- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015
After 3 years of trying, Ky. passes bill fighting heroin

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Taxpayers will spend money to keep heroin dealers in prison longer and to give addicts a steady supply of clean needles under a bill that has passed the state legislature designed to curb Kentucky’s alarming increase of overdose deaths.

The bill passed late Tuesday and is the result of more three years of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans who had deep philosophical differences about how to treat addicts and the criminal penalties that should be imposed on them and their dealers.

Lawmakers agreed to let local governments set up needle-exchange programs where addicts can swap dirty needles for clean ones in an effort to prevent disease and death. And it toughens penalties for some heroin dealers, requiring them to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.

Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to sign the bill.


Kentucky legislature stops gas tax decrease, takes on heroin

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Taxpayers will spend money to keep heroin dealers in prison longer and give addicts a steady supply of clean needles, and they won’t get a tax break at the gas pump after a wild final day in the state legislature.

Lawmakers overcame more than three years of deep philosophical differences about how to treat addicts and the criminal penalties that should be imposed on them and their dealers when they passed a bill Tuesday strengthening penalties for heroin dealers while authorizing local needle exchange programs.

After midnight, they succumbed to pressure from Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and a host of local state officials to effectively stop a drop in the state’s gas tax that was scheduled to take effect April 1. While the 5.1-cents-per-gallon drop would have meant cheaper prices at the pump for consumers, it would be a $150 million cut to the state’s road fund on top of the $129 million cut that resulted from a similar decrease in January.

Kentucky’s gas tax is tied to the wholesale prices 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.

“Our Transportation Cabinet tells me that if we don’t do something, the transportation budget will run out of cash by August of 2016,” Beshear said earlier in the day in urging lawmakers to freeze the gas tax.

But some Republicans were furious, arguing the state was breaking its promise to taxpayers.


Kentucky lawmakers OK bill to protect children

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - 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.



Bill by Kentucky high school students faces tough path

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A bill written by a group of Kentucky high school students will have a tough time passing the legislature after the state Senate amended it on the final day of the session.

The bill would allow one high school student from each district to serve on a search committee for a new superintendent. Senate Republicans changed the bill so students would not be able to vote on the search committee. And they added an amendment that would guarantee students would not be discriminated against in school for their religious beliefs.

Senate Democrats blasted Republicans for amending the bill, saying it would not pass the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives. High school students from across the state rallied on the Capitol steps Monday to urge lawmakers to pass a clean bill.

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