This spring’s devastating storms and tornadoes thrashed Kentucky communities, marking the 11th federally declared disaster in the state since 2008. To support ongoing recovery efforts, Gov. Steve Beshear Friday ceremonially signed legislation to help Kentuckians when they are victims of natural disasters. Several members of the General Assembly joined the governor for the ceremony in West Liberty, where the central business district was devastated by the March 2 tornado outbreak that heavily damaged several other communities and killed 24 Kentuckians.
“It is so gratifying to be back in West Liberty, where I visited right after the storm and saw the near total destruction wreaked by the tornado. I see how resilient Kentuckians are and how hard these citizens have worked to begin rebuilding their community,” Beshear said in a statement issued by his office.. “This legislation should make their recovery easier as well as improve the outcome in future natural disasters.”
Beshear signed House Bill 255 and 421, and Senate Bill 55.
House Bill 255, originally sponsored by Rep. Rocky Adkins, picked up a proposal from Rep. John Will Stacy. It establishes a sales-tax rebate for property owners who buy building materials they use to repair or replace buildings damaged by disasters like the March 2 tornadoes. It also provides funding assistance for affected schools and staff.
In West Liberty, for example, the bill has already helped convenience store owner John Clark decide to rebuild his family’s downtown store and gas station following the tornado.
“I was honored to sponsor and help pass HB 255. It is my hope that this legislation will assist in helping rebuild and restore the lives of the many who have suffered and been impacted by the terrible storms of March 2nd,” Adkins said in a state press release.
“Working on this bill was one of the highlights of this session. Legislators of both parties united to provide needed relief for our fellow Kentuckians,” said Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers. “Natural disasters don’t distinguish between Republicans and Democrats. This bill shows that we can all come together to help one another in times of need.”
“In the aftermath of a devastating tornado, people in West Liberty and other affected communities quickly pulled together to start the long rebuilding process,” said Rep. John Will Stacy. “I’m pleased that legislators were able to assist those efforts with a new tax break for those repairing or rebuilding in the wake of disaster. House Bill 255 is not only helping West Liberty and other areas recover from this year’s tornado damage, but it will help other Kentucky communities in the years to come that need to rebuild after disaster strikes.”
Senate Bill 55, meanwhile, supports the ability of first responders and Emergency Management personnel to move to the aid of the citizens across state lines in what is known as mutual aid. The practice requires legal and logistical protection for responding agencies, and the legislation sponsored by Sen. Jack Westwood provides it.
“After the devastation of the spring tornadoes that forever changed the physical landscape of this community, we were heartened by the number of volunteers, emergency responders and agencies that swarmed into the area with offers of both immediate help as well as long term support,” Westwood said. “At that time, our lack of a mutual aid agreement may have prevented other folks from out-of-state from helping with emergency response teams. SB 55 allows emergency response teams from outside our borders to enter into a reciprocal agreement with Kentucky to allow us all to share our resources in response to future emergencies.”
Sponsored by Rep. Steve Riggs, House Bill 421 offers further protection to homeowners making repairs by allowing them to cancel contracts with roofers when it’s later determined that the repairs won’t be covered by insurance.
“My legislation will go a long way towards assisting those who have been damaged by these and future storms. Beefing up our consumer protection laws to stop the out of state ‘storm chasers’ who prey on people already hurt is an important measure,” Riggs said.