FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has asked lawmakers for permission to spend up to $15 million on a mystery economic development project in eastern Kentucky.
The request comes on the final day of the legislative session as lawmakers were rushing to finish work on a number of bills Thursday that would limit the supply of prescription painkillers and ease the nepotism restrictions for local school boards.
The state Senate approved a bill Thursday night to give the governor permission to issue up to $15 million in bonds despite not knowing how the money was to be spent. Committee chairman Chris McDaniel, a Republican from Taylor Mill, said officials were targeting eastern Kentucky, which has been devastated by the decline of the coal industry.
“The bill is written in such a way is that it will either be used for that or it will go away. (The governor) has got a onetime shot,” McDaniel said. “If we can bring somebody to eastern Kentucky with industry, we need to go after it.”
Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Terry Gill said he could not give more details about the project because it is a “competitive situation” and state officials are “under a pretty tight nondisclosure (agreement).” But he said it would have “significant economic upside” for the state and an announcement could be six months away.
If the House approves it, it would then head to the governor’s desk.
Lawmakers have until midnight to pass bills before adjourning for the year.
The legislature approved a bill that would forbid doctors from prescribing more than a three-day supply of prescription painkillers in a state that has been devastated by opioid addiction. But the bill includes a long list of exceptions, including cancer treatments and end-of-life care. Doctors can provide more than a three-day supply if they believe the patient needs it, but they would have to document the reasons in patient medical records.
The bill also defines “fentanyl” and “carfentanil,” two synthetic drugs similar to opioids but much more powerful. The bill would increase penalties for people caught selling the drugs. Kentucky is one of several states cracking down on fentanyl as the drug has become more prevalent after authorities have made it tougher to get prescription pills or heroin. Fentanyl accounted for 420 drug overdose deaths in 2015, up from 121 deaths in 2014, according to the most recent drug overdose report.
“There’s a lot of medicine floating around out there,” Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield said. “This bill is aimed at in part curbing the flow of some of those prescription meds getting into our communities.”
Lawmakers also agreed to ease nepotism restrictions on local school boards. State law does not allow people to be elected to local school boards if the school district employs their parents, siblings, spouses, children, aunts, uncles, sons-in-law or daughters-in-law. This isn’t an issue for some large districts.
But some smaller, rural districts were having trouble finding enough people qualified to run for office. House bill 277 would remove aunts, uncles, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law from the list to increase the pool of eligible candidates.
And lawmakers approved a bill to rescue the Yum Center in Louisville, whose debt payments have risen in the past few years to the point the Louisville Arena Authority has warned it would not be able to cover those costs by 2020.
Sen. Paul Hornback, who opposed the bill, noted that extending the tax increment financing district to support the arena will deprive the state of about $350 million in sales tax revenue.
“I just hate to see us kick this can down the road once again and stretch it on out and put more of this debt on our kids and grandkids,” he said.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.