Thefifth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government was held on Monday, November 20, 2006, at 10:00 AM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Steve Riggs, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Damon Thayer, Co-Chair; Representative Steve Riggs, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr, Julian M Carroll, Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Dan Kelly, Johnny Ray Turner, and Ed Worley; Representatives Adrian K Arnold, Scott W Brinkman, Ron Crimm, Mike Denham, Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, David Floyd, Derrick Graham, Jimmy Higdon, Charlie Hoffman, Dennis Keene, Stan Lee, Thomas M McKee, Reginald K Meeks, Brad Montell, David Osborne, Terry Shelton, Arnold Simpson, Ancel Smith, Ken Upchurch, and Jim Wayne.
Guests: Harrison County Sheriff Bruce Hampton, Fleming County Sheriff Jerry Wagner, and Bill May, Kentucky Sheriffs' Association; Bob Arnold, Denny Nunnelley, and Tim Sturgill, Kentucky Association of Counties; Richard Tanner, Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association; Brett Gaspard, Gurney Clancy, and Charles Phillips, League of Kentucky Property Owners; Norm Davis and Charles Zoeller, Take Back Kentucky; Shellie Hampton, Kentucky County Judge/Executives Association; Bert May and Craig Maffet, Kentucky League of Cities; Ron Wolf, Louisville Metro; Sam Crawford, Jefferson County Farm Bureau; and Dan Walton, Kentucky Manufactured Housing Institute.
LRC Staff: Jamie Franklin, Donna Gaines, Mark Mitchell, Joe Pinczewski-Lee, Jay Hartz, Mike Haydon, and Cheryl Walters.
Upon the motion Representative Crimm, seconded by Representative Brinkman, the minutes of the September 27 and October 5, 2006 meetings were approved.
The first item of business was adoption of resolutions honoring retiring committee members Representatives Adrian Arnold and Terry Shelton.
The next item of business was a discussion of the Kentucky Association of Counties' (KACo) legislative platform for 2007. Representative Riggs introduced Mr. Bob Arnold, Executive Director and CEO of KACo and Mr. Tim Sturgill, General Counsel for KACo, and Mr. Richard Tanner, Executive Director of Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association. Mr. Arnold first recapped the highlights of KACo's annual convention, which was held November 15-17, 2006. He invited the committee to attend next year's KACo convention.
Mr. Arnold next told the committee about KACo' new program of distributing prescription discount cards to all counties throughout the Commonwealth. He noted that this could be a possible statewide savings of thousands of dollars on prescription drugs for Kentuckians. Mr. Arnold explained that the discount card program is sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo) for its members. He further explained that all KACo members are also NACo members thus making the citizens of all counties eligible for the program. Mr. Arnold stated that the discount cards would be distributed by the county health departments. He added that by participating in the program, county officials in Kentucky can save a resident of the county an average of 21 percent off the full retail price of most commonly prescribed drugs without any cost to the county or the participant.
Representative Lee asked how the program is funded. Mr. Arnold replied that NACo has contracted with Caremark, a leading pharmaceutical services company, who is able to purchase drugs at a discount by buying them in bulk.
Representative Keene asked why Campbell and Kenton Counties were not on the list of counties currently ready to participate in the program. Mr. Sturgill replied that Kenton County just recently decided to participate and Campbell County has not yet decided to participate.
Representative Meeks stated that he did not see Jefferson County on the list either. Mr. Sturgill replied that there are some counties that have not yet decided to participate, and Fayette and Jefferson Counties are included in those counties. He reiterated that all counties are eligible to participate because NACo dues are paid via KACo dues.
Mr. Arnold told the committee that KACo's top issue for the 2007 session is the extra costs to counties for the operation of local jails. He noted that $120 million is currently owed to counties by the state for prisoners not yet adjudicated. Mr. Arnold stated that counties should be reimbursed and that KACo would like to see that addressed. He said it is a state responsibility and the state should eventually take over the operation of local jails.
Representative Riggs pointed out that Representative Richards has prefiled a bill that will allow for funds to go to county jails from the point of incarceration.
Representative Wayne asked if there was a movement for the state to take over local jails and what was the status of the movement. Mr. Arnold stated that Representative Graham had sponsored a bill regarding the state takeover of jails. He noted that it will not happen overnight. Mr. Arnold said it will continue to be discussed until it is resolved. Representative Wayne also asked what the cost estimate to the state would be. Mr. Sturgill replied that it would be an additional $120 million per year.
Representative Graham commented that this should be the top priority of this committee and that this is a state government responsibility. He said this committee should work with KACo to get legislation passed. Representative Graham noted that Franklin County, which has a regional jail, is going to court to ask for state relief or the take over of their jail.
Representative Riggs asked Representative Graham if his bill received a hearing. Representative Graham stated that the bill went to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee where it died.
Senator Carroll commented that it should be the responsibility of this committee to sponsor a resolution during the next session which would call for a study to be conducted to look at the actual cost of jails and the incarceration of prisoners.
Representative Lee asked what would the counties do with the extra $120 million if the state takes over the jails. Mr. Arnold stated that counties would use it for roads, sewers, water lines, etc.
Representative Arnold asked if we were talking about funding or really taking over jails. He asked what will happen to the position of jailer and deputies. Representative Graham noted that the original bill called for the elimination of the office of jailer.
Representative Crimm asked who would take over ownership of the property. Mr. Arnold stated that is another issue that must be discussed.
Mr. Arnold told the committee that another issue of concern to KACo is tax reform. He noted that counties were supposed to be held harmless by the telecommunication tax modernization but they ended up with a loss. Mr. Arnold added that counties lost about 18% of the revenue they had previously received from franchise fees.
Representative Brinkman asked what happened because the language was clear. Mr. Tanner replied that the Revenue Cabinet's interpretation has caused the problem. Mr. Bert May with the Kentucky League of Cities, told the committee that there was an actual dollar amount in the bill which was not sufficient to hold everyone harmless.
Mr. Arnold stated that the sharing of taxes and revenues is also a big issue which KACo would also like to revisit.
Representative Riggs noted that Representative Crimm has pre-filed a bill relating to this issue. Representative Crimm stated that he is going to file a resolution for a study on this issue for this session because there is not have enough time during the 2007 session to discuss this issue.
Referring back to the jail issue, Representative Graham commented that his bill would eliminate the office of jailer over a six-year time period. Ms. Shellie Hampton with the Kentucky County Judge/Executive Association, stated that there is a lot of bonded indebtedness for jail properties and that a decision has not been made about how to address this issue.
Mr. Tanner told the committee that the Magistrates and Commissioners Association want to pursue the following issues: (1) medical costs for jails in which the counties would only have to pay the Medicaid rate; (2) a review of the new voting machines at elections, which are taking too much time to operate; (3) the elimination of the office of constable; and (4) the possibility of receiving more money to help get animal shelters upgraded and maybe look at regional programs.
The next item of business was discussion of 2007 legislative issues relating to sheriffs. Representative Riggs introduced Mayor Bill May, legislative agent for the Kentucky Sheriffs' Association (KSA). Mayor May then introduced Harrison County Sheriff Bruce Hampton, President of the KSA, and Fleming County Sheriff Jerry Wagner, Chair of KSA's legislative committee and incoming executive director of the KSA.
Sheriff Wagner told the committee that KSA's main issue of concern is the court bailiff bill. He explained that they have a bill which puts consistency in the training for court bailiffs. Sheriff Wagner noted that there is no money or retirement provisions in the bill. He said it just standardizes training for all court bailiffs.
Representative Riggs asked if the legislation has been prefiled or has a sponsor. Sheriff Wagner replied not yet, but that they do have a draft available.
Representative Riggs commented that the chiefs of police association wants a bill which will require reporting of gunshot wounds treated at hospitals or medical facilities. He asked what the KSA's position on this reporting would be. Sheriff Wagner replied that the KSA supports it.
Sheriff Wagner told the committee that another issue of concern is the Kentucky Law Enforcement Program Foundation Fund. He stated that money has been taken from the fund and the KSA is very concerned about this issue.
Representative Riggs stated that the committee needs to take a look at this issue.
Representative Arnold commented that the original tax was supposed to have been for only ten years, then it would be self-sustaining. He said money was taken to balance budgets therefore depleting the amount in the fund.
The last item of business was discussion of the effect of the Kentucky eminent domain law on individual property owners. Representative Riggs introduced Mr. Brett Gaspard, representing the League of Kentucky Property Owners. Mr. Gaspard stated that appearing with him were Mr. Bud Clancey, President of the League of Kentucky Property Owners, and Mr. Norm Davis with Take Back Kentucky.
Mr. Gaspard told the committee that the League of Kentucky Property Owners has served as an educational resource for property owners affected by land use regulations and other government actions. He noted that since the Kelo vs. New London case decided by the United States Supreme Court last summer, his organization has turned their attention to assisting the General Assembly with updating Kentucky's Eminent Domain law, originally passed in 1976.
Mr. Gaspard explained that essentially what the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo vs. New London, was that it is up to the individual states to determine what constitutes a legitimate "public use" and thus leaving open the possibility of local governments to condemn private property for supposed public use for economic development. He noted that ultimately, the losers are lower and middle class income earners who cannot afford to fight the deep pockets of government agencies and politically connected development firms.
Mr. Gaspard thanked the members of the General Assembly for unanimously supporting legislation last session in HB 508 to curb the abuse of eminent domain for the use of economic development. He noted that what the legislation failed to clarify, however, was the definitions of "public use" and "economic development" within the framework of the Kentucky Revised Statutes. Mr. Gaspard stated that there is also a serious problem with Kentucky's blight legislation. He added that his organization feels that the most prudent course would be to address each of these reforms with separate pieces of legislation. Mr. Gaspard provided the committee with possible definitions for what constitutes "public use" and "economic development" that falls in line with national and state models, as well as suggestions for other sections of KRS Chapter 416 relating to the processes currently used for remedy once eminent domain is actually invoked.
Mr. Davis told the committee that his group was in the process of developing a specific legislative proposal addressing the definition of economic development and more, which they would sent to the committee.
Mr. Clancey told the committee that HB 508 does not cover blight and that his organization is seeking a definition of blight.
Representative Wayne commented that he would like to see the bill draft and also a definition of "public housing."
Senator Thayer commented that HB 508 codified Kentucky case law to protect private property rights. He said this bill is a first step but groups such as these feel that it did not go far enough.
Representative Riggs noted that this was the final meeting of the interim for the committee and he thanked the members for their time and attendance.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:50 a.m.