Thesecond meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government was held on Friday, July 13, 2007, at 10:30 AM, in the 2nd Floor Ballroom of the Galt House East in Louisville, Kentucky. 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, Elizabeth Tori, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Scott W. Brinkman, Ron Crimm, Robert R. Damron, Mike Denham, Ted Edmonds, Derrick Graham, Richard Henderson, Charlie Hoffman, Adam Koenig, Tom McKee, Reginald Meeks, Brad Montell, David Osborne, Ancel Smith, and Jim Wayne.
Guests: Bob Arnold and Denny Nunnelley, Kentucky Association of Counties; Boyle County Judge/Executive Tony Wilder; Larue County Judge/Executive Tommy Turner; Shelby County Magistrate Tony Carriss; Harlan County Magistrate Jim Roark; Mayor Jerry Abramson and Ron Wolf, Louisville Metro Government; Myralee Smith-Cowley and Jeff Hanna, Governor's Office for Local Development; George Mann and Tim House, Office of Housing, Buildings and Construction; Vince Lang, Shellie Hampton, and Wanda Laslie, Kentucky County Judge/Executives Association; Richard Tanner, Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association; Jack Couch, Kentucky Council of Area Development District; Bert May, Kentucky League of Cities; Ted Collins, Franklin County Judge/Executive; John Coyle, Woodford County Judge/Executive; Bill Drury, Spencer County Magistrate; Sam Crawford, Kentucky Farm Bureau; and Teresa Barton, Justice Cabinet.
LRC Staff: Mark Mitchell, Donna Gaines, Joe Pinczewski-Lee, Jamie Franklin, Yolanda Costner, Rebecca Mullins, and Cheryl Walters.
Upon the motion of Senator Thayer, seconded by Representative Henderson, the minutes of the June 20, 2007 meeting were approved.
Representative Riggs welcomed everyone to the meeting and announced that the committee was meeting in conjunction with the Kentucky County Judge/Executive's Association (KCJEA) and the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association (KMCA) joint summer convention. He then recognized Senator Thayer for some comments. Senator Thayer said it was good to be in Louisville and thanked the KCJEA and KMCA for inviting the committee to meet during their joint summer convention.
The first item of business was an update on the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Employees Retirement Systems. Representative Riggs introduced Mr. Bob Arnold, Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo). Mr. Arnold told the committee that participation by school board employees in the state's County Employees Retirement System (CERS) is costing local governments millions. He noted that the fact that 58% of CERS membership is comprised of school bus drivers, cooks, school secretaries, and other classified school employees is cause for concern.
Mr. Arnold stated that county and city employees pay $115 million a year to subsidize these employees who contribute less to the system than local government workers. He explained that part of the problem is that school board employees work nine months a year yet receive 12 months credit once they retire. Mr. Arnold added that their relatively low pay compared to the wages of county employees is also at issue since employees pay a percentage of their salary toward retirement.
Mr. Arnold told the committee that the retirement system should be looked at in its entirety, and that all employees should be protected and represented.
Representative Graham commented that all groups must unite as one organization as to what kind of retirement comes out. He added that the groups should work together with the state. Representative Graham noted that most school board employees work all year.
Representative Henderson asked if the administrators of these groups have discussed their availability and commitment. Mr. Arnold replied yes, and that they have also talked to KERS.
Senator Carroll commented that the retirement system's health insurance costs, which do not come from the CERS pension fund but are paid separately, are what is draining county budgets. He stated that we have to address this issue by attacking the source of the problem, which is the cost of health insurance. Senator Carroll added that poor health practices contributes to the problem. He said that the General Assembly has balanced the state budget at the expense of the retirement systems, and that the General Assembly has not given counties the ability to help themselves.
Mr. Arnold stated that a subcommittee has been created to study medical costs and health insurance.
Representative Hoffman commented that he shares concerns about CERS's costs. He said that the state needs to ensure that current employees and retirees have the benefits they need while protecting county efforts at recruitment and employee retention.
The next item of business was a discussion of jail issues by the KCJEA. Representative Riggs introduced Boyle County Judge/Executive and KCJEA president Tony Wilder. Judge Wilder told the committee that counties are at a crossroads with the costs of running jails. He said it is imperative that the state and counties work together. Judge Wilder added that the KCJEA is willing to offer leadership in getting the state and counties to form a partnership. He then introduced Larue County Judge/Executive and KCJEA legislative committee chair Tommy Turner to address the committee.
Judge Turner told the committee that jails present possibly the greatest challenge facing counties since the creation of our Commonwealth. He noted that it is quite the norm for counties to expend one-third of their general fund to supplement jail operations, and, in some counties, it approaches two-thirds.
Judge Turner explained that counties pay over $120 million a year on jail costs, which has some counties on the verge of bankruptcy. He noted that jail populations have increased as much as tenfold in the last 25 years due to stronger drug, DUI, child support and domestic violence statutes. Judge Turner added that while the need for stiffer penalties is understood, inadequate funding for county jails for housing these offenders is not. He pointed out that there is a lag time between arrest of a person and the subsequent sentencing of that person.
Representative Wayne encouraged the KCJEA to have a crisp agenda when they come to Frankfort and demand a change. He told Judge Turner that county officials should rally their forces.
Representative Graham commented that the upcoming election for Governor in November is important and county officials should hone in on the candidates. He warned them not to drop the ball.
Representative Denham asked if counties wanted the state to take over the operation of jails or do they want the General Assembly to appropriate more funds for the county operation of jails. Judge Turner stated that the state taking over the operation of jails would be ideal.
The next order of business was discussion of county initiatives for combating drug abuse by the KMCA. Representative Riggs introduced Shelby County Magistrate, KACo and KMCA president Tony Carriss, and Harlan County Magistrate Jim Roark. Mr. Carriss told the committee that Kentucky ranks number one in using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Mr. Roark stated that 70 to 80 percent of the prisoners in county jails are there on drug related charges.
Mr. Carriss stated that counties need funding for DARE programs. He said 2006 SB 34 should be passed to pay counties to provide fund drug treatment programs and facilities instead of jail time.
Senator Carroll indicated that education is the key to keeping people out of jail. He also advocated increasing the number of the Kentucky State Police.
Representative McKee commended the Association for tackling the drug abuse problem. He said drug abuse occurs even in small communities, and that the availability of prescription drugs is enormous. Representative McKee stated that hopefully by counties and the state working together, a solution will be found.
Representative Crimm asked on average, how long a person was incarcerated. Judge Turner indicated that the average jail term for a Class D felon was around three years. Representative Crimm suggested that a committee be formed to come up with recommendations for solving the jail issue.
Senator Thayer commented that this problem is an emergency and that we need to act now. He added that the Governor is working on the jail diversion issue.
Responding to Representative Damron's question relating to electronic monitoring, Judge Turner indicated that the courts are using it, but recidivism is a problem.
Mayor Jerry Abramson, Louisville Metro Government, addressed the committee next. Mayor Abramson told the committee that Louisville Metro Government has the same problems as other local governments in the area of jails and pensions. He indicated that they will eventually pay more for an officer's pension contribution than they do in salary for the office. Mayor Abramson noted that the corrections cost is over $48 million a year and is increasing at 10 percent a year. He also noted that Louisville Metro is the only local government paying for a juvenile detention facility located within its borders.
Mayor Abramson told members that he would like to see the partnership continue between Louisville Metro Government and the state in order to help the other 119 counties in the Commonwealth. In support, he mentioned the tax money gained from projects such as the airport investment are manifold.
Mayor Abramson stated that he would like to see Louisville Metro Government receive a portion of the sales tax like other counties, in response to a question asked by Representative Denham.
Senator Thayer commented that so much could be solved with more local control. He suggested parties representing counties should obtain a copy of the 2006 Task Force on Local Taxation report.
The next order of business was review of the 2007 Kentucky Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. Representative Riggs introduced Ms. Myralee Cowley-Smith, Executive Director, Office of Federal Grants, Governor's Office for Local Development (GOLD) to give an overview of the 2007 CDBG application. Ms. Cowley-Smith told the committee that there were very few changes from last year's CDBG. She noted that Kentucky has $26,590,125 available for distribution. She explained that the 2007 CDBG area allocations are as follows: $7,500,000 for Economic Development; $8,090,125 for Public Facilities; $3,000,000 for Public Services; $4,000,000 for Housing; $3,500,000 for Community Projects; and $500,000 for Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF).
Representative Wayne commented that he was concerned about there being less money for low-income housing and would have to vote no on accepting the CDBG report as presented.
Senator Thayer commended Ms. Smith-Cowley and her staff at GOLD for their good work over the years.
Senator Tori asked if any grants were given to faith-based organizations. Ms. Smith-Cowley replied that she did not think so at this time, but that several drug recovery programs are faith-based. She noted that if cities and counties apply for the CDBG funds, local governments can work with faith-based organizations.
Representative Crimm moved, seconded by Representative Brinkman, to accept the CDBG report as presented and to submit it on to LRC. The motion carried by voice vote with Representative Wayne voting "no."
The next order of business was the review of two Kentucky Administrative Regulations. The first regulation reviewed was 815 KAR 7:125, relating to the Kentucky Residential Code. Mr. George Mann, Deputy Director for Building Code Enforcement with the Office of Housing, Buildings, and Construction, explained the regulation. Representative Hoffman moved, seconded by Representative Osborne, to accept 815 KAR 7:125. The motion carried by voice vote.
The other regulation reviewed was 815 KAR 20:078, relating to storage and installation of SDR 11, CPVC plastic pipe and fittings. Mr. Tim House, Director of the Division of Plumbing with the Office of Housing, Buildings, and Construction, explained the regulation. Representative Henderson moved, seconded by Senator Thayer, to accept 815 KAR 20:078. The motion carried by voice vote.
The last item of business was discussion of county election costs. Representative Riggs introduced Mr. Vince Lang, KCJEA Executive Director, and Mr. Richard Tanner, KMCA Executive Director. Mr. Lang expressed relief at the lack of a need for a run-off state election. He indicated it would have cost the counties $6 million. Mr. Lang told the committee that elections cost the counties $1,400 per precinct, and that counties receive $250 to $300 from the state for election costs for each precinct. He said there needs to be adequate reimbursement from the state. Mr. Lang added that in some elections, there are no local officials on the ballot. He stated that the state payment for election costs should be raised from $300 to $1000 per precinct.
Mr. Tanner acknowledged that his organization knew that the state could not take over the election costs in their entirety, but that more money could be appropriated.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:20 p.m.