Monday, February 28, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-1-'11
- The National Weather Service has confirmed at least two tornadoes touched down in Kentucky as a cold front brought high winds and heavy rain to the state Monday. An EF3 tornado, packing 140 mph winds, struck southern Henry County, near Eminence, northeast of Louisville, in the morning, leveling two homes and leaving only a couple of exterior walls standing on a third residence. At least two people were treated for minor injuries. The storm also damaged the 1820s Greek Revival house, known as Rosewell, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and located along the Ohio River in Louisville. A second tornado, with winds between 86 and 110 mph, started in southern Indiana Monday morning, then jumped the Ohio River into Jefferson County before spinning into Oldham County. As the system moved east, it continued to prompt tornado and flood watches. By Monday afternoon, the harshest of the weather was moving through the Lexington area toward the Appalachians in eastern Kentucky. About a dozen homes in Boyd County sustained damage. One person was taken to King's Daughters Medical Center after their car landed in a creek on Trace Fork Road near Ashland, trapping them inside.
- Monday, lawmakers opted to study legislation that would have required elections for members of the Public Service Commission. Under the current process, PSC members are appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. Senator Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, had proposed electing PSC members after eastern Kentucky residents were hit last year with a 17 percent electric rate increase. State Representative Keith Hall, D-Phelps, had suggested studying the issue. Pike County Community Services Director Carol Napier argued Monday that electing members would make the PSC more consumer-friendly. But, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson said electing PSC members would politicize the process of setting utility rates. Hall says the revised bill calls for the study to be completed by December 15th, in time for lawmakers to reconsider the proposal in next year's legislative session.
- Kentucky has been saddled with one of the nation's fastest-growing prison populations, and as a result taxpayer spending on corrections has soared by more than 300 percent since 1989. Legislation to bolster treatment programs and provide alternative sentences to keep nonviolent criminals from prisons has been sent to Governor Steve Beshear who promptly hailed the bill as "historic" and signaled he's eager to sign it into law. Monday, the Republican-led Senate voted 38-0 on a bill revamping the state's drug laws. The Democratic-controlled House quickly followed with final passage on a 96-1 vote after accepting Senate revisions to the version they previously passed. Supporters say the measure could reap $422 million in gross savings over a decade. About half that would be reinvested into treatment, probation and parole programs to reduce the ranks of repeat offenders. The net savings from the legislation is projected at $147 million over 10 years.
- A 47 year old Letcher County woman has been arrested and charged in connection with a pursuit which happened along Highway 931 North in the Sandlick community of Letcher County. Kentucky State Police in Hazard received a call reporting Creeda M. Stallard came to a local church where she caused a disturbance before allegedly driving away intoxicated. Trooper Brandon Thomas, along with Letcher County Sheriff's Deputy Crystal Davis who was patrolling the area, located the vehicle. However, the driver would not stop and attempted to flee. After a pursuit covering more than 3 miles, Creeda M. Stallard was taken into custody on numerous charges. Stallard is lodged in the Letcher County Jail.
- The state Senate voted 28-10 in a floor vote Monday to approve a resolution declaring the Kentucky coal industry exempt from oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The resolution is intended only to send a message to the EPA that lawmakers are frustrated by what they consider "over-regulation" of the coal industry by the federal agency. Republican Senator Brandon Smith of Hazard, who sponsored the unenforceable resolution, says the bill isn't likely to compel the EPA to change its policies.
- Governor Steve Beshear's administration confirmed Monday that Kentucky is seeking a waiver from a portion of the federal health care overhaul requiring large insurance companies to spend at least 85 percent of premiums on medical care. Kentucky has a state requirement that 65 percent of premiums be spent on medical care. The intent of the federal regulation is to prevent insurers from using huge shares of premiums on costs associated with administration, marketing or executive bonuses. Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark made the request in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this month, saying she feared it will create a financial hardship on some insurers and insurance agents. Clark asked permission to bring the level up to 85 percent in 5 percent annual increments, saying the failed federal health care reforms of the early 1990s resulted in 43 insurance companies leaving Kentucky.
- Preliminary statistics indicate that seven people died in five separate crashes on Kentucky roadways last week. Five of the fatalities involved motor vehicles and three of the victims were not wearing seat belts. Single-fatality crashes occurred in Johnson and Pike counties, while a triple fatality crash occurred in Hardin County. One motorcycle involved crash occurred in Knott County, and the victim was not wearing a helmet. The two vehicle collision occurred on Montgomery Road in Emmalena. A vehicle driven by Twyla Moberly crossed into the opposing lane and struck a motorcycle operated by Ricky Allen Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd was pronounced deceased on the scene by the Knott County Coroner. The crash is under investigation by KSP Post 13 in Hazard. Through February 27th, preliminary statistics indicate eighty-six people have lost their lives on Kentucky roadways during 2011. This is nine less fatalities than reported for the same time period in 2010.
- U.S. Senator Rand Paul has appointed Louisville attorney Jim Milliman as his state political director. Paul made the announcement on Monday. Milliman was a key Paul supporter during last year's Senate race. Paul also announced the hiring of Whitney Meadows as a western Kentucky field representative and as his agricultural liaison. The Republican senator said the knowledge Milliman and Meadows have on Kentucky issues will be a valuable asset.
- The Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame will induct three educators during a ceremony Tuesday. They were chosen by a statewide selection committee. They are the late Artie Johnson Hankins of Morgantown, who taught for 44 years in Butler County; Patricia J. Morris of Louisville, who has taught history for more than 30 years in Jefferson County; and Deidra Hylton Patton of Ashland, who has served as gifted and talented coordinator at Boyd County and Knott County schools. The Hall of Fame was created in 2000 with a gift by former Governor Louie B. Nunn, and it is housed at Western Kentucky University, which has a more than 100-year history in teacher education. The ceremony will be at at the state Capitol.
- CSX Transportation has agreed to remove flaking lead paint from a bridge over the Barren River in southern Kentucky. The company sent a letter to state officials on Thursday after a state review of a consultant's report. The December report, which the state generally agreed with, said that limiting access to any remaining lead in the soil would be adequate to safeguard against potential human health risks. CSX's Environmental Remediation Manager Paul Kurzanski said in a letter that a removal schedule is being developed and the work will be done by the end of the year. State Representative Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, says he's disappointed the bridge won't be repainted, but he's excited about the decision to remove the flaking paint.
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