The2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, July 1, 2004, at 1:00 PM, in Training Room C417 of the New Transportation Cabinet Building in Frankfort, Kentucky. Senator Dan Seum, 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 Walter Blevins, Tom Buford, Joey Pendleton, Richard Roeding, Katie Stine, Elizabeth Tori, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Sheldon Baugh, Carolyn Belcher, Bill Farmer, Danny Ford, Mary Harper, Fred Nesler, Tanya Pullin, Steve Riggs, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, Dottie Sims, and Jim Thompson.
Guests: No guests signed the guest list.
LRC Staff: Scott Varland, Clint Newman, Amy Hauser, and Wanda Gay-Hollon.
Co-Chair Seum asked for a Motion on the Minutes from the June 3 meeting. Representative Belcher moved adoption of the Minutes. Representative Sims seconded the Motion that was adopted by voice vote.
Co-Chair Seum asked LRC staff to read a Committee Resolution honoring Lance Corporal DeShon E. Otey from Radcliff, Kentucky who had recently died in battle in Iraq. Staff read the Resolution. Senator Tori moved adoption of the Resolution, and Representative Sims seconded the Motion which was adopted by voice vote.
Co-Chair Seum asked LRC staff to read a Committee Resolution honoring the late Senator Paul Herron who was serving on the Committee at the time of his death. Staff read the Resolution. Representative Sims moved for adoption of the Resolution, and Senator Roeding seconded the Motion which was adopted by voice vote.
The Committee next reviewed Executive Reorganization Order 2004-530. Co-Chair Seum said that the members had in their folders copies of Executive Order 2004-530 and Senate Bill 74 from the 04 Session. He said that Co-Chair Weaver and he, as well as other Committee members, have been concerned about Kentucky's fragmented homeland security responsibilities. They have been divided among the Adjutant General, Office for Security Coordination, and Division of Emergency Management. He introduced Senate Bill 74 to place all those responsibilities in the hands of the Executive Director of a new Office of Homeland Security. While the bill did not pass, the Governor has signed Executive Order 2004-530. This temporary reorganization executive order incorporates Senate Bill 74's provisions to abolish the Office for Security Coordination, create the Office of Homeland Security, and place homeland security administration with the Executive Director of the new Office.
Co-Chair Weaver moved that the Committee accept Executive Order 2004-530 while noting that the order is incomplete in that it lacks the reorganization plan required under KRS 12.028(3). Representative Ford seconded the motion, and the Committee adopted it by voice vote.
Co-Chair Weaver moved that the Committee write the Governor and ask that he supply the Committee with the reorganization plan by August 15, 2004, so that the Committee may review the plan at the Committee's September 2 meeting. Representative Siler seconded the motion, and the Committee adopted it by voice vote.
General Les Beavers, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans' Affairs (KDVA), spoke next on veterans' issues.
He began with a discussion of the Governor's Spending Plan. Under the Plan, the KDVA's budget is reduced 2.5% to $35 million for 2004. Of note in 2005, the KDVA will receive $50,000 for veterans' cemeteries, $50,000 for a transition facility for homeless veterans, $50,000 for burial honors, and $20,000 for digitizing Military Discharge papers.
Commissioner Beavers continued with a discussion of changes in veterans' health care that will be brought about by the recent decision made by the federal Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, Anthony J. Principi, with regard to Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES). Kentucky is covered by three veterans' health care networks: VISN's 9, 15, and 10. VISN 9 has had a deficiency in the providing of mental health care. Secretary Principi has said that as a part of CARES, a strategic mental health plan will be implemented in VISN 9. Fort Knox may receive a $5 million grant for mental health that will be run by the Louisville VA Hospital. There is a growing need for long term care for veterans. The federal VA contracts for nursing home facilities and has its own nursing home facilities. In addition, the state of Kentucky runs three veterans' nursing homes. However, all of the need is not met. A plan must be arrived at to coordinate all of these facilities. With regard to the Louisville VA Hospital, the federal VA will complete a study by the end of this calendar year. The study will determine whether to move the hospital to downtown Louisville, tear down the current hospital on Zorn Avenue and build another one at Zorn Avenue, or renovate the Zorn Avenue hospital. The Fort Knox Clinic will be expanded. Of the 156 veterans' clinics authorized under CARES, Kentucky will receive 10. The Louisville area already has four clinics. Two clinics have been added to the Louisville market. One will be located in Grayson County (Leitchfield), and the other will be located in Carroll County (Carrollton). In the Lexington area, the Leestown Campus will remain to go along with the Cooper Drive hospital. The federal VA will develop a Master Plan for the Leestown Campus by the end of 2004. Among other changes, primary veterans' care will be moved from Cooper Drive to the Leestown Campus. Cooper Drive will continue as a hospital. By the end of September, the KDVA hopes to open a 40 bed facility at Leestown for homeless veterans. The cost will be defrayed by the federal VA and the KDVA. The veterans will receive the assistance they need to get back on their feet. In the Lexington area, there will be four new clinics located in Moorehead, Hazard, Berea, and London. In South Kentucky, there will be two new clinics located in Hopkinsville and Glasgow. There will be three new Western Kentucky clinics located in Owensboro, Madisonville, and Mayfield. In Northern Kentucky, a clinic was proposed for Dry Ridge but was not put on the priority list of 156 clinics. There is still some hope that the Dry Ridge clinic will be built. A clinic will be built in Jellico, Tennessee that veterans in Southeastern Kentucky will be able to use.
Commissioner Beavers said that the three nursing homes run by KDVA are doing a good job. The waiting list to get into a KDVA nursing home grows every day. The longest waiting list is at the Hanson nursing home in Western Kentucky. The Thomson-Hood nursing home in Wilmore is undergoing a renovation.
Senator Roeding asked what Northern Kentucky veterans do for nursing home care. Commissioner Beavers said that there is no nursing home in Northern Kentucky. The closest nursing home is in Wilmore. Kentucky needs another nursing home.
Senator Stine said that she had seen the medical facility at Ft. Thomas, and that it looks like one floor is unused. She suggested that this floor could be used as a nursing home for Northern Kentucky veterans. Commissioner Beavers said that he would have to lease the space which would require a financial commitment from the Commonwealth for renovation and running the nursing home. Senator Stine wanted to know if the Commissioner had explored leasing the space for use as a nursing home. The Commissioner said that he had not explored this possibility. In any event, he would need State funds to proceed.
Commissioner Beavers said that the KDVA has opened the first of five veterans' cemeteries. As of July 1, there have been 61 burials at this Hopkinsville cemetery. Representative Ford asked why there have been so many cremations. Commissioner Beavers said that there have been cremations while families have waited for the cemetery to open. There is also a cultural change. More and more families are choosing cremation over burial. Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield from the federal VA visited Kentucky. He chose the Hopkinsville cemetery as the first state veterans' cemetery that he would visit. Field 9 in Hopkinsville was built with prefabricated liners, so that there would be no need to dig through frozen ground for burials. The vendor provided liners and lids that failed to meet specs. The liners and lids are cracked. The entire Field 9 will have to be redone. The Commissioner has had to buy another 651 liners with $250,000 provided by the federal VA. There are 93 acres available for a cemetery at Ft. Knox. Design work will begin shortly. Kentucky needed a commitment in the budget to obtain federal funds. The $50,000 commitment in the Governor's spending plan is sufficient. The KDVA has a magnificent site in Williamstown for a cemetery.
Commissioner Beavers said that Kentucky sent 17 busloads of veterans to the dedication of the WW II Memorial in Washington, DC. On May 29, Commissioner Beavers laid a wreath at the Kentucky portion of the WW II Memorial.
Commissioner Beavers concluded with a description of the economic impact of the Federal VA in Kentucky. By the year 2005, the Federal VA will have a $1 billion economic impact in Kentucky. This $1 billion will multiply as it passes through the economy.
Representative Ford asked if the vendor is responsible for replacing the cracked liners and lids at Field 9 in Hopkinsville. The Commissioner responded that the vendor will replace all of the damaged liners and lids at no cost to the KDVA. He said that the cost of running a cemetery for one year will be $300,000. The cost may be less. He will have seven employees plus two individuals from the local jail to help with maintenance.
Senator Stine asked if the Commissioner had a demographic breakdown for veterans in VA hospitals. Senator Stine said that she was interested in finding out about Northern Kentucky veterans. The Commissioner said that he had the number of users and enrollees by county and would furnish the information to Senator Stine.
Senator Pendleton said that some veterans have been saying that if they are in Nashville and then have to be transferred to Evansville, they have to start their paperwork all over again. Commissioner Beavers said that a veteran does not have to enroll a second time. The veteran should be able to go to the most convenient place for care. If there is a problem, he will become personally involved.
Co-Chair Weaver asked if there was any stacking of burials in Hopkinsville. The Commissioner said that he is stacking burials two deep where appropriate.
Senator Blevins asked about how many cemeteries are planned. The Commissioner said that in addition to the three he has discussed he hope to have two more in Eastern Kentucky. Putting cemeteries in Eastern Kentucky will be difficult due to the mountainous terrain.
Senator Tori asked about the treatment of homeless veterans. She wanted to know who will qualify as a homeless veteran entitled to the benefits of a homeless veteran. The Commissioner said that individuals will be screened and will have to sign a contract saying that they want the care. The homelessness will not have to be service connected.
Representative Baugh said that it is his understanding that federal VA has changed the criteria a veteran must meet to qualify for federal VA medical care. Commissioner Beavers said that there are eight priority groups. Right now priority group eight is not eligible. Unfortunately, there is no mandatory funding for veterans.
Co-Chair Seum said that he is proud of the General Assembly for starting veterans' cemeteries.
Co-Chair Seum said that Biometrics was the next item on the Agenda. The two speakers would be Steve Coffey, Assistant Director, Division of Driver Licensing and Captain Alecia Edginton, Commander, Criminal Identification and Records, Kentucky State Police.
Steve Coffey began by defining biometrics as the measurement, by means of an automated system, of one or more of a person's characteristics for the purpose of establishing or verifying that person's identity. He went on to say that all sorts of biometrics are available now for face, hand, signature, voice, etc. A faceprint can be as precise as a fingerprint. Kentucky utilizes the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and facial recognition. Biometrics turns a person's characteristics into a mathematical equation. A driver's license photo can include biometrics to prevent fraud. A person is prevented from getting more than one driver's license. Kentucky has conducted a pilot study with a million images. The digitized license contract began in March 2001. Funding, however, has ended. The cost is 25 cents per image and a 1% annual maintenance. The cost would be $340,000 per year to fund the program. Facial recognition can be used for several purposes. First, it can be used to identify drivers with the same driver's license number but different images. Second, facial recognition can identify a driver with more than one driver's license. Third, facial recognition identifies issuing errors. Fourth, facial recognition can serve as a tool to search by demographics, county, and issuance site. Fifth, facial recognition is an investigative tool to search for an identification.
There are now three million images in the digitized license image server. Two million need to be enrolled right now. Facial recognition is not funded at present.
George Washington University has given Kentucky an A for efforts to prevent terrorism and deter fraud in the driver licensing process. In a study, the University used four criteria: Social Security on-line verification, legal presence of aliens in a State, license expiration for aliens with legal presence, and the use of biometrics to prevent fraud.
Kentucky has used biometrics to: find escapees from prison, find people with multiple identities, find records with different images, clean up issuance errors, find identity theft, find IDs issued for underage drinking, and investigate crimes.
Representative Sims asked how many multiple images were found when Kentucky had biometric funding. Mr. Coffey said that three or four dozen examples of multiple images were found.
Co-Chair Seum asked how many images of Kentuckians have been taken up to this point. Mr. Coffey said that a million images have been taken. Co-Chair Seum asked if Mr. Coffey had any suggestions on how to fund Kentucky biometrics. He replied that at present Kentucky has a rather inexpensive driver license.
Rep. Riggs asked if local police departments have the ability to tap into the biometric database. Mr. Coffey said that only the State Police has access to the facial recognition database. Local police departments can gain access to the image history file. By the way, a signature accompanies an image history. Rep. Riggs said that if the system is important then the Kentucky State Police should reallocate its resources to fund facial recognition.
Captain Alecia Edgington, Kentucky State Police, said that the Kentucky State Police did have federal funding from a grant. However, the State Police budget has not been increased. She said that the Kentucky State Police does currently use biometrics. The General Assembly has funded the multimillion dollar Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). She would appreciate funding for driver licensing biometrics.
Rep. Riner expressed the concern that bad actors could misuse biometrics to create multiple identities. Mr. Coffey said that Kentucky officials are very concerned about this possibility and have limited who has access to biometrics.
Captain Edgington said that the fingerprint is the federally recognized biometric utilized to support a criminal arrest. The Kentucky State Police use AFIS to identify the arrestee by searching the archived database. The State Police scan the 10 fingers. If the State Police receive ink and paper fingerprints, they are scanned into the database. It is critical that at the time of arrest an individual is fingerprinted. We do have arrests in Kentucky where no fingerprint is taken. There were 99,000 such arrests last year. This hurts crime fighting. Arrestee fingerprints and latent prints are in the database. Latent prints can be matched against the prints of an arrestee. The State Police have 671,000 prints in its database. The General Assembly has funded expansion to 2.2 million prints in the database. AFIS can be used to identify an arrestee who gives a false ID. Applicant fingerprints created during a criminal background check are not stored. There are 109 livescan sites around the Commonwealth. Every detention facility has one. She would like mug shots of all arrestees. In addition, hardware needs to be replaced.
Senator Westwood asked if latent prints were taken at every crime scene by all levels of law enforcement. Captain Edgington said that every level of law enforcement takes latent prints from most crime scenes. Senator Westwood said that he knows of a crime scene where no latent prints were taken.
Rep. Riggs asked why applicant prints were not put in the database. Captain Edgington said that there is no statute that prohibits the placing of applicant prints in the database. According to State Police attorneys, there would need to be a statute requiring the placement of applicant prints in the database. There would be a commingling of criminal and noncriminal fingerprints.
The Committee then toured the Transportation Operations Center. Cash Centers, the Executive Director, guided the tour. At the tour's conclusion, there was a Motion and a second to adjourn. The Committee adjourned by voice vote.