The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, June 3, 2004, at 1:00 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Mike Weaver, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Dan Seum, Co-Chair; Representative Mike Weaver, Co-Chair; Senators Joey Pendleton, Katie Stine, Elizabeth Tori, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Sheldon Baugh, Carolyn Belcher, Bill Farmer, Danny Ford, Fred Nesler, Steve Riggs, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, Dottie Sims, and Jim Thompson.
Guests: Charles Kendell, Martha Geaves, Cor. Doug Thoroughman, Peggy Ware, Andrew Cline, Elizabeth Colt, Michael Auslander, Jason LeMay, and M. L. Allen.
LRC Staff: Scott Varland, Clint Newman, Todd Stephens, Amy Hauser, and Wanda Gay-Hollon.
Co-Chair Weaver began the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. He directed staff to read four Resolutions honoring Kentucky soldiers killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom: Staff Sergeant George S. Rentschler, Corporal Nicholas J. Dieruf, Lieutenant Robert L. Henderson II, and Sergeant James W. Harlan. He asked for a motion to adopt the Resolutions. Representative Belcher moved to adopt the Resolutions. Representative Sims seconded the motion. The Committee adopted the Resolutions. Co-Chair Weaver asked for a moment of silence.
Co-Chair Weaver brought to the attention of the Committee Executive Order 2004-530, dated May 27, 2004, creating the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (OHS). The Executive Order changes the Kentucky Office for Security Coordination to the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security. OHS will be attached to the Office of the Governor for administrative purposes. KRS 12:028(4) requires that the Committee review the order and report its findings within 60 days. The Committee will vote on the order at the July meeting. Co-Chair Weaver introduced Erwin Roberts, Executive Director, Office of Homeland Security, and asked him to begin his presentation. Mr. Roberts' written statement is included as part of the meeting materials archived in the LRC library.
Mr. Roberts discussed the newly formed OHS. Duties for the new office include: (1) coordinating a comprehensive statewide security strategy; (2) coordinating the executive branch's efforts to secure and protect personnel, assets, and facilities within the Commonwealth; (3) and maintaining a record of all federal homeland security funding, including grants, received in Kentucky. Duties of the Adjutant General under KRS 39A.287 are also transferred to the executive director of OHS.
Mr. Roberts described the proposed office structure of OHS. Leadership will include an executive director and four deputy directors serving in areas of key concern to homeland security. These areas include health and infrastructure, prevention, response, and information and intelligence. The office will also have a grants section consisting of a grants manager and four policy analysts. OHS will also include the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) staffed by three program coordinators. There will also be a program coordinator for the Kentucky Citizen Corps Program.
Since September 11, 2001, Kentucky has received millions of dollars in homeland security funding from the federal government. OHS will administer all new homeland security grants. Grants from previous years will still be administered by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. Kentucky has been awarded $35 million in homeland security grants for Fiscal Year 2004. In previous years, federal grant moneys were distributed by the state based on population or direct to county funding. Fiscal Year 2004 grants will be awarded through a competitive application process.
Applications for the competitive grant process were made available to cities, counties, and state agencies beginning May 18, 2004. Applications are due by June 25, 2004. Funding decisions will be made no later than August 15, 2004. Projects that receive funding must begin no later than September 1, 2004.
The federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires all states to have a State Homeland Security Strategy approved before being eligible to receive current year homeland security grants. All grant money spent must be in support of the state strategy.
Applicants will have 60 days from the award date to initiate a project. The applicant could lose an award if a project is not underway within 90 days. The time allowed to complete the project has been shortened from two years to one year. OHS is considering implementing a similar timeline for previous grants, especially Fiscal Year 2003 grants. The new competitive application process will also take into account previous homeland security funding. An applicant who has unbudgeted funds from previous years will be ineligible for future awards. It is not necessary that the money be spent, but the money must be budgeted for future consideration.
Statewide interoperable communications is a priority for OHS. Kentucky has spent nearly 50% of all homeland security funds on communications equipment for first responders. OHS is working with the Governor's Office for Technology, the Kentucky Wireless Interoperability Executive Committee, and the federal DHS to develop standards that will allow implementation of a statewide interoperable communications solution. OHS is currently evaluating the 42 county program in southeastern Kentucky administered by the Center for Rural Development. The program will allow for law enforcement agencies to share data information real time by the end of June. Phase II of the program will expand the system to include voice capability next year.
OHS also endorses the Governor's Office for Technology proposal to update the Kentucky Emergency Wireless System (KEWS). The KEWS system will be used as a backbone for statewide interoperable communications.
Kentucky has begun implementation of a bio-metric drivers' licensing system. Digital photographs taken for drivers' licenses are uploaded into a facial recognition database used to detect fraudulent applications. One million photographs have been added to the database. Additional photographs can be added at the cost of 26 cents each. The Kentucky State Police will require $340,000 per year to continue to add photographs to the database. No new photos have been added since January 2003 due to lack of funding.
Another initiative of OHS is to better coordinate the flow of information and intelligence. Previously, there was no formal notification plan to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigations of breaking events in Kentucky. A formal plan has now been adopted in coordination with the FBI office in Louisville. The same notification procedures have been implemented for alerting the federal DHS Office of State and Local Coordination.
OHS is currently working with the federal DHS to complete assessments on thirty key assets and critical infrastructure sites in Kentucky. Future assessments are planned for 2005.
The Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) has developed homeland defense training for the law enforcement community. The Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Law Enforcement Council, and the DOCJT partnered to create the Community Preparedness Program. Communities become accredited after on-site assessments are completed by trained teams. Areas of assessment include: (1) examining all common vulnerabilities; (2) identifying specific targets by consequence; (3) developing an adversary scenario; (4) defining an existing protection system; and (5) assessing the existing system effectiveness with supplemental recommendation. DOCJT identified small or medium size rural communities to be part of a one-year Community Preparedness Program pilot project.
Kentucky Citizen Corps will also be part of OHS. Nineteen more Citizen Corps Councils will be added to the 13 already active in Kentucky. There will also be 54 Community Emergency Response Teams training programs. Ten Medical Reserve Corps will be added to the three already formed. Kentucky Citizen Corps will receive $553,000 in federal homeland security funding this year.
OHS will administer the Kentucky Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. Numerous training exercises are scheduled across Kentucky.
Kentucky's state strategy also includes the following goals: (1) to take measures to improve the ability of the Commonwealth to control, monitor, and secure all major transportation routes; (2) to strengthen efforts in the area of agriculture to make sure that Kentucky's top industry is protected; (3) to continue the progress in public health; and (4) to strengthen the technical and tactical abilities and improve the coordination of Commonwealth Special Operational Forces.
A top legislative priority for OHS is the passage of legislation protecting homeland security records from public disclosure. Such legislation will exempt sensitive homeland security documents from open records requests. Legislation supporting the changes of Executive Order 2004-530 will also be required.
Representative Baugh asked what percentage of federal homeland security grant money coming into Kentucky would be for first responders. Mr. Roberts replied that all federal grant money received from the federal DHS was for first responders. Eighty percent of the funds must go to local governments. Twenty percent may be used to equip state first responders. Representative Baugh asked how OHS anticipated disbursing the funds to local governments. Mr. Roberts answered that the funds would be awarded through a newly developed competitive application process. The applications will be reviewed and scored to determine award recipients. Representative Baugh asked if it was anticipated that all counties would receive some funding, or if it was possible that some counties might not receive any funding. Mr. Roberts said that his office is encouraging cities and counties to work on a regional basis. A city or county may not receive homeland security funding directly, but the county may still benefit from regional spending. Representative Baugh said that he has spoken with constituents who believe that they will not receive any homeland security funding under the new competitive process. He said some of his constituents are unhappy, because they think that all funding will be on a regional basis and that individual counties will not receive direct funding. Mr. Roberts apologized for the misunderstanding. He reiterated that all cities and counties are eligible to apply for funds. Cities and counties within joint regions are encouraged to apply together. However, individual cities and counties are also eligible.
Representative Belcher asked about the current staffing levels of OHS. Mr. Roberts said that when he was appointed on March 1, 2004, the office consisted of an executive director, a grants manager, and an administrative assistant. The office currently consists of an executive director, a deputy executive director, a chief information officer, a grants manager, and two administrative assistants. She also asked how city or county police and fire departments might apply for the federal grants. Mr. Roberts said that all project applications are coordinated through either the city mayor or county judge executive. Representative Belcher commented that as OHS works to protect transportation and increase public health response, the office should also ensure that the state's waterways and water supplies are protected.
Senator Tori asked if there was an auditing process in place to review the expenditure of previous grant moneys. Mr. Roberts replied that he was not aware of any audit of funds being conducted on funds received between 1999 and 2003. She asked whether all previous funds had been spent. Mr. Roberts said most of the funds went to purchase equipment for local first responders. Approximately $29 million of the funds are left unspent. Senator Tori asked if the $29 million will be at the disposal of OHS. Mr. Roberts replied that the money has already been awarded to the counties. He said that there is a concern that the money has remained unspent. Senator Tori asked for the total amount of grant moneys received in Kentucky. Mr. Roberts responded that Kentucky has received over $40 million in federal Office of Domestic Preparedness grants between 1999 and 2003. Senator Tori asked if a demonstration of the bio-metric drivers' licensing system could be given to the Committee. Mr. Roberts said that the Kentucky State Police are responsible for the system and that he would inquire about the possibility of a demonstration.
Representative Riggs questioned Mr. Roberts comments that previous homeland security grants had been distributed based on population. He understood that in previous years each of the 120 counties were awarded the same amount. The total amount of funding received in Kentucky was divided equally among all the counties. No discussion of population or possible threat was considered in the funding method. He asked Mr. Roberts to explain his previous comment that counties received funding based on population. Mr. Roberts said that in previous years each of the 120 counties had received an equal funding award. However, each county also received an additional award based on population. Representative Riggs commented that he understood that the population award was granted after criticism of the original grant disbursement. He continued that the new competitive grant process seems to help alleviate that criticism. Mr. Roberts said that the federal DHS is evaluating how it disburses grant moneys to the states and areas of need. Representative Riggs said that the state should examine ways to protect the areas with the highest threat. Mr. Roberts said that the new competitive grant process was designed to ensure funding for areas with need. Mr. Roberts stated his appreciation for Representative Riggs' comments. He clarified that his written statement should have been more specific in stating that in Fiscal Year 2003 a population award was granted to each county. He was uncertain whether such a supplement was used in other years.
Co-Chair Seum thanked Mr. Roberts for his presentation. He pointed out that the General Assembly had passed 2003 Senate Bill 46 that required a report of the total amount of all homeland security related funding in Kentucky. He said that over $180 million had been received from the federal government since 1998. He questioned how effective some communities were at applying for grants. He asked how much future money Kentucky might receive for homeland security. Mr. Roberts said that the federal DHS has indicated that funding for Fiscal Year 2005 should be approximately $35 million.
Co-Chair Seum discussed his and Co-Chair Weaver's insistence that the Southern Legislative Conference include more homeland security related issues on their agenda. He said that states should coordinate efforts and discuss homeland security issues given the huge cost that would result for an attack on a state within the southern region. He commented that Mr. Roberts might want to write the Southern Legislative Conference indicating that homeland security should be an area of focus for the conference.
Co-Chair Seum asked when the proposed staffing changes for the OHS would be implemented. Mr. Roberts said that he hoped to hire for the positions by the end of July. Co-Chair Seum asked if the grants team would be going throughout the state to assist communities in the grant application process. Mr. Roberts said the grants section would be assisting communities in the grant application process.
Senator Stine asked if the grants application package was sent to all police, fire, and first responder agencies. Mr. Roberts said all parties should have received a copy. She added that she learned through the news media that Alexandria had been chosen as a city in the Community Preparedness Program pilot project and asked if Mr. Roberts had the results from that project. He said he did not know the results but would obtain them for her.
Senator Westwood asked who controlled the $29 million of unspent federal grant moneys awarded to Kentucky's counties. Mr. Roberts said the money was in an account at the state level. The process requires a county to spend the money on equipment, and the state will then reimburse the county for the expense. Until the county makes the expenditure, the state holds the money. Senator Westwood asked if there was a cutoff point for when a county can spend an award. Mr. Roberts said that the federal DHS requires that a local government use the money within two years. The state is considering implementing a timeline of one year.
Representative Farmer asked if grant applications with proposals for communications equipment purchases will be monitored to ensure interoperable communications among first responders. Mr. Roberts said communications interoperability will be evaluated in the application process. Representative Farmer asked if the state will institute a standard for interoperable communications. Mr. Roberts said that OHS will work with the Kentucky Executive Wireless Committee to establish a standard for interoperable communications.
Co-Chair Weaver asked if the key assets assessments being conducted will be completed before the General Assembly considers changes to the Kentucky Open Records Law. Mr. Roberts said that some of the assessments will be completed before the next legislative session. He added that the federal Freedom of Information Act will protect the assessments, because they will be in the custody of the federal DHS and not the Kentucky OHS. If the Kentucky OHS were to maintain custody of the records, the records would be subject to public disclosure. Co-Chair Weaver reiterated the importance of bipartisan support for legislation protecting sensitive homeland security records.
Co-Chair Weaver identified bioterrorism preparedness as the next item on the agenda. He invited Julia Costich, Assistant Professor, College of Public Health, University of Kentucky, to begin her presentation. An outline of the information discussed by Professor Costich is contained in a PowerPoint presentation included as part of the meeting materials archived in the LRC library.
Professor Costich provided an overview on a report released by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) titled, "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health in the Age of Bioterrorism." TFAH is a non-profit, non-partisan organization led by former Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker. The purpose of the report is to examine progress in bioterrorism preparedness two years after Congress appropriated $1.8 billion to enhance public health. The report ranks the states on several preparedness indicators. She qualified the report's analytical value with two comments. First, the report attempts to answer questions about preparedness that are difficult to answer in a timely and accurate manner. As a result, the report only presents a snapshot in time of national preparedness. Second, a report that uses a ranking system runs a risk of making misleading characterizations at either end of the rankings scale.
The first report indicator was an evaluation of state funding for public health programs. A National Conference of State Legislature survey was the data source. Kentucky was among the 2/3 of states that cut public health funding in 2002 and 2003.
The second report indicator was state expenditures of Centers for Disease Control preparedness funds. The data used was compiled by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers. Kentucky was among the 50% of states that had not expended 90% of 2002 preparedness funds by August 2003.
The third indicator was state distribution of federal preparedness funds to local health authorities. Data was gathered from the federal Department of Health and Human Services report to Congress. Kentucky was among 33 states found to have passed on less than 50% of funding to local health authorities.
The fourth indicator was a state's ability to manage a shipment from the Strategic National Pharmaceutical Stockpile. Only two states, Florida and Illinois, met the federal DHS criterion.
The fifth and sixth indicators were the availability and adequacy of Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory capacity. These labs are used for bioterrorism agent testing. Data was compiled from a 2003 Association of Public Health Laboratories survey. Forty-three states had BSL-3 labs at that time. Six states reported adequate BSL-3 capacity. Kentucky met neither criterion.
The seventh indicator was the number of counties without continuous high-speed connections to the national Health Alert Network. Data was gathered from the Centers for Disease Control. Kentucky met the threshold by having no more than three counties without Health Alert Network access.
The eighth indicator was a completed initial bioterrorism preparedness and response plan. Kentucky, like all other states, had completed an initial plan.
The ninth indicator was the status of a state pandemic flu plan. A state's ability to respond to pandemic flu is also a template for response to widespread disease of natural or bioterrorist origin. Kentucky was among 37 states without a pandemic flu plan.
The tenth indicator was state-specific information available during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. TFAH reviewed state public health websites for SARS information and availability of state-specific content such as phone numbers and reporting guidelines. Kentucky did not meet this indicator.
TFAH made conclusions in funding, core infrastructure preparedness, and double-duty preparedness. TFAH concluded that overall public health budgets are declining despite federal investment; the national public health infrastructure is still weak; and that critical non-bioterrorism programs are at risk. The report made three recommendations: (1) public health agencies must be battle-ready for all hazards, not just bioterrorism; (2) health security requirements must be established; and (3) a summit on the future of public health to develop a cohesive national approach to public health protection should be convened.
Co-Chair Weaver invited Dr. Rice Leach, Commissioner, Department for Public Health, to begin his presentation on the Department for Public Health's bioterrorism preparedness efforts. An outline of the information discussed by Dr. Leach is contained in a PowerPoint presentation included as part of the meeting materials archived in the LRC library.
Kentucky received two major bioterrorism grants. One grant was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the other was awarded by the federal Health and Human Resources Administration (HRSA).
The CDC grant provides funding for six key areas including preparedness, epidemiology, laboratory, communication systems, risk communications, and training. The HRSA grant provides funding primarily to hospitals to handle surge capacity in the case of a bioterrorist incident. The HRSA grant provides funding for planning, protective equipment, laboratory capacity, practice, drugs, isolation capacity, and mental health response.
Twelve years ago the Department for Public Health had nearly 850 employees. Today there are less than 400. Four years ago, the Department for Public Health had $60 million in General Fund appropriations. The department currently receives approximately $54 million from the General Fund. Kentucky received nearly $15 million from the CDC between August 2002 and August 2003. Kentucky will receive just over $13 million between August 2003 and August 2004. HRSA awarded Kentucky nearly $2 million between August 2002 and August 2003. Kentucky will receive a HRSA award of just over $7 million between August 2003 and August 2004.
The Department for Public Health has recorded several accomplishments with the CDC and HRSA grants. New staff have been hired in epidemiology. Laboratory capacity has increased. Distance learning sessions have increased training throughout the state. Hospitals have established surge capacity.
Kentucky was doing better in public health preparedness than the TFAH report indicated. The report showed that Kentucky did not disburse 50% of year 1 CDC grant funds to local agencies. The report failed to show that most of the local resources were procured at the state level making disbursement unnecessary. The report showed Kentucky did not have sufficient manpower to distribute the Strategic National Stockpile. Kentucky met the federal DHS "AMBER+" ranking which is one half step down from the highest possible "Green" ranking. Kentucky has sufficient Biosafety Level-3 laboratory capacity with three labs located throughout the state. Kentucky did not experience a pandemic flu crisis. However, Kentucky has a pandemic flu plan in place. The greatest obstacle to Kentucky's success has been the disbursement of grant money. Public health has seen a General Fund reduction that has necessitated the use of grant moneys to cover budget shortfalls. The maximum allowed staff for the agency has been capped below agency needs. The agency cannot hire staff trained in needed specialties because of staff capacity reductions.
Co-Chair Weaver invited Carol Ormay, Vice-President of Membership Services, Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA) to speak on hospital preparedness. The KHA represents all hospitals in the state of Kentucky and their nearly 80,000 employees. Hospitals are the second largest non-governmental employer in the state.
A challenge of the HRSA grant was to develop a hospital surge capacity of 500 patients on a regional basis. KHA used the 14 state emergency management regions as the basic model for meeting that goal.
Another challenge of the HRSA grant was to coordinate preparedness efforts among all agencies that would be involved in bioterrorist response. These groups include emergency management, hospitals, coroners, emergency medical services, police, firefighters, mental health, and various others. KHA was successful in bringing those groups together in each of the 14 regions.
Each region must have adequate resources to respond to a bioterrorism event for 72 hours without the assistance of federal resources. The Strategic National Stockpile will not be immediately available in the case of an event. Regions must have the necessary equipment, personnel, and supplies to operate until assistance arrives. Although federal funding has provided more resources for each hospital, the funding has not been enough to fill the holes in the national public health infrastructure. Ninety percent of Kentucky's hospitals have signed Memoranda of Agreement with one another to ensure continued capacity during an emergency event.
Hospitals have increased training in bioterrorism preparedness. Four hospital emergency preparedness classes led by the federal DHS have been held. Several exercises have also been conducted.
Kentucky hospitals have made progress. Isolation capacity has been increased throughout the state. Regions have purchased additional equipment at their discretion. Areas without hospitals have had input in the process through local health agencies. The goal is to bring all Kentucky hospitals to an equal level of readiness.
Co-Chair Weaver asked Dr. Leach to discuss the state's current progress in meeting the criteria within the TFAH report. Co-Chair Weaver repeated the statement that the original report was an evaluation at a point in time, and he asked which of the criteria Kentucky would meet today.
Dr. Leach indicated that Kentucky currently meets 7 of the report's 10 evaluation criteria. Kentucky has spent or obligated at least 90% of Fiscal Year 2002 federal funds received from HRSA but not from the CDC. Kentucky has not passed at least 50% of federal funds to local health departments. Kentucky has not increased or maintained the same level of spending on public health. Kentucky has sufficient workers to distribute Strategic National Stockpile supplies. Kentucky has at least one Biosafety Level-3 laboratory. Kentucky has sufficient laboratory capacity to handle a public health emergency. Kentucky has no more than three counties without emergency alert capability. Kentucky has an initial bioterrorism plan. Kentucky has a pandemic flu plan. Kentucky has state-specific information about SARS available on the state public health website for a crisis.
Co-Chair Seum asked how TFAH receives funding. Dr. Leach replied that financial support for the report was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Co-Chair Seum asked how life expectancies have increased if the public health infrastructure has decreased. Dr. Leach attributed increased life expectancies to better nutrition, fewer infectious diseases, excellent overall medical care, and better long-term care. Co-Chair Seum asked how many Kentuckians died from SARS during the crisis. Dr. Leach answered none.
Representative Belcher asked where the three BSL-3 labs are located. Dr. Leach said the labs are located in Louisville, Hopkinsville, and Frankfort.
Representative Siler encouraged Erwin Roberts and other officials to learn from past natural disasters and emergency events to improve Kentucky's response to future events. He also commended Dr. Leach on his knowledge and response to Kentucky's emergencies.
Co-Chair Seum congratulated Dr. Leach on his upcoming retirement and thanked him for his service to the Commonwealth. Co-Chair Weaver also thanked Dr. Leach for his service. He commended his ability and talents. He also thanked the other presenters for their reports.
Co-Chair Weaver discussed the status of veterans' affairs without a state budget. Eighteen million dollars of federal funding may be lost for the construction of the Northern Kentucky and Fort Knox State Veterans' Cemeteries, because without a budget Kentucky has not appropriated the $300,000 necessary to secure the federal funds. Also in jeopardy is $150,000 for a homeless veterans' shelter in Lexington. The $25,000 needed for an electronic management system for military discharge papers is also at risk. The biennium budget proposed during the 2004 legislative session also included $100,000 for military burial honors.
The Committee will hold its next meeting on July 1. Co-Chair Weaver and Co-Chair Seum will discuss with the Kentucky State Police and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet the possibility of a presentation on the bio-metric drivers' licensing system.
Co-Chair Seum made a motion to adjourn. Representative Belcher seconded the motion. The Committee adjourned.