Wednesday, March 02, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-3-'11
- Kentucky death row inmate 59 year old William Eugene Thompson filed an appeal Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville of his conviction and death sentence handed down in 1998 for the 1986 murder of correctional officer Fred Cash at the Western Kentucky Farm Center where he was serving a life sentence for a murder-for-hire in Pike County from 1972. While working with an inmate crew at the dairy, Thompson hit Cash repeatedly in the head with a hammer, dragged the body into a barn stall, and fled in the prison farm van. Police arrested Thompson at a bus station in Madisonville on his way to Indiana.Thompson claims jurors were biased in his case by a highly publicized murder in Florida by a man who had been paroled from a California prison after serving time for a violent crime. Jury foreman Roger Dowdy, in an affidavit, said jurors feared Thompson being released from prison if he received anything other than a death sentence. Dowdy wrote, “The jury was afraid that Mr. Thompson, even as an old man, would be a danger to society if released.” The Kentucky Supreme Court in 1993 overturned Thompson's first conviction in Cash's death. Thompson then pleaded guilty to the slaying and other crimes, putting his fate in the hands of jurors in Graves County for sentencing.
- Wednesday, rescue crews miraculously located 25 year old Ryan Larke who had last been seen Saturday evening when he was camping with four friends in Laurel County's Daniel Boone National Forest and wandered from a campsite about 10 miles west of London. The others searched for Larke on Sunday before calling the sheriff's office late in the afternoon. Authorities searched the rugged terrain Monday and Tuesday using dog teams and a helicopter. Larke moved from Wisconsin to London several months ago to look for work. Larke was transported to UK Hospital.
- Kimberly Durham remained listed in serious condition Wednesday morning at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital after being injured in a two-vehicle crash in Jackson County shortly after noon Tuesday. Kentucky State Police say Durham, of McKee, was driving south on Ky. 3444, when her car crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming vehicle. A passenger in Durham's car, Earl Moore, 63, of McKee, died in the wreck, while Durham, who suffered multiple injuries, was flown to the UK Hospital. The driver of the other vehicle, Karen Walden, 49, of London, and a passenger were not injured.
- Governor Steve Beshear announced an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) to three municipal joint recipients in Knott County. The city of Hindman, the city of Pippa Passes and the city of Vest will use the funding to support local energy efficiency improvements.
- To plug a multimillion-dollar hole in Kentucky's Medicaid budget, the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee proposed cuts across state government, including cuts to K-12 education, Tuesday night. Most of state government would see a funding cut of 0.525 percent in the remaining months of this fiscal year, which ends June 30th, and a 2.26 percent cut in fiscal year 2012. The main funding formula for K-12 schools, commonly called Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, or SEEK, would be cut in the second year, but schools would be given flexibility to use other money to make up for cuts. The Senate Committee rejected Governor Steve Beshear's proposal calling for shifting $166.5 million from next fiscal year's budget to fill this year's gap. House Speaker Greg Stumbo is looking for a compromise, saying he believes differences can be worked out.
- President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama filled the East Room of the White House Wednesday to honor 20 artists, scholars and writers, including Kentucky author Wendell Berry, in a salute to the arts and humanities. The president bestowed 10 National Medal of Arts and 10 National Humanities Medals. Berry's humanities award recognized his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer, and conservationist. The 76-year-old writer recently made headlines in Kentucky for joining a protest last month against strip mining in Appalachia. Berry and the others held a weekend sit-in at the governor's office and later joined a larger protest at the Capitol.
- A bill that calls for state licensing of companies allowing people to make online wagers on Kentucky thoroughbred races and allows Kentucky to track Internet wagering on racing in the state easily cleared the State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday and now heads to the full Senate. The bill which takes aim at the growing popularity of online and phone betting would require that advance deposit wagering providers be licensed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Republican Senator Damon Thayer of Georgetown says those bets are the fastest-growing segment of wagering on horse races, and he sees the reporting of advance deposit wagering as a prelude to legislation next year dealing with breeder incentives and ways to boost purses at Kentucky tracks. Thayer says, currently, a portion of many wagers made on Kentucky horse races goes into a fund that boosts purses for Kentucky-bred horses at Kentucky tracks, but the levy doesn't apply to ADW wagers.
- On a 48-46 vote Wednesday, the Kentucky House narrowly passed legislation calling for a study of whether to require elections for members of the Public Service Commission. The bill now returns to the Senate. The Senate's version of the bill would require PSC members be elected instead of appointed. House members backed off an immediate change in how PSC members are chosen, and supported a study of the issue that would be completed by December, in time for lawmakers to reconsider the proposal next year. Democratic Representative Keith Hall of Phelps says the study keeps the conversation alive. Democratic Representative Jim Wayne of Louisville defended the appointment system, saying it has largely insulated the PSC from politics, and shifting to an elected PSC membership would create a charged political climate for regulating utilities at a time when corporate interests in the U.S. "literally buy elections.
- Legislation that would constitutionally protect the right to hunt is nearing final approval in the Kentucky General Assembly. The full Senate voted 33-2 on Wednesday to approve a measure that would allow Kentucky voters to decide whether to amend the state Constitution to provide a guarantee that the right to hunt could not be taken away. Next stop for the measure is the House for approval of a minor punctuation change made in the Senate. The House is expected to accept the change and send the measure to Gov. Steve Beshear for consideration. Similar measures are being pushed by the National Rifle Association in state legislatures across the country.
- After making substantial changes, the House Banking and Insurance Committee unanimously approved a substitute version of Senate Bill 75, limiting the number of co-payments insurance companies can charge customers for a trip to the chiropractor. Senator Tom Buford's bill, supported by the Kentucky Association of Chiropractors, would have allowed chiropractors to bill and be reimbursed more by insurers for certain medical treatments. The association says that, in 2004, insurance reimbursement was reduced by 38 percent from the largest insurer in Kentucky, and most other major insurers in the state followed suit with reductions to stay competitive, leaving chiropractors earning less today than 10 years ago. The House bill would restrict insurance companies from charging more than one co-payment or coinsurance from the patient during a visit to a chiropractic office, even if more than one procedure is performed during the visit.
- U.S. Senator Rand Paul has followed through on a campaign promise by filing a resolution calling for sufficient time for lawmakers to read all bills before voting on them. Paul's so-called "read the bills" measure calls for a waiting period of one day for each 20 pages of legislation before a vote is held. Paul made the issue a key part of his campaign last year when he complained that lawmakers are often called on to vote on legislation they haven't had time to read or fully debate. On the campaign trail, Paul sometimes hoisted hundreds of pages of federal legislation over his head as a prop to make his point about lawmakers needing more time to review bills.
- Organizers are expecting school and safety officials from rural communities around the country at a two-day conference starting Thursday in Somerset on keeping students safe. The Center for Rural Development says the program is intended to help school administrators, safety officials and law enforcement agencies from rural areas become more proactive in preventing and responding to the top school safety threats. Among the topics to be covered are cyber-bullying and Internet threats, developing and managing school safety initiatives and finding federal funding support for school safety. Republican U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers of Kentucky says the conference, which will be in his district, will be a good refresher to keep schools and police alert and prepared.
- The last section of the Pennyrile Parkway has been opened between Hopkinsville and Interstate 24. The north-south parkway was opened in 1969 as a toll road and extended from Henderson on the north to Hopkinsville on the south. It was completed long before I-24 was built. The new parkway connection to I-24 is less than 20 miles north of the Tennessee border Kentucky Department of Highways district chief engineer Kevin McClearn says getting the through-traffic, including large trucks, off of U-S 41-A is beneficial to both local residents and long-distance drivers. The extension cost more than $100 million and work on it began in 2006. The last few miles of it opened to traffic on Tuesday.
- Tea party favorite Senator Rand Paul will speak at an Iowa Republican Party event next month in Des Moines. The freshman Republican senator from Kentucky will be the keynote speaker at what the Iowa GOP is calling "Night of the Rising Stars." The April 2nd event will be held at Hoyt Sherman Place. Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn says in a statement released Wednesday that Paul will speak about his solutions to reducing the national debt and stopping the growth of government. With help from tea party supporters, Paul was nominated over a candidate backed by Republican Party officials. He went on to easily beat his Democratic opponent.
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