Kentucky's spring primary.

Combs' decision comes a day after Democratic Rep. Johnny Bell announced he won't seek another term. Bell is a member of House Democratic leadership.

Democrats are clinging to a 50-46 advantage in the House, not including four vacant seats. Special elections to fill those seats are scheduled for March 8.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow accumulation makes clearing roadways difficult

HIGHWAY DISTRICT 12 – Saturday, January 23, 2016 – 7:00 a.m. – By about 3 o'clock this morning accumulations in District 12 ranged from 10 inches in the southern part (Letcher County) to about 16 inches in the northern area (Lawrence County).

Snow is still falling. We have 68 state trucks and 26 contract trucks plowing and clearing. A few B routes were plowed during the night, but you probably cannot tell it by now. We are back to A routes, as we must keep them cleared for emergency vehicles and so that we can get back to our lots to re-fill the trucks.

Again today, stay off the roads. Yesterday evening the National Weather Service update estimated that we would have 6 to 12 inches of snow overnight and today -- that's 6 to 12 inches on top of what we already had going into the evening hours yesterday.

Two contract graders were dispatched from Pike County to plow on US 23 from the Boyd County line back. A third was dispatched to the four-lane section of KY 3 in Floyd, Johnson, and Martin counties and to KY 645 in Martin and Lawrence counties.

No reports yet of trees or power lines down on state-maintained roads. A few roads were temporarily blocked at various times yesterday and during the evening hours because vehicles had slid crossways of the road or into medians and ditchlines. No reports of major wrecks, thankfully. That is probably because people are taking heed and staying off the highways, and we thank them for that. 

It helps our crews work in a safer environment so that we can be more efficient and effective.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kentucky Statewide Emergency

Governor Matt Bevin has declared a Statewide Emergency for Kentucky as a massive snow storm. Bevin’s team made the announcement from the State’s Emergency Operations Center. 

The declaration gives local officials access to state resources quickly including National Guard troops if needed.

Johnson, Lawrence counties experiencing whiteout conditions

HIGHWAY DISTRICT 12 – Friday, January 22, 2016 – Heavy snowfall and high winds have created whiteout conditions on many roads in Johnson and Lawrence counties.

Darold Slone, District 12 Engineering Branch Manager, is on KY 32 in Lawrence County at the present time. “This is the road we have to travel to get back to our maintenance garage,” he said. “You can’t see the lane markers. We plow and it is covered right back with a new coating of snow. US 23 is in about the same shape.”

Slone said conditions are treacherous right now. “We’ve pulled trucks off other A routes to help the trucks we already had on US 23, and I know that’s going to upset some people, but if we can’t get to US 23 and we can’t get back to our salt dome, we can’t do anything.”

He said there is not a lot of traffic on the roadways, which is a blessing, but he wants people to know that we are working as hard as we can with little headway right now because of the snowfall and the general weather conditions.

“These are the worst conditions I’ve seen today,” Slone said. He traveled to Lawrence County from Pike County and said that when he got to Johnson County visibility started to become very limited. “Now it’s more or less whiteout conditions, at least on the roads I’ve been on.”

Slone urged people to stay at home or at work or wherever they are until conditions improve. “It is absolutely not safe to be out right now.”

Freezing rain, wintry mix precede snow; winter storm starts as predicted

HIGHWAY DISTRICT 12 – Friday, January 22, 2016 – Freezing rain started in the early morning hours throughout Letcher County, part of Knott County, southern Pike County and southern Floyd County, bringing in Winter Storm Jonas precisely as forecast.

Crews started treating roadways at 5 a.m. By six o’clock, District 12 had freezing rain/ice in Letcher, Knott, Floyd, and some parts of Pike County. Heavy snow started falling in Pikeville, Betsy Layne, Canada/Sidney area, and Phelps area, except for Card Mountain, which still has freezing rain.

“This weather event is now reality,” said Darold Slone, Engineering Branch Manager and the district’s snow and ice coordinator. “If it plays out as expected, we could have snowfall as much as one to three inches an hours at times during the day today. That is why both our crews are out at the same time through late afternoon. Then we go to one crew until midnight, when the other crew comes back in. We will cover this event 24 hours a day until it’s over.”

Slone said the district is also prepared for possible consequences from the ice and heavy, wet snow. Chain saws are full and ready to tackle any trees that fall and block roadways. In addition to snow plows, the district’s graders are available to assist as the snow accumulates.

“People absolutely need to stay off the roads,” Slone warned, “Not only are icy roads treacherous, if we get three inches of snow an hour, it will overwhelm even our resources until it backs off. We will definitely plow and treat continuously, but we may not see black pavement until Sunday or Monday. Roads cannot be completely cleared until the snow stops falling. The predicted accumulations of up to 18 inches throughout the district will be a real challenge."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Senate OKs bill to help prosecutors combat sex crimes

(AP) — Kentucky lawmakers have taken another step toward closing a legal loophole in some sex-abuse cases if the young victims can't provide specific dates and places of the alleged abuse.

The measure sailed through the state Senate on a 36-0 vote Thursday.

A similar bill has already passed the House.

The bills stem from a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned a man's conviction of assaulting his 6-year-old stepdaughter multiple times over a five-month period.

The measures would close the loophole by creating a "continuous course of conduct" law.

That would allow children or vulnerable adults to testify to a pattern of abuse without being penalized for not remembering the exact dates and places the abuse occurred.

The Senate legislation is Senate Bill 60.

Attorney general: W.Va. price gouging laws activated

(AP) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is reminding residents that the state's price gouging laws are in effect as a winter storm bears down on the state.

The laws took effect Wednesday afternoon when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of preparedness for all West Virginia counties.

The state's price gouging laws prohibit any person, business, or contractor from inflating the price of any consumer item by more than 10 percent of what it sold for 10 days prior to the declaration. The laws remain in effect until the declaration is lifted or 30 days, whichever is longer, subject to limited exceptions.

Items subject to the state's price gouging laws are food items, essential consumer items, emergency supplies and home heating oil.

Veterans committee passes Jones’ resolution to protect 2nd amendment rights

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones’ legislation urging the Governor of Virginia and the Virginia Attorney General to restore reciprocal recognition of concealed carry weapons licenses from Kentucky is making its way through the legislative process. 

Senate Joint Resolution 36, which is the result of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s recent decision to cease recognition of concealed deadly weapon licenses from Kentucky and 24 other states, was passed today by the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee.  Jones, D-Pikeville, said that law abiding citizens should have a way to protect themselves. 

SJR 36 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mountain Parkway Expansion Progress Report Week beginning January 18, 2015

This periodic report includes information on work underway on the Mountain Parkway Expansion. Inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances could affect planned activities.

Magoffin County
Construction and clearing activities are continuing along a nearly 6-mile stretch of the Mountain Parkway to the west of Salyersville.
The project, described as the Magoffin County West Segment, runs from just west of Mile Point 70 to just east of Mile Point 75 of the Mountain Parkway.
The speed limit in the area has been reduced to 45 mph. Traffic on the parkway may be slowed or stopped periodically for the safety of workers and travelers.

Gifford Road interchange
Excavation work is nearly complete near Gifford Road, where a new interchange is being built and the roadway is being widened to four lanes. The interchange will provide new access to and from the Mountain Parkway and serve an industrial park being planned just to the north of the interchange.

Late last week, crews finished pouring concrete for a barrier wall of the new Gifford Road overpass bridge that will carry traffic over the parkway. Work may slow early this week due to below-freezing temperatures. However, if weather permits, crews plan to begin formation work for the footer of a culvert under the westbound lanes of the newly-constructed parkway, along with preparation to paint the bridge.

During the next three to four weeks, crews also are expected to begin work on the foundation for the piers of a bridge that will carry westbound traffic on the Mountain Parkway over the Middle Fork of the Licking River. Work on the bridge substructure is expected to continue throughout the winter, and the deck of the bridge likely will be put in place this spring.

After completion, the Mountain Parkway in this section will be expanded to provide four-lane access.

KY 30 interchange
Crews are continuing significant clearing and site work around the current KY 30 interchange near Mile Point 72 of the parkway and starting construction in the area.

The project includes modernizing and improving the KY 30 interchange as well as realigning and widening about 2½ miles of roadway.

Construction of an 840-foot culvert is expected to be finished this spring. Excavation also will continue before building the base for this portion of the new Mountain Parkway roadway. Periodic blasting will continue, causing traffic stoppages for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

Salyersville interchange
Sewer and water line construction continues around the KY 7/Salyersville interchange, located immediately west of Salyersville’s Restaurant Row area. Weather permitting, crews are expected to begin pouring concrete this week for the footers of an overpass at the interchange.

Excavation work also continues to prepare for additional construction, with a total of about 5 million yards of dirt to be moved. Project leaders hope to complete utility and excavation work by spring.

Drunken drivers would have to wait 10 years to clear records

(AP) — Drunken drivers would have to wait 10 years for convictions to come off their records under a bill that has cleared the state Senate.

First-time drunken drivers often avoid jail time. But second and third offenses require jail time, with a fourth offense earning a felony conviction.

But drunken driving offenses only count against each other if they occur within a five-year period. A person with a previous drunken driving conviction is treated as a first-time offender if the first offense occurred more than five years ago.

The state Senate voted 35-1 on Wednesday to increase the time period to 10 years. 

State corrections officials say it will likely increase the number of repeat offenders, thus adding to the state's prison population.

Awaiting court input, W.Va. Senate set for right-to-work vote

(AP) — As their majority hinges on an impending state Supreme Court decision, West Virginia Republican senators are teeing up a vote on right-to-work legislation.

With no fanfare Wednesday, the GOP-led Senate moved the right-to-work bill into position for a vote Thursday.

Their ability to cement right to work into law depends on an upcoming Supreme Court decision on whether a Democrat or Republican should fill a Senate vacancy.

Former Wyoming County Sen. Daniel Hall was elected a Democrat in 2012 and turned Republican after the 2014 elections, breaking a tie for an 18-16 GOP majority. Hall recently resigned.

There's ambiguity about how to replace someone who flipped parties.

A Democratic appointment would deadlock the Senate.

Tie votes kill bills. A tie also prevents a veto override, which requires a simple majority.

Kentucky State Police have winter weather driving tips

(AP) — Kentucky State Police have some advice for people traveling during winter weather conditions.

The agency says don't travel at all unless it's necessary when winter weather is in your area. If it's necessary, check road conditions by calling 511, drive slowly and wear your seat belt.

Police say allow extra time, leave extra distance between vehicles because it's harder to stop on icy or snowy roads, clear all vehicle windows before starting out, turn on headlights, use caution on bridges and overpasses and avoid using cruise control.

Before taking off, be sure your gas tank is full and cell phone is charged, take a blanket and let someone know your travel plans.

If you're involved in a wreck, be patient because there may be additional requests for law enforcement. Try to move your vehicle out of the road if the wreck is minor.

House panel OKs bill enlisting AG in human trafficking fight

(AP) — Kentucky's attorney general would be empowered to join the fight against human trafficking if a bill approved by a state House committee becomes law.

New Attorney General Andy Beshear told the House Judiciary Committee that he's ready to put his office to work in assisting investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking cases in Kentucky.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Sannie Overly, was advanced by the committee on Wednesday.

Beshear says Kentucky has some of the nation's strongest laws against human trafficking, but he says only about 10 percent of child trafficking cases reported to the state have resulted in criminal investigations.

Beshear says the AG's office would help provide more specially trained prosecutors with the goal of sending more human traffickers to prison.

The legislation is House Bill 229.

Coal miner crushed by digging machine in western Ky. mine

(AP) — A coal miner has died after being pinned against a wall by a mobile digging machine in an underground western Kentucky mine.

State mining officials say 36-year-old Nathan G. Phillips was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead on Tuesday.

Phillips was operating a continuous miner at Webster County Coal's Dotiki Mine around 4 p.m. CST when he got stuck between the machine and a wall. The continuous miner, a large flat vehicle that uses a spinning drum to cut coal, is operated remotely by a miner who stands near the machine.

It was the first coal-related death in Kentucky this year and the third nationwide.

The mine is owned by Alliance Resource Partners, which operates several western Kentucky mines in the Illinois Coal Basin.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bill requiring face-to-face abortion consult clears Senate

(AP) — The Republican-controlled state Senate has approved a bill that requires a woman to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor before having an abortion.

The Senate voted 32-5 to approve the bill Tuesday. It now goes to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker Greg Stumbo has said it has a better chance of passing this year.

Since 1998, Kentucky has required women to meet with a physician at least 24 hours before having an abortion. But since then, many doctors have discussed the procedure with women on the phone. The new bill clarifies patients must meet with doctors in person.

Abortion rights advocates argue the requirement makes it harder for women to get an abortion. Kentucky has just two abortion clinics, located in Louisville and Lexington.

Virginia School Official Arrested

The Buchanan County Public Schools Superintendent was arrested by a Virginia State Police officer who got a complaint about a man allegedly drunk at the school board office.

Tommy Justus is charged with being intoxicated in public, a Class 4 misdemeanor.

The officer said in court papers the complaint came Monday afternoon at the school board office in Grundy. 

The officer spoke with Justus and "noticed an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy. His speech was slurred."

Justus, of Hurley, was given a preliminary breath test and the result was .15. 

The Virginia State Police said Justus was released on his own recognizance.

Sentencing Delayed for Former State Representative

Former state Representative W. Keith Hall who was convicted of a federal bribery charge back in June, continues to remain free while awaiting sentencing. 

Hearings in the case have repeatedly been delayed, resulting in a sentencing date of February 11th

Now, Hall’s sentencing has been postponed again – this time until March 1st. U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell made that decision last week, following a request by the probation office. Caldwell’s order does not specify a reason for the delay. 

Hall was convicted of bribing a federal mine inspector to overlook violations at Hall’s mines. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Monday, January 18, 2016

CSX to close Huntington, W.Va. administrative offices

(AP) — CSX is closing its Huntington administrative offices amid the downturn in the coal industry.

In a news release Monday, the railroad company said 121 management and union employees in the Huntington division will continue working in the area for several months in transitional roles.

The release says many employees can fill positions in other areas afterward.

The Huntington division will be split among Atlanta, Baltimore, Florence, Great Lakes and Louisville divisions.

CSX says its coal revenues have declined $1.4 billion over the last four years.

The release says the move follows other coalfields changes, including the reduction of train operations at Erwin, Tennessee, and the closing of mechanical shops at Corbin, Kentucky.

Trains will still run through the Huntington area. Other regional facilities, including Huntington's locomotive shop, will continue operating

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Kentucky State Police Post 9 in Pikeville is working a death investigation following a wreck Saturday night. 

Just before 9:30pm, the Shelby Creek Rescue Squad and Dorton Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call of a single vehicle wreck on KY 611 about a mile from US 23. Upon arrival, crews discovered the body of 22 year old Caleb Ramey, formerly of Elkhorn City. 

Ramey was pronounced deceased at the scene by Pike County Coroner Russell Roberts.

KSP officials confirmed to EKB News that Ramey's body was transported to Frankfort for an autopsy, and a death investigation is now underway. 

Sources close to the investigation tell us the cause of death has not been determined.

KSP Investigates Shooting in Floyd County

Kentucky State Police at the Pikeville received a 911 call around 7:00 Saturday evening from Leslie Cooley on Old Country Road at Harold. Cooley advised her current boyfriend, Stan Lee, shot her ex-boyfriend, Eric Edmonds.

Preliminary investigation indicates Edmonds drove to Cooley’s residence to confront her and Lee with intentions of causing harm.  Upon Edmonds’ arrival, he ignored Lee and Cooley’s request to leave, and was shot by Lee.  Edmonds was transported by EMS to Pikeville Medical Center for possible life threatening injuries.

No charges have been filed at this time however, this case will be presented to a grand jury for consideration. KSP Post 09 Detective Gary Sykes continues the investigation.