State News in Brief

Senate panel OK’s bill to toughen laws against dogfighting

FRANKFORT (AP) — A Senate panel has advanced a bill aimed at putting more bite in Kentucky’s laws against dogfighting.

Kentucky already outlaws the actual act of dogfighting, but it’s the only state that doesn’t outlaw activities contributing to the blood sport.

The measure approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday would expand the law to make it a felony to breed, possess, train or sell dogs for the purpose of dogfighting.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, has worked with animal-rights and sportsmen’s groups since last year, trying to develop a bill acceptable to both.

Some animal-rights activists raised concerns the version approved by the committee is overly broad, creating potential loopholes for those wanting to supply fighting dogs.

The legislation is Senate Bill 14.


Ky. nonprofit attacks Beshear’s ‘sad Obamacare move’

FRANKFORT (AP) — A nonprofit group that spent millions of dollars to support Sen. Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election has paid for a statewide TV ad to criticize former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s efforts to save his health care reforms.

The 30-second ad from the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is titled “Go Home” and says Beshear will not stop his “sad attempt to keep Obamacare.”

As governor, Beshear used the federal Affordable Care Act to expand Kentucky’s Medicaid program and create an exchange where people could purchase discounted private insurance plans. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin wants to repeal both programs because he says they are too expensive. He is developing his own plan for Medicaid.

Beshear started his own nonprofit group earlier this month that he said would educate voters about Bevin’s health care policies.


Ky. recommends more restrictions on fish consumption

FRANKFORT (AP) — State officials are recommending more restrictions on fish consumption.

The Courier-Journal reports the recommendations come after state officials found mercury in more fish from more waterways across the state. Officials now say everyone should limit how much locally caught fish they eat, not just pregnant woman and children under six.

Lanny Brannock, the spokesman for the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, said officials took samples from lakes across the state in 2009 and 2013. He said the samples gave them a better understanding of mercury levels statewide.

The new warning says the general population should limit bottom feeders such as catfish to one meal per week and limit top predators such as smallmouth bass to one meal per month. Pregnant women and young children should eat even less.


Fayette Co. judge-executive urges elimination of his job

FRANKFORT (AP) — Fayette County Judge-Executive John Roberts has asked Kentucky lawmakers to put a measure on the statewide ballot to abolish his job. A House panel has taken the first step toward doing that.

The House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee approved a bill Monday that would put the Lexington issue on the statewide ballot.

Roberts says he has no staff and no government phone in which to carry out his limited duties. His office has a yearly budget of about $21,000 and his salary is less than $9,000.

In most counties, the judge-executive serves as CEO for county government. But the merger of Lexington and Fayette County decades ago left the Fayette County judge-executive with little power.

The bill won bipartisan backing.

The legislation is House Bill 198.


Purdue: US farm entrapments fall to lowest level in decade

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — A new Purdue University study says grain bin entrapments and other confined space accidents on the nation’s farms fell to their lowest level in a decade last year.

Purdue’s study shows the U.S. had 47 entrapments in grain bins and other confined spaces in 2015. That’s 34 percent less than 2014’s 71 entrapments and the fewest since 46 were recorded in 2006.

Purdue says 25 people died last year in entrapments, down from 31 in 2014.

But Bill Field, a Purdue professor of agricultural safety and health, says many nonfatal entrapments go unreported each year because there’s no mandatory national reporting system.

Iowa led the nation with seven incidents. Others were reported in Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin and South Dakota.


Affidavit: Postal carrier shot over drug dispute

LOUISVILLE (AP) — An affidavit filed in federal court says the shooting of a U.S. postal worker in Louisville was the result of a drug deal.

According to court documents made public Monday, investigators suspect the Feb. 10 shooting stemmed from a dispute over a drug-trade arrangement involving mail carrier Da’Ron Lester and a man who lived on his route, Marcus Bennett.

Investigators say Bennett was sitting in the passenger seat of a car as his brother, Eric Bennett, fired multiple shots at Lester as he drove the mail truck.

Lester says Marcus Bennett had asked him to deliver packages of drugs. He hasn’t been charged.

Marcus Bennett is charged with assaulting a federal employee and discharging a firearm during the commission of a violent felony.

Eric Bennett is charged with first-degree assault and attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.


Ex-candidate found guilty of not reporting child sex abuse

ELIZABETHTOWN (AP) — A former Democratic state House candidate has been found guilty of failing to report child abuse in a case involving students at an education program run by the Kentucky National Guard.

Multiple media outlets report that 65-year-old John Wayne Smith of Smiths Grove was convicted by a jury on Friday and faces up to one year in prison.

Smith was the director of Bluegrass Challenge Academy at Fort Knox, where prosecutors said he didn’t report knowledge that a staff member, Stephen Miller, inappropriately touched female students. Miller is serving a four-year prison sentence related to four separate incidents at the academy.

Smith ran and lost a race in 2014 against incumbent Republican Rep. Michael Meredith in House District 19, which includes portions of Edmonson and Warren counties.


Jefferson County Head Start jobs in limbo over grant

LOUISVILLE (AP) — With the funding of its early childhood education program uncertain, Jefferson County Public Schools is warning more than 500 Head Start staff members that their positions could be gone this fall.

News outlets report that the school district’s Director of Early Childhood James Francis last week sent a letter to 526 early childhood employees warning them that the district has to prepare for the possibility of it not receiving its annual $15 million federal grant for the Head Start program’s next school year.

Francis says principals and supervisors will notify employees by March 4 if they have been overstaffed.

The school district doesn’t expect to hear about whether it will get the Head Start grant until May. If the grant comes through, school district spokeswoman Allison Martin says the overstaffed employees would be brought back.

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