State News in Brief

Jobless rates rise in 114 Ky. counties

FRANKFORT (AP) — State officials say unemployment rates rose in 114 Kentucky counties between February 2015 and February 2016.

The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training said Thursday that jobless rates fell in four counties during that period — Casey, Jackson, Marion and Russell.

The rates stayed the same in Gallatin and Green counties.

Woodford County had the state’s lowest jobless rate at 3.9 percent. It was followed by Fayette and Oldham counties at 4.3 percent each; Shelby County at 4.5 percent; and Franklin and Scott counties at 4.7 percent each.

Magoffin County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 21.6 percent. It was followed by Leslie County at 13.7 percent; Harlan County at 13.6 percent; Floyd County at 13.5 percent; Letcher County at 13.4 percent; and Wolfe County at 13.3 percent.


Senate approves budget cuts for courts, but changes possible

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky Senate has approved spending cuts of 9 percent to the court system that the state’s chief justice says could lead to 600 layoffs and force thousands of people facing criminal charges to sit in jail while awaiting trial.

But House and Senate leaders say they could still make changes to the proposal as budget talks continue through the weekend.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has already approved the cuts to the judicial branch over the objections of Chief Justice John Minton. Senate leaders had said they were concerned about the cuts and were considering changes.

But lawmakers have to have a budget deal by midnight Monday. Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel said the deadline did not give the Senate enough time to make changes.

House and Senate negotiators are scheduled to meet Friday afternoon.


Ky. House rejects Senate budget proposal

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky House of Representatives has officially rejected the state Senate’s budget proposal and appointed a conference committee to work out a compromise.

The Democratic majority of the state House did not concur with the Senate’s changes to the more than $65 billion two-year state spending plan. House Speaker Greg Stumbo appointed six Democrats and three Republicans to the conference committee. Senate President Robert Stivers appointed six Republicans and four Democrats to the committee.

The key difference between the two sides is the $650 million in proposed spending cuts from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Senate Republicans mostly support the cuts while House Democrats mostly oppose them.

The committee met Thursday night and is scheduled to meet again on Friday. Leaders from both parties say they hope to have a compromise by Wednesday.


Ky. House passes bill for 1 marriage license form

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky’s state House has passed a bill that would create one marriage license form for both gay and straight couples in an effort to defuse controversy over the licensing of gay marriages.

The measure passed by the Democratic-led House on Friday has the blessing of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Under the House version, a marriage license applicant would have the option of checking “bride,” ”groom” or “spouse” beside their name.

The bill goes back to the Republican-led state Senate, which passed a different version calling for separate forms for gay and straight couples.

The proposals are a response to the controversy last year surrounding Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who spent five days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


Lawmakers complete work on bill to speed rape-kit tests

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky lawmakers have completed work on a bill aimed at accelerating the testing of rape kits.

The House passed the bill without debate Friday and sent it to Gov. Matt Bevin.

A rape kit is a collection of physical evidence from a victim after a rape has occurred.

The legislation is a response to an investigation by former state Auditor Adam Edelen, who found more than 3,000 rape kits were untested in the state police lab and in other police agencies across Kentucky.

Right now, it takes about eight months for a rape kit to be tested in Kentucky because of a lack of funding and staff. The bill aims to shorten that to 90 days by July 2018 and 60 days by 2020.


Tree planting planned for former mine site in western Ky.

PARADISE (AP) — Community groups and the Boy Scouts are conducting a tree planting on former mine lands in western Kentucky this weekend.

The Department for Natural Resources’ Division of Abandoned Mine Lands says about 1,100 trees will be planted at the event in Muhlenberg County.

Tree seedlings will be planted on a portion of the 40-acre Andrew’s Run reclamation project near Paradise.

The Muhlenberg County 4-H, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts will be planting trees as part of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative.

The federal Office of Surface Mining and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources are assisting in the reclamation effort.


Ex-state rep. Keith Hall sentenced for bribery

LEXINGTON (AP) — Former state representative and Pikeville coal operator Keith Hall has been sentenced to seven years for bribing a state mine official.

U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell sentenced the 56-year-old Hall on Thursday and ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine.

Hall was convicted by a jury in June of paying former mine reclamation officer Kelly Shortridge for favorable treatment in connection with his official duties.

The prosecutor’s office said evidence at trial showed that Shortridge was paid more than $46,000 to ignore violations at Hall’s property. Defense lawyer Brent Caldwell said at the time that most of the money was for legitimate coal-related business deals between the men.

Shortridge was sentenced to two years.

Hall is a Democrat who represented Pike County for 14 years.


Indianapolis man dies when boat capsizes on Ohio River

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say an Indianapolis man has died after his boat capsized while fishing with friends on the Ohio River.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says the Clark County Coroner’s Office pronounced 48-year-old Anthony Beck dead on a boat ramp at about 3 a.m. Friday. Authorities said Beck was fishing in a small boat with another man while another friend was in a separate boat. They were downstream from the Falls of Ohio State Park.

Authorities say both of the men in Beck’s boat fell overboard when one of them stood in the boat. They both were wearing life jackets. Beck’s friend, 43-year-old Juan Duncan of Indianapolis, swam to shore.

Beck’s friends found him floating face and unresponsive. The victim’s boat hasn’t been recovered. Authorities plan to search later Friday.


Prescribed burn to benefit Perryville Battlefield wildlife

PERRYVILLE (AP) — A section of Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site will be closed for a prescribed burn meant to help develop the park’s quail habitat.

The Advocate-Messenger reports state wildlife officials will soon be burning invasive species of plants on 175 acres off Battlefield Road as conditions allow. Steps will be taken to contain the fire.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife biologist Terri Brunjes says burning fields stimulates the growth of valuable grasses and wildflowers, and benefits birds and game. The burn will allow for the creation of a quail habitat, as the birds need thin grass and bare dirt where they can hunt and peck.

The future quail habitat is meant to commemorate the Civil War and settlement era.

Brunjes estimates quails should start using the burned area within months.

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