FRANKFORT – House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s efforts to re-open the Otter Creek facility in Wheelwright took another step forward on Friday when the General Assembly is expected to pass the state’s next two-year budget.
“Opening this facility and putting people back to work there is my top priority locally,” Speaker Stumbo said. “I’m pleased to say that the language we had in the 2014 budget, and that the House supported again in the proposal we approved earlier this year, remains intact. As such, Otter Creek will be available to meet any overcrowding or medical needs the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet may have over the next two years.”
Under the budget language, the cabinet will have the authority to re-open a private prison like Otter Creek if there is an overflow of prisoners and litigation is possible as a result. The budget would allow the cabinet to transfer up to 2,300 inmates if necessary.
In addition, the cabinet could choose to use Otter Creek as a nursing home for prisoners who are elderly or severely ill. These inmates would technically be paroled, which would make them eligible for Medicaid, saving the state money it currently pays for the prisoners’ healthcare. Those convicted of a capital or serious sexual offense would not be eligible for this program.
Elsewhere in the House budget, the Attorney General’s office is directed to provide settlements to a variety of organizations as a result of the conclusion of the Purdue Pharma case. That includes $700,000 this fiscal year and $200,000 combined over the next two fiscal years for Hope in the Mountains PLUS $200,000 this fiscal year and $200,000 over the upcoming biennium for Mountain Comprehensive Care Center.
“It is important to emphasize that voting on the budget is not the final step before it becomes law,” Speaker Stumbo said. “The governor will have 10 days to decide whether he will sign it, veto it or veto sections. I will strongly encourage him to keep programs important to us intact, however. There is no doubt the need for them is great.”
In a separate item not tied to the legislative process, Speaker Stumbo said that the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security notified him last week that Floyd County had been awarded a grant totaling $13,194. The money, which is provided through the sale of confiscated weapons received by Kentucky State Police, will be used by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office to purchase 15 Tasers and another piece of technological equipment.
“This is great news for our local department and will help Sheriff Hunt and his deputies better perform their duties,” Speaker Stumbo said.