Friday, February 27, 2015

Lawmakers pass variety of legislation Thursday

Senate passes bill banning Internet sweepstakes
Online sweepstakes offered across Kentucky at businesses advertised as “Internet cafes” would be outlawed under legislation unanimously passed by the state Senate Thursday.

Known as Senate Bill 28, the legislation would make it clear in the law that so-called Internet cafes are illegal, said sponsor Sen. Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green). The cafes are for-profit businesses that sell Internet access for a chance to play computer-based, casino-style games, or sweepstakes, in which customers can win cash prizes.

Supporters of SB 28 said Internet cafes are located in buildings that contain banks of computers with Internet access. Each purchase at the cafe entitles a customer to a certain number of sweepstakes entries. The customer then determines whether the sweepstakes entries are winners by logging onto a computer.

Officials from Kentucky cities previously testified that they have seen an increase in these businesses throughout the state, often in cities bordering Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio – states that have cracked down on such business.

Senate unanimously passes new ‘fracking’ regs
The state Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation that would modernize Kentucky’s regulations on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as “fracking,” for the first time in more than two decades.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 186, would mandate energy companies notify nearby landowners of any planned fracking process, clean up the well before abandoning it and disclose of the chemicals used in the fracking process, said Sen. Julian M. Carroll (D-Frankfort), the sponsor of the bill. He added that the bill would apply to new drilling operations.

“We haven’t really changed our laws or regulations in 20 years,” said Carroll. “During that time, technology has advanced that could essentially make Kentucky energy independent if we will go after our (energy) reserves. We are already doing that in the area of gas. This moves us in that direction with oil.”

Similar legislation passed the state House unanimously on Wednesday. The House bill, HB 386, is sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook).

Fracking is an oil and gas well development process that typically involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into a bedrock formation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The technique is used commonly in low-permeability rocks like tight sandstone, shale and some coal beds to release oils and gasses.

Tom Fitzgerald, director of the nonprofit environmental advocacy group Kentucky Resources Council, previously testified that he supported the bill. Carroll said during a floor speech that a key to getting Fitzgerald’s support was to include language in the bill that would require baseline water quality testing before any new fracking could begin. Those tests would be followed with additional water sampling once operations begin in order to monitor drilling impacts to local water sources.

Sen. Jared Carpenter (R-Berea), who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, said the legislation is the product of a year’s worth of work by officials at the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. He added that the legislation is also backed by the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association.

Carpenter said the legislation would ensure “continued energy growth in Kentucky.”

Gold Star Siblings license plate bill advances
A bill to create a Gold Star Siblings special license plate for Kentuckians whose brother or sister died in active U.S. military service has passed the state House.

House Bill 209, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park) and Rep. Tanya Pullin (D-South Shore) advanced to the Senate on a vote of 94-0.

The bill “allows siblings who have lost their loved ones in active service in the military, in the service of this country, to honor them with a Gold Star Siblings license plate much the same as a Gold Star Spouse, Gold Star Mother, Gold Star Father license plate” which are already available in Kentucky, said St. Onge.

The initial fee for a Gold Star Siblings license plate would be $25 and the renewal fee would be $20, with $10 of the initial fee and $5 of the renewal fee dedicated to the state’s Veterans’ Program Trust Fund, according to HB 209. Proof of eligibility for the plate would be determined by the state Transportation Cabinet regulation.

HB 209 would take effect Jan. 1, 2016 if it becomes law.

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