Regional
5:53 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Kentucky Health Official Says State Prepared For Potential Outbreak, Despite Low Ranking

Kentucky meets only 3 of 10 key indicators in a new report involving readiness to handle an infectious disease outbreak.

Kentucky’s readiness to respond to an infectious disease outbreak ranks in the bottom half in the nation according to a new report compiled by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The report shows Kentucky meets just 3 of 10 key indicators.

“I think it’s good because it helps to highlight strengths and weaknesses,” said Kentucky's Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Kraig Humbaugh.  “On the other hand, I think we have to consider that we can’t really compare year-to-year because last year or the year before, they didn’t have the same metrics. And the other thing is, it may not be representative of the state’s preparedness as a whole.”

Dr. Humbaugh says, in general, Kentucky is prepared to handle an outbreak.

One of the categories in which Kentucky did make the grade was vaccinating young children.  Dr. Humbaugh says vaccination is critical for people of all ages.

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Environment
2:27 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

EPA Sets First National Standard For Coal Waste

The Obama administration has set the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity. The regulation treats it more like household garbage rather than a hazardous material.

Environmentalists had pushed for the hazardous classification, citing the hundreds of cases nationwide where coal ash waste had tainted waters. The coal industry wanted the less stringent classification.

The rule issued Friday ends a six-year effort that began after a massive spill at a power plant in Tennessee.

The EPA said that the regulation addresses the risks posed by coal ash sites and that the record did not support a hazardous classification.

The rule does not require all sites failing to meet the standards to close. Sites at shuttered power plants also are not covered.

Regional
12:20 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Warren County Government Approves History-Making Right-to-Work Law

Chip White (left) and Alton Haycraft of the Carpenters Local 175 in Louisville were in the audience as Warren County Fiscal Court approved a local right-to-work measure.
Credit Lisa Autry

Against the advice of Kentucky’s attorney general, Warren County Fiscal Court has passed a local right-to-work law, becoming the first county in the nation to do so.

In a 5-1 vote Friday morning, magistrates gave final approval to a measure that would allow private sector workers to choose whether to join a union and pay dues.  The atmosphere was tense as union members from all over the state packed into the courtroom.  An overflow crowd stood outside the chambers, many of them holding signs and wearing union garb.

"Right-to-work is right-to-work for less," said Alton Haycraft with the Carpenters Local 175 in Louisville.  "It's a right to lose your job and be fired for no reason."  Every right-to-work state last year reported a billion dollars or more in lost income taxes due to falling wages."

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan expressed disappointment after the meeting.

"It was a disrespectful thing they did to the workers of this community who work so hard to build cars and products here," Londrigan told WKU Public Radio.  "Why don't they go after the folks who are shipping our jobs overseas?  Why don't they talk about raising the minimum wage?  Why don't they talk about doing good things instead of interfering with the rights we have to collectively bargain with employers like General Motors?"

Supporters believe right-to-work laws make the state more competitive in attracting jobs.  Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson spoke in favor of the ordinance before the vote was taken.

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Economy
3:45 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Kentucky's Jobless Rate At Lowest Point Since 2008

Kentucky's jobless rate for November (6.0 percent) is the lowest its been since a 5.9 percent reading in April, 2008.
Credit WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s unemployment rate continues its downward trend. The Office of Employment and Training announced Thursday the state’s jobless rate was down to six percent in November. 

It’s slightly above the national average in November, but it’s a drop of two-tenths of a percent from October. 

It’s the first time in 6 ½ years the Kentucky unemployment rate has been this low.

Regional
2:14 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

As Kentucky Counties Pass Local Right-to-Work Laws, Opinions Differ on Their Legality

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether counties can legally pass right-to-work laws.  For now, the answer depends on who you ask. 

Professor Ariana Levinson teaches labor and employment law at the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.  She believes local ordinances aren’t allowed under the National Labor Relations Act.

"It has an exemption in the act that allows states to pass right-to-work laws, but that exemption is strictly limited to states," Levinson told WKU Public Radio.  "It does not permit local sub-divisions like cities, counties, and municipalities to pass right-to-work laws."

Right-to-work supporters claim local measures are allowed under Kentucky's “County Home Rule,” passed by the General Assembly in 1978.  The law delegates the state’s authority to counties to pass laws for the protection and benefit of their citizens, and for the promotion of economic development. 

The Warren County Fiscal Court is expected to give final approval Friday to a local right-to-work law.  Simpson and Fulton counties will take similar votes by the end of the month.

Regional
11:29 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Funding Shortfall Dashes Plans For Downtown Evansville Hotel

Plans for a downtown convention hotel in Evansville have been abandoned amid ongoing questions over funding
Credit HCW Development

City officials in Evansville say they’ll have to start anew on a project to build a downtown convention hotel.  At a press conference Thursday morning, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke announced that previous plans for a 257-room hotel are being scrapped because of a $6.5 million shortage in funding.

“This is a disappointing delay but it is not a defeat,” said Winnecke.  “We cannot look at it as a defeat.  We are fully committed to building a full-service convention hotel in downtown Evansville. It is what we need and we’ll find a path to victory, I assure you.”

The city had committed $20 million in taxpayer dollars for the project, but Old National Bank wasn’t able to cover the entire $14 million dollars it had originally allocated.

“Are we disappointed? Absolutely,” said Old National Bank CEO and President Bob Jones. “This has been our home for 180 years as an institution.  This community deserves a convention hotel; this community deserves to continue the great momentum we’ve seen.”

The overall cost of the hotel was just over $71 million.   A groundbreaking ceremony took place in March at the proposed building site near the Ford Center, but no construction actually took place.

Regional
9:04 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Justices To Discuss Louisiana Gay Marriage Case

The Supreme Court has added the challenge to Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban to the agenda for the justices' closed-door conference on Jan. 9.

The action Wednesday does not mean the court will decide that day to hear a gay-marriage case. But the January meeting will be the first time the justices will have had the issue before them since they opted in October against taking up same-sex marriage.

The Louisiana case is unusual in that it has yet to be heard by a federal appeals court. But same-sex couples challenging an appellate ruling upholding bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee also could be considered by the court next month.

The justices would have time to hear and decide on gay marriage by late June, if they act in January.

Regional
5:23 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Union Leader: Local Right-to-Work Measures Unlawful

Warren County Fiscal Court is expected to give final approval to a local right-to- work law on Friday.  The measure passed by a 5-1 vote on first reading last week. 

One of the main critics is Eldon Renaud who heads the local United Autoworkers Union.   

"It forces unions to negotiate and handle grievances for people who don't even pay dues," said Renaud, president of the UAW Local 2164.  They're free riders."

Renaud maintains right-to-work laws only weaken unions, but supporters argue they spur economic development.  Simpson and Fulton counties have also recently given preliminary approval to right-to-work measures allowing private sector workers to choose whether to join a union and pay dues. 

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Regional
5:14 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Change in Nerve Agent Disposal Process Under Consideration at Bluegrass Army Depot

Discussions are underway regarding proposed changes in the process of disposing chemical weapons at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

The contractor is suggesting the elimination of a rinsing technique to reduce the chance of the processed nerve agent congealing. 

Project Manager Jeff Brubaker says rusty pipes are another concern. 

"Water has been shown to react with GB agent and result in a very acidic material which could be corrosive to the internal piping systems," said Brubaker.

Brubaker says if the recommendation is adopted, it would not create widespread changes in safety measures. 

"With any design evolution, and as design matures and goes toward final design, there will be several checks in the process where those hazards analysis will be performed to ensure we don't have any significant safety hazards that aren't corrected," added Brubaker.

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Health
3:10 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

What Happens After You Get That Mammogram

This graphic lays out the possible outcomes for 10,000 women if they start getting annual screening mammograms at age 50 and continue that for 10 years.
Courtesy of JAMA

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:50 am

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.

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