News Around the State

Ky. legislature forms bipartisan pension working group

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky legislative leaders have appointed a bipartisan working group to examine the state’s troubled public pension system.

Kentucky has one of the worst funded public pension systems in the country. Last year, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a pension bill with no Democratic support. The state Supreme Court struck the law down in December.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin called lawmakers back in session in December to pass a version of the law again. But lawmakers adjourned without passing anything.

The new working group includes members from both parties and is a reset of sorts in pension negotiations. The panel will have its first meeting on Tuesday in Frankfort. Members include Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, House Democratic Caucus chairman Derrick Graham and GOP Rep. Travis Brenda, a high school math teacher.

Kentucky Derby purse up to $3M; 1st boost in 14 years

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Derby’s purse will be raised to $3 million this May, an increase of $1 million and the first boost in 14 years.

Churchill Downs said Thursday the winner of the 145th running will receive $1.86 million. The runner-up will earn $600,000, with third place worth $300,000, fourth place $150,000 and fifth place $90,000.

The Derby purse had been $2 million since 2005 and $1 million from 1996-2004.

Track President Kevin Flanery attributes the increase to more bettors using historical racing machines — the electronic form of parimutuel betting — at a recently opened facility near the track.

The second and third legs of the Triple Crown offer total purses of $1.5 million in the Preakness and Belmont stakes.

The purse for the Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on May 3 was raised by $250,000 to $1.25 million. It had been worth $1 million since 2011 and was worth $500,000 from 1996-2010.

Churchill Downs also increased purses for some races on the Derby Day undercard on May 4.

Bevin says he can work with new Ohio governor to fix bridge

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says he can work with Ohio’s incoming governor on a solution to fix a 57-year-old bridge the federal government has labeled obsolete.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Bevin told news outlets Thursday that he’s confident he and Gov.-elect Mike DeWine can find a plan for the Brent Spence Bridge. Bevin says a solution will likely involve tolls.

He says the federal government won’t pay for more than one-third of the $2.5 billion project.

The bridge over the Ohio River between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati has been the region’s top transportation issue for decades. It carries more than double the vehicle traffic it was designed for.

The newspaper reports Bevin’s comments made it seem that he and Gov. John Kasich didn’t have much of a working relationship.

Financial agency disagrees with Bevin on pension ruling

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A major financial agency is disagreeing with Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin that Kentucky’s credit rating will be hurt by a recent court ruling invalidating changes to the pension system.

News outlets report that New York-based Fitch Group said Thursday the proposed pension changes weren’t the most critical component is grading the state’s credit. It said what matters most is the state’s ability to fully fund retirement benefits and end reliance on one-time funds to pay for them.

Bevin warned in December that Kentucky’s low bond ratings could be downgraded when he called a surprise special legislative session on the issue. Lawmakers ended the session without taking action.

Last month, Moody’s credit agency declared the state Supreme Court ruling a “credit negative” for Kentucky.

A downgrade would make it more costly for the state to borrow.

3 school employees charged with abuse of autistic student

STANFORD, Ky. (AP) — Court documents show that three Kentucky school employees have been charged with criminal abuse involving a special-needs student.

News outlets report the incident occurred Jan. 3 at Lincoln County High School in a special education class.

A criminal summons for teacher Rebecca Spurlock said teacher’s aide Janie Hasty punched the student, who is autistic and non-verbal. Officials say Hasty and another aide, Teresa Sparkman, then twisted the student’s arm, pulled him off the floor and shoved him. The documents say Spurlock did nothing to intervene.

A statement from Lincoln County Superintendent Michael Rowe says an investigation is ongoing. He says the district won’t tolerate inappropriate contact between adults and students.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the women have attorneys.

Oil-well driller gets 4 years in prison for investor scam

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — An oil-well driller who worked in Kentucky and Tennessee has been sentenced to four years in prison for scamming investors.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports 63-year-old Ronnie C. Rodgers, of Kentucky, was also sentenced Tuesday to a year of home detention. Rodgers was convicted last year of conspiring to commit fraud. He maintains his innocence.

Authorities say Rodgers solicited well money from investors for areas he knew produced little oil, but that he promised would produce up to 200 barrels a day. Court documents say investor losses totaled more than $3.5 million. They say Rodgers was barred from selling Kentucky oil-well investments, but circumvented the ban by setting up other companies.

Rodgers’ attorney. C. Thomas Hectus, has indicated in court filings that Rodgers will appeal the conviction.

Oregon man donates $1M to benefit Ky. horse competition

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Foundation says an Oregon man has donated $1 million to create an endowment that benefits the Kentucky State Fair World Championship Horse Show.

Tourism Secretary Don Parkinson says William Blacklaw donated the gift in memory of his wife. A Thursday agency statement says that the gift will be used to establish the Barbara Blacklaw Memorial Fund, which will provide additional prize money for ribbon winners of the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship competition.

The Blacklaws shared a love for American Saddlebreds and established Singing Hills Stables in 1968 to breed and train the horses. The venue has locations in Oregon and in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

Parkinson said Blacklaw hopes the gift will promote excitement and enthusiasm for the American Saddlebred and the Grand Championship event.