Local/Regional News
5:20 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Amish Buggie Bill Passes House - Alternative Diploma Bill Awaiting Beshear's Signature

Proposals to allow the Amish to use reflective tape on their buggies instead of state-mandated orange triangles have passed both Kentucky legislative chambers.

The House voted today in favor of a bill that requires the Amish to put 200 inches of red tape on their buggies. The bill passed overwhelmingly, 90-9, despite objections from lawmakers in areas where the bill would matter the most. Among the no votes was Representative Martha Jane King of Logan County. She’s heard concerns that the tape isn’t as easily seen or as safe as the orange triangle that's used currently.

“While I completely respect every group’s ability to exercise their religious freedom and nor would I want anyone to not allow me to do that, I’m concerned with this issue over safety reasons,” she told House members.

Bill sponsor Johnny Bell addressed such concerns by pointing out that the tape is already in use on other vehicles.

“They use this on school buses," he said. "If the reflective sign, the triangle, was more reflective and able for people to see, enabled people to see this better, why not use that children instead of the reflective tape? That’s what we use, look at any school bus in the state ofKentucky, they got the tape all over it so people can see it and not run over these school buses."

The Senate version of the bill is less specific. It requires only 100 inches of tape and the tape can be red or white. Both bills were proposed after several Amish men were sent to jail for not using the orange triangles, which they say violates their religious beliefs.

It’s now up to legislative leaders to pick which bill to try to advance. Bell says he doesn’t care which bill they choose, as long as one becomes law.

Also in Frankfort Tuesday, a bill creating an alternative diploma for special needs students in Kentucky is just a signature away from becoming law.

Senator Dennis Parrett's bill soared through the General Assembly.  It passed the state Senate 36-0 last week and cleared the House 100-0.

Currently, special needs students only receive a certificate upon graduating high school. Parrett’s bill would allow those students to get a diploma and give them better opportunities for work after high school.

Governor Steve Beshear is expected to sign the bill into law. It will take effect in the next school year.

Parrett says he hopes in the future to pass legislation allowing former students to apply for the new diplomas.