Kentucky congressman says ‘Hell No’ to Obamacare replacement bill

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., listened during a committee session in 2013.

By Fernando Alfonso III

falfonso@herald-leader.com

A tweet from a Northern Kentucky congressman went viral Wednesday afternoon after he used his voting card to double down on his disdain for the American Health Care Act, the Republicans’ attempt to replace Obamacare.

Rep. Thomas Massie’s tweet features a photo of his “new” voting card and the words “HELL NO” on it. Within two hours after sending the message, Massie, who manages his own Twitter account, could not believe it had collected more than 8,200 likes and 3,000 retweets.

“I didn’t expect it to go viral. I thought maybe we’d get 5 percent of that,” Massie said over the phone in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s another version of Obamacare, in my opinion, and it’s not as well thought out. We need to leave the socialism to the socialists. If I thought the bill were a glass half full proposition, better than the status quo, I’d vote for it. But I think it will make insurance premiums go up.”


Sen. Rand Paul predicts House will vote down GOP health plan

“It’s important for Republicans to understand that once we pass something, we will own it,” Sen. Rand Paul said of the GOP health care plan. “If what we pass is not going to work, it’s a bad thing to own.”

jbrammer@herald-leader.com


The AHCA would replace the subsidies in Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, with a flat tax credit that would not account for income or local insurance prices. The new law would also allow insurers to charge older people five times what they charge younger customers, compared to three times under Obama’s health care law, according to the Associated Press.

Massie, a Republican, has made his displeasure over AHCA clear on Twitter over the past week through hashtags like #sassywithmassie.

“(The proposal) just won’t work and Republicans will get blamed for escalating health insurance costs,” Massie said. “The bill doesn’t do enough to reduce the cost of health care. I feel the momentum is against the bill. I don’t see any of my colleagues changing their votes and they’ve had 24 hours to switch people from a no to a yes to no avail.”

Angry constituents confront U.S. Rep. Andy Barr about GOP health care bill

U.S. Rep Andy Barr faced angry constituents in Richmond, Ky., during a town hall on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Barr was defending the Republican proposal to replace the federal Affordable Care Act.

Daniel Desrochers ddesrochers@herald-leader.com

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso

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(KY) Senate approves bill to tighten reporting of toxicology screenings

For Immediate Release

March 14, 2017 

Senate approves bill to tighten reporting of toxicology screenings

FRANKFORT — A bill to tighten the reporting of toxicology screenings by Kentucky hospitals passed the state Senate today, clearing its way to become law pending the signature of Gov. Matt Bevin. 

House Bill 314, which was approved by the House of Representatives late last month, requires certain hospitals to report positive drug screenings to the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, including results from newborn babies who might have been exposed to controlled substances by their mothers prior to birth.  The measure is part of an ongoing effort to fight prescription drug abuse in Kentucky. 

The bill also permits federal prosecutors and medical professionals, including pharmacists, to use the state’s KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) database containing reports of misuse of controlled substances. 

“For the KASPER system to be effective,  we need to stay on top of it,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah. “We need every tool available to us.”

The bill passed the Senate 33-3 and now goes to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

–END–

HB 314 :

AN ACT relating to controlled substance monitoring.
     Amend KRS 218A.202 to require certain hospitals to report positive toxicology screens to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services; permit federal prosecutors and agents to use KASPER; permit practitioners or pharmacists to review KASPER reports of birth mothers of potentially drug-exposed infants; remove a pilot program relating to real-time electronic monitoring; make other technical corrections; amend KRS 218A.240 to conform.

Charter school bill passes, goes to governor

For Immediate Release

March 15, 2017


Charter school bill passes, goes to governor

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky Senate and House each voted today in favor of legislation to allow publicly funded charter schools to operate in Kentucky. The bill now goes to Gov. Matt Bevin, a supporter of charter schools, to be signed into law.

House Bill 520, sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman and public school teacher John Carney, R-Campbellsville, HB 520 would allow local school boards to authorize public charter schools in their school districts beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. The schools would established by contract and governed by independent boards to provide Kentucky residents with nonsectarian educational programs that “meet or exceed student performance standards adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education,” according to the bill.

The Senate voted 23-15 this afternoon in favor of the bill. The House, which already approved a version of the legislation earlier this month, cast a 53-43 vote this evening officially accepting changes made to the bill by the Senate.

Changes to the bill approved by the Senate and the House would allow the state school board to override a local school board’s decision regarding authorization of charter schools and allow for judicial review of the state board’s decision. It would also allow mayors of the state’s two largest cities (Louisville and Lexington) to be authorizers of charter schools upon their request, and emphasize that only certified teachers and administrators approved by the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board could be hired to teach at the schools.

Other approved changes would allow, not require, charter schools to give enrollment preference to lower-income students, and would allow charter school students who cannot participate in state-sanctioned school athletics at their school to participate in sports at the traditional public school in their district, along with a few other changes.

Kentucky is one of seven states that do not already allow public charter schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Latonia, read from a Presidential Proclamation issued by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to make the case in support of charter schools in the Senate this afternoon. McDaniel quoted Obama’s proclamation as saying: “Whether created by parents and teachers or community and civic leaders, charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country.  These institutions give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models and develop creative methods to meet students’ needs.”

In a House debate this evening, Carney said that that public charter schools will give Kentuckians a choice in public education.

“The reality is we have a system that does not work for every child in Kentucky. We teach to the middle,” he said. “Too many folks are being left behind.”

Among those voting against HB 520 was former House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green. Richards said that charter schools would be money-making ventures governed by what he described as “for-profit” companies. 

“If you believe it’s unfair for a for-profit management company to take money away from your school system, you can’t vote for this bill. And it will. These management companies have to make money, folks,” said Richards.

Following passage of HB 520, the House voted 61-34 for final passage of House Bill 471, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah. That bill would amend the 2016-2018 executive branch budget to create a funding mechanism for charter schools created under HB 520.

Bills to allow charter schools in Kentucky have been filed for consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly since 2008. No charter school bills have passed the House until this year.

–END–

(KY) Who is this legislature working for?

March 14, 2017

As this session of the General Assembly winds down, its recurring theme has been the transfer of power to those who already have it.

The dramatic rush of legislation in early January produced the new Republican majority’s crown jewel, a right-to-work law weakening the labor unions that represent Kentucky workers.

Since then, there’s been a steady redistribution of power and influence to those who already enjoy power and influence, from those who have much less of both.

Victims of nursing-home negligence and medical malpractice lost power to the nursing home and medical industries and will now have to go through “medical review panels” before taking their complaints to court.

Neighborhoods lost power to developers who were given a weapon in the form of a costly bond requirement to take disputes over zoning decisions to the Court of Appeals.

Coal miners are losing to the operators of unsafe mines as a bill progresses that would result in fewer state mine-safety inspections.

Workers in chain restaurants lost to corporations that are being relieved of responsibility for wage, hour, health, safety and other violations affecting their franchises’ employees.

Kentuckians will lose part of the public highways to longer, heavier trucks as a favor to the poultry, aluminum and trucking industries (though Kentucky’s short-line railroad industry is also losing).

School districts will be allowed to employ certain relatives of school-board members as lawmakers dismantle historic anti-nepotism rules piecemeal.

And women — especially low-income and rural women — will have less access to safe, legal abortions as a male-dominated legislature imposes even more constitutionally questionable barriers. At the same time, bipartisan legislation that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations, such as breaks or unpaid time off, to pregnant or breastfeeding workers got nowhere.

The legislature’s new Republican majority is making Kentucky a guinea pig to test the theory that lowering wages and taking away Kentuckians’ rights will produce a better, more prosperous state.

In doing so, the new Republican majority is also carrying out the agenda of an organization founded and funded by the Koch brothers (who have plenty of power, influence and money) that opened shop in Kentucky in 2014. Americans for Prosperity does not report how it spends its money or where its money comes from. It does not give directly to candidates, but there’s no doubt its independent spending was a factor in last fall’s elections when Republicans won the House for the first time in almost a century and also in Gov. Matt Bevin’s victory in 2015.

Kentucky’s legislature and governors have long been captive to monied interests, most notably road builders and other state contractors.

This session is the first in which lawmakers have owed so much to out-of-state interests.

This session’s redistribution of power eventually will manifest itself in lawmakers’ hometowns and across their districts. They can pat themselves on the backs if, indeed, their constituents become more prosperous, healthy and safe as a result of their actions. If that’s not how it works out, however, voters will have to make a strong statement to be heard above the siren song of dark money.

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(3/10/17) Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens Week in Review

Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens
Week in Review

A flurry of activity stemming from committee meetings and the passage of bills marked a short but intense Week 6 of the Kentucky General Assembly. Although the Senate was only in session from Monday to Wednesday of this week, committee meetings still met during the later part of the week to give final hearings to a few select bills.

Quite a few pieces of legislation have already made it to Governor Bevin’s desk to await his signature. Senate Bill 17, relating to student rights to political and religious speech, was given final passage by the House this week. Senate Bill 101 would allow pharmacists to administer more immunizations to children, and Senate Bill 117, allowing veterans who meet certain criteria to obtain special teaching certificates, were also finally passed by the House.

The Senate also enrolled House bills to be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature, including: House Bill 14, which makes committing an offense against a first responder a hate crime; House Bill 93, strengthening penalties for assaulting a law enforcement animal, also known as “Ernie’s Law”; and House Bill 189, increasing transparency within area development districts.

Senate Bill 50 would allow school districts that choose to start the school year no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 to follow a “variable student instructional year.” Schools which start the school year a little later in August than other schools, would not have to meet a 170-day requirement for the school year, as long as students still receive 1,062 hours of instruction each year, which is considered the equivalent of 170 school days. Senate Bill 50 was passed by the Senate 33-1 on February 9 and approved 77-18 by the House on March 8. It now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Senate legislation that would allow medical review panels to review medical malpractice lawsuits before they go to court was also sent to the Governor last week.  Senate Bill 4 would establish a process for medical review panels to review cases and issue opinions that could be used as evidence in court if a case proceeds. It does not prevent any citizen’s access to the courts. The bill was approved by the Senate 23-13 on January 5 and approved 51-45 by the House on March 1. It was delivered to the Governor on March 6.

The General Assembly is now quickly approaching the end of the 2017 Session. We adjourned on March 8, marking day 26 of 30 of the session, and we will reconvene again on March 14 and 15 before going into the veto period. During that period the Governor has the power to veto bills, but the General Assembly can override vetoes on the last two days of session, March 29 and 30.  If you have questions about the status of bills, please feel free to contact my office or review the Legislative Record online which can be found at www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/record.htm.

If you have any questions or comments about these 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

Senate President Pro Tem

Kentucky on verge of lifting nuclear moratorium

Image result for kentucky nuclear waste site

James Bruggers , @jbruggers 10:23 a.m. ET March 8, 2017

Nuclear critic says no nuclear power plants will likely come to Kentucky any time soon because of their costs

A bill that would overturn a three-decade-old law that effectively bars construction of nuclear power plants in Kentucky is on the verge of passing the General Assembly and being sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.

Senate Bill 11 would get rid of a mandate that any nuclear power plants have access to a permanent disposal facility for their radioactive wastes, which can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. They’d only have to have a plan to manage those wastes.

Already successfully through the Senate, Sen. Danny Carroll‘s bill passed a House committee on Tuesday and was sent to the House floor for a vote, where one of its long-time critics, Kentucky Resources Council director Tom FitzGerald, said he expects it will pass.

“We’ve had 15 years of arguing over this,” FitzGerald said Wednesday, observing that his organization withdrew its opposition this year as new wording was added to make sure all costs of nuclear energy would be weighed before allowing any plants to be constructed in Kentucky.

He said there was little chance of a nuclear plant being built in Kentucky anytime soon because they cannot compete economically with other forms of energy such as natural gas, scrubbed coal or renewables.

►MORE:  Bevin, 18 states, call for EPA to back off

Still, Carroll, a Paducah Republican, whose district includes a former nuclear fuel factory in Paducah, said Kentucky needs to be ready to diversify its energy portfolio.

In a news release, he said that U.S. energy demand is expected to increase. “That means the United States will need many new power plants of all types to meet the increased demand and replace older facilities that are retired. To ensure a diverse portfolio, many of these new power plants will have to be nuclear,” he said.

FitzGerarld said it’s more likely that the bill might allow the Paducah facility — which will be in a cleanup mode for many decades — to attract some additional research and development money to Kentucky.

Despite spending billions of dollars over two decades, the U.S. government failed to open a permanent disposal facility for high-level nuclear waste at its Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

Reach reporter James Bruggers at 502-582-4645 or at jbruggers@courier-journal.com.

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Status

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 3-0)
Status: Engrossed on March 2 2017 – 50% progression
Action: 2017-03-07 – reported favorably, 1st reading, to Calendar
Text: Latest bill text (Draft #2) [PDF]

Summary

Amend KRS 278.600 to require that nuclear power facilities have a plan for the storage of nuclear waste rather than a means of permanent disposal and to add definitions of “storage,” “low-level nuclear waste,” and “mixed nuclear waste”; amend KRS 278.610 to allow certification if the facility and its plans for waste storage are approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; eliminate the requirement that the facility have a plan for disposal of high-level nuclear waste; eliminate the requirement that cost of waste disposal be known; eliminate the requirement that the facility have adequate capacity to contain waste; give the Public Service Commission authority to hire a consultant to perform duties relating to nuclear facility certification; prohibit construction of low-level nuclear waste disposal sites in Kentucky except as provided in KRS 211.852; direct the Energy and Environment Cabinet to review regulations required for permitting nuclear facilities and report to LRC; repeal KRS 278.605, relating to construction of nuclear power facilities.

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Where key bills stand with seven workdays left in the 2017 General Assembly

The Kentucky House of Representatives voted on bills on Friday, March 3, 2017, at the state Capitol in Frankfort.

By John Cheves

jcheves@herald-leader.com

Frankfort

The 2017 General Assembly enters its final phase Monday as Republican leaders prepare for Gov. Matt Bevin a stack of legislation on university funding, religious expression, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation and many other subjects.

The Kentucky House and Senate are scheduled to continue passing bills through Wednesday, then recess until March 14, when they will return for two days of voting on “concurrence” — deciding whether or not to agree with any changes that have been made to their bills by the other chamber.

Next, Bevin, a Republican, will get two weeks to veto legislation if he chooses. Lawmakers return to the Capitol on March 29 and 30 to act on Bevin’s vetoes, if there are any, and conclude their 30-day session.

Here is where some noteworthy bills that have passed at least one chamber stood on Friday:

House Bill 14, which would extend the state’s hate crimes law to include criminal acts committed against police officers and other emergency workers, awaits a final vote on the Senate floor.

House Bill 72, which would let judges set an expensive bond for parties who appeal a zone change case from circuit court, awaits a Senate floor vote. A Senate committee changed the bill, removing an exception for churches that appeal a case and adding an exception for anyone challenging a landfill, so the House would have to agree to that.

House Bill 128, which would allow school districts to offer elective Bible study classes, awaits a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

House Bill 151 would permit children to attend the school nearest their home, causing concern in Louisville, where a racial desegregation plan involves moving some children outside of their neighborhoods to create greater classroom diversity. It awaits a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

House Bill 222, which would prohibit shock probation for drunken drivers convicted of manslaughter or vehicular homicide, awaits a final vote on the Senate floor.

House Bill 281, which would set limits on how much the state’s attorney general could pay the outside lawyers he hires to handle complex litigation, awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 296 would reduce the expenses paid by Kentucky’s workers’ compensation program at the request of insurers and businesses, angering worker advocates, who say labor was left out of the bill. It awaits a hearing in the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee.

Senate Bill 1, which would establish a new process for intervening in low-performing schools and reviewing classroom academic standards, awaits a hearing in the House Education Committee.

Senate Bill 4, which would create medical review panels comprised of medical professionals to decide the merits of malpractice and neglect claims before they could proceed as lawsuits, was given final passage by the Senate on Friday and sent to the governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 8, which would bump Planned Parenthood to the back of the line for about $300,000 a year in federal family planning funds, awaits a vote on the House floor. A House committee made changes to the bill, so the Senate would have to agree with those.

Senate Bill 17, which details the right of public students to express religious viewpoints in school, awaits a final vote on the House floor.

Senate Bill 75, which would double the amount that donors can contribute to state political campaigns and then allow additional increases tied to inflation, awaits a hearing in the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Senate Bill 107 would grant sweeping powers to the governor to abolish every public educational governing board in Kentucky, including those at state universities, the Kentucky Board of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education. It awaits a hearing in the House State Government Committee.

Senate Bill 120, an expansive plan to make it easier for felons to get work experience while incarcerated and smoothly re-enter society after their release, awaits a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 153, which would create a new method of funding higher education, funneling $1 billion to state universities based on their graduation rates and other performance measures, awaits a hearing in the House budget committee.

John Cheves: 859-231-3266, @BGPolitics

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