Beshear Will Make Decision on Hospital Merger, Move Aggressively on Gaming Amendment
Facing a challenging budget for the upcoming General Assembly, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is promising to lobby state lawmakers aggressively for a constitutional amendment on expanding gaming.A recent poll showed 87 percent of voters want the issue to be on the November 2012 ballot. The survey also found 64 percent of Kentuckians would favor such a change to the state constitution.Beshear says his legislative agenda will also include improving early childhood education, but the state needs more money for such programs to work."We are going to need more revenue as we move down the road and I am going to aggressively push a constitutional amendment to get it on the ballot that would let people vote on whether Kentucky should have expanded gaming in the state. These are the kinds of things we need to do to make a difference for Kentucky for years to come," he says.The governor’s office is working on the ballot language and a bill could be filed during the first week of the legislative session. Beshear says expanded gaming will be a simple amendment with details that can be addressed in further legislation.The governor also said a decision on the controversial hospital merger in Louisville will be made before New Year’s Day.The consolidation of University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives has raised concerns from a number of Louisville city officials and residents. Many concerns center on changes that reproductive care and employee benefits will change due to religious doctrine being imposed on University Hospital, which many consider a public institution.The governor did not indicated whether he would approve the deal or not, but said he hopes put the issue to rest once Attorney General Jack Conway's office completes a review of the deal."My goal is to make some decision on the merger of the hospitals in Louisville by the end of the year. I am awaiting a final report from the attorney general, which I expect either this afternoon or early tomorrow. And after that I’ve got a decision to make and I’m looking forward to making that by December 31," he says.Several groups have urged Beshear to block the merger, such as the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which asked the governor not to approve the deal because it would put U of L Hospital under religious guidance, which they consider unconstitutional.