News in Brief

Ky. gets $10M grant to focus on drug addiction help

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has been awarded a $10 million federal grant to help with the state’s drug addiction epidemic.

The Kentucky Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities will implement a new project with two regional providers — Centerstone in Louisville and Mountain Comprehensive Care in eastern Kentucky.

Centerstone CEO Tony Zipple says the centers will be focused on developing a more effective approach to people struggling with drug addiction.

The project will take shape next month with the formation of local implementation teams and advisory councils, according to a release from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Kentucky was one of three states chosen by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to receive the grant.

More Ky. students graduate as achievement gaps persist

FRANKFORT (AP) — More Kentucky students graduated from high school and earned qualifying scores on Advanced Placement tests according to newly released state assessment data.

Overall achievement increased slightly for elementary and middle school students but was down slightly for high school students.

Kentucky’s four-year graduation rate rose to 89.8 percent from 88.6 percent last year. Nearly 52,000 students took Advanced Placement tests, with nearly 26,000 earning qualifying scores. And the overall composite ACT score for Kentucky high school juniors rose to 19.8 from 19.2

While achievement scores increased overall, gaps between different groups of students persisted. A news release from the Kentucky Department of Education said those gaps will be a major focus of a new accountability system expected to be in place next year.

Manchin opposes Zatezalo to head federal mine safety

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is opposing the confirmation of a former coal company CEO to become the nation’s top mine safety official.

Manchin says he doesn’t believe David Zatezalo, President Donald Trump’s nominee, is suited to oversee the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.

Zatezalo, of Wheeling, West Virginia, retired in 2014 as chairman of Rhino Resources after serving in several top posts. He joined the Lexington, Kentucky-based company in 2007.

He repeatedly clashed with federal regulators when the Obama administration tried to boost industry-wide enforcement after 29 miners died in the April 2010 explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia.

So far this year 12 coal miners have died, six in West Virginia.

Bevin to appeal judge’s ruling on abortion law

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Kentucky’s Republican governor will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that blocks the state’s law requiring doctors to conduct an ultrasound exam before an abortion and then try to show fetal images as well as play the fetal heartbeat to the pregnant woman.

Judge David J. Hale said in the ruling Wednesday night that the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians.

Gov. Matt Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper says the governor was disappointed in the ruling and would immediately appeal it. She says the administration is confident in the constitutionality of law. Similar laws in other states have been upheld and struck down by various courts.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued over the law on behalf of the state’s lone remaining abortion provider, saying it violates First Amendment rights.

Supreme Court rules U of L board issue is moot

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky Supreme Court has declined to rule on whether it was legal for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin to abolish and replace the University of Louisville’s board of trustees.

Bevin issued his order last year to give the university a fresh start following several scandals. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him, and a state judge ruled Bevin’s order was illegal.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a law making Bevin’s changes permanent. They also enacted a new process for dissolving university boards. Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled the new law made the issue moot and dismissed the case.

Beshear called the ruling a “total win” because the court did not overturn the lower court’s ruling. A spokeswoman for Bevin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fort Campbell soldiers deploy to Puerto Rico

FORT CAMPBELL (AP) — Fort Campbell soldiers have deployed to Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Maria tore up the island, killing at least 16 people and leaving millions without power and water.

A statement from the Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee line says an element of the 101st Airborne Division dubbed Team Medevac left Wednesday for Puerto Rico. The statement says the team is comprised of more than 70 personnel and eight medevac Blackhawk helicopters.

Maj. Kurtis P. Evick, who is commanding the team, says the soldiers “will help save lives and mitigate suffering.” He says they will stay on the island as long as they are needed.

Shooting hospitalizes 2 teens, 1 man

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Two teenagers and a man have been hospitalized after a shooting in Kentucky.

News outlets report that Louisville police are investigating after a 14-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man were shot Wednesday night.

Police initially received reports about two separate shootings but determined that all three victims were shot at the same place before they ran to two different locations.

Police spokesman Dwight Mitchell says the victims were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Their names have not been released.

Police have not identified any suspects.

Proposal offers property tax relief in gentrifying areas

LEXINGTON (AP) — A Kentucky city is exploring a program to assist longtime homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods with property tax bills.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports a Lexington council committee heard details Tuesday about the proposal, which would cover the increase in property tax for homeowners of at least five to 10 years with income at or below 80 percent of the area median income.

Eligible applicants would have to have property tax increases of more than 12 percent and would reapply each year. The city’s payments would be loans to be repaid when the properties are sold.

A group including city officials and Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator David O’Neill has worked for six months, modeling the proposal on a Philadelphia program. A final draft is expected to be ready early next year.

Woman who killed stepson to go before full parole board

FRANKFORT (AP) — A woman convicted of kidnapping and killing her stepson nearly 25 years ago will go before the full Kentucky Parole Board for a hearing.

News outlets report Stephanie Spitser met Wednesday with two members of the board, who determined the case should be sent to the full board for a hearing scheduled for Monday.

Spitser was sentenced to life in prison in the 1992 slaying of her 10-year-old stepson, Scotty Baker. The boy was kidnapped from his school in Clay County and strangled before his body was set ablaze.

Spitser told the parole board she didn’t deserve to be released, but that she didn’t intend to kill Baker.

Baker’s mother, Ruth Rose, and other family members asked the parole board on Monday to keep Spitser behind bars.