A 1/2 Shoe Session: The 2006 Regular Legislative Session Wrap-Up

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A 1/2 Shoe Session: The 2006 Regular Legislative Session Wrap-Up  Posted: April 14, 2006

2006 REGULAR SESSION WRAP-UP: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

At midnight on the 60th legislative day of the 2006 General Assembly Regular Session, the House and Senate adjourned sine die until January, 2007.

Below is KRC?s report card on the significant environmental, conservation, consumer and general government bills that were tracked by the Council during the 2006 session.

A ½ Shoe Session

As has been the case since 1978, KRC Director Tom FitzGerald’s shoes have been the barometers of the General Assembly’s actions. When the legislature takes significant steps towards improving environmental protection, the shoes are shined. They have been shined only twice in the past 28 years – in 1991, at the enactment of comprehensive solid waste reform, and again in 2002 to mark the enactment of merchant power plant siting legislation and creation of a durable funding mechanism for open dump cleanup and litter education.

This session could have been a 2-shoe session, but instead has been reduced to a 1/2 shoe session because of several negative actions taken in enacting or failing to enact several bills that overshadowed many positive steps taken during the session in public health and environmental protection.

First, The Good

Several positive bills were passed during the session which mark incremental progress on environmental protection and public health:

* a bill allowing primary enforcement of seat belt laws and requiring that children 16 and under wear helmets when using ATVs (HB 117);

* strengthening of the reporting of blood lead contamination and of action levels for lead abatement (HB 117);

* tightening of certification requirements for mine-related blasters (SB 137), blasting penalties (SB 138), and underground mine safety (SB 200);

* a bill allowing more flexibility in the Pride Fund for addressing household hazardous waste and recycling programs (SB 50);

* reauthorization of the Hazardous Waste Assessment Fund until 2008 (SB 75)

* reauthorization of the waste tire fee program until 2010 (HB 145);

* an emergency appropriation of $10 million to support low income energy assistance programs (HB 283);

* tightening of penalty assessment for violators of water well drilling certification requirements; (HB 383)

* slight strengthening of enforcement provisions for forestry program (HB 450);

* budget language allowing the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet to increase salaries for engineers and mine inspectors if needed, and allowing permit blocking up the corporate ladder for outlaw coal companies; and

* creation of a Land Stewardship and Conservation Task Force to study strategies for protection of natural areas, farmlands, habitats and forests.


And several proposals were defeated that would have adversely affected environmental quality or public health, including:


* a bill that would have ended the Louisville air toxics program (SB 39);

* a proposed constitutional amendment to limit recovery of damages in medical malpractice cases (SB 1);

* several proposals for strict cost-benefit analyses of all regulations;

* a bill that would have moved venue for numerous agency appeals from Franklin Circuit Court to other courts around the state ( SB 257);

* a bill that would allow multi-resin and multi-layer plastic bottles to be labeled as #1 or #2 plastic (HB 574);

* a “right to work” bill intended to undercut union shops, and a companion bill to eliminate prevailing wage laws;

* a resolution that would have created a “pilot program” for cutting trees in order to increase billboard visibility (HJR 202); and

* several bills that would have eliminated local ordinances protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation.


The Bad – Opportunities Missed


Unfortunately, several important measures that would have enhanced environmental protection and public health did not receive a hearing or did not receive favorable action by both chambers, including:

* a resolution that would require emergency action plans to be adopted for all high hazard and significant hazard dams (HJR 193), which the full Senate failed to act on;

* a bill to require better management and planning for surface coal mine disposal of excess spoil material and would have reduced the impacts of construction of valley fills (HB 83), which the House committee chair did not post for a hearing;

* a bill that would have established remediation procedures and standards for properties and homes contaminated from methamphetamine labs (HB 591); and

* a bill that would enhance enforcement of overweight coal truck laws by requiring reporting by shippers and receivers of coal (HB 560), which did not receive a hearing from the House committee.


The Ugly – Actions Taken That Undercut Which Might Have Been a Good Session


The enactment of a bill that will deregulate local telephone services without accountability (HB 337) overshadowed the good accomplished in the area of environmental and public protection this session, and cast a pall over what would otherwise have been a good session. HB 337 is perhaps the most irresponsible bill that KRC has seen since we began actively lobbying on environmental and public protection measures in 1984. The Senate sullied an otherwise positive record this session by passing this bill while foregoing chances to amend the bill to cure its most serious flaws after the House failed to do so.

The Governor has the opportunity to veto this anti-consumer bill and protect rural Kentuckians and vulnerable consumers who will take it on the chin in a deregulated marketplace dominated by two telecom giants.

Several budget items likewise cast a shadow over this session. Once again, the Governor proposed and the legislature accepted a raid on the Petroleum Storage Tank Fund in order to help balance the budget – with the result that, as occurred during this last biennium, contaminated properties will not be cleaned up as intended and individuals will not be reimbursed in a timely manner for removal and remediation of underground storage tank sites. This supposedly dedicated fund has become a cash cow, and the failure to leave sufficient funds in the program to meet the needs is a continuing problem.

Also, without consulting the agency, the Governor proposed and the legislature agreed to raid the Kentucky Pride Fund, removing $18 million dollars that was scheduled to be used to begin closure of old orphan landfills that remain a threat to groundwater around the state. The loss of these funds will slow closure of these contaminated properties.

Adding insult to injury, the Senate removed $875,000 in accrued interest from that fund from the 2006 budget that had been earmarked for an environmental education program to be held at several state universities this summer for teachers.

For all of you who helped this session, making calls, visiting your legislators, writing to the newspapers, and otherwise, KRC extends a heartfelt thanks. Your efforts did help to make a difference in the lives of fellow Kentuckians, and to improve our natural and built environment.

KRC extends our very best wishes and prayers to the Moberly family as Rep. Moberly recuperates from his heart surgery, and we extend our sympathies and prayers to those legislators who lost parents and other family during this session. We extend also our appreciation to the LRC staff for their dedicated service to this Commonwealth and it’s citizens.

By Kentucky Resources Council on 04/14/2006 5:32 PM
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