Here in Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin has authorized a state of emergency declaration for an actual emergency. Days of heavy rains have led to flooding, particularly in the western and central parts of the Bluegrass State.
The Kentucky Division of Emergency Management has received state of emergency declarations from 36 county and 11 cities. KYEM activated the State of Emergency Operations Center on Friday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping combat record-level water releases at Wolf Creek Dam and flooding in Smithland.
The prolonged rain has reportedly led to increased water levels at major dams in central and western Kentucky, which have required record levels of discharge and led to flooding conditions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the following statement on Kentucky's flooding:
"I’d like to turn attention to the severe weather that is afflicting communities throughout Kentucky. Many counties—from one end of my state to the other—have declared states of emergency in response to historically high water levels. And just moments ago, Governor Matt Bevin put the entire Commonwealth under a state of emergency to mobilize resources where they’re needed most.
“Many families are evacuating toward safety. Approximately 2,400 people in Eastern and Southern Kentucky are still without power. Mudslides have closed roads, bridges are flooded, and emergency personnel have been deployed to rescue stranded drivers and others in danger.
“I’m grateful to the first responders working around the clock to keep their communities safe. It may be a difficult road to recovery, but Kentuckians are already pitching in to help their neighbors in need. My staff and I are ready to work with emergency management officials and will continue to monitor this situation closely.”
Much of that is south of here, but it still means the state is in bad shape. Bevin declaring the entire state a disaster area means everyone can at least start getting help. The rains have been pretty bad over the last couple of weeks. Now contrast with the fact that at the same time, Kentucky Republicans are moving ahead with a massive austerity bill that will cut billions in benefits from people who need them the most.
Top House Republicans have filed a bill that would enact sweeping changes in Kentucky's system of public benefits — including Medicaid, food stamps and temporary cash aid for the poor — adding work requirements, drug tests and benefit cuts that opponents say would be disastrous.
"This is the most severe attack on Kentucky's safety net in our state's history," said Dustin Pugel, a policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. "I've never seen anything like this.
"This is the war on the poor," he said.
House Speaker David Osborne, a Prospect Republican and primary sponsor of House Bill 3, filed Feb. 20 — the deadline for House bills this legislative session — described it as a bill meant to encourage more Kentuckians to work.
"I do believe it helps transition people off public assistance and back into the workforce," said Osborne, who is joined as sponsor of HB 3 by Rep. David Meade, a Stanford Republican and House speaker pro tem.
But advocates familiar with the bill disagree, saying it's a compilation of conservative talking points meant to cut public aid to the poor.
"It's designed to cut people off from assistance," said Jason Dunn, with the advocacy group Kentucky Voices for Health. "This pulls all the bad ideas from past years and adds a couple of news ones and rolls them into one bill."
The bill would cut direct aid to the poorest families by more than 80%, from $171 million to $40 million, and add work requirements, photo ID requirements, and drug testing (already ruled unconstitutional in other states) to SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF.
And there's basically no way Kentucky Democrats can stop it. I'm not sure why this bill would come up in an election year for Matt Bevin, but if this passes and he signs this, he's toast.
He'll sign it anyway.