Wednesday, March 09, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-10-'11
- During a news conference at the state Capitol Wednesday, Governor Steve Beshear issued a call for a special session to bring lawmakers back to Frankfort Monday to close the gap in the Medicaid budget. Beshear announced the call after the Senate followed through on a threat to end this year's legislative session 12 days earlier than scheduled. The Senate convened late Wednesday morning, while the House adjourned Tuesday night until March 21st. The House and Senate had been in discussions for three days to try to reach an agreement to fill the $166.5 million gap. Beshear's proposal to balance the Medicaid budget calls for using $166.5 million from next year's appropriation. Senate Republicans want across-the-board cuts to all government programs. Beshear says, unless lawmakers fix the problem, it will cause at least 30 percent rate cuts to Medicaid providers such as hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, pharmacists and mental health care providers. Beshear also said he would include in the call a bill to increase the school dropout age to 18, from the current 16. That legislation, a priority of his administration, also failed during the regular session.
- NASCAR driver Greg Biffle was involved in his second crash of the season Wednesday when a landing-gear malfunction caused his plane to partially collapse while landing at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. Biffle said he looked out the window and noticed the left wing rising into the air and the right wing dragging the runway and sending up sparks. Biffle praised his pilots for preventing the plane's wing from leaving the runway and dragging in the grass, which could have caused the plane to flip over.
- Kentucky State Police say, just before 11:00 P.M. Tuesday night, a trooper tried to stop 39 year old James Arthur of Louisa at Clack Mountain, but he kept going, leading a police chase through two counties before being caught on Black Water Road in Morgan County. Troopers also discovered Arthur was a fugitive out of West Virginia, wanted on armed robbery, burglary, malicious wounding and battery charges. He faces several additional charges, including fleeing police, DUI and wanton endangerment.
- Several homes were evacuated and one abandoned home torn down after a mudslide threatened homes in Perry County Wednesday. The voluntary evacuations took place at homes located along Jordan Street. Officials say workers in a nearby mine noticed water in a place that there should not have been water before the slide started. Officials say one abandoned house that was in the path of the slide was torn down for safety reasons. Engineers were on the scene Wednesday in order to assess the next steps in order to prevent the mudslide from reaching the homes below it.
- Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced former Clay County Clerk Freddy W. Thompson to 150-months in prison for his part in a conspiracy to buy and stealing votes. According to trial testimony, Thompson put in a substantial amount of money to buy votes in 2002, when he won the county clerk's office, and in 2006, he showed corrupt precinct workers how to change people's choices on the voting machines and steal their votes. Reeves sentenced former Clay County School Superintendent Douglas C. Adams to 293-months, over 24 years.
- Federal authorities say they have proof that former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge had something to do with missing guns from the department. According to an affidavit filed in federal court by ATF special agent Todd E. Tremaine, accused drug dealer James "Jeremy" Meradith told federal authorities he began supplying pain pills to then-Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge about December 2009, and Hodge traded him two police shotguns for Oxycodone. Meradith said he continued dealing to Hodge after he left office. Hodge denies taking part in any illegal drug transactions. A grand jury indicted Hodge last November on charges that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money during his two terms in office and sold or gave away guns seized in investigations. Meradith says accused drug dealer Charles Fritts helped Hodge get rid of all the firearms that were missing from the Whitley County Sheriff's Department. The firearms were reported stolen during a burglary from the sheriff's office in December 2009. Doyle Fritts turned himself in to ATF officers Wednesday. Jerry Fritts remains on the run.
- Kelly F. Fulmer of Walton who practiced law at the Boone County courthouse for years without a license has been charged with one misdemeanor theft by deception and two counts of felony theft by deception for accepting money for legal services. He also is charged with three counts of unauthorized practice of law, a misdemeanor in Kentucky. A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Wednesday in Boone Circuit Court but was continued until April 13th, while a trial is set for May 5th. Fulmer faces one year to five years in prison on one of the felony theft charges and five years to 10 years on the other felony theft charge. Fulmer resigned in September from the Walton-Verona school board, where he served as president. He had previously served a two-year term on the Kentucky School Boards Association.
- The environmental group Appalachian Voices has filed a notice of intent to sue after reviewing discharge-monitoring reports and finding Bardstown-based Nally and Hamilton Enterprises Inc. submitted inaccurate water-pollution reports to the state involving more than 12,000 violations of the Clean Water Act, with potential penalties of more than $400 million. Appalachian Voices says the company seems to have cut and pasted previous sets of data in later reports rather than monitoring the discharge and submitting accurate data for each month, misreporting levels of manganese, iron and other pollutants between July 2008 and June 2010 in operations in seven eastern Kentucky counties. The same coalition, comprising Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, filed a similar action in October against ICG of Knott County and Hazard and Frasure Creek Mining, the two largest producers of surface-mined coal in the state.
- The Kentucky League of Cities has chosen Debra Gabbard as its chief financial officer. Gabbard, who has been the assistant budget director for the Legislative Research Commission since 2007, will oversee all financial aspects of the organization, as well as its affiliated businesses, including its insurance program for Kentucky municipalities. Gabbard, who has worked with legislative leaders as they put together the state's budget, says she's impressed with changes made at the League of Cities in recent months. The league provides services to hundreds of member cities and municipalities, including lobbying, financing and insurance.
- On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, fire destroyed Southside Tires and Auto on South Main Street in Corbin. The Corbin fire chief has determined the fire was the result of arson. Police are asking the public for any tips that could lead to an arrest in the case.
- According to recent reports from USA Today, some states are cutting funding for mental health issues, and Kentucky is among those that are cutting the most. Kentucky is cutting 47.5% of its budget, and Alaska is cutting 35%, while South Carolina and Arizona are each cutting 22.7%. According to the report, Kentucky has cut $193.7 million from the state’s mental health budget from 2009 – 2011.
- The Republican majority of the Kentucky Senate voted late Tuesday to not confirm eight of Governor Steve Beshear's nominees for boards and commissions, a move which angered the Democratic minority. The rejected nominees, some appointed by Beshear months ago and already serving, are Joe Childers for the Mine Safety Review Commission, Cecil Dunn for the Personnel Board, Marvin Russow and Lawrence O'Bryan for the Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance Authority, David M. Williams for the Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission and Monica Ann Edmonds, Maria "Sally" Mooney and Thomas Whetstone for the Parole Board. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans unanimously supported nominee Franklin Stivers for the Kentucky Workers Compensation Board. Stivers is the brother of Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester. Democratic senators defended Beshear's nominees, saying many of them were eminently qualified and deserved a full, public hearing by the Senate rather than a last-minute rejection on partisan terms.
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