Monday, March 19, 2007

Yes, Williams, visitation centers are a good use of state money (you jerk)

Impasse remains on social worker protections
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal. March 13, 2007, pg. B4.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lawmakers failed last night to break a deadlock over a bill aimed at improving social worker safety.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said the Senate was willing to put up to $6 million into the bill to hire more workers and create other safety measures in the state's child-welfare system.

But members of the House and Senate didn't resolve their differences before adjourning.

The legislature will reconvene March 26 for two days to consider any vetoes by Gov. Ernie Fletcher. There could be action on the bill then.

Efforts at compromise yesterday came after the Senate last week stripped all funds from the House version of House Bill 362, named the "Boni Frederick Bill." Frederick was a Western Kentucky social service aide slain on the job.

She was fatally stabbed in October after she took an infant to a final court-ordered visit with his mother.

The decision to remove the funding outraged critics, who said the bill was useless without money for about 100 more workers and safety measures including secure centers where parents could visit with children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect.

The House version included about $4.8 million to hire 109 social workers and open 16 secure visitation centers.

Yesterday lawmakers worked on a draft bill that would allow the state to hire about 60 more workers and dedicate about $3.5 million to making offices more secure.

Williams had challenged the notion of visitation centers and said he didn't think it would be a good use of state money.

A House- Senate conference committee was appointed yesterday to resolve differences.

Mark D. Birdwhistell, secretary of the C abinet for Health and Family Services, spent part of the evening shuttling between the House and Senate, trying to work out differences.

But some sticking points remained late yesterday .

"What they want is their bill," Williams said of the House. "That's their idea of a compromise."

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville and the sponsor of HB 362, said House members weren't willing to drop some provisions, including an outside task force to monitor the social service system.

The Senate version called for an internal work group from the family services agency to do the monitoring .

Burch predicted the differences would be worked out.

"I think we'll end up with a good bill before this session ends," he said.


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