State Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, has pre-filed a bill for the 2020 General Assembly that would mandate that insurance companies in Kentucky continue to cover preexisting conditions in the event the Affordable Care Act is overturned.
Parts of the Affordable Care Act, which then-President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010, are still being challenged in courts, and Republican politicians have made repealing the law a priority issue.
A provision of the ACA requires insurance carriers to provide coverage for those with preexisting conditions. That provision "is incredibly important and the most beloved (provision) across party lines," Minter said.
Bill Request 180 "protects people with preexisting conditions - that was my inspiration," the 20th District representative said.
As many as 82 million Americans with employer-based insurance have a preexisting condition, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The state bill would only go into effect if the ACA is overturned or is changed, either by courts or lawmakers.
"The fate of the ACA is the trigger" for the state bill to take effect, Minter said.
A few states have some protections for those with preexisting conditions on a state level, but most, including Kentucky, don't.
"Kentuckians would be completely exposed," Minter said. "I saw this hole in Kentucky law and I want to make sure no Kentuckian will lose their coverage."
The state bill would apply to both group insurance and individual insurance. The bill also would outlaw price-gouging of those with preexisting conditions and ban artificially long waiting periods.
Minter said not being able to get insurance stymies entrepreneurs and others who are self-employed.
The issue is also personal, she said, because her son has diabetes. Although he has insurance coverage through her job at Western Kentucky University, dealing with it changed her life, she said, and "an issue I never thought about became very real."
Minter said she plans to get some co-sponsors of the bill by the time the next legislative session starts Jan. 6.
County, city officials want increased home rule for local governments
By Jacob Mulliken
Daviess County officials, along with other community leaders, will seek the expansion of home rule during the 2020 legislative session with the hopes of giving more power to local governments while minimizing state officials' impact on communty revenue.
A major aspect of increased home rule would open up the potential for various taxing options. Under the current system, which is based on population numbers, many local officials are unable to utilize tax revenue as the community sees fit or take full advantage of the various taxing options available, said Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.
"One of the things that we and the city want is to allow local governments to determine what revenues we need to do the things that we are statutorily and constitutionally required to do," he said. "For example, we are not allowed a restaurant tax while cities like Hartford and Beaver Dam are. It is because of our size. There are so many rules and subsets for governments that complicate things, we want it simpler."
What officials really want is the expansion of certain taxing and revenues powers that small cities enjoy because of their size, a legislative classification and rule passed by the General Assembly in 2015.
"When you have a representative that goes to Frankfort, that person has a responsibility to their local community with an overarching commitment to the commonwealth," Mattingly said. "What is best for the commonwealth may not be best for the small community. It is a difficult juggling act I know. What we are saying is give us the ability to solve our own problems without the state having a hand in it. I think that most local communities have some pretty smart people and can come up with some pretty unique solutions through our local knowledge. One size doesn't fill all."
In the current state structure, a great deal of the tax burden, in larger counties like Daviess County, falls on the backs of businesses, workers and property owners, said Candance Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. If home rule were to be expanded, those burdens could be shifted.
"With more options officials could move the tax burden and generate revenue from people coming in from other places," she said. "We talk about how tourism, we talk about how much it adds to our economy, but local governments are still taking on a great financial weight. Home rule simply means let us tax ourselves the way we see fit. None of us are advocating for higher taxes, we are simply advocating for the right to establish our own course in a way that fits the needs of our community."
A major shift that officials are advocating for in terms of developing newer streams of tax revenue is having the ability to institute a local option sales tax. A local option sales tax is a special-purpose tax implemented and levied at the city or county level.
The tax is voted on by the community and is often used as a means of raising funds for specific local or area projects, such as improving area streets and roads or refurbishing a community's downtown area. Requests from state legislators to allow local officials to have this option have been denied in the past, Mattingly said.
"That option would address an issue that is often raised in the community surrounding why we are not allowed to vote for community projects," he said. "A local option sales tax under the guidance of the rules would allow people to vote. So if local government could make a case for a certain project the people could choose whether or not to support it.
"The tax would not exceed 1%. For Owensboro and Daviess County, that would generate roughly $14 million a year. Think of what that over a 10-year period would do. It would fund the downtown transformation instead of the county and city taking out bonds for as long as 20 and 30 years. It would have meant that since we are a regional hub, that approximately 25% to 30% percent of that project would have been paid for through tourism dollars.
Bevin won't disclose purpose of out-of-state trips on state plane
By Joe Sonka
Louisville Courier Journal
Shortly after Gov. Matt Bevin celebrated a jobs announcement in Hazard last week, the state-owned plane frequently used to transport the governor took off from the nearby London-Corbin Airport and landed in Atlanta.
More than four hours later, the aircraft departed Atlanta and landed back at the Capital City Airport in Frankfort just before 10 p.m.
Asked about the purpose of that trip to Atlanta -- in addition to half a dozen other out-of-state trips where the plane was used this summer -- spokespersons for the governor's office and Bevin's campaign declined to comment.
According to flight-tracking records from FlightAware, the Beechcraft King Air plane owned by the Kentucky State Police has landed in nine different states from June through the Atlanta trip on Wednesday -- including a trip to the Alabama coast and Miami a week earlier.
Governors of Kentucky have not been legally required to provide their daily schedule since a Kentucky Court of Appeals ruling in 1995 found that such a schedule was a "preliminary" document subject to change and therefore exempt from disclosure under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
The use of state-owned aircraft for purposes unrelated to a governor's official duties --such as attending political campaign events like fundraisers -- is also not legally prohibited, though Bevin and former Gov. Steve Beshear typically had their campaign or state party organization reimburse the state for the costs of such flights in the past.
The state police have not yet returned an open records request filed by The Courier Journal for the governor's flight records since June and any reimbursements made for those flights.
However, state police records obtained by The Courier Journal for the governor's flight to West Virginia on July 24 show it had a total cost of $1,757, while his flights to Kenosha, Wisconsin, Chicago and back to Kentucky on July 31 cost $2,775. These flights were billed at $925 per hour.
If Bevin's campaign reimburses the state for any of the governor's flights this summer, it would show up in the campaign's report filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance in October. Bevin is facing Democrat Andy Beshear, the state's attorney general, in the November election.
A spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky did not return an emailed question asking if the party has reimbursed the state for any of the flights this summer or if it plans to do so.
Bevin's flight to West Virginia -- which included as passengers state Senate President Robert Stivers and Sen. Ralph Alvarado, the governor's running mate -- was presumably to attend a fundraiser for the reelection campaign of President Donald Trump, where Bevin tweeted a photo of himself with the president.
The purpose of the governor's trip to Wisconsin and Chicago is not known. That afternoon, the official Facebook account of the governor posted a video of Bevin expressing support for the former Blackjewel coal miners protesting in Harlan County.
While Bevin's office and campaign have declined to explain the purpose of the Aug. 28 flights to Alabama and Miami -- or even if the governor was on the plane -- the Facebook page of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority posted a photo of Bevin speaking at its conference that morning. Bevin is the chairman of the authority, a nonprofit assisting the man-made waterway connecting a route from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico.
The state police plane left that afternoon for Miami, heading back to Kentucky that same evening. Bevin spent much of the next day campaigning across Kentucky with Donald Trump Jr.
The same plane flew to the Tri-Cities Airport in northeastern Tennessee on Aug. 11, heading back to Kentucky nearly four hours later. It also flew to Nashville, Tennessee, on Friday, July 26, returning to Kentucky the following Tuesday, July 30.
There is no public record of Bevin being in Tennessee in either of those time frames.
The plane flew to Springfield, Ohio, on the morning of June 17, leaving 2 1/2 hours later for a small airport just outside Kansas City. After landing in Kansas at 3:30 p.m., the plane took off half an hour later to fly to Kentucky.
There is no public record of Bevin being in either Ohio or Kansas on that date.