Thursday, March 31, 2016

Job Opportunity

Yard Sale Friday, Saturday

Multi-family yard sale. Clearing out to move. 601 North Maple St., Marion, Ky. Friday April 1st and Saturday the 2nd.

KU says 3,200 without juice

UPDATE: Electricity is restored in Marion and to most of the county. KU still shows an outage near Fredonia of about 950 customers.

According to the Kentucky Utilities power outage website there are approximately 3,300 Marion and Crittenden County customers without power at this time. The electricity apparently went off around 3:30am during a thunderstorm and is expected to be back on by 7am, according to the website.

Power outage delays school

A power outage in Marion has prompted school officials to delay the start of classes this morning for one hour.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This week's Crittenden Press

This week's newspaper is available now at newsstands.

This edition contains new information on a number of issues important to local residents such as Alcohol, US 641 and Healthcare.

  • Find out what stumbling blocks legal experts say awaits the fellow pushing for package sales in Marion.
  • See who's in Crittenden County's corner when it comes to fighting for US 641's completion.
  • Get a first-hand look at the state-of-the-art new imaging system at Crittenden Hospital. 
  • Crittenden Detention Center deputies will see a change in their pay.
  • And a local chess team is heading to the national finals.

All of this and more in this week's newspaper.

Child safety bill heading to governor’s office

A bill that would allow child day cares to receive prescriptions for EpiPen while also giving parents more time to legally surrender their newborn under the state’s safe harbor law has received final passage in the House.

The expanded safe harbor provisions were added to House Bill 148 by the Senate, which also retained the bill’s original provisions to allow day cares to receive prescriptions for EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector used to treat life-threatening allergies.

“This bill is for protection for our day cares. What we wanted to do is for the EpiPen to be available just in case there were to be an emergency situation,” said HB 148 sponsor Rep. Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville.

As for the safe harbor provisions, HB 148 would amend Kentucky’s Safe Infants Act by giving parents up to 30 days instead of the current three to legally give up their newborn at a state-approved safe place if the parent feels they cannot keep the child. Safe places include fire stations, hospitals, police stations and EMS personnel; places of worship would be added to the list under HB 148.

A bill with similar safe-harbor provisions passed the House by a vote of 92-0 in January. That bill, HB 97, was sponsored by House Health and Welfare Chair Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville.

Kentucky’s Safe Infants Act was named in honor of Burch when it was passed in 2002.

HB 148 as amended passed the House by a vote of 99-0 and now goes to the governor for his signature.

Booking photo bill receives final passage

Websites or publications that use jail booking photographs for profit could face stiff court-ordered damages under a bill that is on its way to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 132, sponsored by Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, was granted final passage by a 99-0 vote today in the House. The bill would make it illegal to post booking photos to a web site or include them in a publication, then require payment to remove the photos from public view, Watkins said.

Violators could be civilly prosecuted in state circuit court and be required to pay damages starting at $100 a day for each separate violation along with attorney fees, per the bill.

Language was added to the final bill that would allow those jailed on misdemeanor offenses to receive sentencing credit for earning a GED, a high school diploma, or for good behavior while incarcerated. Those provisions were part of a Senate amendment sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, that was approved by the Senate and agreed to by the House.

The Senate approved HB 132 as amended unanimously on March 24.

Tractor fire has 120 closed

A large tractor fire has Ky. 120 closed near the intersection of Sugar Grove Road in rural Crittenden County.

The tractor, pulling a fertilizer spreader, was on the highway shortly before 9:30am when it burst into flames. It was fully engulfed and destroyed by the time firefighters arrived.

The roadway will likely be closed for a bit as removal of the rig takes place.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Job Opening

CHS hosts annual meeting today

Crittenden Health Systems will host its annual meeting at noon today on the hospital campus inside its education and training annex.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Support Sought for Child

Unity General Baptist Church in Crayne is hosting a benefit singing Saturday to raise money for an a child born with series health problems.

All proceeds will go to the Nathan and Amanda Lynch family. The couple’s child was born earlier this year with life-threatening medical issues. The baby, Kyder, has not been out of Louisville’s Kosairs Hospital since birth on Jan. 28.

The child is the granddaughter of the late Buddy Hix, who was a pastor at the Crayne church.

The singing will feature JR Deason of Salem and Mission of Love from Elkton. It begins at 5 p.m.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Petitioner says signatures will put alcohol back on the ballot in Marion

According to the Grow Marion Facebook page, petitioner Tyler Collins has enough signatures to place a local option election for package alcohol sales on the ballot in Marion Precinct No. 1, where voters on Tuesday voted 84-61 in favor of approving liquor by the drink in Marion. These voters poll at the courthouse. The citywide measure failed, however, when votes from all five city precincts were counted. The following is a portion of what Collins posted today:

"Unless I have talked to your prior to this post.... the petition portion of this campaign is now closed with more than double the signatures required to put it back on the ballot. This election is not going to be a city wide election, but will instead just be precinct (C101A). These are the people who vote at the Courthouse only. The only thing that this precinct controls is FIVESTAR. If (C101A) gives me another YES vote like they did on Tuesday.... then Fivestar will be able to sell. This election will also cost significantly less than the last election on Tuesday because instead of 5 precincts... it will only be one precinct voting. I will be turning in the petition very soon and when I do, the Judge Executive will then have 30 days to set an election date that is no greater than 90 days and no less than 60 days."

Collins has reportedly requested use of the courthouse lawn Saturday, but for what or at what time is uncertain. However, a post on social media from a local resident has asked all who oppose alcohol being sold locally to gather across from the courthouse at noon Saturday.

Mobile home in Dycusburg on fire

A mobile home near the intersection of Ky. 70 and Ky. 902 in Crittenden County is reportedly on fire and fully engulfed. This is near Dycusburg Cemetery. There is no word if anyone is injured.

Collins tells WPSD taxpayers will pay again

Alcohol Advocate Tyler Collins says he doesn't care what it costs taxpayers, he plans to petition another vote like the one this week that failed, but cost taxpayers $10,000.

Collins has scheduled a demonstration for the Crittenden County Courthouse lawn Saturday morning.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Area Deaths

Barbara Jean Whitt Dixon, 79, of Lexington, Ky., formerly of Salem, died Tuesday. Gilbert Funeral Home in Marion is in charge of arrangements.

Pat Conger, 67, of Marion died Tuesday. Gilbert Funeral Home in Marion is in charge of arrangements.

Edna Lee Johnson, 70, of Marion died Wednesday. Gilbert Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Bill to crack down on habitual DUI offenders returns to Senate

Today is Day 55 of the 60-day
legislative session in Frankfort.
A bill that could increase felony convictions for DUI in Kentucky by allowing the courts to “look back” at 10 years of prior convictions instead of five years has cleared the House.

Kentucky law requires those convicted of a fourth offense DUI within five years to be charged with a felony. The clock for determining penalties for offenders is reset after five years under current law. Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, would extend that so-called “look-back” period to 10 years to allow more habitual offenders to face stiffer penalties like felony charges.

The bill was amended by the House to fix what the bill’s House floor sponsor Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, called a technical error, then was passed by the House unanimously 98-0. The measure now returns to the Senate, where it had passed in January on a 35-1 vote, for that chamber to consider the change made to the bill by the House. Because SB 56 contains an emergency clause, it would take effect immediately if it becomes law.

Flood said 31 states currently have a DUI look-back period of at least 10 years. Four states, she said, have a lifetime look-back period for DUI.

The bill was filed by Parrett in honor of Elizabethtown High School graduate Brianna Taylor who was killed by a drunk driver in 2014 at age 17. Members of the House casting their votes on the bill spoke of how DUI has also impacted their lives, naming friends or family they know who have been injured or killed by drunk drivers.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said the timing of the debate on SB 56 coincided with the moment one year ago when his friend, Lexington attorney Mark Hinkel, 57, was hit and killed by an alleged drunk driver as Hinkel participated in a Central Kentucky bike race.

Hinkel’s alleged killer had up to nine previous DUI offenses—most occurring in the five years before Hinkel’s death, according to news reports on the case.

“Mark Hinkel was my friend, so I use him as an example. But there are many, many Mark Hinkels out there,” said Benvenuti. “They’re your friends, they’re your neighbors, they’re your family members.

Job Opening

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Senate approves its version of budget

The Senate passed a state budget proposal Wednesday by a vote of 27-2, with nine Democrats, including Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, voting "pass." The budget restores many of the governor’s priorities for the next two years, including a “permanent fund” for future pension spending, cuts to secondary education funding and performance-based appropriations for college and universities. Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, was one of nine senators who abstained from voting.

All in all, the Senate budget bill includes many of the cuts featured in the Gov. Matt Bevin’s January budget proposal, many of which didn’t survive the House budget plan passed last week.

Still, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, the Senate budget committee’s chairman, said it was a balanced effort. Not all the governor’s cuts were preserved.

“The thing I’d say I’m most proud of is that this budget is structurally balanced,” he said. “We do adopt many of the governor’s recommendations for the budget stabilization plan throughout the course of this bill, but we take monstrous steps – historic steps – on maintaining stability and introducing responsibility in addressing the most pressing problem facing us.”

That, he said, is the state pension program challenge, which has unfunded liabilities of more than $31 billion. To start reducing that figure, the Senate budget reinstituted many the governor’s cuts, including a 9 percent reduction in funding for Kentucky colleges and universities.

The budget also resuscitated the governor’s proposal to switch that funding to a performance-based model, with a quarter of the state funding to be based on student retention, graduation rates and other metrics.

The Senate removed from the spending plan a proposal from the House to establish a Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship program, which would make tuition free for high school graduates who enroll in the state's community colleges. The House budget funded scholarships to the tune of $13 million for the 2017 fiscal year and almost $20 million the following year.

That was cut from the Senate budget, along with funding earmarked for specific projects like school renovations, the Lexington Convention Center and help for areas hit hard by a drop in the coal industry.

The Senate budget passed with only two dissenting votes, while nine Senators passed on the bill.

Sen. Denise Harper-Angel, D-Louisville, said she had reservations about cuts made by the budget, including $1.5 million to Court Appointed Children’s Advocates (CASA) programs, $15 million that was to renovate the Kentucky School for the Blind and $1 million a year to promote breast and cervical cancer screening for women.

“I believe these cuts will adversely affect women, children, families and the disabled. For these reasons and more, I pass,” said Harper-Angel, before offering that she hopes the final budget will offer “better choices.”

Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, one of two dissenting votes, admitted he was torn. He likes the effort to control the pension problem, but was disappointed in the removal of aide for stricken coal-producing areas.

“I cannot go home this weekend without casting a vote to help bring some reasoning back into this discussion,” he said.

The proposed budget did, however, include some spending not in the House budget, including $32 million in Justice Cabinet funding to fight heroin abuse – the House had reduced it to $20 million – and setting aside $250 million in the “permanent fund” for future pension fund payments. Gov. Bevin’s budget wanted the fund to include $500 million, while the House budget proposed using that money immediately on other expenditures.

The budget is soon expected to land in a conference committee so that Senate and House members can iron out their differences in each of their preferred spending plans.

Kentucky House Pulls US 641 Funding

Crittenden County Judge-Executive Perry Newcom says partisan politics are to blame for the Kentucky House of Representatives pulling money for construction of the new U.S. 641 highway between Marion and Fredonia from the current funding cycle. A story on the front of this week's issue of The Crittenden Press contains errors based on outdated information.

Newcom has been working his contacts in Frankfort today and is mobilizing local leaders who may return to Frankfort as they did this past winter to re-emphisize the economic consequences of not getting the road finished as soon as possible.

The U.S. 641 improvement project was started four years ago, but virtually no work has been done in more than a year.

Gov. Matt Bevin had included in his budget proposal released earlier this year $54 million to finish the highway through Crittenden, Caldwell and Lyon counties. The House pulled it out yesterday.

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, voted against the transportation proposal, House Bill 305. He Wednesday afternoon that Democratic leadership in the lower chamber and its transportation committee has successfully pulled the vast majority of the funding needed for the project. However, he remains optimistic that the Senate will get the plan back on track in the coming days.

If the Senate and House transportation budgets end up at odds later in this legislative session – which local leaders are hoping for – a conference committee will help decide the fate of the highway.

The Transportation Cabinet had announced in January that bids would be let in May on completing the Crittenden County portion. If funding is not reinstated by the Senate, it appears the grass road bed south of Marion will go untouched until 2019, according to the House version of the transportation plan.

Fatal crash detouring traffic on US 62

A fatal automobile accident on US 62 between Eddyville and Princeton will have traffic detoured for about four hours.

No other information was immediately available. An accident reconstruction team will be on site to work the scene.

Most local offices closed Good Friday

City, courthouse and state offices will be closed Friday in observance of Good Friday, as will Crittenden County Senior Citizens Center and The Crittenden Press. Courthouse offices will also be closed Saturday. Meantime, the public library and Extension service will be open Friday, as will all federal offices, including the postal service.

Bingo This Thursday !


Click Image to Enlarge

What's news this week in Crittenden County...

The pursuit to allow legal alcohol sales in Crittenden County for the first time in 80 years turned out to be another dry run. A ballot measure to allow liquor by the drink at Marion restaurants was comfortably defeated Tuesday by a 298-245 margin. It was second failed attempt to legalize alcohol in the county in 16 years. However, it may not be the last run at in 2016.

For more on our lead story and the following headlines, pick up a copy of this week' issue of The Crittenden Press:
  • Sen. Rand Paul visits, says D.C. is "broken."
  • House road plan keeps 641 funds; Senate vote next up.
  • Local man indicted for sending child pornography from phone.
  • Nike running away from Marion store.
  • Local pre-school screenings nearing.
  • City of Marion to pay off fire station loan.
  • City properties could soon see changes.
  • City represented on Ky. team aimed at managing lead in water systems.
  • Frances native earns Indiana Guard’s distinguished medal.
  • New Ky. Commissioner of Education visits Crittenden schools last week.
  • Barrel racer competing at championship.
  • Students invited to enter ag art contest.
  • Spring to see boom in shelter population.
  • Marion native tapped for fed appeals court.
  • Teen accepted into elite UK med program.
  • SPORTS: Track and field results.
  • SPORTS: Diamond results.
  • SPORTS: Basketball banquets hand out awards.
  • EDITORIAL: Pet overpopulation result of cruel, poor ownership practice.
  • OPINION: Perhaps dodos don’t deserve free education.
  • LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: House GOP passes on budget vote.
  • LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: House delivers budget to Senate.
  • FORGOTTEN PASSAGES: Weston a busy river town in late 1800s.
  • After Hours Extension Homemakers learn about Panama.
  • City recognizes Gipson for 25 years of service.

Senate committee approves open records measure

A bill aimed at increasing governmental transparency passed favorably out of the Senate Committee on State and Local Government on Tuesday.

House Bill 80, which has already gotten two readings before the full Senate, narrows open records exemptions for private firms providing public services. The bill would require entities offering services traditionally performed by government agencies and receiving at least a quarter of their revenue from taxpayers adhere to the same open records laws as their government counterparts.

Sponsor Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, was joined by Kentucky Press Association Executive Director David Thompson testifying in support of HB80. According to Harris, the genesis of the bill was a much-litigated case from his home county.

Utility Management Group, based in Pikeville, operates water and sewer services for the publicly owned Mountain Water District in Pike County. Its revenue is derived from public funds. In 2011, after critical state audit of the water district, local fiscal court officials and media members filed open records requests to review how taxpayer money was being spent to manage the district. UMG denied the requests, leading to a protracted court battle.

The State Court of Appeals ultimately ruled last summer that the company was required to follow Kentucky open records laws.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown – who serves on the committee – indicated the Senate will likely move quickly to pass the bill. HB80 passed the House by a 92-0 vote on Feb. 1.

Senate approves REAL ID legislation

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would bring Kentucky’s state ID program into compliance with a federal standard that has a fast-approaching deadline. Senate Bill 245, passed by a 26-12 vote, would make REAL ID-compliant state-issued identification available to Kentuckians.

REAL ID is a federal program adopted in 2005 that would come close to establishing a national proof-of-identity program. The Homeland Security program set minimum standards for new, voluntary “enhanced” photo ID cards to include more personal information and anti-counterfeit facets. Participating states are also required to store photos and information, where it could be accessed by law enforcement or other governmental agencies with the proper authorization.

So far, only 23 states have complied with the act, and enforcement has been delayed. Kentucky is one of 27 states to receive an extension as it works to gain compliance.

Initially, the security provisions of REAL ID were to take effect in January. Though access to high-security facilities like military bases and nuclear power plants has already been limited to those without the new ID, other restrictions are still a few years away.

By 2018, flyers from states that are not REAL ID compliant nor have an extension – or those individuals who do not choose to obtain an enhanced ID – will need a second form of identification to fly domestically. By 2020, all flyers will require enhanced identification.

Sponsor Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, reviewed the provisions of SB 245, though he said he felt it was hardly needed for a bill that was so well-hashed.

“This is a bill that’s been out there. It’s been discussed for a while,” he said.

Aside from adding the new IDs, SB 245 would also set new procedures for issuing licenses, reaffirming the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as the issuing body, and would change renewal periods. Kentuckians would only have to renew their licenses every eight years, instead of the current four-year requirement.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, lodged one of the votes against SB 245, calling it “a reach.”

“It’s not exactly protecting my security,” she said, but the federal requirement of enhanced IDs “certainly will adversely affect my right to travel, so I vote no.”

The bill is now on its way for consideration in the House.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Alcohol referendum fails by 53 votes

Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink in Marion at restaurants and dining facilities with a seating capacity of at least 50 persons and which derive at least 70 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of food if the alcoholic beverage is purchased in conjunction with a meal?

PRECINCT                                                                    YES           NO
Crittenden County Courthouse (No. 1)      84         61
Emmanuel Baptist Church (No. 2)             40        68
Marion Baptist Church (No. 3)                  58        91
Marion Ed-Tech Center (No. 4)                 41         44
St. William Catholic Church (No. 6)          15         13
Absentee                                                  7           21
TOTAL                                                    245        298

See this week's issue of The Crittenden Press when it hits the streets tomorrow for details on the election.

Option election results online tonight

The polls for the alcohol referendum inside the City of Marion are now open. They will remain open until 6 p.m. tonight. If you unsure where you vote, contact Crittenden County Clerk Carolyn Byford's office at (270) 965-3403.

Election results will be posted here by 7 p.m. after polls have closed and votes tallied.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Anti-dog fighting bill clears House

Kentucky would become the 50th state to make it a felony to possess, breed, sell or otherwise handle dogs for the purpose of dog fighting under a bill that has cleared the state House.

House Bill 428, sponsored by Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, would define dog fighting in statute as the fighting of two or more dogs for sport, wagering or entertainment and allow those who intentionally own, possess, breed, train, sell or transfer dogs for dog fighting to be charged with first-degree cruelty to animals, a Class D felony.

Dog fighting is already illegal in Kentucky yet is often hard to prosecute under current law. Law enforcement often has to catch a fight in progress to make an arrest the way the law is written, supporters of HB 428 say.

“This bill provides language that makes it easier for law enforcement and the courts to apprehend and prosecute those involved in this shameful practice,” said Stone. “It is a giant step forward in our attempt to remove the scourge of dog fighting from the Commonwealth.”

The legislation would not apply to hunting dogs, dogs that guard livestock, service dogs or companion dogs, said Stone.

The bill passed the House 97-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Similar legislation was approved by the Senate and delivered to the House last month.

Parental rights bill clears hurdle in House

The Kentucky House voted 97-0 today to expand the circumstances under which parental rights may be involuntarily terminated.

House Bill 129, sponsored by Rep. Ron Crimm, R-Louisville, would expand legal grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights to include instances where a parent caused, attempted to cause, or was complicit in the death or serious physical injury of a child or that child’s parent, stepparent, de facto custodian or guardian.

Crimm sponsored similar legislation in 2015. That bill, HB 42, passed the House 98-0 but stalled in the Senate late in the 2015 legislative session.

“This is … a bill that the court system wants—a bill that could save a (child’s) life,” said Crimm.

HB 129 now goes to the Senate for consideration.


Click Image to Enlarge

Community Christmas classes starting

Almost $14,400 was raised last year to help provide toys to 83 underprivileged children in Crittenden County who participated in Community Christmas.

While the annual charity helped dozens of families have a happier holiday, the number participating in Community Christmas was down dramatically from years past. The need is still there, but organizers say the new three-class requirement to allow children to have their wish lists placed on Christmas Angel Trees appears to be weeding out some families. There are no plans to change the mandates.

"We're going to keep doing that," Crittenden County Interagency Council President Cheryl Burks said at a recent meeting of the group. "Three hours out of your time over several months so your kid's going to get what they want for Christmas, I don't think that's too much,” she said.

Each of the three required classes offered now through October is an hour long. Classes begin March 30 and several have already been slated for April. Parents may take any three courses, all of which are designed to empower, enrich or educate during the eight months classes are offered.

Pre-registration, required to attend, can be completed by calling Crittenden County Extension Service at (270) 965-5236.

Community Christmas also offers food at the holidays for senior citizens, but they are not required to take any classes to participate in that function.

Following are credit classes offered in March and April:
  • MyPlate/Nutrition Presentation: Learn valuable information regarding MyPlate and other nutritional topics. Presenter is Ali Perryman of Pennyrile Health Department. Class is 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. March 30 at Crittenden County Health Department. Pre-register by  Wednesday.
  • Crocheting 101: A beginner class for those interested in learning to crochet. Presenter will be Becky Zahrte. Dates will be April 6 and 20 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Extension office. Pre-register a week before class. 
  • The Dangers of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs: Learn about the most recent research on the dangers of drugs and how to talk to youth about these dangers. Presenter will be Chris Sparks of Pennyroyal Mental Health. Date will be April 14 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Extension office. Pre-register by April 7. 
  • Planning Meals for Everybody: Learn important meal planning information for the whole family. Presenter will be Sue Parrent of the Extension Service. Date will be April 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Extension office. Pre-register by April 11.
  • Dealing with Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault: Get answers and find resources for domestic violence and sexual assault. Presenter will be Felisha Babb, a victim advocate. Date will be April 19 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Department for Community Based Services office. Pre-register by April 12. Pizza will be provided.
  • Stress Management & Coping Skills: This interactive program will help you learn how to manage stress. Presenter will be Lori Robertson of DCBS. Date will be April 20 from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Extension office. Pre-register by April 13.
  • Gardening 101: Participants will utilize hands on learning and idea sharing to grow their knowledge of home gardens. Presenter will be Dee Brasher of the Extension Service. Date will be April 26 at 4 p.m. at the Extension office. Pre-register by April 19.

Extension series offers hands-on gardening

Home gardeners and those interested in learning more about gardening are invited to attend a new series presented by the Crittenden County Cooperative Extension Service.

“This series will be for anybody whether they are experienced or new to gardening,” said Dee Brasher, Extension Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources.

Meetings will be held on the fourth Tuesday of each month through July starting Tuesday, and each will begin at 4 p.m. at the Extension Service office on U.S. 60 East just outside of Marion. The first session's topic will be soil testing and preparing for the gardening year.

The sessions will follow what is happening in the gardens at that time. Future topics will include guest speakers on scouting for disease and insects and how to treat for various issues, what to plant, when to plant and harvesting practices. Future meetings are scheduled for April 26, May 24, June 28 and July 26.

Participants will have the chance to be hands-on with a small demonstration garden at the Extension office. Part of the program will be raising vegetables and at the end of the season, participants will harvest, prepare and cook the fruits of their labor.

To monitor the demonstration garden, a walk-through will be held every Friday at 8:30 a.m.

For more information, call Crittenden County Extension Service at (270) 965-5236 or email Dee Brasher at

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Questions about Tuesday's alcohol vote answered

It’s been more than 15 years since voters in Crittenden County expressed their opinion on alcohol sales at the ballot box. In two days, about a third of the county’s residents will again get that opportunity.

On Tuesday, a special election will be held to decide the fate of alcohol by the drink in Marion restaurants seating 50 or more people. Since the referendum asks to legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages only in the City of Marion, polling will be restricted to the 2,172 eligible voters living inside the city limits.

If the measure passes, it would be the first time since voters elected to go dry in 1936 that the purchase of alcohol would be permitted in Crittenden County. In that election, residents chose by a resounding 1,705 to 398 margin to go dry. In 2000, a referendum calling for countywide by-the-drink sales in restaurants failed 1,622 to 2,314.

A majority yes vote Tuesday would also move the county from one of Kentucky’s 30 “dries” to the 50 currently considered moist, which means only select precincts permit the sale of alcohol. Voters in Adair County face the same decision Tuesday.

Registered voters inside the City of Marion only. Voters must have been registered by Feb. 23. If you are uncertain of your eligibility, contact County Clerk Carolyn Byford’s office at (270) 965-3400.

The second alcohol option election in the county since 2000. The ballot question reads: “Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink in Marion at restaurants and dining facilities with a seating capacity of at least 50 persons and which derive at least 70 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of food if the alcoholic beverage is purchased in conjunction with a meal?”

Polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday. Absentee balloting in Byford’s office ends at 4:30 p.m.

At the City of Marion’s five precinct polling locations. Voters unsure of whether they vote at the courthouse, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Marion Baptist Church, St. William Catholic Church or the Ed-Tech Center may contact Byford’s office.

Supporters want alcohol sales legal or the first time since 1936. Crittenden County is one of 30 counties in Kentucky where all alcohol sales are forbidden. Voters in Adair County, another of the 30 dry counties, also head to the polls Tuesday to consider allowing the limited sale of alcohol.

The balloting will be conducted like a typical state-run election. Voters will simply mark Yes or No on their ballot, and machines will tally the votes. offers online registration

All Kentuckians are now able to register to vote using the Commonwealth’s online voter registration portal at, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Monday.

“Kentucky made history today,” Grimes said. “This is an amazing milestone for the Commonwealth. We’ve allowed paper to be taken out of the process. Every eligible Kentuckian may now go online to register to vote or update their registration with ease and speed.”, can be used for new voter registrations or to update a current voter’s records, including party affiliation. It can be accessed via computer or smartphone.

To register or update a record, a person must enter their name, Social Security number and birth date. As required by law, users must also provide their signature, digitally or via their driver’s license. The registrant’s information is sent to their county clerk’s office, which will process and approve each update or new registration and then send confirmation to the voter.

The May 17 primary will be the first election for which new voters in Kentucky will be able to register online. They have until April 18 to complete the registration process and still be able to vote in the election.

While allows voters to change their party registration, it is too late to change political parties for the May primary. Voters must have been registered as either a Democrat or Republican by Dec. 31, 2015, to cast a ballot.

Locally, both parties will vote in May in races for Congress and the U.S. Senate. Only Democrats will be able to select a presidential nominee, as the GOP Caucus has already taken place.

Conservation district tree seedlings free Monday

Free tree seedlings will be offered to the public from 10 a.m. until noon, Monday in front of the Crittenden County Conservation District office located at 118 E. Bellville St. in Marion.

This year’s offerings include pecan, northern red, willow oak, bald cypress, persimmon and cherrybark oak. The willow oak, bald cypress and pecan seedlings were purchased by the Crittenden County Conservation District. The Kentucky Division of Forestry matched this purchase with the persimmon, northern red oak and cherrybark oak.

The conservation district encourages persons throughout Crittenden County only, urban and rural, to take advantage of this opportunity. However, quantities will be limited per person.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Abuse-deterrent opioid drug bill moves to Senate

Kentucky health insurers would be required to have abuse-deterrent opioid painkillers in their formulary under a bill that passed the state House today.

House Bill 330, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, is designed to encourage the prescribing and use of “abuse-deterrent” opioid analgesic drugs which Wuchner said cannot be crushed, snorted or injected by drug abusers as readily as other opioids can.

Opioid analgesic drugs include painkilling drugs like hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone.

“We know the heroin epidemic that we have, and we know we don’t begin by sticking a needle in our arm and injecting heroin. It often begins with the opioid medication that you find in the (medicine) cabinet,” said Wuchner, a registered nurse.

Approved by the FDA, Wuchner said abuse-deterrent opioids, or ADOs, would not be able to be substituted with another opioid if an ADO is what is prescribed. The ADO would also have to be covered by health insurance companies if prescribed.

Health insurers would be required under HB 330 to have one ADO in their formulary but would be encouraged to have two per an amendment to the bill approved by the House.

HB 330 passed the House 94-1 and now awaits the Senate’s consideration.

EMS death benefits bill goes to governor

A bill that would give families of emergency medical services personnel killed in the line of duty the same $80,000 state death benefit now provided to families of fallen police and firefighters is on its way to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 43, sponsored by Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, was filed following the death of Jessamine County paramedic John Mackey last November. Mackey was struck by a car while on ambulance duty.

The bill would provide an $80,000 death benefit to families of paramedics, emergency medical technicians, rescue squad members or any other emergency medical services personnel who are killed on the job on or after Nov. 1, 2015.

Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville, presented SB 43 on the House floor for a vote. Surrounded by Mackey’s family and colleagues, Meyer the retroactive provision in the bill will allow Mackey’s family to be covered.

“On behalf of the John Mackey family … and Jessamine County, we thank everyone here in this body today,” said Meyer.

SB 43, which passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 24, is similar to House Bill 54, sponsored by Rep. Dean Schamore, D-Hardinsburg, which passed the House unanimously earlier this session.

SB 43 passed the House 95-0 and now makes its way to the governor for his signature.

Community college scholarship bill clears House hurdle

Recent Kentucky high school graduates would receive two years of free tuition at a state community college under a bill that passed the state House by an 86-11 vote today.

House Bill 626 would create the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program to cover Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) tuition for recent Kentucky high school grads or GED recipients under the age of 19 who complete applications for financial aid, enroll in at least 12 credit hours a semester, and maintain a cumulative 2.0 grade point average, said bill sponsor and House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

“(HB 626) fills the gap between the all the scholarships and financial aid that is available to a student now and what the actual tuition costs are—it is the last dollar in,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Funding for the program—which would total $13 million in the first year and $19.9 million in the second year of the next two-year budget cycle—would be appropriated by HB 303, the House Executive Branch budget proposal approved by the House yesterday that is now awaiting action in the Senate. The first scholarships under the program would be available for the fall 2016 term, said Stumbo.

Three states have similar scholarship programs, supporters of HB 626 say, with 11 more states including Kentucky considering legislation this year to establish a program for their students.

House Minority Whip Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield, attempted to amend the bill with language that would create a program structure for identifying workforce development partnership projects eligible for financing should bond funds become available. A proposed $100 million bond pool for workforce development proposed by Governor Matt Bevin was removed from HB 303, the state budget proposal, before the bill narrowly passed the House and moved on to the Senate on Wednesday.

“I think if the Governor hadn’t brought his program to light… we might not see this piece of legislation—so I think a little credit needs to go to the Governor for bringing this issue up and bringing light on the subject of the need to have a workforce-ready population for the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said DeCesare.

DeCesare’s proposed amendment fell a few votes short of the support it needed to bring the amendment to a House vote, although Stumbo said the amendment had “great worth.”

“There was nothing wrong with his amendment, and I will say to him and to the body that if the Senate chooses to do something along those lines, and wants to use this bill as a vehicle, we’ll be back here making a motion to concur with that amendment if he is wanting to establish a workforce ready fund and, as we go through the budget process, if there’s monies that would go into that fund and there are adequate safeguards as we would all want. There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Stumbo.

Senate bill would reduce Ky.’s role in mine inspections

Supporters of a bill liberalizing Kentucky’s mine-safety laws said the measure’s passage in the state Senate yesterday would provide some relief to a beleaguered coal industry.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 297, would end Kentucky’s mine safety inspection program by converting the state’s 62 inspectors to “safety analysts” whose responsibilities would include correcting dangerous practices through “behavior modification” instead of issuing costly citations. It passed by a 25-11 vote but not before a lively floor debate among senators – some of which come from families with long histories of coal mining.

“I’m for the free markets along with rational oversight deciding what is most efficient, not the government picking winners and losers,” said Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset. “That is exactly what we have seen occur over the last eight years – burdensome regulations, gotcha games and an administration that makes no bones about wanting to put the coal industry out of business.

“I call it strangulation by regulation.”

He said SB 297 would eliminated wasteful duplication between state and federal mine inspectors by making the federal and state efforts more “complementary” to each other. He described an environment where the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors would still do punitive inspections while the state safety analysts would encourage best practices to prevent accidents.

Girdler said Kentucky has lost more than 10,000 coal mining jobs in recent years – or 56 percent of the people directly employed by the coal industry. He said Kentucky is coming off its lowest level of coal production since 1954 and Eastern Kentucky just mined its lowest level since 1932.

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said there are only 120 mines left in Kentucky, adding that 318 mines have closed in the last 18 months. He said there was not enough mines open to justify 62 state inspectors.

“We are here today because the war on coal has been tremendously successfully,” said West, who voted for the bill. “At one time we had thousands of mines in this state.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, said he “reluctantly” voted against the bill out of concern that coal mine operators would “take cuts” to safety measures because of the unprecedented economic pressures they face.

“This is not an approach I can support,” he said. “There is a value to having state mine inspectors.”

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, also voted against the measure. She is a former general counsel to a coal mine operator.

“I feel the federal presence,” Webb said. “I felt it in my job as general counsel and as a miner and beyond. That is a D.C. issue. Let’s take that case to Washington. Let’s take the case of the mine inspectors camping out at the few mines we have up working and being onerous and silly in the implementation of the federal law.”

She said federal overreach doesn’t relieve the state of its responsibility to protect Kentucky’s coal miners.

SB 297 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Chamber seeking award nominations

Know anyone who gives of his or her resources to the community without much fanfare or reward? Is there someone you see donating talents or time without any motivation other than to be helpful?
If so, here’s your opportunity to recognize them.

Crittenden County Chamber of Commerce has issued its call for nominations for the group’s annual awards, which include Unsung Hero, Community Pride, Customer Service and Volunteer of the Year.
The group is also seeking suggestions for its Person of the Year honor.

Susan Alexander, executive director of the civic organization, says the Person of the Year is the most coveted award the Chamber doles out each year. Its aim is to recognize a person whose outstanding leadership and community service over a period of time has made a positive and lasting impact on the area and its citizens. Last year’s Person of the Year was 5th Judicial Circuit Family Court Judge Brandi Rogers.

The Community Pride Award, given last year to Beavers Car Wash, targets businesses or groups who have demonstrated pride in their community through improvements made to their own establishment or improvements to a public facility.

The Chamber’s Unsung Hero award honors an individual who has made a difference in the community but has neither sought nor received public recognition. This award goes to a person who often works behind the scenes to improve the quality of life for others. Last year’s Unsung Hero was Chris Evans.

Volunteer of the Year is a tribute to an individual or individuals who performs community service on their own time without compensation. Last year, this award went to Kristi Beavers for her work with the local animal shelters.

The Customer Service Award identifies an individual who goes above and beyond normal demands of his or her job to provide extraordinary customer service. Last year’s recipient was Clifton Etheridge, who works at Marion Feed Mill.

Nominations may be submitted via email to or provided in writing at the Chamber office at the Marion Welcome Center at Marion Commons.

Deadline for nominations is April 11. Selections will be made by Chamber directors and will be presented during the group’s annual meeting and dinner at 6 p.m. April 28. The event will be catered by Conrad’s Food Store and it will be held at the Marion Ed-Tech Center.

Person of the Year
  • 2015: Brandi Rogers
  • 2014: Regina Merrick
  • 2013: Terry Bunnell
  • 2012: Mona Manley
  • 2011: Chris Cook
  • 2010: Joe Yarbrough
  • 2009: Chris Evans
  • 2008: Judy Winn
  • 2007: Gareth Hardin
  • 2006: Fred Brown
  • 2005: Zac Greenwell
  • 2004: Rose Crider
  • 2003: Steve Davidson
  • 2002: Barry Gilbert
  • 2001: J. Wade Berry
  • 2000: Jim Hatfield
  • 1999:  Dulcie Hardin
  • 1998: Nancy Hunt
  • 1997: Lois Hicks
  • 1996: Marlene James
  • 1995: Richard Conrad
  • 1994: Gordon Guess
  • 1993: Charles Tinsley
  • 1992: Ethel and Thomas Tucker
  • 1991: Alan Stout
  • 1990: George Patmor
  • 1989: Mickey Alexander
Unsung Hero
  • 2015: Chris Evans
  • 2014: Mike Crabtree
  • 2013: David Travis
  • 2012: Greg Rushing
  • 2011: Brandi Rogers
  • 2010: Brenda Underdown
  • 2009: Jim and Merle Myers
  • 2008: Tina Walker
  • 2007: Donnetta Travis
  • 2006: James C. Johnson
  • 2005: Emily Shelby
  • 2004: Steve Cosby
  • 2003: Perry Newcom
  • 2002: Paja Crider
  • 2001: Sarah Ford
  • 2000: Mike Byford
  • 1999:  Donnie Corley
  • 1998: Allison Mick Evans
  • 1997: Chris Cook
  • 1996: Ronnie Stubblefield
  • 1995: Larry Duvall
  • 1994: Marlene James
  • 1993: Jack Voss
  • 1992: Ramona Ford
  • 1991: Erika Crider
  • 1990: Richard Conrad
  • 1989: Lois Hicks, Larry Orr
  • 1988: Ethel Tucker
  • 1987: Diana Byford
Volunteer of the Year
  • 2015: Kristi Beavers
  • 2014: Kim Vince
  • 2013: Fred Stubblefield
  • 2012: Bob Briley
  • 2011: Toyia Redd
  • 2010: Helen Lewis
  • 2009: Sarah Ford
  • 2008: Margaret Gilland
  • 2007: Ron Padget
Customer Service
  • 2015: Clifton Etheridge
  • 2014: Pam Enoch
  • 2013: Ideal Gas
  • 2012: Terry Ford Insurance
  • 2011: Farmers Bank tellers
  • 2010: Donny Herron
  • 2009: Alma Tabor
  • 2008: Keith Hart
Community Pride
  • 2015: Beavers Car Wash
  • 2014: Johnson's Furniture & Appliance
  • 2013: Marion Fire Department
  • 2012: Marion Tourism, Marion Main Street, City of Marion
  • 2011: Wright Plaza
  • 2010: The Peoples Bank
  • 2009: Crittenden County Detention Center
  • 2008: Marion Bobcats
  • 2007: Myers Funeral Home
  • 2006: Superior Trophies and Screen Printing
  • 2005: Crittenden County Kentucky Farm Bureau
  • 2004: Thom Hawthorne/Hawthorne Enterprises
  • 2003: Par 4 Plastics
  • 2002: American LegionPost 111
  • 2001: Crittenden HealthSystems
  • 2000: Bowtanical Florist & Gift Shop
  • 1999: Farmers Bank & Trust Co.
  • 1998: Thom’s Sweet Shoppe
  • 1997:The Peoples Bank
  • 1996: Crittenden County High School
  • 1995: n/a
  • 1994: Liberty Fuels, Kentucky Utilities Co.
  • 1993: Stout Law Office
  • 1992: Sureway

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Amended charter school bill passes Senate

A perennial state Senate bill to allow for charter schools gained additional traction today when it was amended to give local school boards a say in the matter.

The Senate voted 28-9 to pass Senate Bill 253, which would create a pilot program to allow charter schools in Fayette and Jefferson counties.

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, who introduced the bill, said the measure is an attempt to close the achievement gap – the persistent disparity of educational measures between students with different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Under SB 253, the charter schools would be part of the state’s system of public education, but the schools would be exempt from some laws and regulations applicable to public school systems. Wilson said the charter schools would be tuition free, nonprofit and have no religious affiliation. In addition, the charter schools would have to be committed to “at-risk” students and located in areas where those students reside.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, successfully introduced an amendment to allow “local control.” The amendment would let locally-elected school boards authorize charter schools.

“I think we have to recognize that we have to be innovative and creative when it comes to trying to adjust the achievement gap,” Thomas said. “We have had an achievement gap in Fayette County far too long.”

Wilson said Thomas’ amendment was a compromise he was willing to make if it improved the chances of SB 253 becoming law.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, rose in support of SB 253 as amended.

“Without question there are a couple of our school districts that year after year after year have failing schools,” he said. “Until we intervene to give these students a chance – the opportunity to succeed – then we are failing those kids.’

Carroll added that the charter schools would still be staffed by certified teachers.

“I don’t understand all the opposition … with some teachers I’ve heard from,” he said. “This is about those students. This is about giving those students an equal opportunity to succeed.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, voted against SB 253.

“The only problem I have with the concept of charter schools is, that in my opinion, we are not adequately funding the schools we have,” he said. “When you start talking about creating a whole new school, you are talking about facilities, you are talking about teachers.”

Jones added that charter schools would siphon much-needed resources from existing public schools.

Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, also voted against the measure. He said as Eastern Kentucky families move away in search of jobs outside of the coal mines, less children are in the public schools which receive funding, in part, based on the number of students enrolled.

“Our schools are struggling right now to keep their doors open,” Smith said. “This bill could be seen by them as if we are giving up on them.”

SB 253 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Bill aimed at bolstering child safety laws advances

The state Senate passed a measure today designed to give added protection to children with life-threating allergies and babies of struggling new parents by a 37-0 vote Wednesday.

Known as House Bill 148, it would require the state Cabinet for Health & Family Services to write regulations allowing for licensed day cares or baby sitters to get prescriptions for epinephrine autoinjectors, commonly known by the brand name EpiPen. It is a medical device for the injection of a measured dose of adrenaline commonly used for the treatment of anaphylaxis.

An amendment to HB 148 would expand Kentucky’s Safe Infants Act of 2002 by allowing parents of newborns to have up to 30 days to surrender their baby at a state-approved “safe place” without facing criminal charges. Current law gives parents 72 hours after a child is born to leave the baby at safe place.

The amendment would also add churches or other places of worship to the list of approved safe places where an infant could be surrendered. The current law only includes hospitals, police stations, firehouses and emergency medical services (EMS) providers.

Under the Safe Infants Act, parents remain anonymous and cannot be pursued or prosecuted unless an abandoned infant shows signs of abuse or neglect.

“This bill is endorsed by many of our religious groups,” said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, “and I think it is a very positive piece of legislation.”

A bill that would similarly expand Kentucky’s Safe Infants Act passed the state House of Representatives by a 92-1 vote on Jan. 25 and was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee three days later.

HB 148 now goes back to the House for consideration of changes the Senate made to the bill.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

House passes far-reaching state budget

Looking to protect all of education from Governor Bevin’s proposed cuts while fully meeting the state’s commitment to its public retirement systems, the Kentucky House of Representatives voted 53-0 this evening for House Bill 303, the state’s two-year budget. All House Republicans refused to vote on the budget.

“This is a budget that puts education front and center, from preschool to postsecondary education,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg.  “It also will be remembered for providing every single dollar our public retirement systems say they need to pay down the liabilities they face and that must be addressed.  Beyond that, it begins funding a four-year plan to return all coal severance dollars to the counties that generate them.  These counties have truly suffered in recent years because of the decline in the coal industry, and the state is in a position to help them when they need it most.”

House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Rick Rand of Bedford told the chamber that this budget “strengthens our families, both now and well into the future.  It does that by shielding all of our schools from cuts.  It does that by protecting Medicaid and other programs our most vulnerable citizens depend on.  And it does that by being financially responsible with our tax dollars.  This budget has less debt than what the governor proposed and does not have hundreds of millions of dollars sitting idle or going to undefined uses.  At the same time, it sets aside more funding than ever before in our ‘Rainy Day’ fund for unforeseen costs.  The people of Kentucky deserve to know we are maximizing every dollar they send us, and this budget does that.”

Rep. Rand noted that while Governor Bevin’s budget protected elementary and secondary classrooms, it did not exempt other educational services, such as family resource and youth services centers, dropout prevention, textbooks and teacher training.

The governor’s budget also called for public postsecondary schools to reduce state spending by 9 percent during the next two fiscal years and a comparable amount during the remaining three-and-a-months in the current fiscal year.  University of Kentucky’s president said this would be “draconian,” and other university presidents said it would lead to potentially catastrophic choices.

Neither cut would occur under the House budget, which would return $90 million to elementary and secondary education and $215 million to postsecondary schools.

Under retirement, the House would fully provide what is called the actuarially required contribution (ARC) to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System – the governor only provided two-thirds of the ARC – and would add nearly $90 million above the ARC for the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.

“We have to get the long-term liabilities for these systems under control, and our plan does that,” Rep. Rand said.  “Under the governor’s plan for teachers, the system would still have had to sell assets to cover their costs, something our plan will avoid.”

Among other highlights, the House budget and its companion bills would:
  • Provide $33 million over the biennium for the Kentucky “Work Ready” Scholarship, a new program that would cover the remaining tuition costs for graduating high school seniors who attend a KCTCS school the following fall.  The scholarship would depend on the local, state, federal and private aid a student receives, but loans would not count against them.  More than 3,000 students are projected to benefit if enacted.
  • Restore $53 million to the needs-based scholarship and grant programs known as College Access Program (CAP) and Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG).  These lottery-based programs had been flat-lined in the governor’s budget.
  • Add $1 million a year – bringing it up to $3 million annually – for the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship.
  • Increase preschool eligibility from 160 percent of the poverty level to 200 percent.
  • Maintain all of the slots the state funds to help train tomorrow’s veterinarians and optometrists.
  • Exempt the Judicial Branch from current-year cuts, which would potentially force the courts to close for up to three weeks before the end of June.
  • Reverse the cuts the governor proposed for the Registry of Election Finance and the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
  • Exempt sales tax costs for drugs used in the treatment of cattle, sheep, swine, poultry and other animals.
“There will be some pain in this budget, because we will let the governor carry out the cuts he recommends for his cabinets,” Rep. Rand said.  “While we wish his administration was more forthcoming in how it plans to do this, we will be vigilant in making sure that critical services are maintained.”

The bills voted on today will now be considered by the state Senate.  After that chamber votes, House and Senate leaders will work on a compromise that, if approved, will be sent to the governor for his signature.

The legislative session is scheduled to end in mid-April.

House Dems pass state budget, GOP abstains

A nearly $21 billion state budget bill that supporters say would restore some funding cuts proposed by the Governor to many areas of state government and authorize less debt than proposed in the Governor’s budget narrowly passed the House tonight by a vote of 53-0. All 47 Republicans in the House abstained from voting.

House Bill 303, sponsored by House budget Chair Rick Rand, D-Bedford, restores funding cuts proposed by Governor Matt Bevin for constitutional agencies, PVAs, postsecondary education, several K-12 programs and several other offices while agreeing with the Governor’s plan to preserve per-pupil school funding, boost pay for state troopers and other front-line state employees. It also proposes a way to fully fund the state’s required contribution to the state employee and teacher pension systems, although using a different mechanism than that proposed by Governor Matt Bevin.

Cuts of 4.5 percent this fiscal year and 9 percent over the next biennium—known as “budget stabilization reductions”—proposed by the Governor for most other state government agencies were retained in the House bill with some exceptions: Constitutional offices like Secretary of State, the state Treasurer and Attorney General which were slated for the cuts would have that funding restored in the House plan, as would the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and specific other agencies

Absent from the House plan is a $100 million bond pool for workforce development proposed by the Governor (although the bill would appropriate over $32 million for a proposed Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program for community colleges) and a “permanent fund” the Governor proposed as a repository for funding future pension needs.

As for total debt in the plan: A summary of HB 303 provided to the House budget committee before its vote on the bill on Tuesday states that HB 303 carries less debt than the Governor’s plan. Total debt in the Governor’s plan, according to the summary, is $624.6 million, $460.2 million which would be supported by the state. HB 303 would reduce that proposed debt to $548.6 million, with $384.2 million supported by the state General Fund, with $283 million left in the state rainy day fund at the end of fiscal year 2018.

Those who opposed the bill did so for a variety of reasons ranging from the belief that the budget includes funding for Planned Parenthood, which Rand said it does not, to frustration voiced by many House Minority party members that projects requested for their districts were left out of the proposal. Rep. Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro, said she submitted a list of requested coal severance projects for Union County only to find those projects omitted from the bill.

“I did submit my list as I did two years ago, exactly in the same form. … I’m extremely disappointed that my projects are not listed,” said Miles.

Rand said HB 303 accomplishes his budget goals which include fully funding the state’s actuarial required contributions (ARC) for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (which would receive an additional $90 million above its ARC) without any bonding, protecting learning and results programs like family resource centers and Gifted and Talented programs, and holding down state debt.

Rand defended the proposal’s handling of the pension issue—including the proposal’s elimination of the permanent fund proposed by the Governor.

“Our theory was, why wait? Why are we waiting? Why aren’t we investing in teachers’ retirement now? We have the money, it’s there. Why just let it sit in escrow, for what purpose? … That’s why we chose to fund the ARC,” said Rand.

Several amendments were proposed to HB 303 but only one in addition to the House committee substitute to the bill made it through. That was House Floor Amendment 10, sponsored by House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, which passed by a vote of 49-46. The amendment authorizes debt service for the planned Bowling Green Veterans’ nursing home which is on track to receive federal approval, according to Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, who presented the amendment for a vote.

Also approved by the House was the Judicial Branch budget found in HB 306, also sponsored by Rand, which passed by a vote of 51-48, and the Legislative Branch budget in HB 499, sponsored by Rand, which passed 69-31. Both of the budgets would spare the branches from 4.5 percent cuts this fiscal year but apply the budget stabilization cuts of 9 percent over the biennium as is proposed for most of the Executive Branch. The proposed cuts in both bills, said Rand, would only be applied to the branches’ nonconstitutionally-required and nonstatutorily-required duties.

HB 423, also sponsored by Rand, was passed by a vote of 63-37. Known as the “revenue bill,” the measure authorizes revenue needed to balance the Executive Branch budget as proposal in HB 303.

All bills now go to the Senate for its consideration.

UPDATED: KSP investigating Livingston house fire fatality

Kentucky State Police are currently investigating a death resulting from a house fire at 730 Holland Road in Livingston County between Grand Rivers and Ledbetter. At 8:28 p.m. Monday, KSP were requested by Livingston County Sheriff’s Department to assist in the investigation. Melissa C. Hopkins, 18, was found inside the residence and was pronounced deceased at the scene by Livingston County Coroner Jeff Armstrong. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday in Louisville.

UPDATE, 4:40 p.m. MARCH 16: This morning, an autopsy was performed on Melissa C. Hopkins at the Medical Examiner’s Office in Louisville. The autopsy revealed the cause of Hopkins’ death was smoke inhalation. Kentucky State Police are awaiting the results of toxicology and other testing, at this time. The investigation continues by Detective Steve Silfies and Arson Investigator Michael Smith.

Sen. Paul visiting for town hall Tuesday

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul with host a town hall event in Marion next week on a swing through western Kentucky.

Over the last month, Paul has held 32 town halls across Kentucky, and thousands of Kentuckians have come out to discuss the issues facing both the Commonwealth and the nation. He will be at Crittenden County Courthouse beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“After spending the last month traveling across Kentucky for a series of town hall events, I am excited to continue speaking with local communities about the issues facing both Kentucky and our nation," the senator said. "I look forward to the opportunity to personally address each community’s concerns and share what I’m doing in the Senate to work for Kentucky’s best interests.”

The event is free to attend and open to the public and media.

Staff from Paul's Bowling Green office will be in attendance to help members of the community who may need assistance with federal agencies or issues such as Veterans Administration, Social Security, IRS, passports, U.S. Department of Education and military records or medals.

Sen. Paul will also hold town halls next Tuesday and Wednesday in Butler, Muhlenberg, Webster, Hopkins, Henderson, McClean, Daviess and Ohio counties.

House floor vote expected today on budget

A state budget plan that would reverse proposed funding cuts for K-12 education programs and state colleges and universities while fully funding the state’s recommended contributions to its ailing public retirement systems has cleared the House budget committee.

House Bill 303, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rick Rand, D-Bedford, and passed by the committee on Tuesday night, would maintain per-pupil funding for education (known as SEEK) as proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin in the state’s next $21 billion two-year state budget while restoring cuts proposed by the Governor to several K-12 services including family resource and youth service centers (FRYSCs) and preschool, Gifted and Talented and more. Proposed budget cuts for colleges and universities were also struck by the committee, as was a provision that would base future funding on a college or university’s performance.

Cuts of 4.5 percent this fiscal year and 9 percent over the next biennium—known as “budget stabilization reductions”—proposed by the Governor for most other state government agencies were retained in the House bill with some exceptions: Constitutional offices like Secretary of State, the state Treasury and Attorney General slated for budget stabilization cuts over the biennium have their funding restored in the House plan, as do the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and a handful of other agencies.

As for pensions, HB 303 would appropriate around $1 billion over the biennium to meet the actuarial required contribution, or ARC, for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System without using bonding. It  would fund the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ state employees’ nonhazardous pension plan at the Governor’s recommendation of the ARC of $60 million in the first year and around $70 million in the second year of the biennium plus an extra $44.7 million in each of the next two fiscal years.

The Governor has proposed funding the ARC plus the additional $90 million or so over the biennium for the state employee system with help from what are called “contingent appropriations,” which are contingent upon revenues that exceed certain budget expectations. He also proposed using those same type of appropriations to help fund KTRS pensions, and recommended transferring $500 million over the biennium from the state public employees’ health insurance fund to a “permanent fund” to help secure future pensions. The permanent fund is not included in the House proposal.

Absent from the House plan is a $100 million bond pool for workforce development proposed by the Governor. HB 303 would, however, provide over $32 million over the biennium for a proposed Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program for community college students and provide a funding mechanism to provide state need-based college scholarships to another 35,000 students.

HB 303 agrees with the Governor’s proposal to provide raises for state social workers, corrections workers and Kentucky State Police Troopers. It would also beef up salaries for the state’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officers.

A summary of HB 303 provided to the House budget committee before it approved the bill Tuesday night states that the House budget plan carries less debt than the Governor’s plan. Total debt in the Governor’s plan, according to the summary, is $624.6 million, $460.2 million which would be supported by the state. HB 303 would reduce that proposed debt to $548.6 million, with $384.2 million supported by the state General Fund, with $283 million left in the state rainy day fund at the end of fiscal year 2018.

HB 303 emerged from the House budget committee with the support of most House Majority members. Most if not all members of the House Minority members on the committee passed on their vote on HB 303 in committee, with many saying that they agreed with parts of the bill but needed more time to review the proposal.

Rep. Steven Rudy, R- Paducah, who has filed a floor amendment that would make several changes to HB 303, said in committee that he is pleased HB 303 doesn’t propose bonding to fund pensions.

“That seems like an easy fix but I think the Governor made it clear—he’s not going to sign any bill with bonding, borrowing from the future, and I really appreciate you guys refusing to give in to that temptation,” said Rudy.

Rand that while HB 303 would adopt many of the cuts and supports proposed by the Governor it also would set “a few goals” that he said he believes HB 303 can meet.

“They are (to) invest in education, and this budget would invest in education heavily; to pay 100 percent of the (pension) ARC, and this budget will pay 100 percent of the ARC; that it will lower debt below what the Governor has proposed, and it will have the highest Budget Reserve Trust Fund in the history of the Budget Reserve Trust Fund—this budget will contain all of those,” said Rand.

HB 303 is expected to be brought to the House floor for a vote by all members this afternoon.

What's news this week in Crittenden County...

Crittenden County is one of 30 dry counties in Kentucky, but
Marion voters head to the polls Tuesday to vote on that matter.

It’s been more than 15 years since voters in Crittenden County expressed their opinion on alcohol sales at the ballot box. Next week, about a third of the county’s residents will again get that opportunity. On Tuesday, a special election will be held to decide the fate of alcohol by the drink in Marion restaurants seating 50 or more people.

Pick up a copy of this week's issue of The Crittenden Press for more on this story and the following headlines:
  • OPINION: Uniqueness of dry county more appeal than alcohol.
  • OPINION: Alcohol sales will get Marion into hot water.
  • OPINION: Grow Marion aimed at managing local alcohol policy.
  • OPINION: Local alcohol pushers could be left with blood on their hands.
  • OPINION: Alcohol will grow city, county expenses.
  • OPINION: Addiction issues already a problem.
  • EDITORIAL: Special elections place burden on all county taxpayers.
  • Board of ed may pursue free meals for all students.
  • KDE recognizes local school district for 2015 college-, career-readiness.
  • New financier may be needed for CCEDC’s park property.
  • Former Sureway store slated to soon have roof removed.
  • Nine sentenced in circuit court.
  • Dogs find parking lot pot at school.
  • ATV is found in eastern part of county.
  • offers online registration.
  • Community Christmas classes starting.
  • In Kentucky, lawmakers’ pension information hidden from sunshine.
  • LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Budget schedule cause for worry.
  • LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Education bills, budget among top measures yet to be passed.
  • OPINION: 85 percent just doesn’t cut it.
  • Unemployment up across commonwealth in January.
  • Justice Cunningham selected as 2016 Murray State distinguished alumni.
  • Marion native to  be Veterans Affairs commish.
  • Conservation district tree seedlings free Monday.
  • Extension series offers hands-on gardening.
  • Marion Woman’s Club elects new officers at annual meet.
  • Four local youth reach 4-H Achievement; Collins earns ride to Teen Conference in June with top 10 state finish.
  • FFA members compete at Murray.
  • Library full of history on shelves, in reference area.
  • FORGOTTEN PASSAGES: Crittenden County’s initial hospital built, equipped with local donations, contributions.
  • Postage rates will decrease April 10.
  • SPORTS: Girls softball schedule and preview.
  • SPORTS: Rockets open baseball between rains.
  • SPORTS: Get your NCAA Tournament brackets.