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Legislative Briefs: Nighbert again advising Senate Republicans

Nighbert again advising Senate Republicans

Former state Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert is back in Frankfort advising Senate Republicans after being acquitted of bid-rigging charges in federal court. Senate President David Williams told The Daily Independent of Ashland that Nighbert had been hired as an adviser on the road plan. Nighbert previously advised Williams and the Senate on transportation matters after his stint as transportation secretary and before he was charged with conspiring to help steer construction projects to a Kentucky road contractor. Nighbert was found not guilty after a three-week trial in January. Williams said Nighbert is being paid by the Republican Senate Campaign Caucus Committee, which collects and spends money on behalf of Republican candidates for the Senate.

Committee approves inmate sex bill

A measure that would make sexual contact between prison staff and an inmate a felony was approved by a House committee Wednesday and appears poised to pass the full House. Kentucky is one of three states that considers sexual contact between prison staff and an inmate a misdemeanor. Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, sponsor of Senate Bill 17, told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the Department of Corrections has been pushing for some time to make sexual contact between staff and prisoners a felony. The issue came to the forefront last summer when at least six staff members at the privately run Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright were charged in relation to having sexual contact with female prisoners. The state has since moved the women to a state-run prison. The committee voted unanimously to pass the bill Wednesday. The Senate passed the measure earlier this month.

House OKs health plan for teachers

A plan to ensure that future retired teachers receive health benefits unanimously passed the House on Wednesday and heads to the Senate. House Bill 540 would require more money from school districts and active and retired teachers to help reduce the unfunded liability in the retired teachers health insurance fund from $6.2 billion to $3.4 billion over time. Currently, only active teachers, many retired teachers older than 65 and the state pay into the system. The plan would require teachers, retired teachers younger than 65 and school districts to pay more into the teacher's retirement system. Those contributions would increase over time until 2016. Previously, the state had borrowed money from the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System pension fund to pay for retired teachers' health insurance. That method of payment could not be sustained over time, the system's administrators said.

Seniors could opt out of jury duty

A House committee has approved a bill that would allow senior citizens to opt out of jury service if they choose. The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure Wednesday. It goes to the full House for consideration. Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, is sponsoring the measure to allow people at least 70 years old to have their names removed from potential juror lists. House Bill 372 cleared the committee despite concerns voiced by some members about its constitutionality.

Two anti-meth measures advance

The Senate has approved a bill aimed at curbing the spread of methamphetamine by blocking some drug offenders from buying cold medicines commonly used in making the drug. Those medicines contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which are an essential ingredient in making the illicit drug. Senate Bill 211, approved 38-0 Wednesday, would bar drug offenders from purchasing the medicines for five years. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee passed a similar bill Wednesday that would reduce the amount of cold medicines containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanaolamine from 9 grams a month to 7.5 grams. The Senate bill contains a similar provision.

Bill would monitor contracts, work force

A bill aimed at tracking state contracts and the size of the state work force won easy approval Wednesday from the Senate State and Local Government Committee. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, the bill's lead sponsor, said it would bring more transparency and enable state lawmakers to track state contracts and the number of state workers. House Bill 387 would require quarterly reports from state agencies on the number of classified, unclassified and other workers, including contract employees. The measure heads to the full Senate. It already has been approved by the House.

staff, wire reports