State legislature convenes as parties fight for power
FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky state legislature has gaveled in to begin work on a two-year state spending plan under a new Republican governor.
The state House and Senate both convened about noon Tuesday. It will likely be a light day for lawmakers as they introduce bills.
But behind the scenes Republicans and Democrats are grappling for control of the House of Representatives. Democrats have a four-seat majority, but Republicans could force a tie if they sweep four special elections scheduled for March 8.
Meanwhile, new Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is entering his first legislative session. He is scheduled to deliver a major speech to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Thursday followed by a budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Jan. 26.
Man sentenced to serve 30 years in connection with murder
PAINTSVILLE (AP) — A man has been sentenced to 30 years behind bars in connection with a murder case involving of two people.
WYMT-TV reports Orie Spence Jr. was sentenced Monday morning following the 2013 killings of Edger and April Hedrick. The two were found dead in their home in Martin County.
Police arrested Spence following the murder. He pleaded guilty to the murder charge late last year.
Spence was the cousin of Edger Hedrick.
Members of the Hedrick family appeared in court Monday, expressing their frustration over the killings.
Division of Water warns against contact with floodwater
FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky Division of Water wants people to know about the dangers of floodwater as flooding continues in parts of western Kentucky.
The Division of Water says people should avoid contact with floodwater and not try to cross flooded roads or enter flooded areas, either in a vehicle or on foot. It’s hard to tell how deep water is, it moves rapidly and it may carry large debris that can cause injury.
Also, sanitary sewers may overflow and leak into floodwaters, so no contact should be made with floodwaters to avoid potential contamination.
The agency says floodwaters also pose the danger of electrical shock due to downed wires.
Residents also shouldn’t consume food or water that has been exposed to floodwaters, including well, spring or city water.
2 inmates escape from minimum-security Lexington prison
LEXINGTON (AP) — Authorities are searching for two inmates who escaped from a minimum-security state prison in Lexington.
The Kentucky State Police said in a news release that 24-year-old Jordan Green and 23-year-old Waltez Franklin escaped Monday evening from Blackburn Correctional Complex.
The Department of Corrections says Green was serving a 28-year sentence for convictions out of Boone County which included robbery and burglary. He is a white male, 5-foot-9 and 167 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes.
The website says Franklin was serving a 20-year sentence for convictions out of Warren County for robbery and assault. Franklin is a black male, 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.
It is unclear how the men escaped from the prison.
Legislative Research Commission launches YouTube channel
FRANKFORT (AP) — As the Kentucky General Assembly convenes in Frankfort on Tuesday, the Legislative Research Commission is launching its own YouTube channel, “LRC Capitol Connection.”
The channel provides videos about the legislature, legislative issues and state lawmakers. It can be accessed at http://bit.ly/CapitolConnection .
LRC Director David Byerman can also be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/directorlrc .
The first YouTube video focuses on the commission’s history, with a second planned to tell about renovations in the Senate and House of Representatives chambers.
Additional videos are planned to provide updates on legislative action and share lawmakers’ views on issues under consideration.
Ohio River bridge likely to be closed another couple days
WICKLIFFE (AP) — It will likely be a couple more days before the Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge between Kentucky and Illinois can be reopened.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says the bridge remains closed where floodwaters have covered the bridge approach levee at the Kentucky end of the span.
The bridge normally carried about 5,000 vehicles daily across the Ohio River. The closing impacts north-south traffic on U.S. 51 between Kentucky and Illinois and east-west traffic along U.S. 60 and U.S. 62 into Kentucky and Missouri.
The bridge closure also creates about an 80-mile detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge through southern Illinois.
The road has been closed since early Thursday. U.S. 51 is also closed south of Wickliffe, Kentucky, near the Ballard-Carlisle county line.
Lexington tickets paid with 5 tons of food for hungry
LEXINGTON (AP) — A program that allows Lexington parking ticket recipients to cover their fines with canned goods for the hungry has collected 5 tons of food during the holidays.
The Lexington Herald-Leader says the Lexington Parking Authority collected 10,000 canned goods and other food items during the five-week “food for fines” program. That’s up from 6,200 food items collected last year.
All donations are given to God’s Pantry Food Bank. The food bank says 10,211 pounds of food was received, which is the equivalent of 8,370 meals.
In 2014, only parking citations were eligible for the program. This season, the program expanded to include traffic citations.
Former priest pleads guilty to viewing child pornography
LOUISVILLE (AP) — A former Catholic priest accused of taking inappropriate pictures of students at his school is facing nearly three years in federal prison for viewing child pornography on a computer.
Stephen Pohl pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to one count of accessing child pornography. The 57-year-old was head pastor at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, which includes a school campus in eastern Louisville.
Federal prosecutors said they reached a plea deal with Pohl that, if accepted by a judge, would send him to prison for 33 months. Pohl would also be subject to lifelong supervised release after his prison term and would be required to register as a sex offender.
Pohl appeared in U.S. District Court in Louisville dressed in a suit and tie with some family members looking on. After the hearing, he reported to U.S. Marshals to be taken into custody.
The police investigation was spurred by a suspicious student who told his parents he felt “weird” about some photos that Pohl had taken of him that day at school, according to a police affidavit. In it, Louisville Police Det. Dan Jackman wrote that Pohl had told the child “to place his hands on his knees and move his legs apart” for the photos.
The parents of the boy later saw Pohl out shopping in Louisville, confronted him and asked to see the pictures on his cellphone. Pohl handed it over, and the parents found “several photos of other young boys posed in the same manner as” their son, the affidavit said.
Police searched his living quarters at the church on Aug. 12 and found more than 150 photos of children from the school, though none was considered pornographic. Police later recovered child pornography images viewed over the Internet from his computer, the affidavit said.
The Archdiocese of Louisville has suspended Pohl’s ministry, meaning he cannot present himself as a Catholic priest. He resigned from St. Margaret Mary on Aug. 20.
Pohl is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge David Hale on March 29.
University of Kentucky selects College of Medicine dean
LEXINGTON (AP) — A top health care executive in New Jersey has been selected as dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.
The university says Dr. Robert DiPaola is expected to assume the job in early spring, pending approval from UK trustees.
DiPaola is director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and vice chancellor for cancer programs for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
His selection follows a national search. The announcement was made Monday by UK Provost Tim Tracy and Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at UK.
At Rutgers, DiPaola was responsible for all research, clinical and administrative activities of a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. UK says that under his leadership, external research funding increased to more than $100 million annually.