Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kentucky Supreme Court reviews Floyd County bullying case

(AP)- The Kentucky Supreme Court has heard arguments in a case delving into whether teachers and school administrators can be found negligent for the suicide of a bullied student.

The case stems from the 2007 suicide of Stephen Patton, a middle school student in Floyd County. His mother sued teachers and administrators, claiming they were negligent by failing to stop the bullying.

In arguments Wednesday, an attorney for Patton's family said the boy was bullied in front of teachers. The attorney, Vanessa Cantley, said school officials failed to follow the school district's anti-bullying policy.

Neal Smith, representing some of the defendants, says no one knows why the youngster killed himself. He says Patton never complained of bullying to school officials.

Patton's family is appealing after losing in circuit court and the state Court of Appeals.

Ford recalls 213,000 police vehicles and 6,500 ambulances

Ford is recalling about 213,000 police vehicles in North America to fix springs that may not keep doors closed in a crash.

The recall affects Ford Explorer and Police Interceptor utility vehicles from the 2011 through 2013 model years.

The company traced the problem to a spring that controls the interior door handles. The spring can become unseated and may become unlatched in a side-impact crash, increasing the risk of injury.

Ford said it doesn't know of any crashes or injuries from the problem.

Dealers will inspect all four doors and fix or replace the handles if needed, free of charge.

Ford also is recalling about 6,500 Super Duty ambulance and emergency vehicles from 2011 through 2015 with 6.7-Liter diesel engines. The exhaust gas temperature sensors can malfunction.

Justices seem divided over EPA mercury limits

The Supreme Court appears divided in a dispute over the Obama administration's first-ever regulations aimed at reducing power plant emissions.

The focus of the case is on mercury and other hazardous air pollutants that contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

The justices heard argument Wednesday in a challenge brought by industry groups and Republican-led states to the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to take action against coal- and oil-fired power plants that are responsible for half the nation's output of mercury.

Several conservative justices questioned whether EPA should have taken costs into account when it first decided to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants, or whether health risks are the only consideration. The EPA did factor in costs at a later stage when it wrote standards to reduce the toxic emissions.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Senate panel aims to heighten safety with booster seat bill

FRANKFORT – The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously approved a booster seat bill today.

House Bill 315, as amended by the committee, requires booster seats to be used by children who are less than eight and are between 40 and 57 inches in height. HB 315 also clarifies that a child of any age who is over 57 inches in height shall not be required to be in a booster seat.

Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, who sponsored the bill, said it just adds an additional year and seven inches to the current state law.

“The reasons we need to do this is because all the interested groups – like engineers, medical professionals and car manufacturers – tell us that our current height limit is just wrong,” Riggs said. “It needs to be fixed.”

He said the seat belt does not correctly fit across the shoulder and lap of a child who is less than 57 inches. Riggs said the seat belt goes across the neck and abdomen of children who are shorter than that.

“Right now our law is telling our parents to do this incorrectly,” he said. “We have to fix the law.”

Riggs said all of the states neighboring Kentucky have adopted the new height limit.

Bill Bell, director of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, brought his young son, Ryder, to demonstrate to committee members how booster seats do not properly protect children under 57 inches.

Lexington police officer Brandon Muravchick also testified in support of HB 315. He was 8 when he was riding in a vehicle that wrecked in Frankfort. Muravchick said the seat belt he was wearing likely saved his life but caused internal injuries because he was under 57 inches in height.

“I just had my tenth surgery in 2012,” he said, “which hospitalized me when I was in the police academy in Lexington. I’m still having issues from this wreck 25 year later. It’s very important the seat belt fits properly. The booster seat does that.”

HB 315 has already been approved by the state House and received its first reading in the Senate.

KSP Searching for Person of Interest in Vehicle Theft

The Kentucky State Police, Pikeville Post, is looking for a person of interest wanted for questioning in a recent car theft.

In the early morning hours of March 11, 2015, a 2003 Tan GMC Sonoma pickup truck, bearing license plate 167KWB, was stolen from a residence on Maple Road in the Harold community.  Trooper Bryan Lane responded to the residence, and through investigation, was able to obtain a picture depicting a person of interest regarding the incident. Kentucky State Police is asking if anyone has any information as to the identity of this individual, please contact the Kentucky State Police Post 09, Pikeville at (606) 433-7711 or toll free at 1-800-222-5555.  Callers can remain anonymous.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by Trooper Bryan Lane.

Child abuse prevention bill amended with ‘snow days’ provisions, returned to Senate

FRANKFORT—A bill to require child abuse prevention and reporting training in Kentucky’s public schools and allow “snow days” to be waived in school districts hardest hit by this winter’s storms was approved today by the House.

SB 119, sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, was passed by the Senate last month to require school administrators, teachers, office state, teaching assistants, coaches and other employed by a school district to receive child abuse and neglect prevention, recognition and reporting training through the state by Jan. 31, 2017 then every two years thereafter. Those hired after Jan. 31, 2017 would be required to complete the training within 90 days of being hired, then every two years.

The House adopted those provisions (which mirror language in HB 301, passed by the House 94-0 last month) after adding the “snow days” provisions to the bill. Those provisions would give school districts until June 5 to complete all 1,062 school instructional hours required by the state. Any remaining hours that cannot be made up could be waived by the state.

The adding provisions also clarify that instructional days cannot exceed 7 hours, cannot include Saturdays, and that school districts can be open on primary election day if no school in a district is used as a polling place.

“It’s … the exact same bill that the House and Senate agreed upon last year when we came upon this same problem,” according to House Education Committee Chair Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, who presented the amendment for a vote. 

Speaking in opposition to the amendment was Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, who was concerned that considerable instructional time is being lost in some districts.

“If we’re going to demand that our kids go to school and that every high school diploma is the same everywhere, then we need to figure out how to make sure these kids are able to go to school for the full term every year,” said Koenig.

School instructional time waivers were allowed last school year with the passage of HB 211 by the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly.

The snow days waiver provisions in SB 119 include an emergency clause, which would make those provisions effective immediately should SB 119 become law.

The bill passed the House on an 87-8 vote. It now goes back to the Senate for consideration of the changes the House made to the legislation.

Bill to define bees, address dog fighting returns to Senate for vote

FRANKFORT—Provisions to combat dog fighting were attached by the House today to a Senate agriculture bill.

Dog fighting is already illegal in Kentucky, but supporters of the House amendment say additional steps should be taken to prosecute those engaged in it. The amendment would classify the ownership, breeding, training, selling, possessing, or transferring or four-legged animals—including dogs—for the purpose of fighting as first-degree cruelty to animals.

Kentucky is the only state in the nation that does not regulate dog fighting like every other state,” said Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, the sponsor of the amendment that was attached by a vote of 62-33 to Senate Bill 143.

Jenkins said that the amended bill would not affect legal activities involving dogs including field trials, hunting, dog training, and other legal activities.

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, asked the House to rule on whether the amendment was relevant, or “germane,” to SB 143. House Speaker Greg Stumbo ruled that the amendment is relevant, stating that dogs are used in agriculture. That ruling was or challenged, by Hoover and Rep. Tommy Turner, R-Somerset, and the ruling stood by a vote of 43-55. Other challenges to the amendment were also defeated.

Among those lawmakers opposing the amendment and voting against the bill was Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson. York said she feels the amendment could impact legal activities, such as hunting.

“I suppose everyone in here recognizes the need to protect our animals from being used in a perverse fighting environment. The trouble is that while our intentions are pure, I believe that, in this instance, our words are flawed and inadequate,” said York.

The amended version of SB 143 retains the original provisions of the legislation, which would define bees as “livestock” under Kentucky law. SB 143 is sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville.

SB 143 was returned to the Senate by House members on a 75-13 vote.