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March 18, 2016

March 18, 2016

Ryland Barton from Kentucky Public Radio, John Cheves from the Lexington Herald-Leader, and Kevin Wheatley of cn|2 join host Bill Bryant to discuss the House version of the state budget, pension transparency, felony expungement, and other news.
S42 E20 Length 26:33 Premiere: 3.18.16

News of the Week: March 18, 2016

It took just over half of the working days available in this legislative session, but the Kentucky House finally passed a $21 billion state budget last week. The spending plan restores some of the cuts proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin, including funding for education.

The journalists on Comment on Kentucky discussed the details of the House budget, and the work that remains ahead for lawmakers in the final weeks of the session.

Budget Process Moves to the Senate
The House budget keeps many of the spending reductions requested by the governor. But John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader says House Democrats reversed Bevin’s cuts to higher education and K-12 extended services, and funded the actuarially required contributions to both the teacher and state employee retirement systems. To pay for those items, Cheves says, Democrats propose tapping more than $500 million that Bevin wanted to hold in reserve for future pension payments.

Cheves reports that Democrats argued they could not allow that money to sit idle while forcing yet another round of cuts to public education. The governor, on the other hand, took a more conservative approach. Cheves says Bevin contends that revenue projections for the coming biennium are too optimistic, so the state needs to set aside money now to help meet pension obligations in the future.

The Senate is expected to vote on its spending plan Tuesday or Wednesday. Cheves says lawmakers will then go into conference committee to hash out a compromise spending plan, which the leadership hopes to complete by next week – even if that means working over Easter weekend.

Cheves says the “wild card” in the process is Bevin, who has said he wouldn’t sign a budget that was substantially different from the one he proposed in January. If the governor does veto the budget, Cheves says lawmakers may be forced to go into special session to craft a spending plan on which all parties can agree.

Other Legislative News
The House is considering measures that would bring more transparency to the state’s pension systems. Cheves says Senate Bill 2 would require the retirement plans to select investment managers through an open bidding process. The measure also calls for a public website detailing the finances and management of the legislative and judicial branch retirement systems. A separate Senate bill that’s also before the House would mandate public disclosure of what individual lawmakers are slated to earn in pension payments.

Cheves says legislative and judicial pensions are 85 percent funded. In comparison the Kentucky Employees Retirement System has a funding level of about 17 percent.

The effort to clear the records of certain non-violent felons who have completed their sentences took a new turn last week. Instead of expunging a felon’s record, Ryland Barton of WFPL Radio in Louisville says Senate Republicans have proposed the idea of vacating the original judgment. Barton says individuals who committed low-level Class D felonies and have served their sentences could go back before a judge to have their case reopened and the original conviction vacated. Barton says that way the original judgment would no longer exist, whereas the expungement process simply attempts to hide the judgment from the public record.

The House passed a separate measure last week to reclassify some felonies as misdemeanors. John Cheves says some non-violent, non-sexual felonies would be considered “gross misdemeanors” under the proposal. A conviction could still carry a sentence of up to two years in jail, according to Cheves, but the perpetrator would be spared the lifelong loss of some rights resulting from a felony conviction.

The House also approved a plan to give state high school graduates free tuition to Kentucky’s community colleges. Kevin Wheatley of cn|2 says House Bill 626 includes an amendment from House Minority Whip Jim DeCesare (R-Bowling Green) to create a Workforce Investment Fund Advisory Board to oversee money that Gov. Bevin wants to allocate for job training initiatives in the commonwealth.

The House passed bills to require the state to maintain the health care reforms instituted by former Gov. Steve Beshear. Wheatley says the measures are a direct response to Bevin’s plan to dismantle the Kynect health insurance exchange and scale back Medicaid expansion.

And the Senate voted to end state safety inspections of coal mines. Cheves says Senate Republicans argue the inspections duplicate reviews conducted by federal regulators. Instead of performing up to six inspections of underground mines a year, state officials would work cooperatively with coal companies on mine safety analysis and modifying dangerous behaviors. Cheves reports that House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) says the legislation will not pass his chamber.

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.

Program Details

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 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 10.7.16

September 30, 2016

S42 E48 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 9.30.16

September 23, 2016

S42 E47 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 9.23.16

September 16, 2016

S42 E46 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 9.15.16

September 9, 2016

S42 E45 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 9.9.16

September 2, 2016

S42 E44 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 9.2.16

August 26, 2016

S42 E43 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 8.26.16

August 19, 2016

S42 E42 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 8.19.16

August 12, 2016

S42 E41 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 8.12.16

August 5, 2016

S42 E40 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 8.5.16

July 29, 2016

S42 E39 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 7.29.16

July 22, 2016

S42 E38 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 7.22.16

July 15, 2016

S42 E37 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 7.15.16

July 8, 2016

S42 E36 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 7.7.16

July 1, 2016

S42 E35 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 7.1.16

June 24, 2016

S42 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.24.16

June 17, 2016

S42 E33 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.17.16

June 10, 2016

S42 E32 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.10.16

June 3, 2016

S42 E31 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 6.3.16

May 27, 2016

S42 E30 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 5.27.16

May 20, 2016

S42 E29 Length 26:53 Premiere Date 5.20.16

May 13, 2016

S42 E28 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 5.13.16

May 6, 2016

S42 E27 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 5.6.16

April 29, 2016

S42 E26 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 4.29.16

April 22, 2016

S42 E25 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 4.22.16

April 15, 2016

S42 E24 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 4.15.16

April 8, 2016

S42 E23 Length 26:39 Premiere Date 4.7.16

April 1, 2016

S42 E22 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 3.31.16

March 25, 2016

S42 E21 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 3.25.16

March 18, 2016

S42 E20 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 3.18.16

March 11, 2016

S42 E19 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 3.11.16

March 4, 2016

S42 E18 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 3.4.16

February 26, 2016

S42 E17 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 2.26.16

February 19, 2016

S42 E16 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 2.19.16

February 12, 2016

S42 E15 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 2.12.16

February 5, 2016

S42 E14 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 2.5.16

January 29, 2016

S42 E13 Length 26:35 Premiere Date 1.29.16

January 22, 2016

S42 E12 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 1.22.16

January 15, 2016

S42 E11 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 1.15.16

January 8, 2016

S42 E10 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 1.8.16

January 1, 2016

S42 E9 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 1.1.16

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 12.4.15

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 11.6.15

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