2013 Kentucky Legislative Update

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This past Tuesday, I attended the Greater Louisville Sierra Club's annual legislative update, presented by Tom Fitzgerald, Director of the Kentucky Resources Council (KRC) and an adjunct professor at the law school.

The Kentucky legislature convened for its regular session on January 8 and will adjourn on March 30. Since there are no major elections this year, the process is expected to move along quickly. Tom provided a list of legislation that the KRC is monitoring. They pertain to power production, sustainability, timber, telecommunications and more. His favorite is SB 145 proposed by Bob Leeper, the legislature's only Independant Senator, which would amend Kentucky's Constitution to repeal annual sessions.

The following may be of particular interest to environmentalists and social justice advocates:

SB 29: relating to surface mining, written by Tom Fitzgerald for the Kentucky Resources Council.

SB 46: relating to biomass. Passed on February 21.

SB 50: relating to industrial hemp and HR 33: relating to industrial hemp and making an appropriation therefor. It has bipartisan support, but is opposed by law enforcement. Fitzgerald pointed out that all the bill serves to do is set up a framework for regulation, but that it's essentially useless because hemp production is still federally prohibited.

SB 53: relating to nature preserves and Blackacre State Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead specifically, KY's only urban nature preserve.

SB 80: relating to the prohibition against implementing the United Nations Agenda 21, a non-binding action plan pertaining to sustainable development. Tea Party activists assert that it will deprive Kentucky of its autonomy.

SB 88: relating to telecommunication. Supported by AT&T and two dozen lobbyists. Opposed by the AARP and the KRC because it would impose a hardship for impoverished and rural areas. To follow the "Phone Deregulation Debate", visit KET.

SB 134: relating to sand and gravel operations.

SB 190: relating to water quality. Would require more transparency from the Energy and Environment cabinet. There was a public hearing for input on the Floyds Fork watershed on February 19.

SJR 118: directs the Department for Environmental Protection to establish a water quality advisory group. Fitzgerald objects to the fact that the group is comprised soley of industry representatives and no environmental experts.

HB 53: relating to consumer protection. Essentially, it would re-regulate AT&T, but it's unlikely to pass.

HB 110: relating to utility rate adjustment for fuel costs. Might reduce coal dependency, but would increase fracking because natural gas production is becoming cheaper. Because of the high clay content, nitrogen fracking is preferred to hydrofracking in Kentucky.

HB 111: relating to the economic and environmental sustainability of forest lands. Would allow family forest land owners to receive Forest Stewardship Council designation. Passed in the House on February 21.

HB 126: relating to the Petroleum Tank Environmental Assurance Fund. Fitzgerald supports its reauthorization, which would extend the period for gas tank removals and other contamination site cleanups. Passed in the House on February 21.

HB 165: relating to rock quarries. It was criticized in an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader on February 3, "Breaking the rules with few consequences; Unauthorized quarrying in rural zone."

HB 170: relating to energy. Would require Kentucky's power producers to use increasing amounts of renewable energy. A hearing has been scheduled in the Tourism Development & Energy committee on February 28.

HB 348: relating to the reclamation of oil and gas well sites and making an appropriation therefor by establishing the oil and gas well reclamation fund.

HB 363: relating to fuel use for electric generation. Attempts to prevent utilities from using natural gas for base load power, which is more efficient and less polluting.

HJR 41: directs the Department of Housing, Building and Construction to form a Task Force to conduct a study of the energy consumption in manufactured housing in Kentucky. The reading was adopted on February 21.

HCR 42: would establish a Timber Theft and Trespass Reduction Task Force to study issues regarding timber theft and trespass.

HR 78: urges LG&E to consider alternative coal ash storage and to preserve the Wentworth Limestone Cave in Trimble County, which may have been part of the Underground Railroad.

Other items that I found interesting include a couple of amendments to exsisting legislation that would provide gender-neutral language; penalties for animal abusers (HB 374); HB 7 that authorizes a bond for the expansion of UofL's Student Activities Center, which has already been signed into law; SB 91 & HB 70 an amendment that would restore voting rights to some felons; several bills relating to alcoholic beverages including HB 310 that seeks to permanently prohibit grocery stores from selling wine and spirits and HB 440 that would allow microbreweries to sell malt beverages on their premises. There are also a few pieces of legislation that relate to attorneys, the Attorney General, and Commonwealth Attorneys.

Tom Fitzgerald implored the crowd to action by stating, "It's never been easier to get involved," then provided the following tips.

How to Take Action