Saturday, March 05, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-6-'11
- Former UK basketball forward Rekalin Sims, who played under coach Tubby Smith, was arrested Friday morning and charged with trafficking in a controlled substance. Police say Sims had marijuana shipped to him from California via Fedex to the "Fedex Express" shipping center on Mercer Road. They say someone else picked up the package, but that person led police to Sims. Sims, a 6'8" junior college transfer from Salt Lake Community College played for the Wildcats during the 2005-06 season before being granted a release from the team. Sims left for Fresno State, but was kicked off that team after being charged in connection with the beating and robbery of a disabled man. That felony robbery charge was later dismissed. Sims was taken to the Fayette County Detention Center and placed on a $25,000 full cash bond.
- Kentucky State Police arrested Michael Jolly of Carlie Saturday morning on a number of charges, including driving under the influence and wanton endangerment of a police officer. Rowan County Police say Jolly hit a car on Kentucky 32 then drove off. When he was later pulled over, Jolly refused to exit his vehicle. That's when a trooper used his baton to bust out a car window and remove Jolly from the vehicle. Jolly was taken to the Rowan County Detention Center.
- Police in Harlan County say 52 year old Mossie Ann Glover of Cumberland turned her vehicle onto US 119 in Cumberland and was hit after failing to yield to an oncoming tractor-trailer. Glover was pronounced dead at the scene, while an infant in her car was transported to Harlan ARH with minor injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer, Gary Wayne Barnett, was not injured.
- Brian Hensley of Dwarf, in Perry County, has been sentenced to five years, but, under terms of a plea deal, he will only spend 300 days in jail as long as he follows the conditions of his probation. Hensley was arrested on April 5, 2010 by deputies with the Perry County Sheriff’s Office after he allegedly shot Roger Miniard and Rebecca Jones with a shotgun on Red Star Mountain in the Dwarf community. According to police, Miniard and Jones were looking at property when Hensley shot them. Hensley was indicted in June on two counts of first-degree assault and three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. On January 27th, he pleaded guilty on two counts of amended charges of second-degree assault under extreme emotional disturbance and three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.
- A criminal investigation is underway in Greenup County after 40 year old Leslie “Cricket” Lee was found in a bed in her home around 6:45 A.M. Friday morning fatally stabbed twice in the neck. Her husband Steven, of just a year and a half, says he found her that way when he came home from a drive.
- Letters, drawings and even a prison ID from Michael Carneal, who is serving a life sentence for killing three classmates and wounding five in a 1997 shooting at Heath High School in Paducah, can be bought online from web sites selling items that once belonged to notorious killers. Carneal's items, along with self-portraits from Washington sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, a cigar partly smoked by Charles Manson and clown drawings by notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy, are part of an array of prison paraphernalia sold as "murderabilia." Kentucky has no law to prevent such sales, but one of Carneal's victims, Missy Jenkins Smith, who is paralyzed from the chest down, says the sales are "sad and wrong" and should be barred. Andy Kaha, a victim advocate for the city of Houston, has led a national push to end the trade, saying the sales are like getting sucker-punched again for the victims, and he doesn't think anyone should be able to rob, rape and murder, and make a buck out of it. Eric Gein, who operates the Florida-based serialkillersink.net, said the sales do nothing more than reflect America's morbid fascination with notorious killers. Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, says an internal affairs investigation has been opened concerning the exchange of information and/or items between inmate Michael Carneal and outside entities.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-6-'11
- Maryland Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett said Friday he has written to House Speaker John Boehner to ask that the body of Frank Buckles, the last surviving American World I veteran, be allowed to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. West Virginia lawmakers also want to see Buckles honored that way. Boehner has said he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are trying to get permission for a ceremony for Buckles in the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit for Reylas Surface Mine in Logan County. The permit allows Highland Mining Company to discharge fill material into 13,743 linear feet of waters and authorizes one valley fill, one sediment pond and several mine-through areas. The company will be required to restore or create thousands of linear feet of stream channel for mitigation.
- Fire ripped through the Logan Motor Lodge late Friday night. The motel, five miles south of Logan, is considered a total loss. A body was found at the location.
- Police are investigating after a man was shot early Saturday in the area of Sky Lounge on Civic Center Drive in Charleston. Officers discovered a vehicle with multiple bullet holes. Shortly after that, police got a call from CAMC Women and Children's Hospital that a shooting victim was at the hospital. The victim was later transferred to Charleston Area Medical Center General with non life-threatening injuries.
- A bill allowing all of West Virginia's 31 judicial circuits to create juvenile drug courts passed the House of Delegates Friday on a vote of 97-0 and now goes to acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature. Currently, five such courts operate in the Northern Panhandle and Cabell, Wayne, Mercer and Logan counties. The programs provide specialized services for nonviolent youths ages 10 to 17 who face delinquency or status offenses related to substance abuse.
Friday, March 04, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-5-'11
- Thomas Marsillett of Floyd County will be sentenced March 17th after pleading guilty to the lesser charge of facilitation of murder during a hearing last month. He was originally charged with complicity to murder in the death of 46 year old Thomas Bentley, who was found dead in his burned home in Bull Creek in May 2008. Police say Marsillett drove Richard Lee Adkins to the house and knew what he was planning to do. Adkins is currently serving a life sentence. Marsillett is expected to serve 14 years on the facilitation plea.
- The search for 26 year old Jerry Rowe Junior of Magoffin County has continued since he disappeared in January. Acting on a tip that Rowe was at a party on an abandoned strip mine on the Magoffin-Breathitt County line before he disappeared on January 28th, police and search crews went to the site where, Friday afternoon, a search dog found his scent near a burned out camp fire. John Cruse with the Johnson Co. Rescue Squad said Rowe has been in the area at some point since he went missing, but the canine lost the scent at a rock formation more than one and a half miles away.
- During a Capitol press conference Friday, Governor Steve Beshear defended his plan for balancing the Medicaid budget without making additional cuts to state agencies. Beshear said his administration can save $425 million next year by privatizing some Medicaid services, providing enough to balance the budget of the program that provides medical care to more than 800,000 poor, disabled and elderly Kentuckians. The Democratic-controlled House supports Beshear's plan, but the Republican-controlled Senate favors a proposal for 2.26 percent cuts to all government programs, including the state's public schools.
- On a 79-11 House vote Friday, Kentucky lawmakers gave final approval to a bill requiring the state licensing of companies that allow people to make phone or online wagers on horse races in the state. The intent of the bill is to let state officials get a better handle on advance deposit wagering operations. The bill calls for licensing of ADW operators by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Another key section would require ADW providers to submit quarterly reports on all wagers made on Kentucky races.
- A bill aimed at blocking someone convicted of abusing or exploiting an elderly person from inheriting from the victim sailed through the Senate without debate Friday, then received final passage on a 95-0 vote in the House. If there are no other heirs, the inheritance would go into a trust fund used to support efforts to prevent elder abuse. It's part of several bills being considered by Kentucky lawmakers to protect the elderly from abuse.
- The House voted 95-0 Friday for final passage of a bill which would ban the sale, manufacture or possession of synthetic drugs marketed as bath salts in Kentucky. Violators would face misdemeanor charges that could result in jail time and fines.
EKB Capsule News....West Virginia...3-5-'11
- Ohio Governor John R. Kasich signed extradition papers Friday for Sam Littleton, 37, of Bellefontaine, Ohio, who has contested extradition from West Virginia to Ohio to face multiple charges stemming from the death of 26 year old Tiffany Brown, his girlfriend's daughter. In addition to the murder, police believe Littleton kidnapped and killed Richard and Gladis Russell. Richard Russell's body was found in Chattanooga on February 26th. His wife, 85 year old Gladis Russell, remains missing. A report from the Hamilton County, Tennessee medical examiner's office rules the death of 84 year old Richard Russell a homicide. Authorities say a stab to the chest and head trauma likely caused the death of Russell.
- Friday morning, Charles Christopher Poore pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and unlawful wounding for the shooting of Robert Veltri and his brother Antonio Veltri in a house on Lovell Drive on Charleston's West Side last June. Robert Veltri died as a result of the shooting. Poore could face a maximum of 20 years in prison when sentenced May 10th.
- Twenty-four year old Lucas McCain Brumfield of Huntington was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of 2nd degree unarmed robbery after he and Amber Fowler allegedly robbed Smoking Joe's in Barboursville on February 26th. Police say Brumfield jumped over the counter and stole a cash drawer containing $1,000 to $1,500 after Fowler unlocked the front door to let him in and then distracted an employee. Fowler was arrested shortly after the robbery.
- Under an adjusted state budget proposal from acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, West Virginia’s mine inspectors would see pay and benefits increase by $750,000. That money is separate from a public employee pay raise bill pending in the Senate. In his revised budget, Tomblin also included $500,000 to help police clean up methamphetamine labs. The revision updates about three-dozen lines in the budget bill presented January 12th and proposes $11.2 billion in spending for the budget year that begins July 1st. The biggest change frees up $14.4 million because counties can devote more property tax revenues to funding schools than first estimated. Administration officials expect that will help shore up teacher pensions.
- West Virginia health officials are warning that wrestlers who competed in the February 24-26th state tournament in Huntington may have been exposed to skin herpes. The warning also went out to wrestlers who participated in regional tournaments the week before. The Bureau for Public Health said Friday that five members of a high school wrestling team contracted herpes gladiatorum. Coaches and physicians are being urged to report new skin herpes cases to their local health department.
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.
EKB Capsule News....West Virginia...3-4-'11
- Authorities have identified the man who died after he was driving a backhoe near Verner in Mingo County around 6:00 P.M. Wednesday when it went into the Guyandotte River as Opal Perry. Troopers say Perry was trapped in the water for nearly two hours. He was pronounced dead at Logan Regional Medical Center.
- Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has ordered all United States and West Virginia flags at state facilities be lowered to half-staff through sunset the day Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Funeral arrangements for Buckles, who died Sunday at his home in Charles Town at age 110, are incomplete. President Barack Obama also has ordered that the day Buckles is buried that all U.S. flags on official buildings be lowered to half-staff. House Speaker John Boehner has denied a request that Buckles lay in state in Washington, D.C. before his burial. West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and John Rockefeller released statements Thursday asking Boehner to reconsider.
- A Kanawha County jury has ruled in favor former West Virginia State trooper Derek Snavely after Julie Fato accused him of forcing her to have sex. Fato filed a civil lawsuit against Snavely, saying a 2008 traffic stop ended with the two having sex. Fato claimed Snavely used his power and influence to make it happen. Snavely testified they had consensual sex, but he considered himself off duty at the time. Following the incident, Snavely resigned from the West Virginia State Police. He is now the Chief of Police in Hinton.
- Stewart Jordan and Rajion Mayo, both 18, were arraigned in Cabell County Circuit Court Thursday after being indicted by a grand jury last month with the shooting death of Mark Lowry. Police say Jordan and Mayo opened fire on Lowry while he sitting in his vehicle in an alley adjacent to the 1600 block of 11th Avenue on July 27th. Lowry’s wife and 19 year old step-son were also in the vehicle but not hurt. Mayo faces a three count indictment, including murder, along with one count of 1st degree robbery and one count of attempted 1st degree robbery in a pair of unrelated incidents. Jordan is charged with murder. They will be back in court March 31st.
- Thursday morning, Brian Confere, from Diamond, West Virginia, was sentenced to serve time at the Anthony Center in Greenbrier County after he pleaded guilty to 1st degree sexual abuse, admitting to sexually abused an 11 year old girl in eastern Kanawha County. Confere is also facing charges of child endangerment after being arrested in Boston in September 2009 after he allegedly tried to kidnap a 12 year old girl he met through an on-line vampire themed chat room.
- Thursday, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration Chief Joe Main testified about coal mine issues in front of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections in Washington, D.C., telling Congress more laws need to be passed so MSHA can continue keeping miners safe. Main said MSHA needs to be able to crack down on companies with patterns of violations, and a bipartisan plan to support good operators would help to hold bad operators accountable. Main says he's concerned about off-shift conditions at some coal mines that could lead to explosions. He says he's willing to work with Congress on setting priorities.
- Cabell Huntington Hospital is informing former patients about possible overexposure to radiation that could have happened to those who underwent CT Angiography between October 9, 2009 and November 23, 2010. Hospital officials say, while potential side effects of the exposure may include temporary, localized hair loss and reddening of the scalp, there is no immediate danger to the health of any of these patients, but they're taking all necessary steps to prevent it from ever happening again.
- Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were making their rounds in Huntington Thursday while targeting the Fairfield West area. The criminal probe, involving numerous traffickers of stolen firearms and individuals who participated in illegal drug transactions in and around Huntington, began in April 2010, and has resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs with a street value of over $500,000 and more than 100 firearms. A total of 55 defendants have been charged with federal crimes. More than 200 federal, state and local agents took part in the firearms and narcotics take-down effort.
- Thursday, the House Constitutional Revision Committee passed a resolution that, if approved by the legislature and by the voters, would allow county sheriffs to serve more than two consecutive terms. Currently, the state Constitution limits sheriffs to two straight four-year terms. Several county sheriffs attended the committee meeting in support of the measure, which will require a two-thirds vote by each chamber and a majority approval from voters in the 2012 General Election to pass. In 1982, West Virginia voters voted down a similar proposed change in the Constitution.
- Retirees from Century Aluminum rallied at the state Capitol Thursday asking state lawmakers to back them in their efforts to have their health benefits reinstated. In 2009, Century closed its Jackson County plant due to a crash in the aluminum market during the recession. Last year the company announced they would no longer be able to provide retirees with health insurance even though those workers had paid into the plan for years. Marion County Delegate Mike Caputo, who was at the rally on behalf of the United Mine Workers, says the union is 100 percent behind the Century employees in their battle to regain their benefits. The United Steel Workers Union has filed a lawsuit against Century, but many retirees fear it may be tied up in court so long they won't be alive when it finally gets settled. They're hoping lawmakers will get behind them and put pressure on Century to hold up their end of the bargain.
- Division of Highways spokesman Brent Walker said Thursday that plans to complete the remaining 14.2 miles of U.S. 35 as a four-lane highway will probably be put on the shelf for the foreseeable future after the state Senate killed a bill that would have let the highway be financed as a toll road. Walker said the Division of Highways does not have other funding sources to cover the $187 million contract pending to complete the final stretch of the 33.88-mile highway in Putnam and Mason counties.
- Major insurers, clergy and advocates for people with disabilities are among those asking West Virginia lawmakers to enact a state-run health insurance exchange. Health professionals and AARP also supported a pending exchange bill Thursday at a House Judiciary Committee public hearing. West Virginia’s insurance commissioner proposes the state-run exchange which would allow individuals and small businesses to bargain together while buying coverage from private insurers. The bill passed the Senate on a party-line 27-6 vote. Exchanges are part of the federal health care overhaul, which Republicans oppose. Gray Marion, who lobbies for independent insurance agents, raised concerns about the bill Thursday while saying he wants the exchange closed if the overhaul is repealed.
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.
EKB Capsule News....West Virginia...3-3-'11
- An elderly man is dead after he drove a backhoe into a river in Mingo County. Several emergency crews responded to a rescue in Verner, four miles outside Gilbert, about 5:00 P.M. Tuesday afternoon after a man in his 90s was using his backhoe on his property near the riverbank and backed into the Guyandotte River. He was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
- Tennessee authorities have ended their search for 85 year old Gladis Russell of Bellefontaine, Ohio after the body of her husband, 84 year old Richard Russell, was found in Chattanooga over the weekend. Chattanooga police say air patrols and foot searches using a cadaver dog failed to turn up anything in the search for Gladis Russell. Samuel K. Littleton II remains jailed in West Virginia while fighting extradition to Ohio.
- Matthew Adkins, 32, of Harts, in Lincoln County, was arrested early Tuesday morning after police say he held his wife, 28 year old Heather Adkins, at gunpoint for several hours in the driveway of their home. Adkins is accused of sexually assaulting his wife and stabbing her in the leg before kidnapping a six-year-old from the home. Adkins is charged with felony kidnapping, felony malicious assault, first degree sexual assault and three other misdemeanors.
- Twenty-one year old Colin M. Webb of Rand, in Kanawha County, is facing up to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this week in federal court to possession of crack cocaine with intent to deliver. Webb was arrested in March 2009 after detectives with the Metro Drug Unit found 17 grams of crack cocaine during a search of his home. Webb admitted the crack cocaine belonged to him, and he intended to sell it. His sentencing is scheduled for June 2nd.
- Euseph Khaled Shehab, who was originally charged with unlawful wounding and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, now faces murder charges. Police say Shehab shot his cousin, 25 year old Jamie Withrow of Hico, in the head Sunday evening. An autopsy determined Withrow died from the gunshot wound.
- Former West Virginia State trooper, 28 year old Derek Snavely, told a jury he had consensual sex with Julie Fato of Charleston shortly after a traffic stop near St. Albans in the early morning hours of November 16, 2008. Fato is suing Snavely for monetary damages, contending the officer forced the 2008 encounter. Snavely says Fato was the aggressor. Snavely testified he gave Fato his cell phone number after the traffic stop was completed and said she called him a few minutes later. He told jurors the two drove to another location, and Fato immediately exited her vehicle and got into his before they proceeded to a house at Churchill Circle, where the two had sex. Snavely says he had notified dispatch that he would be taking his breakfast break, and he considered himself off duty at the time, but admitted he made a poor decision. Fato testified Wednesday that she didn't call anyone for help as Snavely followed her to the house where she was staying because she was afraid he would bring other troopers there, and she didn't want to put her friends in jeopardy by calling the police.
- Tuesday, the state Supreme Court reversed a December decision by Raleigh Circuit Court regarding the equitable division of a company owned by Powerball winner Jack Whittaker. On Christmas Day 2002, Jack Whittaker, a self-made millionaire, won the $315 million Powerball jackpot and opted for the $170 million lump sum, leaving him with $93 million. Three years later, his wife Jewell, a Beckley resident, filed for divorce. It was finalized in April 2008, ending nearly 42 years of marriage. A few months after the divorce was finalized, Jack filed an appeal with Raleigh Circuit Court regarding a family court order dividing their marital assets, specifically Whittaker LLC. Raleigh Circuit Court reversed the family court's decision in August 2008. The two came to an agreement in November 2008 in family court. In January 2009, Jewell filed a petition requesting a judge find Jack in contempt, claiming he failed to convey certain properties and assets to her as he had agreed. Raleigh Family Court issued an order in March 2009 finding Jack in contempt. He then filed an appeal in circuit court. The court held a hearing in November 2009 and issued a final order in December reversing family court's March contempt order and the November 2008 distribution order.
- The House of Delegates voted 77-23 Wednesday to approve a measure requiring a prescription for over-the-counter allergy and cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to make meth. Law enforcement officers, who support the measure, say it would help cut down on meth production and meth use in West Virginia by making it more difficult to get the key meth ingredient. Mandy Hagan with the Consumer Health Products Association says the bill could have a number of negative impacts such as increasing out of the pocket health care costs for the consumer, potentially increasing what the state pays for state employees' benefits and driving economic activity out of the state by causing people to cross the state's borders to get the medication.
- Wednesday, the West Virginia House of Delegates voted 78-22 to approve nearly $80 million in pay raises for teachers and other state workers. The proposed bill by House Democrats would increase base pay for teachers by $900 for two years. It would also increase base pay by a total of $1,000 over two years for school service personnel, $970 for state police and $835 for natural resource offices. Raises for other state employees would come to about 2 percent of their salaries.
- Supporters of the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute are planning a March 10th motor convoy to show their backing of the company and its workers. A parade is scheduled to leave Nitro at 5:30 P.M., drive past the plant and the Kanawha County Courthouse during a regular meeting of the Kanawha County Commission and proceed to the state Capitol Complex. More than 500 people remain employed at Bayer's Institute facility, but about 200 are expected to be laid off in the next two years as Bayer plans to stop making and storing methyl isocyanate, or MIC, at the plant in 2012. Supporters fear removing MIC from the facility and increased local criticism and scrutiny might prompt Bayer executives to shut the plant down altogether.
- Tuesday, voters in Elkins went to the polls to elect a mayor and five city council member seats during their municipal election. Incumbent Mayor Duke Talbott will return for two more years after receiving 487 votes, defeating challenger Gregory Binns, who received 137. For council, 1st Ward Bob Woolwine ran unopposed, while the 2nd Ward went to Van Broughton, who replaces Hazel Buford, who chose not to run. In 3rd Ward, Mark Scott, who got 76 votes, defeated incumbent council member Bob Malcolm, who got 31 votes. Fourth Ward incumbent Marylinn Cuonzo defeated two challengers, and Danny Satterfileld ran unopposed in the 5th Ward. They all take office April 1st.
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-2-'11
- Monday, the House passed Senate Bill 66, which would change the makeup of the East Kentucky Expo Center board. Currently, Governor Steve Beshear appoints all of the board’s members. However, the city of Pikeville is taking over $600,000 in the expo center’s debt. SB 66 would allow Pikeville Mayor Frank Justice II and Pike County Judge Executive Wayne Rutherford to appoint some board members. The measure now heads to Governor Steve Beshear for his veto or signature.
- Police searched unsuccessfully Monday and Tuesday for 25 year old Ryan Larke of London, a camper missing in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Laurel County. Larke was camping with four others in an area about 10 miles west of London when he left the campsite alone around 6:30 P.M. Saturday. Companions searched for Larke before calling the sheriff's office just before 5:00 P.M. Sunday. Tuesday, authorities searched the heavily wooded area with the help of a helicopter and dog teams. Larke moved from Wisconsin to London, where he has relatives, several months ago to look for a job.
- First Lady Jane Beshear visited the Big Sandy Community and Technical College Campus in Paintsville Tuesday as part of her state tour this week promoting literacy. Beshear said education is the basis for everything that will make changes for the future of Kentucky, and students should re-train for the jobs available today and the jobs for tomorrow.
- Attorney David Nolan filed a motion late Monday night asking a judge to allow Karen Cunagin Sypher to remain free until the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on her case. On February 18th, Sypher was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison for trying to extort Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino to stay quiet about a sexual encounter between the two in 2003. Nolan says Sypher isn't a danger to anyone, and the judge made multiple errors in the trial. Prosecutors have until March 17th to respond to the motion.
- An appeal in a lawsuit alleging election fraud in Magoffin County has been dismissed. John P. Montgomery, a Republican who lost to incumbent Judge-Executive Charles "Doc" Hardin, and incumbent Sheriff Randall Bob Jordan, a Democrat who lost to challenger Carson Montgomery last November, had filed the lawsuit in circuit court asking to have the election overturned because of alleged vote-buying. A special judge said it was clear there was vote-buying, but the judge dismissed the case, ruling there was insufficient evidence that the winning candidates took part in buying votes or knew it was going on. Montgomery and Jordan appealed the decision. The three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals said the request to review the case was filed after the deadline. Randall E. Salyer, 54; Patricia L. Trusty, 43; and Donald Trusty, 43, have been indicted on federal charges of buying votes in the election.
- An October 10th trial has been scheduled for Darren Moore after his attempted murder case ended in a mistrial last week. KSP Trooper Jesse Armstrong and Jackson County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Berry responded to his home in Sandgap in March 2010 after his wife told 911 dispatchers he had made threats to kill her and any responding law enforcement officers. Once officers arrived at the scene, they attempted to make verbal contact with Moore, but he appeared on the front porch armed with a shotgun. Moore refused commands to drop the weapon, and threatened the officers by pointing the shotgun in their direction. Armstrong and Berry both fired their weapons at him, hitting Moore in the left arm and left leg.
- Federal officials announced Tuesday that Arch Coal will pay $4 million in fines and change some mining practices to settle alleged Clean Water Act violations in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. The deal, between St. Louis-based Arch, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, says Arch will take steps to prevent 2 million pounds of pollutants from entering waterways each year. It will also use a treatment system to reduce the amount of selenium pollution. Senior vice president Paul Lang says Arch had a 99 percent compliance rate between 2003 and 2010, but the company regrets past violations and is committed to taking aggressive steps to see they aren't repeated.
- A Senate committee rejected a proposal Tuesday from Governor Steve Beshear that would have balanced the state's Medicaid budget by using money now that had been intended to cover next year's costs in the state's Medicaid program which provides medical care to some 800,000 of the state's elderly, poor and disabled. The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee revamped Beshear's proposal so that a shortfall in the program of more than $160 million would be made up with across-the-board cuts to other government programs, including education.
- Legislation that would constitutionally protect the right to hunt has been approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, 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. The NRA is pushing similar measures in state legislatures across the country.
- The House approved House Bill 465 Monday. The bill would allow Governor Steve Beshear to join an interstate racing compact to oversee rules regarding racing and wagering across state lines. The compact would not go into effect until at least six states join it. The interstate compact would help develop uniform rules for the horse racing industry. HB 465 also includes language that ensures the legislature’s administrative regulation committee is aware of possible changes to Kentucky’s racing laws that the interstate compact is working on. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Representative Susan Westrom of Lexington, said she is hopeful the Senate will approve the House version of the interstate racing compact.
- Legislation that would allow Kentucky's registered independents to vote in Democratic or Republican primaries hit a roadblock when it came up one vote short of advancing from the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Republican Senator Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon conceded defeat for his proposal, but promised to try again next year. The bill would have allowed nearly 200,000 Kentuckians registered as independents or affiliated with third parties to take part in Kentucky's primary elections.
- On an 80-17 vote Tuesday, the House gave final approval on legislation that would extend eminent domain rights to pipeline companies that would dispose of carbon dioxide. The bill seeks to allow private companies to obtain easements across private property to develop pipelines to transport carbon dioxide, a byproduct of converting coal to cleaner-burning fuels. Kentucky already allows the use of eminent domain for natural gas and oil pipelines. House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins said building pipelines to transport carbon dioxide is crucial to developing coal gasification and other energy projects in Kentucky.
- Tuesday, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate issued a permanent injunction to prevent the Florida-based Medi-Share program, a Christian insurance program, from operating in Kentucky. The Kentucky Department of Insurance and the attorney general's office took the group to court in June 2002, alleging that the program was an unauthorized health insurer. After years of litigation, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Medi-Share is subject to state regulation. The Medi-Share program serves nearly 40,000 churchgoers in 49 states. Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark says Medi-Share members in Kentucky need to get replacement health insurance coverage.
- The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, one of Kentucky's foremost education advocacy groups, has scheduled a 2:00 P.M. news conference for Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel in Lexington to announce the selection of a new executive director. The group has been active in public education in Kentucky for decades and played a key role in the drafting and passage of the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. The new executive director replaces Robert Sexton, who died last year. Sexton had been executive director of the group since its founding in 1983.
- Democrat State Auditor Crit Luallen will be among the headliners at an event aimed at encouraging more women to run for political office in Kentucky. The political school for women, which is held every two years, is set to begin at 8:00 A.M. Saturday at the Holiday Inn Hurstbourne in Louisville. Luallen will be joined by former state Senator Georgia Powers and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-2-'11
- President Barack Obama issued an order in a proclamation Monday requiring all flags in the country to be lowered in honor of the Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, who died Sunday. President Obama stated that as respect for the memory of Army Corporal Frank W. Buckles, and in remembrance of the generation of American veterans of World War I that, on the day of Buckles' interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on such day. Obama further directs that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a permit for Consol Energy's Spring Branch No. 3 Mine in Mingo County after the company agreed to greatly reduce its potential environmental impacts. Consol reduced the surface footprint of the deep mine operation from 57 to 19 acres and cut its burial of streams from 3,600 to 870 linear feet, while still proposing to mine 2.77 million tons of coal. The original mine proposed to produce 2.85 million tons of coal.
- Nineteen year old Larry Fields of Ripley died at Charleston Area Medical Center after being shot in the head with a pellet rifle fired by 18 year old Jared Devin Wade Anthony, also of Ripley. The shooting happened just before 3:00 A.M. Sunday at a party at a home in Evans. Troopers believe drugs and alcohol played a role in the incident.
- The body found along a road in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Saturday has been positively identified as 84 year old Richard Russell of of Bellefontaine, Ohio. He had suffered at least one stab wound. Samuel K. Littleton II, who was arrested in Princeton, West Virginia, where officials found a car belonging to Russell and his missing 85 year old wife, Gladis, had told police he dumped their bodies in Georgia while on his way to Florida. The search for Gladis Russell continues.
- Julie Fato, a woman accusing former State Police trooper Derek Snavely of forcing her to have sex with him testified Tuesday that she was shocked when the trooper followed her home after pulling her over early on the morning of November 16, 2008 while she was driving from the Vault, a now-defunct Charleston bar, to Dwight's restaurant in St. Albans. She testified Snavely pulled her over in the parking lot of Smiley's restaurant in Jefferson and then told her to go to two locations where they engaged in sexual acts. Fato says she didn't realize Snavely followed her home until he followed her into the house and up the stairs. Snavely earlier testified he believed he was an invited guest when he entered the house where Fato was staying.
- The state Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel has announced that the West Virginia state Supreme Court has suspended attorney Rodney S. Justice, of Ashland, Kentucky, for 30 days as part of a reciprocal agreement with Kentucky. Justice will not be eligible for reinstatement until he can prove he is in good standing in Kentucky following ethical misconduct. It does not indicate what Justice did in Kentucky to earn his suspension there.
- Robert Norris Jr., 60, of North Carolina, pleaded guilty Monday to bigamy, admitting he married Putnam County native Christina Brown while he was still being married to another woman since 1987. A grand jury indicted Norris on bigamy charges in July. Brown said she had no idea Norris was still legally married when she married him. As part of the plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend probation for Norris. Bigamy, a felony charge, usually brings a one to five year prison sentence.
- Monday night, the Huntington City Council approved a resolution for some tax incentives that will turn the old Ames Department Store along 5th Street Road into a new call center for DIRECTV. Neighborgall Construction will be the first company to take advantage of a reduction in its tax on refurbishing an existing business. Council members also gave the go ahead on a project to build 44 new high-end condos in the Highlawn neighborhood. The condos, along with a pool and fitness center, will cater to med students and young professionals. The developer will break ground Friday.
- Carol Graham, the wife of Bob Graham, the former executive director of the Wyoming County Council on Aging, lost her case against the group Monday when a Wyoming County jury ruled in favor of the council. In 2006, Bob Graham was convicted of one count of illegally cashing in more than $31,000 in sick leave without approval by the group's board of directors. He spent 13 months in prison, but was released after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, ruling there was insufficient evidence to convict him. After being released from prison, Graham sought a certificate of innocence, which would have entitled him to restitution for unjust conviction and imprisonment. Last month, the United States Supreme Court denied that request, and Carol Graham and their son filed employment cases against the council. The jury ruled against Carol Graham's case and a judge dismissed his son's suit. The court also ruled Graham will never be permitted to work at the council again.
- A bill creating an intermediate court of appeals passed in the Senate Finance Committee Monday afternoon. The proposal is supported by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce which says the current set-up of the state Supreme Court hurts the state's business climate, an idea trial lawyers don't agree with. West Virginia Association of Justice President Michael Romano urged the committee to reject the bill, saying no one really knows how much an intermediate court would cost the state, and senators needed to give the Supreme Court's new appellate rules, which just began in January, time to work. Romano said the Chamber needs to stop casting a negative light on the state. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Brenda Nichols Harper says there are intermediate courts in 40 others states and there is currently discretionary jurisdiction in West Virginia when it comes to appeals, and the Court doesn't have to take it. A committee appointed by former Governor Joe Manchin to study the court system last year recommended an intermediate court, but the Supreme Court countered by changing its rules.
- There were plenty of questions Monday evening when Charleston City Council members got their first detailed look at the proposed 2011-12 city budget, including no across-the board pay raises and the elimination of 18 already vacant jobs in the fire and police departments. Committee Finance Director Joe Estep told Council members the business and occupation tax is the single largest source of revenue for the city, providing about half of the city's total budget of almost $82 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1st, and while, so far this year, tax revenues are up 6.4 percent over the previous year, and, from October through February, they're up 9.9 percent. But, the results are not consistent. Estep predicts tax revenues will rise 3.5 percent next year to $40.8 million. City Manager David Molgaard said rising pension costs will more than eat up that increase. The city will pay $340,000 more to the Public Employees Retirement System for non-uniformed workers and $645,000 more to its underfunded police and fire pension funds. Molgaard says help could be coming if the Legislature passes a city pension bill this year, but that would require an additional $1.7 million in funding from the city next year.
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.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-1-'11
- Frank Buckles, the last surviving World War I veteran in the US, died of natural causes Sunday at his home in Charles Town, in Jefferson County, West Virginia, at the age of 110. Buckles, born February 1, 1901 in Harrison County, Missouri, enlisted in the military at the age of 16 years old, after lying about his age to be admitted. During World War I, Buckles served in England and France where he served as an ambulance driver, though he did not see combat. In 1940, he accepted a job working in the Philippines. Japan invaded in 1941, during World War II, and Buckles spent three-and-a-half years as a civilian prisoner of war in Japanese prison camps before being rescued by the 11th Airborne in 1945. He and his wife moved to Gap View Farm, near Charles Town, West Virginia in 1954 because his ancestor had settled in the area in 1732. Buckles was an advocate for a national memorial for World War I in Washington, DC. In December 2009, he was asked to testify before a Senate committee on the need for a national memorial in Washington. Buckles drove a farm tractor until he was 103 and lived by a steady and firm work ethic. He never had the outlook of, 'Oh, I'm 110 and I'm going to die soon."
- Monday, Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, of Clear Fork, chief of security at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch Mine and at least two other Massey operations, was arrested at his home after a federal grand jury indicted him last week on charges of making false statements to federal agents and obstructing a federal investigation of the April 5, 2010 explosion at Massey's UBB. Stover is accused of making "materially false statements" to an FBI special agent and a special investigator for the Mine Safety and Health Administration who were looking into allegations that UBB security guards told mine workers when MSHA inspectors arrived. Stover allegedly denied the practice existed and told the agents he would have fired anybody who did so. The indictment states Stover instructed UBB security guards to tell mine personnel when MSHA inspectors arrived. The indictment also alleges Stover caused a person to dispose of thousands of pages of security related documents stored in a Massey building near the mine in an attempt to slow the federal investigation. Stover is scheduled to be arraigned March 15th in Beckley. Massey Energy’s General Counsel Shane Harvey said Monday afternoon the company notified the U.S. Attorney’s office within hours of learning documents had been disposed of, and Massey took immediate steps to recover documents and turn them over to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
- The Walmart off Corridor G in South Charleston was evacuated just before 9:00 A.M. Monday after high winds tore loose five heating and air conditioning units on the store's roof and caused a natural gas leak inside the building. During the storm, the National Weather Service clocked winds at 64 miles per hour at Yeager Airport, while minor damage was reported across Kanawha County, most of the damage amounting to trees and downed lines. The store re-opened Monday afternoon. Students at Bonham Elementary School in Sissonville were moved to Sissonville High School because of rising water. School systems in Calhoun and Roane counties dismissed classes early because of the threat of flooding. In Brooke County, a worker was briefly trapped when a security trailer was blown over at a gas drilling site. About 14,000 West Virginians were without electricity Monday afternoon after storms and high winds tore through the state at about 8:30 A.M., the combination leaving about 20,000 without electricity.
- Euseph K. Shehab, 35, of Ansted, has been charged with unlawful wounding and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Fayette County 911 operators received a call Sunday evening saying a 25 year old female had sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in the Shawver Bridge Road area of Hico. The female was transported to Summersville Memorial Hospital before a Health Net helicopter flew her to Charleston Area Medical Center. An investigation revealed the gunshot was not self-inflicted but was the result of an accidental shooting.
- Jeanie Marie Woods, 27, of Clendenin, was arrested after wrecking her car on Leatherwood Road in Clendenin with her two children inside. Kanawha County Deputy M.S. Sims administered a field sobriety test, which she failed. A Breathalyzer test showed a blood alcohol level of almost .15 percent, nearly double the legal limit. Woods was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, child endangerment and no proof of insurance.
- Monday, the House of Delegates voted unanimously to pass legislation changing the way West Virginia counties share severance tax revenue from coalbed methane production. West Virginia counties share a portion of the state's severance tax on coal, gas and other natural resources. The measure would allocate more money to counties that produce small amounts of coalbed methane if the state's distribution formula would give them less than non-producing counties. Finance Committee Chairman Harry Keith White says that situation is unfair.
- George Willoghby, a worker at the Huntington City Garage, was taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital where he remains in the burn unit in critical condition after being injured in a flash fire at the garage just after noon Monday. Mark Ziegler, an employee at the city garage, says he heard what sounded like a bomb before he rushed inside the garage, finding Willoughby engulfed in flames. He and other workers used fire extinguishers to put out the flames.
- West Virginia State Police say Jared Devin Wade Anthony, 18, of Ripley, shot Larry Fields, 19, of Ripley, in the head with a pellet rifle during a party Sunday afternoon at a home in Evans in Jackson County. Fields was taken to Jackson General Hospital but was later flown to Charleston Area Medical Center where he is listed in critical condition.
- Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises announced Monday that a subsidiary had completed the sale of the Charleston Marriott Town Center to an entity of Inland American Real Estate Trust, Inc. for $25.5 million. Forest City will continue to own and operate the 897,000-square-foot hotel. Marriott has a long-term management agreement for the hotel and has approved the transition in ownership. Forest City owns and operates Charleston Town Center Mall. Inland American's properties include the Shops at Sherman Plaza, in Evanston, Ill., The Market at Hilliard, in Hilliard, Ohio, Bridgeside Point office center in Pittsburgh, and other Marriott locations.
- Under a bill that cleared the state Senate Monday, parents or individuals who adopt children under 18 from outside their families would be eligible for bigger tax breaks. Senators voted unanimously to raise the state's non-family tax credit from $2,000 per child to $4,000. The credit may be spread out over three years. The State Tax Department estimates passage of the bill will cost the state $250,000 in lost tax revenue during the coming fiscal year.
- Allegheny Energy and Appalachian Power announced Monday they are suspending work on the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH project. In 2007, PJM, the operator of the transmission grid for West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia, decided there was a need to expand transmission service to keep up with consumer demand for electricity. But Jeri Matheney with Appalachian Power says things have changed, and, with the recession, growth has been a lot slower than originally anticipated. Monday, Appalachian Power and Allegheny Energy asked the state Public Service Commission as well as the commissions in Virginia and Maryland to withdraw their proposal. The $2.1 billion project would have stretched from the John Amos Power Plant in Putnam County east 275 miles into Maryland. The 765-kilovolt line was projected to increase transmission capability by 65 percent.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...2-28-'11
- Kentucky State Police Trooper Stu Recke says officers killed 32 year old Larry D. Brown of Clay, in Webster County, early Sunday morning after a nearly seven-hour standoff. Police were called to a home in Clay about a man barricaded inside a house and firing shots. KSP say Brown fired shots inside the house, then about 5:38 A.M. CST, he fired a shot through the door of the house. Brown left the house carrying a shotgun and fired at the officers, prompting State Police Sgt. Brenton Ford, Trooper Tim Sales and Webster County Deputy Steve Madden to fire back, killing Brown. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday at the State Medical Examiner's Office in Madisonville.
- Kentucky State Police say 16 year old Sara Shepherd of Paintsville was pronounced dead at Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center in Paintsville after a wreck occurred about 3:45 P.M. Saturday on Ky. 581 in Thealka, in Johnson County. Shepherd was driving south when the vehicle ran off the road after leaving a curve, struck a culvert and overturned. A passenger, James Jones, 41, of Sitka, was airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries.
- Federal investigators have released their report on a deadly mine accident which occurred at the Rex-Coal Strip Mine in Harlan County in November. The report found 32 year old Rhett Mosley, a contract mine worker from Perry County, died when a truck rolled out of control on the steep grade of the pit mine and overturned. Investigators say the truck's brakes weren't properly maintained, and Mosley wasn't wearing a seat belt. They say the mine needs to put a system in place to check equipment before it is used.
- Neighbors in the community of Dublin, in southwestern Kentucky, about 25 miles south of Paducah, have been collecting donations to help feed the estimated 1,000 Amish who are expected to come for the Monday funeral of four children who drowned Thursday night. Authorities say the family was traveling in a downpour when their horse-drawn buggy flipped, knocking them into a creek that is normally a trickle but often floods during heavy rains. Four children were swept away in the water. Two adults and three other children escaped. Friday, rescuers found the bodies of 8 year old Samuel Wagler, 5 year old Sarahmae Wagler, 5 month old Rosemary Wagler and their cousin, 11 year old Elizabeth Wagler. Hickman County Coroner Paula Boaz says all four children drowned.
- Police say 24 year old Randall James Hicks, a fugitive from Indiana has been arrested in Floyd County. Hicks was arrested at a home on Kentucky Route 850. Hicks is wanted in Noble County, Indiana for intent to manufacture meth. Hicks and his wife were also arrested in 2009 on meth charges. He is being taken back to Indiana for a court appearance.
- A second lawsuit has been filed in western Kentucky against the Boy Scouts of America alleging sexual abuse by a scoutmaster in the 1970s. The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that then-Troop 1 Scoutmaster Danny Middleton sexually abused the plaintiff, who was a minor at the time, between about 1972 to 1976 in connection with Scout activities. Middleton is not a defendant in the lawsuit or in one filed earlier this month but is accused in both. The lawsuit, filed by a 51-year-old Paducah man who is a former Troop 1 Scout, names Shawnee Trails Council of Owensboro, Boy Scouts of America, Grace Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky as defendants. Court files say Grace Episcopal was the troop's chartering organization. The diocese is the church's governing body.
- Kentucky Emergency Management and officials at the National Weather Service urge Kentuckians to prepare as a strong storm system is expected to move northeast across Kentucky on Monday. This system is capable of producing high, heavy rains, large hail and possible tornadoes. According to the National Weather Service, potential for severe weather appears somewhat higher than the previous system that moved through last Thursday which was blamed for fourth deaths in Graves County. With the ground already saturated, river flooding continues to be a possibility and concern. If you live along rivers and flood prone areas, be prepared to take appropriate action.
- A new state commission is finding that setting standards for the care of farm animals is more complex than it may sound. The Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission was created last year by state lawmakers. Its job is to set standards for Kentucky's estimated 85,000 farms with animals. Those include everything from backyard farms to large-scale poultry, hog and cattle operations. And sales of Kentucky farm animals, including horses, topped $2.4 billion in 2009. The commission is finding there are no easy answers as it wades into the animal welfare debate. It is considering questions like whether it is OK to confine egg-laying chickens in cages where they can't extend their wings. Or whether sows should be kept in stalls that don't allow them to turn around.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...2-28-'11
- Authorities in Lowndes County Georgia are searching for the missing elderly couple Dick and Gladis Russell, who are both in their 80s, from Bellefontaine, Ohio believed to have been killed by 37 year old Samuel Littleton II, who claims to have killed the couple and dumped their bodies in the town of Valdosta, Georgia. Littleton, also of Bellefontaine, is fighting extradition as he faces multiple charges in Ohio, including first-degree murder and kidnapping. Littleton is charged with the murder of 26 year old Tiffany Brown. The Russells car was found abandoned at the Princeton Wal-Mart last Tuesday. Blood residue was found in the passenger compartment and the trunk of the vehicle. Littleton is being held in the Southern Regional Jail without bond while fighting extradition.
- Donald Purdy Jr., 45, of Beckley, was arrested late Saturday night in connection with two armed robberies that occurred in the Beckley area on February 6th. He is accused of robbing the CVS on North Eisenhower Drive and the Walgreen’s on Robert C. Byrd Drive and Harper Road. Purdy is charged with two counts of 1st degree robbery, and one count of obstructing justice.
- Saturday night, St. Albans Police arrested Neil E. Stricker, 27, of Charleston, led them on a car chase through Putnam and Cabell counties, involving officers from the Hurricane and Nitro police departments . Police say Stricker was DUI while on U.S. 60 when a St. Albans police officer tried to pull him over. Stricker fled west on U.S. 60, through Hurricane and into Cabell County and turned back into Putnam County, near Culloden. The chase ended when Stricker turned onto a dead end street.
- For the past few years, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has relied on federal grant money to hire private companies to clean up toxic chemicals from meth labs, but with federal funding dried up for that, the cleanup process will have to be done without the federal funding. The DEP only has six workers to cover all 55 counties throughout the state, and it can costs upwards of $30,000, in taxpayers money, to clean up a meth lab. The DEP is working closely with county commissioners and state police to find alternative income sources.