The Week in Frankfort: Lawmakers moving quickly on a number of important issues


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Heading into the 2015 session, many observers noted that lawmakers were facing a particularly heavy agenda. Major legislation was expected on issues like heroin abuse, the minimum wage, a local option sales tax, prevailing wage, telecommunications deregulation, dating violence, the teachers’ retirement system, charter schools and a proposed statewide smoking ban in public places.

Just 13 working days into the session, votes have already been cast on each of these issues and dozens of others. Bills are moving through the committee system and, in many instances, have already been approved by one chamber and sent to the other for consideration.

No bill has yet been sent to the governor for his signature. But at the pace lawmakers are moving, it won’t be a surprise if the first new state law of 2015 arrives soon.

Bills that took steps forward yesterday alone include an anti-heroin bill, smoke-free legislation and a proposal to permit a new lottery game that would be based on the results of live horse racing.

The anti-heroin bill, House Bill 213, would create more treatment options for addicts while establishing tiered penalties for traffickers, with the greatest prison time for felons who sell over a kilo of the drug. The bill also includes a “good Samaritan” provision that gives immunity to those who call for emergency help when someone overdoses.

The bill would make the rescue drug Nalozone more readily available. The drug can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose if promptly administered.

HB 213 also would allow local governments to set up needle exchange programs to stave off Hepatitis C and HIV infection from shared needles.

The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB 213 is the second anti-heroin bill to pass a legislative chamber this year. Senate Bill 5 was approved by the Senate last month and is currently awaiting consideration in a House committee.

Another high-profile issue that surged forward yesterday would establish a statewide smoking ban in restaurants, bars and other public places.

House Bill 145, which passed the House on a 51-46 vote, would prevent smoking within 15 feet of enclosed public areas and workplaces. The bill includes exemptions for private clubs, cigar bars and tobacco shops.

Private residences would be unaffected by the proposal except in areas used for paid lodging, childcare, adult care, or health care.

HB 145 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

In the Senate on Friday, members voted to advance Senate Bill 74, a proposal that would allow the Kentucky Lottery to begin selling a game of chance based on live horse racing.

If it becomes law, the measure would make Kentucky the first state to sell tickets for a game known as “EquiLottery.” It is like most lottery games, except the winning numbers are determined by the outcome of a horse race. For EquiLottery to remain a pure game of chance, numbers would be randomly picked by a computer rather than by players.

SB 74 now goes to the House for consideration.

With so many big issues moving through the legislature, it’s an important time for citizens to stay in touch with lawmakers and share their views on the issues that will be voted on in the days to come. There are several easy ways citizens can provide their feedback to the General Assembly.

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