The2nd meeting of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice and Judiciary of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue was held on<Day> Wednesday, November 2, 2005, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Jesse Crenshaw, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Deputy Secretary Cleve Gambill, Commissioner John Rees, Department of Corrections; Greg Rush, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Deputy Commissioner Mike Dossett, Department of Juvenile Justice; Diana Eads, Department of Corrections; Luke Morgan, Attorney, Office of the Secretary; and, Stephanie Craycraft, Branch Manager, Department of Juvenile Justice.
LRC Staff: Karen Hilborn Crabtree, Mike Mullins, and Jenifer Harrison.
Chairman Crenshaw announced the LRC Hurricane Relief Fund Project and its acceptance of donations, which will be used for disaster relief services for those afflicted by the recent hurricanes in the Gulf States.
Chairman Crenshaw mentioned that Representative Yonts had a previous engagement and regretfully could not attend the meeting. Chairman Crenshaw requested a moment of silence for Rosa Parks and Senator Stivers' father Judge Stivers.
Chairman Crenshaw introduced Commissioner Rees and Deputy Secretary Gambill and thanked them for being at the last meeting.
Chairman Crenshaw then gave a background of House Bill 281, which he explained was intended to expedite the process for ex-offenders who were seeking the restoration of their civil rights. Chairman Crenshaw wanted to know the number of people who had applied for and how many actually had their rights restored in 2000. Commissioner Rees responded that the numbers with rights restored are as follows: in 2000 - 446, in 2001 - 960, in 2002 - 772, in 2003 - 1,150, in 2004 - 316, and in 2005 to date - 151 have been restored. Chairman Crenshaw deducted that from 2000-2003 there was a significant increase due to the Department of Corrections helping people to process their applications. Chairman Crenshaw commended the agency for their work. However, he expressed concern that the number of persons having rights restored dropped tremendously from 2003 to 2004 and 2005. He expressed concern that the spirit and intent of HB 281 was not being followed.
Chairman Crenshaw asked if the department could further simplify their process. Commissioner Rees responded that they would consider the issue and determine if any simplification was feasible. Chairman Crenshaw commented that helping convicted felons adjust and become productive members of society is very important. Restoration of civil rights is one step in that process.
Chairman Crenshaw asked how the applications for the restoration of rights are distributed. Commissioner Rees responded that the applications are handed to the individuals from state facilities upon release. Jailers have been instructed to provide them to state inmates upon release, but all jails may not always follow this procedure. He went on to say that the electronic monitoring bill that passed allowed Class D felony releases 60 days early and the language structure left the jails out. He added if language changes were made to the bill to include the jails, then there would be greater assurance that it is done correctly.
Chairman Crenshaw wanted to know if those already released still get assistance with the paperwork. Ms. Eads responded that if they go to any local probation and parole office, an officer will assist them in filling out the form. Representative Webb noted that there needs to be some interaction at the level of release between the county jail and the Department of Corrections. She asked who has access to the monthly generated list of releases, and how can it be obtained. Commissioner Rees replied that the list will be sent to anyone that requests a copy. Representative Webb also stated that those release records are available in a state government database and should be accessible without putting an additional burden on the ex-offender. Representative Webb wants to get someone from the Governor's office in front of the committee to get clarity on the situation.
Senator Seum asked what other rights are lost besides the right to vote. Commissioner Rees responded that a felon looses the right to vote, to own a firearm, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office. Senator Seum wanted to know if we have the ability to expunge a record. Commissioner Rees responded no. Senator Seum asked at what point does an individual lose their rights. Commissioner Rees answered upon conviction. Senator Seum asked if there is a record of someone writing a cold check 20 years ago. Ms. Eads responded that it is kept at the Circuit Clerk's office. Commissioner Rees added that the Department of Corrections would not have a record of it, but the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) would.
Chairman Crenshaw asked when helping with the application, does the department contact the clerk's office to see if the correct charge is listed. Ms. Eads replied no. Chairman Crenshaw asked would that be a difficult task. Commissioner Rees explained that it would be difficult for the department to obtain all the charges because the records could be all over the commonwealth and possibly even out of state. Chairman Crenshaw wanted to know what the difference was between contacting the clerk's office or the court to see if outstanding warrants. Commissioner Rees replied that it is a computer entry through CorpsNet. Chairman Crenshaw asked if it could be made easier to get the information from the Clerk's Office. Commissioner Rees replied that they will talk to AOC and see if there is a way to share information.
Senator Neal commented on the precipitous drop in numbers of ex-offenders who have had their rights restored, adding that the process after the application seems to be a major point of focus. He then asked what the $2.00 fee is used for. Chairman Crenshaw replied that it is a processing fee.
Chairman Crenshaw then expressed his concern that the ex-offender's rights are not restored automatically upon paying their debt to society, as in some other states. Senator Neal stated that Kentucky is one of only seven states that does not have restoration of rights mechanism in place, adding that only Vermont has a program in place that allows offenders to retain their rights while still in prison. Senator Seum asked if the Governor could achieve this objective by Executive Order, rather than changing the constitution. Senator Neal responded it could be done by Executive Order, adding that the Governor is the only one that can give a partial pardon, which is a restoration of these rights.
Chairman Crenshaw expressed his appreciation for Senator Neal's comments. He then thanked Commissioner Rees and Ms. Eads for appearing before the subcommittee, and their willingness to help.
Chairman Crenshaw then announced the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Deputy Secretary Gambill then introduced Deputy Commissioner Mike Dossett, who gave an overview of budget issues. Additional funding will be requested for: 25 contracted positions to provide substance abuse treatment; an increase in the number of beds for sex offenders; expansion of 37.5 hour work week to 40 hours for 800 employees; pay increases for direct care staff. Capital funding will be requested for one new juvenile detention center and a state of the art streaming video surveillance system.
Chairman Crenshaw inquired about the Laurel County facility. Mr. Dossett introduced Luke Morgan, Legal Counsel. Mr. Morgan answered that the Laurel Facility is in the beginning stages of litigation, lawsuits were filed against five or six defendants, and not all responses have been received. Chairman Crenshaw asked how long the Laurel County facility has been open. Counselor Morgan replied that it was dedicated in 2001. Chairman Crenshaw asked that the subcommittee be kept abreast of events as they transpire.
Chairman Crenshaw inquired about the location for a new juvenile detention center in the Green River corridor and asked if a location had been determined. Mr. Dossett replied that a location has not yet been determined, and went on to say that it is a critical project due to overpopulation in the facilities in the western part of the state.
Representative Webb wanted to know if other states were using streaming video at the same level. Mr. Dossett replied that other states do have video surveillance, but not with the same cutting-edge technology. Representative Webb commented that confidentiality is very important. Mr. Dossett noted that the department has taken steps to protect privacy, adding that the surveillance system is video only, with no audio. Representative Webb wanted to know the ongoing cost of the system. Mr. Dossett responded that the only recurring cost would possibly be a warranty issue.
Representative Webb asked how the substance assessment issue could be done more effectively. Mr. Dossett responded that the level of treatment is the same, but that a new project is being developed for different tracks of treatment. Representative Webb asked if an evaluation is done at intake. Mr. Dossett replied in the affirmative. Representative Webb asked if the proposed new treatment professionals would have a specialty. Mr. Dossett responded that they will primarily be substance abuse professionals but will be working under the auspices of the mental health division.
Representative Webb asked if any of the services in the juvenile institutions are being privatized. Mr. Dossett responded that some of the facilities are privatized with youth foster care, but other than that, no. He went on to say that they are considering privatizing some food services, but it does not appear to be economically feasible due to the small size of the juvenile facilities. Rep. Webb requested that the information be provided to the committee if privatization of any service is seriously considered .
Chairman Crenshaw asked about the present status of the 40-hour workweek. Mr. Dossett responded that 30 days ago facility employees only began the 40-hour week. Chairman Crenshaw then inquired about compensatory time. Mr. Dossett responded that after the first 2.5 hours are accrued, overtime can be chosen as comp time or money. Chairman Crenshaw asked about the cost of the 40-hour workweek. Mr. Dossett replied it would be approximately $2 million per budget year, adding that there is a significant amount of overtime throughout the agency due to the 37.5-hour workweek. Chairman Crenshaw asked how much of a cost saving would result in changing the workweek to 40 hours. Mr. Doss replied that there will not be a cost savings in the short term, but over a period of two or three years, a cost savings will become apparent when calculated against the overtime usage. Chairman Crenshaw requested that LRC staff be notified when a savings has been realized.
Chairman Crenshaw asked about the cost of hiring 25 substance abuse professionals. Mr. Dossett responded that it would cost approximately $1.4 million for contracted professionals to help with the substance abuse overload cases. Chairman Crenshaw then wanted to know how bad the substance abuse is. Mr. Dossett responded that a majority of the youth is in the mid to low level of risk.
Chairman Crenshaw asked if the Laurel County facility will be repaired before the lawsuit is final. Mr. Dossett responded that the facility infrastructure has been preserved and winterized, and now they are awaiting results of architectural studies for guidance. Chairman Crenshaw wanted to know how long before they get those results. Mr. Dossett replied that it might be as early as one month. Chairman Crenshaw asked for the information to be provided to the subcommittee.
Chairman Crenshaw wanted to know if additional funds would be required to provide for a full year of operating expenses for 2006 to 2007 for the Fayette County Juvenile Detention Center. Mr. Dossett replied that due to the construction timeline, the facility was opened earlier than expected. Mr. Dossett introduced Stephanie Craycraft, Fiscal Manager. She stated that they should be able to operate within the budget for the rest of this year, through June 30, 2006. Mr. Dossett said that they have 129 vacant positions but none of those are in Fayette County. Chairman Crenshaw asked how much money would be requested for next year for Fayette County. Ms. Craycraft replied that the normal operating budget is $3 million per year.
Representative Webb inquired about the cost savings of the 40-hour workweek. Mr. Dossett replied that due to a reduction in overtime, there would be cost savings. Representative Webb asked that the cost savings information be provided when it is available.
Chairman Crenshaw thanked the agency for their very detailed and comprehensive presentation. He then introduced Deputy Commissioner Rick Stiltner with the Kentucky State Police (KSP), who gave a presentation on budget issues on behalf of Commissioner Mark Miller, who could not attend due to a prior commitment. His presentation included an overview of the department's accomplishments; an update on the LIMB project; and a briefing on current, proposed, pending capital projects, budget issues and pay increase for State Troopers.
Representative Butler ask if the number of applicants for State Troopers has been lower. Mr. Stiltner replied that is correct, and went on to say that there were about 700 applicants, cut back to 150, and ended up with 96 qualifying, and only 66 remaining in the current cadet class. Representative Butler asked about their starting salaries. Mr. Stiltner replied that it is approximately $34,000. Representative Butler asked how the pay scale works. Mr. Stiltner responded that pay grades are in place, and explained that whatever the General Assembly gives as an increase to state employees is how they receive pay raises. Representative Butler asked what additional things could be done if additional troopers can be acquired. Mr. Stiltner replied that the number one problem in Kentucky is drug-related, and additional troopers would allow an increase in drug enforcement, as well as adequately man every post in the state.
Chairman Crenshaw asked how the increase in fuel price impacts the Department. Mr. Stiltner replied that it has had a great impact. He added that they are currently working with the Governor's Office of Policy and Management on the gasoline issue. Chairman Crenshaw asked if they would be requesting a current year appropriation increase to cover the cost of fuel. Mr. Stiltner replied in the affirmative. Chairman Crenshaw asked about an anticipated cost. Mr. Stiltner estimated about $2 million, if gas prices continue at or near the current level.
Chairman Crenshaw asked where the new training center would be located. Mr. Stiltner responded that the Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) campus is the probable choice. Chairman Crenshaw asked if the land would be leased from EKU. Mr. Stiltner explained that they are not far enough into the process to answer that, but assumes that the property currently owned by KSP would be traded for property that EKU owns.
Representative Webb then asked if the wireless project is federally funded. Mr. Stiltner replied in the affirmative. Representative Webb then inquired how far along the project has gone statewide. Mr. Stiltner explained that 42 counties are almost complete, and Northern Kentucky will be completed by mid-November. Representative Webb wanted to know how that was funded. Mr. Stiltner reported that it has all been federally funded up to this point. Representative Webb asked how far along we are on the goal with CMRS dollars and the infusion of funds. Mr. Stiltner replied that the CMRS was done in phases and is moving at the pace that was set. Representative Webb asked about the ongoing obligation of operations costs for the wireless project. Mr. Stiltner will provide that information at a later date. Representative Webb also inquired about the cost of insurance for trooper's vehicles. Mr. Stiltner stated that historically the cheapest route is reimbursement.
Chairman Crenshaw thanked Deputy Commissioner Stiltner and thanked the members and the audience. He requested that Mr. Stiltner convey to Commissioner Howard how pleased the members are to see the success of his enforcement of the overweight trucks issues and would like to see it continued.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:23.