WESTERN KY (2/26/12) - Sometimes, even a good bill hits a few potholes along the road to becoming law. Committee delays, competing legislation—these and other possibilities all add up to some frustrating times during a legislative session for a bill’s sponsor.
I have experienced some of this frustration this very session with my anti-meth bill, House Bill 80. Since I introduced the bill in the House on the first day of session on Jan. 3, it has yet to come before a committee for a vote. Well, that might be about to change.
After last week’s revelation that a competing Senate bill with a prescriptive remedy for handling the meth problem had been withdrawn after facing considerable opposition from consumers across Kentucky, I am feeling a little better about HB 80’s chances to get that committee vote and move forward.
The competing Senate legislation was Senate Bill 50. Unlike HB 80, which would restrict convicted meth offenders’ access to over the counter drugs (like Sudafed) used to make methamphetamine, the Senate legislation would have required a prescription for those medications. The sponsor said he withdrew the bill after discussing its status with some of its supporters, but told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “that does not mean the fight won’t go on.”
HB 80, which would not require the average citizen to get a prescription for their over the counter cold and allergy meds, would be a great compromise—and one that a majority of you who recently answered my 2011-12 15th District survey say they can support.
Perhaps by this time next week, I will have good news about HB 80’s chances for passage before this session’s end in mid-April.
We’ve long said our first priority in policy making is to ensure the welfare of our “most vulnerable”—our children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, specifically. Last week, we moved forward in adding Kentucky’s increasing number of human-trafficking victims to that priority list.
By a unanimous vote of 13-0, the House Judiciary Committee last Wednesday approved House Bill 350. Should it become law, the legislation would create new felony crimes for human trafficking, and increase funding to both prosecute traffickers and advocate against this modern-day form of slavery.
Many of the more than 130 known human trafficking victims in Kentucky — around 43 percent—were initially trafficked for sex or forced labor, or both, as children. Some were adults when they were finally identified and rescued. HB 350 would protect both child and adult victims by, among other things, allowing the financial assets of anyone convicted under the law to be seized and forfeited. All assets would go to help victims and advance police and prosecutorial work on trafficking cases.
A couple of new felony crimes that traffickers could be prosecuted under would actually be created by HB 350. ‘Patronizing prostitution” and “patronizing a minor” would both be established to increase prosecution based on the very specific sex and/or forced-labor component of human trafficking cases.
Some lawmakers and others, particularly in the legal community, have questioned the need for specifying the new crimes, which mirror the crime of unlawful transaction with a minor currently on Kentucky’s law books. But HB 350’s supporters say that the specific nature of the facts in human trafficking cases makes the creation of the new criminal provisions both necessary and non-duplicitous.
If passed, HB 350 would also create a new Kentucky State Police unit to investigate human trafficking rings, and promote better training in patterns of trafficking for law enforcement, prosecutors, victims and victims’ advocates. The bill will now be considered by the full House, where floor amendments proposing additional changes to HB 350 are expected to be filed in coming days.
Creating jobs is the intent behind another bill that cleared the House floor last week. HB 400—which was passed by the House on a 95-0 vote last Thursday—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 up to 3,000 jobs to Louisville’s Ford Motor Company plants.
The work of House committees has intensified over the past two weeks, as the 60-day 2012 Regular Session neared and passed its halfway point on Feb. 16. Over that time, committees have invited testimony on a number of emotionally charged bills, including HB 77, which would allow charter schools in Kentucky, and HB 260, which would make the now-private University of Pikeville the state’s ninth public university. Other discussions are expected on these bills as the session continues.
As far as committee action goes, several bills in addition to HB 350 were passed out of House panels last week. One of those bills was HB 390, which would make the theft of copper and other valuable metals less lucrative in Kentucky.
The legislation, which was approved by the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee last week, would remove the incentive to commit these costly thefts by preventing metal recyclers from providing immediate cash for those metals, instead requiring anyone selling them to be mailed a check after showing proof of ownership. The legislation appears to have considerable support, considering that metal theft is rampant, costing an estimated $1 billion each year in the U.S.
We have much more to do in the Kentucky House in the 23 or 24 legislative days remaining this session, and you can stay informed of all the action 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. For committee meeting schedules, please call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. Or, to comment on a bill, please call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181.
Rep. Brent Yonts
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