Inside the budget: Project approval provision raises question

05/26/2010 07:18 PM

(UPDATED) At some point during the House’s editing of the budget bill, a provision calling for a district’s senator and representative to jointly approve infrastructure projects appeared in the 282-page bill.

Sen. Robin Webb

And one lawmaker, state Sen. Robin Webb, a Grayson Democrat, said that provision was silly, unnecessary and might even be unconstitutional. She said senators could strike that measure once they get a chance to make changes in a committee meeting Thursday.

The provision, quietly stuck into the part of the state’s two-year spending plan dealing with the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, says that agency should approve a project only after “agreement of the state representative and state senator representing the legislative district in which the infrastructure project was located.” It’s unclear who asked for that sentence on page 116.

“I just think it’s a hybrid animal that may not pass muster,” said Webb, a lawyer who was one of the top lawmakers on the House budget committee before being elected to the Senate last summer. “I think it’s kind of silly.”

Senators and representatives from the same area should have to agree on projects for their districts anyway, she said. And requiring them to agree as part of the law could be over-reaching, she added.

“If we can’t work together, it’s a sad day,” Webb said.

That’s not the only constitutionally questionable item that the Senate will have to study and debate.

The House approved the budget Wednesday with a $100,000 appropriation for a Christian school in Breathitt County. Democratic Rep. Rick Rand, the House budget chairman, said he meant to take that out in light of the state supreme court’s ruling last month that state funds shouldn’t be doled out to religiously-affiliated schools.

“I think we would have to make sure that we pass a budget that is constitutional,” said Sen. Robert Stivers, the Republican Senate leader from Manchester.

UPDATED: Rep. Brent Yonts, a Greenville Democrat, said he agreed with Webb’s concern about the provision.

“I would say that’s probably a valid question,” he said. “I don’t understand the logic.”

- Ryan Alessi


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