Whitesburg KY

Legislation will address truckers driving on drugs

State Rep. Leslie Combs said she will sponsor legislation designed to make it tougher for coal truck drivers to continue working after they’ve failed a drug test.

Combs, a Pikeville Democrat who represents most of Letcher County, said she intends to file the “drugged truck driver bill” during the next few days. She said the bill would require the state to set up a computer data base to keep track of truckers who fail drug tests. Companies who fire truckers for failing a test would be required to notify the state of a trucker’s dismissal, after which steps would be taken to have the trucker’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) revoked. The bill would also make it illegal for other companies to hire truckers whose names are in the data base.

“It’s to cut down on these drivers who test positive and immediately go to another company and get another job,” Combs told The Mountain Eagle. “Drivers who flunk drug tests are now able to shop company not following them.”

Combs said her bill will have the support of Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement (KVE), the Justice Cabinet, and major coal companies. Combs said she has also been encouraged to file the bill by owners of trucking companies located in the areas of Pike, Letcher and Harlan counties which make up the 94th Legislative District.

Combs also told The Eagle this week that she would be very surprised if Gov. Steve Beshear were to attempt to use coal severance tax money to help cover the state’s projected budget shortfall of nearly $900 million over the next two years. Combs said she was told by knowledgeable sources that decreases in the amount of coal severance money returned to coal-producing counties weren’t among the deficit-reducing steps Beshear would recommend his budget address to the General Assembly last night (Tuesday).

Combs said she does expect Beshear to move forward with his plan to let voters decide whether casino gambling will become legal in Kentucky. Beshear has said casino gambling would bring the state about $500 million in new revenue that could be spent on government expenses such as education and health care.

Combs said she isn’t endorsing casino gambling, but would vote to put the question on a ballot and let citizens decide if they want casinos in Kentucky.

“I will not vote for casinos as a law, but I will vote to put it on the ballot for the people to decide,” Combs said.

Combs cautioned, however, that several questions must be answered before she would vote to put the question on the ballot.

“I think it’s critical these questions are answered,” said Combs. “First, when and how many and in what venue? Second, how will the revenues be used?”

Combs said she would like to see a significant portion of the revenue that would be generated by casino gambling be used to fight the “problem of addiction” in Kentucky. While some of the money would be set aside to fight the addiction to gambling that comes with casinos, Combs said the new funds should also be used to fight the problem of narcotic addiction in Kentucky.

“To even begin to have an impact on addiction we’ve got to have money,” Combs said.

Combs said that if the question is put on the ballot she expects that voters in western, central and northern Kentucky will approve it overwhelmingly. Combs said many of her constituents have told her they are opposed to casino gambling. She said a vote on the question will show whether people elected Beshear because they wanted casinos in the state or if they elected him because they were “voting against Bush and Fletcher.”

“Buying a lottery ticket and actually having a casino, that’s two different things,” Combs said. “I can think of arguments for both sides.”

Combs said that among those people who tell her they are against casinos, “50 percent of them say ‘let me vote on it.'”

“My vote is to let them decide,” she said.

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