Lawmakers hope pre-filed bill closes "Blackjewel loophole"

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HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - Several state and county lawmakers are in Harlan Thursday morning.

Senator Johnny Ray Turner, Representative Angie Hatton and Senator Morgan McGarvey, along with others, are discussing a pre-filed bill to close the loophole that allowed Blackjewel to get by without paying a bond when beginning operations.

That bond would have helped pay the wages of miners who lost their jobs.

Hatton said the Blackjewel miners not receiving paychecks should have never happened. She said the law requires new coal companies to post productive bonds of four weeks of wages, which would give miners their pay in case of a shut-down.

"That is is you are a business that has been in business less than five years. So, Blackjewel had only incorporated in two-thousand seventeen. They were within that statute, less than five years of operation," said Hatton.

The pre-filed bill would suspend or revoke new coal companies' mining permits until the required performance bonds are posted. It would also require miners' lawyer fees to be recouped if they have to sue to get their paychecks.

Senators said the performance bond requirements was supposed to be self-enforced and got "lost in the shuffle".

"This bill should put some teeth into that and make sure that they take care of that performance bond," said Senator Turner.

On Friday, miners can meet lawyers in Letcher County for updates on other legal actions in the Letcher County Circuit Courtroom at 11 a.m.

WYMT is told that 401 K's will be one of the topics discussed. Miners have access to their 401 K's and need to decide whether to cash them out or roll them over into a new account.

Cashing 401 K's does mean that there will be a penalty and taxes that miners would have to pay.



 
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