Ky. General Assembly adjourns after passing bills on heroin, booster seats and dating violence
Lawmakers worked until almost 3:30 a.m. to finish last minute compromises.
Tuesday, March 24th 2015, 6:50 pm EDT
Wednesday, March 25th 2015, 5:42 am EDT
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WDRB) -- Kentucky lawmakers go into overtime, blowing past the midnight deadline to wrap up their work. The General Assembly finally adjourned around 3:25 Wednesday morning.
The Kentucky legislature finally passed an amended heroin bill and bills on dating violence, ignition locks, booster seats, and child protection.
Lawmakers pass bill fighting heroin
Late Tuesday night, the Kentucky House approved a compromise on the heroin bill 100-0. The House passed the measure on to the Senate, giving a standing ovation to those who worked on the heroin bill.
The Senate went into recess and waited on the House's action, eventually reconvening to pass the bill 34-4.
Senators spent time debating the merits of the needle exchange program.
Some supported it, like Sen. Ray Jones (D-Pikeville) who said it saves lives. While Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) spoke against that portion of the bill, saying it sends a "crazy mixed message."
The final compromise included a program allowing addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones and stiffer penalties for high-level traffickers.
"Senate Bill 192 is a major step forward in tackling what has become a crisis for both our criminal justice and healthcare systems," said state Rep. John Tilley, the House Judiciary Committee chairman who also served as the chamber's point person on the bill. "I'm proud that many of the proposals the House pushed for - and which have proven successful in so many other states - are now set to become law.
The final heroin bill also included the good Samaritan provision for those who report overdoses, a re-direction of funds from a 2011 reform and expanded use of drugs that can be used to wean addicts off heroin.
Legislature extends domestic violence protections to dating couples
The Senate also passed a bill allowing protective orders for dating couples and those in cases of stalking, harassment, domestic violence and abuse.
The bill will allows victims of dating violence to take out what's called an Interpersonal Protective Order, IPO, designed to keep the abuser away.
During the bill's first committee hearing earlier in the session, some expressed concern that IPOs could be misused.
The measure ultimately passed in the Senate 37-1.
Governor Beshear tweeted his approval shortly after the Senate's passage, saying "Jane & I thank the GA for passing #HB8. I look forward to signing this much-needed protective order."
Ignition interlock bill also passed
Kentucky lawmakers have also given final passage to a bill aimed at curtailing drunken driving through use of ignition interlock devices that test the sobriety of drivers.
A final version cleared the House and Senate on Tuesday as lawmakers neared the conclusion of their legislative session. The measure now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear.
Rep. Dennis Keene, a longtime advocate for use of the devices, says the measure will make roads safer.
The final version doesn't require first-time DUI offenders to have the devices installed unless there's an aggravating circumstance, such as excessive speed or driving drunk with a child in the car.
Drivers must blow into the devices in order to start their vehicles. If their blood-alcohol concentration exceeds a certain level, the vehicles won't start.
Lawmakers OK bill to protect children
Kentucky lawmakers have given final passage to a bill aimed at strengthening efforts to protect children from Internet predators and human traffickers.
The bill cleared the House on a 100-0 vote Tuesday and now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear.
The measure would increase money flowing into the Kentucky State Police's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The additional money would come from a $10 fee assessed as part of court costs in criminal cases. The fee would apply to felony and misdemeanor cases but not to violations.
Another part of the bill seeks to crack down on human trafficking.
Under those provisions, people charged in human trafficking cases could no longer use as a defense that they were mistaken about a young victim's age.
Booster seat law expanded to children under 57 inches
More children would have to ride in booster seats under a bill the Kentucky state legislature passed on Tuesday.
Current law requires children under 7 years old and between 40 inches and 50 inches tall to be strapped into booster seats. But the bill headed to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's desk would increase the height requirement to 57 inches and the age requirement to 8 years old. However, children younger than 8 but taller than 57 inches would not have to ride in a booster seat.
State highway officials say seat belts do not fit correctly on children shorter than 57 inches and can cause serious injuries in a collision. Beshear highlighted the issue in his annual State of the Commonwealth address.
Kentucky freezes gas tax at 26 cents per gallon
Kentucky drivers will not get a tax break at the gas pump on April 1.
State lawmakers agreed to effectively halt a scheduled 5.1-cents-per-gallon decrease in the state gas tax because it would have meant a $150 million cut to the state's road fund on top of a $129 million cut from a similar decline in January.
Kentucky's gas tax is tied to the wholesale price of fuel. The current tax is 26.2 cents per gallon. It had been scheduled to fall to 22.1 cents per gallon on April 1. Instead, lawmakers agreed to drop it to 26 cents per gallon and freeze it so it could never fall below that.
State transportation officials warned the road fund would run out of money by 2016 if lawmakers did not freeze the tax.
Tax checkoff proposal clears Kentucky legislature
Kentucky lawmakers have approved income tax checkoff programs to benefit rape crisis centers and pediatric cancer research.
The House and Senate passed the final version as lawmakers neared completion of this year's legislative session. The measure was sent to Gov. Steve Beshear early Wednesday.
The measure would allow taxpayers to voluntarily donate portions of their state income-tax refunds to boost funding for rape-crisis services and research into cancers afflicting some of Kentucky's youngest patients.
The pediatric cancer research portion of the bill was sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, whose family has been afflicted with childhood cancer.
Wise's son Carter was an infant when diagnosed with cancer, resulting in about a dozen rounds of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. His son, now in remission, turns 8 this week.
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