FRANKFORT, KY (1/15/12) – While redistricting is near the top of the General Assembly’s agenda early this session, it is not the only issue we find before us. Budget discussions will soon heat up in the House, as will debate on bills that propose everything from improving our schools to limiting access to over-the-counter drugs used to make the street drug methamphetamine.
Discussion about further limiting purchases of pseudoephedrine—a drug commonly found in cold and allergy medications like Sudafed that is a required ingredient in illegal meth—and two related drugs dominated the agenda of legislative Judiciary hearings at the Capitol last Thursday as experts from across the nation spoke before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary committees on the issue. All those at the table joined in a broad debate on House Bill 80, which is my proposal to set up a statewide meth offender registry that would prevent those convicted of meth crimes from buying over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine or phenylpropanolamine without a prescription. The bill would also help stop “smurfing” (a network of people paid by meth producers to visit pharmacies and buy the over-the-counter drug to skirt individual purchase limits in existing state law) by lowering Kentucky’s current over-the-counter pseudoephedrine purchase limits from 9 to 7.5 grams a month and 60 grams per year.
Unlike other proposals floating around this legislative session, my bill would not require most cold and allergy sufferers from going to the store and buying a box of Sudafed off the shelf. They would still be able to get an ample monthly supply without a prescription. The prescription would only come into play if the purchaser wants more than the proposed monthly (or yearly) supply, or the person is a convicted meth offender, which would count out the majority of Kentuckians.
HB 80 is a sound proposal that would protect public safety without inconveniencing the average citizen. I expect more hearings on the bill in coming weeks, and am hopeful for its passage this session.
Another big issue before us this session, as you know, is the redrawing of state legislative, congressional and Kentucky Supreme Court districts as required by law. The House made strides on all redistricting fronts last week when we approved our proposals to change the geographic bounds of all six Kentucky congressional districts, most of the state’s 100 House districts, and the state’s seven Supreme Court districts.
By approving the plans in early January, the House made it possible for lawmakers to meet their goal of moving the plans through the Kentucky General Assembly by the Jan. 31 filing deadline for the 2012 primary election. The next step toward meeting that deadline will be taken by the Senate, which has both the congressional redistricting plan (House Bill 2, which passed the House 54-42 last Tuesday ) and will soon have the legislative and judicial redistricting plan (House Bill 1, which passed the House 63-34 last Thursday) in its possession. Lawmakers on both ends of the State Capitol will be working hard in coming days to ensure that we meet all legal standards required for redistricting as we finalize the plans and get them to the governor’s desk, hopefully by the end of this month.
I would not lose any of my current precincts in House District 15 under the state House legislative redistricting plan, but rather would gain some precincts in Hopkins and Christian counties. The precincts I will likely represent under the new state legislative redistricting plan--which is expected to be approved without change by the Senate--include: All precincts in Muhlenberg County; the Christian County precincts of Lakeview Baptist Church, Pembroke, Life Tabernacle #2, Crofton and Lacy; and the Hopkins County precincts of White Plains, Nortonville, St. Charles, Mortons Gap, Barnsley, Earlington, Anton and James Madison.
Work in the House last week also led to committee passage of several bills that would make life easier for Kentucky’s military and its veterans. One of these was HB 221, a measure approved by the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee that would allow veterans to request their status as a veteran be placed on their driver’s license or personal ID card.Supporters of the measure say it would allow a veteran to easily prove his or her military status to anyone who requests it—whether the person be law enforcement, a court official, or a business person requiring identification for special veteran’s discounts.
Military veterans would also benefit from legislation approved last week by the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee that would expedite the availability of a new “I Support Veterans” license plate for Kentucky drivers and ease the cost of the child adoption process for Kentucky National Guard members. HB 224 would give Kentucky National Guard members the same access to state adoption assistance funds that active duty military and state employees already enjoy. Both HB 224 and the license plate legislation, found in HB 197, now go with HB 221 to the full House for consideration.
Finally last week, the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee approved a bill that could prevent potential troops from getting tattoos that disqualify them from military service – a little-known disqualification. HB 32 would require tattoo parlors to put up a sign warning customers that any tattoo on the neck, forearm or lower leg would mean automatic disqualification from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. That bill now joins the other veterans bills on the House floor.
The Kentucky General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, Jan. 17 for the session’s third full week, and the start of an increasingly busy schedule, after breaking for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 16 and bad weather on Jan. 13. Capitol watchers can expect the legislative pace to become more and more frenetic between now and mid April when we lawmakers reach the last of the session’s 60 legislative days.
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