TheProgram Review and Investigations Committee met on Thursday, June 14, 2007, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Rick G. Nelson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Ernie Harris, Co-Chair; Representative Rick G. Nelson, Co-Chair; Senators Brett Guthrie, Vernie McGaha, R. J. Palmer II, Joey Pendleton, Dan Seum, and Katie Stine; Representatives Sheldon E. Baugh, Dwight D. Butler, Leslie Combs, Charlie Hoffman, and Arnold Simpson.
Guests: Major Alecia Edgington, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security; and Sarah Ball Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Elections.
LRC Staff: Greg Hager, Committee Staff Administrator; Rick Graycarek; Jim Guinn; Christopher Hall; Margaret Hurst; Colleen Kennedy; Van Knowles; Perry Papka; Rkia Rhib; Cindy Upton; JoAnn Paulin, Committee Assistant.
Minutes of the May 10, 2007 meeting were approved, without objection, upon motion made by Rep. Baugh and seconded by Rep. Hoffman.
Major Alecia Edgington presented an overview of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security's programs, the Wolf Creek Dam Project, and grant programs.
Major Edgington discussed Homeland Security's key mission areas: emergency communications and information sharing, infrastructure protection, first response preparedness, and community preparedness. She noted that all first responders in Kentucky have the ability to communicate with one another during an emergency. She said that Wolf Creek Dam projects include Reverse 9-1-1, Enhanced 9-1-1, emergency alert radios, and emergency preparedness.
Sen. McGaha asked about the status of the CSEP (Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness) program at the Bluegrass Army Depot.
Major Edgington replied that the project is under the National Guard and the Division of Emergency Management. There are annual regional exercises. Based on the availability of funds from the Department of Defense, the project is moving forward slowly. She said that the region has an excellent early warning system, reverse 9-1-1, and a radio communications package.
Sen. McGaha asked about the status of the sirens at Wolf Creek Dam.
Major Edgington said Homeland Security continues to work with Emergency Management to determine placement of the sirens.
Rep. Baugh said that residents of western Kentucky and Tennessee are concerned about a possible breach of the Wolf Creek Dam. He asked if Homeland Security has been in contact with the Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Homeland Security, and if any of the lakes can hold water from the river should the dam breach.
Major Edgington responded that the Corps of Engineers has been coordinating the project and Kentucky Homeland Security has been working directly with Tennessee Homeland Security.
Sen. Seum asked who would have been in charge of the Wolf Creek project if there were no Office of Homeland Security.
Major Edgington responded that it would be a combined effort between Emergency Management, Environmental Protection, Justice and Public Safety, and Public Health.
Sen. Seum asked if all of these agencies were now under Homeland Security.
Major Edgington replied no.
Sen. Seum stated that there was not any information on terrorism in today's presentation. He asked whether Homeland Security had taken over responsibility for manmade and natural disasters versus terrorism.
Major Edgington responded no, terrorism is one component of what they do. The Fusion Center is where all information potentially related to terrorism is collected and is one of the top priorities. The center collects suspicious data and information, compiles it, and forwards it to appropriate agencies. The electronic intelligence report can now be deployed in a few hours instead of several days.
Sen. Seum asked whether, if there was a flood in Jefferson County similar to the one in 1937, someone should call Homeland Security for help.
Major Edgington replied that Homeland Security is not the best place to call; it is responsible for prevention and preparedness. The National Guard and the Division of Emergency Management handle response and recovery.
Sen. McGaha noted that Wolf Creek Dam had been an area of concern for terrorism and has been heavily guarded.
Rep. Nelson asked if improved cell phone service is important for improving Homeland Security communications.
Major Edgington said that cell phone towers are privately owned. It is hard to convince a company to install a tower in an area without a large customer base. Homeland Security is trying to develop other ways to improve communications in these areas, such as weather alert radios.
Sarah Ball Johnson gave an overview of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was enacted in 2002. She talked about the role Kentucky has played as a model for other states and the requirements and changes that were made to comply. HAVA requires that each polling place be equipped with voting machines and equipment accessible to the disabled. Under HAVA, states had to replace lever voting machines, have a provisional voting system, have ugraded audit capacity, and have a statewide database of registered voters. She gave an overview of the HAVA fundung Kentucky has received and how the funds have been spent.
Rep. Baugh asked if HAVA required that a specific type of voting machine be used.
Ms. Johnson responded that there were specific requirements for the accessible voting machines but the county had options for other machines.
Sen. Seum asked if poll workers' pay was set at the local or state level.
Ms. Johnson said the pay is set at the state level and the County Clerks Association has been trying to have the minimum pay, which is currently $60, raised.
Sen. Seum stated that in Jefferson County walk-in and absentee voting start 30 days prior to election day. He asked if that is uniform throughout the state.
Ms. Johnson replied that it is not uniform.
Sen. Harris asked about the security of the voting machines.
Ms. Johnson stated that the machines must meet federal standards. Each county is responsible for programming, security, and maintenance of the machines. She explained that county clerks would be the best source of information regarding security. She explained that once a machine is programmed at the county level, it is sealed and locked. The Board of Elections examines the machine prior to election day.
Sen. Harris asked if there was anything done concerning security at the state level.
Ms. Johnson replied that it is all at the county level; the counties own the voting machines.
Sen. Harris asked if the Board of Elections was satisfied that the machines were recording all votes.
Ms. Johnson stated that they are satisfied that the machines meet the federal standards and state requirements.
Sen. McGaha asked if HAVA concentrates more on accessibility of the voting equipment.
Ms. Johnson said yes.
Sen. McGaha stated that many people who work long shifts have a difficult time accessing the polls. He asked what the impediments would be if the machines opened for absentee voting could be used for anyone who wanted to vote prior to election day.
Ms. Johnson stated that it would take a constitutional amendment to allow early voting or no-excuse voting. The Board of Elections has asked the Attorney General's office for clarification.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:15.