News Around the State

Panel rejects smart meter proposal from electric providers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Public Service Commission has denied a bid by Kentucky’s two largest electric utilities to install “smart” meters in homes across the state.

The state agency said in an order on Thursday that while it sees benefits of using the technology, the utilities failed to show that the costs were worth it. The utilities had proposed installing about 1.3 million smart meters over a three-year period at a cost of nearly $350 million.

In its order, the commission noted that customers were being asked to pay for the new system but the utilities did not commit to passing on savings from smart meters to their customers.

The agency denied the application without prejudice, meaning the utilities could submit a similar plan in the future.

Facing shortfall, Ky. mulls ending Medicaid expansion

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration could eliminate Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid program to avoid a $300 million shortfall.

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program in 2014 under former President Barack Obama’s health care law. The expanded program now covers more than 400,000 people.

Bevin opposed the expansion because he said it cost too much money and did not make people healthier. In January, the federal government gave Kentucky permission to impose work requirements on some Medicaid recipients. But a federal judge blocked the program.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Adam Meier told state lawmakers on Thursday the expanded Medicaid population is “optional” and could be eliminated to save money. He also said the state could cut benefits.

Ky. veterans centers to serve as polling places

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s four veterans centers will be polling places in future elections.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced the change on Wednesday. She said the goal is to make it easier for veterans to vote, adding it is the most fundamental way to honor their service.

Kentucky has veterans centers in Hazard, Wilmore, Hanson and Radcliff. They house hundreds of military veterans who need long-term care.

Grimes said those four veterans centers will be polling places for the precincts they are in. She praised the clerks of Perry, Hopkins and Hardin counties as “instrumental” in making the polling places happen. The Thompson-Hood Veterans Center in Jessamine County is already a polling place.

Gov. Bevin awards employee $215K raise

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has awarded a member of his administration a $215,000 raise, leading the worker to make more than double the governor’s salary.

The Courier Journal reports the executive director of the Commonwealth Office of Technology, Charles Grindle, now makes around $375,000 annually. The state government’s online database of employee salaries says Grindle now is the highest paid employee in Bevin’s administration.

The 134 percent raise was awarded during at a time when the state budget offered no raises for state government workers or teachers. The Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet, which houses the Commonwealth Office of Technology, says cost savings realized by Grindle’s leadership cover the raise’s cost. Grindle previously was paid $160,000 annually.

The newspaper says Grindle and Bevin’s administration didn’t respond to requests for comment.

GOP leaders opt not to renew LRC director’s contract

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The director of the Legislative Research Commission says Republican leaders have chosen not to renew his contract.

David Byerman posted on his Twitter account Tuesday that his last day will be Sept. 30. He has agreed to act as an adviser until a new director is hired.

Commission employees assist lawmakers in both parties in writing and researching legislation. The commission is led by a 16-member panel made up of Republican and Democratic leaders from the state House and Senate.

A statement from Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and GOP House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne said it is against policy to discuss personnel decisions. House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins said he was concerned the minority party was not consulted before Byerman was dismissed.

Researchers study copperheads at Red River Gorge

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) — Researchers are studying copperheads at the Red River Gorge to reduce interactions between people and snakes.

An Eastern Kentucky University statement says the Richmond school is working on the study with the U.S. Forest Service, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Louisville Zoo.

Biology professor Stephen Richter says student researchers are measuring, tagging, releasing and tracking copperheads. He says the data will help determine how the snakes live, including where they hibernate, feed and breed.

U.S. Forest Service District Biologist Christina Wampler says the study’s results are helping officials make high traffic outdoor areas less attractive to copperheads.

Officials say people should be extra vigilant when hiking and camping. Richter says the best tip to avoid getting bit by a snake is to leave it alone.

Fort Knox soldier to be honored for fiery truck rescue

FORT KNOX, Ky. (AP) — A Fort Knox soldier who rescued a man from a tractor-trailer engulfed in flames is receiving a high military honor.

Sgt. 1st Class Mario King rescued the man along a highway in Rockcastle County on Mother’s Day. The truck had jackknifed, turned over and burst into flames when King entered the cabin and pulled the driver out.

King is a career adviser with U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox. He will be given the Soldier’s Medal at a ceremony on Sept. 7. The Army says the award is the highest peacetime medal that the secretary of the Army can bestow upon a soldier.

The truck driver, Doug Bowling, will speak at the ceremony. Bowling suffered broken ribs and smoke inhalation, and King was not injured.

City requires quicker notification about escapes

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — Officials in a western Kentucky city have voted in favor of an ordinance that requires private correctional facilities to more quickly notify law enforcement agencies when there is an escape.

News outlets reported the Paducah City Council voted Tuesday to approve the policy, which comes on the heels of escapes and walkaways from a department of corrections halfway house. Commissioner Richard Abraham says neighbors grew concerned after the most recent escape from Keeton Corrections on Aug. 12. He said the public wasn’t notified for 12 hours.

The new ordinance requires correctional facilities to notify the Paducah Police Department, the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department, Kentucky State Police and all correctional facility employees within 30 minutes of an escape or otherwise unaccounted for inmate, parolee or probationer.

Bardstown Bourbon Company added to Kentucky Bourbon Trail

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (AP) — Bardstown Bourbon Company has become the newest distillery to join the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association says the Nelson County distillery becomes the 14th destination on the trail, which hosted more than one million visits for the second year in a row in 2017.

David Mandell, president and CEO of Bardstown Bourbon Company, says the distillery celebrates the industry’s tradition while offering a “distinctly original experience” for visitors.

Set on 100 acres of farmland off the Bluegrass Parkway, it has grown rapidly since the company was founded in 2014. A second 36-inch column still was installed in June, boosting production capacity to nearly seven million proof gallons per year.

The facility also features a restaurant and bar. Tours of the production side of the facility aren’t yet available.

Shows can resume at performing arts center that caught fire

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — State officials say shows can resume on Sept. 1 at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville after a scan confirmed the roof did not sustain major damage from a June fire.

Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary William M. Landrum III says a 3D laser scan and engineering analysis confirmed earlier visual inspections in concluding the roof structure is safe.

Officials say that since the June 13 fire, work included a month-long removal of the plaster barrel vault ceiling. They say the work was necessary to scan the roof supports.

With the roof’s structural integrity confirmed, officials say patrons will be allowed to return to the building for shows, but they will see an active construction site for several more months.

Woman accused of slaying boyfriend found guilty of murder

NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky woman accused of killing her on-again, off-again boyfriend has been found guilty in the slaying for the second time.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports 27-year-old Shayna Hubers was convicted of murder Tuesday. Huber was accused of shooting 29-year-old Ryan Poston to death in October 2012. The jury Wednesday recommended life in prison.

Prosecutors have said Hubers killed Poston because he was ending the relationship. Hubers argued it was self-defense.

Hubers was convicted of murder in the slaying in 2015, but the conviction was overturned when a juror was discovered to be a convicted felon. Kentucky doesn’t allow convicted felons to sit on juries.

Hubers was sentenced to 40 years during the first trial. She has already been in jail for about five years and 10 months. Her first chance at parole will be after 20 years, the newspaper said .