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AP-US-XGR-ALUMINUM-MILL-KENTUCKY

Executive: Kentucky aluminum plant project still needs $500M

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Braidy Industries executive says the company still needs to raise $500 million to build a $1.7 billion aluminum plant in eastern Kentucky. Company executives appeared before a Senate committee Tuesday. Their appearance comes after a recent management shakeup raised concerns about the project. Company officials expressed confidence the project will become a reality. The plant would create more than 650 full-time jobs. Kentucky taxpayers have a direct stake in Braidy’s plans to build the aluminum rolling mill near Ashland. During his term, former Gov. Matt Bevin persuaded lawmakers to approve a $15 million state investment in the project.

JUDICIAL BUDGET-KENTUCKY

Chief justice warns of potential job cuts in judicial branch

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's chief justice says the governor's scaled back budget proposed for the judiciary would jeopardize nearly 400 jobs in the judicial branch. Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. spoke to a House budget review subcommittee on Tuesday. He said Gov. Andy Beshear's budget proposal falls nearly $49 million short of fully funding court operations for the next two years. He says court operations would take another $7.5 million hit each year through a fund transfer. Minton says if lawmakers go along with the governor's recommendation, the judicial branch would have to cut 387 positions, or 11% of its non-elected workforce.

VAPING-TOBACCO TAXES

House panel OK's tax hike on vaping, other tobacco products

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bill to impose an excise tax on vaping products has cleared a Kentucky House committee. The bill also would raise existing taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the measure would raise nearly $50 million over two years. The measure advances to the full House. Rep. Jerry Miller offered a compromise version Tuesday that would result in a smaller revenue gain for the state. Health advocates hoped for more but spoke in favor of the compromise during a House budget committee meeting.

AUDIT RESULTS

Kentucky audit cites multiple faults by Owsley County clerk

BOONEVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The results of a Kentucky audit accuse an elected county clerk of failing to properly perform her duties and leaving nearly $30,000 owed to her county at the end of a recent fiscal year. The report released by state Auditor Mike Harmon on Monday found that Owsley County Clerk Shanna Oliver didn't reconcile her office's bank account, didn't submit required reports and didn't make some tax payments on time, among other citations. The audit reviewed financial records through December 2017. Harmon’s office said it would refer the findings to the state attorney general, the Department of Revenue and the Department for Local Government for further action.

TRAFFIC FATALITIES

Officials: Highway traffic fatalities increase in 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A preliminary count shows highway traffic fatalities in Kentucky increased by 10 last year. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Highway Safety said in a statement on Monday that initial data found 734 fatalities in 2019, compared to 724 in 2018. Transportation Secretary Jim Gray says a 2020 Recommended Highway Plan calls for safety improvements including the installation of guardrails. In addition, officials at the Office of Highway Safety say the agency is increasing efforts to encourage safe driving habits. The count will remain preliminary until all highway crash data is collected. A final report will be released in April.

LEXINGTON-CANINE FACILITY

Lexington builds new kennel for police dogs

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — The Lexington Police Department has a new kennel with room for 20 dogs in its canine unit. The 4,000 square-foot facility has larger office space, a conference room and a veterinary room. A release from the city said last year, the canine unit responded to 1,014 calls for service, a 21% increase over 2018. The police department currently has 13 dogs.