News in Brief

Pence to visit Louisville to promote health plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence plans to visit Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday as he tries to make the case for repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Pence is set to appear with Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin at the event in the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has been a critic of the health care legislation backed by President Donald Trump and Pence.

Pence was in Ohio and Wisconsin last week in support of the repeal.


Legislature OKs bill to encourage later start to school year

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky lawmakers have agreed to encourage public school districts to begin the school year in late August.

Senate Bill 50 cleared the state House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 77-18. It now heads to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk.

The bill requires each school district to create a committee that would come up with options for the school calendar. The committee must include school officials, two parents, two teachers and two community members from the local chamber of commerce or tourism commission. Lawmakers hope the committee would convince the local school board to adopt a calendar where school begins no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26.

Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Damon Thayer said schools starting later in the year would help the state’s tourism industry.


House speaker says public school tobacco ban will not pass

FRANKFORT (AP) — Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover says a bill that would ban all tobacco products at public school campuses likely will not pass this year.

Senate Bill 78 would ban the use of all tobacco products at public schools or school-sponsored events. It passed the Senate by a vote of 25-8-2 last month. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Ralph Alvarado, is a medical doctor who has been advocating for a statewide workplace smoking ban .

Hoover said there is not enough support to pass the bill among Republicans, who have a supermajority in the House. He said most members want to leave that decision to the local school boards.

Thirty-six percent of Kentucky’s 173 school districts ban the use of all tobacco products.


Lawmakers OK bill targeting Planned Parenthood in Ky.

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky lawmakers have given final approval to a bill that would put Planned Parenthood at the end of the line for family planning funds.

The Senate accepted changes made by the House and then voted 31-6 Wednesday to send the measure to Gov. Matt Bevin.

The measure would set up a tiered priority system for distributing federal family planning dollars, with Planned Parenthood clinics in the bottom category.

The bill would only take effect if Congress repeals federal regulations that ban states from prioritizing who gets the federal money.

Republicans say the bill is to punish Planned Parenthood for providing abortions. But Planned Parenthood officials note the organization voluntarily stopped receiving that money in Kentucky.

Planned Parenthood also no longer provides abortions in Kentucky.

The legislation is Senate Bill 8.


Hoover sets March 15 deadline for charter schools bill

FRANKFORT (AP) — House Republican Speaker Jeff Hoover has set a March 15 deadline for a bill that would allow charter schools in Kentucky.

The House of Representatives approved the charter schools bill last week. But the Senate has yet to give the bill a committee hearing. After Wednesday, lawmakers are scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday of next week and again on March 29 and March 30.

But the legislature would be powerless to override a veto of any bill passed after March 15. Hoover said it was important for him that the House maintain its independence by having the option to overturn a veto.

Supporters say charter schools would give parents and students more options. Opponents say it would drain resources from traditional public schools.


Passed bill would end shock probation in fatal DUI crashes

FRANKFORT (AP) — A bill aimed at eliminating the option of shock probation for people convicted in fatal drunken driving crashes has cleared the Kentucky General Assembly.

The Senate voted 33-4 Wednesday for final passage of the bill, sending it to Gov. Matt Bevin.

The legislation would prohibit shock probation if a defendant is convicted of drunken driving as well as second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide stemming from a fatal crash.

The bill passed the House last month. Its lead sponsor is Republican state Rep. Robert Benvenuti III of Lexington.

The legislation is House Bill 222.


Supreme Court to hear oral arguments March 15-17

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in eight cases next week including an appeal in a death penalty case.

A statement from the court says arguments in the criminal and civil cases will occur March 15-17 at the state Capitol. Justices are set to hear cases dealing with a variety of issues including questions about police powers, contracts, insurance and allegations of medical malpractice.

In one case out of Louisville, justices will hear arguments over whether to reverse the conviction and sentence for Larry Lamont White. White was convicted in 2014 of raping and killing 22-year-old Pamela Armstrong in 1983, and he was sentenced to death.


Mayor arrested after residents overcharged for utility

COLUMBIA (AP) — The mayor of a town in south central Kentucky is facing criminal charges after he was accused of giving an order to overcharge Columbia Natural Gas customers by $107,000.

Police officers arrested Columbia Mayor Curtis Hardwick on Monday afternoon after he was indicted on charges of theft and official misconduct, WKYT-TV reported.

Investigators believe the mayor instructed his employees to charge the excess natural gas fee, Columbia Police Chief Jason Cross said.

“It’s unfortunate,” Cross said. “Our main goal is to make sure our citizens are protected. That’s their job. Whether it be protection from the bad guys or protection from waste or fraud or abuse or anything like that.”

Hardwick has said the charges stemmed from a billing mistake. The Adair County city began repaying customers once that error was discovered, he said.

“You can indict a ham sandwich, and I guess I’m the ham sandwich,” Hardwick said on Tuesday afternoon.

Hardwick posted bond after his arrest Monday and showed up to work Tuesday. He says he plans to continue serving as mayor while the case works its way through the court system. A judge has set his arraignment date for later this month.


Boy, 6, whose brother drowned in January, dies in crash

BORDEN, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say the 6-year-old brother of a southern Indiana toddler who drowned in January has died in a car crash.

Ayden Roberts died Wednesday when two vehicles collided with his father’s car after he overcorrected and swerved into oncoming traffic on State Road 60 in Borden.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office says the boy’s 25-year-old father and the two other drivers were injured in the crash about 20 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ayden’s death follows the January death of his 2-year-old brother, William Roberts. He drowned in a creek after wandering away from home.

Nearby resident Janie Miller doesn’t know the Roberts family but knew about their younger son’s recent drowning.

Miller tells WLKY-TV Ayden’s car-crash death has created a double-tragedy that’s “too much for one family to bear.”


Man sentenced for scalping woman tells judge to skip lecture

BURLINGTON (AP) — A Kentucky man who told a judge to skip the lecture has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for scalping his girlfriend and ordering his pit bull to attack her.

The Kentucky Enquirer reports 31-year-old Zachary Gross continued to maintain at sentencing Wednesday for his first-degree assault conviction that his dog “Capone” was responsible for the injuries to Marilyn Stanley.

Gross told Boone County Circuit Judge Rick Brueggemann he feels “horrible” over what happened but not responsible.

“I’m not asking for your mercy. Just give me the 20. I don’t need a lecture,” Gross added.

Stanley said she needed a half-dozen surgeries and suffered permanent nerve damage. A trauma surgeon testified at Gross’ trial that cuts to her head were consistent with the use of a sharp knife.


Man sentenced in sports fan hacking case

LEXINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has sentenced a Winchester man to two years in prison for hacking into a high school sports website to promote his online identity and harass and intimidate the website owner and others.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Lexington said 29-year-old Deric Lostutter was sentenced Wednesday for conspiring to illegally access a computer without authorization and lying to an FBI agent. Co-conspirator Noah McHugh of Alexandria, Virginia, was sentenced in January to eight months for accessing a computer without authorization.

Lostutter admitted he and McHugh hacked into a fan’s website for Steubenville High School sports teams in Ohio to bring attention to the rape of a West Virginia girl that two football players had been arrested for.

Prosecutors say Lostutter and McHugh accessed the administrator’s private email account and publicly posted a link to the emails.


Doctor acquitted months after conviction on fraud charges

ASHLAND (AP) — A Kentucky doctor who had been convicted of performing unnecessary heart procedures on dozens of patients has been acquitted on all charges.

The Independent of Ashland reports Judge David Bunning on Tuesday acquitted Ashland cardiologist Dr. Richard E. Paulus of all 11 counts against him and conditionally granted the defendant’s motion for a new trial.

A jury in October had convicted Paulus on charges of health care fraud and making false statements relating to health care matters. He was accused of falsifying records over a five-year period to make it appear that the procedures were necessary before billing Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers.

Bunning, however, said prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Paulus had “acted with fraudulent intent.”

Paulus was facing up to 25 years in prison.


University board meeting to discuss president finalists

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky State University’s regents are meeting Monday to discuss the finalists for the university presidency.

The special meeting is at 5 p.m. in the Julian M. Carroll Academic Services Building. The board will go into closed session to discuss the finalists and pending litigation.

The school said earlier it has been gathering feedback on the finalists, who visited the Frankfort campus in late February and early March. They were interviewed by the regents and participated in forums where they answered questions from faculty, staff, students and alumni.

The three finalists for president are M. Christopher Brown of Southern University in Louisiana, Said Sewell of Lincoln University in Missouri and Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Thomas Colbert.


Trial set for former pastor accused in pawn shop slayings

DANVILLE (AP) — A central Kentucky judge has scheduled a trial for a former pastor accused of killing three people in a Danville pawn shop.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Boyle County Circuit Judge Darren Peckler on Tuesday set the trial for 51-year-old Kenneth Allen Keith for Aug. 10. Keith has pleaded not guilty to murder in the 2013 deaths of 35-year-old Michael Hockensmith and his 38-year-old wife, Angela, both of Stanford; and 60-year-old gold broker Daniel Smith of Richmond.

If convicted, Keith could face the death penalty.

Peckler last week denied a defense motion seeking to suppress evidence gathered as a result of search warrants. The defense said the search warrants relied on false or misleading statements, but Peckler wrote that he didn’t find evidence that police acted in bad faith or unreasonably.

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