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By the time you are reading this, more than a week will have passed since the monster tornadoes targeted many of our communities. I want to tell the victims that you are not alone; Kentucky stands with you.
The Red Cross has been overwhelmed with Kentuckians’ generosity, so much so, that they are now asking for cash donations instead of material items. I pray that the Lord continue to provide strength to the people who have lost loved ones and possessions and also for the first-responders and other citizens who have worked unfailingly in order to set right what nature has done her best to destroy. The Gateway Area Development District at (606) 780-0090 has established a fund for tornado assistance and relief in Eastern Kentucky. Your local Red Cross is also accepting donations. And finally, the Kentucky Emergency Management website has a list of relief agencies that have been identified as serving Kentucky storm victims specifically, http://kyem.ky.gov/donationsvolunteers/Pages/default.aspx.
Please, give what you can.
With the disaster weighing heavily on all our minds and reeling from the testimonials of both constituents and legislators, the business of the legislature continued under a somber cloud. There are three bills I would like to briefly discuss. Senate Bill 88 makes an allowance for Kentucky high school students earning Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, or KEES, money. Currently, students who transfer from an eligible to an ineligible non-public high school forfeit their KEES earnings. This bill would allow them to keep the KEES funds they earn while at the eligible school as long as they obtain a high school diploma or GED within two years of their presumed graduating class. It also may be of help to children whose parents are in the military because of their frequent moves.
Senate Bill 58 addresses an increase in hospital emergency-room violence. Similar to the exception made for misdemeanor shoplifting and domestic-violence situations, the bill would allow police officers to make an arrest, based on probable cause alone, for misdemeanor assault occurring in an emergency room. Under current law, the police officer would have to witness the crime before being allowed to make an immediate arrest.
Senate Bill 157 aims to clarify the wording of administrative regulations. It provides for greater transparency and accountability of the many regulations that oftentimes bedevil small businesses.
Finally, the House passed its budget proposal. As I have discussed, small budget groups have been meeting for several weeks now in anticipation. I have begun to review the document and while, as of this writing, I haven’t delved into all of the details of this 288-page document, it is our understanding that the debt level is at 6.8 percent of General Fund revenues. This is a matter of great concern to me. It is my hope that the House would consider Senate Bill 1 which we passed to cap the state’s debt at 6 percent. I will continue to keep you apprised of the situation.
Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, represents the 26th District including Carroll, Henry, Oldham, and Trimble counties as well as a portion of Jefferson County.