89.3 WFPL http://wfpl.org Louisville's NPR® News Station Sat, 28 Mar 2015 12:23:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Medical Bills Linger, Long After Cancer Treatment Ends http://wfpl.org/medical-bills-linger-long-after-cancer-treatment-ends/ http://wfpl.org/medical-bills-linger-long-after-cancer-treatment-ends/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 12:07:08 +0000 http://wfpl.org?p=34456&preview_id=34456 A woman's family is stuck with medical charges for care she received after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Negotiating relief from the bills has become a part-time job for her daughter. Read Story

]]> Melinda Townsend-Breslin keeps a photo of herself on her refrigerator standing with her mother, MaryLou Townsend, in the front of the Unique Thrift Store in Louisville, Ky. They’re side by side in the parking lot, both wearing white shirts and sporting short, practical haircuts.

Mom is proudly showing her discount card. “For the thrift store!” said Townsend-Breslin, laughing. “The discount for the thrift store!”

For Townsend-Breslin, this photo captures her mother: a frugal woman with a cheeky sense of humor, not prone to indulgences. When she was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer at 58, she approached her grim prognosis with the same pragmatism. She wanted to pursue treatment, but only if it was working.

The time between discovering a lesion on her pancreas and requiring surgery to remove it was just a few weeks, so when their family doctor recommended a noted surgeon, the family didn’t hesitate to use his services. They knew he was out of their health plan’s network of doctors, but at that stage, it was the least of their worries.

“Mom, don’t worry about it,” Townsend-Breslin recalled saying to her mother. “Worry about being sick, worry about the time that you that have left, don’t worry about the darn bills.”

Townsend had several complications after surgery and had to stay in the hospital for 30 days. Not long after, the family began receiving bills for that part of her care.

“There’s not a lot of time to ask questions when they come and say we’re going to do this surgery,” Townsend-Breslin said. “We didn’t have time to say, can you tell us how much the surgery is going to cost? How many surgeons are going to be involved? … We had no clue of the bills that were on the other side.”

According to the family, the bills ballooned to over $300,000 before their health insurance kicked in.

Until then, Townsend and her husband, John, had always been healthy. They rarely used the health insurance coverage that they received through his work as an automotive technician at a local car dealership.

When the bills started coming in the mail, they weren’t always sure what they were responsible for paying, and what would be covered. Townsend feared they would go bankrupt or lose the house.

“She knew she was dying,” her husband said. “And she was worried about paying the bills — me paying the bills after she was gone, on top of that.”

They soon realized that their insurance coverage was true to its policy. It covered many of the charges, but it didn’t fully cover their out-of-network surgeon or the full cost of all of the procedures. The familiy owed over $100,000, even with insurance.

“I always say, yes, $100,000 in debt is horrible,” said Maggie Woods, director of the health and life division of the Kentucky Department of Insurance. “But half a million is much worse.”

“Unfortunately,” she said, “Everyone thinks if it’s insurance it’s going to make you 100 percent whole. It’s not the case.”

The family regretted not looking at the policy more carefully and takes responsibility for that mistake. The family faults the health insurance company for its refusal to pay for a blood thinner that Townsend required.

She was suffering from blood clots and didn’t respond to the standard drugs. She was in pain and only a blood thinner called Lovenox seemed to help. The drug cost around $1,000 a month and had to be paid out of pocket. Almost every month, the Townsends would have the same argument with their insurance company: The doctor said Lovenox was medically necessary; the insurance company wouldn’t pay.

The family doesn’t believe it was told that under the Affordable Care Act every state is required to have a formal appeals process, where patients can ask an external arbitrator to review a denial of payment. It’s possible the Townsends received written notification of this process, they concede, but they don’t recall that happening.

“I kind of think that’s part of the doctor’s job,” Woods of the Kentucky insurance department said to Townsend-Breslin. “If they’re going to be writing a prescription that’s $1,200 or something like that, they have a responsibility in my opinion to give you all of your options to help you finance this health care for your mother.”

Townsend’s oncologist, Shawn Glisson, said that he knew about the appeals process. He said several members of his team spend their days negotiating access to drugs with insurance companies. In this case, the insurance company repeatedly refused to pay for what he deemed a medically necessary treatment, he said.

But he also doesn’t think it is a doctor’s responsibility to be involved in all the financial issues that arise during treatment beyond helping patients gain access to drugs at a reasonable cost.

“No one shares with me their 1040 and their economic balance sheet,” he said, because his role as the oncologist is to treat cancer.

“People come see me because they want to live. And I don’t have any control over the cost or what they signed up for or didn’t sign up for or whether they have access to money or not.”

Townsend-Breslin agreed. “No, that’s not his job. His job was to treat Mom. His job was to focus on Mom and not focus on kind of the ancillary things that the family was focused on.”

The prognosis for advanced pancreatic cancer is very poor, and Townsend’s blood clotting persisted throughout treatment. When her initial response to chemotherapy showed limited improvement, she decided to stop treatment. She died on May 22, 2014.

Since then, Townsend-Breslin has made it her part-time job to resolve her father’s lingering financial issues. She works in the same hospital where her mother was treated and received assistance from two foundations affiliated with the hospital. She also negotiated and disputed various bills as best she could.

By earlier this month, she had successfully managed to reduce her father’s medical debt down from $100,000 to less than $10,000.

Now, she and her father are learning to live without their beloved mother and wife. It has been bittersweet. A few months after Townsend died, Townsend-Breslin gave birth to the family’s first grandchild, a healthy baby boy.

“I think MaryLou would’ve been really smitten with him,” said her widower, as he smiled at his new 4-month-old grandson. “I think she would’ve had you spoiled, boy.”

Our series is produced with member station WNYC and withKen Burns Presents: Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which will air on PBS starting March 30.Check your local listings for broadcast times.

Copyright 2015 WNYC Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wnyc.org/.

]]> http://wfpl.org/medical-bills-linger-long-after-cancer-treatment-ends/feed/ 0 Louisville Cardinals Beats NC State 75-65 to Join Elite 8 http://wfpl.org/louisville-cardinals-beats-nc-state-75-65-join-elite-8/ http://wfpl.org/louisville-cardinals-beats-nc-state-75-65-join-elite-8/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 12:07:07 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34464 SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points, reserve Anton Gill keyed a late-game surge, and Louisville beat North Carolina State 75-65 on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals of the men’s NCAA Tournament. Louisville (27-8), the fourth seed … Read Story

]]> SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points, reserve Anton Gill keyed a late-game surge, and Louisville beat North Carolina State 75-65 on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals of the men’s NCAA Tournament.

Louisville (27-8), the fourth seed in the East and seeking to make its third Final Four in four years, will play seventh-seeded Michigan State in the East final on Sunday.

After toppling top-seeded Villanova, North Carolina State (22-14), the eighth seed, saw its postseason run end against a team that refused to quit.

Louisville wasn’t given much chance of playing in late March after it lost two of three entering the NCAA Tournament, but gritty wins over UC Irvine and Northern Iowa had the Cardinals brimming with confidence.

Terry Rozier had 17 points and 14 rebounds and freshman guard Quentin Snider added 14 points for the Cardinals.

Trevor Lacey led the Wolfpack with 18 points, while Ralston Turner had 12 and Kyle Washington 11.

]]> http://wfpl.org/louisville-cardinals-beats-nc-state-75-65-join-elite-8/feed/ 0 Former Police Deputy Chief Takes Over Louisville Youth Detention Services http://wfpl.org/former-police-deputy-chief-takes-louisville-youth-detention-services/ http://wfpl.org/former-police-deputy-chief-takes-louisville-youth-detention-services/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:34:24 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34441 The new director of Louisville Metro Youth Detention Services is a 24-year veteran of Louisville Metro Police. Yvette Gentry retired late last year from Louisville Metro Police with the rank of deputy chief; she was responsible for the department’s patrol … Read Story

]]> The new director of Louisville Metro Youth Detention Services is a 24-year veteran of Louisville Metro Police.

Yvette Gentry retired late last year from Louisville Metro Police with the rank of deputy chief; she was responsible for the department’s patrol divisions.

IMG_7533Jacob Ryan | wfpl.org

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Gentry’s hiring on Friday. Fischer said Gentry will oversee youth detention, diversion and development in her new role.

“Yvette will work with the judicial branch, the county attorney, the Crime Commission and the Office for Juvenile Justice,” Fischer said.

Gentry said she will look to reduce the number of young people “under correctional control.”

To do that, she said she wants to bring more opportunities to young people.

“We’ve got to give our kids something to say yes to,” she said. “It’s our job to make sure we give them every avenue to succeed.”

She said young people need access to education, as well as the ability to interact with successful members of the community.

During her career with the police department, Gentry assisted in creating a centralized domestic violence unit, she piloted the department’s first “crime text alert” system in 2012 and led weekly Compstat meetings to coordinate crime control and prevention activities throughout the police department.

She also worked to expand the Gentlemen’s Academy, which aims to provide young men with positive reinforcements. The Gentlemen’s Academy was recently the subject of a lawsuit against three Louisville Metro Police officers at the academy alleging abuse.

Gentry said she isn’t looking to add more programming like the Gentlemen’s Academy to help reduce youth incarceration levels.

“I said I would never take a job again that I have to do more programming that policy,” she said. “There are some policy changes that I want to make.”

Her first job, she said, will be “digging in” to the inner workings of Youth Detention Services.

“I don’t know about what goes on in the walls of YDS,” she said. “The people doing the work directly with the kids are doing a great job so far, but I need to know what they are before I say I want to fix them or tweak them or do something different.”

Gentry will earn $94,600 in her new role, a spokesman with the Mayor’s office said. As deputy chief with LMPD she earned nearly $120,000, according to a city database.

She will continue to get retirement benefits, but her new position will not boost that benefits, the spokesman said.

Gentry succeeds Clarence Williams, who left as director earlier this year to take a job in Cincinnati with his family’s business, according to a news release.

]]> http://wfpl.org/former-police-deputy-chief-takes-louisville-youth-detention-services/feed/ 0 Ethics Panel Steps Up Inquiry of Kentucky Rep. Whitfield http://wfpl.org/ethics-panel-steps-inquiry-kentucky-rep-whitfield/ http://wfpl.org/ethics-panel-steps-inquiry-kentucky-rep-whitfield/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:26:26 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34433 WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee is forming an investigative subcommittee to determine whether Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky violated House rules by allowing his wife to lobby staff members on issues related to her work with the Humane … Read Story

]]> WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee is forming an investigative subcommittee to determine whether Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky violated House rules by allowing his wife to lobby staff members on issues related to her work with the Humane Society of the United States.

Related Story

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky Had Decade-Long Financial Tie To a Lobbyist

The committee will investigate allegations that Whitfield improperly used his official position to benefit himself, his wife or the Humane Society.

Whitfield, in his 11th term, has called the allegations politically motivated by opponents of his work on legislation to regulate the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Whitfield’s wife, Constance Harriman Whitfield, is a lobbyist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund and worked with her husband on the bill.

Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant of Texas will chair the four-member investigative panel.

]]> http://wfpl.org/ethics-panel-steps-inquiry-kentucky-rep-whitfield/feed/ 0 Beshear, Feds Announce $38 Million In Grants For Coal Communities http://wfpl.org/beshear-feds-announce-38-million-grants-coal-communities/ http://wfpl.org/beshear-feds-announce-38-million-grants-coal-communities/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:11:12 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34419 The federal government will award as much as $38 million in grants this year to assist Eastern Kentucky communities negatively affected by the decline of the coal industry. Funding will come from the Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker National Emergency … Read Story

]]> The federal government will award as much as $38 million in grants this year to assist Eastern Kentucky communities negatively affected by the decline of the coal industry.

Funding will come from the Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker National Emergency grants, the Small Business Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is co-chaired by Gov. Steve Beshear.

“This is a very exciting step forward I think for all of Appalachia and particularly for those of us who have zeroed in on Eastern Kentucky as a place that we want to diversify that economy,” Beshear said at a press conference on Friday.

Grants will fund projects that create jobs or study local economies, officials said. The initiative comes amid a flurry of state and federal attention to Eastern Kentucky.

On Monday, the governor signed into a law a funding mechanism that will back economic development projects using coal severance funds as part of the Saving Our Appalachian Region, or SOAR, initiative.

Earlier this week the Department of Agriculture announced a $19.9 million grant to help Eastern Kentucky food stamp recipients find jobs.

Jerry Abramson, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs and former mayor of Louisville, said the initiatives are important to President Obama and Kentucky leaders alike.

“It’s a win for the Commonwealth and an opportunity for us to put together a team that will continue to put together a team that will continue to make a difference in the lives of so many of the miners in the Appalachian area,” Abramson said.

Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president  said that the $38 million in grants is the first step to an additional $55 million proposal to create jobs in Eastern Kentucky next year.

Local governments, businesses and groups for the grants will open in April and May.

]]> http://wfpl.org/beshear-feds-announce-38-million-grants-coal-communities/feed/ 0 Louisville’s 2.8-Percent Population Growth Fueled by Suburbs http://wfpl.org/in-louisville-population-increase-driven-by-suburban-appeal/ http://wfpl.org/in-louisville-population-increase-driven-by-suburban-appeal/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:07:51 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34392 The Louisville Metropolitan Service Area’s population has increased by 2.8 percent since 2010, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday. Here are population changes in some of Louisville’s peer cities. Cincinnati: 1.6 percent increase Columbus: 4.9 percent increase Charlotte: 7.4 … Read Story

]]> The Louisville Metropolitan Service Area’s population has increased by 2.8 percent since 2010, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

Here are population changes in some of Louisville’s peer cities.

  • Cincinnati: 1.6 percent increase
  • Columbus: 4.9 percent increase
  • Charlotte: 7.4 percent increase
  • Oklahoma City: 6.7 percent increase
  • Nashville: 7.3 percent increase
  • Indianapolis: 4.4 percent increase

About 34,000 more people are living in the metro area now than compared to about 15 years ago

Matt Ruther, director of the Kentucky Data Center, said the 2.8 increase in the Louisville MSA likely would not be noticeable to residents.

“Most of the growth is happening on the periphery,” he said. “If you were in, what we call, the city, you’re not seeing any change at all.”

The “periphery,” he said, includes Jeffersontown, Middletown and other areas outside of the urban core. The new Census data shows a trend many experts have been seeing for some time, he said.

“The state, overall, is becoming less rural, but more suburban,” he said, noting growth in suburban counties such as Oldham.

Ruther said the trend of rural to urban or rural to suburban migration is “a very sustainable model.”

“Cities use fewer resources than rural areas, as far as transportation, water infrastructure, electric infrastructure, they’re more efficient,” he said.

The Louisville Metro Service Area includes the 12 counties that surround Jefferson County—from Washington County, Indiana in the north to Nelson County, Kentucky in the south.

]]> http://wfpl.org/in-louisville-population-increase-driven-by-suburban-appeal/feed/ 0 Kentucky Wildcats Beat West Virginia to Reach Elite Eight http://wfpl.org/kentucky-wildcats-beat-west-virginia-reach-elite-eight/ http://wfpl.org/kentucky-wildcats-beat-west-virginia-reach-elite-eight/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:03:35 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34415 CLEVELAND — Perfect and pulverizing. Kentucky made West Virginia’s press look pathetic. Trey Lyles scored 14 points, Andrew Harrison added 13 and the unbeaten Wildcats, chasing history and a ninth national title, rolled to a 78-39 victory over the Mountaineers … Read Story

]]> CLEVELAND — Perfect and pulverizing. Kentucky made West Virginia’s press look pathetic.

Trey Lyles scored 14 points, Andrew Harrison added 13 and the unbeaten Wildcats, chasing history and a ninth national title, rolled to a 78-39 victory over the Mountaineers on Thursday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

The tourney’s top seed and an overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets next month in Indianapolis, Kentucky (37-0) advanced to Saturday’s regional final to play third-seeded Notre Dame, an 81-70 winner over Wichita State in the other semifinal.

The Fighting Irish may need to call Rudy, consult with Digger Phelps and wake up the echoes from some of those stunning upsets in football and hoops they have pulled off in the past.

]]> http://wfpl.org/kentucky-wildcats-beat-west-virginia-reach-elite-eight/feed/ 0 After Heroin Bill’s Passage, Kentucky Local Governments Begin Exploring Needle Exchanges http://wfpl.org/heroin-bills-passage-kentucky-local-governments-begin-exploring-needle-exchanges/ http://wfpl.org/heroin-bills-passage-kentucky-local-governments-begin-exploring-needle-exchanges/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:23:52 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34399 Local governments are already moving to set up needle exchanges just a day after the Kentucky state legislature authorized the programs through a comprehensive heroin bill. If implemented, drug users would be able to exchange dirty needles for clean ones from … Read Story

]]> Local governments are already moving to set up needle exchanges just a day after the Kentucky state legislature authorized the programs through a comprehensive heroin bill.

If implemented, drug users would be able to exchange dirty needles for clean ones from local public health departments.

Rice Leach, the commissioner of the Lexington-Fayette County Public Health Department, said needle exchanges would stymie the transfer of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.

“From a public health point of view it’s a perfect way to reduce the spread of diseases if not managed properly,” Leach said. “And those diseases manage to work their way into the population that does not use drugs.”

Public health departments in Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky have indicated they support needle exchanges and are working with local councils to approve programs.

In a statement, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness said officials were “studying the possibility of local implementation.” The Louisville officials will examine cost, locations and possible partners for an exchange, the department said in a statement.

adding that “there are still many steps and questions that need to be examined, including costs, locations and possible partners for the exchange.”

The Northern Kentucky Health Department, which serves Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties also said they are looking into setting up a needle exchange, but were still searching for funding for the program.

The comprehensive heroin bill signed by Gov. Steve Beshear on Wednesday allocated $10 million for drug treatment programs, which would not apply to needle exchanges.

The needle exchange provision in the heroin bill proved to be a major sticking point for conservative lawmakers in the Kentucky General Assembly.

In the final debate surrounding the bill, Shelbyville Republican Sen. Paul Hornback said the government effectively condones drug use by implementing a needle exchange.

“That’s enabling somebody,” he said.

Before the heroin bill’s passage, local governments in Kentucky were forbidden from setting up needle exchanges because the needles would have been considered drug paraphernalia under the state’s drug laws.

Scott White, chairman of Fayette County’s Board of Health, said that a needle exchange will be a first point of contact between addicts and treatment, “which is ultimately what you hope happens—that they get into some program that helps them get off that stuff and returns to just a regular life.

“We’re taking our heads out of the sand and dealing with the reality and the reality is that it will promote a much better public health.”

]]> http://wfpl.org/heroin-bills-passage-kentucky-local-governments-begin-exploring-needle-exchanges/feed/ 0 Bellarmine Knights 1 Game Away From D-II National Title Game http://wfpl.org/bellarmine-knights-1-game-away-d-ii-national-title-game/ http://wfpl.org/bellarmine-knights-1-game-away-d-ii-national-title-game/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:00:02 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34395 Louisville’s Bellarmine Knights are one victory away from a return appearance in the men’s NCAA Division II national title game. Bellarmine takes on Florida Southern tonight  at 9:30 in the tournament semifinals in Evansville. The other semifinal pits Tarleton State … Read Story

]]> Louisville’s Bellarmine Knights are one victory away from a return appearance in the men’s NCAA Division II national title game.

Bellarmine takes on Florida Southern tonight  at 9:30 in the tournament semifinals in Evansville. The other semifinal pits Tarleton State against Indiana (Pennsylvania).

The Knights captured the NCAA title in 2011.

In Cleveland tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats return to action in regional play in the men’s Division 1 NCAA Tournament. The top-seeded Wildcats face West Virginia, with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight. Tipoff is at 9:45 p.m.

The Louisville Cardinals are preparing for their NCAA matchup against North Carolina State tomorrow night in Syracuse.

The Wolfpack won the last meeting with coach Rick Pitino’s Cards in Louisville, and upset top-seeded Villanova to advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

“I’m probably more excited now than I’ve ever been in an NCAA tournament because it gets more and more exciting every year … and there’s so many, it’s almost cruel sometimes the path it takes,” Pitino said.

In the women’s NCAA tournament, Louisville resumes play Saturday against Dayton.

]]> http://wfpl.org/bellarmine-knights-1-game-away-d-ii-national-title-game/feed/ 0 Billion-Dollar Oxycontin Verdict Rests on Disputed Missed Deadline in Kentucky http://wfpl.org/billion-dollar-oxycontin-verdict-rests-disputed-missed-deadline-kentucky/ http://wfpl.org/billion-dollar-oxycontin-verdict-rests-disputed-missed-deadline-kentucky/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:53:31 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34393 A missed court deadline could result in a billion-dollar windfall for Kentucky taxpayers from the manufacturer of Oxycontin. The state is suing Purdue Pharma for misrepresenting its prescription painkiller that resulted in a wave of addiction and increased medical costs … Read Story

]]> A missed court deadline could result in a billion-dollar windfall for Kentucky taxpayers from the manufacturer of Oxycontin.

The state is suing Purdue Pharma for misrepresenting its prescription painkiller that resulted in a wave of addiction and increased medical costs across the state. The company had 45 days to respond to the state’s claims. But in the middle of that window, the case was moved to federal court, and the deadline vanished.

More than five years later, the federal court sent the case back to Kentucky. State officials say that restarted the clock to respond. The deadline passed, and a judge ruled in the state’s favor. But attorneys for Purdue Pharma argue the old deadline was not valid.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Thursday.

]]> http://wfpl.org/billion-dollar-oxycontin-verdict-rests-disputed-missed-deadline-kentucky/feed/ 0 Paul And McConnell’s Opposition To Loretta Lynch Riles Louisville’s African American Leaders http://wfpl.org/paul-and-mcconnells-opposition-to-loretta-lynch-riles-louisvilles-african-american-leaders/ http://wfpl.org/paul-and-mcconnells-opposition-to-loretta-lynch-riles-louisvilles-african-american-leaders/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:21:59 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34381 African American leaders in Louisville are speaking out against Kentucky’s U.S. senators and their efforts to block the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed the vote to confirm Lynch. Sen. Rand … Read Story

]]> African American leaders in Louisville are speaking out against Kentucky’s U.S. senators and their efforts to block the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed the vote to confirm Lynch. Sen. Rand Paul has vowed to vote against her nomination when it does happen. If confirmed, Lynch would be the first African American woman to become U.S. attorney general.

A coalition of Louisville Metro Council members, state lawmakers, the NAACP, the Urban League and others, are crying foul about the Republican senators’ stances.

They said Lynch is qualified and highly recommended—and lawmakers have no reason to stall her confirmation.

State Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, said McConnell and Paul are putting politics ahead of their duties to confirm the president’s appointee.

“There is just no plausible excuse for doing this,” he said. “And some people are raising the question as to whether or not this so dismissive in how it’s handled by the senator is racially insensitive, particularly since this would be the first African American woman to ever be in a position where she can become the attorney general of the United States of America.”

Neal said he’s equally baffled as to why Paul—whom is currently eyeing a presidential run—would also oppose her nomination.

Paul has been actively courting the black vote by calling for criminal justice reform, among other things. But Neal said his opposition to Lynch’s nomination puts him at odds with African Americans.

“It raises a very serious question in the mind of many of my constituents,” he said. “We think it is not appropriate that Rand Paul is out Twittering against this nomination– and for what?”

Lynch’s confirmation by the U.S. Senate is taking longer than any U.S. attorney general before, which Neal said is an outrage.

In a statement, Paul spokesman David Bayens wrote that among the reasons for Paul’s opposition is Lynch’s support of President Obama’s executive order allowing some undocumented immigrants to stay in the country without the threat of deportation, as well as her support of civil asset forfeiture. Lynch has also “refused to rule out executive authority to kill Americans on U.S. soil,” Bayens wrote.

McConnell did not respond to a request for comment.

Update: McConnell’s Camp’s Response

“The only thing holding up that vote is the Democrats’ filibuster of a bill that would help prevent kids from being sold into sex slavery. The sooner they allow the Senate to pass that bipartisan bill, the sooner the Senate can move to the Lynch nomination,” said McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer.

]]> http://wfpl.org/paul-and-mcconnells-opposition-to-loretta-lynch-riles-louisvilles-african-american-leaders/feed/ 0 Indiana Allows Needle Exchange Program to Stem HIV Outbreak http://wfpl.org/indiana-allows-needle-exchange-program-stem-hiv-outbreak/ http://wfpl.org/indiana-allows-needle-exchange-program-stem-hiv-outbreak/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:11:39 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34388 Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has authorized a short-term needle exchange program to help contain an outbreak of HIV in a county with 79 confirmed new infections since January. Pence on Thursday declared a public health emergency in Scott County, about … Read Story

]]> Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has authorized a short-term needle exchange program to help contain an outbreak of HIV in a county with 79 confirmed new infections since January.

Pence on Thursday declared a public health emergency in Scott County, about 30 miles north of Louisville. He ordered the state health department to set up a command center to coordinate HIV and substance abuse treatment and establish a mobile unit to enroll people in a state-run health program.

Indiana bars needle exchange programs, but Pence authorized a short-term exchange on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials.

The state has launched a public awareness campaign to focus on drug treatment, infection prevention, safe sex, needle disposal and HIV testing and treatment.

]]> http://wfpl.org/indiana-allows-needle-exchange-program-stem-hiv-outbreak/feed/ 0 Louisville Plaintiffs Await Same-Sex Marriage’s Day Before the U.S. Supreme Court http://wfpl.org/louisville-plaintiffs-await-same-sex-marriages-day-before-the-u-s-supreme-court/ http://wfpl.org/louisville-plaintiffs-await-same-sex-marriages-day-before-the-u-s-supreme-court/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:00:57 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34315 Next month, a challenge to same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky and three other states will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ahead of those arguments, the Kentucky plaintiffs have been been doing community outreach. Earlier this month, six Kentucky petitioners … Read Story

]]> Next month, a challenge to same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky and three other states will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ahead of those arguments, the Kentucky plaintiffs have been been doing community outreach.

Earlier this month, six Kentucky petitioners gathered at the First Unitarian Church in Louisville—their second community meeting in as many days. Though the couples are scattered across the state, plaintiff Michael De Leon said they keep in touch and socialize.

“You know, we have become like a family,” he said.

Over the last few months, De Leon and his partner of 33 years—Greg Bourke—have joined a special club.

Their case—along with gay marriage lawsuits filed by other couples from Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee—is expected to decide the issue of gay marriage nationwide.

Attorney Dawn Elliott, who filed the original lawsuit against Kentucky’s ban, said she had no idea the case would play such an important role in civil rights history.

“The fact that this potentially will change, first of all, history and two rights of all LGBT citizens, and Kentucky’s name is stamped on it—that’s amazing,” Elliott said.

At the moment, same-sex marriage is banned in Kentucky under a 2004 law. The law was struck down last year in federal court, but Gov. Steve Beshear hired attorneys to challenge the ruling on behalf of the state, saying he wanted the matter settled on a national level. An appeals court overturned that decisions last fall.

But, plaintiff Randy Johnson said he’s not happy a lawsuit was necessary in the first place.

“It’s disappointing in retrospect that we have had to spend an awful lot of our energy on protecting our family from discriminatory laws that are on the books in Kentucky,” he said.

Johnson and his partner of more than two decades—much like the other plaintiffs—have raised children and built a family. They said this fight is about making sure their children have two married parents recognized under the law.

Last summer’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, is a sign to many the court will rule in favor of gay marriage. Bourke said he is cautiously optimistic, though.

“The Supreme Court could make a ruling that is kind of out of step with what we see in the rest of the country right now, although I think that is very unlikely,” Bourke said.

Attorneys will deliver oral arguments before the court on April 28.

]]> http://wfpl.org/louisville-plaintiffs-await-same-sex-marriages-day-before-the-u-s-supreme-court/feed/ 0 The Bills That Failed to Pass in the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 Session http://wfpl.org/bills-failed-pass-kentucky-general-assemblys-2015-session/ http://wfpl.org/bills-failed-pass-kentucky-general-assemblys-2015-session/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:44:49 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34365 The Kentucky General Assembly passed several important pieces of legislation in the just-concluded 2015 session, including a comprehensive heroin bill and a freeze to the state’s tumbling gas tax. But with the session’s snow days, missed deadlines and divisive political views, … Read Story

]]> The Kentucky General Assembly passed several important pieces of legislation in the just-concluded 2015 session, including a comprehensive heroin bill and a freeze to the state’s tumbling gas tax.

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But with the session’s snow days, missed deadlines and divisive political views, several bills failed to make it to the finish line.

Here’s a rundown of some of the legislative casualties of the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly.

Teachers’ Pension System Bailout

A compromise proposal to authorize $3.3 billion in bonding to bail out the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems and study the program’s weaknesses failed in the final hours of the legislative session.

KTRS is facing a $14 billion shortfall and only has 53 percent of the money it needs to make payments current and future retirees.

Leaders from the Democratic-led House walked away from the table when members of the Republican-led Senate offered shoring up the system with $50 million in cash, instead of borrowing billions.

Senators said the state’s credit rating would suffer if lawmakers borrowed the money.

Public-Private Partnerships

Northern Kentucky lawmakers staved off another proposal to let the state engage in public-private partnerships, a funding model that would allow companies to front money for major state projects and collect tolls or user fees once completed.

Gov. Steve Beshear has indicated that a “P3” model would be used to finance the $2.6 billion replacement of the Brent-Spence Bridge, which connects Covington and Cincinnati.

Tolling on the bridge has been unpopular with Northern Kentuckians, who say they would be disproportionately affected.

A P3 bill with a ban on tolling the bridge passed both chambers in 2014, but was vetoed by Beshear.

Local Option Sales Tax

Under the proposal, local governments would have been allowed to add as much as 1 percent onto the sales tax to fund local projects.

Supporters included the Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. But supporters had an uphill battle convincing the Republican-led Senate that the provision didn’t constitute a statewide tax raise.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, went on the record several times calling the tax option “democracy in its truest form.”

But the bill lost momentum mid-session as industry groups began to seek exemptions from the additional tax.

Minimum Wage

The Democratic-led House has passed a minimum wage hike for the past two years, but the bill has been a non-starter in the Republican-led Senate.

The bill would have increased the minimum wage Kentucky businesses could pay employees from $7.25 to $10.10 over the course of three years.

In November 2014, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voted to raise the minimum wage in their states.

Smoking Ban

A statewide smoking ban passed the Democratic-led House, but never got taken up in the Senate. The Senate sponsors of the bill said the chamber had enough votes to pass the ban, but leadership assigned the bill to a committee that didn’t have enough votes to send it out for a floor vote.

The House amended the bill exempting cities that had already passed smoking bans and leaving the door open for local governments to pass more lenient bans before the law took effect.

Felon Voting Rights

For the last eight years the state House passed a bill to grant voting rights to an estimated 186,000 non-violent felons who have served their time.

Presently, only the governor of Kentucky can restore voting rights to a felon.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, has proposed similar legislation at the federal level.

The issue has been a nonstarter in the Senate, though in 2014, that chamber passed a restrictive version of the bill that wasn’t taken up in the House.

Campaign Contributions Limits

In the last minutes of the session, lawmakers nearly passed a law that would have doubled the amount individuals can donate to a candidate running for statewide office from $1,000 per year to $2,000 per year.

The bill would have gone into effect in the middle of this year’s governor’s race.

Opponents said there was enough money in politics already and took issue with the last-minute timing of the bill’s vote. Supporters pointed out that individual contribution limits pale in comparison to the amount candidates receive from political organizations.

Medical Review Panels

The Senate passed a bill that would have a panel review medical malpractice lawsuits before they could be tried in court.

The panel would determine if malpractice cases have “legal merit.” Supporters, such as the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, say the panels reduce the number of fraudulent lawsuits from the legal system, which would benefit the healthcare industry.

Opponents said panels would skew rulings toward doctors, nursing homes and hospitals and away from plaintiffs who have legitimate claims.

The Democratic-led House never took up the bill. Similar laws have passed in other states.

Right to Work

Riding on a wave of county governments that have passed “right-to-work” policies, the state Senate passed a bill early on this session that would have allowed employees to opt out of union membership at unionized businesses.

The bill never made it out of a House committee hearing packed with union members. Supporters argue that Kentucky is losing jobs to surrounding states that have such laws on the books.

Twenty-six states currently have right-to-work laws, including neighboring Indiana and Tennessee.

Student Voice/ Transgender Bathroom

A bill that would add a student member to screening committees for school district superintendents had a healthy start but a troublesome demise in this year’s session.

A group of Lexington high school students proposed the bill and shepherded its passage through the state House. But the legislation began to collect Senate amendments, including a bill that would forbid transgender students from using a bathroom different from their birth sex.

The transgender bathroom amendment was pulled on the last day of session, but replaced with an amendment that would protect “religious speech” in public schools.

The House never took up the amended bill.

No-Jail Jailers

The state Senate passed a bill that would have addressed the 41 counties that have elected and salaried jailers but no jailers.

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The bill would have required jailers to submit quarterly reports on their job duties, require fiscal courts to establish jailer job requirements, and allow county governments to only make jailer salary adjustments based on increases in the consumer price index.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found that no-jail jailers are paid annual salaries ranging from $20,000 to $70,398, but often had few responsibilities.

A House committee took up the issue late in the session. The committee didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill to the full House.

]]> http://wfpl.org/bills-failed-pass-kentucky-general-assemblys-2015-session/feed/ 0 Prop 8 Attorney David Boies: Support For Same-Sex Marriage Will Grow in Kentucky and Elsewhere http://wfpl.org/prop-8-attorney-david-boies-support-for-same-sex-marriage-will-grow-in-kentucky-and-elsewhere/ http://wfpl.org/prop-8-attorney-david-boies-support-for-same-sex-marriage-will-grow-in-kentucky-and-elsewhere/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:44:58 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=34323 Public opinion will flip in favor of same-sex marriage—though it will take time to happen, an attorney who helped lead the legal fight against California’s anti-same-sex union law Proposition 8 said in Louisville this week. This month, the Bluegrass Poll … Read Story

]]> Public opinion will flip in favor of same-sex marriage—though it will take time to happen, an attorney who helped lead the legal fight against California’s anti-same-sex union law Proposition 8 said in Louisville this week.

This month, the Bluegrass Poll found opposition to same-sex marriage has grown in Kentucky from 50 percent to 57 percent since last summer.

Speaking at a forum with University of Louisville law students on Tuesday, attorney David Boies said other states have set an example of how acceptance of same-sex marriage will play out in the U.S.

“You have marriage equality now in Florida, in Virginia, in the Carolinas, and Utah,” Boies said. “I mean, these were states were people said ‘marriage equality will never work, people will be up in arms, the sky will be falling.’

“Well what happened? Well, nothing happened except everyone got to marry the person they love.”

Boies was in Louisville this week to part in the Kentucky Author Forum, during which he was interviewed by Jeffrey Toobin of CNN and the New Yorker magazine.

Boies has a history of taking on giants such as Microsoft and Major League Baseball in court. He has also represented famous clients, including Michael Moore, Blackwater and the NFL.

He is best known for representing Vice President Al Gore following the disputed results of the 2000 presidential election. But about six years ago he teamed with opposing counsel in the historic Bush v. Gore case, former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, to work on efforts to strike down gay marriage bans in states across the country.

Boise said this is the most important legal fight of his career.

“I think this is the case I have had the privilege of having the biggest impact on people’s lives than I have in any of the cases I have done before,” he said.

Boise said when he starting going to court against Proposition 8 in California, he was told he was going to lose that fight. Boise said he was told the country wasn’t ready for gay marriage.

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But Boise said the challenge to Prop 8 paved the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear gay marriage cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee this April. Those cases are expected to settle the same-sex marriage question once and for all.

“By taking this case on and pushing this case, lawyers around the country—including lawyers here in Kentucky, in Ohio, Michigan, all over the country—have brought cases,” he said. “By bringing those cases, [they] have brought attention to this issue.”

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