As lawmakers we strive to find new ways to help Kentucky’s future - our children. This week we saw a number of bills successfully advance through the legislative process that would help educate and protect our children.
The House Education Committee gave its approval to make the “Books for Brains” program a statewide initiative. HB 391 would require the state to work with local governments to give age-appropriate books on a regular basis to children five years old and younger. The “Books for Brains” program has achieved successful results in Trigg County which has delivered more than 23,000 books since 2008. This accounts for a 15 percent rise in preschool assessment scores.
Legislators also moved forward with legislation this week to help law enforcement and prosecutors by approving HB 126 which would make the viewing of child pornography on the internet a crime. Although possession of this material is presently outlawed, pedophiles are still able to view this material without downloading it making it difficult to prosecute. The bill would not apply to internet users who might view such pictures by accident. HB 126 passed the House 97-0.
An effort that would help prosecutors and law enforcement curb human trafficking practices which are on the rise in Kentucky cleared another hurdle this week. HB 350 would increase penalties and prison sentences for those convicted of human trafficking. Kentucky has seen too many cases in which children and adults alike are subjected to sexual exploitation, prostitution and forced labor. Additionally, a special prosecution division within the Kentucky State Police would be established to identify and investigate those involved in human trafficking. HB 350 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 13-0.
A proposal that would allow Kentuckians to vote on a constitutional amendment to allow expanded gaming was defeated in the Senate. SB 151 fell short of the required 23 votes for passage with a vote of 16-21. The issue of gaming now faces an uncertain future in this legislative session.
Legislation that would create jobs cleared the House floor this week by a vote of 95-0. HB 400 would expand eligibility for tax incentives under the 2007 Kentucky Jobs Retention Act to Kentucky’s Toyota and GM automaker plants. The original legislation helped bring several thousand jobs to Louisville’s Ford Motor Company plants and we are hopeful that HB 400 be as successful.
A bill to combat the growing problem of copper theft – which is estimated to be $1 billion each year in the U.S. – passed out of the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee. HB 390 would make the theft of copper and other valuable metals less lucrative in Kentucky by preventing metal recyclers from making immediate cash payments to the sellers. Instead, anyone selling copper and metals would now be mailed a check after they showed proof of ownership of the materials. At a press conference on HB 390, representatives from the metal industry, law enforcement, and businesses which have been victimized by copper were solidly in support of this legislation.
You can stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you by logging onto the legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll- free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.