The Richmond Register

State News

February 9, 2011

House passes immigration bill

Meth bill falls short in Senate

FRANKFORT — The Democrat House overwhelmingly passed its version of immigration control Tuesday while Senate leaders tried and fell short for now to garner enough votes to pass a bill to require a prescription for cold remedies used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

The House voted 90-6 to pass HB-3, which would require employers who contract with the state and public agencies to verify the immigration status of new hires using the federal EVerify system. Those who violate the law would be prohibited from securing state contracts for one year after the first offense. A second or subsequent offense would bar contracting with the state for five years.

The Senate and House are pushing different versions of immigration legislation. The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, is much harsher, authorizing Kentucky law enforcement to determine immigration status and enforce federal immigration laws. The House version, co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, and Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, focuses on employers.

“I think it’s the better approach,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “If you want to address illegal immigrants and the fact they might take good Kentucky jobs, this is the way to do it.”

The Senate passed Schickel’s measure in the first week of the session and sent it to the House. The Local Government Committee plans a second day of hearings on the measure Wednesday.

Meanwhile, down at the other end of the capitol, supporters of the meth bill scrambled to round up enough votes to pass the bill as lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies, retailers and the operator of the current tracking system for the drugs worked lawmakers as they entered and left the chamber. On the other side, a contingent of Kentucky State Police officials worked them to support the bill.

The measure splits both Democrats and Republicans, sometimes along regional lines. Those living in border areas say abusers and meth manufacturers will simply drive across the state line to buy ephedrine products to “cook meth” while legitimate allergy and cold sufferers could be charged with felony crimes for doing the same to treat their symptoms.

Supporters, including sponsor Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, and U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, say the ephedrine products are the essential ingredient in the cooking of meth, that without it the number of meth labs will plummet as they have in Oregon which has a similar law. They also point out the law would affect only 15 products currently available without a prescription while not affecting 137 which treat the same symptoms.

But some of the stiffest opposition to the law comes from conservative Republican circles and the issue is causing discomfort for Williams and his caucus. They met in caucus Tuesday but upon their return the bill was not called for a vote — indicating the votes are not yet there. Republican Floor Leader Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the measure could still come up for a vote at some point.

The House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs approved constitutional amendments which would guarantee Kentucky residents the right to hunt and fish — rights they already have — and to restore convicted felons who serve out their sentences the right to vote.

Both measures go to the House floor.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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