FRANKFORT, KY (2/24/12) – State Rep. Jim Gooch’s effort to update how the state responds to drug abuse in Kentucky’s coal mines unanimously passed the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources and Environment Thursday afternoon and is poised for quick passage in the full chamber.
“House Bill 385 will hopefully ease the minds of those miners who want to know that their fellow co-workers are not impaired in this often dangerous work,” said Rep. Gooch, who chairs the Natural Resources and Environment Committee. “It builds on the General Assembly’s work in this area in 2006, in which we created the nation’s first program to ensure miners were drug free as part of their certification, and it has the support of officials in the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet.”
His legislation gives the Mine Safety Commission the authority to update the list of drugs being tested as it deems necessary, and it changes what occurs if a miner tests positive and is suspended or put on probation after the first offense. The miner has the choice to appeal the ruling by the Mine Safety Commission within 30 days or seek evaluation and treatment by a medical professional trained in substance abuse treatment. Those who don’t file an appeal or seek treatment will have their licenses and certifications to work in the mine revoked for three years.
A second offense would be a five-year suspension if not appealed, while a third offense would lead to a permanent revocation. The Mine Safety Review Commission will be barred from reinstating licenses in those cases.
In addition, the legislation calls on the commission to impose similar sanctions against miners who violated drug-testing policies in another state that has a reciprocal agreement with Kentucky. That will help keep the miners from moving from one state to another to avoid the penalties.
Rep. Gooch said his legislation does not create additional drug tests for miners, but further ensures that those who test positive get the treatment they need. “This a major step forward in streamlining the state’s response to drug abuse in our coal mines, and it puts those who abuse these drugs on notice that, first, we want to help them get treatment, but, if they won’t, we will not tolerate this.”
Information provided by Rep. Jim Gooch
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