Widows Push For Mine Safety Bill

Melissa Lee is getting used to the long drive to Frankfort. “I drove five hours last week,” she said.

It was a trip that ended in no action on a bill to require more safety inspections, miner methane detectors and other regulations at mines. She and the others are angry, but they say they'll keep coming back until something happens.

“I was real shocked that they did not (vote on the bill.) That Representative Gooch has had this to sit on all this time, he's still not doing anything about it,” Lee says.

Representative James Gooch, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, says the safety bill will be heard in committee and that there will be a vote about 8:30 Thursday morning.

But widows, miners and families still set off for lawmakers offices to demand a vote. On the way there, there was a chance encounter with House Speaker Jody Richards.

“It has to happen,” said one person with the miner’s group.

“This is murder,” said another.

Richards assured them that a bill would be passed.

“We're working on a bill. We'll have a good bill,” said Richards as he stood waiting to get on an elevator after the encounter.

The bill has opposition from the coal industry. Some believe it gets in the way of federal mandates already in place. And, some say it wouldn't have made a difference in last year's accidents. The demonstrators disagree.

“Shame on you for making the comment that this bill we want passed would not have saved the men in 2005/2006,” said Lee.

“Had Russell been trained, the men been trained, Russell would still be here with my three children today,” said Claudia Cole, whose husband Russell was killed in 2005.

House leaders say they do expect the law to get approval and then be sent to the Senate.