News Around the State

Ky. reports lower statewide jobless rate in February

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky officials say the state’s unemployment rate fell slightly in February.

The Kentucky Center for Statistics says the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 4.1 percent in February. The preliminary statewide figure was down from the 4.2 percent rate reported for January. The statewide unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in February 2018.

State officials say construction employment increased by 1,000 jobs in February, as did employment in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. The professional and business services sector added 700 jobs in February.

Officials say Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector fell by 800 jobs in February. They say employment in Kentucky’s mining and logging sector fell by 100 jobs in February, but is up by 600 positions from a year ago.

Rand Paul’s $580,000 jury award upheld

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky judge has denied a request for a new trial from a man who a jury said should pay more than $580,000 to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul for injuries Paul suffered when he was tackled by the man.

The Daily News of Bowling Green reports Special Judge Tyler Gill rejected a motion Thursday from Rene Boucher’s lawyer and said the jury award wasn’t excessive considering Boucher’s conduct and Paul’s injuries.

Gill presided over a civil trial between the two neighbors in January in Bowling Green.

The Republican senator suffered multiple broken ribs and contracted pneumonia after being tackled in his yard in 2017.

Gill also rejected arguments that Paul tried to provoke Boucher over yard waste and that Paul failed to quantify the amount of damages he sought.

Anti-vaxxer gets hearing over chickenpox ban

WALTON, Ky. (AP) — An unvaccinated student in Kentucky will get his day in court after suing because he can’t participate in extracurricular activities during a chickenpox outbreak.

The Courier Journal reports 18-year-old Jerome Kunkel’s case will be heard in court April 1.

Unvaccinated students have ordered by the state health department to stay away from the Our Lady of the Assumption Church school and its activities during the outbreak.

Kunkel’s family founded the school and church, which opposes anything to do with abortion. He says the vaccine violates his beliefs because it’s produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses generations ago. The National Catholic Bioethics Center says the vaccine is OK because it doesn’t actually contain aborted cells.

Health department lawyer Jeffrey C. Mando says the state properly used its authority.

Referee’s suit against radio network dismissed

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A judge in Kentucky has dismissed a college basketball referee’s lawsuit against a radio network, saying the station’s criticism is protected by the First Amendment.

Veteran official John Higgins sued Kentucky Sports Radio, host Matt Jones and editor Drew Franklin, saying their postgame criticism of his officiating in Kentucky’s 2017 NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina resulted in harassment of him and his family. He said he received death threats by phone and that his roofing business was disrupted by false negative reviews online.

U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood ruled Wednesday to dismiss the suit while noting the plaintiffs’ frustration “is understandable and their damages are real.” Jones tweeted he was “pleased” with the ruling.

Manufacturing plant to close in September

FRANKLIN, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky plant that makes audio components for car manufacturers will close later this year.

The Daily News reports Harman Becker Automotive will close its doors in Simpson County in September after nearly 20 years in business at the location. A statement from Connecticut-based Harman International called the move “an essential step to ensure the long-term competitiveness of our business.”

Franklin-Simpson Industrial Authority Director Dennis Griffin says the plant was among the company’s last North American manufacturing facility.

Griffin says Harman Becker employs about 175 people and plans to eliminate about half of its workers in June and the rest in September.

The company said it would provide severance packages and job search assistance to eligible employees.

Forest Service to begin repairs at Land Between the Lakes

GOLDEN POND, Ky. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service says it will soon begin repairs at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

A statement from the agency says Land Between the Lakes recently received $4.1 million in assistance from the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads program. Officials say the funding will be used for engineering, materials, project planning and contracting to address damages from flooding in 2016.

Tina Tilley is area supervisor at Land Between the Lakes on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. She says some of the first repairs will be to Forest Roads 174 and 145, which are both closed due to dangerous conditions.

Tilley says another priority is the popular Hematite Trail, where both the boardwalk and the wildlife observation area will be repaired.