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July 21, 2017

July 21, 2017

Bill Bryant and guest journalists discuss the week's news about healthcare issues in Washington and the commonwealth. Scheduled guests: Ryland Barton from Kentucky Public Radio; Ronnie Ellis from CNHI News Service; and Allison Ross from the Louisville Courier-Journal.
S43 E36 Length 26:32 Premiere: 7.24.17

News of the Week: July 21, 2017

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on whether to debate health care legislation that would either repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or just repeal it for now.

What remains unclear is which legislation Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might actually offer for a vote in the ongoing health care discussions.

The journalists on KET’s Comment on Kentucky discussed the unusual legislative strategy unfolding in Washington. They also explored important judicial rulings on abortion protests and legal fees for an embattled county clerk.

McConnell Prepares for Health Care Vote
Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service says a vote could come as early as Tuesday that would enable the Senate to continue debate on health care legislation. Majority Leader McConnell needs a bill to serve as a vehicle for that procedural vote, and Ellis believes he will offer the American Health Care Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed in May to repeal and replace Obamacare.

If McConnell is able to secure 51 votes, then the Senate can debate the legislation and make any amendments that lawmakers wish to propose. Ellis says that could even include substituting in the repeal-and-replace bill that McConnell has proposed but that has yet to garner enough votes for passage.

But winning that initial procedural vote isn’t guaranteed, says Ellis. Several senators, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, remain opposed to the replacement proposals offered so far. Still other senators are reluctant to vote on a measure that simply repeals the ACA out of concern that Medicaid beneficiaries in their states could be hurt. Ellis says McConnell is telling senators that if they vote against the procedural maneuver, they are effectively voting to keep Obamacare.

The majority leader is already down one crucial vote after the announcement that Sen. John McCain has brain cancer. The Arizona lawmaker had surgery last week to remove a blood clot when doctors discovered a brain tumor. Ellis says if McConnell doesn’t get the votes he needs this week to open debate, he could set the motion aside and call it back up once McCain returns to the Senate.

Judicial News
A federal judge issued a restraining order designed to keep anti-abortion protesters a safe distance away from the doors of the state’s last remaining abortion clinic.

Ryland Barton of Kentucky Public Radio says U.S. District Judge David Hale created a 15-foot by 7.5-foot buffer zone around the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in downtown Louisville. The move came ahead of a week-long protest at the clinic planned by a fundamentalist Christian group. Barton says Judge Hale will hold a hearing today to determine whether the buffer zone should be left in place permanently.

The state will have to pay attorneys’ expenses for the same-sex couples who sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for her refusal to grant them marriage licenses two years ago. Ellis says U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that Davis was simply acting in her official capacity as a county clerk. Since the state enforces regulations regarding marriages, Bunning said it should pay the $225,000 legal fees, not Davis.

The Kentucky General Assembly eventually rewrote the pertinent statues to say that county clerks do not have to personally sign marriage licenses, according to Ellis.

The U.S. Senate last week confirmed Louisville attorney John Bush to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Barton says Senate Democrats opposed Bush’s nomination because of blog posts he wrote years ago that questioned former President Barack Obama’s citizenship and equated abortion with slavery. Bush also cited alt-right conspiracy theories in his blog posts, says Barton.

Education Updates
The new Kentucky Charter Schools Advisory Council is scheduled to hold its first meeting on July 24. Allison Ross of the Louisville Courier-Journal says the group created by Gov. Matt Bevin will help the state Board of Education develop regulations to govern charter schools in the commonwealth.

The General Assembly approved legislation earlier this year to permit charter operations, and to give local school boards and other groups the authority to authorize charters to operate in their districts. Ross says the earliest charter schools could begin to operate in Kentucky would be the 2018-2019 school year.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt wants to update the state’s school accountability system to rate schools using one to five stars. Ross says Pruitt’s proposal would grade schools on metrics like student performance on state exams, chronic absenteeism, and access to advanced art and science courses. She says critics contend the plan doesn’t do enough to address problems like persistent achievement gaps among certain groups of students.

The star-rating system is designed to make it easy for parents to see how their child’s school is performing. Ross says other states use A – F grades as markers of school performance, which is a system favored by Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner.

Jefferson County’s new interim school superintendent says he wants the permanent job. Ross reports that Marty Pollio succeeded Donna Hargens, who resigned earlier this year. Pollio has served as principal at two Louisville high schools. Ross says Pollio wants to improve the climate and culture in Jefferson County schools, strengthen organizational coherence among the schools, and ensure that all teachers have the classroom resources they need.

Frankfort News
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission has dismissed complaints against Gov. Bevin concerning his purchase of a home from a political donor. Barton says Bevin purchased an eastern Jefferson County mansion from Neil Ramsey for a price substantially below its estimated valuation. Ramsey donated to Bevin’s political campaigns, and the governor later appointed him to a seat on the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Barton says the commission determined that even if Bevin bought the house for a $1 million discount, the transaction was not improper since Ramsey is not a lobbyist. However the commission advised that Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton should decide whether to reappoint Ramsey at the end of his board term. Ellis says that since Bevin is now, in effect, Ramsey’s supervisor, state ethics codes preclude any actions that could influence the supervising of another employee.

The commission also advised Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear against investigating Bevin if the Democrat is considering running against the Republican governor in a future political contest. Barton reports that the commission determined it would be a conflict of interest for Beshear to investigate a potential political rival.

The Ark Encounter attraction in northern Kentucky is at risk of losing $18 million in state tax incentives. Barton says the Ark Encounter property was recently transferred from a for-profit company to a non-profit organization. He says park officials failed to notify the state of the transfer, which was a violation of their tax incentive agreement. Barton says Ark Encounter officials have 30 days to remedy the situation.

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 43 Episodes

October 27, 2017

S43 E50 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 10.27.17

October 20, 2017

S43 E49 Length 26:35 Premiere Date 10.20.17

October 13, 2017

S43 E48 Length 26:44 Premiere Date 10.13.17

October 6, 2017

S43 E47 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 10.6.17

September 29, 2017

S43 E46 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 9.29.17

September 22, 2017

S43 E45 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 9.22.17

September 15, 2017

S43 E44 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 9.15.17

September 8, 2017

S43 E43 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 9.8.17

September 1, 2017

S43 E42 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 9.1.17

August 25, 2017

S43 E41 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 8.25.17

August 18, 2017

S43 E40 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 8.18.17

August 11, 2017

S43 E39 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 8.12.17

August 4, 2017

S43 E38 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 8.4.17

July 29, 2017

S43 E37 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 7.28.17

July 21, 2017

S43 E36 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 7.24.17

July 14, 2017

S43 E35 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 7.14.17

July 7, 2017

S43 E34 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 7.7.17

June 30, 2017

S43 E33 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 6.30.17

June 23, 2017

S43 E32 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.23.17

June 16, 2017

S43 E31 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 6.16.17

June 9, 2017

S43 E30 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 6.9.17

June 2, 2017

S43 E29 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 6.5.17

May 26, 2017

S43 E28 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 5.26.17

May 19, 2017

S43 E27 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 5.22.17

May 12, 2017

S43 E26 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 5.12.17

May 5, 2017

S43 E25 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 5.8.17

April 28, 2017

S43 E24 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 4.28.17

April 21, 2017

S43 E23 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 4.24.17

April 14, 2017

S43 E22 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 4.17.17

April 7, 2017

S43 E21 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 4.10.17

March 31, 2017

S43 E19 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 3.31.17

March 24, 2017

S43 E18 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 3.24.17

March 17, 2017

S43 E17 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 3.17.17

March 10, 2017

S43 E16 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 3.10.17

March 3, 2017

S43 E15 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 3.3.17

February 24. 2017

S43 E14 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 2.24.17

February 17, 2017

S43 E13 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 2.17.17

February 10, 2017

S43 E12 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 2.10.17

February 3, 2017

S43 E11 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 2.3.17

January 27, 2017

S43 E10 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 1.27.17

January 20, 2017

S43 E9 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 1.20.17

January 13, 2017

S43 E8 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 1.13.17

January 6, 2017

S43 E7 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 1.6.17

December 16, 2016

S43 E6 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 12.16.16

December 9, 2016

S43 E5 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 12.9.16

December 2, 2016

S43 E4 Length 24:46 Premiere Date 12.2.16

November 18, 2016

S43 E3 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 11.18.16

November 11, 2016

S43 E2 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 11.11.16

November 4, 2016

S43 E1 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 11.4.16

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