The Associated Press

The Kentucky Department of Education has launched a new app allowing iPhone, iPad and iPod users easy access to agency information.The KDE News app is available as a free download. It features department news releases, articles from Kentucky Teacher magazine, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday's blog, weekly messages to superintendents and teachers, as well as photos and videos.  The department said it is developing a Windows Mobile version of the app.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission will hold public hearings next month in Paducah and Henderson to get input on a proposal raising rates for Big Rivers Electric Corporation customers. Big Rivers wants to spend about $284 million to comply with new federal environmental requirements affecting utilities that burn coal to generate electricity.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has begun checking prison guards for contraband as they leave work. Seven Illinois prisons conducted shakedowns of their corrections officers last week. The guards and their union claim the searches are retaliation against employees who spoke out about crowded conditions and plans to close Illinois’ supermax prison at Tamms. The guards said they’ve never been searched before. A Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the searches are routine and designed to halt the flow of contraband that includes cell phones as well as drugs and weapons.

Wikimedia Commons

The Kentucky Judicial Branch will shut down for first of three furlough days this week. Court services will be unavailable across the Commonwealth August 6th.  The Judicial Branch is trying to offset a $25 million dollar budget shortfall. Non-elected court personnel will be off work without pay.  Driver's licenses, pretrial services, bond processing and release orders will also not be available. However, existing after-hours protocol will be followed for processing domestic violence orders and emergency protective orders.

The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities hopes to become the first accredited state system focused on disabilities. Department Commissioner Jim Henry said the goal is to lead the nation in offering those types of services. A series of meetings will be held across the state targeting providers, families, and advocates. The DIDD became a stand-alone department in 2011 and will contract with the Council on Quality and Leadership to consult about accreditation. The three-year process will begin in August.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed new laws over the weekend aimed at protecting the elderly by increasing caregiver oversight and making it easier for authorities to respond to cases of abuse or neglect. One of the new measures allows prosecutors to ask a court to freeze a suspect's assets if they are charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person. It’s meant to keep a defendant from spending stolen money before restitution is collected. Another new law allows police and fire departments access to reports of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation against the elderly.

Americasroof, Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky agriculture is still reeling from a one-two punch of heat and dry conditions. And farmers are feeling the pain from the prospects of shrinking income and inflated expenses caused by weather-related setbacks. Corn fields are shriveled, especially here in western Kentucky where the dry spell has been worst. Poultry farmers are being hit with higher grain prices to feed birds. And pastures turned to stubble are forcing cattle producers to dip into hay reserves. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said it is a disaster affecting every segment of agriculture.

The National Transportation Safety Board says Kentucky had received a warning about downed lights on the Eggners Ferry Bridge a month before a cargo ship struck it collapsing a 300-foot span.

Illinois legislation will raise fines for people that misuse disabled parking tags to $600 next year. The new law also imposes a $1,000 fine on any healthcare provider who knowingly falsifies the certification allowing someone to get a disability plate or parking decal.

Tennessee ranks 8th in the country for the volume of federal grants its university research centers receive, but those dollars are not paying off in terms of new products, companies and jobs.