News in Brief


Court rejects coal industry’s complaint on new dust rules

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected a request from the coal industry to delay new rules on dust monitoring in underground mines.

The National Mining Association and several coal companies asked the court to halt the implementation of a rule taking effect Feb. 1 that would increase the number of air samples taken in underground mines. It would also require some miners to wear personal devices that give readings on air quality.

The industry group argued that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration overstepped its authority in issuing the dust rules. The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled Monday that MSHA acted properly.

Joe Main, head of MSHA, has said the new rules are crucial to limiting the dust that causes black lung disease.

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Ky. House passes safe-haven extension bill

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky House has passed a bill that would give parents more time to decide whether to turn over their newborn infants at state-approved safe places.

Under current law, parents have up to three days after their child is born to leave the newborn at safe places such as a hospital or police station. The bill that cleared the House on a 92-0 vote on Monday would give parents up to 30 days to make that decision.

The bill also would allow places of worship to voluntarily participate in the safe-haven program.

The measure’s lead sponsored is Rep. Tom Burch, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee.

The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

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2 state officials depart from Bevin Administration

FRANKFORT (AP) — There have been two departures from Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration: John Rittenhouse from the Kentucky Department of Parks and Arnita Gadson from the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission.

Media outlets report Rittenhouse submitted his resignation on Friday, and Gadson departed on Monday.

Rittenhouse stepped down from his post as Director of Resorts after details of a state ethics violation were made public through a Kentucky Open Records Law request filed by the Louisville Courier-Journal. The ethics commission charged that Rittenhouse “knowingly” violated an ethics provision in 2013 when he entered into a contract to buy a restaurant that subleased its location from the state.

Gadson says the Bevin administration told her that her services as executive director weren’t needed. She says the commission’s budget had been drastically cut, and she wasn’t given any answer about whether the commission would continue.

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Democratic mayor to challenge Rand Paul’s in Senate race

LEXINGTON (AP) —Lexington Mayor Jim Gray filed to run for Rand Paul’s U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, giving Paul a viable challenger and complicating his bid for re-election as he lags in the polls in his presidential campaign.

Gray, the wealthy former CEO of a construction company, made history in 2010 when he was elected Kentucky’s first openly gay mayor. Since then, he has wrangled the city’s pension funds and signed an ordinance raising the local minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Gray was not the party’s first choice to take on Paul, who has been out of the state for months campaigning for president in Iowa and the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina. Party leaders had planned for former auditor Adam Edelen, a dynamic speaker and seen as one of the state’s future Democratic leaders, to begin putting pressure on Paul after the state elections in November.

Paul has dropped in presidential polling, so much that he was bumped from the main stage of the latest televised debate in Iowa. But he has managed to make most of the votes in the U.S. Senate while keeping a busy campaign schedule, saying that shows his commitment to his job.

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State Rep. Leslie Combs decides not to seek re-election

FRANKFORT (AP) — Another veteran Kentucky House Democrat has decided not to seek re-election this year.

Rep. Leslie Combs of Pikeville announced on her Facebook page Tuesday that she will not be on the ballot when Democrats try to maintain their historic control of the House.

Combs did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but the secretary of state’s office confirmed she had withdrawn her name from the ballot.

Tuesday is the filing deadline for candidates wanting to run in Kentucky’s spring primary.

Combs’ decision comes a day after Democratic Rep. Johnny Bell announced he won’t seek another term. Bell is a member of House Democratic leadership.

Democrats are clinging to a 50-46 advantage in the House, not including four vacant seats. Special elections to fill those seats are scheduled for March 8.

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Ex-Louisville police officer pleads guilty to beating wife

WINCHESTER (AP) — A former Louisville Metro police officer has pleaded guilty to beating his wife last winter as she drove home from a Super Bowl party.

News outlets report Clark County Circuit Judge Andrew Adams sentenced Jonathan Osborne to six months home incarceration and 20 months of supervised probation on Monday after he pleaded guilty to a felony count of battery resulting in moderate bodily injury.

Deputies said that on the night of Feb. 1, Osborne was intoxicated and punched his wife in the face while she was driving. The car veered off the road, crashing into a tractor.

Surveillance camera footage then shows Osborne punching his wife in her face, knocking her to the ground and kicking her.

Court records say a passerby pulled over and restrained Osbourne until deputies arrived.

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Gander memorial at Fort Campbell to grow

FORT CAMPBELL (AP) — A Fort Campbell spokesman says Gander Memorial Park is set for expansion.

Bob Jenkins told The Leaf-Chronicle that the memorial is undergoing renovations that will enlarge the park and allow easier access for visitors.

The park was built as a way to remember 248 soldiers who were killed in a 1985 plane crash in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, as they returned home from a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula.

Jenkins said plans call for moving trees and adding walking paths, markers and benches. He said the additions will become the centerpiece for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s memorials.

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Paper company Verso files for bankruptcy

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Paper company Verso Corp. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, though the company says the move will have virtually no impact on its daily business.

Memphis-based Verso said Tuesday the bankruptcy filing is intended to help the company restructure debt. Verso President and CEO David J. Paterson says in a statement that the plan is to eliminate $2.4 billion of outstanding debt, and it would result in the holders of its funded debt receiving Verso equity.

Verso also expects to finalize a debtor-in-possession financing package totaling up to $600 million, in a move designed to bolster daily operations as it reorganizes.

Verso says it does not expect to close any mills, though it will “continue to evaluate its mills to ensure that they are operating as efficiently as possible.”

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