Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection


Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 1st Meeting

of the 2006 Interim


<MeetMDY1> June 1, 2006


The<MeetNo2> 1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on<Day> Thursday,<MeetMDY2> June 1, 2006, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.


Present were:


Members:<Members> Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair; Representative Mike Weaver, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Daniel Mongiardo, Joey Pendleton, Jerry P. Rhoads, Dorsey Ridley, Richard "Dick" Roeding, Dan Seum, Katie Stine, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Sheldon E. Baugh, Carolyn Belcher, Tom Burch, Bill Farmer, Mary Harper, Gerry Lynn, Fred Nesler, Tanya G. Pullin, Steve Riggs, Steven Rudy, Charles L. Siler, and Ancel Smith.


Guests:  John Cubine, Director, Division of Financial Audit, Auditor of Public Accounts; Alice Wilson, Audit Manager, State Audit Branch, Division of Financial Audit, Auditor of Public Accounts; MG Donald C. Storm, Adjutant General, Kentucky Department of Military Affairs; Alecia Webb-Edgington, Executive Director, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security; Dr. William Hacker, Commissioner, Department for Public Health; Wes Butler, General Counsel, Cabinet for Health and Family Services; and Scott Gustin, DVM, KY Poultry Federation.


LRC Staff:  Scott Varland, CSA, Mustapha Jammeh, Tyler Campbell, and Rhonda Schierer.


Co-Chair Elizabeth Tori summarized six Committee Resolutions honoring the following Kentucky soldiers who lost their lives in the War on Terrorism: Specialist James W. Gardner, Lance Corporal Justin D. Sims, Specialist Robert Jason Settle, Captain Clayton L. Adamkavicius, Sergeant Robert William Ehney, and Master Sergeant Clinton Wayne Cubert. Co-Chair Tori asked the committee and all those present to rise in a moment of silence to honor the memories of these fallen soldiers and their families. Representative Baugh moved adoption of the Committee Resolutions and Representative Farmer seconded the Motion which was adopted by voice vote.


The Committee next turned its attention to the Statewide Single Audit of Kentucky conducted by the Auditor of Public Accounts for the Department of Military Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security.


John Cubine, Director, Division of Financial Audit, Auditor of Public Accounts was joined at the witness table by Alice Wilson, Audit Manager, State Audit Branch, Division of Financial Audit, Auditor of Public Accounts.


Ms. Wilson began by giving a brief overview of the Auditor's responsibilities in auditing federal dollars. She reported that the Auditor of Public Accounts perform audits of federal funds on behalf of federal agencies that give money to the Commonwealth. The results of the audit are put in the Statewide Single Audit of Kentucky report, better known as the SSAK report. Ms. Wilson reported that in FY 2005 the Commonwealth spent $6.9 billion in federal funds and it is the duty of the Auditor of Public Accounts to audit those funds and expenditures. The audit is completed in March of each year and the results are sent to a federal coordinator in Atlanta. The coordinator then forwards the report to all applicable federal agencies to communicate to them the manner in which the Commonwealth is spending federal dollars. The programs selected for audit are based on federal criteria and audit guidelines. The Auditor of Public Accounts reserves the right to audit any agency based on risk assessments or information brought to the attention of the auditor through the agency hotline. Ms. Wilson stated that the role of the Auditor of Public Accounts ends once the report has been submitted to the federal coordinator. The decision to withhold money is the decision of the federal agency and federal guidelines require that the Auditor of Public Accounts follow up on all major issues in the following audit year.


Ms. Wilson outlined the three different types of audit findings used by the Auditor of Public Accounts: material, reportable, and other matters. Material weaknesses may occur in two instances. The first instance may occur in financial reporting. A material weakness in financial reporting indicates that the design or operation of one or more of the internal control components does not guard against funds being misspent or misappropriated. The second instance of a material weakness may occur in administering the schedule of expenditures of federal awards and complying with the requirements applicable to each major program. Major federal programs have a number of internal control components to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grants. If the design or operation of one or more of these internal controls is noncompliant, the program conflicts with applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grants. Reportable findings occur when a program has guidelines or internal controls in place to prevent misuse or misappropriation of funds, but these guidelines are not being followed. Other matters are instances of noncompliance that are required to be reported under Government Auditing Standards, but do not fall under the definition of reportable conditions or material weakness. The SSAK report includes material and reportable findings, but not other matter findings. However, other matter findings are sent to the relative executive branch agency.


Ms. Wilson stated that the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) had two material findings in the previous audit year in the area of subrecipient monitoring. The Department of Military Affairs did not have any material findings in the 2006 audit as the department had made steps to correct the area of concern. Therefore, the two previous material findings were downgraded to reportable conditions in 2005. The three programs in the Department of Military Affairs that the Auditor of Public Accounts analyzed were the following: Public Assistance Grants (FEMA money); the State Domestic Preparedness Equipment Support Program; and the National Guard Program. Military Affairs expended $15.8 million in federal dollars for the Public Assistance Grants with $15.5 million distributed to subrecipients. Ms. Wilson reiterated the need to closely monitor subrecipients of federal dollars as the majority of the funds from the Public Assistance Grant programs were distributed to subrecipients. The State Domestic Preparedness Equipment Support Program was audited, and it had a subrecipient monitoring issue as well, with $15.1 million in federal expenditures, of which $15 million went to subrecipients. The third and final program audited was the National Guard Program. The National Guard Program had four reportable findings and two other matter findings. Ms. Wilson went on to state that the Auditor of Public Accounts also audited the ProCard program at the Department of Military Affairs as well as all state agencies for the 2005 audit. The audit of the ProCard program yielded one other matter finding at Military Affairs. However, Ms. Wilson stated that the problem was not deemed significant.


Ms. Wilson commented that the auditor's office did not feel that the Department of Military Affairs was in danger of losing any federal funds. However, Ms. Wilson reiterated that the decision to award or eliminate funding is solely at the discretion of the federal government.


Ms. Wilson then provided a brief description of each reportable finding for the Department of Military Affairs. Two of the audit findings (05-DMA-2 and 05 DMA-3) were related to subrecipient monitoring. The Auditor found that DMA was not doing an adequate job with regard to monitoring the funds being distributed to subrecipients. However, as these two conditions were material findings in the previous year's audit, Ms. Wilson stated that Military Affairs had made strides in tracking audit reports from subrecipients as well as making site visits to evaluate subrecipient's progress, which downgraded the findings to reportable conditions. Other reportable conditions included 05-DMA-4, in which the Auditor audited 5 armories and found problems pertaining to improper handling of receipts, missing documentation for expenditures, missing contracts, failure to obtain advance approval for expenditures over $50, expenditures for purposes other than armory maintenance, and a missing report. The Auditor's finding, 05-DMA-5, stated that Military Affairs lacked documentation showing that it properly closed out grants. Once a grant ends, DMA should be able to provide a list of unliquidated claims and undisbursed obligations. This list should then be forwarded to the United States Property and Fiscal Office. Finding 05-DMA-6 stated that DMA had inadequate internal controls to ensure accurate quarterly SF-269 reports. Finding 05-DMA-7 stated that DMA charged costs to the federal government without proper documentation. The Auditor also recommended that DMA reimburse the federal government for the questioned costs. Finding 05-DMA-8 found that one individual had the authority to enter and approve a transaction in the state's accounting system. Since this authority is not reviewed by other DMA employees, there is a possibility of adverse consequences flowing from one person having the authority to enter and approve a transaction in the accounting system. Finding 05-DMA-9 stated that DMA should require all applicants who receive funds from DMA's Public Assistance Fund to file extensions on project worksheets if the project would not be completed by the specified deadline. The Auditor suggested that DMA close out each grant application upon completion of a project rather than closing out an applicant once all projects have been completed.


Co-Chair Tori called Major General, Donald C. Storm, the Adjutant General of Kentucky, to the witness table to respond to the DMA audit.


MG Storm thanked the committee for the opportunity to respond to the audit report. He then thanked the auditors for their professionalism and courtesy in preparing the report. He acknowledged that DMA does not have an internal audit section, so he stated that the department highly values the reviews of DMA's internal control processes in order to make management processes better and more effective.


MG Storm stated that he was pleased to announce that DMA received no material weakness findings in the 2005 fiscal year audit. He acknowledged that due to the hard work by the Division of Emergency Management Personnel, the material weaknesses from the 2004 audit were downgraded to reportable conditions. He stated that DMA still had work to do to completely correct their problems, but he stated that significant progress had already been made in designing and implementing an internal control process that will provide reasonable levels of assurance that subrecipient monitoring is occurring and that irregularities will be eliminated or detected in a timely manner.


MG Storm addressed each of the Auditor's findings. Finding 05-DMA-01 involved some irregularities in ProCard documentation and the pick-up of the procured item. MG Storm stated that these issues had been addressed, and the ProCard management chain in the department has been corrected. Finding 05-DMA-5 involved DMA's participation in the Department of Defense's required quarterly grant review meeting. He did not concur with the Auditor's findings that a "written" report was required by the contractual clause, and he stated that DMA was in full compliance with federal regulations due to the fact that unliquidated items are itemized, in detail, in face-to-face quarterly grant review coordination meetings. He stated that the federal grantor supported DMA's position on the matter. Finding 05-DMA-6 simply involved arithmetical mistakes made on a federal grant disbursement report, which were corrected and resubmitted, and new procedures were established within the Division of Emergency Management to check for these kinds of mistakes in the future. Finding 05-DMA-7 involved the auditor's rejection of a federally supplied source document used to bill one of the Department of Defense cooperative agreements. The Auditor found this source documentation insufficient and questioned the cost charged to the federal government based on this document. DMA submitted the Auditor's findings to the federal grantor for review and, at their discretion, repayment or forgiveness of the questioned costs will be decided. DMA did not concur with the Auditor's Finding 05-DMA-8, stating that the department operates in full compliance with all Finance Cabinet MARS security procedures on the approval of MARS documents. DMA did not concur with the Auditor's finding, 05-DMA-9. MG Storm stated that DMA is in full compliance with FEMA regulations in granting applicant extensions even if the extensions were retroactive.


MG Storm thanked the auditors for their due diligence in the audit process and thanked the members of the committee for their interest and support of the Department of Military Affairs.


Co-Chair Tori thanked MG Storm for his response to the audit report. She then asked MG Storm if he felt that he had adequate staff to meet the demands of complying with regulations and satisfying audit requirements. MG Storm stated that he believed he had adequate staff when one measures the risk with the returns of the audit process. He stated that the work of the diligent employees of DMA and all federal employees allowed the Kentucky taxpayer to get the greatest return for their tax dollars.


Co-Chair Weaver addressed MG Storm and John Cubine concerning the report of questioned costs for Finding 05-DMA-7. Co-Chair Weaver stated that he wanted to address whether or not the expenditure would have to be reimbursed to the federal government. Mr. Cubine stated that the audit only served as a recommendation to reimburse the questioned costs but did not necessarily guarantee that the costs would have to be refunded. MG Storm indicated to Co-Chair Weaver that the  questioned costs may have been the result of a double-billing of the federal government. Therefore, DMA would not be out any money if the federal grantor decided that the money did need to be reimbursed.


Co-Chair Weaver stated that out of all of the reportable conditions only one of them dealt with any dollar figures or questioned costs. He stated that in the previous year's audit DMA had three material weaknesses, which were the most severe findings. Co-Chair Weaver stated that the 2005 audit yielded no material weaknesses and went on to state that DMA had given the committee a good report and congratulated them on responding to the discrepancies from last year's audit.


The next item on the agenda was the discussion of the audit for the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (KOHS). Once again, Co-Chair Tori asked Ms. Wilson to give a brief overview of the KOHS audit.


Ms. Wilson stated that KOHS had received $2.9 million in federal funds, of which $2.4 million were distributed to subrecipients. The program audited within KOHS was the State Domestic Preparedness Equipment Support Program, which was previously administered in DMA but had since moved under the supervision of KOHS.


Ms. Wilson first discussed finding 05-KOHS-2. This finding stated that KOHS should develop and implement procedures for documenting the evaluation of all grant applications and final award decisions. The Auditor found that KOHS lacked formal procedures for reviewing federal Homeland Security Grant applications and making grant awards. The Auditor also found that panel member qualifications were not documented for the two panels involved in awarding federal homeland security grants: the technical review panel and the blue ribbon panel. Lastly, members of the two panels lacked proper training. The Auditor recommended that KOHS develop and implement policies and procedures to detail the application process, selection review panel members, training and information to be provided to prepare evaluators for scoring the applicants, and how final awarding procedures will be made. The requirements of the application and awarding process should be consistently communicated to the evaluators and the applicants. The Auditor also recommended that KOHS document final award decisions on each application, communicate award decisions to applicants in a consistent manner, and implement a process to determine and track if applicants have applied for and/or have received direct federal homeland security funding. This tracking system should be used in considering final award decisions.


Finding 05-KOHS-3 was the second reportable condition discussed. Ms. Wilson stated that when state employees work on a federal program, certain administrative programs must be followed. The federal Office of Management and Budget provides guidance in OMB Circular A-87 as to what procedures should be followed. The Auditor recommends that KOHS document when an employee is working on a federal program and when that employee is working on a state program.


Co-Chair Tori asked Ms. Alecia Webb-Edgington, Executive Director, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, to come to the witness table and provide the agency’s response to the audit. Ms. Webb-Edgington thanked the auditors for their work and echoed the comments of MG Storm, stating that the audit is a welcomed process that allows the agency to continue to improve.


Ms. Webb-Edgington first responded to Finding 05-KOHS-2 by stating that the KOHS competitive grant application process was recognized by former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, as “a model for the nation.”  Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that KOHS has implemented new procedures for the competitive grant process in 2006.


Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that 371 grant applications came to KOHS during the 2006 grant application cycle, and grants were awarded in the amount of $450 million. She stated that Kentucky’s dollar grant award ranked fourth in the southeast region in the competitive grant process. Additionally, she stated that KOHS, working together with the City of Louisville, were very successful in the grant application process. The City of Louisville was awarded an increase of 35 percent from the previous year.


KOHS did agree with some of the recommendations made by the Auditor and implemented the changes in the latest grant cycle. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that KOHS had not previously documented formal procedures for review of application or awarding decisions. She explained that while some applicants received high scores and others received lower scores, funding is not based on the application score alone. Verbal explanations had been provided to applicants in the past. However, she stated that KOHS will document future grant decisions.


Ms. Webb-Edgington responded to the Auditor's finding that formal requirements or qualifications were not documented to select members of the technical review panel and the blue ribbon panel for each year. She stated that KOHS had asked the Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Association of Counties, State Fire Marshall's Office, the Commonwealth Office of Technology, and UK's Patterson School for experts for the technical review panel. KOHS selected members based on prior experience, such as former and current firefighters, police, communications experts, and those with homeland security academic experience. She stated that in the future, KOHS will implement a formal requirement that all technical reviewers have a minimum of two years experience in a related field or at least one year of graduate academic study in a homeland security field. The qualifications of the blue ribbon panelists will also be documented. They will be required to have experience or positions that give them a unique perspective to ensure the homeland security funding program is sound in nature and not redundant of other programs in the state.


Ms. Webb-Edgington said that KOHS did not agree with the Auditor's statement that the training of evaluators was not thorough and led to inconsistent scoring. She stated that all panel members were briefed on how to score applications before the process started. She also stated that because KOHS understands that scoring can be subjective, scores represent only one component used to make a decision on funding. She went on to state that KOHS will document training in the future by having all of the technical panelists sign a statement saying they have received training before they begin scoring. Additionally, technical panelists will score applications independently and KOHS will then average the scores.


Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that KOHS agreed with the Auditor's assessment of notifying all grant applicants of funding decisions. She stated that in the future, KOHS will send out one letter for each application received in the office. The letter will indicate whether or not the grant was funded. Copies of the letters shall be retained by KOHS.


Ms. Webb-Edgington stated KOHS also agreed with the Auditor about asking applicants for information regarding other homeland security funding that the applicant may be applying for from the federal government. She stated that in the future, KOHS will ask all applicants to not only document federal homeland security funding they received, but also any grants that have been applied for and are still pending. Applicants will be asked to notify KOHS when the pending status changes.


Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that KOHS agreed with the auditor's recommendations for finding 05-KOHS-3. She stated that KOHS met with the Office of the Controller and have recommendations on the best way to identify the correct allocation for non Federally Funded Time Limited (FFTL) employees. She stated that over the next three months non-FFTL employees will track the level of effort applicable to each funding source. Once a percentage of effort is determined for each non-FFTL employee applicable to each funding source then adjustments to payroll distribution will be made to reflect the correct percentage. Every quarter the non-FFTL employees will sign certification statements verifying that the level of effort has remained constant. By the end of SFY06, the labor distribution for all non-FFTL employees should be updated with documented percentage of each individual's labor costs being charged to each funding source. Biannually the process of documenting level of effort applicable to each funding source will be repeated. For FFTL employees, the respective timesheets have been updated to reflect the applicable funding string for each. The employee will be informed by memo that by signing a timesheet each pay period he or she is certifying that a certain percentage of effort that pay period went to the applicable Federal Grant.


Co-Chair Tori thanked Ms. Webb-Edgington for her response. She then asked Ms. Webb-Edgington how long KOHS had been using its standard operating procedures manual. Ms. Edgington responded by stating that KOHS had started using the manual June 1, 2005. Co-Chair Tori then asked Ms. Webb-Edgington to explain to the committee why some homeland security grant-funding is received directly from the federal government and other funds are received from the state. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that a number of homeland security programs require direct application to the federal government. In FY 2005, $420 million of Kentucky homeland security funding did not pass through the KOHS. Co-Chair Tori asked under what circumstances would an applicant go directly to the federal government for funding rather than through the KOHS. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that a number of areas exist that may require an agency to go directly to the federal government. She stated that applicants looking for commercial equipment, such as police and fire departments, often look for funding through multiple sources in order to shop for the best deal on equipment.


Representative Siler asked Ms. Webb-Edgington if an arrangement still existed where KOHS worked with individual counties except for the 5th Congressional District, where KOHS dealt with 27 counties on a block grant basis. She concurred, stating that the 5th Congressional District does receive homeland security funding as a block grant. Representative Siler asked if this complicates the grant process and asked whether or not counties could be treated equally in a competitive grant process when an individual county is competing with an entire region of counties for grant-funding. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that KOHS will often encourage regional grant approaches in order to avoid a "stove pipe" in funding. She stated that the funding of a specific region offers greater interoperability and communication among several counties. She said that several regions in Kentucky have applied for block grant funding, not just in the 5th Congressional District. These regions include Bowling Green/Warren County, Western Kentucky/Owensboro, and Boone/Kenton/Campbell Counties.


Representative Burch asked Ms. Webb-Edgington to name the most commonly requested items or equipment from the various counties that deal with homeland security. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that items include personal protective equipment, mobile radios, fire trucks, command posts, chainsaws, four wheelers, software, and new buildings. Representative Burch asked if a policy exists in KOHS to verify that the equipment being purchased is actually being used for homeland security purposes. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that the subject matter experts on the review panels carefully screen applicants and offer validity to the process. Representative Burch then asked Ms. Webb-Edgington if she had received any complaints about any equipment or items purchased through KOHS that was faulty or not in proper working condition. She stated that KOHS had not received any complaints about equipment malfunctions. She stated that KOHS has a Master Agreement with counties in the event that the equipment does not work, which will allow them to address the situation with a vendor. Representative Burch asked if the equipment is ever used in trial testing prior to being placed in the field. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that equipment is often used in field exercises with the National Guard and emergency medical personnel.


Co-Chair Weaver asked Ms. Webb-Edgington if an $8.3 million grant received by the City of Louisville earlier in the day was a part of the reported $33.9 million in federal expenditures for FY 2006. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that these funds were a part of a separate grant cycle. She stated that in FY 2005, Louisville received $4 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative, which is a specialized arena for funding. She stated that 77 cities applied for the Urban Area Security Initiative and 47 cities were actually funded based on the requirements by the federal government. However, the funds received from this grant are dedicated funds and can only be spent on that particular urban area. Co-Chair Weaver asked how many categories of funding are issued to Kentucky from homeland security. Ms. Webb-Edgington responded by saying that there are five sources of funding within the Commonwealth:  Metropolitan Medical Reserve Funds (dedicated funds to Louisville and Lexington), Citizen Corps Funds, State Homeland Security, Law Enforcement Funding, and Urban Area Security Initiative (dedicated funds to Louisville). Co-Chair Weaver asked if the $8.3 million would go directly to the City of Louisville or if that money would go to KOHS because KOHS in a joint effort with Louisville wrote the grant application. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that the money is a "pass-through" grant and will be distributed through KOHS. She stated that KOHS is mandated by the federal government to assist Urban Area Security Initiative cities in the grant application process.


Co-Chair Weaver stated that one of the criticisms of KOHS in the audit was the lack of documentation in scoring grant applications. He asked if this process had been corrected for future grant application cycles. Ms. Webb-Edgington stated that formal procedures had been adopted requiring documentation to justify application scores.


Co-Chair Tori thanked Ms. Webb-Edgington, Mr. Cubine, and Ms. Wilson for their time and efforts during the meeting. The next item on the agenda was the discussion of pandemic flu concerns. Co-Chair Tori called Dr. William Hacker, Commissioner of the Department for Public Health, Wes Butler, General Counsel for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and Dr. Scott Gustin, a veterinarian speaking on behalf of the Kentucky Poultry Federation, to the witness table to discuss pandemic flu concerns for the Commonwealth.


Dr. William Hacker gave a presentation on the Commonwealth's planning and response to a potential pandemic influenza. Dr. Hacker outlined the history of the different influenza strains and looked at the avian flu virus that is currently being broadcast in the media. He addressed the assumptions that take place in the planning process of combating pandemic flu. He stated that a pandemic is not preventable, and the pandemic outbreak is expected to last between six and eight weeks. He also stated that multiple pandemic waves are likely, meaning that two to three waves of a pandemic are possible. The clinical disease attack rate for a pandemic is up to 30 percent with 40 percent of children being affected and 20 percent of adults. These assumptions are useful, because if a pandemic occurs, businesses and organizations will likely experience high employee absenteeism. Nearly half of these workers are likely to seek medical care. Therefore, the demand for medical services may exceed supply. He also stated that hospitalization and death rates will depend on the virulence of the virus.


Dr. Hacker stated that Kentucky is preparing for the next pandemic. He stated that the health care system cannot prevent the next pandemic, so the goal must be to prevent illness and death and preserve critical community infrastructures. He stated that all sectors of society must be prepared in order to lower the demand on the health care system. He addressed numerous levels of planning that are taking place throughout the international community with the World Health Organization Pandemic Influenza Plan, as well as within the United States with the Health and Human Services Pandemic Plan. He also addressed planning at the state level with the Kentucky Pandemic Influenza Plan. He emphasized the state's influenza plan and a number of collaborative planning partners that will assist the Department of Public Health during a pandemic. He also stated that it is important for communities within Kentucky to plan for a pandemic. He stated that 48 communities in Kentucky had already planned local pandemic summits to address the issue, maintaining that communities must sustain planning and preparedness, even when a threat is less apparent. Dr. Hacker mentioned some tips for Kentuckians to follow during a time of seasonal and pandemic influenza. Families should develop their own emergency preparedness plan. People should remember to wash their hands frequently and should cough and sneeze into tissues or elbows to prevent spread of infection. He also stated that people should get a flu shot each fall, avoid crowds during outbreaks, and stay at home if ill. He closed by stating that a pandemic does not appear imminent, but it will occur in the future. He stated that communities can better respond to any health threat if they are prepared and he encouraged every community to work with their local health department in planning for the next pandemic.


Senator Mongiardo asked Dr. Hacker about his concerns with the level of mercury found in flu vaccinations, which has been attributed by some to cause an increase in autism and neurological damage. Dr. Hacker stated that he would still recommend getting the flu vaccinations for children because there is no definitive proof that the mercury does in fact cause these problems. He stated that mercury had been removed from all of the vaccinations that go to children except for the A-strain influenza shot.


Representative Baugh asked Dr. Hacker if the avian flu virus has the ability to transmit to domesticated birds such as starlings or blackbirds, which are normally found in large concentrations within the U.S. He stated that song birds have a high mortality rate once they contract the avian flu virus. He also stated that migratory birds have the ability to carry the strain without falling ill or dying, which puts more domesticated birds at risk. The avian influenza strain has a 90 percent mortality rate for certain population of chickens. Dr. Hacker reiterated that the avian influenza is extremely dangerous to birds and not to humans at this point. He said to date, a little more than 200 people had been affected by the avian flu worldwide.


Wes Butler, General Counsel, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, commented on Kentucky statutes that are applicable to the isolation and quarantine of citizens during the time of a pandemic. He stated that in Kentucky there is only one particular statute that authorizes the state to take action and implement isolation or quarantine measures. KRS 214.020 gives the Cabinet authority to take action and adopt and enforce rules and regulations to prevent the spread of disease, and establish and strictly maintain quarantine and isolation at such places as it deems proper. Mr. Butler stated that KRS 214.020 would be considered a policing action during a pandemic crisis. He critiqued KRS 214.020 as a broad statute and stated it may be deemed overly broad by many people. Therefore, the statute could be challenged in a future court case if a pandemic occurred.


Scott Gustin summarized his presentation on behalf of the Kentucky Poultry Federation. He stated that North America has several strains of avian influenza going through the population at any one time. The H5N1 avian strain is something different because of the high mortality rate and the ability of the virus to infect people. However, he stated that it is important to put the disease into perspective because only 100 people out of nearly 4 billion people in Asia have died from the disease. It is important to distinguish the Asia poultry market from the United States because people essentially live with the sick birds in the Asian market place, placing them in direct contact with infected poultry. There have been only 4 known cases of commercial poultry being infected by H5N1 virus with no reports of infected people. If a flock became infected, in the United States, it would immediately be destroyed before entering the food chain. He wanted to point out that if the avian influenza strain did come to the United States and infect domesticated poultry, properly cooked chicken is safe for everyone to eat.


Representative Pullin asked Dr. Gustin if he knew whether avian flu infected pigs and whether the virus was being transmitted from birds to pigs and then to people. Dr. Gustin responded stated that the virus has shown the ability to infect pigs, but it is not a necessary step in the transmission of the virus.


Senator McGaha asked Dr. Gustin if there is any indication that the H5N1 virus is more susceptible to wild birds or domesticated birds. Dr. Gustin stated that birds that have more contact with migratory waterfowl are more susceptible to the avian strain. He stated that commercial poultry has been the least affected population of chickens because they are not coming into contact with migratory birds.


Senator McGaha asked Dr. Gustin what percentage of the poultry in the United States is imported. Dr. Gustin stated that approximately 5 percent of poultry is imported, but the poultry is imported from Canada. Senator McGaha then asked if Canada had any reported cases of avian influenza. Dr. Gustin responded by saying that there have been no reported cases of avian influenza in North America.


Co-Chair Tori thanked Dr. Hacker, Dr. Gustin, and Mr. Butler for their time and patience during the meeting.


Co-Chair Weaver announced that the next committee meeting would cover veterans' issues.


Co-Chair Tori entertained a motion to adjourn. Senator McGaha moved to adjourn, and the motion was seconded by Representative Weaver. The motion was adopted by voice vote.