A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Ky. counties say cigarettes, vaping hurting economy, seek local control of tobacco marketing, sales

Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Counties across Kentucky say smoking and vaping are hurting their local economies and people’s health, and they’re fighting for the ability to pass local laws about the marketing and sale of tobacco products. A dozen states, including Kentucky, have laws on the books preempting local tobacco ordinances. Betsy Clemons, executive director of the Hazard Perry...

Kentucky environmental groups turn focus to inclusion, diversity in state’s outdoor spaces

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Environmental advocates and outdoor enthusiasts across the state are focusing on inclusion and diversity in hiking, camping and other outdoor activities. Despite wanting to experience nature, many people of color may not have the opportunity to explore Kentucky’s numerous trails, lakes and state parks. (Photo courtesy of The Explore Kentucky Initiatve) Gerry...

Democracy Project helping Kentuckians with past felonies register to vote; many not aware of eligibility

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service More than 170,000 Kentuckians with past felonies have had their voting rights restored, but many may not be aware of the change. Jessica Clark is a volunteer for the Kentucky Democracy Project, a new grassroots effort to get the word out before the Nov. 3 election. Her daughter owns a soul-food restaurant on the north side of Lexington, where Clark said you often...

Kentucky’s childhood immunization rates have plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service There’s been a sharp decline in vaccination rates among Kentucky children since the onset of the coronavirus. And health experts say they are concerned about the confluence of COVID-19, flu season and the potential for other infectious-disease outbreaks. The state’s Department of Medicaid Services reports among Medicaid recipients, from March through...

Virtual public hearing set for Thursday to address ground water pollution at Herrington Lake

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Critics say a plan developed by Kentucky Utilities to address groundwater pollution from an unlined coal-ash pond seeping into Herrington Lake is inadequate. In 2017, the Sierra Club and Kentucky Waterways Alliance filed a lawsuit against Kentucky Utilities, which operates the power plant producing the coal ash, arguing that it violated federal regulations for...

As COVID-19 pandemic drags on, an alarming rise in hunger found among older Kentucky adults

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service The state’s food banks say they’re seeing an alarming number of adults approaching retirement age who need help putting food on the table because of lost wages or employment due to COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, Kentucky had the highest rate of food-insecure older adults in the nation, but advocates said more newcomers, many who have never had...

Kentucky continues to see sky-high unemployment claims as pandemic downturn drags on

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service More than 800,000 Kentuckians have filed for unemployment insurance since the start of the new coronavirus pandemic, and experts warn the economic downturn will likely have ripple effects that could last for years. Ashley Spalding, research director with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says a major issue for many states is the lack of a rainy day fund,...

Protests in Kentucky, around nation highlight frustration over lack of accountability

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Protests in Louisville and Lexington over the weekend highlight growing public frustration with a system that offers little accountability to those in power. The killings of unarmed black citizens across the country, including Breonna Taylor, who was asleep at her home in Louisville in mid-March when she was killed, have sparked public outrage over the inertia...

Reviving a depression-era program could help put young Kentuckians work in time of national crisis

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service The nation’s youth unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, and some are calling for creating a new Civilian Conservation Corps to help rebuild the country’s parks and public lands at a time of national crisis. Unemployment in the Commonwealth has soared to 15.4% amid the coronavirus pandemic. And Ward Wilson, executive...

Kentucky is one of 19 states that still allows corporal punishment in schools, but that could soon change

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service State lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban spanking in schools. Kentucky is one of 19 states that continue to allow corporal punishment. Glasgow family court judge Mica Wood Pence is responsible for placing children in foster care. She said when children have experienced physical violence in the home, hitting or spanking in school can do serious damage...

New Interact for Health poll indicates an uptick in misuse of prescription pain medication in Kentucky

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service More Kentuckians report knowing someone who is misusing prescription pain medication, according to a new poll. Colleen Desmond, a researcher at Interact for Health, the group that conducted the survey, said the findings indicate prescription drug misuse continues to be a persistent problem statewide, despite the fact that overdose deaths have dropped. The 2019...

Don’t have a passport? You’ll need a ‘Real ID’ to fly when new identification rules take effect in October

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service By this fall, Americans who don’t have either one of the new “REAL IDs” or a valid passport won’t be able to fly or to visit military bases and federal facilities. Kentucky is urging its residents to take the change seriously. Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, following recommendations from the 9/11 Commission to set higher standards...

Kentucky lawmakers considering bill to ban death for penalty for defendants suffering from mental illness

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent seriously mentally ill defendants from receiving the death penalty. A handful of other states, including Ohio, Virginia and Indiana, recently have pushed similar legislation. Patrick Delahanty, director of advocacy for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says the bill does not exclude...

House bill would tax e-cigarettes, currently the only tobacco products not subject to state excise tax

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Kentucky lawmakers are considering putting an excise tax on e-cigarettes sold in the Commonwealth. The tax would be equal to the current tax on traditional cigarettes, which is $1.10 per pack. State Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, the bill’s primary sponsor, said his colleagues are struggling to come up with a state budget amid the worst projected revenue...

Kentucky could look to neighboring West Virginia for lessons on funding public pension system

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service As state lawmakers continue to grapple with funding teacher pensions, some say lessons from neighboring West Virginia can offer insight into whether or not Kentucky should switch to a defined-contribution retirement plan for teachers or uphold its public pension system. There are more than 40,000 public school teachers in Kentucky. (Image from Adobe Stock, via...

Advocates to rally at state capitol this week for policies benefitting children and families

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Advocates for children will gather in Frankfort this week to push for policies that benefit children and families. On Thursday, hundreds are expected to rally to urge legislators to consider boosting child-care assistance and enact a state-level refundable Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families, among other reforms. Whitley County High School senior...

Rapid confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominees reshaping judicial branch

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Over the past few years, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 185 of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, the majority of whom have a conservative track record. Along with two Supreme Court justices, senators have confirmed 50 circuit court and 133 district court judges. Supreme Court, court of appeals and district court judges are nominated by the president...

Black Lung Trust Fund gets one-year boost from higher excise tax, but experts say more is needed

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Congress has voted to increase the excise tax levied on coal companies that provides cash flow for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. But advocates for miners who need the money say the one-year increase isn’t enough to keep the fund from drying up. The higher excise tax expires December 31. Rebecca Shelton, coordinator of policy and organizing at the...

New AARP survey shows technology causing more people to be susceptible to holiday scams

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Holiday scams aren’t what they used be. Technology is making fraud harder to spot, and according to a new survey by AARP, nearly 20% of participants failed a simple quiz designed to test their ability to recognize the red flags of holiday scams. Nearly 70% of U.S. adults plan to buy gift cards this holiday season. But according to a new study by AARP, scammers...

Kentucky lawmakers file anti-tobacco, vaping bills in advance of 2020 legislative session

Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Concern over the growing use of electronic cigarettes and tobacco products among young people in the Commonwealth has spurred lawmakers to pre-file bills for the 2020 legislative session aimed at making it more difficult for teens to get them. The bills would raise the legal age for buying all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21, and would ban...