All I am saying is: Good news and some pandering in laws

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By John Whitlock

In this week’s News-Herald, you can read a story outlining some of the new laws that will soon go into effect in Kentucky on June 25.
From my days covering the General Assembly, I learned that some laws are simply passed to appease a certain group or to make a political statement.
This year, the General Assembly enacted several new laws that will truly help the people of the commonwealth.
Here are some of my thoughts on some of the new laws:
• House Bill 290 will make investigations into child fatalities or serious injuries to a minor much more transparent and subject to review.
When it comes to protecting children and making sure mistakes or preventable incidents don’t reoccur, this measure was desperately needed. By making investigations more open and records more accessible, hopefully we can prevent tragedies in the future.
• The Bryan Durman Act, which honors a Lexington police officer who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2010, will make sure that a person convicted of killing a firefighter or police officer in the line of duty serves at least 85 percent of their sentence.
Our first-responders must have confidence that the people of Kentucky are doing whatever they can to ensure their safety. Hopefully, this bill will give criminals pause before they act.
• Senate Bill 50 puts in place a framework for the growth of industrial hemp if the crop is legalized by the federal government.
I’m really proud the General Assembly passed this bill. So many times in the political world, people are afraid to take just the smallest step toward progress. This bill shows that the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its people are ready to look forward. This bill is in the best interest of Kentucky farmers and will show the federal government that even in a state that can be as “red” as Kentucky, growing hemp for industrial purposes is an idea whose time has returned.
• House Bill 164 allows people to use electronic insurance cards on their smart phones or other electronic devices as proof of motor vehicle insurance.
In this technological age we live in, this seems like an easy proposition. I use my phone for just about everything and it’s never far out of reach.
My only thing that leaves me scratching my head on this issue is that the General Assembly will still require drivers to keep paper insurance cards in their vehicles.
Doesn’t that make the new law kinda useless?
• House Bill 279 states “government shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be substantially burdened unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.”
Now, I don’t think the government should be in the business of interfering with religion but has this been a problem in Kentucky?
I also find it interesting that the General Assembly has given itself an “out” with the phrase “compelling governmental interest.”
The whole bill seems to address a problem that doesn’t exist in commonwealth and is simply pandering to certain constituency.
• Senate Bill 97 give local school districts the ability to set the dropout age at 18 after the 2014-2015 school year.
This is really a great step forward in returning control of local school districts to the communities.
I also appreciate that the General Assembly worked out a deal that would make the dropout age 18 across the state if 55 percent of school districts make the change.
This is a great way to gauge the interest on a statewide level while not initially handing down a mandate from Frankfort.
Despite the fact that the General Assembly left several important issues on the table, the people of Kentucky should be happy with what was accomplished during this year’s short legislative session.