Senators' money concerns tank bill aimed at overseeing child abuse and neglect cases

03/27/2012 01:09 PM

The potential costs of setting up a child abuse hotline as part of a bill to increase oversight of those cases caused enough Senators to abandon their support of the bill on Tuesday.

The measure, House Bill 200, would have created a review panel headed up by the attorney general, as well as a new system for Kentuckians to report instances of abuse or neglect.

The bill’s sponsor Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, called it a “transparency bill,” that would create greater oversight in courts and child protective services, “so we don’t have headlines like in the past.”

Westrom was referring to the Amy Dye case where a 17-year old sibling was convicted of beating to death 9-year old Amy Dye.

But during Tuesday’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting, several lawmakers passed, and enough voted “no,” to stop House Bill 200. Republican Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, and Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger, for instance, both explained that they couldn’t support the bill because of concerns about the fiscal impact. That includes travel costs for members of the review panel to meet quarterly as well as up to $1.8 million to devote enough cabinet personnel to monitor the abuse reporting hotline, according to the fiscal note of the bill.

Senate Health and Welfare Chairperson Sen. Julie Denton, D-Louisville, said the good thing is that there was good discussion on the bill and there’s still time to pass this legislation.

The measure with multiple amendments brought concern from lawmakers and John Fleischaker, a Louisville lawyer for the Kentucky Press Association, who represents the Courier-Journal among other news entities.

“The bill adds another layer of secrecy,” Fleischaker told the committee. “The cabinet makes up there own rules and definitions,” Fleischaker said of the Health and Family Services Cabinet.

Rep. Westrom said, the bill does need a review, and admitted the Health and Family Services Cabinet wrote their own recommendations for what they wanted to see in the bill, but she said the bill does provide transparency.

Westrom added that she had been in contact with Justice Noble and would like her to study the bill over the summer, but said she thought that study could take place after the bill was passed, and if any changes were needed that legislatures could make those changes next session. “This is a good start,” Westrom said.

Among the amendments added to the bill was the deletion of a line in the legislation that would give the Governor sole oversight to fire, and removed a nominating committee’s say in the matter. Westrom told the committee that the change was something the governor suggested – and said somewhat jokingly, “I don’t want my bill vetoed.”


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