Bonding for new University of Kentucky research facility first bill signed by Beshear

03/09/2015 05:23 PM

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear signed legislation on Monday approving the sale of $132.5 million in bonds for a new multifaceted research facility at the University of Kentucky.

House Bill 298, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand, is the first bill signed into law by Beshear, who hailed the project as a key piece in his push to improve the state’s dismal health rankings. The center will concentrate on ailments such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease in its research, he said.

The bill authorizes UK to put $132.5 million in restricted funds toward the project, and Beshear said the debt service will cost the state nearly $5.6 million in its first year and about $11 million annually thereafter. The research center was the only major capital project under serious consideration by lawmakers, who last year closed the books on a $20 billion biennial budget.

“House Bill 298 required that the General Assembly reopen the state budget in an off-budget year, and that was no small decision,” the governor said.

“But this is no ordinary research building. As a multidisciplinary research facility, it will house teams of scientists from different disciplines working in concert to reduce preventable deaths from medical disorders that disproportionately affect Kentuckians.”

Part of the problem is inadequate space, said Dr. Lisa Cassis, who attended Monday’s press conference on behalf of UK President Eli Capilouto.

Throughout her 26 years at the university, Cassis has seen researchers at UK handle “very limited space for very sophisticated types of approach to research and development.”

The legislation sailed through both chambers this session and became a priority of Senate President Robert Stivers, who often said that those campaigning in his district would do well by visiting the UK Markey Cancer Center.

“From that perspective it’s a good day for the university, I think it’s a good day for the governor, and I think it’s a good day for the legislature, how we can come together in the midst of controversy and differing opinions to reach an agreement on an issue that won’t just affect one of us or a few of us, but will have far-reaching impacts statewide,” said Stivers, R-Manchester.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo apologized to Capilouto on Monday, as he has in the past. Stumbo said he didn’t think Capilouto would excel when he became the university’s president, but that perspective has changed with the number of groundbreakings on campus and bill signings at the Capitol.

The new UK research facility will have a more widespread impact than many expect, he predicted

“When the university got their ranking to be a national cancer research institution, it was incumbent upon them to keep the top-notch researchers, doctor, and to attract the top-notch researchers that they need that they have a state-of-the-art research facility, and that’s the way Dr. Capilouto explained the project to me and others,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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