By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — The House voted unanimously Thursday to pass a bill that would give scholarships to students from 34 coal counties to attend universities in those counties.
House Bill 210 passed despite strong objections of some legislators who said the bill should not limit attendance to colleges in those coal-producing counties.
A similar measure passed the House last year but never passed the Republican-controlled Senate. Gov. Steve Beshear created a nine-county scholarship program by executive order last year.
House Bill 210 would make permanent the nine-county program and spread it to all 34 coal-producing counties, including eight in Western Kentucky.
The program would continue to use coal severance tax dollars to provide scholarships to college juniors and seniors to help them finish their four-year degrees.
Students need to have 60 credit hours before applying for the scholarships, which range from $2,200 to $6,600 a year. They must attend post-secondary institutions or extension campuses in the designated coal-producing counties. Many of those colleges are private. Under the current nine-county scholarship program, the majority of the students attend the University of Pikeville.
Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, sponsored an amendment that would allow students in those coal-producing counties to attend any state school, which are much cheaper than private colleges, Nelson said. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, ruled that the amendment was not drafted correctly and said it was out of order.
The measure now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it’s fate is not known.