Yonts will head state’s Civil War commission

State Rep. Brent Yonts has been elected chairman of the commission that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Kentucky’s role in the Civil War.

Gov. Steve Beshear named the Greenville Democrat to a four-year term on the 25-member Kentucky Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission last winter at the request of House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Yonts was elected chairman of the commission Tuesday by the membership.  

The group will recommend ways to commemorate Kentucky’s Civil War events, educate people about Kentucky’s role in the war and encourage community participation in activities that increase understanding of the war, according to a news release.

Yonts recently completed an appointment to the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which was responsible for coordinating a two-year celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday on Feb. 12, 2009.

Kentucky’s state workers will be furloughed six days

Kentucky plans to furlough state workers for a total of six days in the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2011.

Here’s the announcement from Frankfort.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 9, 2010) – Kentucky Personnel Cabinet Secretary Nikki Jackson today presented a regulation to the State Personnel Board as the state prepares to furlough state government workers a total of six days in Fiscal Year 2011, as authorized by the 2010-12 biennial budget passed by the General Assembly. 

 “In order to achieve the savings required by the budget passed by the General Assembly, legislators authorized the administration to implement a furlough plan for state employees,” said Sec. Jackson.  “Today we are presenting an outline of the plan to the State Personnel Board – a plan that has been developed with an eye toward minimizing impact to state employees and the disruption of delivery of state services to Kentucky citizens.”

 Combination of closure of state offices and non-designated furlough days

The six days include three common days during which state offices will be closed that are adjacent to existing state holiday weekends – Friday, September 3, 2010 (Labor Day weekend) ; Friday, November 12, 2010 (Veterans Day weekend); and Friday, May 27, 2011 (Memorial Day weekend). The closure of state offices for the three common days will serve to increase operational savings by decreasing energy and other operational costs.  In addition, employees will be furloughed for one day in each of the months of October, March and June.  Agencies will schedule employees to be off work in a manner that minimizes the impact to the public, and will be submitting plans to the Secretary of the Personnel Cabinet to describe how they will implement the furlough days that are non-designated.  Several state agencies that operate 24-hour/7 day-a-week facilities, including mental health and correctional facilities and law enforcement functions, may submit plans requesting additional flexibility on how to implement the furloughs.

 Furloughs will achieve savings and prevent many layoffs

As a key component to solving a $1.5 billion shortfall, the 2010-12 biennial budget passed by the General Assembly requires that the state achieve $131 million in expenditure reductions in FY 11 and $169 million in FY 12, on top of 3.5 percent cuts and 4.5 percent cuts for most state agencies, respectively.  The six days outlined today by Sec. Jackson will achieve a savings of approximately $24 million for the first year of the biennium.  Sec. Jackson also noted that, based on an average fulltime salary of $58,066 including fringe benefits, the six-day furlough plan will prevent 413 state employees from being laid off. 

 Both non-merit and merit system employees are included in the plan 

Both non-merit employees and merit system employees, full-time and part-time, including the Governor and all cabinet secretaries, regardless of salary, will be furloughed the same number of days, as will contract workers.  In addition to furloughing non-merit system employees, the administration will reduce the number of non-merit system employees in order to achieve further savings; decisions about non-merit system employee reductions are still under discussion.  The Governor, all cabinet secretaries and members of the Governor’s senior staff have already taken and continue to take voluntary 10 percent pay reductions as part of cost-savings measures in balancing the budget.

 Other states have furloughed workers

Facing a global recession, many states have furloughed or proposed to furlough state employees:

 California has furloughed employees 46 days since February 2009;

  • Hawaii has proposed furloughing employees 42 days; and
  • Maine and Washington are also furloughing employees.

 Communications sent to state employees and cabinet secretaries

Email communications were sent to both state employees as well as executive branch cabinet secretaries to inform them of the plan.  State employees who have further questions about the implementation of the plan can visit http://personnel.ky.gov/furlough to find frequently asked questions and answers, and are encouraged to speak with their agency’s human resources administrator. 

 Next steps

Following the filing of the administrative regulation, Cabinets will propose implementation plans to Secretary Jackson.  The Personnel Cabinet will then issue suggestions to state agencies for the implementation of the plans.

State receipts still not meeting projections

Kentucky’s budget picture is still out of focus.

Here’s a news release from Frankfort:

The Office of State Budget Director reported today that February’s General Fund receipts fell 0.6 percent compared to February of last year, a decrease of $3.4 million.

Total revenues for the month were $525.0 million, compared to $528.4 million during February 2009. Receipts have now fallen 4.0 percent for the first eight months of Fiscal Year 2010.

The December 21, 2009 official revenue forecast by the Commonwealth’s Consensus Forecasting Group (CFG) called for a 2.7 percent decline for the entire fiscal year. To meet the revenue estimate, receipts can decline 0.2 percent over the last four months of the fiscal year.

Road Fund receipts for February totaled $99.4 million, a 1.6 percent increase over February 2009 levels. Year-to-date receipts for FY10 are down 1.1 percent.

State Budget Director Mary Lassiter noted that General Fund tax receipts continue to lack positive momentum despite a prognosis by the CFG that revenues should improve in the second half of the fiscal year.

 “General Fund receipts have now declined in 11 of the previous 12 months,” she said. “While weak tax collections are built into our expectations of the tight budget environment, we had expected to see an upturn in receipts this spring. Sales tax collections were

particularly weak this month, falling 9.1 percent despite some hopeful signs in the data leading up to February collections.”

Fish and Wildlife Commission proposes changing deer zones

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission said in a news release that it  has proposed issuing 800 lottery elk hunt permits for the upcoming season, changing deer zones in 25 counties and opening modern gun season for deer on Nov. 13.

Commission members at their March 5 meeting also proposed archery-only and gun-only elk permits for the 2011-12 season, the news release said.

The nine-member Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission recommends hunting, fishing and boating regulations to the General Assembly. Legislators must approve all recommendations before they become law.

Proposed Deer Zone Changes

Commission members proposed several deer hunting zone changes for the upcoming season. Bullitt, Hardin, Hart and Nelson counties would go from zone 1 to zone 2.

Adair, Barren, Butler, Cumberland, Daviess, Edmonson, Hancock, Marion, Metcalfe, Monroe, Ohio, Simpson, Taylor and Warren counties would go from zone 2 to zone 3.

Clinton, Garrard, Knox, Laurel, Russell and Whitley counties would go from zone 3 to zone 4. Caldwell County would go from zone 2 to zone 1.

Higher zone numbers are more restrictive than lower zone numbers. Placing a county in a more restrictive zone generally helps to increase deer numbers in that county.

Under another proposal, late muzzleloader season deer hunters in zone 4 counties could only take antlerless deer (does or a buck without visible antlers) during the last three days of the season. The first six days of the nine-day late muzzleloader season in zone 4 would be for antlered deer (bucks) only.

Proposed 2010-11 Deer Seasons

  • Statewide all zones:

Archery (buck or doe) – Sept. 4, 2010 – Jan. 17, 2011

Crossbow (buck or doe) – Oct. 1-17 and Nov. 13 –

Dec. 31

Early Youth Weekend (buck or doe) – Oct. 9-10

Early Muzzleloader (Zones 1, 2 and 3 buck or doe, Zone 4 antlered buck only) – Oct. 16-17

Late Muzzleloader (Zones 1, 2 and 3 buck or doe) – Dec. 11-19

Late Muzzleloader (Zone 4 antlered buck only) – Dec. 11-16; buck or doe – Dec. 17-19

Late Youth Weekend (buck or doe) – Jan. 1-2, 2011

  • Zones 1 and 2:

Modern Firearms (buck or doe) – Nov. 13-28

  • Zones 3 and 4:

Modern Firearms (Zone 3 buck or doe, Zone 4 antlered buck only)

– Nov. 13-22

Deer harvest limits remain the same as last year.

Proposed WMA Deer Hunting Changes

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission also proposed changes to deer hunting regulations on wildlife management areas (WMAs) for the upcoming season. Commission members proposed eliminating the bonus WMA quota hunt deer permit. This means a hunter would no longer be able to harvest a second buck using a bonus WMA quota permit. This would not apply to managed hunts on federal military property, such as Fort Knox. Continue reading

Insurance commissioner warns about health offers

Commissioner urges consumers to ask questions, understand products

Kentucky Insurance Commissioner Sharon P. Clark is warning Kentuckians to be cautious when evaluating health care offers.

Her office said Internet pop-up ads, commercials on late night television, faxes and postcards are promising “a low-cost product that will cover all of your health care needs. In today’s economy, some of these offers seem like the answer to consumer concerns.”

A news release from Clark’s office says:

.“Our Consumer Protection division is noting a troubling increase in calls and complaints about entities making claims that are misleading, confusing or outright deceptive,” Clark said. “Consumers should ask questions and be very careful before they sign up for any of these products.”

Clark cautions consumers to be aware that health discount plans, which offer savings on health care services ranging from doctor visits to prescription drugs, are not insurance. Most provide a “membership” for a monthly fee. Health discount plans are under the jurisdiction of Kentucky’s Office of the Attorney General.

“These plans are not a substitute for a health or Medicare supplement plan,” Clark said.

In addition, some companies are offering limited health plans, often marketed as cancer only, specific disease, hospital cash or indemnity plans. As the name suggests, these plans offer limited benefits and are generally sold to supplement a comprehensive health insurance plan, not as an alternative.

While health discount plans and limited health plans may be appropriate for some consumers, Commissioner Clark said that is not the case with unauthorized “health insurance” products being sold by fly-by-night entities.

“These companies are not authorized to sell health insurance in Kentucky. They sell a product to consumers with no intention of providing benefits. By the time we find out about these groups, consumers have been harmed and the company is usually gone, taking the money with them,” Clark said.

Clark offers these tips to consumers:

·       If the company is selling a health insurance product, contact the Department of Insurance to be sure the entity is authorized to do business in Kentucky. If an agent is involved in an insurance sale, you will want to be sure he/she is licensed. Consumers with questions or concerns about any insurance product may call the department at 800-595-6053 (Kentucky) or 502-564-3630 (outside Kentucky) and ask to speak to a Consumer Protection investigator. Clark urges consumers to make the call before purchasing.

·       Ask questions and understand what you are buying. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Be sure you have read all the material and know what you are buying before you sign any documents, particularly those asking for bank or credit card information.

·       Be extremely cautious about doing business with an entity if you are asked for a credit card number or other payment for an “association membership” prior to receiving a quote.

·       If you are purchasing a limited health plan, be sure you know the limitations of the coverage, as well as any exclusions or coverage gaps.

·       If you are buying a product online, observe the usual safe shopping tips such as being sure the Web site is secure. Be sure to locate a physical and mailing address for any entity. Be sure a phone number is listed and that the number is working. Keep copies of everything you submit.

·       When purchasing what appears to be an insurance product, watch for red flags including:

o       a cost much lower than traditional health insurance premiums,

o       applications accepted with little or no underwriting for medical conditions,

o       a health plan that claims to be exempt from state regulation, and

o       a plan that claims to be an alternative to traditional health insurance.

 

Consumers can search for a company or agent by going to the Department of Insurance Web site at http://insurance.ky.gov.

17.7 percent of Kentuckians qualify for food stamps

More than one Kentuckian in six — 17.7 percent —  qualifies for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly the Food Stamp Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said recently.
The agency said that 757,651 Kentuckians are now receiving assistance through the program.

That’s up 13 percent from last year.

“The beauty of the program is that it expands and contracts based on economic conditions,” the agency said in a news release.

Since April, federal stimulus dollars have provided additional $159,253,929 in benefits and administrative support to Kentucky and its citizens, the report said.

Stimulus dollars now give each family of four an additional $80 a month to buy food, it said.

Kentucky also received more than $2 million in food and administrative expenses to support local food banks, pantries and soup kitchens, the report said, and more than $1.7 million to help schools provide nutritious and safe meals.

Nationally, the program is serving more than 38 million people each month.