Batch of new laws takes effect in Ky. in July


by Roger Alford, AP writer

Posted on July 1, 2010 at 8:19 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- People who violate domestic violence orders in Kentucky could end up wearing ankle monitors and drivers who send text message from behind the wheel would face the ire of traffic cops beginning in about two weeks.

The laws are among more than 200 passed in the 2010 legislative session. Most takee effect July 15.

One of the most hotly debated will allow judges to require people named in domestic violence cases to wear GPS monitors so that authorities can keep electronic tabs on them.

"We must be vigilant in continuing to protect victims of domestic violence," Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday in a written statement. "This law offers individuals affected by domestic violence, as well as the judges who oversee these cases, another tool to enhance protection for victims."

The law is named after Amanda Ross, a Kentucky woman who was gunned down outside her Lexington home last year. Former state Rep. Steve Nunn has been charged with killing her and has pleaded not guilty. After the breakup of their engagement, Ross had obtained a domestic violence protective order.

Nunn was one of the most recognized men in Kentucky politics -- as the son of a former Kentucky governor and a one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate himself.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the new domestic violence law "should usher in a new era" in Kentucky in protecting victims of domestic violence.

"Our job is only halfway through, though," Stumbo said. "Now, we need to make sure that judges and other court officials are both aware of this tool and want to use it."

The texting law allows fines of $25 for the first offense and $50 for a second offense that will be phased in January 2011. It also bars new drivers from using cell phones behind the wheel for the first six months after receiving a driver's permit.

Beshear said the texting law would make the state's highways safer.

"Regardless of whether you personally text while driving, another nearby driver may be distracted by typing out a message," he said.

The Kentucky law came on the heels of a move by the U.S. Transportation Department to prohibit truck and bus drivers from sending text messages on hand-held devices while operating commercial vehicles. The prohibition carries potential civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

Beshear had also issued an executive order earlier this year banning state employees from texting while driving state vehicles.

Reacting to accusations of widespread sexual misconduct at an eastern Kentucky prison, lawmakers also opened the way for corrections officers to be charged with felony rape for having consensual sex with inmates.

The law passed some four months after Beshear ordered 400 women removed from corporate-run Otter Creek Correctional Complex in Wheelwright where inmates complained that they were being subjected to sexual assaults by their male guards.

Not all the new laws are so weighty. One designates the Corvette as the state's official sports car, and another allows free overnight stays at state park lodges for disabled military veterans.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)