Monday, March 05, 2007

Thank you, House Democrats, for "a bit" more money

Kentucky General Assembly: House Democrats to add money to social-worker bill
Administration will have to find funds
Loftus, Tom. Louisville Courier-Journal, Feb. 27, 2007, pg. B4.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — House Democrats decided yesterday to provide a bit more money for the "Boni Bill" — a measure intended to make the job safer for social workers.

The decision was made during a closed meeting of the House's Democratic majority, according to the bill's supporters in the caucus.

"We're going to put some more money in it — $2.3 million," said Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown.

House Bill 362 is intended to provide safe places where children in foster care can meet with their biological parents, and to provide communications technology for social workers in cases of emergency.

It was prompted by the October slaying of Boni Frederick, a social worker who was beaten and stabbed when she took a baby for a final home visit in Henderson with his mother, who was about to lose permanent custody. The mother and her boyfriend have been charged with murder.

Some advocates , including Gov. Ernie Fletcher, have asked for $21 million, including money to hire additional social workers. However, when the bill was reported by a House committee last week, it had just $2.5 million for the visitation centers, more security and technology, and no money for additional staffing.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, and Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, said that the majority of the caucus decided to add language requiring that the administration find another $2.3 million within the existing budget to provide more staffing.

Wayne said the caucus is reluctant about proceeding with Fletcher's spending proposals. "I think we're real cautious about opening the budget too much, and some of these are Johnny- come- lately items the governor seems to have placed before us in the context of his re-election," Wayne said.

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said that no decisions were made during the caucus on other Fletcher spending proposals.

"We just talked about some of the funding issues, but nothing has been decided," he said.

Richards said a headcount was taken on support for a bill that would do away with the runoff election in gubernatorial primaries if the top vote-getter does not get at least 40 percent of the vote.

As a candidate in the primary for governor, he said, he stayed out of that discussion, and t he vote was too close to establish a caucus position.


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