Kentucky

Burley tobacco farmers in Kentucky and Tennessee are seeing their best paydays since plunging into the free market. Tight leaf supplies and a quality crop that bounced back after this summer’s drought are bringing burley growers nearly $2 per pound.

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Murray State is among several Kentucky universities receiving federal grants to improve teacher quality.  The grants from the Council on Postsecondary Education total $859,000. MSU and three other lead universities will partner with high-need school districts and five colleges, including Madisonville Community College.

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The deadline is nearing for delinquent Kentucky taxpayers to take advantage of an amnesty period. Kentucky officials say this is the first amnesty period in 10 years and allows people to pay taxes that are due without paying fees or penalties and having the interest reduced by half.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Kentucky as the second highest state in the nation for job growth. From September 2011 to September of this year Kentucky’s added 47,000 jobs. Its net job growth was 2.6 percent, which is more than twice the average of competitor states. Those states include Indiana, Tennessee and Missouri. Much of Kentucky’s job growth was in the central area of the state. But Murray gained a few manufacturing jobs with the expansion of R.T. Vanderbilt in August. North Dakota edged out Kentucky in the rankings.

Kentucky’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement effort resulted in 1,636 citations for drunken driving this year. The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety coordinated campaign with 200 state and local law enforcement agencies from August 17th to September 3rd. The federally funded effort also led to over 1,400 felony arrests and thirteen hundred 1,300 drug arrests. State Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock says the campaign is meant to educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving.

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A national group that has pushed expanding broadband access in other southern states is now focusing on Kentucky. Citizens for a Digital Future is opening a Kentucky chapter to help advocate for these issues with lawmakers and private businesses. The group’s Kentucky director, Gary Gerdemann, says a lack of wireless options is affecting businesses and education.

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The Kentucky Secretary of State’s office says residents of the Commonwealth can vote in next month’s general election in honor of military veterans. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says voters can get lapel buttons, which can be personalized with a soldier’s name, to show that they voted in honor of a veteran. The program for honoring troops has been in place across the country since 2007. For more information about how to request a button go to http://www.sos.ky.gov/veterans.

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Kentucky is following Colorado’s lead by starting a nonprofit education foundation to attract funding for innovative school programs. State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is delivering paperwork today to the secretary of state’s office for the new Fund for Transforming Education. The nonprofit’s trustees will meet for the first time Thursday. The Department of Education worked with the Denver-based Colorado Legacy Foundation on the nonprofit. The Colorado group brings millions of dollars into the public school system with programs to improve students’ health and wellness.

Preliminary data presented to the Kentucky Board of Education shows just one in four children in the Commonwealth are ready for kindergarten. Next year all 174 school districts will be required to have kindergarten screening. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says he expects the number of children not ready to start school will increase then. Associate Commissioner Felicia Smith says fewer than 110 districts participated in this year’s screening, representing 34,500 children. The tests assess the whole child, including social and emotional development.

Kentucky has a new license plate available for sale depicting a world record smallmouth bass. People can preorder the plate commemorating David Hayes’ catch from Dale Hollow Lake in 1955. Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources says Hayes caught almost 12-pound fish while trolling near a new boat ramp. The plate will cost $25 and will be available in March. Preorders are being taken until Oct. 20.

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