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Anti-Bullying Bill Passes House Committee

from Kentucky Public Radio’s Stu Johnson

Legislation designed to better protect gay students from bullies has cleared a committee in the Kentucky House.

Three gay students testified about their experiences with bullying before the committee vote today Tuesday. Among them was Bradley Kaufman, who went to high school in Casey county.

“Many of my teachers had probably never met someone who is LGBT before so they don’t know what to do with it it’s not stated that they have to protect those students,” he said.

Several committee members expressed concern about bullying but indicated current law should address the issue. Sponsor Mary Lou Marzian says the legislation gives school officials power they don’t currently have to better deal with bullies who target gay students.

The bill now goes on to the full House.

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School Bus Ad Bill Passes House

School buses in Kentucky may soon sport advertising signs on their side exteriors.

The Kentucky House, with little debate, voted 61-35 to allow ads that don’t mention politics, cigarettes or alcohol. Lebanon Representative Terry Mills—the bill’s primary sponsor—says the ads could not appear on the inside, front or rear of school buses.

“Obviously, the revenue from advertising would not solve all of the funding problems in education, but in times such as these, all revenue helps,” he says.

Mills says several states already allow school bus ads, and Ohio, New Jersey and Utah are considering similar legislation. He says such ads have already raised one million dollars this academic year for the Dallas, Texas, school system. The bill now moves to the Senate.

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Amendment Protecting Hunting And Fishing Clears Committee

A Kentucky House committee has approved a constitutional amendment assuring Kentuckians’ right to hunt and fish.  The measure is House Bill One and Speaker Greg Stumbo is a primary sponsor.

“Our wildlife management folks have done a really good job controlling the herds, managing the herds, reintroducing new species like the elks and the turkeys and things like that.  And those add to the overall hunting experience and the draw that we have to bring people here.  And so it’s an economic development tool and it just needs to be protected.  I don’t see anything wrong with it,” he says.

A constitutional amendment automatically restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time also won House committee approval.  Both measures now move to the House floor.

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Bath Salts Bill Clears House

The Kentucky House wrapped up the second week of the 2011 session with passage of the so-called “bath salts” bill.

Bath salts are legal synthetic stimulants sold in convenience stores and smoke shops. But Rep. John Tilley says the product, often called “Dove,” is being abused. He says prolonged use can lead to paranoia, hallucinations and delusions.

“It produces a bad trip. And dangerous. There have been suicides reported. There have been suicide attempts in Kentucky. No yet reported suicide to my knowledge. Several trips to the ER. Many poison control cases reported. Dangerous drug,” he says.

Tilley’s bill, which passed 94-0, bans the manufacture, distribution and possession of the drug. The measure now heads to the Senate.

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Williams And Rand Discuss Schools, Immigration At Forum

Some of the bills passed by the Kentucky Senate during the opening week of the General Assembly may not move forward in the House. One leading Democrat says several of the GOP’s top pieces of legislation are either nearly dead or unlikely to pass a full vote.

Democratic Representative and House Appropriations Chair Rick Rand appeared opposite Senate President David Williams at the Louisville Forum Wednesday. Williams spoke favorably of several bills that have passed the Republican-led Senate, including the neighborhood schools bill and an Arizona-style immigration bill.

But Rand says the legislation won’t gain much support in the House, and aside from some updates to the budget, this legislative session could be one of impasse.

“It’s going to be, depending on how willing the Senate is to compromise on anything, obviously we’re not going to pass any of them like they are,” he says. “We’re just going to have to wait and see. We just got the bills last Friday.”

Rand says House members are reviewing several GOP bills from the Senate and considering whether to give them committee hearings and whether to modify them.

But Williams is standing by the legislation. He co-sponsored the neighborhood schools bill, which would give students priority enrollment at the schools closest to their homes and would allow charter schools to be established.

Opponents say it would dismantle the JCPS student assignment plan and failing schools in Louisville are already heavily attended by students who live nearby. But Williams says the district can’t help those schools, because officials are distracted by the assignment plan.

“The approach that they’re taking now is failing the children of Jefferson County,” he says. “They’re spending all this money to try to…It’s a charade! Now, diversity is a goal that is worthy, but you can get diversity with magnet schools and other approaches.”

Williams is one of two Republican candidates running for governor. Jefferson County Teachers Association president Brent McKim says Williams’s support of the bill is a political ploy.

“With any assignment plan, you’re never going to have 100% of the parents happy,” says McKim. “Just like any schedule you make for a school year, it interferes with someone’s wedding or someone’s vacation. You’ll never have everyone happy and I think those legitimate frustrations are being preyed upon by Senator Williams.”

The legislation has passed the Republican-led Senate, but House Democrats say it’s unlikely to move forward.

The full forum:

Audio MP3

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House Candidate Powers Ruled Ineligible To Run

Republican state House candidate Gail Powers has been ruled ineligible to seek the 44th District seat.

Judge Irv Maze ruled that one of the signatures on Powers’s petition to run came from a resident of another district.

Powers did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but she told the Courier-Journal she will appeal the decision. Powers must win the appeal for any votes cast for her in November to be counted.

Powers is running against incumbent Democrat Joni Jenkins. The 44th District covers parts of southwest Louisville.

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House Leaders Reveal New Budget Outline

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky House leaders have unveiled the broad outline of a new state spending plan.

The budget proposal depends on a second round of federal stimulus dollars, includes no pay raises, requires no layoffs, but rolls back non-merit positions to 2007 levels. State universities will see two-percent pay cuts in each year of the biennium, says House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

“A lot of people believe that the universities have received quite a bit of money during the last 10 or 12 years.,” he says. “I’m not saying…I mean, they can obviously justify their own budgets. They do need some M&O money.

But Stumbo says they won’t be getting money for capital projects. House Democrats and Republicans have been briefed on the budget outline, as have Senate leaders. A House floor vote on the budget is expected in early March.