FRANKFORT – Last week, I was proud to join with the father of Kentucky State Police Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder and other legislators as we stood together to advocate for additional safety measures for law enforcement.
I called the press conference in response to Trooper Ponder’s death on Sept. 13, when he was shot after a high-speed chase on I-24 in Western Kentucky. We are asking Kentucky State Police for suggestions on how we can better protect our frontline officers. KSP Commissioner Brewer, who attended the press conference, said he and his department would undertake a thorough review and report back to us in time for the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January.
Trooper Ponder’s father, Joe, and I believe that one proposal holding a lot of promise is bulletproof-laminate, which could be applied to cruiser vehicles for as little as $5,000 apiece. This would give the men and women most at risk an added layer of protection and, in Joe’s words, could have saved his son’s life.
I want to thank my cousin Jeff Stumbo for first letting me know about the laminate. His background in law enforcement has given me a much better understanding of this issue.
A day before I traveled to Frankfort for this event, I headed in the other direction to advocate for another project that I believe our region needs: An interstate-quality road heading east.
As the Mountain Parkway expansion and extension continues moving forward, I believe we need to start the groundwork for the next phase, which should be a four-lane highway that would connect Prestonsburg with Beckley, West Virginia.
I traveled with several officials from our Transportation Cabinet to meet with West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s staff, several state legislators and the Transportation Cabinet Secretary.
We are looking for ways to make this project a reality, and some options could include federal highway grants, low interest loans, and the use of public-private partnerships. I would also like to see hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal abandoned mine land fund used for this project, because there is a growing push out of Washington to put this unused money toward initiatives that could spur economic development in Appalachia. An interstate heading east from our region would go a long way toward meeting that goal. It would make it dramatically easier to draw manufacturers here and to increase tourism potential.
Speaking of tourism, I was happy to join with the mayors of Prestonsburg, Paintsville, Pikeville and Morehead last Tuesday as they announced plans for an East Kentucky Hillbilly Drag Race Championship Series. This development holds a lot of potential and, just as importantly, highlights the strong working relationship our communities have. This type of network is further proof that we can do far more together than individually, and I will do all I can to help this cooperative spirit grow.
That leads me to my final major activity last week, which came when other House and Senate leaders and I voted unanimously on Wednesday to hire a new director of the Legislative Research Commission. This person will oversee what I think is the most professional and hard-working legislative staff in the nation. Their work is what makes it possible for the 138 legislators to do their job moving Kentucky forward.
Between now and the holidays, we will begin making final preparations for the upcoming session, and we need your input. If you would like to take part, please email me at any time at Greg.Stumbo@lrc.ky.gov, or you can leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. Our message line is staffed year-round and is open during normal business hours.
Rep. Greg Stumbo serves as speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives.