State responds to WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Investigation

Louisville, KY (WAVE) - The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has responded to a WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Investigation that found thousands of daycare centers across Kentucky falling short of a law meant to protect children in a life or death situation.

"Most day cares already provide for emergency planning under existing statute or regulation," wrote cabinet spokesperson Jill Midkiff.

Troubleshooter Eric Flack discovered just 12% of daycare and child care centers statewide have complied with a law passed in 2011 requiring a written plan for evacuation during a fire, natural disaster, or anything else that could pose a risk to children. The law requires the emergency evacuation plan be filed with local emergency management agencies.

Midkiff said the Cabinet believes the wording of the law means daycare center's have until the end of the year to submit those plans.

"If the statute means that the obligation to update emergency plans arose on Dec. 31, 2011, (that is the day the entire statute became an active law), then the updated plans would have had to be delivered to the emergency management folks the same day the law took effect," Midkiff wrote.

"However, if the obligation under the statute to have an updated plan did not arise until after the law was in effect (January 1, 2012), the legal deadline for submitting updated plans to local emergency management officials would be December 31, 2012.  This allows day cares to provide updated plans throughout the 2012 calendar year.  This is the way the Cabinet interpreted the date of the obligation."

That's in stark contrast to the way State Sen. Tom Buford sees it. He's the lawmaker who sponsored the legislation. He told Troubleshooter Eric Flack there's no question in his mind when the daycare's are supposed to have those emergency evacuation plans in.

"Now," Buford said.

Midkiff argued the interpretation the Cabinet is using is fairly common with new regulations or laws, as it allows affected parties enough time to take the necessary steps to come into compliance.

"The goal of regulatory provisions is to support compliance, not to seek penalties," Midkiff wrote.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services denied a request by Troubleshooter Eric Flack to seek a review by the Kentucky Attorney General as to the proper interpretation of the effective date of the law.

"The Cabinet is responsible for implementing many pieces of legislation enacted by the General Assembly and does not believe it is necessary to request an opinion from the Attorney General about this one particular statute that, by its own terms, took effect December 31, 2011," Midkiff wrote. " What you are asking for is a slightly different issue – the question of the date of the obligation to have emergency plans."

Despite that, the Troubleshooter Investigation seems to have spurred the Cabinet to action. After Troubleshooter Eric Flack showed State Senator Buford what he found, Buford wanted answers. He said Eric Freelander, Deputy Secretary for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, was "very apologetic."

"He told me this is something that needs to be taken care of and that the cabinet is going to make a push to get this done," Buford said.

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