FRANKFORT — A bill that would fine businesses $500 for interfering with a woman who breast-feeds in public was approved by a House committee Thursday, but might be tweaked before it comes to a vote in the House.
Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, said she co-sponsored House Bill 214 after a woman in Berea was asked to stop breast-feeding her child at a McDonalds in August. Kentucky already has a law that allows breast-feeding in public. However, there are no consequences for businesses or individuals who try to stop mothers from breast-feeding, Flood said.
"This would give the law more teeth," Flood said during a House Health and Welfare Committee meeting Thursday.
Rep. David Watkins, D-Henderson, a doctor, applauded the legislation, adding that nearly all medical studies show that breast-feeding is good for infants and women.
"We should be encouraging all of our young ladies to breast-feed," Watkins said.
Flood said that a woman who felt she was harassed could report the crime to the local health department or the attorney general's office. Repeat offenders could be fined as much as $1,000.
Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, said he was concerned that there was no way for a business to appeal the decision. The term harassment means different things to different people, Owens said. "I have concerns about unintended consequences."
Flood and co-sponsor Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, agreed to look at tweaking language in the bill to ensure that there was an appeal process before it is sent to the House for a vote.
Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, has filed a similar bill in the Senate. However, the fines in the Senate bill are not as steep — $100 for the first offense and $200 for a second offense. That bill has been sent to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.