Three key justice issues have cabinet official keeping close tabs on Frankfort

01/24/2015 10:09 PM

With three key judicial initiatives before the General Assembly in the legislative session Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown is keeping a watchful eye on the progress made by the legislature.

Legislation addressing heroin abuse, a new set of domestic violence protective orders for dating couples and making sure convicted felons are not barred from obtaining licenses in certain professions are all key initiatives for Brown, and all of the issues have come before the legislature before.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, which was released on Thursday, shows a strong majority of Kentuckians polled support allowing dating partners to file domestic violence protection orders.

Overall 80 percent of survey respondents said they favor a change to the law: 61 percent strongly favor and 19 percent somewhat favor.

KHIP was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. The poll was conducted October 8, 2014—November 6, 2014, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,597 adults from throughout Kentucky was interviewed by telephone, including landlines and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of ±2.5%.

Current state law protections cover family members, members of an unmarried couple with a child in common, and members of an unmarried couple who are living together or have formerly lived together.

Kentucky is the last state in the nation to address such a change. This year legislative leaders have suggested the issue has a high likelihood of being addressed this session.

Another major issue lawmakers have said they will tackle is addressing heroin abuse in the state. While both House and Senate leaders say the law will be hashed out and passed — the question remains in what form.

There are multiple bills addressing heroin abuse filed in both chambers, but there is a mix of issues that legislation will need to address, Brown said in an interview on Tuesday.

“It absolutely has to have treatment,” Brown said. “We need the Nalaxone provisions — where first providers: law enforcement, EMS, fire — even pharmacies might be able to prescribe Nalaxone.”

“It’s a life saving drug. It has no effect on anyone not undergoing an opioid overdose.”

Brown said there should also be a Good Samaritan provision for someone who saves a life by calling police in the event of an overdose on heroin.

“Administer that and save a life — that’s more important than putting somebody away for their personal use for the same drug.”

Brown also said this session lawmakers need to “finish the job that was half-way done last session,” with House Bill 384

The legislation, which is meant to allow those individuals with felony convictions occupational licensees for certain jobs, passed the House in 2014 with a 98 to 0 vote, but was never taken up by the state Senate.

“What it did quite simply…in matters of public employment one could not simply be denied an employment based solely on the prior conviction of a felon — unless you could show that that felony related directly to the area of employment,” Brown said.

Addressing the issues of employment, Brown said is “most likely the biggest issue in recidivism.”

“I believe that employment. The availability of employment is the most critical issue in reentry.”


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