Ted Edmonds-State Representative 91st District
It was a bitter disappointment that House and Senate leaders couldn’t arrive at a compromise plan for our two-year state budget last week. We had hoped to have a plan to vote on Friday, but the gap was just too great to close in just one week. As I wrote last week, the House’s plan relies on job creation to help boost our economy, while the Senate focused on cutting spending. All is not lost, though — we have until April 15 to pass a budget in our last two legislative days. Any gubernatorial vetoes would stand, because we couldn’t come back to override them, but that’s a chance worth taking.
We did accomplish a great deal this last week, however. On a number of fronts, we moved to make Kentuckians safer and save the taxpayers’ money.
We passed House Bill 415, which will prohibit drivers under 18 from talking on their cell phone while driving. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for those ages 15-20, with more than 100 young people dying each week. This is partly because they’re still mastering their driving skills, and anything that distracts them from focusing on the road, whether it’s changing the radio station or talking to their friends, can be deadly.
HB 415 will also protect all Kentuckians, because it bans all Kentuckians from using your cell phone from texting or surfing the Internet on your cell phone while driving. Just as with young people talking on their cell phones, looking down to text or read a cell phone screen can be distracting and dangerous. The punishment will be minor — $25 for a first offense, $50 for repeat offenses — and there will only be a courtesy warning until January 1, but it’s an important message to send to our drivers.
HB 265 takes on a subject that’s especially important here in Eastern Kentucky: people who drive while high on drugs. It’s difficult to prosecute them and take away their license, because every drug is different. We don’t have a foolproof system to tell whether they’re impaired, like we do with alcohol. HB 265 will create a “per se” violation, meaning that any amount of prescription or illegal drugs in your system will result in a DUI charge, as long as you aren’t taking them as prescribed by your doctor. Like the previous bill, this could go a long way toward making our streets and highways safer if the governor signs them into law.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll fill you in onmore of the work we’ve done during this legislative session. We’ll return to Frankfort on April 14 for our final two days and one last flurry of bills. Hopefully, the budget will be one of them.
And as always, call me with your thoughts at 1-800-372-7181, or call my office directly at 502-564-8100, ext. 818.