Hazard legislators busy in Frankfort
by Tony McGuire
Several bills introduced in first week
The 2006 session of the Kentucky General Assembly began last Tuesday, and in the first four days several bills were introduced in both the House and Senate.
Two bills State Representative Brandon Smith of Hazard says he is excited about are pieces of legislation that will speed up the process of obtaining mining permits and another which Governor Fletcher spoke about in his State of the Commonwealth speech Monday night, which will help to reduce insurance rates for small businesses.
Representative Smith said yesterday that the General Assembly is making sure more experienced coal miners will be working in eastern Kentucky and has recently secured funding for the Kentucky Coal Academy which will be offered at the college in Hazard. Smith said the academy will back up and offer better training for miners, which will initially slow coal down, but legislation which will speed up the procurement of mining permits will also help in getting coal to the market. "This is historic. It's never been done before," he said.
House Bill 134, sponsored by Representative Smith and Representative Adrian Arnold, D-Mt. Sterling, seeks to allow employees of local school districts to take part in the management or activities of any political campaign for school board. The bill was prefiled and introduced to the House on January 3. Smith said yesterday that he looks for this bill to pass as it nearly passed both houses last year.
Smith remarked that the reasoning behind this bill is that whenever a school board race comes up, the law dictates that teachers are not allowed to support any candidate, which in turn takes away the most educated people from the political arena who would be able to support the best candidate. He did note that one con to the bill would be that people may think a superintendent could sway the opinion of the teachers to support one candidate or another, but Smith says he doesn't believe teachers would support a candidate they don't believe in just because they are ordered to do so. House Bill 134 has been referred to committee and will be reviewed on Thursday.
Representative Smith also took part in House Joint Resolution 47 which urges the Kentucky Congressional Delegation to support legislation which seeks to extend the Lewis and Clark Historical Trails eastward. The resolution was introduced in January 5 and referred to the Committee on Tourism Development and Energy.
Senator Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard is sponsoring a bill that would define the act of human trafficking and classify the act as a class B felony. Senate Bill 11, which is sponsored by eight senators, defines human trafficking as transporting, soliciting, harboring, providing, or obtaining another person for transport, intending to engage the person in forced labor or services.
Senate Bill 21, also sponsored by Mongiardo, seeks an amendment to a Kentucky Revised Statute that allows for parental rights to be terminated after a child is born if the mother abuses a controlled substance while pregnant and that abuse results in physical injury to the child after birth.
Senate Bill 23, sponsored by Mongiardo and a host of other senators, seeks to establish a military families assistance trust fund made up solely of grants, contributions, and appropriations. The bill was introduced in the Senate on January 3 and the following day was referred to the Committee for Veterans, Military Affairs, & Public Protection.
Other bills of interest introduced in the Kentucky legislature last week ranged from new laws concerning registered sex offenders to nurse practitioners. Senate Bill 65 seeks to allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances. Currently, nurse practitioners can only prescribe non narcotic drugs. The bill is sponsored by Senators Gary Tapp and Brett Guthrie.
House Bill 252, which was introduced by Representative Tom Burch, seeks to rid school districts of vending machines that sell competitive foods and beverages. The bill, if it becomes law, will also require the General Assembly to appropriate annual funds to replace the revenue lost to school by the removal of the vending machines.
Two house bills regarding sex offenders and sponsored by several representatives were introduced last week. House Bill 255 would require persons convicted of distributing cild pornography to register will the sexual offender registration system. House Bill 257 seeks to prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a postsecondary school, private college, or a public university.
While legislators consider bills in Frankfort in the next few weeks, they will also be looking into the passage of a state budget, from which the allocation of coal severance funding is allowed. Perry County did not receive funding from coal severance taxes in recent years until last year, when State Representative Brandon Smith and Senator Daniel Mongiardo acquired the funding after the General Assembly finally passed a budget.
Story by Cris Ritchie
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