FRANKFORT — Voters next year will be asked to amend the Kentucky Constitution to protect the right to hunt and fish, under one of dozens of bills the legislature gave final approval to on Friday.
"The citizens of Kentucky have the personal right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife using traditional methods," the proposed amendment in House Bill 1 reads in part.
Critics said the amendment isn't necessary because nobody is threatening Kentuckians' right to hunt and fish.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said HB 1 would prevent animal-rights groups from challenging state-authorized hunts in Kentucky used to manage the wildlife population. Groups including the Animal Protection League and Bear Education and Resource Group have sued to prevent hunts elsewhere.
Other sponsors said the measure reflects bipartisan concern in Frankfort following President Barack Obama's health care reform law and what some people see as overreaching by the federal government. The right to hunt and fish might be targeted by the federal government in the future, they said.
Earlier this week, Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council warned lawmakers that a constitutional "right to hunt" could lead to people hunting in state nature preserves or city parks and suing if anyone tried to stop them.
On Friday, FitzGerald said the Senate later helped resolve that by adding clarifying language. Hunters could not ignore state or local laws about wildlife management, trespassing, property rights or commercial regulation, under the addition by the Senate.
Still, FitzGerald said, the measure seems unnecessary.
"In 33 years, I have never seen the General Assembly act arbitrarily to deny people the ability to hunt or fish," FitzGerald said.
HB 1 was just one of many bills to breeze through the House and Senate chambers on the 27th day of the 30-day legislative session. Most are headed to Gov. Steve Beshear to be signed into law, although a few, like the hunting and fishing amendment, need no further action.
Other successful measures included:
■ House Bill 333 will allow the sale of consumer fireworks in Kentucky, but only by registered dealers. Currently, some retailers sell fireworks that contain a mortar or that shoot from a tube by getting customers to sign a waiver stating they will not ignite the fireworks inside Kentucky. But that prohibition is rarely followed or enforced.
■ House Bill 310, letting the University of Kentucky use a kind of tax break called "tax increment financing" to help spur a multi-use development at its slow-growing Coldstream Research Campus.
■ House Bill 121, banning several related combinations of chemicals — hallucinogenic drugs — that go by street names such as "Hurricane Charlie" and "Red Dove." The drugs are labeled misleadingly as bath salts, plant food or inspect repellent.
■ House Bill 308, requiring Kentucky to notify the FBI when a court commits someone to a mental institution or otherwise finds him or her mentally incompetent. The FBI will add those people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used by federally licensed gun dealers to screen customers.
■ House Bill 52, prohibiting anyone accused of abuse or neglect of an elderly person from inheriting that person's estate.
■ Senate Bill 8, requiring the secretary of state to set up a one-stop Web site for businesses to interact with state agencies.
■ Senate Bill 12, allowing the superintendent to appoint a school principal after consulting with the school-based decision-making council.
■ Senate Bill 24, directing the governor to set up an interstate compact to allow for participation in live pari-mutuel horse racing and wagering.
However, several notable bills appeared dead for the session for lack of further action.
Most prominent among the seemingly lost bills was Senate Bill 45, which would have required doctors' prescriptions to buy cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used to make methamphetamine.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and others urged the legislature to pass SB 45, but they were matched by a fierce lobbying campaign by the pharmaceutical industry. The bill spent one full month on the Senate floor because senators could not reach an agreement on whether it was necessary. It never left that chamber.
Lawmakers also let die two proposals aimed at preventing and investigating abuse of nursing home patients. Senate Bill 44 would have required nursing homes to conduct criminal background checks on all employees. House Bill 69 would have required nursing homes to report all deaths to the local coroner. Neither bill received its first committee vote.