Category Archives: Kentucky & KY State Gov.

Floor votes, committee hearings, and spirited debate highlighted an action-packed second week of session in the Kentucky Senate


Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens
Week in Review

Floor votes, committee hearings, and spirited debate highlighted an action-packed second week of session in the Kentucky Senate. Guests from all corners of the Commonwealth were welcomed to Frankfort to speak on behalf of various bills.

The Senate began passing bills on Thursday, headlined by Senate Bill (SB) 9, a measure to repeal the prevailing wage requirement on public school projects with a cost of over $250,000. Passage of this priority legislation will reduce construction costs on large-scale school projects, thus providing additional funding for education.

On Thursday we were visited by hundreds of young and energetic faces celebrating Children’s Advocacy Day, sponsored by Kentucky Youth Advocates. The group hosted a rally in the Capitol Rotunda where several Senate majority members were recognized for their efforts in standing up for Kentucky’s children.

From Senate committee meetings this week, two of our priority bills—SB 4 and SB 10—were reported favorably. SB 4 would require women seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure as a measure to help further promote the value of life. SB 10 would move statewide elections to even-numbered years, thus promoting greater voter turnout and saving the Commonwealth money.

Senate Bill 72, which clarifies when the Executive Branch must come before the Legislature to make appropriations and protects the separation of powers in state government, also passed out of the Licensing and Occupation Committee this week.

The Health and Welfare Committee passed SB 20, which would create an appeals process for Medicaid claims denied by a managed care organization, and SB 33, which would require students to receive CPR training one time while enrolled in grades 7-12.

Senate Bill 56, which would extend the look-back window for DUI’s from five years to ten, and SB 60, which would add further protections for vulnerable victims of sex crimes, were both reported out of the Judiciary Committee this week.

In the Education Committee, SB 52 passed, which would allow veterans to receive a provisional teaching certificate after meeting certain criteria. The same committee also passed SB 81, which would require the Department of Education to create a system identifying students with military parents or families in order to ensure these families receive any veteran’s benefits available to them.

As we look forward to another busy week of session, I am proud of the bipartisan demeanor displayed thus far in the Senate. I will continue to commit myself to legislation that will move our Commonwealth forward.

If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

David Givens
State Senator

Update: 16 RS; BR 161, has become sb 13, "Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Act"


 

SB13 Ky Cannabis Freedom Act

SB13/CI/LM (BR161) – P. Clark
AN ACT relating to the regulation of cannabis and making an appropriation therefor.
Establish KRS Chapter 245 to regulate the cultivation, testing, processing, taxing, and sale of marijuana to persons aged twenty-one years and older; amend various sections to conform; repeal KRS 218A.1421, KRS 218A.1422, and KRS 218A.1423.

Jan 06, 2016 – introduced in Senate
Jan 07, 2016 – to Licensing, Occupations, & Administrative Regulations (S)

PLEASE CONTINUE TO CALL, FAX, MAIL, EMAIL AND VISIT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND URGE THEM TO SUPPORT SEN. PERRY B. CLARK’s “CANNABIS FREEDOM ACT” ! 

THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO MORALLY REPEAL CANNABIS PROHIBITION AND RETURN THIS PLANT TO IT’s PEOPLE!

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KY Omnibus alcohol bill passes Senate committee


News Release

January 12, 2016

Omnibus alcohol bill passes Senate committee

FRANKFORT – A push to modernize the state’s 1930s-era alcohol regulations to maximize the economic impact of a worldwide thirst for bourbon and birth of the craft beer and small-farm wine industries in Kentucky continues during this year’s General Assembly.

Setting it up to become one of the first bills to come to the floor of the Senate for a vote, the Senate Standing Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations this morning passed an omnibus alcohol regulations bill (Senate Bill 11) as amended by the committee.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said the general provisions of the bill include:

· outlawing powdered alcohol;

· allowing malt beverages to be sold at festivals;

· allowing drinking on quadricycles, commonly called party bikes;

· specifying who pays for special elections to expand alcohol sales;

· allowing bed and breakfasts to sell liquor by the drink;

· allowing alcohol wholesalers to give discounts to retailers;

· allowing brewers, distillers and vintners to taste their products for quality control;

· authorizing package liquor stores to give samples;

· and synchronizing all alcohol license renewal dates.

“A lot of things in this bill, taken by themselves, are very minor,” said Schickel, who is a sponsor of the bill and chairman of the committee. “But if you put them together, it is a major piece of legislation that is going to have a major impact on this industry.”

SB 11 also embodies a number of additional provisions targeted specifically at distilleries and small-farm wineries and one of those provisions prompted a lively debate. That provision would raise the amount of packaged alcohol that could be sold at distilleries to nine liters from the current three liters.

“We are not here to ask you guys to vote ‘no’ on Senate Bill 11,” said Jason Underwood, who handles government relations for Sazerac Company, the owner Buffalo Trace, 1792 and Glenmore distilleries in Kentucky. “Senate Bill 11 is not fatally flawed, however, there are some issues that we do have.”

He said the No. 1 concern was increasing the on-premise distillery sales to nine liters.

“Nine liters is a case of spirits,” Underwood said. “Currently, you can buy three bottles in the souvenir shops.”

He said increasing it to nine liters could hurt mom-and-pop liquor stores.

Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, said he too was concerned for the small retailer. He was the only committee member to vote against SB 11.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said that he didn’t think SB 11 would be economically harmful to small liquor stores.

“Not one single retailer will be put out of business because of this,” said Thayer, the other primary sponsor of the SB 11. “My experience, doing research on the bourbon trail, is that we have a majority of guests coming in from out of town. They are not going to make a trip to the local liquor store and stock up.”

He said he hopes to bring SB 11 to the Senate floor for a vote before week’s end.

In other business, the committee also passed Senate Bill 12. It would allow liquor sales at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta before 1 p.m. on Sundays.

The speedway’s marquee event is a NASCAR Sprint Cup. It is traditionally ran on a Saturday night but the race was delayed because of inclement weather in 2013 to Sunday – a day where alcohol sales are currently prohibited until 1 p.m.

“You can’t take alcohol off the premises anyway,” said Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger. “You can’t come and buy it and leave.”

Sen. Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort, whose district includes Sparta, said an obligation of legislators is to do what is best for the entire state of Kentucky.

“When this came to my attention, one of the first things I did was determine whether or not what we are seeking to do would in any way distract from worship services in the immediate areas,” he said. “There are no churches out there by the racetrack. … I see no harm but I see a lot of dollar bills coming into the state treasury by allowing them to go on and make sales that they would go on and make after 12 noon. It harms nobody.”

Carroll and Schickel are the two primary sponsors of the bill.

Schickel also announced that the committee will not meet next week because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

— END —

SOURCE

Mitch McConnell’s Love Affair with Hemp How the Kentucky senator picked a fight with the DEA and became one of Washington’s top drug policy reformers.


Last May, a shipment of 250 pounds of hemp seeds left Italy destined for Kentucky as part of a pilot project made legal by the 2013 federal farm bill. Kentucky farmers had long hoped for a crop that could fill the void left by the decline of tobacco, and many thought that industrial hemp, which is used in a vast array of products, could be that crop.

The hemp seeds cleared customs in Chicago, but when the cargo landed at the UPS wing of Louisville International Airport, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized it, arguing that importing hemp seeds required an import permit, which could take six months to process. If farmers couldn’t get those seeds into the ground by June 1, the entire first year of the hemp pilot program would be dashed.

The DEA would have succeeded in blocking the seeds from reaching Kentucky farmers and university researchers but for the efforts of the state’s agricultural commissioner, who sued the agency and, most improbably, Mitch McConnell.

McConnell—then the Senate’s minority leader—worked furiously to free the seeds from the DEA’s clutches and continued the pro-hemp drumbeat throughout 2014, as he campaigned for reelection. This year, as Senate majority leader, he’s taken a further step by co-sponsoring the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015. While the farm bill carved out an exception to allow hemp cultivation in Kentucky, the 2015 bill would remove hemp entirely from the list of drugs strictly regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. It would, in essence, legalize hemp production in the United States.

“We are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers,” McConnell told me. “And by exploring innovative ways to use industrial hemp to benefit a variety of Kentucky industries, the pilot programs could help boost our state’s economy and lead to future jobs. … I look forward to seeing industrial hemp prosper in the Commonwealth.”

Yes, Mitch McConnell said that. About hemp.

To grasp how McConnell—the quintessential establishment Republican—came to champion industrial hemp, you must first understand the economics and internal politics of Kentucky, as well as McConnell’s relationship to Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul. It’s also helpful to know that close to $500 million worth of hemp products produced by Canada and other countries is already sold in the United States through such stores as Whole Foods. McConnell’s move also has potential ramifications beyond the marketplace, providing a credible threat to the Controlled Substances Act since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970.

“The fact that Majority Leader McConnell is a co-sponsor of a hemp bill shows how fast the politics are changing on this issue,” said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group that favors reform. (Bill Piper should not be confused with Billy Piper, former McConnell chief of staff and current K Street lobbyist).

***

The story of how Mitch McConnell evolved on the hemp issue began in 2010. Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, was running to replace the retiring Jim Bunning in the U.S. Senate and spent much of the primary season blasting McConnell, who not only represented the establishment but also supported a different Republican candidate. The McConnell-Paul relationship changed dramatically after Paul prevailed in the primary and McConnell vigorously stepped in to support him in the general election against the Democratic nominee, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.

The bond only grew when Paul came to the Senate in 2011. Paul encouraged McConnell to consider the hemp issue because it was favored by conservatives and Tea Party types, according to two sources familiar with those discussions. McConnell listened.

The other Kentucky Republican who played a role in McConnell’s evolution was Jamie Comer, the state’s newly minted agriculture commissioner. In August 2012, Comer held a news conference before the 49th annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast—a big shindig on the Kentucky politics circuit—to announce that legalization of hemp in the state would be his No. 1  priority in the next legislative session. Paul and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, another Kentucky Republican, were there to support Comer; each later testified in support of Comer’s measure before the state Senate agriculture committee in February 2013, along with Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville.

“I engaged with Jamie Comer,” Yarmuth told me. “He reached out to me. From the beginning it’s been a bipartisan thing.”

In Washington, D.C., McConnell was approached multiple times from hemp supporters back home. After the fourth such approach, the senior senator from Kentucky turned to his chief of staff, Josh Holmes, and said, “We’ve got to look into this.”

***

If, like the average U.S. senator, you are unfamiliar with the botany of the cannabis plant, here’s a quick primer:

For starters, hemp is sometimes referred to as marijuana’s “cousin,” which is an unhelpful metaphor because hemp and marijuana are actually the same species, Cannabis sativa. They are simply different strains, and they are cultivated and harvested in different ways.

The cannabis plant is dioecious, which means its male and female flowers grow on different plants. This is unusual: Dioecious species—including gingkoes, willows and a few others—make up only 6 percent of all flowering plants.

Hemp is produced after the male plant fertilizes the females—something that happens almost immediately once the plants flower. Marijuana, on the other hand, is produced from the unfertilized flower of the female plant. A person interested in growing marijuana wants only female plants; a plant that shows signs of male flowers is plucked immediately, before it can mature and pollinate the females around it.

Pollen contamination is one of the chief concerns of marijuana growers, legal and illegal, because as soon as a female flower becomes pollinated, she stops making her THC-rich resin and begins focusing entirely on seed production. (Hemp is defined by Kentucky law as containing less than 0.3 percent THC; unfertilized marijuana flowers could have THC levels of 20 percent or more.)

For decades, the law enforcement lobby has peddled anti-hemp talking points that just didn’t add up. During the 2013 farm bill debate, the DEA asserted that, “It can be extremely difficult to distinguish cannabis grown for industrial purposes from cannabis grown for smoking. This is especially true if law enforcement is attempting to make this determination without entering the premises on which the plants are being grown.”

James Higdon is a freelance writer based in Louisville and author of The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History. He can be reached at @jimhigdon. Full disclosure: His father, Jimmy Higdon, is a Republican state senator in the Kentucky state legislature.

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/03/mitch-mcconnell-hemp-115671.html#ixzz3TKOJY7Z0

Kentucky reaches settlement with Big Tobacco


Adam Beam, AP Business Writer 6:04 p.m. EDT June 12, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Tobacco companies have agreed to pay Kentucky more than $110 million to settle a 10-year legal battle over the state’s share of the tobacco master settlement agreement.

In 1998, U.S. tobacco companies agreed to pay $229 billion to 52 states and territories over many years to compensate them for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. The companies also agreed to advertising restrictions, including a ban on marketing to youth.

Lots of smaller tobacco companies did not participate in the settlement and were not subject to its restrictions. Kentucky agreed to charge those companies more taxes as a way to level the playing field with the bigger tobacco companies.

But in 2003, the big tobacco companies accused Kentucky of not collecting all of the taxes it was supposed to. As a result, they withheld some of Kentucky’s annual payments. State officials and tobacco companies have been fighting over those disputed payments since 2003.

In September, a federal arbitrator ruled Kentucky did not do all it could to collect the taxes. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway challenged that arbitration ruling in court. But the state was in danger of losing all of its tobacco settlement payments – tens of millions of dollars each year that paid for a range of agricultural, public health and early childhood education programs.

That’s why in November, Conway said he began secret negotiations with the tobacco companies in hopes of reaching a settlement.

"There was no end in sight," Conway said. "Given the time, value of money and the needs of this state and the agricultural community and our health community right now, I think it’s a good deal for the state."

According to the terms of the agreement — which Conway signed on Wednesday — Kentucky will get $110.4 million of the disputed payments in the 2014 fiscal year, bringing the state’s total payments to $158.7 million. Going forward, tobacco companies will pay Kentucky 45% of the disputed payments.

Kentucky is the 23rd state to settle this dispute with the tobacco companies.

"By joining 22 other states in settling, Kentucky escapes that chaotic landscape of future legal battles as well as saves itself from the financial and administrative cost of litigating these decades-old events," Beshear said.

Denise F. Keane, executive vice president and general counsel of Altria — the parent company of Philip Morris — called the settlement good for both parties.

"We have always said we are open to resolving these disputes in a manner that makes sense to the states and to us, and that remains the case," she said in a news release.

CONTINUE READING…

Limited CBD bill becomes law in Kentucky


State Alert Header Logo State Alert Header Title
Limited CBD bill becomes law in Kentucky

Medical marijuana bills die as legislative session ends

Dear Sheree,

The Kentucky Legislature adjourned yesterday, ending its work for the year. Sadly, although the House Health and Welfare Committee approved an effective medical marijuana bill in February, it was not called for a vote in the House.

Legislators did make an effort to help some seriously ill patients who could benefit from cannabidiol (“CBD,” a non-psychoactive component of marijuana). On Thursday, April 10, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law a proposal that is intended to allow patients to use CBD if directed to do so by a physician. The new law went into effect immediately with his signature, but, unfortunately, it is unlikely that it will actually result in patients being able to access CBD.

Despite concerns about access, and the fact that this legislation excludes the vast majority of medical marijuana patients, it is still a positive step forward. For more information on this new law, please see our summary of S.B. 124.

Sincerely,

Matt Simon's signature blue
Matt Simon

Matt Simon
Legislative Analyst
Marijuana Policy Project

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Kentucky Bill Seeks to Nullify Warrantless Drone Spying


http://blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com/files/2013/12/Kentucky-flag.jpg

 

 

The Kentucky legislature will consider a bill in the 2014 legislative session that would take significant steps towards protecting people there from prying eyes in the sky.

Representatives Diane St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park) and Brent Yonts (D-Greenville) have introduced House Bill 11 (HB11). If passed, the act would prohibit the use of drones by Kentucky state law enforcement and other agencies without a warrant in most cases.

The bill states that “No prohibited agency shall use a drone carrying a lethal payload” and that “no prohibited agency shall use a drone to gather evidence or other information” without a search warrant. Prohibited agencies include state law enforcement agencies, domestic or foreign corporations, foreign governmental or intergovernmental entities and any agent of any prohibited agency.

The legislation also makes any evidence gathered in violation of the law inadmissible in court.

The act does make exceptions allowing the use of drones for gathering information when the proper legal process has been followed and for training by active service members of the United States military stationed in Kentucky.

While some might find the exceptions troubling, it represents a huge improvement over the status quo. As it stands now, law enforcement can use drones in Kentucky with absolutely no restrictions. This bill stops drone use without a warrant in most cases.

The legislation does not address drone use by the federal government, but Tenth Amendment Center’s executive director Michael Boldin said that this kind of bill does have significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington is pushing and funding drone use in the states.

“The feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” he said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting last fall. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance  information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”

In fact, the federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, represent an unconstitutional expansion of power.

The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once they create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing.’  Bills like these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.

HB11 was prefiled April 11, 2013 and referred to the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary to start the 2014 legislative session.

ACTION ITEMS

If you live in Kentucky

1. Contact committee members and ask them to move the Citizens’ Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act out of committee for a floor vote. You can find committee member contact information HERE.

2. Contact your own senator and ask him or her to support the Citizens’ Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act You can find legislator contact information HERE.

3.  Share this information widely.  Please pass this along to your friends and family.  Also share it with any and all grassroots groups you’re in contact with around the state.  Please encourage them to email this information to their members and supporters.

LEGISLATION AND TRACKING 

If you don’t live in Kentucky, encourage your representative and senator to introduce legislation to stop drone use. You can track efforts nationwide HERE. You can find model legislation HERE.

Kentucky has more lakes suspected of having toxic algae


 

 

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —Kentucky has seven lakes suspected of having excessive levels of toxic algae, but state officials aren’t revealing which bodies of water are being targeted for a second round of tests.

Kentucky environmental regulators are drawing water from the lakes for a second time for more rigorous laboratory analysis after initial samples showed concentrations of blue-green algae worthy of health advisories.

Kentucky Division of Water official Clark Dorman said the lakes involved in the most recent advisory aren’t run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Five Corps-run lakes were the subject of a recent advisory.

Even though the state’s initial tests suggested health risks to the public, dogs and farm animals, state officials are declining to identify those water bodies.

 

Read more: http://www.wlky.com/news/local-news/louisville-news/ky-has-more-lakes-suspected-of-having-toxic-algae/-/9718340/22411324/-/x31yeb/-/index.html#ixzz2hZAxiMlo

short list of names you’re likely to see during the 2013 General Assembly


By John Cheves — jcheves@herald-leader.com

Keeping up with who’s who in Frankfort can be difficult. Here’s a short list of names you’re likely to see during the 2013 General Assembly:

Gov. Steve Beshear is a Democrat serving his second term. Though he’s the state’s chief executive, Beshear has limited sway during legislative sessions. However, his top priority — legalized casino gambling — could be revived again in 2013, and if so, he might involve himself. Also, lawmakers say Beshear should make a statewide push for tax reform if he expects political momentum behind an overhaul of the tax code.

Audrey Tayse Haynes is Beshear’s secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Look for Haynes to be enmeshed in several controversies, including the state’s shift to private management of Medicaid (medical providers are complaining about late and inadequate payments) and preparations for Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Her predecessor, Janie Miller, caught flak from Republican lawmakers and resigned during the 2012 session.

Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is expected to be chosen by his colleagues as the next Senate president, replacing the departed David Williams. The leadership style of Stivers, a lawyer, remains to be seen. He’s generally more relaxed than Williams, who sometimes ruled the Senate with an iron fist. But he takes seriously his role as opposition leader and isn’t shy about challenging the Democratic administrations of Beshear and President Barack Obama.

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is presumed to be the next Senate majority leader, taking the No. 2 spot now held by Stivers. Thayer is a horse-industry consultant and — working with Beshear — advocates casino gambling at horse racetracks. Thayer also co-chaired a task force on state pension reform during 2012, so he will be a key player in whatever the legislature does on pensions.

Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, is a financial adviser at Civic Finance Advisors, raising money for cities, counties and special taxing districts. Democrats are a fast-shrinking minority in the Senate, so Palmer will have as much clout as Stivers allows him. When Williams was Senate president, Democrats seldom got their say.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, is a wealthy lawyer with financial interests in coal and banking. First elected to the House in 1980 while he was still in his 20s, Stumbo is now 61 and one of Frankfort’s most senior politicians. He skillfully uses his power to control the Democratic-led House. He’s also a possible candidate for governor in 2015, setting up rivalries with other Democrats.

House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, is president of RJA Enterprises, though he refuses to say what the company does. He has financial interests in coal and banking, like Stumbo, his fellow Eastern Kentuckian. As Stumbo’s man on the House floor, Adkins helps decide the flow of legislation, giving some bills a thumbs up and others a thumbs down.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, is a lawyer and radio executive. Hoover’s Republican caucus has clawed its way up to 45 of the House’s 100 seats. But without a majority, he will continue to deliver indignant floor speeches after Democrats get their way. That said, Hoover successfully challenged the Democrats’ political redistricting map last year, getting it tossed out by a court.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/01/05/2465794/a-guide-to-whos-who-in-the-kentucky.html#storylink=botnext#storylink=cpy