Thefifth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government was held on Tuesday, November 20, 2007, at 10:00 AM, in Room 171 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 Julian M. Carroll, Ernie Harris, Alice Forgy Kerr, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Ron Crimm, Robert R. Damron, Ted Edmonds, David Floyd, Derrick Graham, Richard Henderson, Charlie Hoffman, Dennis Keene, Adam Koenig, Tom McKee, Reginald Meeks, Brad Montell, David Osborne, Arnold Simpson, Ancel Smith, Ken Upchurch, and Jim Wayne.
Guests: Senator Dan Seum; Andrew Hartley, Dan Wait, and Lonnie Campbell, Governor's Office for Local Development; Jefferson County Sheriff John Aubrey, Kentucky Sheriff's Association; Steve Lynn, Department of Criminal Justice Training; Doug Czor, Kentucky Peace Officers Association; Mike Morris, Kentucky Constables Association; David Whitlock, Jefferson County Constable; Don Slaughter, Owen County Constable; Craig Peoples, Pendleton County Sheriff; Ward Wilson, Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District; Stephen Coleman, Kentucky Division of Conservation; Mary Kathryn Dickerson, Boone and Kenton County Conservation Districts; Shelley Hampton, Kentucky County Judge/Executives Association; and Ron Wolf, Louisville Metro Government.
LRC Staff: Mark Mitchell, Donna Gaines, Joe Pinczewski-Lee, John Ryan, and Cheryl Walters.
Upon the motion of Representative Floyd, seconded by Representative Edmonds, the minutes of the October 11, 2007 meeting were approved.
The first item of business was the review of Kentucky Administrative Regulation 109 KAR 15:020, relating to state local finance officer policy manual. Representative Riggs introduced Mr. Andrew Hartley, Staff Attorney, Mr. Dan Waits, State Local Finance Officer, and Lonnie Campbell, Governor's Office for Local Development (GOLD). Mr. Hartley told the committee that 109 KAR 15:020 incorporates by reference the 2007 Instructional Guide for County Budget Preparation and State Local Finance Officer Policy Manual. Mr. Waits explained that the policy manual dictates accounting procedures for counties.
Representative Riggs asked if important changes were made to the existing framework. Mr. Waits said that it is the same manual that was used previously. He noted that there was a change in advertising requirements, but the rest of the changes were minor to just update the regulation.
Senator Carroll commented that GOLD was just complying with the statute. He noted that a manual cannot be adopted without adopting the regulation.
Representative Simpson asked if there were any significant changes. Mr. Waits replied that the advertising change was just quoting the statute, that there were no changes from GOLD.
Representative Simpson moved, seconded by Representative Meeks, to approve 109 KAR 15:020 as submitted. The motion carried by voice vote.
The next order of business was review of prefiled bill 08 RS BR 104, relating to constables. Representative Riggs introduced Senator Dan Seum, sponsor of BR 104; Mr. Mike Morris, representing the Kentucky Constables Association; and Mr. David Whitlock, Jefferson County constable. Senator Seum told the committee that BR 104 is not intended to dimish the role of the Office of Sheriff or intended to cause a turf battle with the sheriffs. He said the purpose of BR 104 is to get training for constables. Senator Seum explained that there is also a major problem with outstanding warrants. He noted that 3000 unserved warrants remain unserved in Kentucky.
Mr. Morris told the committee that there is a vast resource of constables in Kentucky that can be utilized, but they need to be trained. He noted that constitutional officers are not required to have training. Mr. Morris stated that BR 104 is an officer safety bill. He added that constables have been killed because of the lack of training.
Representative Riggs asked why the state does not offer training for constables. Mr. Morris answered that the state offers 80 hours of training per year, if there is space available. He added that constables can be bumped from the training. Mr. Morris stated that the Department of Criminal Justice Training needs to make constable training a priority. He noted that some constables wait for training for over a year. Mr. Morris pointed out that state funds pay for training. He added that constables have the same responsibilities as sheriffs and therefore need the same training.
Mr. Whitlock told the committee that there are 492 constables statewide who could be used, for example, to escort social workers when they go to their case site. He noted that constables do not have radios with emergency access to other local law enforcement. Mr. Whitlock stated that The Department of Criminal Justice Training trains some people from out of state. He said they need to make Kentucky constables a higher priority than out-of-state people.
Representative Simpson commented that efficiency is lost with too much law enforcement.
Representative Wayne asked if a local mandate statement had been prepared. Senator Seum replied no, that there are no fees involved. He said the constables would make money from the warrants that are served.
Representative Wayne also asked if a fiscal note had been prepared. Senator Seum said not at this time, but one should be prepared during the session. Representative Wayne stated that it is important to have a local mandate statement or a fiscal note in order to see what the impact will be on local governments. He added that the committee just wants to make sure that it has all of the information.
Mr. Morris stated that he does not see any impact on local governments. He noted that the constables want to work with all local law enforcement.
Representative Crimm commented that the bill needed to be tightened up. He said anyone can be elected constable.
Representative Riggs asked if the constables have met with other groups about BR 104. Mr. Whitlock replied that they have. He said they have even met with the Department of Criminal Justice Training.
Representative Floyd asked if the deputy constable was an elected position. Mr. Morris stated that it was an appointed position.
Representative Henderson commented that Kentucky does not have enough state police. He stated that it was imperative that sheriffs and police have training. Representative Henderson added that the training should not be taken away from them in order for constables to have training.
Senator Carroll commented that BR 104 does not address the problems. He suggested that staff be directed to identify the problems.
Representative Montell commented that he was concerned that the constables would compete with the sheriffs for fees.
Representative Riggs next introduced Jefferson County Sheriff John Aubrey, President of the Kentucky Sheriffs Association, Mr. Steve Lynn, legal counsel with the Department of Criminal Justice Training, and Mr. Doug Czor, representing the Kentucky Peace Officers Association to speak against the bill. Sheriff Aubrey told the committee that if BR 104 passes, it would be a step backward. He pointed out that the bill would provide certification without all of the standards required of other law enforcement officers. Sheriff Aubrey stated that constables should receive the same Peace Officer Professional Standards (POPS) training as other law enforcement officers. He noted that BR 104 only requires 40 hours of training for constables where 720 hours of training are required for all other law enforcement officers.
Mr. Lynn told the committee that one week of training for constables is not sufficient as set out in BR 104. He said BR 104 lacks minimal qualifications for constables and deputy constables. Mr. Lynn stated that costs to the state for death benefits would increase for adding constables to that provision in the statutes, and the lack of adequate training could also cause an increase in costs for local governments. He added that BR 104 could drive down wages and benefits for other certified law enforcement personnel. Mr. Lynn mentioned that convicted felons can serve as constables if the Governor grants a restoration of rights. He noted that Monroe County has a convicted felon serving as constable.
Mr. Czor commented that the mission of the Kentucky Peace Officers' Association has always emphasized training. He stated that he was concerned about the by-passing of the POPS training and adding constables to the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council.
Representative Crimm wondered why no one has been here before with their concerns about constables.
Representative Osborne asked why would there be an objection to constables getting the training. Mr. Lynn stated that they were not objecting to the training. He said the Department was just concerned about funding and the limited one week training.
The last item of business was discussion of soil and water conservation districts. Representative Riggs introduced Mr. Stephen Coleman, Director of the Kentucky Division of Conservation; Ms. Mary Kathryn Dickerson, District Coordinator of the Boone and Kenton County Conservation Districts; and Mr. Ward Wilson, Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor. Mr. Coleman told the committee that the mission of the Division of Conservation is to assist Kentucky's 121 conservation districts in the development and implementation of sound soil and water conservation programs to manage, enhance, and promote the wise use of the Commonwealth's natural resources; and to responsibly administer the conservation programs of the division to ensure, through conservation districts, the availability of technical and financial assistance to the landowners and land users of Kentucky.
Mr. Coleman noted that across the United States, there are nearly 3,000 conservation districts, which are established under state law. He explained that the purpose of a conservation district is to assist local people to conserve, manage, and protect the land, water, forests, wildlife and related natural resources. Mr. Coleman stated that a conservation district is governed by a seven-member board of supervisors, has elected volunteers who serve without pay. He noted that funding comes from local, state, federal governments, and private sources
Mr. Coleman pointed out that a conservation district is responsible for sound conservation programs for soil, water, and other natural resource problems. He mentioned that Kentuckians top natural resource concerns, in order of priority, are water quality, soil erosion, flooding, solid waste, illegal dumping, education, sewage problems, woodland management, economic development, animal waste, loss of farmland, chemical abuse, water supply, and property rights.
Ms. Dickerson told the committee that the Boone, Campbell, and Kenton County Conservation Districts provide services to a wide variety of clients: individual landowners and homeowners; business and industry; county government; state government, federal government; and public utilities. She noted that during the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the conservation districts received requests for technical assistance from 1,158 clients.
Ms. Dickerson explained that conservation districts carry out responsibilities given to them by the state legislature. She said they also work to resolve natural resource issues that are specific to their local situations. Ms. Dickerson stated that one of the main issues that conservation districts face is working with the many people who have lost a direct connection with the land and natural resources that sustain life on this planet.
Ms. Dickerson mentioned that the conservation goals are : 1) reduce soil erosion on all lands to levels rated as tolerable for those soil classes; 2) within five years, have 80% of streams currently listed on the Division of Water 303(d) List of Impaired Waters improved so they can be removed from the list; and 3) within five years, have a 30% increase in Kentucky Agriculture District Program participation while promoting the value of agriculture and agricultural land.
In closing, Ms. Dickerson pointed out that conservation districts endeavor to be good stewards of all of our natural, fiscal and physical resources. She said their greatest needs from the state legislature are for support for dependable, sustainable, and increased funding for conservation work; and for legislation that supports good stewardship of our land, water, forests, and other natural resources.
Mr. Wilson told the committee that for more than 60 years, the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District has provided land use assistance to private property owners, farmers, governmental agencies, and the business community. He noted that Jefferson County and USDA work together to provide financial assistance to landowners and incentives to install conservation measures on their land by providing developer plan review and comment; riparian buffers; livestock watering systems; sinkhole protection; native grass establishment; and tree planting.
Mr. Wilson pointed out that more than 1,100 private landowners received assistance last year from the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District. He added that more than 300,000 individuals, agencies, and groups benefited by receiving assistance with pond construction and management; drainage; stream bank stabilization; slope stabilization, sinkhole stability; erosion control; and issues relative to wildlife habitat.
Mr. Wilson concluded by saying that over 16,000 persons participated in the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District's educational outreach programs last year.
Representative McKee commented that everyone needs to be aware of land conservation. He told the speakers that the work they do is invaluable. He also told them that the legislature is going to work hard to restore the PACE funding.
Senator Thayer thanked the speakers for their work.
Representative Damron asked why the Division of Conversation was attached to the Public Protection instead of to Agriculture or is that just the way it has always been. Mr. Coleman replied that the Division of Conservation has always been attached to Public Protection but they work with anyone.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.