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Legislative special session likely to deal with Eastern Kentucky flooding

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(The Center Square) – A special session of the Kentucky General Assembly will likely need to be called to provide relief for the counties and communities ravaged by flooding in the eastern part of the state last week.

The recovery process continues across 13 counties, Gov. Andy Beshear said. He also told reporters lawmakers from the region have broached the subject with him.

Under the state’s constitution, only the governor can call the legislature into a special session.

“We are very open to it,” Beshear said. “In fact, I think it’s going to be needed. We’ve just been trying to, again, find everybody, account for everybody, have a cooling center (open), deal with the rain that’s coming. But we’re working on it right now.”

The death toll now stands at 37, and Beshear said it’s possible that number may rise by a couple in the coming days. Kentucky State Police are reporting three individuals missing, but there may be others who have been reported to local authorities as well.

The Republican-led legislature and the Democratic governor worked closely to pass a $200 million relief bill for the western Kentucky communities hit by a tornado last December. That package was passed in the early stages of the General Assembly’s session this year, which started in January.

Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to convene again in Frankfort until January for the start of the 2023 session.

Beshear said a relief package for eastern Kentucky can’t wait that long.

“Counties are already contracting, school districts are already contracting to clean up to haul debris, and we need to be there for them,” the governor said. “We can’t let a school system go broke, or a city or county go broke because of the amount of time it may take for them to be reimbursed.”

Last month, state budget officials announced the “rainy day fund,” or its budget reserves, is up to $2.7 billion.

During a press conference in Chavies, 80 miles southeast of Lexington, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, confirmed there have been talks about a special session. He added he alerted legislators and staffers to start working on possible bills as the flooding hit last Thursday.

It’s possible multiple packages may be needed. Stivers estimated it could take up to six months to determine all the costs necessary for rebuilding and recovery in the region.

“We’re not ready,” Stivers said. “We don’t have the figures. We couldn’t tell you what it is that we need to do.”

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