News in Brief
Ky. pension debt jumps $5 billion, consultants say
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s public pension debt has jumped by more than $5 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017.
Nearly all of that increase is because the board of trustees predicted the state will earn a lot less from its investments than it has previously. The state depends on investments for a large portion of funding for benefits.
The debt is how much money the state does not have to pay promised retirement and health insurance benefits over the next 30 years. Last year, that debt was a combined $21.7 billion across the five systems in the Kentucky Employee Retirement System. But this year, consultants say that debt is now $26.7 billion.
State lawmakers will use the new numbers to decide how much money taxpayers should pay into the system over the next two years.
Vulgarities, swastikas found on buildings; 4 boys charged
HINDMAN, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky State Police say four boys have been charged with felonies after vulgarities and swastikas were found spray-painted on several buildings.
State police public information officer Trooper Matt Gayheart told WYMT-TV it’s believed the vandalism happened Saturday between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Troopers were called Sunday afternoon to the area behind the Knott County Judicial Center and found the graffiti on the old jail, a local business and a bank in Hindman.
Surveillance video led troopers to arrest the boys whose ages range between 10 and 15 years old. They were charged with first-degree criminal mischief and have been returned to their guardians.
Troopers are continuing to investigate the incident.
State police: 4 killed in plane crash
GLASGOW, Ky. (AP) — Authorities say four people have been killed in a plane crash in Kentucky.
The Bowling Green Daily News reports that Kentucky State Police say 41-year-old Kyle P. Stewart, 40-year-old Quinton D. Whitaker, 41-year-old Scott T. Foster and his son, 15-year-old Noah Foster were killed Sunday afternoon when the small plane crashed in Barren County in south-central Kentucky.
KSP Post 3 spokesman Trooper Jeremy Hodges says three people were pronounced dead at the scene, and the fourth person was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Hodges says the plane went through multiple tree tops before striking a larger tree, leaving a debris field about 200 to 250 feet (61 to 76 meters) long. The total scene spans around 500 feet (152 meters).
Input sought on Bible literacy standards for school courses
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — State education officials in Kentucky are seeking public input in developing Bible literacy standards for social studies courses in public schools.
Kentucky lawmakers enacted a bill this year that requires state education officials to set guidelines for local schools that choose to offer the elective courses. The courses can include the study of Hebrew scriptures and the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible.
The courses will focus on the historical impact and literary style of those religious texts.
The goal is to teach students about biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives in a way that helps them understand contemporary society and culture.
The Kentucky Department of Education says the public is invited to review and offer feedback and suggestions that could be used to refine the proposed standards.
Review: Human, tech errors kept man in jail 5 months extra
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An internal review has found that an inmate in Kentucky spent five extra months in jail due to human error and possibly computer system issues.
According to The Courier-Journal , David Reyes originally faced felony charges, but pleaded guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges of sexual misconduct, unlawful imprisonment and assault in October 2015.
He received about a one-year sentence with a Sept. 25, 2016 release date, but remained in jail until Feb. 13 when his attorney told a judge he remained imprisoned.
The Louisville Metro Corrections investigation found jail records showed the original felony charges still pending.
A records coordinator noted computer system issues with saving employees’ work.
An employee, Jacora Smith, acknowledged inexperience and lack of attention likely made her miss the issue while processing Reyes’ release in September 2016.
101st Airborne soldier dies in non-combat incident in Iraq
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — A soldier with the 101st Airborne Division has died in Iraq from what the Department of Defense says were injuries sustained during a non-combat-related incident.
The Department of Defense said in a news release Sunday that 35-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lee M. Smith, of Arlington, Texas, died Nov. 11 at Camp Taji. Smith was assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Campbell. He was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, a combined joint task force focused on combating the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
The incident is under investigation. Further details haven’t been released.
Ky. Democratic Party elects entrepreneur as new chair
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Democratic Party has elected a new chair.
The party said in a news release Saturday that its State Central Executive Committee elected entrepreneur Ben Self.
Self is a Pike County native and Lexington resident who is co-founder of West Sixth Brewing and the Bread Box.
He began his political work as an activist during Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Self took aim at Republicans saying they only care about tax cuts for billionaires.
“In just one year, we’ve seen our governor and Legislature destroy our workers ability to organize, decrease their wages, gut our education system and now they’re fighting a war against our teachers and state workers,” he said.
Self said it’s time to return the Democratic Party to the people.
Kentucky Derby Museum announces project to expand, renovate
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Derby Museum has announced a $6.5 million project to renovate and expand.
A statement from the nonprofit museum says plans call for adding more than 11,000 square feet (1,022 sq. meters) to the facility in Louisville and renovating about 5,000 square feet (465 sq. meters). It will be the largest addition since the museum was built in 1985.
Officials say the additional space will be used mainly for exhibits, including a new collection from thoroughbred trainer D. Wayne Lukas and key pieces from the collection of jockey Bill Shoemaker, which has been housed in archives. There will also be more room for meeting and rental space.
The statement said museum directors decided to pursue the expansion after record-setting attendance in 2017, with more than 230,000 visitors.
Man indicted in fatal shooting of college friend
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — A man faces an indictment in the fatal shooting of a friend while both were Western Kentucky University students.
According to the Bowling Green Daily News , Peter G. Gall was formally indicted Wednesday by a Warren County grand jury on a second-degree manslaughter charge in the Sept. 3 death of 21-year-old Kenneth Davis.
The 21-year-old Gall entered a not guilty plea during a September initial court appearance.
An arrest citation says Gall reported the shooting with a shotgun shortly afterward. The citation said Gall “wantonly caused the death of the victim,” listing alcohol as a factor.
Previous court testimony has called it an accidental shooting and said the death resulted from horseplay.
Gall was released from jail Sept. 8 on a $100,000 bond.
An arraignment is set for Dec. 11.
Police: Escaped inmate who stole, crashed cruiser arrested
PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — Police in Kentucky say they have arrested an inmate who walked off from prison and fled in a stolen police cruiser and another car and crashed both.
According to local media outlets, Kentucky State Police arrested 34-year-old James A. Booker of Paducah after he crashed the police cruiser on the highway Thursday.
Police say Booker escaped Thursday from Keeton Correctional Institution in Paducah, stole a car and crashed it.
At the scene, police say Booker assaulted a McCracken County sheriff’s deputy and took off in the deputy’s cruiser.
According to police, the chase continued about 35 miles through Marshall and Lyon counties until Booker wrecked on Interstate 69 in Caldwell County.
Booker was hospitalized, released and placed in Christian County Jail.
He faces a variety of charges in the incident.
Officials: State police face manpower, other shortages
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Officials with Kentucky State Police say the agency is facing a manpower shortage and an aging high-mileage fleet, among other issues.
The Daily News of Bowling Green reports the agency has 840 sworn officers, with only about 500 of whom are road troopers. Lt. Brad Arterburn says the agency is considered fully staffed with 1,070 sworn law enforcement officers.
State police Commissioner Rick Sanders told lawmakers that state police are using Vietnam-era rifles, and that the U.S. Department of Defense was going to recall their rifles.
State police need 260 cars within 12 to 18 months, and then about 180 new cars every year to retire the aging fleet.
Additionally, Sanders says Motorola told the agency that the radios and their parts are no longer in existence.