News in Brief

Ky. public school bible course may violate Constitution

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — “Bible literacy” classes being taught in some Kentucky public schools may violate the Constitution.

The Courier-Journal reports the state’s American Civil Liberties Union reviewed how several school districts taught the classes before sending a letter to the state Department of Education requesting the development of teaching guidelines. Education Department spokeswoman Rebecca Blessing says the agency is working to promote statewide academic standards for the classes.

The ACLU’s review found a majority of school districts do not offer the classes. However, those that do sometimes appear to ride the line between studying the Bible as a work of literature and studying the Bible in a devotional manner.

The letter advises the education department to monitor classes to ensure they comply with the Constitution or it could face costly consequences.

House panel advances bill to help police track pawned items

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s pawnbrokers would have to submit their transactions to a database accessible by police under a bill that has won initial approval from a legislative committee.

The bill was endorsed by law enforcement officials Wednesday as it cleared the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.

Information submitted by pawnbrokers would include the dates and amounts of any transaction, the identification of a seller and a full description of the property. Pawnbrokers would have to hold any pawned items for at least 12 days before reselling the merchandise.

Jessamine County Sheriff Kevin Corman says the database would be an important tool for police to track down stolen merchandise.

Rep. Kim King says her bill is needed to clear up a patchwork of local ordinances dealing with reporting by pawnbrokers.

The legislation is House Bill 74.

Advocates tout medical marijuana bill in Ky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky are touting its potential as an alternative to ease addiction woes from opioid painkillers.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes joined other advocates at a state Capitol event Thursday to promote a bill aimed at making medical marijuana legal in Kentucky.

The House bill was introduced Wednesday.

Grimes led a task force whose work resulted in the bill. She says the group heard “heartbreaking” stories from people whose suffering could be eased by medical marijuana.

She says Kentuckians are “begging” for an alternative to opioid painkillers. She says they’re looking for a “natural remedy” to combat their ailments.

Another advocate, Eric Crawford, says the bill wouldn’t let people “run out and get high.” He says the goal is to help sick people.

The legislation is House Bill 166.

Judge dismisses lawsuit over makeup of retirement board

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s reorganization of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board.

The Courier-Journal reports Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Monday that the challenge is moot because the General Assembly passed a bill last year affirming Bevin’s 2016 order that restructured the board.

Former board chairman Thomas Elliott, who was appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear, filed the lawsuit after Bevin issued an executive order removing him from the panel.

When Elliott initially ignored the order, Bevin ordered state troopers to arrest him if he tried to participate in a meeting.

Though Shepherd ruled in favor of Bevin, he scolded him for the tactics, describing them as “wholly unjustified … rash and unprecedented.”

Water district shuts off service for many

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky water district says it’s struggling to get water flowing to customers.

A Martin County Water District Facebook post says storage tanks were drained because of several reasons, including high water usage.

District office manager Joe Hammond tells The Lexington Herald-Leader use was high because people were leaving water running to prevent pipes freezing.

The district said it would turn off water to many areas in the eastern end of the county Tuesday afternoon and restore it Wednesday morning, repeating this until further notice.

The district turned the water off and was trying to fill storage tanks, but leaks were preventing them from being adequately filled.

Martin County Concerned Citizens attorney Mary Cromer says the outage comes as the embattles district seeks a 50 percent rate increase.

State police fined $24K for withholding records in 1995 case

MADISONVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky State Police must pay nearly $24,000 for refusing to share 911 calls with the mother of a young woman who disappeared decades ago.

The penalty includes legal fees and $25 per day for violating Kentucky’s Open Records Act for 564 days.

The Evansville Courier & Press reports that Sarah Teague and her lawyer Chip Adams believe police suspected the wrong man in the apparent 1995 abduction of her 23-year-old daughter, Heather Teague. They say a 911 call played for them in 2016 was different than a call they heard in 2008 describing a different man dragging the girl away.

Police said the first tape is lost. A judge dismissed their claim that they couldn’t share a copy of the 2016 call without hindering a possible police action.

Officials investigate jump in HIV cases among drug users

EDGEWOOD, Ky. (AP) — An increase in the number of HIV infections among drug users has prompted health officials in Kentucky to investigate the occurrence.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department said in a statement Tuesday that the number of intravenous drug users who tested positive for HIV last year more than tripled from the previous year, jumping from five to 18. The total number of HIV cases also increased, from 25 cases to 37.

District Health Director Lynne M. Saddler said the numbers are concerning because they may indicate more widespread HIV infections in the area.

State and local health officials are recommending measures to limit further transmission and will investigate whether the current cases are linked, whether others are at risk and whether additional actions are necessary.

The statement says new HIV infections are concentrated in Campbell and Kenton counties.

3rd co-defendant in 1992 torture killing out of prison

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A southern Indiana woman who was 17 when she pleaded guilty to the murder and criminal confinement of a 12-year-old girl has been released from prison.

The Indiana Department of Correction says 43-year-old Laurie Tackett of Madison was released from the Rockville Correctional Facility early Thursday on the 26th anniversary of the discovery of the body of 12-year-old Shanda Renee Sharer.

Tackett received a 60-year sentence in 1993.

She was among four teenage girls convicted of Sharer’s 1992 beating and burning death. Court testimony showed Melinda Loveless wanted Sharer killed because the two competed for the affections of the same girl. Loveless also was sentenced to 60 years; her earliest prison release date is Sept. 5, 2019.

Co- defendants Toni Lawrence and Hope Rippey also have been released from prison.

Sunken towboat leaking oil in Big Sandy River

KENOVA, W.Va. (AP) — Officials say a sunken tow boat is leaking oil in the Big Sandy River on the West Virginia-Kentucky border and crews are trying to contain the spill.

A statement from the U.S. Coast Guard says crews responded Wednesday to a report of a leaking towboat that had sunk at its mooring just south of Kenova, West Virginia, and had the potential to spill 5,000 gallons into the water.

WSAZ-TV reported Thursday that cleanup crews were on the scene and a boom was placed in the water in an effort to catch the oil so it doesn’t get into the Ohio River.

The Coast Guard statement says it is investigating along with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection.

State offering job, education resources at some libraries

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet has launched pilot programs in three counties that will offer public services at libraries.

In each of the three programs in Kenton, Laurel and McLean counties, libraries are providing free space and working with local agencies to offer educational and employment services.

State Librarian Terry Manuel says there are advantages to placing those resources at libraries. Manuel says libraries have longer and more convenient hours than most workforce and education offices, and they offer programming for children.

The cabinet says the pilot programs are the official launch of the Library Economic Advantage Forum, or LEAF initiative.

The project is supported in part by federal Institute of Museum and Library Services funds.

Ali Center to show King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Muhammad Ali Center in Kentucky will continue its annual tradition of showing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in recognition of the holiday honoring the civil-rights leader.

The Ali Center in downtown Louisville says the public screening of King’s historic speech will be at 11 a.m. EST Monday in the center’s auditorium.

Ali Center officials say a panel discussion will follow the showing. Members of the Muhammad Ali Center Council of Students will discuss how young people are continuing the work of King and Ali.

The screening is free to the public, but visitors must pay regular admission prices to access Ali Center exhibits.

Steel mini-mill to shut, costing more than 100 jobs

COALTON, Ky. (AP) — The forthcoming closure of a steel mini-mill will leave up to 113 people out of work in Kentucky.

The Daily Independent reports Kentucky Electric Steel will permanently close its Boyd County plant in March. The company’s human resources manager, Michael Estep, notified Ashland Mayor Steve Gilmore on Tuesday.

Boyd County Judge Executive Steve Towler anticipates the closure will take a heavy toll on the county, which he says is still recovering from the idling of the AK Steel plant two years ago. Gilmore echoed the concern, saying job losses on this scale have significantly impact the surrounding area.

Boyd County’s population is less than 50,000.

Kentucky Electric Steel’s parent company, Optima Specialty Steel, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2016, and completed its restructuring in October 2017.

Police: Man being pursued on closed interstate dies in crash

BEREA, Ky. (AP) — Police say an Ohio man who drove through barriers closing a section of interstate in Kentucky, prompting a police pursuit, has died in a fiery crash.

A statement from Kentucky State Police says 67-year-old John McCoy of Chesapeake, Ohio, was driving a motor coach south on Interstate 75 near Berea early Wednesday when officers at the scene saw him intentionally run through barriers and construction barrels blocking the roadway for a bridge reconstruction project.

Police say officers unsuccessfully tried to stop the vehicle and warned road workers to evacuate the area. The statement says McCoy continued on, intentionally hitting a police car before crashing into construction equipment. The motorhome then burst into flames.

McCoy was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was injured.

An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

Louisville chiropractor reaches $114,000 settlement with AG

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Louisville chiropractor has agreed to pay more than $114,000 to settle allegations that he overbilled Medicaid.

A release from the Kentucky Attorney General’s office says 53-year-old Mark Walden has reached a civil settlement over allegations he submitted false claims to state Medicaid for services not rendered and for medical equipment that didn’t go to patients. The equipment included back braces, cushions or foot supports that were never delivered to Medicaid patients. The AG’s Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse worked on the settlement.

Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office began an investigation after information was given regarding Walden’s billing practices from 2011 through August 2014.

The investigation found Walden billed Medicaid for 58 combined office visits for six patients who stated that they had only seen Walden once.