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As we returned to Frankfort to resume the 2011 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, we are faced with issues that are as wide and varied as the monster snowstorm that cut through much of the United States this week.
Several bills have already passed through the House of Representatives and are on their way to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 121, which would outlaw synthetic street drugs called “bath salts” currently on sale at convenience stores and other venues, passed the House by a vote of 94-0. This drug has been in Kentucky for some time and has become a threat to our young people’s health and safety. It is reported to cause paranoia, violent behavior and suicidal thoughts which make this a highly dangerous drug.
HB 166, which would require state parks to buy Kentucky agricultural products, passed the House by a vote of 92-0. This legislation is intended to promote the sale of products under the Kentucky Proud Program at start resort parks, golf courses and other Department of Parks’ venues.
Other committees were busy hearing testimony including the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee which voted in favor of House Bill 14. This bill would help our service men and women and their families by waiving probate fees on the estate of those military killed in the line of duty. House Bill 14 now goes to the full House for consideration.
The Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 58 which would require drunk driving offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles. Studies show that this measure works better than just suspending a convicted DUI offender’s license because the vehicle will not start if the breathalyzer on the device exceeds the preset blood alcohol limit. House Bill 58 will also go to the full House for debate and consideration.
Legislation affecting education and immigration was discussed in committees this week and received a great deal of attention.
House Bill 225, also called the Graduation Bill, passed the House Education Committee. This bill would affect children entering the 9th grade during the 2011-2012 school year, raising the graduation rate from 16 to 17 in July 2015 and to 18 the following year. It now goes to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee so that the cost can be analyzed.
The complex issue of illegal immigration was heard by the House Local Government Committee, which discussed the possible costs of Senate Bill 6, passed by the Senate in early January, and House Bill 3, the House’s immigration bill. We believe that our plan - which would require contractors with a public agency and government agencies to use the E-Verify instant documentation check to determine eligibility of potential hires to work in the United States - is the better alternative. More debate on the merits of any type of illegal immigration legislation will certainly be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.
Governor Beshear gave his State of the Commonwealth address to the joint chambers of the General Assembly on Tuesday evening where he mapped out his plans for the remainder of his term and his priorities this session. The Graduation Bill is high on his list as is implementing a solution to the Medicaid shortfall by balancing the 2011 Medicaid budget with 2012 Medicaid funds. The governor received a great response from our legislators, especially from those in coal-producing counties, when he called for an end to the EPA’s zealous regulation of coal mining in Kentucky.
Though this is considered a “short session” there certainly is no shortage of legislation and issues to be addressed over the next several weeks. You can keep up with 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.
It is a pleasure and an honor to serve as your State Representative.