News Around the State

State lawmakers vote to put ‘In God We Trust’ in schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Public schools in Kentucky would have to display “In God We Trust” in a prominent location next school year under a bill that has cleared the legislature.

The Senate voted 29-8 Thursday night to send the bill to Gov. Matt Bevin. The measure had already won House approval.

The bill would require public schools to display the national motto in a prominent location beginning with the 2019-‘20 school year. There are no penalties if schools don’t comply, but someone could sue to force them to do it.

Locations where the motto could be displayed include school entryways, cafeterias or common areas where students are likely to see the words.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Republican Rep. Brandon Reed, has said the motto is ever-present in society and is prominently displayed in the Kentucky legislature.

The legislation is House Bill 46.

Officials: Tornado hits Ky., leaving damage, injury

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — A tornado touched down Thursday in Kentucky, leaving some damage and at least one injury, officials said.

A state of emergency was declared in a western Kentucky county where the storm spread damage around a 5-square-mile (13-square kilometer) area, knocking down power lines and covering roadways in debris, officials said.

State police said at least one injury has been reported in McCracken County from the storm. Emergency crews were going door-to-door in the area to check on residents.

State trooper Rob Austin said it appears that dozens of homes were damaged, and high winds were continuing in the area Thursday afternoon.

“Things are still flying,” he said.

Authorities said buildings were damaged, including a preschool. Forty students were inside but none were reported hurt.

The twister plowed through parts of western Kentucky, including the West Paducah area, according to Keith Todd, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. He said the public was being asked to avoid the area while utility crews, area fire departments, and rescue squads worked to clear utility lines, downed trees and other debris.

Weather officials in Paducah said it blew past their office.

During the morning, the National Weather Service in Paducah tweeted, “TORNADO JUST MISSED OUR OFFICE IN WEST PADUCAH. TAKE SHELTER NOW IF YOU’RE IN PADUCAH!!!!”

Video of the Kentucky tornado was posted on social media. Jared Borum filmed the forming twister as it moved across a field of trees in Paducah. Borum and a room full of others watched the funnel grow and whip across the field.

“It’s amazing. See the debris? You can see it hitting the trees,” Borum said on his recording.

People could be heard saying, “You can see the tornado right here,” ”Oh my God,” “What in tarnation” and “It’s a legit tornado.”

Weather forecasters say numerous severe storms are possible beginning Thursday afternoon in the Tennessee Valley region and as far south as the northern Birmingham area.

Officials said schools were closing early in north Alabama because of the severe weather possibility.

Forecasters say winds up to 60 mph (97 kph) are possible along with isolated tornadoes and hail.

The state is on the southern end of a storm system that pummeled the central United States.

Bevin: Ky. exports set record high in 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Matt Bevin says Kentucky’s exports rose to a record high of nearly $31.8 billion in 2018.

Bevin said Thursday that Kentucky exports increased nearly 3 percent last year to set an all-time high for the fourth straight year.

The aerospace products and parts sector again took top honors for Kentucky exports. The governor’s office says the aerospace industry shipped nearly $12.5 billion in products to other countries last year, up 7.1 percent from the prior year.

Bevin’s office says other top export categories included motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals and medicines and motor vehicle parts. Pharmaceutical exports grew 22.4 percent last year.

Canada remained Kentucky’s top export destination, importing more than $7.7 billion in goods and services. France was second on the list. Rounding out the top five export markets were the United Kingdom, Brazil and Mexico.

Ky. lawmakers vote to limit secretary of state’s power

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky legislature has voted to remove the secretary of state as a voting member of the state Board of Elections and limit the office’s access to a database of registered voters.

The Kentucky House of Representatives approved House Bill 114 by a vote of 56-39. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk.

The vote comes after two employees at the State Board of Elections accused Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of wielding excessive power over the board and using her access to the voter registration database for political purposes.

Grimes denied the allegations, saying her office has “at all times” followed the law. In a news release, Grimes said she is considering legal action.

Grimes is a Democrat. The legislature is controlled by Republicans.

Man sentenced in heat-related death of 5-month-old daughter

RUSSELLVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky judge has sentenced a 34-year-old man to 10 years in prison in the death of his 5-month-old daughter after she was left in a van.

The Bowling Green Daily News reports Michael Anthony Thigpen of Brandenburg was sentenced Thursday in Logan County Circuit Court. He pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and two counts of first-degree assault.

Emma Grace Thigpen died June 10, 2016, from hyperthermia. She and two toddler sisters were left in a van parked outside the home in Auburn where Thigpen then lived. The other girls were hospitalized for heat-related problems.

Court records say an investigation found Thigpen was up for 24 hours, drove a shift for Uber and took his wife to work before returning home and falling asleep inside his home with the children in the van.

Kentucky zoo set to reopen after sinkhole forced it to close

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Louisville Zoo in Kentucky is set to reopen after a sinkhole opened up and ate a patch of land about as wide as a football field.

News outlets report the zoo is set to open Friday. The sinkhole opened last week and was estimated to be about 50 yards by 85 yards (45 meters by 75 meters) and about 50 feet (15 meters) deep in some spots.

Officials said Thursday that the sinkhole’s cause still is unclear. Zoo spokeswoman Kyle Shepherd has said no people or animals were reported injured and no buildings damaged.

She says the zoo has secured the site and is now focusing on repairs. Fencing will be installed about 40 feet from the sinkhole and stay in place until officials devise a more permanent solution.