89.3 WFPL http://wfpl.org Louisville's NPR® News Station Fri, 19 Dec 2014 04:47:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Fischer Says He’ll Support Louisville Minimum Wage Increase to $9 http://wfpl.org/fischer-says-hell-support-louisville-minimum-wage-increase-9/ http://wfpl.org/fischer-says-hell-support-louisville-minimum-wage-increase-9/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 04:43:07 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28538 The minimum wage in Louisville is on its way to $9 an hour, pending official approval by Mayor Greg Fischer. In a party-line vote, the Metro Council voted 16-9 Thursday night to approve an amended version of a proposal to raise the … Read Story

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The minimum wage in Louisville is on its way to $9 an hour, pending official approval by Mayor Greg Fischer.

In a party-line vote, the Metro Council voted 16-9 Thursday night to approve an amended version of a proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Though Fischer had earlier this week said he would oppose any wage boost beyond $8.75 an hour, following the council vote he sent a statement vowing to support the amended wage hike.

“I will support $9 over three years because it is a balanced compromise solution that gives hardworking families a raise while minimizing the risks of job losses in our city,” he said in the statement.

Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi attended the Metro Council meeting on Thursday to show support for the initial proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

She said she was a bit disappointed with the amendment.

“I would have loved to seen $10.10,” she said.  “But I understand the politics of it all and trying to get the mayor to sign it.  I really feel like the mayor forced the council’s hand.”

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Louisville_City_Hall_3Louisville's Minimum Wage Debate From the Perspectives of Business Owners and Low-Income Workers

The council was able to come to a vote on the amended proposal after nearly two hours of debate and a barrage of confusion concerning council rules.

Councilman Ken Kramer, a Republican from District 11, said following the vote he was counting on the mayor to uphold his “promise to this community” that he would veto any wage hike exceeding $8.75 an hour.

It does not appear that that will be the case, and Kramer said language within the amended ordinance will allow the minimum wage to “well exceed $9 an hour.”

The ordinance calls for every employer in Metro Louisville to raise the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $7.75 an hour by July 1, 2015, then to $8.25 an hour by July 1, 2016 and to $9 an hour by July 1, 2017.

Each year following, the minimum wage will be increased by “an amount corresponding to the previous calendar year’s increase,” according to the ordinance.  The raises that will come in these years will be based on the Consumer Price Index for the south urban region and the wages must determined by the Metro Revenue Commission and will not exceed 3 percent.

As for tipped employees, their employers will still be required to “ensure that the employee receives tips at at least the minimum wage,” said Sarah Martinof the Jefferson County Attorney office.

Councilman James Peden, a Republican from District 23, said raising the minimum wage will hurt Louisville’s ability in attracting jobs.

“Louisville is not in a position, economically, educationally and so on to set itself out there as an outlier in this country,” he said.  “This is just another one of those things that is going to set us apart when it’s time to get those non-service economy jobs, those higher-end jobs.”

Meanwhile, Councilman Brent Ackerson, a Democrat from District 26, seemed a bit nonchalant about the issue.  Laughing, he said the people who supported a wage hike to $10.10 an hour will “get shorted a $1.10.”

“You take what you can get,” he said.

Council Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt said the mayor has to make an official move on the ordinance before the next full council meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 5.

Meanwhile, Greater Louisville Inc.—Louisville’s chamber of commerce—urged Fischer to veto the ordinance. In a statement, GLI President Kent Oyler said:

“The ordinance passed in tonight’s Council meeting far exceeds the Mayor’s $8.75 line in the sand, especially when tied to the Consumer Price Index.  In addition, the process to rush this vote clearly broke Council rules.”

“We urge Mayor Fischer to keep his commitment and veto this ordinance.  We as a community must to be focused on pro-growth policies, not policies that limit business attraction and create uncertainty for businesses that have chosen Louisville as home.  GLI still contends that a local minimum wage increase is outside the legal authority of Metro government and is not an effective tool to alleviate poverty.”

 

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Louisville Metro Council OKs $9 Minimum Wage Increase http://wfpl.org/louisville-metro-council-oks-9-minimum-wage-increase/ http://wfpl.org/louisville-metro-council-oks-9-minimum-wage-increase/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 03:18:07 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28535 A minimum wage increase to $9 an hour in Louisville over the next three years has been sent to Mayor Greg Fischer. In a party-line vote, the Metro Council voted 16-9 Thursday night to approve an amended version of a … Read Story

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A minimum wage increase to $9 an hour in Louisville over the next three years has been sent to Mayor Greg Fischer.

In a party-line vote, the Metro Council voted 16-9 Thursday night to approve an amended version of a proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Democratic caucus spokesperson Tony Hyatt said the mayor now must act on the ordinance, to either sign it into law or veto, before the next Metro Council meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 5.

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Louisville_City_Hall_3Louisville's Minimum Wage Debate From the Perspectives of Business Owners and Low-Income Workers

The council had initially considered a gradual minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour. But Mayor Fischer has said he would oppose any minimum wage hike that exceeds $8.75 an hour.

We’ll have more on this story soon.

Update: 10:24 p.m.: Mayor’s Statement

Soon after Thursday night’s vote, Mayor Greg Fischer sent the following statement:

“I’m pleased with the council’s vote, appreciate their hard work on this important issue, and look forward to signing this ordinance into law. I will support $9 over three years because it is a balanced compromise solution that gives hardworking families a raise while minimizing the risks of job losses in our city.”

Update 11:45 p.m.: GLI Responds

Here’s WFPL’s full story on Thursday night’s Metro Council meeting.

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Kentuckians Don’t Always Enroll in the Best Health Insurance Option http://wfpl.org/kentuckians-arent-always-enrolling-best-health-insurance-plan/ http://wfpl.org/kentuckians-arent-always-enrolling-best-health-insurance-plan/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 22:35:59 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28410 If you passively renewed your health insurance plan this enrollment period through Kynect, you may be one of thousands who are missing out on a cost-saving insurance plan. Carrie Banahan, executive director of kynect, said about 12,000 qualified Kentucky residents … Read Story

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If you passively renewed your health insurance plan this enrollment period through Kynect, you may be one of thousands who are missing out on a cost-saving insurance plan.

Carrie Banahan, executive director of kynect, said about 12,000 qualified Kentucky residents aren’t getting a cost-sharing reduction through the health insurance exchange’s “Silver” plan because they are enrolled in other plans.

“Folks might have just gone to the ‘Platinum’ plan  and said, ‘Yep, that’s the one I want,’ and didn’t look at their other options,” she said.

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Health100,000-Plus Kentuckians Signed Up For Health Insurance Via Kynect

“If they would have scrolled down to the ‘Silver’ plans they would have seen, ‘Oh, a cheaper premium and lower out of pocket costs than this ‘Platinum’ plan,” she said.

This week, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services began sending letters to people who are enrolled in “Platinum” and “Gold” plans.

Banahan said they could expect to see a significant reduction in premium cost and a lower out of pocket cost, reflecting a seven to 13 percent decrease.

The concept of cost-sharing reductions was a new feature created under the Affordable Care Act and was not easily understood, said Banahan. She believes that is what caused many people to miss out on benefits that were available to them.

Banahan said that the situation shows that more education is needed to help people through the enrollment process, and health insurance coverage in general.

“Year one was about enrolling people and getting them to understand how to use their insurance. Now, we’re trying to focus on what’s the best option available to you at the cheapest costs.” Banahan said.

Melissa Mather, communications and planning coordinator for Family Health Centers, said many people searching and using health insurance for the first time are starting from the ground level.

“The health care system is confusing,” she said. “We’re still a pretty disparate system or it’s still really operating in silos where we have our own heath care entities, but we’re all trying to reach out to people in different ways.”

Mather said she doesn’t foresees the conversations surrounding the ACA disappearing anytime soon, which makes it important to inform people in whatever fashion they like to receive information.

“It’s going to be something that we talk about a lot moving forward, and I think the  system is going to change as well. Whenever the system changes we have to be working to communicate and share that with folks as well, too,” Mather said.

Zachary Barlett has been a certified application counselor for FHC since Kynect began accepting applications in 2013.

Barlett said although people are now empowered to buy health insurance, many don’t necessarily know how to.

“Just simple terms like premium versus deductible, out-of-pocket costs—things like this—that weren’t apart of the vocabulary a year or so ago are now part of conversations every day that I have, so it’s new ground for all of us,” he said.

He said people often ask him how much financial assistance they are eligible for and what kind of plan they can buy for a certain amount of money. Those questions are not always easy to answer over the phone.

“It’s much better I find to have in person appointments. I’m sure it makes them feel more comfortable to sit down and actually look at the computer and have eyes on what we’re talking about,” Barlett said.

Banahan said enhancements to the shopping tool on the Kynect website will make a person’s eligibility for cost-sharing reductions more visible. Currently, a green dollar sign indicates that a person qualifies for the reduction. The changes are expected to roll out in May.

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EPA Touts Enforcement Success for Chemical, Water, Air Violations in Kentucky http://wfpl.org/epa-touts-enforcement-success-chemical-water-air-violations-kentucky/ http://wfpl.org/epa-touts-enforcement-success-chemical-water-air-violations-kentucky/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:44:32 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28440 The federal government is touting its environmental enforcement efforts from 2014 across the country. The Environmental Protection Agency says during the fiscal year, its actions reduced about 141 million pounds of air pollutants and 337 million pounds of water pollutants. … Read Story

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The federal government is touting its environmental enforcement efforts from 2014 across the country. The Environmental Protection Agency says during the fiscal year, its actions reduced about 141 million pounds of air pollutants and 337 million pounds of water pollutants. Four of the cases the agency wrapped up this year were in the Louisville area.

Two of those cases were administrative violations that carried hefty penalties. The EPA fined the Purnell Sausage Company in Simpsonville $72,100 for not having an appropriate risk management plan in place for its chemical handling. A chemical company called RussTech Admixtures paid $18,075 for not submitting inventory reports on a toxic chemical, as is required by law.

Charter Communications paid $57,313 for Clean Air Act violations at 136 facilities around the country. One of those facilities is on Ormsby Park Place in Louisville.

The last violation didn’t carry a fine at all. The EPA cited American Synthetic Rubber for violating national air quality standards by releasing a number of chemicals from one of its tanks. According to the EPA’s summary of the charges, the EPA discovered pollution was leaking from a flange covering an opening on the top of a tank in December 2013. The chemicals leaking included toluene, which is a hazardous chemical that’s used to make rubber and is dangerous if inhaled in large quantities. That release was an issue for at least three months; the EPA didn’t issue a compliance order until April 28.

In 2014, the EPA also required coal company Alpha Natural Resources to spend $200 million to reduce water pollution near its coal mines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

There’s a cool interactive map here.

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PARC is Adding Security Cameras to Entrances and Exits of Louisville Parking Garages http://wfpl.org/parc-adding-security-cameras-entrances-exits-louisville-parking-garages/ http://wfpl.org/parc-adding-security-cameras-entrances-exits-louisville-parking-garages/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:36:38 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28423 Louisville’s parking authority is ramping up surveillance in and around garages downtown. At the beginning of next year, 160 new high-definition cameras keep watch over the entrances and exits of the 16 parking garages owned by Parking Authority of River … Read Story

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Louisville’s parking authority is ramping up surveillance in and around garages downtown.

At the beginning of next year, 160 new high-definition cameras keep watch over the entrances and exits of the 16 parking garages owned by Parking Authority of River City, or PARC.

PARC Director Tiffany Smith said the cameras will improve customer service for motorists using parking garages.

“We think it’s going to assist in our ability to get our customers in and out of the garages in a quicker fashion,” she said.

Cameras have been installed in other areas of parking garages for years, she said. But with the new cameras, PARC supervisors will now be able to monitor garages from a central location, Smith said.

If a traffic problem occurs a garage operator will be dispatched “immediately.”

Smith calls this a “softer approach” to monitoring garages than before.  Previously, garage cameras have been monitored by security dispatchers located at the Louisville Gardens.

“We wanted a lot more customer service,” she said.  “We wanted our operators to be monitoring the cameras, who are actually the supervisors in the garages because we felt like they did a better job at tending to our customers.”

All but three of PARC owned garages are automated—meaning no human operator is present at the entrance and exit of 13 garages, Smith said.  Intercoms are present at automated garages, allowing motorists to speak directly with a PARC garage operator.

Congestion doesn’t happen often at PARC garages, Smith said. It’s most common at major events.

“We’re just trying to stay ahead of the curve,” she added.

The cameras, and all related equipment, will cost PARC about $250,000, Smith said.  The money will come from PARC’s capital budget, which is funded through “any net income,” such as parking meter revenue.

In three months earlier this year, PARC recorded a net cash gain from meters, garages, validations and leases of just more than $2.9 million, according to information provided by PARC.

Smith called the purchase and installation of the cameras “our happy New Year’s present to our citizens and our parkers.”

She said the installation of the cameras is not associated with efforts this year to boost video surveillance of downtown Louisville.

Following a string of violence on March 22, Mayor Greg Fischer ordered dozens of security cameras—paid for with $250,000 in taxpayer money—to be installed in and around Waterfront Park. In October police officials unveiled a Crime Information Center that allows civilian analysts the ability to monitor 82 cameras across the city. The analysts can then provide information to police on criminal activity.

The Crime Information Center came at a cost of $400,000, police officials said.

Smith said plans to install the cameras at entrances and exits of garages were in the works “long before” other initiatives for surveillance were launched.

But LMPD will have the ability to tap into the feed from PARC’s new security cameras, Smith said.  Police will also be able to call on the footage for use in court without the need of a subpoena.

Footage collected by the cameras will be stored for 30 days, she added.

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