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Legislative issues include battlefield preservation, hemp and veterans

By DANIEL ELLIOTT

Guest columnist

The number of bills introduced in the House ticked past the 260 mark this week, with several proposals — some new, some familiar — progressing through committee as the 2020 regular session gains momentum.

I will soon file a bill that would create a Civil War battlefield preservation trust fund in order to protect and expand our historic battlefield properties in Kentucky. The Perryville Battlefield is America’s most intact battlefield. Similar preservation trust funds already exist in Tennessee and Virginia.

One proposal would update Kentucky’s hemp statutes, necessitated by the end of the state’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program in 2019. New policies and procedures are expected as Kentucky hemp growers begin a new stage of commercial hemp production this year with a few policy changes proposed in House Bill 236, approved by the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

The legislation — which supporters see as critical to the state’s growing hemp industry — would remove most references to the former research pilot program while adding language clarifying procedures for testing and transport of hemp in the commonwealth. It would also clarify licensing requirements for those who grow, handle, process or market hemp, among other provisions.

The well-being of Kentucky’s military veterans and the organizations that support them also received legislative attention mid-week, as a bill that would give a tax break to certain veteran service organizations was approved in committee and sent to the full House for consideration.

HB 36, approved by the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee on Wednesday, would create a property tax exemption for veteran service organizations — such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion—if the group spends over 50 percent of its annual net income for the benefit of veterans, or on other charitable needs. Legislation benefiting veterans is usually widely supported by Kentucky lawmakers, although it may take several weeks for any final action to be taken on the bill. 

These are but a few of the legislative proposals that the House may choose to take action on in the days ahead as state lawmakers and other state officials roll out their session agendas this month. It was last Tuesday in joint legislative session that Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled his legislative agenda for his first session as governor, identifying education, criminal justice reform, and finding new revenue to pay down state pension liabilities as some of his top goals.

No legislation was considered during this week’s meeting of the House Transportation Committee, but members heard an important update from new Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray on the Real ID program. This program has been in progress for more than a decade and was created in response to federal homeland security laws passed following increased worldwide terrorist threats.

Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards will be available in regional offices in Bowling Green, Paducah and Somerset by the end of next week. A total of 12 regional offices are planned for the initial statewide roll-out, with the remaining locations to include Manchester, Jackson, Prestonsburg, Morehead, Florence, Elizabethtown, Madisonville, Louisville and Lexington. A central office is located in Frankfort and, according to Gray, more offices may be added.

 

Daniel Elliott is the state representative for Boyle and Casey counties. To comment on a bill being considered by the state legislature, call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181.