by Rep. Michael Lee Meredith:
We are in the final stretch of the Regular Session and the House has been hard at work to better Kentucky. We passed measures this week that will modernize Kentucky’s driver’s license program, increase the safety of our coal miners, and provide students with access to more choice in education.
House Bill 410 passed the House, which aims to modernize our state’s driver’s license program. This measure would ensure that Kentuckians are able to keep their standard driver’s license while also allowing an individual to receive a federally compliant ID. This was a necessary piece of legislation to make sure Kentucky complies with federal law. The bill provides the means for those who want or need a federally vetted ID to obtain one, while protecting people who do not want a federally vetted driver’s license. The travel ID allows individuals to get onto TSA controlled airplanes without a passport, and into federal base installations. I supported this measure as it directly impacts our region with our proximity to Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. I want to stress that this new travel ID is completely optional, but available to any Kentuckian that seeks to apply for it.
The House also passed a measure, which I was proud to support, that changes the underground mine inspection process to improve miner safety and lessen injuries on the job. House Bill 384 will reduce the number of required annual inspections, in exchange for allowing the Department of Mine Safety to use inspection resources for actual safety measures, such as correcting human error. Behavioral issues, or human error, are responsible for 94 percent of underground mine injuries. It is imperative we provide the department with the flexibility they need to properly keep our miners safe, rather than just following federal inspection mandates. This hands-on approach of putting our mine inspectors underground to work directly with our miners will improve the safety of a very dangerous but vital job. We owe so much to our coal miners, and it is imperative we take every step to keep them safe.
House Bill 520 would make Kentucky the 44th state to establish some form of public charter schools. This measure provides our state with another tool to provide every child with a quality education. The bill also empowers parents to make the educational decisions they feel are best for their child. House Bill 520 specifically grants local school boards the ability to authorize a public charter school and charter schools would be subject to the same requirements as traditional public schools when it comes to testing, transparency, safety, and finance. They would also be required to hire certified teachers.
I want to make it very clear that most Kentucky students, especially in rural communities, will continue to be educated in traditional public schools. This measure is aimed at allowing students in urban areas, such as Louisville or Lexington, access to more choices in education. I am the proud product of public education, and I am grateful to our district’s school administrators and teachers. They have dedicated their careers to our students and to the betterment of Kentucky. However, as a state legislator, I am responsible for making statewide policy decisions. That is why House Bill 520 has such strong protections for local districts and their funding while allowing this new type of school. Charter schools will help those who need it most in the urban areas of our state, and I could not deny those children the same high quality education the students in our community receive.
The General Assembly took great strides to make a better Kentucky this week. It is an honor to serve you in Frankfort and I look forward to continuing the work that makes our Commonwealth the best place to live, work, and raise a family.
I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues impacting our Commonwealth during the 2017 Regular Session. I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.