Healthcare lobbyists dominate Frankfort spending

This just in from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission:

“Lobbying spending for the first three months of the 2010 General Assembly was dominated by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), which didn’t register to lobby until March.  CHPA represents manufacturers and distributors of non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines.

“CHPA spent $307,377 in March, more than twice as much as the next highest spending employer spent in the entire first quarter of 2010.  CHPA spent $303,377 on phone banking, and paid its lobbyist $4,000 in compensation.  CHPA includes several businesses which employ lobbyists in Kentucky, including Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Purdue Pharma.

“CHPA engaged a lobbyist on March 8, and began lobbying on two bills (House Bill 497 and Senate Bill 211) designed to tighten restrictions on the purchase and possession of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, substances which are used in a wide variety of non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines, and which can be used illegally to produce methamphetamine. 

“HB 497 would have required a prescription to obtain pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed), ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine (used as a nasal decongestant and for weight control), and established new criminal penalties for trafficking in any of the substances.  SB 211 would have reduced the amounts of the three substances which could be legally purchased or possessed, and restricted convicted methamphetamine offenders from purchasing medicine containing the substances. 

“The Kentucky Pharmacists Association said SB 211 would be an “effective measure in cutting down the amount of pseudoephedrine used by criminals to produce meth.”  The Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police said HB 497 would reduce the number of methamphetamine labs by limiting the availability of substances used to make methamphetamine.  Neither bill was enacted.

“The second highest spending employer for the first quarter of 2010 was Altria Client Services, representing several companies including Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company.  Altria spent $145,187 during the period, compared to $47,882 for the same period in the 2008 General Assembly.

“The next highest spending employers in the first quarter were the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ($82,310) and the Kentucky Retail Federation ($78,758).  The Chamber’s spending was up from $71,514 in 2008, and the Retail Federation was down slightly from $79,637 in 2008.

“Other top spenders during the first three months of 2010 include the Kentucky Education Association ($76,064); Wellpoint-Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($69,581); Kentucky Hospital Association ($63,745); Kentucky Medical Association ($60,810); Kentucky Association of Health Plans ($60,408); Kentucky Bankers Association ($54,240); Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation ($53,357); Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives ($51,752); University Health Care ($45,247); and Kentucky League of Cities ($42,877).”

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Mongiardo says he has prescription for creating jobs

“We live in the best state in the country, but our state has never lived up to its potential,” Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo said Tuesday during a campaign stop in Owensboro.

Mongiardo’s daughter, Kathryn Allison, is 4 months old. And he said he’s concerned about the Kentucky her generation will inherit.

Mongiardo said he has a prescription for creating the jobs and opportunities the state needs.
It includes energy, transportation and health care.

“We must do everything in our power to reduce our dependency on foreign oil,” Mongiardo said.

If Kentucky’s coal reserves were turned into liquid fuel, they would equal 800 billion barrels — “more than the oil reserves of the entire Middle East,” he said.

“Liquid coal is much cleaner burning that foreign petroleum,” Mongiardo said.

Three proposals for coal liquefaction plants are already on the drawing board — in Henderson, Muhlenberg and McCracken counties, he said.

Mongiardo said Kentucky could support 10 such plants — five in eastern Kentucky and five in western Kentucky.

Those plants could create 80,000 jobs, he said.

See the rest of the story in Wednesday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

Conway says his odds better than his horse’s

Attorney General Jack Conway isn’t the only one in the family in a race this spring.

He’s campaigning hard to win the Democratic nomination over Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo for the U.S. Senate seat now held by retiring Republican Jim Bunning.

And Stately Victor, a 3-year-old bay colt he owns with his father, Louisville attorney F. Thomas Conway, will be running in the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

So who has the best chance of winning?

“His odds are 20-1 right now,” Conway said with laugh Thursday afternoon in a telephone interview. “I think my odds are better.”

Read the rest of the story in Friday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

Showroom Lounge soon to fall

The new date for Denney Excavating to finish the Executive Inn Rivermont demolition project is May 30, one month before the company must finish under the terms of its contract with the city, Tony Cecil, city operations manager,  said Wednesday. The only part of the hotel still standing is the shell of the Showroom Lounge, which sits on a pad supported by piers over the Ohio River. Denney is currently salvaging windows and other materials from the building. The deck is not rated for heavy equipment, Cecil said, so Denney will have to use other means to take it down.

Cecil said he was told Wednesday by a Denney official that the Showroom Lounge will be taken down late next week or on May 3.

Denney’s work was slowed when it was discovered that the concrete slab beneath the convention center was sitting on an asphalt surface, which also had to be removed.

Volunteer fire assistantance grants available

The Kentucky Division of Forestry is accepting grant applications for the 2010 Volunteer Fire Assistance  Grant Program. 

 The program is designed to “improve the capability of Kentucky’s rural volunteer fire departments to protect lives and property through training and by equipping local firefighters in rural areas, including communities with a population of 10,000 persons or fewer,” the agency said.

Grant amounts range from $1,000 to $5,000 and will be awarded on a 50/50 matching basis.  The grantee must match the amount awarded by providing at least 50 percent of the total project cost through cash reimbursement or in-kind service.   

 Items that are eligible to be purchased with grant funds include training materials, pumps, hoses, tanks, small fire suppression equipment and personal protective equipment such as Nomex, fire shelters, gloves and lights. 

For information about eligibility and program objectives along with application forms and proposal instructions, check http://www.forestry.ky.gov/situationreport/Assistance+to+Volunteer+Fire+Departments/ or call (800) 866-0555.         

 Applications must be received in the Frankfort office of the Kentucky Division of Forestry, 627 Comanche Trail, Frankfort, KY 40601 by 4:30 p.m. EDT on June 17.

Owensboro barbecue joints touted

 The “Big Book of BBQ,” which went on sale for $24.95 this month, is a cookbook and barbecue guide that “takes readers on a tour of this particularly Southern art form, including the essential stops in Kentucky — three of which are in Owensboro!” according to publicist Rachel Levy Konik of the Rosen Group of New York.

An e-mail sent by Konic promoting the new book says it lists six barbecue restaurants in Kentucky — Carr’s Barn and Hill’s Bar-B-Que, both in  Mayfield; Moonlite Bar-B-Que Inn, Old Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q and Ole South Barbeque, all of Owensboro, and Starnes Bar-B-Que of Paducah.
 
 Troy Black, “Big Book of BBQ” contributing editor and championship pit master will be in Owensboro at the International BBQ Festival May 7-8 as part of Southern Living BBQ on Tour.

Frederica Street bus line suggested

Does Owensboro need a transit bus route dedicated solely to Frederica Street?

The idea came up at Monday’s City Commission work session on the 2010-11 city budget when the conversation turned to the Owensboro Transit System.

A year ago, the idea of a $30 million to $40 million light rail streetcar line running from the Owensboro riverfront to Kentucky Wesleyan College, 2.2 miles to the south, on Frederica Street was introduced by the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. Such a plan would almost certainly require a big infusion of federal money, local officials said at the time.

At Monday’s city work session, Mayor Ron Payne said he wasn’t sure if Owensboro could afford what he called a trolley, “But a bus, restricted to Frederica Street, maybe more than one, we should explore that.”

Commissioner Candance Brake said such a bus line could connect Kentucky Wesleyan College and Brescia College to both ends of Frederica Street.

  Three of the Owensboro Transit System’s routes (orange, purple and brown) have a total of 44 stops on Frederica Street, which doesn’t include all of the stops the brown route has in the south Frederica shopping district. Buses from those routes serve the entire length of Frederica. But there is no single route that solely runs the entire length of Frederica.