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Opioid crisis, human trafficking among top legislative session priorities for Attorney General Andy Beshear

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Attorney General Andy Beshear unveiled his legislative wish list for the 2019 General Assembly on Wednesday.

During a Frankfort press conference, Beshear was joined by lawmakers who are sponsoring the bills, which deal with such issues as the opioid crisis, human trafficking and rate hike relief for utility customers.

Beshear says his top priority is to gain bipartisan support for a measure that would require money from opioid lawsuit settlements and fines to go to a permanent fund to support drug prevention educators, law enforcement and treatment providers.

“This is blood money,” Beshear said. “And while there is always a fiscal crisis in Frankfort, these funds must be spent on addressing this epidemic.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear talks about measures for the 2019 General Assembly he is supporting. The bill sponsors are, from left, Reps. Jeff Donahue, D-Louisville, Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg and Dennis Keane, D-Wilder. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, says, “It’s a very simple bill that will have tremendous results.”

Beshear is working with Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, to draft a measure that would crack down on what Beshear called, “Rogue opioid recovery centers,” which have replaced pill mills.

While noting there are some amazing treatment centers in Kentucky, Beshear said there are some that merely trade cash for scripts.

“They have people who need help that come in and do not get one minute of counseling,” Beshear said. “We have to ensure that when someone ultimately goes for help, that they get the type of help that they need. Eastern Kentucky and Southeastern Kentucky have been hit particularly hard by irresponsible centers, only looking to take advantage of those suffering from addiction.”

Beshear says he is working with Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, on a bill to aid in combatting human trafficking in Kentucky.

“It would require anyone getting a Commercial Drivers License in Kentucky, to take a very short course, watching a video, on how to recognize and report human trafficking,” he said. “This is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, and worldwide affects five million children alone.”

Beshear says the trucking industry is targeted by human traffickers at truck stops. “They walk from cab to cab, but I know that in at least one of those cabs is a responsible parent and adult, that with the right training, will make that call and help us save that child.”

Similar legislation has been enacted in numerous other states, according to Beshear. “Every place this has been passed, it has helped. We receive calls in our office from drivers who have been trained in other states.” Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, along with Harris, is sponsoring one of Beshear’s bills that would have the state Public Service Commission determine if utility rate hike requests are affordable, require regular audits of utilities, to ensure they are operating efficiently, and ensure adequate customer service.

Hatton said where she lives has been a coal-producing region that powered the country. “It’s ironic now that we have some of the highest power bills in the country, in Eastern Kentucky.”

Rep. Jeff Donahue, D-Louisville is sponsoring another part of Beshear’s agenda, allowing the Attorney General’s office to petition the Kentucky Supreme Court for the creation of a special grand jury that could hear cases that cross county lines.

Beshear is also proposing expanded gaming to include casinos, sports gambling and fantasy sports, with proceeds going to fund the state’s public pension plans.

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