Kentucky News Now – March 25th 2016
Kentucky House rejects Senate budget proposal
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House of Representatives has officially rejected the state Senate's budget proposal and appointed a conference committee to work out a compromise.
The Democratic majority of the state House did not concur with the Senate's changes to the more than $65 billion two-year state spending plan. House Speaker Greg Stumbo appointed six Democrats and three Republicans to the conference committee. Senate President Robert Stivers appointed six Republicans and four Democrats to the committee.
The key difference between the two sides is the $650 million in proposed spending cuts from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Senate Republicans mostly support the cuts while House Democrats mostly oppose them.
The committee met Thursday night and is scheduled to meet again on Friday. Leaders from both parties say they hope to have a compromise by Wednesday.
Kentuckians would need new driver's license to board planes
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentuckians would have to pay $48 to get a new driver's license beginning in 2019 in order to board domestic flights under a bill that has cleared the Senate and is moving through the House.
The bill would update Kentucky's driver's license procedures to comply with the federal Real ID Act. To get the new license, Kentuckians would have to show their birth certificate and two proofs of residency. Kentucky already requires these documents to obtain a license, but not to renew it.
The new license would have a star in the top right corner, surrounded by a gold circle. All other information would stay the same.
The license would be optional. But beginning in 2020, anyone without the new license would need a passport or other acceptable ID to board a domestic flight.
Senate passes bill to authorize public-private partnerships
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would authorize use of public-private partnerships for mega-dollar transportation work and other projects.
The 29-9 Senate vote on Thursday sends the bill back to the state House. Rep. Leslie Combs, the bill's lead sponsor, says she'll urge the House to accept Senate changes and send the measure to Gov. Matt Bevin.
Combs has promoted the so-called "P-3" legislation for several years.
The bill would sanction ventures partnering state and local governments with private sources. As part of the arrangements, a private company could construct, finance or operate a public facility.
Supporters say it's an option to pay for big-ticket projects that the state or local governments can't afford.
Opponents warn it would transfer basic government responsibilities to private sources.
FORMER LAWMAKER SENTENCED
Ex-state representative Keith Hall sentenced for bribery
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Former state representative and Pikeville coal operator Keith Hall has been sentenced to seven years for bribing a state mine official.
U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell sentenced the 56-year-old Hall on Thursday and ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine.
Hall was convicted by a jury in June of paying former mine reclamation officer Kelly Shortridge for favorable treatment in connection with his official duties.
The prosecutor's office said evidence at trial showed that Shortridge was paid more than $46,000 to ignore violations at Hall's property. Defense lawyer Brent Caldwell said at the time that most of the money was for legitimate coal-related business deals between the men.
Shortridge was sentenced to two years.
Hall is a Democrat who represented Pike County for 14 years.
CENSUS-APPALACHIAN COAL COUNTIES
Appalachia counties hit by coal layoffs take population hits
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — U.S. Census figures show Appalachian coal-producing counties saw steep population declines last year amid a storm of layoffs in the mining industry.
Figures released Thursday show thousands of residents moved out of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia in 2015. In West Virginia, nine of the 10 counties that lost the most population were in the state's coal-rich southern region.
McDowell County lost 2.2 percent of its residents to fall below 20,000 in population for the first time since 1900. But McDowell County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Stephanie Addair says the county isn't giving up its fight to bring in jobs.
Virginia's top coal producer, Buchanan County, saw a 1.73 percent population drop, and Kentucky's top coal producer, Pike County, lost 1.66 percent of its residents.
Lexmark laying off 143 people in Lexington starting in May
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Layoff plans have been announced at Lexmark in Lexington starting May 25.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the company has filed a notice with the city that it plans to lay off 143 workers permanently. The company employs about 2,300 people at its Lexington campus.
The company announced in February that it would eliminate 550 positions worldwide in a restructuring with some of the jobs to be shifted to lower-cost countries. Another 500 job cuts were announced in July.
The restructuring is expected to save Lexmark $67 million in 2016 and $100 million beginning in 2017.
In February earnings reports, the company said quarterly revenue was down more than 5 percent, but the gross profit margin rose from 35.2 percent to 39.8 percent. Earnings per share were up slightly in 2015.
Western signs admission agreement with community college
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Western Kentucky University and Jefferson Community and Technical College have signed a joint admissions agreement.
A statement issued jointly by the schools on Wednesday says the agreement will allow students to be admitted to both institutions at the same time, which makes it easier for them to obtain a bachelor's degree at Western after attending JCTC.
Officials say they hope the agreement helps to expand options for students seeking a degree, bolster the number of degrees earned and reduce the time it takes to obtain a degree.
Students admitted jointly will have access to services at Western and be assigned an adviser from the university.
WKU President Gary Ransdell says it is the ninth agreement the school has signed with a Kentucky Community and Technical College System campus.
'Bogus Beggar' pleads guilty to fraud charges
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky man who claims to have made as much as $100,000 annually by panhandling while pretending to be disabled has pleaded guilty to misrepresenting his condition to obtain Social Security benefits.
Local news outlets report that 33-year-old Gary Hank Thompson pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green to making false statements and representations to the Social Security Administration.
Prosecutors say Thompson obtained $24,884 between 2009 and 2013 in Supplemental Security Income benefits that he was not entitled to receive. He also obtained $81,831 in Medicaid benefits during the same period.
Federal investigators said Thompson misrepresented his mental condition during an initial interview with Social Security in 2009 and then again in 2013.
Thompson will be sentenced in June.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press