Legislative briefs: House panel approves raising dropout age to 18

Staff, wire reportsFebruary 13, 2013 

Kentucky teenagers would no longer be able to drop out of high school at 16 under a bill that passed a House committee on Tuesday. State Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, said the measure would save money, offsetting the costs of keeping possible dropouts in school. He said more Kentuckians with high school diplomas will lessen the number of people on public assistance and in prison. The House Education Committee approved the measure 24-2. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

Under the proposal, the dropout age would be raised incrementally over several years to 17 and then to 18. The Democratic-led House has favored such a measure for years, but Senate Republicans have contended classrooms would be disrupted by students who don't want to be in school, sending an unfunded mandate to local school districts that would have to beef up alternative education programs.

Proposal to tax online horse bets clears first hurdle

The House budget committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would tax bets placed on horse races via telephone or the Internet. Preliminary figures show that more than $106 million was wagered by Kentucky residents through so-called advanced deposit wagering in 2012.

Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said a 0.5 percent tax on those bets would generate more than $400,000, with 85 percent of that money going to the tracks. The tracks would have to put 50 percent of the money into purses. Clark and Rep. David Osborne, R-Prospect, are co-sponsors of House Bill 189,

In-person bets placed at the state's horse racetracks are already taxed. However, people at the tracks can wager online using mobile devices and no tax is collected. That means no money goes to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, which is used to increase race purses. The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee unanimously approved HB 189 after little discussion. The measure has passed the House in previous years but has met resistance in the Republican-led Senate.

Ky. has high felony disenfranchisement

Nearly a quarter-million people in Kentucky are denied voting rights due to prior felony convictions, ranking among the highest disenfranchisement rates in the country, a new report said Tuesday. Voting booths are off-limits to one of every 14 adults in Kentucky, nearly three times the national rate, according to the report released by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky. Among blacks, almost one in five is disenfranchised in Kentucky — almost triple the national rate.

The findings come as Kentucky lawmakers again consider legislation that would restore some felons' voting rights. Such proposals have been stymied for years in the General Assembly.

With an estimated 243,842 of its adults barred from voting, Kentucky has the nation's third-highest disenfranchisement rate, behind Florida and Mississippi, the report said. Kentucky has the second-highest rate among blacks, it said. Kentucky is one of four states that permanently disenfranchise all felons, even after their sentences are completed, it said.

A proposed constitutional amendment that cleared a House committee on Tuesday would make most felons eligible to vote after serving their sentences or completing probation or parole. It would not apply to those convicted of intentional killing or sex crimes.

Senate OKs bill allowing Election Day liquor sales

A Prohibition-era ban on the sale of alcohol at Kentucky restaurants, bars and retail stores on Election Day would be lifted under legislation approved by the Senate on Tuesday. The measure would allow alcohol sales during hours that polls are open. It passed 29-8.

Senate Bill 13, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, now goes to the House for consideration. Kentucky and South Carolina are the only two states that have such bans in place. Similar measures filed in Kentucky in past years have failed.

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