Illinois could have $275 million more for road and bridge projects this year if lawmakers approve a Department of Transportation funding plan. DOT officials have found $400 million mostly in extra federal and free-up state money to pump into the transit improvement program over the next five years. One lawmaker says the DOT wants immediate legislative approval so work can begin when the weather warms up. If the legislation passes it would be a 15 percent increase from the almost $1.8 billion dollars the DOT said it would spend in the fiscal year ending June 30.
Doctors who treat TennCare patients will get a New Year's pay raise. Practitioners in family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics or a related subspecialty are now going to be reimbursed at Medicare rates, more than 25 percent above what they were being paid. TennCare officials say the boost will give qualifying Tennessee doctors an extra $55 million over the next two years.
A Democratic state lawmaker will be pushing legislation in the upcoming legislative session to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky. Representative Carl Rollins of Midway drafted a measure that would make the Commonwealth's stiffest sentence life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Rollins bill calls for the term "capital punishment" to be stricken altogether from state law. Similar legislation has been introduced intermittently over the past 25 years, but has never garnered enough support to pass.
Hospital patients, employees and visitors will be banned from smoking, using chewing tobacco and puffing on electronic cigarettes at Baptist Hospital Madisonville and its various campuses around western Kentucky. The hospital is implementing the new rule on Tuesday. Hospital CEO Bert Whitaker says both patients and visitors have objected to entering the hospital through a cloud of cigarette smoke that wafted over from nearby smoking areas.
A new Illinois law that punishes adults who host parties with underage drinking at their home is taking effect Tuesday. The legislation makes it a Class A misdemeanor to host or allow gatherings where teenagers drink alcohol. Fines will be at least $500. It's a Class 4 felony if the underage drinking results in injury or death. Adults who discover minors drinking alcohol on their property won't be charged if they call the police to help put a stop to the party.
An Owensboro teacher has received a the Milken Award, which honors exceptional educators with a $25,000 gift. Cravens Elementary School teacher Ryan Williams was one of 40 people across the nations to be bestowed with the honor.
A Hopkinsville energy plant has helped a Tennessee sustainable feedstock producer reach an important milestone. Memphis-based Delta BioRenewables delivered a commercial-sized batch of sweet sorghum juice this month to the Commonwealth Agri-Energy plant. The plant’s machines that turn corn into ethanol are now using sweet sorghum for the same process.
With its pension funds are the most underfunded in the U.S., and a shortfall approaching $100 billion, Illinois lawmakers will meet again next week in hopes of fixing the problem. Solutions other states adopted as long as five years ago are on the table. They include higher retirement ages, asking workers to contribute more and switching to 401(k)-style plans.
Kentucky lawmakers are at odds on whether to postpone redistricting for a year to avoid gumming up an upcoming legislative session that's already chock-full of hefty issues. Incoming Republican Senate President Robert Stivers says there’s no rushed to redraw legislative boundaries because the next round of elections isn't until 2014. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the process over as quickly as possible after the session convenes Jan. 8.
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell’s announcement that she wants to impose a cap on how many bills are filed each year has lobbyists scrambling. Under Harwell’s proposal each lawmaker would be limited to 10 bills each session. That’s an average of about two bills a piece for the more than 500 lobbyists registered at the state Capitol.