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January 1, 2016

January 1, 2016

Journalists from around the state discuss the year ahead with host Bill Bryant. Guests: Jack Brammer from the Lexington Herald-Leader; Ronnie Ellis from CNHI News Service; and Deborah Yetter from the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Season 42 Episode 9 Length 26:31 Premiere: 01/01/16

Looking Ahead to 2016

The Comment on Kentucky journalists kicked off the new year with a preview of what they expect from the 2016 session of the General Assembly. Here are five takeaways from the conversation featuring Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service, and Deborah Yetter of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

1. Getting Off to a Slow Start
When lawmakers convene at noon on Jan. 5, they’ll have just 60 days to conduct their legislative business and pass a new biennial budget for the commonwealth. But the reporters don’t expect much of substance to occur during the first three weeks of the session.

That’s because Tuesday, January 26 is the day Gov. Matt Bevin will present his budget to the General Assembly. Ronnie Ellis says lawmakers will likely want to wait and see what Bevin proposes.

More importantly, that day is also the filing deadline for candidates running in state House and Senate races this year. Ellis says sitting legislators, especially House Democrats, will be leery to cast any significant votes until they know what opposition they might face in the in the November elections.

2. Pension Tensions
To begin addressing the billions in unfunded state pension liabilities, Gov. Bevin has proposed moving all new hires to a 401(k)-type plan. He also wants to provide incentives to current employees to get them to switch from the existing defined-benefit plan to a new defined-contribution plan. But the journalists say Bevin may have a tough time selling that proposal to lawmakers.

Deborah Yetter says part of the problem is that moving new hires to a 401(k) plan will drain financial resources away from the existing pension liabilities. She says Bevin acknowledges that issue, but he says that the retirement plans are already losing money so something new must be done.

Another issue is finding enough money to make the full actuarially required contributions to the retirement systems, much less pay down the debts in those plans. Jack Brammer says lawmakers don’t want to raise taxes, and Republicans oppose issuing bonds to fund the systems, so that requires allocating more of the state budget to pension payments. Brammer says that in an election year, incumbent legislators won’t like sacrificing money they hope to secure for pet projects in their home districts.

3. Reversing Beshear’s Health Care Actions
Gov. Bevin also says he will end the state’s health insurance exchange Kynect, which was launched by former Gov. Steve Beshear, and move consumers to the federal exchange. He also wants to secure a federal waiver to develop a new Medicaid system for Kentucky.

Yetter says closing a state exchange is a complicated process that requires federal approval and a 12-month notice. Plus, Ellis says ending Kynect will cost some $23 million in database transfer and other technology expenses.

Bevin’s position on the state’s Medicaid expansion, which was also implemented by Beshear, evolved during the gubernatorial campaign. Yetter says the Republican started with a call to completely roll back the expansion. But after discussions with state Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), Yetter says Bevin softened his stance on the issue. Ellis says Stivers likely intervened because many of the people who were added to the Medicaid rolls live in Republican districts in eastern Kentucky.

Now, Bevin touts the Indiana model for Medicaid that requires beneficiaries to make small premium payments and charges modest copays for certain services. Yetter says that since the federal government caps Medicaid premiums, it’s possible that it would cost more money to collect and process the premiums than would be generated by charging them.

As for Medicaid copays, Ellis says some health care providers oppose those because if the patient fails to make that payment, the provider is stuck with the charge for the services.

4. Education Issues
Another priority for Bevin and Republicans will be some form of school choice. Jack Brammer says Bevin named Louisville businessman Hal Heiner, one of his opponents in last year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, to be secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet because of Heiner’s advocacy for charter schools.

Ronnie Ellis says House Democrats may be open to allowing a pilot project of charter schools. But he says Democrats, as long as they maintain control of the House, will fight vouchers because they oppose allowing public funds to go to private schools.

5. Old Favorites Will Be Revived Once More
The journalists expect a number of other bills that have failed in recent years to come up again this session. There’s the local option sales tax (also known as LIFT), which would allow communities to vote on a time-limited increase in the local sales tax to fund a specific construction project. Although taxes are generally opposed, the LIFT idea has the support of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky League of Cities, and the Kentucky Association of Counties.

Enacting LIFT would take a constitutional amendment. Brammer says that Bevin has pledged not to oppose the idea, but he says the governor won’t advocate for it either.

Bevin also says he wants to eliminate the inheritance tax and the inventory tax, but Brammer says the governor will likely delay any further tax overhauls until later.

Before he left office, former Gov. Beshear issued an executive order to restore voting rights to certain felons who had completed their sentences. Gov. Bevin rescinded that order, saying the matter should be decided by the legislature. Voting rights restoration has had bipartisan support, but Brammer says Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) helped kill a restoration bill in the last legislative session.

And the fates of two other Republican favorites will hinge on whether Democrats maintain control of the state House. Ronnie Ellis says right to work legislation and an effort to move the election dates for statewide constitutional offices to presidential election years will sail out of the Republican-controlled Senate, but will once again die in the lower chamber as long as Democrats hold the majority there.

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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Season 42 Episodes

October 28, 2016

S42 E52 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/28/16

October 21, 2016

S42 E51 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 10/21/16

October 14, 2016

S42 E50 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/14/16

October 7, 2016

S42 E49 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 10/07/16

September 30, 2016

S42 E48 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 09/30/16

September 23, 2016

S42 E47 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 09/23/16

September 16, 2016

S42 E46 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 09/15/16

September 9, 2016

S42 E45 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 09/09/16

September 2, 2016

S42 E44 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 09/02/16

August 26, 2016

S42 E43 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 08/26/16

August 19, 2016

S42 E42 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 08/19/16

August 12, 2016

S42 E41 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 08/12/16

August 5, 2016

S42 E40 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 08/05/16

July 29, 2016

S42 E39 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 07/29/16

July 22, 2016

S42 E38 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 07/22/16

July 15, 2016

S42 E37 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 07/15/16

July 8, 2016

S42 E36 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 07/07/16

July 1, 2016

S42 E35 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 07/01/16

June 24, 2016

S42 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 06/24/16

June 17, 2016

S42 E33 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 06/17/16

June 10, 2016

S42 E32 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 06/10/16

June 3, 2016

S42 E31 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 06/03/16

May 27, 2016

S42 E30 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 05/27/16

May 20, 2016

S42 E29 Length 26:53 Premiere Date 05/20/16

May 13, 2016

S42 E28 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 05/13/16

May 6, 2016

S42 E27 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 05/06/16

April 29, 2016

S42 E26 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 04/29/16

April 22, 2016

S42 E25 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 04/22/16

April 15, 2016

S42 E24 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 04/15/16

April 8, 2016

S42 E23 Length 26:39 Premiere Date 04/07/16

April 1, 2016

S42 E22 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 03/31/16

March 25, 2016

S42 E21 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 03/25/16

March 18, 2016

S42 E20 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 03/18/16

March 11, 2016

S42 E19 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 03/11/16

March 4, 2016

S42 E18 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 03/04/16

February 26, 2016

S42 E17 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 02/26/16

February 19, 2016

S42 E16 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 02/19/16

February 12, 2016

S42 E15 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 02/12/16

February 5, 2016

S42 E14 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 02/05/16

January 29, 2016

S42 E13 Length 26:35 Premiere Date 01/29/16

January 22, 2016

S42 E12 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 01/22/16

January 15, 2016

S42 E11 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 01/15/16

January 8, 2016

S42 E10 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 01/08/16

January 1, 2016

S42 E9 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 01/01/16

December 18, 2015

S42 E7 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 12/18/15

December 11, 2015

S42 E6 Length 26:35 Premiere Date 12/11/15

December 4, 2015

S42 E5 Length 24:51 Premiere Date 12/04/15

November 27, 2015

S42 E4 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 11/27/15

November 20, 2015

S42 E3 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 11/20/15

November 13, 2015

S42 E2 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 11/13/15

November 6, 2015

S42 E1 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 11/06/15

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