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Phone deregulation bill dies in face of opposition

Phone deregulation bill diesFRANKFORT, KY. — A bill that would fully deregulate the telephone industry in Kentucky died Thursday when it was sent back to committee after House and Senate members acknowledged that the two sides couldn’t agree on the plan this year.

“It won’t be revived this session,” said its sponsor, Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, after the Senate recommitted the bill to the Economic Development, Tourism & Labor Committee.

AT&T Kentucky President Mary Pat Regan acknowledged that the measure is dead and said the telecommunications giant would not try to revive the legislation this session.

“We have all agreed that we will take up the issue in the interim,” she said in a statement, while promising to push the bill in the future.

“We look forward to a meaningful discussion on updating Kentucky's laws in a way that will spur investment and create jobs, and there just isn't time left in this legislative session,” Regan said.

Under the bill, AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell would no longer have to provide basic landline services to all homes and businesses if a competitor were available to provide them. If there were no competitor, a company could provide cellphone service instead.

Opponents, including Tom FitzGerald, executive director of the Kentucky Resources Council, have argued that such a change would be a burden on the poor and the elderly who either can’t afford cell phones or are simply uncomfortable with them.

AT&T, which wrote the legislation, sank significant time and effort into passing the bill.

It hired 32 lobbyists amd spent $47,431 in January and February.

No one has hired more lobbyists this year, although some business organizations have spent significantly more on lobbying than AT&T.

The measure was poised for passage in the Senate on Wednesday when House Speaker Greg Stumbo expressed concern about it during an impromptu interview.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Thursday that he has concerns about the quality of cell phone service in rural parts of the states,, especially in his home county of Floyd, which is in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.

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More details House road plan announced

Newtown Pike ExtensionFRANKFORT — The House is expected to vote Friday on a two-year, $3.5 billion road plan that includes money to widen Leestown Road and advance the Newtown Pike extension in Lexington. It also would authorize two new bridges in Louisville.

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved three bills on Thursday that included the state's two-year and four-year road plans for state transportation projects.

Included in the Democratic House plan is $20 million — about $15 million in the current fiscal year — for widening Leestown Road from New Circle Road to Masterson Station Park. There also is additional money to extend Newtown Pike to Broadway, a project that has been in the state's road plan for years.

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, noted that the plan includes money for new bike paths along Rose Street near the University of Kentucky.

"That was great to see in there," Flood said. "It's been a long time since we've had some breathing room to have these type of community projects (in the road plan)."

Much of Thursday's discussion in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee involved the authorization for two new bridges in Louisville. The House budget calls for $50 million in bonds for those projects in addition to $230 million in previously-authorized bonds. Drivers would also have to pay tolls when crossing those bridges to pay off other costs.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, objected to the tolls, saying they are an unfair tax on the working poor who must use the bridges to get to work.

But Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, and chairwoman of the transportation budget subcommittee, said decisions about how those bridges were financed have already been made.

A vote in favor of the two-year plan was not a vote in favor of tolls, Overly said.

Wayne was the only legislator to vote against the transportation bills.

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CBO Realeases New Report On Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Patient Protection and Affordable Care ActCiting a “tremendous amount of uncertainty,” a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation found that because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, about 3 million to 5 million fewer people will obtain health insurance coverage through their employer between 2019 and 2022, based on the agencies' latest baseline projections.

The 30-page report noted that some observers are surprised that the two federal offices do not anticipate much higher reductions in employment-based coverage due to subsidized health insurance resulting from the 2010 law. “CBO and JCT's estimates take account of that expansion, but they also recognize that the legislation leaves in place some financial incentives and also creates new financial incentives for firms to offer and for many people to obtain health insurance coverage through their employers,” the report said.

U.S. businesses that choose not to offer coverage because of the 2010 law will tend to be smaller employers and employers with mostly lower-wage workers, according to the report, which also said those workers and their families are more likely to be eligible for Medicaid, CHIP, or subsidies through the health insurance exchanges. CBO and JCT analysts also presented four different scenarios that include both larger and smaller reductions in employment-based insurance that are based on various assumptions regarding employer behavior. In one of those scenarios, the agencies concluded that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would reduce employer-sponsored coverage by as much as 20 million people in 2019.

The findings were released two days after the CBO and JCT released their updated baseline projections as well as separate analysis about the healthcare law.


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