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February 27, 2015

February 27, 2015

Journalists from around the state discuss news of the day with interim host Bill Bryant, WKYT in Lexington. Guests: Adam Beam, Kentucky statehouse reporter, The Associated Press; Jack Brammer, Frankfort bureau chief, Lexington Herald-Leader; and Amanda Van Benschoten, columnist, The Kentucky Enquirer.
S41 E17 Length 26:33 Premiere: 2.27.15

Heroin Bills Still Face Hurdles

There appears to be widespread bipartisan consensus in Frankfort that lawmakers must pass a measure to address the heroin scourge in Kentucky. Yet the fate of the legislation remains uncertain as competing House and Senate measures differ on significant points.

As the 2015 General Assembly heads into the home stretch, the panel on this weekend’s Comment on Kentucky discussed the status of the heroin bills and other key legislation pending before the state House and Senate.

Heroin Legislation Still Faces Hurdles
Adam Beam of the Associated Press calls on the economic theory of supply and demand to describe the differences between House Bill 213 and Senate Bill 5. He says the House takes the demand-side approach with its local-option needle exchange program designed to get more addicts into treatment. (Senate Republicans have opposed needle exchanges, which they contend promote drug use.)

The Senate has focused on the supply side of the heroin issue, according to Beam. SB 5 toughens all penalties for those who sell drugs. (The House measure uses a tiered approach to sentencing so that those selling smaller quantities of heroin face lighter charges.) Beam says Rep. John Tilley, the sponsor of the HB 213, believes the penalties in the Senate bill run counter to the sentencing guidelines passed in the 2011 criminal justice reform package, which were instituted to reduce prison populations.

As the House and Senate move to debate the other chamber’s bills, Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader says lawmakers may need to create what he calls an “alpaca bill.” It would carry the best parts of both versions forward and leave behind any issues of who gets sponsorship credit for the original measures. Brammer says he expects a conference committee to be formed later this week to debate the sticking points.

Telephone Lines and Beer Sales
A long-debated bill to deregulate the telephone industry in the state could reach Gov. Steve Beshear’s desk this week. Brammer says House Bill 152, nicknamed the “AT&T Bill,” would end the requirement on phone companies to maintain landlines in urban areas of Kentucky. Although the measure has stiff opposition from advocates concerned with phone service accessibility and quality, the bill passed the House last Tuesday, and is expected to go before the full Senate today. Brammer says Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) wants the bill to be ready for the governor’s signature on Tuesday.

The House also passed a measure last week that would re-regulate beer sales in Kentucky. House Bill 168, also known as the “Beer Bill,” would force St. Louis-based beer maker Anheuser-Busch to divest itself of two distributorships it owns in Kentucky. Amanda Van Benschoten of The Kentucky Enquirer says craft beer brewers have pushed the legislation as a way to boost sales of their products in the state. But Anheuser-Busch argues the measure restricts its ability to operate in the free market, according to Van Benschoten. The bill is awaiting Senate action.

State Debt and Special Taxes
A House plan to benefit the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System through a $3.3 billion bonding action is expected to die in the Senate. Adam Beam says Senate Republicans are against generating more debt to pay off the unfunded liabilities in the teacher pension system.

Jack Brammer reports that Senate President Stivers says his members are developing an alternative plan to address KTRS funding, which he expects to present in the 2016 legislative session. Meanwhile, the full Senate passed a bill to limit state debt to 6 percent of the total state budget, and a Senate committee blessed a new $132 million appropriation that Sen. Stivers has promoted to fund a cancer research center at the University of Kentucky.

The proposal to allow for local-option sales taxes, which had significant momentum earlier in the session, appears to have hit a snag. Adam Beam says 30 Kentucky businesses sent a letter to lawmakers complaining that the measure, which would allow voters to temporarily boost sales taxes in a municipality by up to 1 percent, would result in a dramatic increase in their utility expenses. Unlike residential consumers, Beam says commercial and industrial customers have to pay sales taxes on their utility bills. It’s uncertain how this late development could affect the taxing proposal, which has widespread support in the legislature and from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Car Seats and School Bathrooms
As a parent herself, Van Benshoten calls legislation to require more children to ride in child safety seats “a no-brainer.” Current law mandates the use of booster seats for children less than 7 years of age and 50 inches in height. A bill passed by the House last week ups the requirement to the national standard of 9 years old or 57 inches tall. The measure died in the state Senate last year, and given the weight of more pressing legislation, Jack Brammer says he believes it will meet a similar fate in this session.

And a bill to require transgender school students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender at birth experienced a miraculous revival last week. Senate Bill 76 failed to garner enough votes to pass out of committee earlier in February.  But Brammer says some special maneuvering resurrected the bill promoted by the Family Foundation of Kentucky, and the full Senate approved the measure late last week. Brammer says opponents of the bill plan to rally at the capitol on Thursday, and he reports that House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) has said his chamber has more pressing matters to address.

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.

foundation_logo2013This KET production is part of the Inside Opioid Addiction initiative, funded in part by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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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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