TheTobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee met on Wednesday, July 2, 2008, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Rick Rand, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Rick Rand, Co-Chair; Senators Charlie Borders, David E. Boswell, and Joey Pendleton; Representatives Royce W. Adams, James R. Comer Jr., Charlie Hoffman, Tom McKee, and Tommy Turner.
Guests: Roger Thomas, Angela Blank, Joel Neaveill, and Michael Judge, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy; Annette Bridges and Mary Howard, Kentucky Department of Education; Dr. Ruth Ann Shepherd and Irene Centers, Department for Public Health; Sandy Canon, Division of Child Care.
LRC Staff: Lowell Atchley and Kelly Blevins.
Minutes of the June 4, 2008 meeting were approved, without objection, by voice vote, upon a motion made by Representative McKee and seconded by Senator Pendleton.
The presiding chair, Representative Rand, asked Mr. Roger Thomas, Executive Director, Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP), to report on the projects considered for funding during the June Agricultural Development Board (ADB) meeting. Accompanying him were Mr. Joel Neaveill, Chief of Staff, and Mr. Mike Judge, Director of Operations.
Mr. Neaveill gave the totals for model programs recommended for approval and summarized statewide projects approved for funding.
During the report, Representative McKee asked some questions about the membership of the Kentucky Agriculture Council, which received $200,000 in state funds to assist in the coordination, implementation, and continued development of the “Strategic Plan for Agriculture.”
According to Mr. Thomas, the council is made up of practically every agriculture-related group or organization in the state. Mr. Thomas said he believed all the agriculture groups were given the opportunity to participate in the creation of the strategic plan. Representative McKee said the strategic plan represented a “great effort” and he indicated the planning effort will be invaluable in the future.
Following presentation of the state projects, Mr. Judge reviewed projects that were denied funding in the recent ADB meeting.
A Robertson County Conservation District project to implement a program under which the organization would have helped fund transportation costs associated with bringing forage from out-of-state prompted some discussion. According to the speakers, the project had been pending for some time and preceded the implementation of the Kentucky Agricultural Relief Effort (KARE), which was established to provide financial assistance to farmers affected by the freeze and drought conditions in 2007.
Senator Borders expressed his reservations about the board’s denial of the project application, which he said came from a small county that saw a need to provide assistance to its farmers. “I’m hopeful that we’ll always give emphasis to what those local folks, to what they think is a high priority,” the senator said.
Mr. Judge said GOAP staff debated the idea of subsidizing hay freight costs for farmers, but on a statewide basis, it would have been problematic because of the cost. He said they believed the KARE program would address many weather-related needs.
Mr. Thomas said the GOAP attempts to abide by county councils as much as possible, but in the Robertson County situation, KARE funds would be available. He indicated the county would be receiving some $108,000 in state and county funds.
Senator Borders acknowledged the fact that Robertson County would be receiving the funds. He added that "we always want to speak up for our counties when we see a high priority."
Depending on the harvest this year, the supply of hay could be an issue again, according to Representative McKee, who noted that Senator Borders raised some valid issues.
As he ended his report, Mr. Judge mentioned an upcoming Agriculture Development Board two-day planning retreat and said they will be looking at new initiatives and new options under the model program structure.
Next, Mr. Thomas updated the committee on some other issues. He brought the committee up to date on the KARE program. According to Mr. Thomas, potentially 119 of 120 counties would be participating. Four applications for funds were still being processed, he said. Applications had requested over $8.8 million in funds by early July.
In his report, Mr. Thomas also informed the committee of three new appointments to the Agricultural Development Board – Mr. Sam Lawson, Bowling Green, Mr. Troy Rankin, Georgetown, and Mr. Jim Sidebottom, Greensburg. Later, Representative Hoffman cited the agriculture experience and knowledge that Mr. Rankin has acquired.
Next, Co-chair Rand asked Ms. Annette Bridges, Director, Division of Early Childhood Development, to report to the committee. Accompanying her was Ruth Ann Shepherd, M.D., Director of the Division of Maternal and Child Health, Department of Public Health.
Ms. Bridges prefaced the KIDS NOW Early Childhood Initiative report by reviewing their mission statement – assuring that all children grow and develop to their full potential, providing high quality, accessible, affordable early care and education options, and promoting public awareness in the importance of first years of life.
Dr. Shepherd reviewed aspects of the various parts of the Early Childhood Initiative, including the healthy babies campaign, folic acid campaign, substance abuse treatment program for pregnant and postpartum women, the early hearing detection and intervention program, newborn metabolic blood screening, the immunization program for underinsured children, eye examinations for children, oral health education and prevention program, the HANDS voluntary home visiting program, early childhood mental health program, children’s advocacy centers, the access to child care subsidy, the STARS for Kids NOW child care facility rating system, the scholarship fund for child care providers, the training into practice project, increased licensing efforts, the health start in child care program undertaking, the community early childhood council funding effort, and First Steps early intervention program.
As the presentation ended, Ms. Bridges reported that, from July 2006 to May 2008, the number of child care centers receiving the STARS quality ratings increased from 532 to 699.
Next, responding to Representative Adams, Ms. Bridges said initiative programs are available throughout the state. Children are “targeted,” she said, through such programs as HANDS.
Senator Boswell asked about the interaction of Early Childhood with other private agencies. According to Dr. Shepherd, there is such interaction. She mentioned some examples to the committee. Ms. Bridges added that they believe they are “collaborating and partnering with other agencies.
Referring to the Early Childhood eye care program, Senator Borders stressed the need for such services. Senator Borders said he was pleased to know the Early Childhood funds are going to rural communities.
Following that presentation, Co-chair Rand asked Ms. Irene Centers, Director, Tobacco Prevention and Cessation, Department for Public Health, to report to the committee.
In her report, Ms. Centers updated the committee on Kentucky’s smoking rates, noting for example, that middle school smoking rates dropped from 21.5 percent in 2000 to 12.1 percent in 2008. She reviewed Kentucky and other states’ cigarette excise tax rates, changes in the state health plan related to nicotine replacement therapy, recommended strategies to reduce tobacco use, new initiatives and updates, and plans in the 2009 fiscal year.
Following Ms. Centers’ remarks, Senator Boswell made note of the decline in youth smoking rates. He asked about the penalties for selling cigarettes to minors versus selling alcohol to minors. Ms. Centers said the cigarette penalties are not as stiff as the alcohol penalties. Co-chair Rand asked staff to research the issue and report back to the committee.
Representative Adams pointed out one statistic in which there was an increase from 2000 to 2008, that of pregnant smoking rates. But Ms. Centers said the difference may be in the way those rates were computed in 2000 compared to 2008.
Representative Adams referred to some maps distributed to the committee illustrating lung cancer deaths among white males and state cigarette excise tax rates. He mentioned the correlation between high excise taxes and lung cancer deaths, noting, in particular, three states with similar or lower rates to Kentucky seemed to have few lung cancer deaths. According to Ms. Centers, the reason may be linked to adult smoking rates.
Responding to Co-chair Rand, Ms. Centers said the No. 1 reason children start smoking is “peer pressure.” She said their goal is to see 24/7 smoke-free schools in the state, e.g., no smoking on school grounds at any time. She said seven school districts in the state have gone smoke-free.
Senator Boswell also mentioned another arena of influence, the home environment where parents smoke.
The speaker was not able to readily answer a question from Representative McKee regarding youth smoking rates nationwide, but said she would provide that data.
Documents distributed during the Committee meeting are available with meeting materials in the LRC Library.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 11:20 a.m.