February 27, 2013

The view from the Capitol: U of L construction, alcohol consumption and student protests

By Rae Hodge–

Universities took action this week in the state Capitol. President Eli Capilouto of the University of Kentucky acted as spokesman on behalf of six of the state’s public universities, while students chanted in halls and knocked on the doors of legislators in a grassroots citizen lobbying effort.

New concerns about alcohol arose as Kentucky legislators wrestled with old notions of intricate, historical liquor laws, and technological advancements changed the conversation about drunk driving prevention efforts.


Cash in hand

The University of Louisville now has approval to begin construction on the new $9.6 million Student Activities Center, after the state legislature passed a law allowing six of Kentucky’s public universities to use bonds to finance projects. The decision to allow state universities to use their own funds was the first bill signed into law during the 2013 legislative session.

The law allows universities to use more than $300 million in bonds for projects ranging from dorm and academic building renovations to new athletic arenas. The University of Kentucky was approved to use  $110 million to improve Commonwealth Stadium.


June goals

After receiving a $5  million donation from Mark and Cindy Lynn, construction of the new campus soccer stadium at U of L could begin as early as June, says the university.

The stadium is estimated to cost $17.5 million, seat over 5,300 people, and include an attached training center. The university needs $3 million more to turn what is now a parking lot on Floyd Street into a stadium by  projected completion in September 2014.


Fairness rallies students

There were over 200 people from all over the state of Kentucky at Tuesday’s rally.

The Fairness Coalition drew student groups from all over the state to the Capitol rotunda in the renewed battle against discrimination at school, work, and home.

The 200-plus group of activists spent the morning knocking on the office doors of legislators who are key to the passage of three particular bills. Two bills — House Bill 171 and Senate Bill 28 — are identical bills that would forbid landlords, real estate agents, and employers from discriminating against tenants or employees on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The third bill, House Bill 377, known commonly as the Anti-Bullying Bill, would create additional language in Kentucky’s current school anti-bullying law to protect children who are being bullied because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

None of the bills have yet received a hearing before a committee.


Stop and blow

Getting stopped for DUI could mean having a breathalyzer installed in your vehicle before being allowed back behind the wheel.

A new bill would allow judges in Kentucky to substitute the Hardship License Program — that allows some suspended drivers to go to work and back — with the Interlock Ignition Program. The driver blows into the Interlock device, it analysizes blood alcohol levels, and if the driver is drunk, the engine won’t start.

Once the engine is started, the Interlock device requires drivers to periodically blow into the device to check for intoxication. If the driver fails, the engine shuts off.


Milk, bread, booze

Those hoping to pick up their Maker’s Mark in the same place they get their milk, may be disappointed this year.

When a group of Kentucky grocers sued last year to be able to sell wine and liquor in their stores, a federal judge threw out the law that was against them, and ruled that they could. This year, a new bill has been put into motion that would re-establish the block against grocery stores selling liquor and wine.

The bill says that a minor may not enter any place where wine and liquor are sold unless accompanied by a parent. If a convenience store or a dollar store sold wine, a teenager wouldn’t be able to enter those establishments. The bill’s main proponents are a group called Fighting Alcohol Consumption by Teens, who also represent the interests of stand-alone liquor stores.

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Photo by Rae Hodge/The Louisville Cardinal

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