Thefourth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government was held on Wednesday, September 22, 2004, at 10:00 AM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair; Representative Steve Riggs, Co-Chair; Senators Charlie Borders, Tom Buford, Julie Denton, Ernie Harris, Elizabeth Tori, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives John Adams, Adrian Arnold, Scott Brinkman, Jim Callahan, James Comer, Ron Crimm, Mike Denham, Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, Derrick Graham, Stan Lee, Marie Rader, Arnold Simpson, Ken Upchurch, and Jim Wayne.
Guests: James Lewis, Lesley County Clerk; Dean Johnson, Laurel County Clerk; Bill May, Kentucky County Clerk's Association; Commissioner Darrell Brock, Deputy Commissioner Cordell Lawrence, Rich Ornstein, and Andy Barr, Governor's Office for Local Development; Jack Couch, Kentucky Council of Area Development Districts; Bert May and Phil Huddleston, Kentucky League of Cities; Sam Crawford and Matt Bouchard, Farm Bureau; Dan Walton, Kentucky Manufactured Housing Institute; Vince Lang, Kentucky County Judge/Executive Association; Pam Jones, Kentucky Housing Corporation; Prentice Harvey, State Farm Insurance; Ron Wolf, Louisville Metro Government; Jack Underwood, AT&T; and Richard Tanner, Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association.
LRC Staff: Jamie Franklin, Donna Gaines, Mark Mitchell, Joe Pinczewski-Lee, Tiffanie Gray, Donna Holiday, Ann Cheek, Karen Crabtree, and Cheryl Walters.
Upon the motion of Representative Simpson, seconded by Representative Rader, the minutes of the June 22, July 15, and August 25, 2004 meetings were approved.
The first order of business was an overview of the Office of County Clerk and legislative proposals from the Kentucky County Clerk's Association for the upcoming 2005 session of the General Assembly. Senator Kerr introduced Mr. Bill May, Executive Director of the Kentucky County Clerk's Association. Mr. May introduced Mr. James Lewis, Leslie County Clerk and Chair of the Association's Election Committee, and Mr. Dean Johnson, Laurel County clerk, to discuss the group's legislative proposals.
Mr. Lewis told the committee that there was a problem with the election current laws. He said the Association will be requesting approval of an "election free" zone of 300 feet from the poll. Mr. Lewis stated that the farther you can keep candidates away from the voters the better.
Representative Arnold commented that 500 feet from the poll was ruled unconstitutional and wondered if 300 feet would be ruled unconstitutional also. Mr. Lewis said if the language is strong and well-written, 300 feet should be upheld. Representative Arnold said he hoped so because people do not want to be harassed at the polls while they are trying to vote. Mr. Lewis noted that 300 feet is the minimum to be effective to allow for privacy and freedom from intimidation.
Senator Borders commented that he hopes the plan for 300 feet from the poll works out. He said it seems that 300 feet would be a good compromise. Senator Borders stated that there is a time and place for people to be left alone to consider their actions. He noted that he has over 100 precincts and it is difficult to feel you have to cover all of them.
Representative Upchurch asked what the reasoning was behind the court case in which 500 feet was ruled unconstitutional. Mr. Lewis replied it had been ruled that it was a violation of a person's first amendment rights.
Mr. Lewis continued by saying that there are also problems with the local option statutes that are on the books now. He noted that this was mainly due to the fact that when the legislature allowed for local option elections to be held on the primary election date, it caused conflicting statutory requirements that are not easy for the clerks to administer. Mr. Lewis said the wet/dry statutes need to be clarified as to the filing deadlines, date of elections, and who administers the elections. For instance, he stated that if a general election is held on November 2, under current local option laws, the local option election could be scheduled to be held on the 30th day after the general election because that is the earliest date possible. Mr. Lewis explained that it is impossible for the clerks to administer such an election because voting machines are required to be locked for 30 days after an election. He said that deadline needs to be moved another 15 days to 45 days.
Mr. Lewis stated that the Clerk's Association would like to see the regular election officers that are appointed each year by the county boards, serve for all elections in that year, regardless of the nature or type.
Regarding write-in candidate declarations of intent, Mr. Lewis said the Clerk's Association is suggesting that the deadline should be at 4:00 p.m. just like all of the other candidates. Mr. Lewis next told the committee that members of county election boards should no longer serve once they have filed for local office.
Mr. Lewis then stated that the use of telecommunication devices within the polling place should be prohibited because it could become a potential problem. He also said a minimum rate of $100 per day should be established for election officers. He noted that right now the rate is $60 per day.
In conclusion, Mr. Lewis suggested that counties be reimbursed $700 per precinct instead of the current $300 for election costs. He noted that it costs $1,200 per precinct currently. The state pays one-fourth and the county pays the rest.
Senator Kerr asked what the Clerk's Association's feelings were regarding polling booths in schools that are open on primary day. Mr. Lewis said the Association has asked for schools to be closed on primary day as well as the general election. Senator Kerr said she agreed that the school should be closed because the safety of the children is her main concern.
Representative Arnold commented that schools used to be closed on primary day until about three years ago, but school superintendents came and asked for them to be re-opened.
Regarding the 4:00 p.m. deadline for write-in candidates, Senator Tori asked if that was a big problem. Mr. Lewis said it is not a big problem but all candidates should have the same deadline.
In order to increase voter turnout, Representative Riggs asked if the Clerk's Association would consider supporting a change in the hours polls are opened to 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Mr. Lewis said that would not be a problem. He agreed that the time does need to be changed and that the Association would consider Representative Riggs' suggestion.
Representative Graham asked if someone can still vote if they are still in line when the poll closes. Mr. Lewis replied yes.
Senator Denton asked if election results are announced at 6:00 p.m. even though there are two time zones in the state and some polls are still open. Mr. Lewis replied yes. Senator Denton also asked if it would be a problem for that to be changed. Mr. Lewis said it would not be a problem. He said it would simply take a change in the law.
Mr. Johnson addressed the committee next. He told members that the statutes relating to purchase price affidavits on vehicles which are filed in the Clerk's Office, needed to be reviewed. He said too many people are making false statements in order to avoid usage tax.
Mr. Johnson also stated that there are so many different license plates and prices, that the minimum fee on license plates should be changed to $30 instead of $15. Mr. Johnson then said there needs to be an increase in fees for recording deeds from $12 to $20.
Regarding false statements on purchase price affidavits, Representative Riggs stated that there is a penalty on the books now for false reporting the value of a car. He said the county clerk should report potential fraud to law enforcement.
Mr. Johnson said it is not the county clerk's place nor duty to question the affidavit.
Senator Denton commented that it should be the county clerk's responsibility to report a violation of the law. Mr. Johnson replied that they do not have the authority to question people about the information they supply on the affidavit. Senator Denton stated that perhaps it should be mandated that clerks question people and report false statements.
Representative Crimm asked if the book that is signed at the polling place is the same information that candidates receive. Mr. Johnson replied yes. Representative Crimm stated that people could vote twice if recently moved. He said the walk list given to candidates has duplicates. Mr. Johnson said this should not happen if people were required to give their social security number at the poll.
Senator Borders commented that the county clerks should not be responsible for questioning people. He said that is not their job. Senator Borders suggested requiring the Revenue Cabinet to review applications which seem to have undervalued cars.
Representative Edmonds asked if the state is losing a lot of money as a result of false statements. Mr. Johnson said he did not know.
Representative Arnold asked how often are voters purged if they do not vote. Mr. Johnson said an inactive file is kept for voters who have not voted in five years but there is not a purge process.
Mr. May lastly gave a brief overview of the office of county clerk. He said the office of county clerk is a constitutional office for which the office holder is elected to four-year terms. Mr. May explained that the office of county clerk is run by fees. He said the office of county clerk is responsible for selling different kinds of licenses, recording deeds and mortgages, titling and registering of vehicles, and election and tax duties.
The last order of business was review of Executive Reorganization Order #2004-727 and discussion of the Governor's Office for Local Development's (GOLD) reorganizational chart. Senator Kerr introduced Commissioner Darrell Brock to address the committee. Commissioner Brock told the committee that GOLD is trying to be more efficient and effective. He then introduced Mr. Rich Ornstein, staff attorney with GOLD.
Mr. Ornstein told the committee that Executive Order 2004-727 relates only to the reorganization of the transfer of the single county coal fund from the Economic Development Cabinet's Department for Regional Development to GOLD. There being no questions from the members, Senator Kerr stated that without objection, the Executive Order would be approved, as presented, by the committee.
Regarding the reorganizational chart of GOLD, Mr. Ornstein stated that in addition to the single county coal fund transfer, the Office of Renaissance Kentucky was now under GOLD instead being under the Kentucky Housing Corporation. He also noted the creation of seven regional offices called "Local Initiatives for a New Kentucky" (LINKS), the creation of an office of Legislative Services and administrative oversight of the Kentucky Appalachian Commission and the East and West Kentucky Corporations.
Senator Tori asked if the names of who are in administrative positions could be provided to the committee because this information could be helpful to legislators. Mr. Ornstein assured Senator Tori that those names would be provided to members.
Representative Adams asked how many staff did GOLD employ. Mr. Ornstein replied that GOLD had 66 employees and the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority had 12 staff.
Representative Adams stated that he wanted to promote a better partnership between the Area Development Districts and GOLD. Commissioner Brock told Representative Adams that this is the best relationship they have had in years.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:20 a.m.