Kentucky News Now – March 17th 2016
House passes 2-year, $63 billion state spending plan
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved a two-year, $63 billion state spending plan pushed through by a Democratic majority over Republican objections.
The budget is mostly made up of federal money and restricted funds, including fines and fees for government services. State lawmakers have little control over those dollars. State tax dollars make up $21.6 billion, and that's the money state lawmakers can control.
Lawmakers say the biggest need is the massive debt owed by the state's public pension systems, estimated at more than $30 billion. Republicans, led by Gov. Matt Bevin, wanted to cut state spending by $650 million and put the money in a reserve account for pensions. Instead, Democrats restored many of those cuts and used surplus money from a state employee health insurance fund to fully fund required pension contributions.
Republicans did not vote in protest.
House approves judicial budget despite concerns
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved 9 percent spending cuts for the judicial system over the objections of the chief justice.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin proposed cuts of 4.5 percent this year and 9 percent over the next two years to the judicial system. The House proposal rejects the 4.5 percent cut, but keeps the 9 percent cuts.
Chief Justice John Minton said the proposal would create a $76.9 million shortfall over the next two years. He called the cuts catastrophic. But Democratic leaders noted lawmakers applied the same budget cuts to legislature.
Some Republicans argued judges should have pay raises, but Democratic budget chairman Rick Rand said raises would be inappropriate because the House did not approve them for all other state employees.
The budget now heads to the Senate.
JUVENILE DETENTION DEATH-KENTUCKY
Officials: Teen's death in custody due to heart condition
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's justice secretary says a teenager in state custody died in her sleep from a rare heart condition, not as a result of a martial arts hold that was used to restrain her.
Justice Secretary John Tilley told a news conference Wednesday that investigations uncovered no evidence of foul play in 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen's death in January at Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center.
Tilley and other investigators attending the news conference said surveillance video showed the teenager walking and interacting with staff hours after the Aikido restraint was used when she refused to consent to a pat down.
Aikido is a self-defense technique not meant to injure an attacker.
While the investigation found no evidence of foul play, Tilly said investigators uncovered employee misconduct, including failure to complete regular bed checks and falsification of information logs.
Bill would give legislature power to restore voting rights
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Voters would have the chance to decide whether the state legislature could restore voting rights to some felons under a bill that has cleared a Senate committee.
The bill would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall to grant state lawmakers authority to give felons back their right to vote. Right now, only the governor has the authority to restore voting rights through a limited pardon.
The state House has passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for most nonviolent felons after they completed their sentences. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said he preferred the legislature have the authority to make that decision, rather than rewrite the constitution.
A spokeswoman for the advocacy group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth urged the Senate to pass the House bill.
Paducah floodwall restoration project could cost $25 million
PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — The Paducah City Commission held a workshop to discuss plans for rehabilitating Paducah's floodwall.
Local news outlets report that Public Works Director Rick Murphy said during Tuesday's workshop that the floodwall is 22 years past its life expectancy. The wall was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1939 and 1949 and was intended to last 50 years.
Murphy has been working with the corps over the past several years to move forward with the Local Flood Protection Project, a plan to repair or replace portions of the floodwall system.
Deputy District Engineer Linda Murphy says the rehabilitation process is expected to cost about $25.5 million.
City Manager Jeff Pederson says he hopes the city can begin work on the repairs beginning next fiscal year.
CAR INTO RIVER
Police try to ID who is in car in Ohio River
NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) — Police are seeking help in an effort to identify who might have been in a car that crashed on a bridge and plunged into the Ohio River.
A police statement says anyone who isn't able to account for any friends or family who might have been traveling late Tuesday afternoon across the Combs-Hehl Bridge that carries Interstate 275 from Campbell County, Kentucky, to Cincinnati should call the department.
Campbell County Police Chief Craig Sorrell said 12 vehicles were involved in four separate accidents at rush hour on the bridge, creating a massive pileup.
Efforts to recover the vehicle that toppled over the bridge were suspended early Wednesday after officials cited concerns with the rising water level and speed of the current.
The statement says it will likely be Sunday or Monday before rescue teams can safely renew efforts to recover the vehicle and any occupants.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.