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Safe child exchange bill gets new language in House panel

Cris RitchieEditor

March 6, 2013

HAZARD – A bill that would give judges presiding over custody disputes a new option for child exchanges may have a difficult time becoming law after a House panel attached additional legislation on Tuesday.


Sen. Brandon Smith filed Senate Bill 141 after a shooting at Hazard Community and Technical College on Jan. 15 left three people dead. Police alleged that Dalton Stidham, 21, shot 20-year-old Caitlyn Cornett as they were supposed to meet at the college to exchange their son. Also killed in the shooting were Caitlyn’s uncle, Jackie Cornett, 53, and his daughter, 12-year-old Taylor Cornett.


Smith’s bill defines “safe child drop-off areas” as locations where security measures such as metal detectors are in place, and gives courts the option of requiring these areas be used during child exchanges. The bill was approved unanimously in the Kentucky Senate last month before making its way to the Democratically-controlled House.


While in the House Judiciary Committee this week, a panel voted to combine Senate Bill 141 with House Bill 3, a bill that would strengthen human trafficking laws that failed in the 2012 General Assembly. The new Senate Bill 141 could be up for a vote in the full House this week.


Sen. Smith said on Wednesday that while the language in House Bill 3 isn’t perfect, he does support the legislation, which would in part establish a new unit of the Kentucky State Police to investigate human trafficking cases. Still, he isn’t giving his newly amended Senate bill a good chance of approval in this session of the General Assembly.


“I support both bills, but sometimes when you cram them together it means certain death for both of them,” said Smith, the Senate’s majority whip.


Smith said the major hindrance with the bill now will be the lack of time left before the current session of the General Assembly adjourns. The bill must go before the full House for a vote, which will send it back to the Senate where lawmakers will evaluate its new language. All of this will take time, something lawmakers do not have a lot of as the General Assembly has only a handful of working days left in this session.


“It’s got a 10 percent chance or less of making it now, because of the time frame,” Smith said.


Though some lawmakers have predicted a special session this year, Senate Bill 141 likely wouldn’t be part of the agenda, meaning if it fails this year it couldn’t be brought up for consideration again until 2014.