- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014
House panel rejects eminent domain for pipelines

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Landowners from across Kentucky testified to a House committee Wednesday that they have been harassed by companies involved in the Bluegrass Pipeline project and been threatened that the state’s eminent domain laws would be used to seize their land if they refuse to sell.

The committee then passed legislation that would bar private natural gas liquid companies from using eminent domain laws to acquire property.

House committee chair Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville is the bill’s sponsor.

“If the state or anyone else is to condemn private property,” Tilley said, “that should be for public use which our constitution clearly states and we as a legislature have clearly confirmed in subsequent years.”

Tilley added that although the bill cleared the committee by a wide margin, he anticipates strong amendments to be attached to it in the House.

Also in attendance was Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council. FitzGerald said that Kentucky isn’t alone in clarifying its eminent domain laws. He cited recent Texas statutes which distinguish natural gas liquids from utilities which also use eminent domain laws.

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Ky. Senate panel OKs trial use of cannabis oil

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A bill aimed at allowing trial use of cannabis oil for severe childhood seizures gained momentum Wednesday, clearing a Kentucky Senate committee that heard emotional pleas from parents wanting the treatment for their children.

Rita Wooton held up a photo of her 4-year-old son Eli, who has suffered from uncontrollable seizures since birth. Doctors have prescribed more than a dozen medicines that haven’t worked, and a neurologist recently suggested the family try cannabis oil, the eastern Kentucky woman said.

“You don’t know what it’s like ‘till you take my son home with you,” Wooton told the lawmakers, her voice shaking with emotion. “I’m not looking for sympathy or even empathy.

“We’re looking for help, and that’s where we come to you all. It’s your … decision on what my son gets as far as treatment.”

The bill was approved by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and now heads to the full Senate. Senate President Robert Stivers later said the measure seems to have strong support in the chamber, and said it appears cannabis oil has “some therapeutic and medicinal value.”

“There doesn’t seem to be any downsides to it,” said Stivers, R-Manchester.

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Kentucky snake handler death doesn’t shake belief

Three days after pastor Jamie Coots died from a rattlesnake bite at church, mourners leaving the funeral went to the church to handle snakes.

Coots, who appeared on the National Geographic Channel’s “Snake Salvation,” pastored the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church founded by his grandfather in Middlesboro, Ky. The third-generation snake handler was bitten during a service on Feb. 15 and died later at his home after refusing medical help. Now his adult son, Cody Coots, is taking over the family church where snakes are frequently part of services.

“People think they will stop handling snakes because someone got bit, but it’s just the opposite,” said Ralph Hood, a professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, who has been studying snake handlers for decades. “It reaffirms their faith.”

The practice of snake handling in the United States was first documented in the mountains of East Tennessee in the early 20th Century, according to Paul Williamson, a professor of psychology at Henderson State University who, along with Hood, co-wrote a book about snake handlers called, “Them That Believe.” In the 1940s and 1950s, many states made snake-handling illegal (it’s currently illegal in Kentucky), but the practiced has continued, and often law enforcement simply looks the other way.

The basis for the practice is a passage in the Gospel of Mark. In the King James Version of the Bible, Mark 16:17-18 reads: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Snake handling gained momentum when George Hensley, a Pentecostal minister working in various Southern states in the early 1900s, recounted an experience where, while on a mountain, a serpent slithered beside him. Hensley purported to be able to handle the snake with impunity, and when he came down the mountain he proclaimed the truth of following all five of the signs in Mark. Hensley himself later died from a snake bite.

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Final order expected in Ky. same-sex marriage case

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Attorneys for gay couples seeking formal recognition of their out-of-state marriages say a federal judge is expected to sign a final order in the case by the end of the week.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II earlier this month threw part of the state’s ban on gay marriages. The ruling only applies to couples married in other states or countries.

A final order would mean same-sex couples may change their names on official identifications and documents and obtain any other benefits of a married couple in Kentucky. But Heyburn’s ruling doesn’t affect a related lawsuit seeking to force the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Kentucky attorney general’s office has not sought to delay the ruling as of Wednesday afternoon.

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