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State to get federal stimulus dollars to spend

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From the House

By Rep. Linda Belcher

FRANKFORT ee" Although final details are still pending, Kentucky got a much clearer picture last week of what it can expect from the federal stimulus package that Congress recently passed. Even with quite a few strings attached, it should still provide a substantial lift right when we need it most.

According to Gov. Beshear, we will get a little more than $3 billion over the next 28 months, which doesn’t include direct stimulus payments Kentuckians may receive from such things as tax cuts or boosts in Social Security payments.

About 80 percent of the state’s portion will help maintain programs we already have. Medicaid, for example, will get a third of the money since it is adding 3,000 people a month to the 740,000 already enrolled and has a $230 million deficit.

Almost a third more will go to education, while close to a fifth will be split among such initiatives as job training, public safety, health and welfare programs and any budget shortfall state government may have.

The remaining money is designed to spur the economy by expanding our network of roads and water and sewer systems, and by promoting both energy and community development.

Beshear said a website is being designed to detail how each stimulus dollar will be spent. Our goal is to use this money in a way that puts us in a better position in the long run with the knowledge that it is a short-term fix.

While the news from Washington may have been the biggest story in Frankfort last week, there were quite a few bills the House sent to the Senate that are also noteworthy in their own right.

Several of those were approved with younger generations in mind. House Bill 322, for example, would give the Department of Education the authority to waive up to 10 days for school districts adversely affected by last fall’s high winds from Hurricane Ike or last month’s snow and ice storm.

High schools would need to inform 12th graders about voting procedures, including how to register, under House Bill 155; and House Bill 83 would require our public colleges and universities to inform new undergraduates about the pitfalls of credit cards and debt.

House Bill 197 would create a program to match monetary awards teachers receive; House Bill 194 would call on the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to make childcare providers aware of the Kentucky Consumer Product Safety Program; and House Bill 116 would outlaw novelty lighters that unfortunately can be deadly in the hands of children.

House Bill 214, meanwhile, would strengthen the law allowing mothers to breastfeed in public. Those who bar this practice could face a $500 fine for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense if this legislation becomes law.

Several other bills the House voted for last week affect our justice system or government in general.

House Bill 228 would outlaw salvia, a mind-altering herb that has already been banned in seven states, including Tennessee and Missouri. Our hope is that we can keep this product from gaining a foothold in Kentucky that could lead to an epidemic.

House Bill 240 would call on animal shelters and other rescue agencies to spay or neuter most stray cats and dogs before releasing them.

House Bill 241 would call for tattoo artists and body piercers to be licensed, and House Bill 221 would make it a Class D felony for someone to drive away from the scene of an accident in which they should know death or serious injury occurred.

Three other bills that the House approved honor our history and our heritage.

House Bill 24 would establish an “In God We Trust” license plate that vehicle owners could choose at no additional cost.

House Bill 337 would create the Kentucky Capitol Centennial Commission in preparation for the Capitol’s 100th birthday in June 2010.

And House Bill 343 would call on all rest areas to fly the Kentucky and United States flags as well as the POW/MIA flag.

Consumers will no longer have to pay an unfair tax on vehicles they sold in the month of December, thanks to House Bill 340.

In the past, when a vehicle was sold in December, sometimes the new owner would not register it until January of the next year, and the previous owner would be responsible for paying the tax bill.

Under House Bill 340, the new owner would be responsible for paying the taxes. The bill also relieves the previous owner from paying a fine for late registration or late payment of property taxes. The bill passed by a unanimous vote of 99-0.

A bill that would help cancer patients with medical bills cleared the House this week. Many times oncology patients undergoing chemotherapy and cancer trials are excluded coverage for routine patient healthcare. House Bill 30 would clarify what is covered by clinical trials and what is covered by a patient’s health insurance. House Bill 30 passed by a vote of 99-0.

With less than two weeks to go before we effectively end this year’s legislative session, time is drawing short to get these and many other bills through the legislative process.

If you would like to let me know your thoughts before that happens, or at any time of the year, please write to me at Room 429E, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.

You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For the deaf or hard of hearing, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.