Public Safety Issues Receive Legislative Attention
Representative Bart Rowland
We’ve officially hit the halfway mark of the 2019 legislative session, with much accomplished even as significant activity remains.
In the House of Representatives, this past week was a banner week for a cause not only important to me – but also critical to the safety and protection of Kentucky families. Public safety took a large, bipartisan step forward as multiple bills began moving through the General Assembly that are designed to protect children from obscene crimes, consumers from scans, and some of our most vulnerable citizens from harm.
Nothing is more of a pressing issue for the General Assembly at this point in time than school safety. The School Safety and Resiliency Act took another monumental step forward this past week, advancing through the House Education Committee and to the full House for consideration. I am proud to support this measure, which secures our schools and strengthens our students with a comprehensive approach.
We also passed House Bill 375 – a measure which would require wireless providers to give call location information to emergency responders, upon request, when there is a risk of death or serious injury. Widely known as “pinging,” this measure would give law enforcement more tools to respond to emergency situations by informing them of the general location of a missing person based on where they last received a cell phone signal. HB 375 was inspired by the tragic death of Leah Carter of Monroe County, who drowned after being swept away by rising flood waters. It took searchers five days to locate her.
Likewise, public safety measures like HB 298 and HB 130 moved through the House Judiciary Committee and will soon move on to the Senate. HB 298 stiffens penalties for the possession and distribution of child pornography that display minors under the age of 12, attacking a troubling trend of using young children for criminal purposes. Meanwhile, HB 130 expands the definition of terroristic threatening and raises the penalty for this crime to a Class C felony when an individual is caught preparing to carry out a threat, such as loading guns or ammunition in preparation of the crime.
On the consumer protection front, legislation also passed the House that cracks down on telemarketers who engage in “spoofing,” which involves a person misrepresenting their real phone number by disguising themselves under a local number. HB 84 prohibits this practice, and increases fines for multiple offenses.
One more bill designed to provide increasing protections for the most vulnerable children of our society was passed by the House on a bipartisan basis. House Bill 158 makes a series of reforms to child welfare, including strengthening the reporting of abuse, neglect, or dependency of children by a caretaker. This measure also establishes a comprehensive “Bill of Rights” for foster children, in order to ensure that children in state care are adequately taken care of and do not slip through the cracks of our society.
Bills designed to strengthen our reporting systems for missing disabled persons as well as missing veterans also passed the House this past week. HB 150 creates a “Golden Alert” System to notify the public through the news media and highway signs when an impaired individual goes missing, while HB 180 includes missing or at-risk veterans within a Golden Alert, identifying them separately as a “Green Alert.”
I’m proud to have supported critical public safety issues during this legislative session, which will strengthen our communities and protect families. As we enter the final few weeks of the 2019 session, I will continue to keep you informed about progress on issues of importance. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your thoughts on issues we should address.
Rep. Rowland represents the 21st House District, which includes Hardin, Hart, Metcalfe, and Monroe Counties. Contact him with any questions, concerns, or advice. He can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or via e-mail at email@example.com