(Frankfort, March 12-16th, 2012)The Senate is burning the midnight oil – painstakingly pouring over each and every budget page – meeting day and night to account for every penny….what? You’re not buying this? Ahhh, that business about not working on Fridays, surely it must be – oh, Monday’s too? I, eh, I didn’t know. Surely they must be doing something! After all, we continue to send bills over there almost daily… I’m sure somebody’s keeping up with all the bills they are hearing…and passing….and sending on to the Governor…
This week, we tackled a growing synthetic-drug problem that has re-emerged all across the Commonwealth: synthetic drugs including so-called “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana found in convenience stores and head shops. This is a fascinating snapshot of just how quickly illegal drug manufacturers respond to new challenges.
A 2011 law we passed banned specific compounds of synthetic drugs. Underground manufacturers got around the law by altering a drug’s ingredients just enough to create new, technically legal ones. HB 481 fixes that loophole by banning entire classes, not just compounds, of synthetic drugs. It also extends seizure and forfeiture laws to retailers who sell these drugs; makes selling them a felony crime for second and subsequent offenses, and makes simple possession a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 30 days in jail.
We then turned our attention to the alarming number of abused and neglected children who have fallen through the proverbial cracks of the state’s child-protection system in recent years. HB 200 creates a statewide external expert review panel to thoroughly investigate the death or near death of a child from abuse or neglect. The panel will determine if the state took reasonable measures to save that child or prevent his or her injuries (if the child was under protective services at the time) – and it expands the statutory definition of child abuse to include abuse by a sibling. A major feature is the creation of an independent office to oversee Kentucky’s Child Protective Services agency.
The state’s Transportation Budget and Road Plan was also passed out of the House this week. The Road Plan is a planning document which lays out priority construction projects for the upcoming 6 years. The first 2 years of the 6 year plan is separated out for immediate funding. Projects in the remaining 4 years you might say are put on the shelf in anticipation of continued funding and favorable revenue streams. Transportation projects are interesting. I’ve seen them stay on the books for years before they are begun. Often, Road projects are very high dollar projects. Under this plan , some $1.5 Billion in state construction funds and $1.3 Billion in federal construction funds are allocated for key projects in our Commonwealth.