Monday, June 18, 2001

Ky. Assembly bills a mixed bag

Profiling, hemp among topics

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Though it may be most remembered for what it did not pass, the 2001 General Assembly produced legislation on topics from the sublime to the mellifluous.

        Ordinary bills passed during the first odd-year session in 150 years take effect Thursday, 90 days after it ended on March 22.

        After several years of trying, the legislature put together a public policy on racial profiling, the practice in law enforcement of stopping or questioning people solely on the basis of their race or national origin. Sponsors, notably Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, the only black member of the Senate, wanted to outlaw the practice altogether.

        Instead, the bill requires that police departments that receive state salary supplements — and that includes all of them whose officers have met state training requirements — adopt policies to prohibit racial profiling. The departments must either create their own policies or adopt what the state will draft as a model.

        Legislators were in much greater harmony on the matter of an official state musical instrument. Rep. Barbara White Colter, R-Manchester, sponsored the bill to make it the Appalachian dulcimer.

        Before and through virtually all the session, the biggest topic on the table was solid waste. The House passed a bill with bipartisan support that would have effectively required all counties to clean up their dumps or offer mandatory curbside collection for every household. The Senate was unable to pass anything.

        Similarly, Gov. Paul Patton's request for changes in the workers' compensation program for miners suffering from black lung disease also failed to win passage in the Senate.

        There was more cooperation from the two chambers to produce a bill to ease state approval for cleanups of abandoned industrial sites. The so-called brownfields legislation was a Senate bill, but contains primarily the provisions crafted in the House that were preferred by environmental interests.

        Another noteworthy bill, to encourage research into the use of industrial hemp, was passed with proclamations of a great future, but the reality has turned out something less. The bill would let university agriculture research projects go forward, but no one has pursued the idea, deterred by the strict law enforcement and security measures of the federal government, which considers hemp illegal in any form.

        One bill that did require some quick attention closed a sales tax loophole opened by a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling. The court said an exemption from sales tax for machinery for manufacturing applied to virtually any business purchases.

        The Revenue Cabinet received requests for exemptions for such things as pizza ovens. The legislation narrowed the exemption to more traditional equipment in heavy manufacturing. The loophole could have cost the state $300 million.

        Other legislation covered foster children. One bill will let foster parents make decisions regarding the hairstyles of foster children. Another will waive tuition for foster children at state universities.

        Volunteer firefighters will be protected from retribution at their place of employment if they are tardy or miss work because of their firefighting duties.

        And stealing gas from a service station could cost more than a misdemeanor fine. It could also mean the loss of a driver's license.


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