Call to Order and Roll Call
The2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, September 9, 2010, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tanya Pullin, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Joey Pendleton, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Linda Belcher, Tom Burch, Larry Clark, Tim Couch, Ron Crimm, Myron Dossett, Bill Farmer, David Floyd, Jeff Greer, Jimmie Lee, Terry Mills, Tim Moore, Fred Nesler, Tom Riner, Carl Rollins II, Steven Rudy, Sal Santoro, Charles Siler, Dottie Sims, John Tilley, and Alecia Webb-Edgington.
Guests: Trey Grayson, Secretary of State; Sarah Ball Johnson, Executive Director, Sandy Milburn, Sara John, State Board of Elections; Tara Klute, Pretrial Executive Officer, Shane Smith, Statewide Supervisor, Barb Oney, Program Supervisor, Boyd County Pretrial Services; Administrative Office of the Courts; Captain Bryan Combs, State Family Program Director, Kentucky National Guard; Jon Akers, Executive Director, Kentucky Center for School Safety; Steve Wilborn, Uniform Law Commission, and Jim Thompson, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
Co-Chair Pullin asked members to review the August 12th meeting minutes for approval. A motion was made and seconded to adopt the minutes, were approved by a unanimous voice vote.
Representatives Belcher, Rollins, Pullin, and Farmer read resolutions for fallen soldiers: Sergeant Charles P. Whitler, Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Collin T. Thomas, Specialist Christopher S. Wright, and Sergeant Jason D. Calo. A motion was made and seconded to adopt the resolutions, and they were adopted by a unanimous voice vote.
Overseas Military Voting
Trey Grayson, Secretary of State, and Sarah Ball Johnson, Executive Director, State Board of Elections, spoke on military and overseas voting. Secretary Grayson explained some of the difficulties and challenges that overseas citizens and military members and their spouses face in getting a ballot. The Military Overseas Votes Empowerment (MOVE) Act, a federal law passed by Congress in 2009 that applies only to federal elections, states that absentee ballots have to be delivered to the voter by the county clerks no later than 45 days prior to the election. Kentucky law requires that the ballot be delivered 50 days prior to the election. The MOVE Act requires that absentee ballot application requests and ballots be faxed or e-mailed to the voter. The actual ballot must be sent back by mail which maintains the privacy of the vote. Faxing and e-mailing ballots allows the voter 50 days to mail it back, which cuts the transition time in half. The voter can send an e-mail to the county clerk and request a ballot, the county clerk e-mails or faxes the ballot to the voter. The voter then prints the ballot out and votes, the voter uses two envelopes to ensure privacy until election day, addresses the outer envelope to their county clerk, and mails it back. Additionally under the MOVE Act, a voter can check the status of their ballot request and return by logging onto the website www.elect.ky.gov.
In response to Co-Chair Pullin concerns on residency, Ms. Johnson stated there are no issues in Kentucky regarding residency for military and overseas voters. In response to Representative Burch, Secretary Grayson stated that service members do have to request an absentee ballot and in 2008 Kentucky received approximately six thousand eight hundred military absentee ballot requests. In response to Representative Floyd’s question, Ms. Johnson stated that the tracking system is only for military and overseas veterans however, if someone is checking for a military family member, they can check the website if they have the first name, last name, and date of birth. In response to Representative Couch’s concern, Secretary Grayson stated that there are no formal state programs for assistance for veterans or residents of nursing homes. In response to Representative Crimm, Secretary Grayson stated that it is strict policy that ballots have to be physically in the county clerk’s office at 6:00 PM local time. In response to Representative Riner, Secretary Grayson stated that students who may have gone straight from college to the military and intend for their home residence to be Kentucky can use their parents’ or guardians’ address in order to vote.
Sara Johnson, Executive Director, State Board of Elections explained the proposed Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act. Ms. Johnson stated the two main purposes of the Uniform Law Commission Committee for this Act was to extend federal Uniform Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act protections to local and state election and to offer greater uniformity across the 50 states on absentee voting. Ms. Johnson stated that the proposed uniform law would require changes to Kentucky law by the draft Act. It would extend voting privileges to U.S. citizens who are born overseas but whose parent or legal guardian lived in Kentucky or the United States. Kentucky currently does not allow that but there are 17 states that currently do. This bill will allow the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot oath to be accepted as a method of registering to vote and have a valid absentee ballot. The draft Act also changes the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. Currently everybody would have to apply 7 days before the election, however, this model changes to 5 days for military and overseas voters. This act would also require the state to accept the absentee ballots two weeks after the election. It also requires the county clerk to publish the notices and gather e-mail addresses from military ballots. Ms. Johnson stated that members had a Military & Overseas Voters Guide in their committee folders.
Report on the Implementation of HB 377
The following individuals from the Administrative Office of the Courts spoke on the implementation of HB 377: Tara Klute, Pretrial Executive Officer, Shane Smith, Statewide Supervisor, and Barb Oney, Program Supervisor, Boyd County Pretrial Services. Mr. Smith stated that they formed a committee of six pretrial officers from different areas of the state and put together a plan for implementation. In this process, they created a category for veteran’s assistance in which a pretrial services officer would ask an arrestee if he or she was a veteran and if he or she had been in combat. In an initial interview, a veteran is helped to make a phone call for assistance. If they refuse to at that time, the pretrial officers will make a call for them. They are also offered written information. Mr. Smith conducted online training for the pretrial officers, with statewide supervisors overseeing implementation. A concern is that there are no toll free calls from a jail cell, which makes it difficult if an arrested individual originally refuses to call the offered number for assistance and later decides that they wish to receive assistance.
Ms. Klute stated that since July 1st, 2010, pretrial services have come into contact with 40,017 defendants statewide. Of those, they have identified 1,327 veterans, of which 523 have been in combat. Ms. Klute added that in a 60 day period, pretrial officers have given 202 combat soldiers information and confirmed that 26 of those have received some form of services. As an example, Barb Oney, Program Supervisor, Boyd County Pretrial Services, shared an inspirational story of Mr. Wood, a Navy veteran, who she assisted with getting needed help from the VA office in Huntington, WV.
Captain Bryan Combs, State Family Program Director for the Kentucky National Guard, commended pretrial services and how they have reached out to our veterans. Captain Combs stated that since the implementation of HB 377, they have had five phone calls on the emergency assistance phone line. Four out of five calls were substance abuse issues and one was a domestic violence issue. Captain Combs stated that Jim Barber, Family Assistance Coordinator, has a multitude of agencies across the state that can provide resources and services to veterans. Mr. Combs added that Barbara Slater, a representative from the Lexington Veterans Affairs office, has been instrumental at the law enforcement level briefing the state troopers and the local police on HB 377 and what the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs provides. Captain Combs said he felt the success of the bill in such a short period of time has been astounding.
Co-Chair Pullin noted that the program is run by the National Guard, but is for all services. In response to Co-Chair Pullin's concern for veterans who have a problem asking for help, Captain Combs stated that this stereotype of soldiers is slowly diminishing and he feels encouragement is one of the best ways to help a soldier who may be struggling with asking for help. Co-Chair Pullin said she was so proud of all the pretrial service officers and their willingness to step up and do this for the veterans and she asked for a motion to send a resolution of thanks and appreciation to the pretrial service officers from the committee for the work they are doing. A motion was made and seconded, and unanimously approved by the committee. In response to Representative Burch’s concern for soldiers, Captain Combs stated that there is the Yellow Ribbon Program which is focused on resiliency and trains soldiers about the before, during, and post mobilization process.
Jon Akers, Executive Director, Kentucky Center for School Safety, gave a power point presentation on the Kentucky Center for School Safety. There are 23 centers for school safety in the United States. Kentucky’s Center for School Safety consists of the Kentucky School Board Association, Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, and the University of Kentucky. School safety is defined as addressing the needs of educators and students as it relates to the provision and enhancement of providing safe and healthy learning environments for both. The needs fall into four categories: physical safety, relationships, personal safety, and behavioral expectations. Campus and building safety is helped through Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), which consist of physical plant safety, bus safety, parking lot safety, and hazardous materials. Relationships between staff and students are helped by finding ways for students to be connected to the school and establishing a welcoming school climate and culture. Personal Safety issues have been addressed by having emergency preparedness plans, and addressing bullying issues, outside aggression, internet safety, and gang issues. There are 212 school resource officers to help with these issues and they are in nearly 300 schools daily.
Representative Webb-Edgington requested a copy of a study the secret service did on the 40 shootings be sent to all committee members. Mr. Akers added that there will be 60 school assessments done this year by a six member team who will work with teachers on vulnerability assessments and climate and culture issues between teachers and students. Mr. Akers stated that training is offered statewide on a voluntary basis. In response to Representative Farmer, Mr. Akers stated that schools must have one incident per 100 students per year for a period of three years in order for them to be declared persistently dangerous schools. In response to Representative Couch, Mr. Akers stated that in a situation where a student was being bullied at school, the parent should contact the principal, the principal should bring in the bully and the bullied person and get as much data as possible to determine if it is bullying or a onetime situation, the principal should try to resolve the issue by getting the parents involved and let the bully know the consequences if the bullying persist. If bullying gets to the point of reaching a felony, then the police get involved and it becomes a criminal act.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.