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Monday, June 24, 2013

Kentucky's Slew Of New Laws Take Effect Next Week Tuesday.

New Kentucky laws start July 1

New Kentucky laws

Here are some of the other bills that take effect Tuesday:
Child protection: HB 290 puts into state law an independent review panel to investigate cases of deaths and near-fatal injuries. The panel will have access to complete records of law enforcement and the Cabinet for health and Family Services.
DNA testing: HB 41 will give some felony offenders in prison the ability to get DNA tests to establish their innocence. Currently post conviction DNA tests are available only in death penalty cases.
Hemp: SB 50 create an administrative framework for the growing of hemp in Kentucky if the crop is legalized by the federal government.
Human trafficking: HB 3 increases penalties for persons convicted of trafficking and creates a fund for programs to help victims.
Dropout Bill: SB 97 will let school districts increase the compulsory attendance age to 18 beginning in the 2015 school year. The 18-year-old compulsory age will become mandatory statewide four years after 55 percent of Kentucky school districts adopt it.
Teacher evaluations: HB 180 will require the Kentucky Board of Education to establish a statewide evaluation system for all teachers and other certified personnel. The Department of Education must put the new system in place before the 2014-15 school year.
Coyote hunting: HB 60 will allow people to hunt coyotes at night using lights and night-vision equipment outside of deer season.
Election Day alcohol: SB 13 will allow alcohol sales while polls are open in places where alcohol sales are allowed otherwise and unless they are restricted by local government.

FRANKFORT, KY. — Starting Tuesday, people convicted of human trafficking in Kentucky will face tough new penalties; more prisoners will be able to use DNA tests to appeal their convictions; and hunters can pursue coyotes at night.
Also, Kentucky’s longstanding ban on alcohol sales while polls are open comes to an end just in time for a special election in Woodford County.

Those are among the changes coming as 110 bills passed by the 2013 General Assembly take effect — 90 days after adjournment of a productive and unusually harmonious session.
The one discordant note dividing Gov. Steve Beshear and lawmakers came from HB 279 — known as the Religious Freedom Bill — which legislators approved and Beshear vetoed. The House and Senate promptly overrode that veto by wide margins, so it too becomes law on Tuesday.

The bill says laws and regulations can’t “substantially” burden someone’s “sincerely held religious belief” unless there is a proven compelling governmental interest in doing so.
Proponents, including the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, said the measure was necessary to assure government has a compelling reason before it interferes with a citizen acting on his or her religious beliefs. But opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, argued it could legalize discrimination.

People on both sides of the debate over the say they know of no emerging case where someone plans to use its expansion of religious rights to defy the government — though participants in a pending Lexington case involving a company that refused to print T-shirts for a gay-rights group say the bill could become an issue in that case.
“We hope that nobody will use this bill to discriminate,” said Michael Aldridge, executive director of the Kentucky ACLU. “Until then we will monitor the situation closely and take action as necessary.”

The Rev. Pat Delahanty, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, said, “I don’t know what will happen. What I hope happens is that before the state infringes on anybody’s ability to practice their faith that it follows this law and proves it has a compelling reason to do so and uses the least restrictive means.”

 Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement that he is sure the bill will be tested. “I still have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintended consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and an individuals’ civil rights,” Beshear said. “I expect the bill will lead to costly litigation.”

Concerns about fairness

The largest concern expressed by civil liberties and gay-rights groups was that the bill could prompt business owners and other individuals to defy “fairness” laws in four Kentucky cities that prohibit anti-gay discrimination.
“There is some fear that people will try to use this law to discriminate by saying, ‘I shouldn’t have to serve someone in my restaurant because my religious beliefs say that I don’t have to serve gay people; or I shouldn’t have to employ a gay person at my business, or I shouldn’t have to rent or sell a home to someone because they are lesbian,’” Aldridge said. “And it would be up to a local judge to determine that.”

Paul Brown, president of Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, of Lexington, said he expects the new law to be invoked in a high-profile case that his group brought against a Lexington business before the city’s human rights commission.
The organization filed the complaint last year after Hands On Originals refused print T-shirts advertising the group’s annual pride festival.

Hands On Originals argued that it is a Christian company and disagreed with the message on the T-shirt. The Lexington human rights commission found probable cause of a violation of its fairness ordinance but will not decide the case until after a final hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
“We think there’s a strong possibility the opposing side will bring up the new law — that this may be the first instance where it is invoked,” Brown said. “I’m not an attorney and I’m not sure what the new law will mean.”
 
Jim Campbell, an attorney with the national organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Hands On Originals, said he’s not sure how the bill might affect the case.

But, “Given that it’s a bill that protects the rights of citizens to live and do business in accordance with their faith, it certainly is something that would tend to strengthen Hands On Originals’ position,” Campbell said.
Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation, said he hopes the new law affects the outcome of the Hands On Originals case.
“That had nothing to do with discriminating against a gay person. That’s a case which involved forcing a private business to engage in activity that promotes something that they disagree with,” Cothran said.

Delahanty said he respects the concerns of opponents, but believes they are unfounded — he said he doesn’t know of any case elsewhere in which a religious freedom law was used to overturn a fairness ordinance.
The best illustration for the need for the new law, Delahanty said, may be a tough immigration bill that was proposed in 2011.
“That bill made it a (crime) for doing anything that enticed an undocumented person to come to Kentucky or encouraged them to say,” Delahanty said, noting that if it had passed, a person acting on religious beliefs to help an undocumented person could invoke the Religious Freedom Bill.
Given the immigration law did not pass, Delahanty said, “I don’t know how or when this new bill will apply, but I’m glad we have it.”

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