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News Around the State

Kentucky House votes to put ‘In God We Trust’ in schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Public schools in Kentucky would have to display “In God We Trust” in a prominent location next school year under a bill that has cleared the state House of Representatives.

The Republican-dominated chamber approved House Bill 46 on Wednesday by a vote of 72-25. It would require public schools to display the national motto in a prominent location beginning with the 2019-‘20 school year. There are no penalties if schools don’t comply, but someone could sue to force them to do it.

Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Brandon Reed said the motto reflects an essential part of what it means to be an American. But Democratic state Rep. Kelly Flood voted against the bill, saying lawmakers should practice tolerance, saying people are called to be citizens, not comparatively better Christians.

Ex-mining supervisor indicted in dust sample rigging case

MADISONVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a former supervisor at a Kentucky coal company has become the latest official to be indicted on charges of rigging dust monitoring in mines.

U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said Wednesday that a grand jury indicted Glendal “Buddy” Hardison, former manager of now-bankrupt Armstrong Coal mines in western Kentucky.

Eight other former Armstrong Coal supervisors and safety officers were indicted last year.

The nine officials are charged with conspiracy to defraud the government by “deceit, trickery and dishonest means.” They’re also charged with making false statements regarding test results.

They’re accused of trying to deceive federal regulators on levels of breathable dust at Armstrong’s Parkway and Kronos mines. Prosecutors say the scheme forced miners to work in the kind of dirty conditions that can lead to black lung disease.

W.Va. House passes bill to reduce steam coal severance tax

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A bill that would reduce the tax on steam coal produced in West Virginia has passed the House of Delegates.

The bill approved on an 88-11 vote Wednesday would change the severance tax from 5 percent to 4 percent effective July 1 and to 3 percent effective July 1, 2020. It now goes to the Senate.

Steam coal is used primarily for electric power generation.

Supporters say the bill would make West Virginia coal more competitive and potentially boost hirings at mines. Opponents say it would reduce state coffers by $60 million and hurt county tax collections. They say the jobs tradeoff isn’t worth it.

CEO Bob Murray of Ohio-based coal producer Murray Energy has pushed for the bill. Murray Energy has mines in West Virginia and other states.

Ky. dam holding up amid record level rain, flooded lake

ROWENA, Ky. (AP) — The Wolf Creek Dam near Kentucky’s Lake Cumberland is functioning normally, despite record rainfall and pressure from the swollen lake.

The Courier Journal reports the flooded lake caused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday to release nearly 60,000 cubic feet of water per second from the dam. The release led to some flooding along the Cumberland River.

Wolf Creek Dam was previously considered to be the nation’s most at-risk dam that threatened catastrophic failure, and that classification has left some residents wary.

The dam was repaired five years ago at a cost of nearly $600 million, and Army Corps of Engineers senior geologist Mike Brown says there have been no signs of issues so far. He says the repairs are handling the record water pressure.

$1.4M going to Appalachia Aviation Maintenance program

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) — Eastern Kentucky University says the Appalachian Regional Commission will invest $1.4 million in the school’s Appalachia Aviation Maintenance Technician Training project.

A statement from the university says the 18-month program is expected to begin training students next January. It will be partially taught in traditional classrooms across eastern Kentucky, including at Hazard Community & Technical College, Big Sandy Community and Technical College, EKU Manchester, EKU Corbin and EKU Richmond. Training courses for upper-levels students will take place at Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport, Big Sandy Regional Airport, London-Corbin Airport and the Central Kentucky Regional Airport.

EKU Regent Nancy Collins says she’s excited about the program’s prospect of bringing new economic development opportunities to the region.

Eastern is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to build a curriculum for the course.