Thursday, March 03, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-4-'11
- Alleging the Obama administration is engaged in a “backdoor means of shutting down coal mines,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell joined Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma Thursday in introducing the Mining Jobs Protection Act, legislation that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to move faster in granting federal permits needed to open coal mines. McConnell’s bill would give the EPA up to 60 days to accept or reject permit applications so that mining companies aren’t left waiting indefinitely to learn whether they’ll be allowed to open new operations or to expand existing ones. Taking aim at the Obama administration’s EPA this week, U.S. Republican Representative Hal Rogers, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, chided the EPA for “running roughshod” over the nation’s small businesses, including Appalachian coal companies. Rogers said in a statement Thursday he believes the EPA is headed in the wrong direction with an aggressive and overzealous regulatory agenda that far exceeds the authority it’s been granted.
- Fifty-two year old Michael Shook, a Florida doctor, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to distribute oxycodone and methadone pills to eastern Kentuckians who traveled to his clinic. The U.S. attorney's office says Shook acknowledged he illegally prescribed some 25,000 pain pills to people from Kentucky at his clinic in Oakland Park, Florida, in 2008 and 2009. Shook faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced June 24th.
- Wednesday, the Kentucky Senate passed a bill that would sharply increase the amount of contributions local school board candidates could receive from individual donors to $1,000 from the current $100 in school board races. The measure now heads back to the House, which will consider Senate changes. The Senate tacked on a provision requiring that a political action committee designate a contact person who is not a registered lobbyist.
- By a 24-12 floor vote, the Senate approved legislation Wednesday night that calls for cuts to all government programs to balance the state's Medicaid budget. The Senate plan differs widely from a proposal made by Governor Steve Beshear and approved by the House last month. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he believes differences can be worked out to shore up the finances in the program that provides medical care to some 800,000 elderly, poor and disabled Kentuckians. Beshear's proposal called for shifting $166.5 million from next fiscal year's budget to fill this year's budget gap. The Senate version would require across-the-board cuts of 2.26 percent.
- Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. sent a letter Thursday to legislative leaders warning that additional budget cuts would mean a drastic impact on a Kentucky court system that already has reduced its workforce by more than 200. Minton sent the letter in response to a proposal by the state Senate calling for another round of cuts to all branches of state government to funnel more money into Medicaid. Lawmakers have competing proposals for dealing with a $166.5 million Medicaid shortfall. One, approved by the House, calls for shuffling funds within the Medicaid program. The other, approved by the Senate, calls for 2.26 percent across-the-board cuts.
- Republicans in the Kentucky Senate have made a late attempt to revive their stalled plan to deal with financial problems plaguing public pension plans. The proposal was advanced on a 23-12 vote Thursday night. The proposal calls for newly hired government workers to be covered under a retirement savings plan rather than the state's longstanding pension plan. Republicans attached those provisions to a House bill. The revamped measure returns to the Democratic-controlled House. The revived proposal is identical to a bill which passed the Senate several weeks ago but went nowhere in the House. Supporters say the goal is to overcome the growing liability of the public pension funds.
- Governor Steve Beshear has signed into law a sweeping bill aimed at reversing Kentucky's fast-rising prison costs by boosting treatment programs and alternative sentences for nonviolent criminals. Beshear was joined by leading Democratic and Republican lawmakers for the bill signing at the state Capitol on Thursday. Beshear says the bill will enable Kentucky to be "smarter" about dealing with crime. The measure, which seeks to steer more nonviolent drug offenders into alternative sentences and treatment rather than prison time and to strengthen probation and parole efforts, is projected to save the state $422 million over a decade. About half that amount would be reinvested into treatment and probation and parole programs.
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