Patton signs bills on education, tobacco money
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Paul Patton tied up the loose ends of this year's legislative session yesterday by vetoing a few minor measures and signing into law the tobacco-settlement spending plan and two important education bills. It was the last possible da
Senate President Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, witnessed the signing of Senate Bill 77, which contained the remnants of a major teacher-quality initiative.
The bill, which focuses on middle school teachers, with an emphasis on math teachers, calls for spending $6 million over the next two years for stipends and other assistance to teachers wanting to hone their skills, Kelly said.
The bill would create a "center for middle school academic achievement" to assist teachers in the core disciplines of math, language arts, science and social studies. And "mentor teachers" who take on extra duties to help train other teachers would get extra pay.
Kelly said the bill was the compromise that Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, sought after his more sweeping measure to raise teacher quality died in the House.
Patton also signed Senate Bill 1, which is aimed at teaching more Kentuckians to read and write and bringing other improvements to the state's adult-education programs.
Sponsored by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, the measure coordinates the state's adult-learning programs and develops better local networks of agencies that provide adult education. It also improves training for people who educate adults and provides financial incentives to encourage more people to participate in adult education.
Patton also signed House Bill 611, the tobacco-settlement spending that sets up the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board. The board -- made up of farmers, agriculture experts and state officials -- will spend $91 million over the next two years on statewide programs to help farmers get low-interest loans, cope with the cost of environmental compliance and diversify their crops.
In addition, the bill calls for $49 million to be divided among 118 tobacco counties to be spent on local agricultural programs, and $40 million to be paid directly to tobacco farmers hurt by quota cutbacks.
Patton vetoed several line items from the 2001-2002 budget. Most of the changes were minor, but one struck out a $150,000 appropriation to design a one-stop state employment center at an industrial park in Rowan County.
Patton said in an interview that the center shouldn't be in the industrial park and would be better suited for downtown Morehead.
The only bill that Patton vetoed yesterday, House Bill 209, also affected the Rowan County Industrial Park.
Sponsored by Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, the bill would have allowed counties that don't have a high enough unemployment rate to now qualify for Kentucky Rural Economic Development Assistance to offer those tax benefits to companies in their industrial parks -- if counties that do qualify for the assistance are partners in the industrial park.
Although the legislation would have affected several counties, Patton singled out Rowan in explaining his reason for vetoing the bill. Patton said Rowan County already has an interstate highway, a state university and an industrial park paid by the coal-severance tax and doesn't need any more advantages.
But Stacy said in an interview that Patton "missed the point." Stacy said that most of the new jobs created in Rowan County probably would be filled by people from the surrounding counties of Lewis, Fleming and Elliott, where jobs are scarce.
Contrary to some speculation, Patton did not veto the budget's reference to $50,000 for lighting a 95-foot metal cross on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River at Wickliffe. Critics had called the expenditure a case of state money being used for religious purposes.
But Patton said: "That's not my job to decide constitutionality. Generally, I leave issues of that nature to the General Assembly."