FRANKFORT — About 100 West Liberty business owners met Tuesday night with state Rep. John Will Stacy in a downtown park in the tornado-devastated community to express gratitude to the state legislature for its emergency relief.
"People are glad that something tangible is being offered by the legislature," Stacy, D-West Liberty, said Wednesday morning after the House budget committee unanimously approved a bill to provide financial relief to help Kentucky's tornado victims.
"This is something to show the people that the General Assembly cares," he said.
The House budget committee took House Bill 165, a measure dealing with drivers' use of headlights when it rains, and changed it to a sales-tax rebate for owners of buildings damaged in the March 2 tornadoes and funding assistance for affected schools and staff.
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Under the bill, building owners in all 21 Kentucky counties that were declared disaster areas by President Barack Obama could recover the state's 6 percent sales tax paid on building materials used to repair or replace any structure damaged in the disaster.
The buildings must be repaired or rebuilt in the county where they were damaged, Stacy said.
The proposed legislation also would authorize the state education commissioner to declare as many as 10 days of missed school as emergency disaster days. These days would not count against their average daily attendance figures, which are used to calculate state funding.
It would give school districts the option of using last year's attendance figures instead of this year's figures if attendance is significantly lower to make sure funding would not decrease.
Concerning school personnel, certified and classified school staff would maintain their salaries and benefits for the period school was not in session. The staff would perform work for those days, but it might be in areas other than their regular assignments.
Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville, praised the legislation. He said he visited West Liberty last Saturday with Stacy.
"I've never seen so much damage," Denham said. Stacy had told Denham, a banker, to meet him at Commercial Bank in West Liberty.
"I couldn't find Commercial Bank with the devastation," Denham said.
Rep. Marie Rader, R-McKee, said the emergency relief legislation "is not about monetary value. It's about hope."
She said she also visited Stacy's district. "What I never will be able to erase from my mind is the faces of these people who lost so much."
The full House is expected to vote on the relief legislation on Thursday. It then would go to the Senate, which may add to it.