Politics & Government

Legislative briefing

SENATE CONSIDERS MINE SAFETY BILL

A measure intended to take some of the danger out of working in underground coal mines could clear the Senate by Monday, a key lawmaker said yesterday. Tom Jensen, R-London, said he expects the legislation, which was unanimously approved by the House earlier this week, to undergo a few modifications. Jensen, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, met with coalfield legislators, industry representatives and safety advocates over the past two days and found substantial agreement. The measure was assigned to Jensen's committee. "I think we'll get something out," he said. The measure would increase the number of state inspections at underground coal mines and provide methane detectors to all miners so that they can monitor for buildups of the explosive gas. Key provisions would require two medics to be on duty at underground mines and increase the number of state inspections from three to a minimum of six per year. Ventilation fans would have to stay on at all times unless they were undergoing maintenance, and a vehicle would have to be kept near working crews so that injured miners can get to the surface quickly.

PANEL APPROVES BAN ON ALCOHOL VAPORIZER

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill yesterday that would outlaw sale or ownership of an alcohol vaporizer device to consume alcoholic beverages. "It's the latest trend. We want to stop it in its tracks," Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat who is the sponsor of House Bill 125, told the committee. The device -- called Alcohol Without Liquid or AWOL -- allows users to inhale alcohol through it rather than drinking alcohol in its liquid form. So far, 21 states have banned the device and more are considering it. Westrom's proposed ban would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to sell or own one of the devices except for certain health institutions. The measure now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.

AG'S OPINION SOUGHT ON PARTNER BENEFITS

Two state legislators requested a state Attorney General's opinion yesterday on whether domestic partner benefits violate the Kentucky Constitution. Assistant Attorney General Robert S. Jones said he would seek comment from interested parties through March 30. The request came from House Majority Whip Stan Lee, R-Lexington, and Tom Burch, D-Louisville, chairman of the House Health & Welfare Committee. On Wednesday, the committee reached an 8-8 deadlock and thus killed Senate Bill 152, which would have prohibit domestic partner benefits for employees of state agencies. U of L offers domestic partner benefits; UK is considering doing so.

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