Thesixth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government was held on Wednesday, November 18, 2009, at 10:00 AM, in Grand Ballroom C of the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. The meeting was a joint meeting with the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. Representative Steve Riggs, Co-chair, Interim Joint Committee on Local Government, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll. Representative Mike Cherry, Co-chair of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government, also chaired.
Members:Senator Damon Thayer, Co-Chair; Representative Steve Riggs, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Mike Reynolds, John Schickel, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Scott W. Brinkman, Derrick Graham, Charlie Hoffman, Brent Housman, Dennis Keene, Adam Koenig, Tom McKee, David Osborne, Arnold Simpson, Ancel Smith, Ken Upchurch, and Jim Wayne.
Guests: Jeff Derouen, Stephanie Bell, and Andrew Melnykovych, Public Service Commission; Michael Foster, Rick Smith, Denny Nunnelley, Shellie Hampton, Tim Sturgill, Kentucky Association of Counties; Kirk Tolle, Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Association; Chris Cohron, Kentucky Commonwealth Attorneys’ Association; Tommy Turner and Vince Lang, Kentucky County Judge/Executive Association; Phil Sammons Richard Tanner, Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners’ Association; Jason Scriber and Mack Bushart, Kentucky PVA Association; Jerry Wagner and John Aubrey, Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association; Bobby Waits and Marshall Long, Kentucky Jailers’ Association; Bert May and Tony Goetz, Kentucky League of Cities; Ron Wolf, Louisville Metro Government; Sam Crawford, Jefferson County Farm Bureau; and Scott Kimmich, Kenton County Deputy Judge/Executive.
LRC Staff: Mark Mitchell, Joe Pinczewski-Lee, John Ryan, Kris Shera, Judy Fritz, Karen Powell, Kevin Devlin, Matt Niehaus, and Cheryl Walters.
Upon the motion of Representative Keene, seconded by Representative McKee, the minutes of the October 28, 2009 Local Government Committee meeting were approved.
Upon the motion of Representative Ford, seconded by Senator Thayer, the minutes of the September 23 and October 7, 2009 meetings of the State Government Committee were approved.
Representative Cherry asked Senator Thayer, Co-chair of the Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs, to report on the October 27 and November 17, 2009, meetings of the Task Force. The subcommittee report was approved without objection.
Representative Cherry raised an issue that was discussed at the November 17, 2009 meeting of the Task Force—i.e., whether language regarding duels should be deleted from Section 228 of the Kentucky Constitution, as proposed in legislation (BR 172) prefiled for the 2010 legislative session. After asking committee members to express an informal opinion on this issue, he announced that the show of hands indicated by a ratio of approximately 2:1 that local government leaders and State Government Committee members present prefer not to amend Section 228.
Next on the agenda was a preview of “Ike and Ice: The Kentucky Public Service Commission Report on the September 2008 Wind Storm and the January 2009 Ice Storm.” Presenting the report from the PSC were Jeff Derouen, Executive Director; Andrew Melnykovych, Communications Director; and Stephanie Bell, Legislative Liaison. They provided paper copies of their PowerPoint presentation.
Mr. Derouen discussed the timeline for the report, to be released to the public on November 19. He said that the report includes 63 recommendations to utilities, local and state government entities, the general public, and the PSC. A link to the full report will be available on the PSC web site, and members of the General Assembly will also receive the link via e-mail.
Mr. Melnykovych discussed the estimated cost of damage from the wind storm, noting that all estimates are conservative. In summary, he said that the total cost of the wind storm is estimated at $595 million. This does not include unreported damage, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) reimbursement to nonprofit agencies, and other losses—e.g., lost wages or lost business revenue. Damage to jurisdictional utilities was $44.7 million, which does not include TVA system distribution co-ops or municipal utilities. Some of the $44.7 is reimbursable through state and federal disaster assistance; however, investor-owned utilities like LG & E (Louisville Gas & electric) are not eligible for disaster assistance. Direct cost to local governments was $17 million, according to preliminary FEMA estimates. The insurance industry’s information clearinghouse estimates that there was $533 million in insured losses.
Mr. Derouen said that the ice storm in January left 770,000 Kentucky customers without power—a number even greater than the 600,000 customers affected by the wind storm a few months earlier. He did not go into detail about the ice storm damage estimates, but the slide presentation indicated that total damage is estimated at $616 million; $240 million to jurisdictional utilities; $41 million to local governments; and $335 million in insured losses. The slides also included maps and photos defining the impact of the two storms in specific areas of the state.
Mr. Derouen commented on several points of interest in the report.
n The cost to put Kentucky’s entire current electric infrastructure underground would be at least $217 billion. This would not be feasible, but it may be beneficial in areas of new construction or areas with extensive losses.
n For emergency purposes back-up generators are better than batteries for maintaining wireless service during times of disaster.
n Property service connections are a weak link in electric systems that could be helped by hardening.
n Outage reporting is a source of confusion and can hamper disaster response. PSC recommends that customers report an outage only one time. Also, since only regulated utilities are required to report to the PSC, it is recommended to streamline the process for coordinating with TVA and other nonregulated utilities during times of emergency.
In closing, Mr. Derouen said that next week letters will be sent to the regulated utilities asking them to respond to the report recommendations within three months. Analysis of the responses will determine subsequent action by the PSC. There were no questions for Mr. Derouen or Mr. Melnykovych, and Representative Cherry thanked them for the report.
Next on the agenda was consideration of a resolution proposed by Representative Ford to support the continuation of existing operations of the United States post offices in the cities of Clifty and Renfro Valley, Kentucky. Representative Ford briefly explained the resolution and moved for its adoption by the State Government Committee. The motion was seconded by Representative Wayne and passed by unanimous voice vote. The resolution directs that copies of it be transmitted to each member of Kentucky’s congressional delegation; Mr. Christopher Carroll, Post office Operations Manager, Bowling Green, KY; Mr. Chris Christenbury, Vice-President of Area Operations, Eastern Area, Louisville, KY; and the Honorable John E. Potter, Postmaster General of the United States.
Representative Riggs announced that the committees were meeting in conjunction with the Kentucky Association of Counties’ (KACo) annual convention, who would be presenting their legislative platform for the upcoming 2010 session of the General Assembly. He then introduced Mr. Michael Foster, KACo president. Mr. Foster welcomed the committees to the convention. He then introduced Mr. Rick Smith, KACo president-elect and Clark County Magistrate. Mr. Smith thanked the committees for coming to KACo’s convention. He told the committees that interlocal cooperation is imperative to get results.
Mr. Foster next introduced Ms. Shelley Hampton, with KACo’s legislative services, to introduce the rest of the speakers. Ms. Hampton introduced Mr. Kirk Tolle, president of the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Association. Mr. Tolle first explained the duties of circuit court clerks. He then told the committees that his association’s legislative agenda included: (1) seeking to make filing fees for expungement of records nonrefundable when the expungement is not granted; (2) seeking to amend 2009 HB 369 to make suspension of drivers’ licenses when the defendant owes restitution in theft cases, optional by the judge rather than mandatory; and (3) seeking reasonable compensation when collecting fees for parties outside the Judicial Branch.
Ms. Hampton next introduced Mr. Chris Cohron, Legislative Director of the Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Association. Mr. Cohron told the committee that staff furloughs was very costly, resulting in serious budget issues. He then discussed jail and inmate sentencing and release issues. Mr. Cohron explained that there are three categories of incarceration: (1) violent offenders; (2) sex offenders; and (3) persistent felony offenders. He noted that 90% of court cases are drug related.
Ms. Hampton next introduced Judge Tommy Turner, Legislative Chair of the Kentucky County Judge/Executives Association (KCJEA). Judge Turner told the committees that jails are the primary issue of KCJEA. He said KCJEA’s legislative agenda will include: (1) seeking Medicaid reimbursement rates for county inmates; (2) will favor expanded gaming if jail funds are include; (3) re-filing the comprehensive jail funding bill; and (4) seeking bail bond daily jail credit for reducing cash bond amount.
Ms. Hampton next introduced Mr. Richard Tanner, Executive Director of the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners’ Association (KMCA). Mr. Tanner told the committees that KMCA’s legislative agenda will include: (1) seeking more money for jails; (2) increasing and modernizing the E911 funding to reflect fewer land lines in existence; (3) leaving county road aid formula as is; (4) holding counties harmless if trade-allowance on usage tax on new vehicles remains permanent; (5) supporting mandated spay/neuter, as long as local ordinances are grandfathered in; (6) amending KRS 259.120 involving taker-uppers of stray horses; and (7) PRIDE funding must be properly spent.
Ms. Hampton next introduced Mr. Jason Scriber, President, and Mr. Mack Bushart, Executive Director, Kentucky PVA Association. Mr. Bushart told the committees that the PVA’s will seek legislation to place all PVAs under county ethics codes. Mr. Scriber noted that Representative Cherry has agreed to sponsor the legislation.
Ms. Hampton next introduced Mr. Jerry Wagner, Executive Director of the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association (KSA). Mr. Wagner told the committees that the KSA’s legislative agenda will include: (1) amending KRS 189A.010 to include blood test costs in court fees rather than making sheriff’s office or fiscal courts pay for those costs; (2) addressing the $8 court reimbursement of court bailiffs; (3) addressing the effects on the county and sheriff revenue stream from Civil process service by constables; and (4) transportation of prisoners with no funding.
Representative Riggs asked Mr. Wagner to expand on the issue of transportation of prisoners with no funding. Mr. Wagner explained that sheriffs sometimes have to transport prisoners to other counties for court appearances. He noted that the KSA is working with the Executive Branch on ways to not have to transport them to other counties.
Regarding charging restitution to inmates, Representative Napier asked if there is a profit to be made from jailing a person when that person fails to pay restitution. Mr. Cohron stated that there is no profit and that most jurisdictions try not to jail a person purely on financial grants In response to another question from Representative Napier, Mr. Cohron answered that in most cases involving drunk drivers having their licenses suspended, the defendants will often times drive anyway. Incarceration, he noted, is the most effective way to keep them from drinking.
Representative Napier asked why circuit court clerks have to take tests to hold the office. Mr. Tolle said it is to ensure that the candidate has a basic knowledge of the office.
Representative Ford asked if the circuit clerks’ office would like driver licenses to be issued by some other office. Mr. Tolle answered that the clerks would not oppose that idea.
Ms. Hampton lastly introduced Mr. Bobby Waits, President of the Kentucky Jailers’ Association (KJA). Mr. Waits pointed out that according to the Pew Report, Kentucky’s jail population increase is the highest in the nation. He noted that there are a lot of prisoners that committed misdemeanors that could be released. Mr. Waits told the committees that the jailers’ legislative agenda included: (1) attaching the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to the per diem, bed allotment, and medical per diem received by the county jails; (2) allow county jails to collect a processing fee (co-pay) from inmates seeking medical attention; (3) allow for an exception in the statute for county governments to return to the general fund any uncollected monies left by an inmate in his/her canteen account; and (4) amend current statute to allow a prisoner who fails to return from work release to be charged with a failure to return in lieu of an escape and apply the same penalties.
Regarding the issue of prisoners’ failure to return, Representative McKee stated that he has worked on that issue before and suggested that the jailers urge the Senate to pass it.
Regarding the issue of inmates’ unreturned canteen funds, Representative Graham asked how much money they were talking about. Mr. Waits said they are working on getting those figures, but that it is usually a small amount. He explained that if it is a large amount, it will be turned over to the state. Mr. Waits noted that it involves a lot of bookkeeping.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:15 p.m.