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February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015

Journalists from around the state discuss news of the day with interim host Bill Bryant, WKYT in Lexington. Guests: Linda Blackford, enterprise reporter, Lexington Herald-Leader; Miranda Combs, investigative reporter, WKYT-TV in Lexington; and John Stamper, deputy editor for accountability and engagement, Lexington Herald-Leade
S41 E16 Length 26:31 Premiere: 2.20.15

Snowbound, But Some Students and Lawmakers Hit the Books

Even as school students and some lawmakers enjoyed several snow days, the journalists on Comment on Kentucky braved the elements to review the week’s news.

With more than a foot of snow and sub-zero temperatures in parts of the commonwealth, Gov. Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency to make National Guard troops and other forms of state assistance available to local communities.  John Stamper of the Lexington Herald-Leader says Beshear also issued executive orders to prevent price gouging on gasoline and emergency-related supplies, and to facilitate certain prescription drug refills without a doctor’s order.

Even in school districts that were closed because of slick roads, not all students had time away from their studies. The Herald-Leader’s Linda Blackford says several districts piloted online instruction initiatives so snowbound students could continue their classwork and interact with teachers. She says early indications are that the web-based assignments are going well.

Some Lawmakers Return to Frankfort
While state House leaders opted to cancel their work for the week, the Kentucky Senate did convene on Thursday and Friday. John Stamper says that resulted in partisan bickering as Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones (D-Pikeville) criticized Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) for needlessly endangering capitol staff by making them come to work.

Legislators who did return to Frankfort spent their time hearing two bills relating to school students. The Senate Education Committee debated and ultimately defeated a measure that would force students to use school restrooms and locker rooms based on their biological gender. Stamper says Senate Bill 76 would have addressed how schools accommodate transgender students.

The full Senate passed a bill that establishes guidelines for schools regarding religious activities by students. Stamper says supporters of Senate Bill 71 call the measure a religious liberty and free-speech bill, while opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, contend the legislation over-regulates protections already covered by the First Amendment.

Senate leadership also made a committee assignment that may effectively kill a proposed statewide smoking ban. Stamper says Senate President Stivers placed the smoke-free bill passed by the House earlier this month in the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee. Stamper says the measure is expected to die there. Smoke-free advocates had wanted the bill assigned to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, where the chair, Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville), supports the ban.

School Funding and Teacher Pensions
Linda Blackford says a series in the Herald-Leader is detailing how a number of smaller school districts remain underfunded despite gains made after the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act.  While state support has declined during the recession years, local school budgets have also been hurt by lower property tax proceeds. Blackford explains those revenues have suffered because local property valuation administrators have under-assessed some homes and businesses, and school districts have passed lower tax rates than they could have.

Meanwhile a bonding proposal to support unfunded liabilities in the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System may face another challenge. Earlier this month, the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved a bill to authorize $3.3 billion in state bonds, with proceeds going to shore up teacher pensions. Then last week, the Senate budget panel passed a measure to limit the state’s debt to 6 percent of revenues. John Stamper says the two plans can’t co-exist and he expects neither bill to become law.

Local Hospitals and Drug Abuse
Miranda Combs cites a study that indicates nearly two-thirds of rural Kentucky hospitals have negative operating budgets. She explored the issue in an investigative report for WKYT-TV in Lexington. She says a community hospital in Nicholas County ran out of money and closed last year because it had too many Medicaid patients and not enough private-pay patients. She also reports that a relatively new hospital in Fleming County has many open beds because people prefer to go to larger cities for their health care.

But one local hospital is working to keep its smallest patients at home. Combs says Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville is training its staff on how to detoxify babies born to drug-addicted mothers, rather than sending the children to Lexington for treatment. Hospital officials say keeping the babies close to their mothers helps speed the recovery process.

And Combs also reports on a move by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky to get more drug overdose deaths processed as crimes rather than accidents. Officials argue the switch would allow for a more detailed investigation of the deaths, and for stronger penalties for the dealers who may have sold the fatal drugs.

The opinions expressed on Comment on Kentucky and in this program synopsis are the responsibility of the participants and do not necessarily reflect those of KET.

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Comment on Kentucky

About Comment on Kentucky

KET's longest-running public affairs program has been assembling journalists to offer perspectives on the week's news and newsmakers since 1974. The program is hosted by Bill Bryant.

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Season 41 Episodes

Eleventh-hour Legislative Recap

S41 E57 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 3.19.15

March 20, 2015

S41 E56 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 3.19.15

June 5, 2015

S41 E55 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.4.15

January 30, 2015

S41 E54 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 1.30.15

January 23, 2015

S41 E53 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 1.23.15

October 30, 2015

S41 E52 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10.30.15

October 23, 2015

S41 E51 Length 26:30 Premiere Date 10.23.15

October 16, 2015

S41 E50 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10.16.15

October 9, 2015

S41 E49 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10.9.15

October 2, 2015

S41 E48 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10.2.15

September 25, 2015

S41 E47 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 9.25.15

September 18, 2015

S41 E46 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 9.18.15

September 11, 2015

S41 E45 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 9.11.15

September 4, 2015

S41 E44 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 9.4.15

August 28, 2015

S41 E43 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 8.27.15

August 21, 2015

S41 E42 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 8.21.15

August 14, 2015

S41 E41 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 8.13.15

August 7, 2015

S41 E40 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 8.6.15

July 31, 2015

S41 E39 Length 26:38 Premiere Date 7.30.15

July 24, 2015

S41 E38 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 7.23.15

July 17, 2015

S41 E37 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 7.16.15

July 10, 2015

S41 E36 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 7.9.15

July 3, 2015

S41 E35 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 7.2.15

June 26, 2015

S41 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.25.15

June 19, 2015

S41 E33 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.18.15

June 12, 2015

S41 E32 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.11.15

April 10, 2015

S41 E23 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 4.9.15

April 3, 2015

S41 E22 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 4.2.15

March 13, 2015

S41 E19 Length 25:20 Premiere Date 3.12.15

March 6, 2015

S41 E18 Length 24:31 Premiere Date 3.6.15

February 27, 2015

S41 E17 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 2.27.15

February 20, 2015

S41 E16 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 2.20.15

February 6, 2015

S41 E14 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 2.6.15

January 16, 2015

S41 E11 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 1.16.15

January 9, 2015

S41 E10 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 1.9.15

January 2, 2015

S41 E9 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 1.2.15

December 19, 2014

S41 E7 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 12.19.14

December 12, 2014

S41 E6 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 12.12.14

December 5, 2014

S41 E5 Length 24:31 Premiere Date 12.5.14

November 14, 2014

S41 E2 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 11.14.14

November 7, 2014

S41 E1 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 11.7.14

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