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FRANKFORT – Last week, we returned to Frankfort with heavy hearts for the thousands of our fellow Kentuckians coping with the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes from March 2.
Despite the destruction and wreckage of our communities in the central and eastern portions of our state, the resiliency, courage, and unity of fellow Kentuckians has been remarkable. All levels of government- local, state, and federal- have come together and are beginning to help these towns and families recover. In these upcoming weeks and months, we must continue to give support and prayer to the families who have lost loved ones and property. While the recovery process will be long and hard for many, I have no doubt about the spirit of our Commonwealth and our ability to survive, recover, and thrive.
Many of you have asked me about ways to get involved. Right now, cash donations are best. These contributions will allow relief supplies to be brought near the disaster sites without transportation costs and need of sorting or distributing. You will find the National Donations Management Network at http://kyem.ky.gov. Also, there is additional information on volunteer coordination and county emergency management contact information.
The Senate received the House-approved budget plan last week. As we speak, Senate subcommittees are beginning the complex task of reviewing that plan. With about 15 days remaining of this regular session, many of us are making arrangements to work through the weekend. As a member of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, I understand the large and daunting task up ahead and have been waiting for this opportunity to vet this proposal. The only certainty I can assure you at this point would be that there will be some changes made before the budget proposal clears the Senate and then the full General Assembly.
As discussed earlier this session, painful cuts will have to be made to most of our state agencies. We are working hard to ensure that the necessary cuts made are in the most effective and least painful way possible.
Senate Bill 58 was approved by the Senate last week and sent over to the House for consideration. Under current laws, police officers have to witness crimes of violence in hospital emergency rooms before being allowed to make an immediate arrest. SB 58 allows arrests to be made based on probable cause, similar to shoplifting or domestic-violence situations. This measure will help resolve the increasing cases of hospital emergency room violence.
As a small businessman and farmer, I was proud to sponsor Senate Bill 108, which is an effort to give the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation more flexibility in its lending power. With direct oversight from the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation, this will enable beginning farmers and other applicants to maintain and grow their businesses.
Lastly, Senate Bill 88 passed the Senate with unanimous support last week. SB 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. SB 88 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. This sort of measure is exactly what Kentucky needs to encourage our high school students to pursue higher educational opportunities.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and concerns. Messages for me can be left toll-free by dialing 1-800-372-7181 or TTY 1-800-896-0305. You can also find us on the World Wide Web at www.lrc.state.ky.us.