The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, July 14, 2005, at 2:00 PM at the Colvin Community Center, 230 Freedoms Way, in Radcliff, Kentucky. Representative Mike Weaver, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair; Representative Mike Weaver, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Daniel Mongiardo, Richard "Dick" Roeding, Dan Seum, Katie Stine, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Sheldon E Baugh, Tom Burch, James Carr, Bill Farmer, Mary Harper, Fred Nesler, Charles L Siler, and Ancel Smith.
Guests: Ed Jamison, Doris Jamison, Larry Arnett, James Terrell, Howard Howells, Dan Dixon, Lucian Younsell, Don Nemce, Dave Jarrett, Frank Konermann, June Forbes, Simon Sharp, Jessie Lee, Steve Ivey, George Lauser, Lester McMannes, James Wilbanks, Jesse Lambert, Bob Pack, Clay Frost, Adrian Parker, Bob Krausman, Roger Stradley, Bobbie Smith, Mike McGuire, and Joe Williams.
LRC Staff: Scott Varland, Clint Newman, Clay Barkley, and Wanda Riley.
Co-Chair Mike Weaver began the meeting by introducing the speakers and members of the General Assembly present who were not on the committee.
Co-Chair Weaver explained that the purpose of the meeting was to find a solution to ensure that veterans continue to be rewarded for their sacrifice and service through preferential treatment within the state merit system. He explained that 14 questions relating to the state merit system had been submitted to the Personnel Cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Veterans' Affairs. This meeting, he explained, provided an opportunity for these agencies to respond to the 14 questions.
Secretary of Personnel Erwin Roberts began his comments by thanking Co-Chair Weaver's framing of the issue in a nonpartisan fashion. Secretary Roberts then explained that the problem was not technically reclassifications of merit jobs but changes in selection methods for state merit positions. Secretary Roberts said that the changes were "everyday changes" that are requested by agencies to the Personnel Cabinet. The Personnel Cabinet then determines if changes should be made in selection method.
Secretary Roberts said that a Blue-Ribbon Commission on the state merit system had been formed, and two veterans would be members of the commission.
Secretary Roberts introduced Mark Honeycutt, General Counsel for the Personnel Cabinet.
Secretary Roberts stated that there are 1,446 job classifications within the state merit system. 1,059 job classifications are of the Qualifying method of job selection. 157 job classifications are of the Training & Experience method of job selection. 230 job classifications are of the Testing method of job selection. Veteran's preference points only apply to 27 per cent of the job classifications and do not apply to internal mobility jobs.
Secretary Roberts continued with the questions, stating that there are 38, 285 state employees.
Secretary Roberts said that he cannot currently determine how many jobs are in each job classification, but once he received that information from the Commonwealth Office of Technology he would provide it to the committee.
Secretary Roberts explained the differences between the three kinds of selection method, Testing, Qualifying, and Training & Experience. With the Testing form, an applicant must take a test and score a 70 to get on the register. Test scores of veterans or their spouses are automatically increased by 5 or 10 points. The names of the top five scoring applicants are sent to the hiring agency. Secretary Roberts stated that veterans or their spouses who are not in the top five scoring applicants would be excluded from consideration for jobs.
Secretary Roberts stated that the Training & Experience selection method does not include a test. The applicant receives points based on their training and experience. Veterans' preference points, 5 points for a veteran and 10 points for a disabled veteran, are then added to this score. The top five individuals are then certified and a list of the top five are sent to the hiring agency.
Secretary Roberts stated that the last selection method, Qualifying, requires an applicant to meet the minimum education and/or experience requirements. Anyone who meets these requirements can be hired. There are no veterans' preference points under this selection method. Secretary Roberts stated that changing the selection method of jobs to Qualifying can open doors for veterans. Veterans who were not considered for jobs under the Testing and Training & Experience selection methods, due to low test scores, could be considered under the Qualifying method of selection. Secretary Roberts stated that the Fletcher administration has always made efforts to open doors for people, including veterans.
Secretary Roberts stated that the Personnel Cabinet has recommended a change to the Qualifying method that would identify all persons on qualifying registers who are veterans, spouses of veterans, disabled veterans, spouses of disabled veterans, or parents of a deceased or disabled veteran.
Secretary Roberts said that 149 selection method changes had been made since December 2003. Secretary Roberts said that the peak years, from 1998-2005, in selection method changes, were 1999 and 2004.
Secretary Roberts stated that in 2003, 5.3 per cent of state merit job appointments received veterans' preference points. In 2004, 6.5 per cent of state merit job appointments received veterans' preference points. In 2005, 5.5 per cent of state merit job appointments received veterans' preference points.
Secretary Roberts said that veterans are not specifically identified on register lists sent to hiring agencies. He also said that veterans on register lists are not required to be interviewed. Previous proposed legislation from 2000 required that veterans receive an interview. This bill did not pass.
Co-Chair Weaver explained that there would be fifteen minutes of questions before General Beavers, Director of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, commenced his presentation.
Representative Burch asked if a veteran could be on a register list and never get an interview.
Secretary Roberts responded that individual agencies make interview selection choices and, therefore, do not have to interview a veteran who has made a register list of the top five job candidates.
Representative Burch explained that individuals with master's and doctorate degrees do not get interviews for a merit job that is ultimately offered to a candidate with only an associate's degree. He asked if Secretary Roberts could do something to correct this problem.
Secretary Roberts stated that this problem should be looked at by the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on the Merit System. KRS 18A does not cover this last step of the selection process. He said that the Personnel Cabinet is planning to present to the Blue Ribbon Commission a proposal to create a standardized selection method process for all merit system jobs.
Representative Burch asked how many veterans had been hired in 2005.
Secretary Roberts stated that 182 veterans had been hired in 2005 to date. However, this number only includes veterans hired through the Testing and Training & Experience selection methods, not the Qualifying method.
Co-Chair Weaver said to the audience that, while the information being presented may be hard to understand, the legislators at the table were going to propose legislation to deal with the problem.
Representative Farmer asked if there were 60,000 individual applicants for state merit jobs, or if some of the applications were provided by the same individual.
Mark Honeycutt, General Counsel for the Personnel Cabinet, said that the 60,000 applications represented 60,000 individual job applicants.
Co-Chair Weaver asked if there was a numerical score given in the Training & Experience selection method. He asked if an applicant has to get a score of 70 to be placed on a job register list.
Secretary Roberts responded that a numerical score is given for the Training & Experience selection method and that an individual must obtain a score of 70 to be placed on a job register list.
Senator Gibson asked if the Personnel Cabinet was in the process of establishing a method that would identify veterans on a job register list sent to hiring agencies. He asked if legislation would need to be proposed to do this.
Secretary Roberts responded that the Personnel Cabinet should be able to add a category identifying veterans on job register lists without new legislation. He believed that new regulations could achieve this goal.
Senator Gibson asked if there is an increased percentage of veterans among merit job hirings over the last three or four years.
Secretary Roberts stated that his data does show an increase in percentage of veterans hired for merits jobs from 2003 to 2004.
Senator Harper-Angel asked Secretary Roberts if his statistic on veterans points referred to the total number of points received by veterans or total number of veterans receiving points.
Secretary Roberts explained that his statistic referred to the total number of veterans, not the total number of veterans' preference points.
Senator Harper-Angel asked if it was legal to identify veterans on merit job register lists.
Secretary Roberts said that it may be considered discriminatory. He stated that this issue is something the Personnel Cabinet is studying to determine if it is legal.
Counsel Honeycutt stated that regulations must be promulgated by the Personnel Cabinet to make any changes to the merit system. This process takes about six months.
Co-Chair Weaver introduced General Beavers to begin his presentation.
General Beavers stated that in January of 2005, the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs began researching veterans' preference laws across the 50 states. That research would allow Kentucky to determine if its veterans' preference laws were satisfactory or would need to be updated.
General Beavers said that the intent of the veterans' preference is to:
· Help eliminate the penalization of veterans for time spent in military service
· Reward veterans for sacrifices
· Recognize the economic loss suffered while serving
· Restore favorable competitive position for government employment
· Acknowledge larger obligation owed to disabled veterans and their family members
General Beavers stated that the intent of the veterans' preference is not to reduce barriers to employment for all applicants, but to enhance opportunities for veterans. He said that there is currently no indication on register lists sent to agencies whether an applicant is a veteran.
General Beavers explained eligibility for the veterans' preference as follows. A former or current member of the Kentucky National Guard receives 5 points. A veteran, including a former honorably discharged US military reservist, also receives 5 points. A disabled veteran receives 10 points. A spouse of a disabled veteran receives 10 points. An unremarried spouse of a deceased veteran receives 10 points. A dependent parent or a deceased or disabled veteran receives 10 points.
General Beavers said that there are approximately 36,000 state jobs. 80 per cent of these jobs are merit jobs. 20 per cent of these jobs are non-merit. Of the merit classifications in Kentucky, 27 per cent provide for a veterans' preference. Only jobs in the Testing and Training & Experience selections methods provide for a veterans' preference.
General Beavers explained how the Testing, Training & Experience, and Qualifying selection methods work and how veterans are affected. He said that under the Qualifying method, veterans do not get preference points. The qualifying selection method consists of 73 per cent of merit classifications.
General Beavers stated that applicant register lists sent to hiring agencies do not identify which applicants are veterans. He said that this could be easily remedied.
General Beavers said that there is no requirement that veterans on a register list sent to a hiring agency be interviewed.
General Beavers then gave an overview of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs with respect to the veterans' preference. He said that there are 790 total positions in KDVA, 7 are non-merit, 783 are merit. 89 per cent of the KDVA merit jobs are not required to give veterans' preference points. 11 per cent of the KDVA merit jobs are required to give veterans' preference points.
General Beavers stated that veterans' preference points would not help a veteran if his or her total score is not in the top five scores.
General Beavers said that most of his agency's employees are nurses and must qualify as a registered nurse. He said that, of the KDVA jobs in the Qualifying selection method, it is not mandatory for an applicant to be a veteran.
General Beavers recognized Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Bob Higdon, state veterans benefits representative for the Fort Knox region. He said that he was not selected for the job because he was a veteran. He was selected because he was the best candidate.
General Beavers stated that he has changed some jobs from Testing to Qualifying because the tests were out of date and the Testing method did not result in enough good candidates. There was no intent to hurt the veteran by changing jobs to the Qualifying selection method. They were trying to enhance veterans' opportunities.
General Beavers gave an overview of other state veterans' preference programs. He said that 45 other states operate under a merit system. 49 states claim to grant some type of veterans' preference. General Beavers outlined the difference in veterans' preference laws in various states. He said that New Jersey had the strongest veterans' preference laws. Most states use a point system like Kentucky. 7 states list veterans ahead of non-veterans on the eligible applicant list regardless of score. 14 states require the appointing authority to justify in writing passing over a veteran in favor of a lower ranking non-veteran. 10 states give veterans a preference in promotion. General Beavers then gave highlights on veterans' preference laws for Alaska, New Jersey, and Kansas.
General Beavers completed his presentation by giving recommendations to make the merit system more beneficial to veterans. He recommended that the Kentucky state merit system be changed to clearly identify veterans on the register certificate of eligible job applicants sent to the hiring agency. He also recommended that the merit system be changed to require agencies to offer veterans an interview. He recommended that the merit system be changed to give a veterans' preference to all National Guard and military reservists, not just the Kentucky National Guard. He recommended that "veteran" be defined according the federal law. Finally, he recommended that a legislative statement of intent be included in KRS 18A.150.
Senator Stine said that a veterans' preference is constitutional because of veterans' training and background. She said that veterans should be given a preference in hiring for state employment.
Senator Roeding asked what legislation would be put forward to deal with the problem. He then said that General Beavers' presentation had answered his question.
Representative Carr said that the magnitude of this problem should be considered by all. He said that he is from Fort Campbell and people should consider the problems of Fort Campbell. He said that the Secretary of Personnel should make sure they are doing everything they can for veterans.
Co-Chair Weaver reassured Representative Carr that any legislation filed as a result of the current committee meeting will affect positively all of the soldiers at Fort Campbell who reside in Kentucky.
Secretary Roberts agreed with Representative Carr and assured him that the Personnel Cabinet's commitment to veterans is very strong.
Co-Chair Weaver said that the Kentucky Legislature created the Commission of Military Affairs nine years ago. This commission saved Fort Knox and enhanced Fort Campbell in the most recent Base Realignment and Closure round. He continued by saying that the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs was created six years ago. Kentucky has come a long way with regard to veterans and military affairs. He said that the legislature will come up with a veterans' preference program that is much more fair to veterans.
Representative Ballard asked if a veteran could score higher than 100 on a merit test. He asked why a veteran should not be able to make a 105 or 110 score on a merit test.
Secretary Roberts said that this is another problem that the Personnel Cabinet could research.
Senator Westwood thanked General Beavers for his recommendations and asked how Kentucky defines a veteran and how it is different from the federal definition.
General Beavers said that the state definitions sometimes do not refer to the Coast Guard or other services.
Senator Mongiardo asked if the negative effect on veterans from the selection method changes was unintentional.
Secretary Roberts said he did not think the selection method changes had a negative effect on veterans.
Senator Mongiardo asked if the selection method changes had taken away the veterans' preference for a large number of jobs and job classifications.
Secretary Roberts replied that there was no intent to harm veterans and that the selection method changes were ordinary changes in state government. He said that the changes actually open doors rather than close doors for veterans. He said that the changes proposed by General Beavers will make the veterans' preference program even stronger.
Senator Mongiardo said that he wants to make sure veterans continue to have an advantage in state hiring. He said that the selection method changes lead to the potential for improvement in hiring of veterans for state jobs but does not guarantee an advantage for veterans in state hiring.
Secretary Roberts stated that it is hard to determine whether the selection method changes benefit veterans or hurt veterans. He said that there are more veterans being hired than ever before.
Senator Mongiardo said that just because more veterans theoretically could be hired under the Qualifying method of selection, it does not guarantee that more veterans will be hired under this method. He said that a major variable in the Qualifying method is the whim of the hiring agency.
General Beavers said that this problem can be dealt with by identifying veterans on hiring register lists and giving interviews to all veterans.
Senator Mongiardo said that he agrees with all of the changes General Beavers is proposing. His concern is that the selection method changes have negatively impacted veterans.
General Beavers said that the selection method changes did not trigger his recommendations. He said there has not been a major change to the veterans' preference system. He said that the veterans' preference system does need to be improved.
Senator Mongiardo stated that the merit system gives a five point preference to African-Americans.
Secretary Roberts stated that was not correct.
Counsel Honeycutt stated that the change in veterans' preference points that do not allow a score to exceed 100 was done in 1998. He said that the merit system gives a preference to internal mobility candidates. He also said that the tests given are outdated and catered to internal mobility candidates.
Senator Mongiardo said that African-Americans, women, and veterans should all receive preference points when applying for state government employment.
Secretary Roberts said that the Blue-Ribbon Commission should look into this issue. He agreed that minorities and women deserve preferential treatment in state hiring.
Senator Winters asked what needed to be done to expedite the movement of jobs and job classifications from the Testing and Training & Experience methods of selection to the Qualifying method of selection.
General Beavers said that you could require some jobs in the Qualifying method of selection to be for veterans.
Secretary Roberts stated that the process of changing selection methods is already a fairly smooth process.
Co-Chair Weaver stated that there will be plenty of legislation proposed in the 2006 General Assembly regular session to aid veterans in the merit system.
Senator Seum thanked staff, General Beavers, and Representative Ballard for their efforts to ensure that veterans receive a preference within the merit system. He said that he was proud to be there as a veteran. He wanted to point out that the legislature created the state veterans nursing home and cemetery programs. He said that the legislature has helped veterans and will continue its efforts by changing the merit system to ensure that veterans continue to get a preference in state hiring.
Senator Harper-Angel thanked General Beavers for his recommendations. She asked if other states identify veterans on their register lists.
General Beavers replied that other states do identify veterans on register lists.
Co-Chair Tori thanked General Beavers and Secretary Roberts for their presentations and recommendations. She said that the hiring system in Kentucky has been flawed for a long time. She stated that the civil service system is less complicated. She said the Blue Ribbon Commission should fix the problems of veterans and other people who have been disadvantaged by the complexity of the state merit system. She said that disabled veterans should be identified on register lists sent to hiring agencies.
General Beavers said he did not include this in his recommendations because it might allow hiring agencies to discriminate against identified disabled veterans. He said that giving all veterans interviews would make the identification of disabled veterans less of an issue.
Co-Chair Tori asked if the recommended changes to the veteran's preference could be done through regulations or if legislation would be required.
Secretary Roberts said that some changes would require legislation, while other changes would simply require new regulations.
Co-Chair Tori said that there is no partisanship in veterans issues.
Secretary Roberts thanked the Co-Chairs for presenting this meeting as nonpartisan.
Co-Chair Weaver said that there should be no problem passing veterans legislation to preserve the veterans' preference. This is because there are such large numbers of Kentuckians who are veterans.
Frank Konermann, Chairman of JECVO, the Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations, gave a background of JECVO.
Larry Arnett, counsel to JECVO, said that the media reports of selection method changes created a great deal of concern within JECVO. As a result of this concern, Mr. Konerman sent a letter to Governor Fletcher expressing his concern over the selection method changes and their effect on veterans. Mr. Arnett said the meeting had answered the majority of JECVO's concerns. He said that taking away any bedrock benefits from veterans is bad. He said that if Secretary Roberts and the legislators follow through with their commitments to ensure a strong veterans' preference within the merit system, JECVO and Kentucky veterans would be satisfied. He said that there were still concerns with modifying the methodology that the merit system uses. He said that there are no guarantees that veterans will be positively impacted by selection method changes until the meeting's recommendations were enacted by law or regulation. He urged Secretary Roberts and the Governor's administration to either slow down or stop future selection method changes until the Blue Ribbon Commission comes back with their recommendations or regulations are put in place by the Personnel Cabinet. He urged the committee to consider putting legislative intent into the current veterans' preference statutes, as was recommended by General Beavers. He said that with visibility comes accountability. He will look to make sure that the meeting's recommendations are put into place.
Dave Jarrett, Disabled American Veterans Service Officer, said that veterans were being left behind at the state and federal level. He asked how a disabled veteran gets a 10 point preference.
General Beavers said that there is a box on state applications for disabled veterans to mark. He said that disabled veterans must provide papers to prove that they are disabled veterans. He said that they must provide a statement of disability, dated within the last 90 days, from the VA Benefits Rating Board. He said that this was too onerous a request since many disabled veterans were rated years ago.
Mr. Jarrett stated that Kentucky is one of the worst states for providing benefits to disabled veterans. He said that the federal VA in Louisville does not have enough employees to promptly deal with veterans' claims. He said that the way you treat your veterans determines how successful military recruiting is. He said that New Jersey has an excellent veterans' preference system. He said that the veterans are not looking for lip service, they are looking for results.
James Wilbanks stated that he is a disabled veteran. He said that the jobs within the Qualifying method are not on the state's employment website. He said that veterans would like a simple interview for state jobs. He asked why the qualifications are so high for some of the lower level merit jobs.
Co-Chair Weaver said that this is something that should be looked into to find a solution.
Secretary Roberts said that he would look into it and contact Mr. Wilbanks.
General Beavers said that the veterans' preference is serious business and changes need to be made to ensure its viability. He said that an excellent veterans' preference program will ensure that veterans stay in Kentucky.
Co-Chair Weaver recognized Pamela Luce, 1st Sergeant (Ret.), 82nd Airborne. He told her that there will be a new women's veterans license plate in Kentucky.
Co-Chair Tori said that she asked the Secretary of Commerce to create a job fair for veterans.
Under New Business, Co-Chair Tori described Executive Reorganization Order #2005-563. She said that the Interim Joint Committee would take no action on the order. However, at a later meeting, the Interim Joint Committee would discuss the subject of the order.
Co-Chair Tori explained that efforts would be made to keep the Patton Museum at Fort Knox. She said that a letter would be sent to the Governor from the committee urging him to help save the Patton Museum.
Co-Chair Tori made a motion that the committee sign the letter. Senator Stine seconded the motion. The motion was accepted without objection.
Co-Chair Weaver said that the letter would also be sent to the Secretary of Commerce and the entire Kentucky Congressional delegation.
Carl Johnson, US Army Reserve, asked that state statutes benefiting Kentucky National Guard service members should also benefit Kentucky Reserve service members.
Co-Chair Weaver said that if Mr. Johnson got in touch with him, he would try to make appropriate changes.
Representative Burch made a motion for adjournment. The meeting was adjourned.