Kentucky Lawmakers React To GOP’s Failed Attempt At Obamacare Repeal Friday, Mar 24 2017 

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Friday that the Republican plan to replace Obamacare would not get a vote, to the delight of one of Kentucky’s U.S. senators and dismay of the other.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a brief statement thanking Ryan and President Donald Trump for promoting the effort, despite its failure.

“Obamacare is failing the American people and I deeply appreciate the efforts of the Speaker and the president to keep our promise to repeal and replace it,” McConnell wrote. “I share their disappointment that this effort came up short.”

McConnell and other Kentucky Republicans have won elections by campaigning against Obamacare for years and the GOP has vowed to repeal the policy since its passage in 2010.

But the repeal and replace effort never gained support among conservative Republicans in the House who favored an outright repeal of the policy.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul helped lead the charge against the plan, threatening that it would never be taken up in the Senate even if it passed the House.

“I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people and standing up against Obamacare-Lite,” Paul said in a statement on Friday. “I look forward to passing full repeal of Obamacare in the very near future.”

Paul has proposed his own bill to repeal Obamacare. It would scrap taxes, do away with the requirement to have health insurance and get rid of the ban on insurers refusing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

But it’s unclear if Congress will take up any bill dealing with Obamacare in the near future.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, said the non-vote showed that Republicans realize the political danger of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“I think they now understand not only that it’s extremely complicated, but also that the American people think this is very important,” Yarmuth said. “Because this affects every one of them and their families very personally.”

President Trump on Friday called for Republicans to “let Obamacare explode,” saying that the program will eventually become unsustainable.

“We’ll end up with a great bill in the future, once Obamacare collapses,” Trump said.

Yarmuth said Trump’s comments were “irresponsible and inhumane.”

“If you’re going to run the government, you want to make sure government programs run as effectively as possible and benefit as many people as possible,” Yarmuth said.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who embraced Obamacre while in office, applauded the non-vote and called on lawmakers to come up with fixes to the current system.

“The winners today are the millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians who have been able to receive health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, many of them for the first time,” Beshear said. “It’s now time to put people over politics and collaborate across party lines to improve the ACA and further reform our health-care system.”

After implementing the Affordable Care Act, Kentucky’s uninsured rate dropped from more than 20 percent to about 7 percent. About 500,000 people got health coverage, mostly through the expansion of the Medicaid system.

But the program also had trouble in the state. Lower enrollment and higher costs prompted many insurers to leave the state exchange recently, and those that stayed hiked premiums significantly in 2017.

Five companies that sold insurance on Kentucky’s health exchange in 2016 pulled out of the program for 2017. Those that remain are charging higher premiums.

Republicans Admit Defeat On Health Care Bill: ‘Obamacare Is The Law Of The Land’ Friday, Mar 24 2017 

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

House Republicans scrapped a vote on their health care replacement plan on Friday after defections from both the right and center that made it clear the bill would not pass.

President Trump tried to spin the setback as a defeat for Democrats who wouldn’t cross the aisle to support the bill — despite not making any entreaties to the minority party.

“The best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode,” he argued in the Oval Office. “It is exploding right now.”

Trump — who is the first president to enter office without any political or legislative experience — did seem to admit there was a bit of a learning curve when it came to such a complex issue.

“This was an interesting period of time. We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty and we learned a lot about the vote getting process. And we learned about very arcane rules in both the Senate and the House,” Trump said. “Certainly for me it was a very interesting experience, but for me, it’ll be an experience that leads to an even better health care plan.”

Striking a more solemn tone, a dejected House Speaker Paul Ryan admitted that fulfilling the GOP’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act was tougher than they expected.

“Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains, and, well, we’re feeling those growing pains now,” Ryan said.

“I will not sugarcoat this — this is a disappointing day for us,” the House Speaker conceded.

The way forward for Republicans on exactly how to replace Obamacare remains murky — or if they even will try again.

“Obamacare is the law of the land. It is going to remain the law of the land,” Ryan admitted. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to replace this law.”

Ryan had already delayed the bill a day to try to muster support. Trump had delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans — pass the GOP replacement, the American Health Care Act, or Obamacare will stand.

Ultimately, the votes never came together for a fractured GOP caucus, and Ryan traveled to the White House to tell Trump he was pulling the bill.

Democrats, meanwhile, were more than happy to take a victory lap in the GOP’s defeat. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose caucus was decimated in 2010 after the health care bill was passed, appeared flaked by Democratic leadership to gloat just a day after the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s pretty exciting for us,” the California Democrat said, beaming. “Yesterday the anniversary. Today a victory for us.”

The inability of Republicans to reach consensus on a bill, given its control of the House, Senate and White House, badly hurts its image as a party that can govern, and Ryan admitted as much on Friday.

The GOP has vowed repeatedly over the past eight years that it would repeal and replace Obamacare. The legislative stalemate endangers Trump’s and the GOP’s agenda and casts a cloud over the legislative path forward after an election waged almost entirely as the antithesis to a progressive agenda enacted by former President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.

The risks were high for Trump on the bill. He has hyped a brand of someone able to strike the best deals. Being unable to get this through, after giving an ultimatum to congressional Republicans Thursday, raises questions about just how good a deal-maker he is and underscore his lack of legislative and policy experience upon entering the White House.

Vice President Pence, who canceled a trip out of Washington, had hoped to make one last sale in a meeting with the roughly 40-member, hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus, which had also refused to budge from its ideological objections to the bill.

In an attempt to win the caucus over, an amendment was added to the bill late Wednesday night, cutting essential health benefits, 10 types of medical care that insurance companies are required to cover. The Freedom Caucus wants to see premiums come down and believes cutting benefits is the way to do that.

But that also had an effect on moderates. For example, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., who represents a swing district in the D.C. suburbs, said she wouldn’t back the bill, joining more moderate Republicans who are top 2018 Democratic targets who don’t want to take a tough vote that might come back to bite them during the midterms.

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, another centrist Republican, announced he wouldn’t support the bill either, saying in a statement that the GOP’s replacement plan was no better than Obamacare.

And House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., also broke ranks with GOP leadership on Friday, announcing that he was a no vote. His reasoning: The current bill adds too many new costs and barriers, along with taking away benefits requirements.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had maintained at his daily briefing that a vote was still slated for this afternoon. He said Trump had “left everything on the field” to try to woo Republican members, having contacted over 120 members. But his tone and tense were notable.

Spicer wouldn’t concede that the bill might fail, but did admit that “at the end of the day, you can’t force somebody to do something.”

He added, “At the end of the day, this isn’t a dictatorship.”

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Here’s Some Of The Bills Bevin Signed Into Law This Week Friday, Mar 24 2017 

With the legislature on a break heading towards the end of this year’s session, Gov. Matt Bevin has signed many bills into law this week, including legislation opening Kentucky up to charter schools, defunding Planned Parenthood and requiring state colleges and universities to compete for funding.

Bevin has signed 107 bills into law so far this year. He has 10 days after a bill passes to sign the legislation, veto it or ignore it — in which case the proposal becomes law.

The General Assembly will return on Wednesday and Thursday next week for the two final working days of this year’s legislative session.

They’ll have the opportunity to override any vetoes Bevin makes with a supermajority of votes in each chamber, though Bevin hasn’t vetoed any legislation so far.

In the two concluding days of the legislative session, lawmakers are expected to consider bills dealing with public education reform, criminal re-entry and whether to strip powers of the attorney general, before the General Assembly officially ends at midnight Friday.

Here’s a list of (some of) what Bevin signed into law this week:

Charter Schools

Bevin signed House Bill 520 into law on Tuesday, making Kentucky the 44th state to allow charter schools.

Charter schools are like traditional public schools but they’re not required to meet most state regulations — a feature which supporters say will allow teachers to educate students in more innovative ways.

Local school districts and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville will have the power to approve charter applications. Denied applications could be appealed to the Kentucky Board of Education.

There will be no cap on how many or where charters can be approved in the state.

Charters will receive state funding based on student attendance, much like traditional public schools. But charters won’t receive funds for buildings or transportation. They will also have to pay a fee that would go back to local school districts and the state board of education.

REAL ID

Starting in 2019, Kentuckians will have to upgrade their drivers’ licenses or bring additional identification to board commercial air flights, under House Bill 410. The legislation is in response to the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, which requires all states to upgrade the security of their identification card systems.

Though Kentuckians will still get their driver’s licenses at circuit court clerks’ offices, the cards will be distributed by the state Transportation Cabinet.

Licenses would also have to be renewed every eight years, instead of four, and the enhanced ID’s will cost $48, instead of $20. Standard driver’s licenses will cost $44.

Those who opt out of the new license will need additional ID like a passport to board domestic air flights and enter military bases.

Bevin vetoed the bill last year in response to conservative opposition to it.

Performance-Based Funding

State universities and community colleges will compete for state dollars under Senate Bill 153, the new performance funding policy.

After a phase-in period, 35 percent of funding will be based on graduation rates, with extra weight going to the award of science, technology, engineering and math degrees. Another 35 percent will be awarded based on the number of degree hours awarded, and 30 percent going to operational needs.

Schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges system would compete separately from the state’s flagship and regional universities. The provision also gives the state the option to “minimize impact on smaller campuses.”

No-Jail Jailers Accountability

Kentucky has 41 counties that have jailers but no longer have county jails. Under Senate Bill 39, jailers in no-jail counties have to submit quarterly reports documenting their office’s work. County fiscal courts will also have to outline their jailers’ responsibilities every year.

The bill was spurred by a 2015 investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, which revealed that jailers without jails were being paid salaries ranging from $20,000 to nearly $70,000.

The investigation showed salaries of no-jail jailers and those of their deputies, which sometimes included families, cost nearly $2 million per year.

Defund’ Planned Parenthood

Bevin signed Senate Bill 8, which puts Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for family planning funding given to Kentucky by the federal government.

The bill comes in response to undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal organs — allegations denied by Planned Parenthood and later debunked.

Planned Parenthood already opted out of the funding for its two Kentucky locations in late 2015 — about $330,000.

Neither of Kentucky’s Planned Parenthood locations provide abortions.

Coverage for Tobacco Cessation Treatment

Insurance plans will be prevented from charging out-of-pocket costs for smoking cessation medication and therapy under Senate Bill 89, which Bevin signed earlier this week.

Kentucky has one of the highest rates of smoking in the country, with an estimated cost of $1.9 billion a year to the health care system.

Insurance companies would be barred from charging co-pays or deductibles and limiting the duration of smoking cessation treatment.

More on the 2017 session can be found here.

Fischer To Seek Third Term As Louisville Mayor Friday, Mar 24 2017 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will seek a third term as the city’s mayor. But he’s not talking much about his decision.

He delivered a brief statement to reporters Friday afternoon outside his office at Metro Hall, but declined to take any questions regarding the decision or elaborate on his ambition or goals driving his re-election bid.

“There will be time for campaigning next year,” Fischer said.

The mayor’s spokesman said he’s yet to formally file for re-election.

Fischer first announced his bid for re-election Friday morning while speaking to a group of nonprofits, according to The Courier-Journal, which first reported on his decision.

Fischer is a Democrat and was first elected to the mayor’s post in 2010, when he defeated Republican Hal Heiner to become Louisville’s 50th mayor. His second term began after he won the 2014 mayoral election.

Mayors in Louisville are limited to three terms.

Fischer has long touted his administration’s focus on economic development. Late last year, Louisville was awarded a $30 million federal grant to spur a revitalization of the Russell neighborhood and Fischer is quick to point out some $9 billion in other projects planned or underway across the city.

“We’ve done a lot of great work,” he told reporters Friday.

But not everyone agrees.

Metro Council member Julie Denton, a Republican from District 19, described Fischer’s tenure as “unstellar.”

Denton pointed to the record level of homicides last year and an opioid addiction epidemic that rages on.

More recently, Fischer’s administration has found itself embroiled in controversy surrounding allegations of sex abuse and an alleged cover-up within the city’s police department.

“I’m not so sure it would take much to beat him,” Denton said.

She’s often asked if she’ll challenge Fischer for mayor, but on Friday dismissed the notion.

“That’s just not on my bucket list,” Denton said. “I just don’t have any intent of ever doing that.”

Denton instead pointed to her council colleague, Angela Leet, also a Republican, as a worthy opponent to Fischer.

Leet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Councilman Dan Johnson, a Democrat, in 2015 floated the idea of mounting a bid for mayor after announcing he’d not seek re-election to the council.

“It is something I will definitely consider,” he said then.

He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Council President David Yates said he’d look forward to working with Fischer if he’s elected to a third term. He said Louisville faces the struggles of any like-size city and addressing those issues must remain at the forefront of public policy.

Yates wants to see economic development spread into the southern and western areas of the city, continued investment in infrastructure and a dedicated focus on public safety.

“We need to continue to make sure we bring Louisville to the next level,” he said. “That all boats rise with the tide.”

Letting States Decide Health Coverage Could Make It Harder To Buy Friday, Mar 24 2017 

A last-minute attempt by conservative Republicans to dump standards for health benefits in plans sold to individuals would probably lower the average person’s upfront insurance costs, such as premiums and deductibles, say analysts on both sides of the debate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

But it will very likely also induce insurers to offer much skimpier plans, potentially excluding the gravely ill and putting consumers at greater financial risk if they need care.

As part of the push by House GOP leaders to gain more support for their plan, they amended the bill Thursday to allow states to decide, starting next year, which, if any, benefits insurers must provide on the individual market, rather than requiring health plans to include the Affordable Care Act’s 10 “essential health benefits, according to House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

For example, a woman who had elected not to have maternity coverage could face financial ruin from an unintended pregnancy. A healthy young man who didn’t buy drug coverage could be bankrupted if diagnosed with cancer requiring expensive prescription medicine. Someone needing emergency treatment at a nonnetwork hospital might not be covered.

What might be desirable for insurers would leave patients vulnerable.

“What you don’t want if you’re an insurer is only sick people buying whatever product you have,” says Christopher Koller, president of the Milbank Memorial Fund and a former Rhode Island insurance commissioner. “So the way to get healthy people is to offer cheaper products designed for the healthy people.”

Such a change could give carriers wide room to do that by shrinking or eliminating from plan requirements the 10 essential health benefits required by the ACA, including hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and lab services — especially if state regulators don’t step in to fill the void, analysts said.

Conservative House Republicans want to exclude the rule from any replacement, arguing it drives up cost and stifles consumer choice.

On Thursday, President Trump agreed after meeting with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus to leave required essential benefits out of the measure under consideration, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “Part of the reason that premiums have spiked out of control is because under Obamacare, there were these mandated services that had to be included,” Spicer told reporters.

Pushed by Trump, House Republican leaders agreed late Thursday to a Friday vote on the bill, but they were still trying to line up support.

“Tomorrow we will show the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “And tomorrow we’re proceeding.” When asked if he had the votes, Ryan didn’t answer and walked briskly away from the press corps.

But axing essential benefits could bring back the pre-ACA days when insurers avoided expensive patients by excluding services they needed, says Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation who analyzes health care markets. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

“They’re not going to offer benefits that attract people with chronic illness if they can help it,” said Claxton, whose collection of old insurance policies shows what the market looked like before.

One Aetna plan didn’t cover most mental health or addiction services — important to moderate Republicans as well as Democrats concerned about fighting the opioid crisis. Another Aetna plan didn’t cover any mental health treatment. A HealthNet plan didn’t cover outpatient rehabilitative services.

Before the ACA, most individual plans didn’t include maternity coverage either.

The House replacement bill could make individual coverage for the chronically ill even more scarce than a few years ago because it retains an ACA rule that forces plans to accept members with pre-existing illnesses, analysts say.

Before President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, insurers could reject sick applicants or charge them higher premiums.

Lacking that ability under the proposed Republican law but newly able to shrink benefits, insurers might be more tempted than ever to avoid covering expensive conditions. That way the sickest consumers wouldn’t even bother to apply.

“You could see even worse holes in the insurance package” than before the ACA, says Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. “If we’re going into a world where a carrier is going to have to accept all comers and they can’t charge them based on their health status, the benefit design becomes a much bigger deal” in how insurers keep the sick out of their plans, she says.

Michael Cannon, an analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute and longtime Obamacare opponent, also believes that dumping essential benefits while forcing insurers to accept all applicants at one “community” price would weaken coverage for chronically ill people.

“Getting rid of the essential health benefits in a community-rated market would cause coverage for the sick to get even worse than it is under current law,” he says. Republicans “are shooting themselves in the foot if they offer this proposal.”

Cannon favors full repeal of the ACA, allowing insurers to charge higher premiums for more expensive patients and helping consumers pay for plans with tax-favored health savings accounts.

In an absence of federal requirements for benefits, existing state standards would become more important. Some states might move to upgrade required benefits in line with the ACA rules, but others probably won’t, according to analysts.

“You’re going to have a lot of insurers in states trying to understand what existing laws they have in place,” Koller says. “It’s going to be really critical to see how quickly the states react. There are going to be some states that will not.”


Mary Agnes Carey and Phil Galewitz contributed to this story. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent newsroom that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Copyright 2017 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit Kaiser Health News.

Trump Faces Most Consequential Day Of His Presidency So Far Friday, Mar 24 2017 

Throughout the campaign, President Trump billed himself as a master negotiator who would make the “best deals” for the American people.

That reputation and the reach of the president’s bully pulpit face a tough test Friday after he gave House Republicans an ultimatum to vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — or leave Obamacare in place.

A vote is now expected sometime Friday afternoon, though the GOP plan known as the American Health Care Act still remains in limbo as members on both the right and center of the Republican caucus find parts of it difficult to stomach.

After a caucus meeting late Thursday, however, there were signs the stalemate was beginning to thaw. Some members suggested that the White House’s ultimatum might have pushed some legislators to realize that this is perhaps their make-or-break moment to fulfill a campaign promise they’ve been long running on.

“In politics there is always another day, but there are certain critical moments where things come to a head, and I think tomorrow is one of those moments, one of those test moments for this conference,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said after House Republicans met Thursday night. “I hope we’re up to it.”

House Debate Of GOP Health Bill Is Underway


“It’s one thing to be in the fight and try to score a touchdown, but sometimes on the fourth down, you kick the field goal,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. “It’s a good bill and we should vote for it.”

The looming showdown follows a tumultuous day that saw a long-promised vote on the Republican alternative bill — originally slated for the seventh anniversary of Obamacare’s signing — hurriedly postponed after it became clear there weren’t enough votes to pass it.

GOP leaders and the Trump White House have been wooing the ideological opposite ends of the House Republican caucus to try to salvage a deal. But the attempts to meet the demands of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — who are under pressure from conservative interest groups not to bend — and the most moderate members of the Tuesday Group — who could face electoral backlash in 2018 in their swing districts — were often at odds.

Freedom Caucus members were signaling late Thursday night that some of their demands were being met. An amendment released after the GOP meeting would repeal essential health benefits and let states set their own standards for that part of health insurance coverage for individuals purchasing coverage with a tax credit. It would also provide additional money for a fund for mental health and substance abuse disorders and maternity care.

But some of those concessions — namely the repeal of essential health benefits in Obamacare — could also be non-starters with more centrist Republicans.

“I do not think that it lowers premiums and I do not think that it covers enough people,” Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., told NPR’s Kelly McEvers on All Things Considered Thursday before the conference meeting. Lance represents one of 23 GOP-held districts that Trump did not carry last November and is expected to be a top Democratic target in 2018.

Trump has lobbied members on the bill, but has seemed reluctant to put his full political weight behind the issue and has seemed at times daunted by the task before him. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” the president bemoaned last month, an incredulous statement to anyone who knows how intricate and nuanced health care policy really is.

He’s hit the campaign trail with full-fledged campaign rallies to try to generate support for the bill, but at his appearance this week in Louisville, Ky., Trump barely even touched on the subject.

And, perhaps most telling, for a man who loves putting his name on everything from skyscrapers to steaks, he’s eschewed the moniker “Trumpcare” for the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan also has a lot of political capital riding on the outcome of Friday’s vote. He’s tried to work with a president he withdrew support from during the campaign, but if the vote fails it could destroy the already fragile relationship between Trump and Ryan and ignite a blame game between the White House and GOP congressional leaders. There were already signs that was beginning to happen Thursday night, with the New York Times reporting that Trump has told his aides he regrets going along with Ryan’s push to overhaul health care before tackling tax cuts and other legislative issues.

The frustration and exhaustion of the political brinkmanship pushed almost entirely by the White House was evident on Ryan’s face as he emerged from the Republican conference meeting Thursday evening. He didn’t take any questions from reporters and simply spouted off a terse statement: “For seven and a half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families. And tomorrow we’re proceeding.”

Ultimately, the House vote could be an exercise in legislative futility. If the bill does pass, it will be changed in the Senate, where it also faces an uphill battle. And this is just part one of the three-part plan by Republicans to overhaul and replace Obamacare.

But if the first bill dies in the House, the broader message could be devastating for both Trump and House Republicans. The failure would signal that they haven’t yet found a way to govern in Washington despite finally holding both the White House and control of Congress. The setback would spell doom for many of Trump’s other priorities, including tax reform, and exacerbate what’s already been a bad week for the White House, which began with FBI Director James Comey confirming to Congress that they are investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

In many ways, Republicans have backed themselves into a no-win situation. If they rush to pass an unpopular bill riddled with problems, they’re giving Democrats plenty of ammunition to use in the midterm elections, and GOP members on defense at town halls over health care could be further put on their heels. But if the bill fails, the discord and disarray in the GOP overshadowed by Trump’s unlikely win last November will only be magnified, and this could only be the beginning of headaches for Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

NPR’s Barbara Sprunt contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Governor Signs Kentucky Charter Schools Bill Into Law Wednesday, Mar 22 2017 

Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the charter schools bill into law, allowing the alternative institutions to open up this fall after an application process.

Kentucky is the 44th state in the country to allow charter schools, which will receive public funding and be exempt from most state regulations in an effort to provide innovative education.

Bevin tweeted to mark the occasion:

The legislation was a major priority for Republicans in Kentucky, who had control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in state history this year.

Charter schools bills had passed out of the Republican-led state Senate many times over the last decade, but they were thwarted in the House, which was controlled by Democrats until November’s sweeping election.

Lawmakers spent much of the legislative session this year negotiating the policy behind closed doors, with questions over whether to allow the institutions to open up statewide and how to fund them.

Under the new law, there will be no cap on how many or where charters can be approved in the state.

Local school districts and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville will have the power to approve charter applications. Denied applications could be appealed to the Kentucky Board of Education.

Supporters of the law say charters will create competition for traditional public schools — especially under-performing ones.

Opponents worry that the law will sap students and funding from traditional public schools.

Charters will receive state funding based on student attendance, much like traditional public schools. But charters won’t receive funds for buildings or transportation. They will also have to pay a fee that would go back to local school districts and the state board of education.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell applauded the passage of the legislation last week.

“The flexibility offered by public charter schools encourages teachers and administrators to use good judgment in innovative ways to produce positive results for Kentucky children,” McConnell said. “Most importantly, public charter schools give parents additional options when selecting the school that is right for their child, particularly when they feel the needs of their child aren’t being met through the traditional public school model.”

Last week, the state Senate voted 23-15 in favor of the bill. The House voted 53-43 in a final vote to accept changes the Senate made to the bill. Bevin signed it into law on Tuesday.

Department Of Justice Appeals New Injunction Against Revised Travel Ban Friday, Mar 17 2017 

The Trump administration is appealing a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block the president’s second travel ban from going into effect — setting up another legal showdown in an appeals court.

The first version of the ban, temporarily suspending the U.S. refugee program and barring entry into the U.S. from residents of seven majority-Muslim countries, was quickly blocked by a federal judge in Washington state. The Justice Department appealed that temporary restraining order, but a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the suspension of the ban.

Then President Trump issued a new ban — one designed to address the legal concerns of the 9th Circuit, the administration says. It omitted Iraq from the list of barred countries, removed references to religion and excluded green card holders and people who already had visas, among other changes.

That new executive order was also swiftly challenged in court. Earlier this week, two federal judges in separate courts blocked portions of the ban — a judge in Hawaii imposed a temporary restraining order, and a judge in Maryland granted a narrower, but potentially longer-lasting, preliminary injunction.

It’s the Maryland injunction that the Trump administration is moving to appeal, asking the 4th Circuit Court to intervene.

Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the Maryland case, says the ban has “fared miserably in the courts.”

“We look forward to defending this careful and well-reasoned decision in the appeals court,” he says, referring to Judge Theodore d. Chuang’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction.

The Trump administration had signaled on Thursday that it planned to appeal Chuang’s decision; press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration would seek clarification on the Hawaii ruling before appealing that case.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Bevin OKs Religious Expression In Schools, Signs Other Bills Into Law Friday, Mar 17 2017 

With the General Assembly on break for a 10-day “veto period,” Gov. Matt Bevin has begun signing a flurry of bills into law.

Among new laws that will take effect July 1 are a requirement that malpractice claims be evaluated by a “medical review panel” before they head to court; legislation clarifying that religious expression is allowed in public schools; and a measure allowing veterans who meet certain criteria to obtain teaching certificates without taking a test.

Bevin has signed 24 bills into law so far this year, 11 of which were approved Thursday.

Here are some of the new laws:

Medical Review Panels

Under the new law, medical malpractice and neglect lawsuits will have to be reviewed by a committee of doctors before they head to court.

Panels would have three members — all doctors — with opponents in lawsuits each picking one member. The third member would be picked by the first two.

Supporters of Senate Bill 4 say it will weed out frivolous lawsuits made against doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers and thus make the state more attractive to medical practitioners.

Opponents say the state will have to defend the new law’s constitutionality because it limits access to the courts.

Religious Expression In Schools

Kentucky public school students have a guarantee that they will not be punished for expressing religious or political beliefs in their schoolwork, under the new law.

Senate Bill 17 also bars school officials from interfering with the way religious or political student organizations select members and “doctrines and principles.”

Supporters say the measure merely clarifies that First Amendment rights of free speech apply to religious expression in public schools.

Opponents say it will give student groups a license to discriminate.

Food Donation

Grocery stores, restaurants and other food providers will have protections from legal prosecution if food they donate makes people sick.

Under House Bill 237, those who claim they’ve been harmed by consuming donated food will how to prove that the donating company committed “intentional misconduct.”

Supporters of the measure say it will encourage food providers to donate more food and keep it from going to waste.

Veterans Teaching

Veterans with a bachelor’s degree will be able to get a teaching certificate as long as they’ve met certain criteria under Senate Bill 117, which Bevin signed on Thursday.

Candidates would still have to complete an internship program and have a passing score on the GRE or an equivalent test.

Supporters of the measure say it would bring parity to state laws that already allow other specialists like engineers and business professionals to get teaching certificates.

Bill To Hold No-Jail Jailers Accountable Heads To Governor Friday, Mar 17 2017 

A bill to hold Kentucky’s no-jail jailers accountable for their work passed through the legislature this week and is awaiting Gov. Matt Bevin’s approval.

If Bevin signs the measure, jailers in the 41 counties without an operating local jail will be required under law to document what they do, in reports to their fiscal courts.

The bill was spurred by a 2015 investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, which revealed that more than a third of the state’s 120 elected jailers didn’t actually have jails to run. The story found that the jailer system was rife with unaccountability, waste and nepotism. (Read “Only in Kentucky: Jailers Without Jails“)

Jailers without jails were being paid salaries ranging from $20,000 to nearly $70,000. Their salaries and those of their deputies — who sometimes included wives, sons and daughters — cost the state nearly $2 million per year.

After unsuccessful attempts in two previous legislative sessions to demand accountability from no-jail jailers, state Sen. Danny Carroll now has a bill on Bevin’s desk.

“There’s going to be transparency and accountability, to ensure that the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth out of those jailers who are not operating jails,” the Paducah Republican said Thursday.

“The priority was just to ensure the transparency. I think the jailers, the very few that were perhaps abusing the situation, are going to be very careful about that in the future.”

Jailers are constitutional office holders in Kentucky. Many of the no-jail jailers were in smaller, rural counties and had little to nothing to do, KyCIR found. Some no-jail jailers also worked other jobs, at least a few of which were full time.

Counties whose jails have closed over the years for budgetary or compliance reasons either put arrestees in one of the state’s four regional jails, or else take them to a neighboring county jail that has agreed to house them.

 (Learn more about the 41 counties with no-jail jailers in this interactive map)

Carroll’s bill requires fiscal courts in no-jail counties to outline their jailers’ responsibilities annually. Jailers would have to submit quarterly reports documenting their office’s work, including the names of all inmates transported and the date, location and mileage involved with each trip.

The Kentucky Jailers Association is “proud to support” Carroll’s bill, according to spokeswoman Renee Craddock. “We support this legislation because it clarifies the duties of the jailers in closed (jail) counties while greatly enhancing transparency for Kentucky taxpayers.”

Asked whether Bevin intends to sign the bill, spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said only that it and others sent to the governor “are currently under review.”

Carroll’s initial bill, in 2015, would have given fiscal courts some control over jailers’ salaries. It died in the House.

Last year, Carroll tried again, with a bill that didn’t contain that provision. He said jailers were concerned that fiscal courts would have the power to manipulate the salaries of jailers from an opposing political party. That bill also failed to pass the House.

This legislative session, Carroll’s bill sailed both through the House and Senate without a dissenting vote.

“I was very pleased that we were finally able to get it passed,” Carroll said. “I think there’s every indication that the governor will sign it. It’s an issue that needed to be put to rest.”

R.G. Dunlop can be reached at rdunlop@kycir.org or (502) 814.6533.

Next Page »