New state laws coming our way

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By Becky Cassell, Editor

There are several new state laws set to go into effect next week.

As usual, the Legislative Research Commission sends out a press release that provides a short synopsis of some of the more pertinent laws passed during the most recent General Assembly.

And also as usual, there are several that are long overdue.

Here are a few of the ones that caught my attention. All go into effect on July 15.

- Amusement park safety. SB 203 will require more frequent inspections of amusement park rides and prevent anyone younger than 18 from operating the rides.

I'm not quite sure how often the rides were inspected before. As such, I'm also unclear as to how often "more frequent" will be. However, after the devastating injury the teenage girl received at Six Flags in Louisville, this can only be a positive change.

- Animal cruelty. SB 58 will increase penalties for those who torture dogs or cats. Causing physical injury to a dog or cat as a result of torture would be a Class A misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail, while causing serious physical injury or death would be a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison.

By now, most of us have heard the horrible tale of Romeo, the dog who was beaten in Pulaski County and neighbors caught the abuse on tape.

There's simply no reason to abuse an animal. If we can't even treat animals the way we should, what does that say about us as a society?

- Booster seats. SB 120 will require children who are too big for infant car seats to be placed in booster seats when riding in vehicles. The bill states that children under 7 years old and between 40 to 50 inches tall must use the boosters. (Police will only issue courtesy warnings to violators until July 1, 2009. After that, a violator will face a $30 fine, which can be dismissed if the violator shows proof that a booster seat has been acquired.)

This one bothers me, mostly because it should be a "gimme." I simply cannot imagine anyone thinking it's safe to ride in a metal box on wheels and travel 50 miles an hour on asphalt without securing themselves and, most importantly, their children.

- Golden alert. SB 125 will create a "Kentucky Golden Alert" to make local media aware when an impaired adult, such as a person with Alzheimer's, is reported missing.

What a wonderful idea. Kentucky's Amber Alert program works well, proof of that was the child recovered in Marion County a couple of years ago simply because someone spotted the suspect's vehicle. There's no reason we shouldn't do the same for our elderly or handicapped population.

- Sex offenders. HB 211 will broaden Kentucky's child sex abuse laws while increasing penalties for abusers and those who fail to report abuse. The bill will include older children under state laws that protect minors from first-degree sexual abuse by raising the age of children covered by the law from 12 to 16, or 16 to 18, if the perpetrator is in a position of trust or authority.

Any abuse of children is horrid, no matter their age. And increasing the penalties for doing so makes only good sense.

- Stolen Valor Act. HB 110 will make it a Class A misdemeanor for anyone to falsely apply for a special military license plate or misrepresent current or former military status with an intent to defraud, obtain employment, or be elected or appointed to public office.

With all that our service men and women sacrifice while fighting for our freedom, it's unfathomable that someone would lie about this.

- Bullying. HB 91 will require local school authorities to alert law enforcement when school harassment involves a potential felony.

Our children today have enough problems to deal with. They shouldn't have to worry about being bullied.

- Blood donations. HB 139 will allow 16-year-olds who weigh at least 110 pounds to donate blood with written parental or legal guardian consent. The bill was crafted to help address blood shortages.

Why not? If they're healthy and they want to donate blood to help others, let them. It's an early lesson in community service.

- Elections. HB 370 will erase the requirement that runoff elections be held in gubernatorial primary races if no candidate receives at least 40 percent of the vote.

It's hard to believe we've actually wasted tax dollars on this.