2019 Session Results in Wins for School Safety, Life, and Agriculture
by Rep. Michael Meredith:
During the recently-concluded 2019 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, the General Assembly took action to begin addressing some major issues facing the Commonwealth, like school safety, protecting the life of the unborn, and ensuring our farmers are competing on a level playing field.
Without a doubt, protecting the lives of our unborn children was once again a top priority for us this session. We passed SB 9, which bans abortion after a heartbeat can be detected, HB 5, which bans abortion on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin or disability, and HB 148, which aligns our laws to prohibit abortion should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
We also took action to combat increasing school violence, an effort driven by the tragic shooting at Marshall County High School last year. The School Safety and Resiliency Act lays the groundwork for securing our schools and strengthening our students by setting state goals to provide more trained law enforcement officers and counselors in our schools. SB 1 also focuses on oversight and accountability by appointing a statewide school safety marshal, and increases suicide prevention and active shooter training for personnel, among numerous other steps meant to reduce the risk of violence in our schools. The next step in the effort to secure our schools will come in the 2020 budget, as legislative leaders have already committed to increasing funding to support these new initiatives.
On a personal level, one major issue I focused on this session was protecting a significant part of our agriculture community by ensuring appropriate labeling requirements are in place for “fake meat.” HB 311 was legislation I sponsored which makes consumers aware of how the meat they eat is raised. My bill would prohibit cultured animal meat, which is produced in a lab, from being labeled like regular meat. Instead, it would bear the appropriate label informing consumers how it was created.
Companies are already beginning to experiment with lab-grown meat, which takes stem cells from animal muscle tissue to create fake meat. While not available in stores, this measure will ensure that we are prepared for that coming reality, and that our cattle farmers are protected from misleading labeling on products they did not produce. Our cattle farmers play a critical role in rural economies like ours, and it is important that we look out for them.
I was also pleased to see two measures I sponsored to help our first responders become law. HB 132 enacts stiffer penalties for killing or attempting to kill an EMS worker, in the same manner we have enhanced penalties for those who take the life of a police officer or firefighter.
Meanwhile, HB 273 is another piece of legislation I sponsored to support our firefighters. This legislation creates the Alan “Chip” Terry Professional Development and Wellness Program, aimed specifically at helping these community servants deal with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder that are specifically associated with job-related experiences. This program will be primarily funded out of the Firefighters Foundation Program Fund, and will offer peer support and counseling to both professional and volunteer firefighters.
While these were some of the major issues I worked on this session, I passed a total of eight bills that will soon become law. Other bills of mine included legislation to ensure that safety is prioritized on amusement parks, as well as a bill which gives the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions the ability to better regulate consumer loan companies.
Each of these bills have been signed into law by the Governor and will be in affect by the end of June. It was an honor for me to go to Frankfort this session and work hard to produce results for the 19th House District. I look forward to building on these accomplishments in future years.
Rep. Michael Lee Meredith represents the 19th House District, which includes Edmonson and part of Warren 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 Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov