Thefourth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation was held on<Day> Tuesday, September 6, 2005, at 1:00 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Brett Guthrie, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Brett Guthrie, Co-Chair; Representative Hubert Collins, Co-Chair; Senators Charlie Borders, David E Boswell, R J Palmer II, Richard "Dick" Roeding, Gary Tapp, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Eddie Ballard, Carolyn Belcher, Denver Butler, Jim DeCesare, J R Gray, W Keith Hall, Melvin B Henley, Paul H Marcotte, Charles E Meade, Charles Miller, Russ Mobley, Lonnie Napier, Don R Pasley, Marie L Rader, Rick W Rand, Ancel Smith, Jim Stewart III, Tommy Turner, and Mike Weaver. Senator Robert J (Bob) Leeper attended the meeting via teleconferenced from the Crisp Center in Paducah.
Guests Testifying Before the Committee: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet representatives: Secretary Bill Nighbert; Deputy Secretary Jim Adams; Commissioner Tim Hazlette, Department of Administrative Services; Commissioner Marc Williams, Department of Highways; and Kenyari Moore, Policy Advisor.
LRC Staff: John Snyder, Jim Roberts, and Linda Hughes.
Senator Boswell moved to accept the minutes from the Committee's August 9, 2005, as distributed. Representative Gray seconded the motion, which passed by voice vote.
Transportation Cabinet officials Secretary Bill Nighbert, Deputy Secretary Jim Adams, and Kenyari Moore, Policy Advisor, updated the Committee on the Cabinet's Affirmative Action Plan. Secretary Nighbert said that before discussing the Affirmative Action Plan he wanted to give the Committee a brief overview of how the Cabinet is presently operating. He said that in the future the Cabinet will be more user friendly, effective, and efficient. The Cabinet has saved approximately 8.8 percent in wages and salaries over the previous year. Also, the Cabinet is having a record bid-letting year, as there should be around $750 million in construction contracts let this year. Secretary Nighbert said that all of this is being done without a decrease in the level of services.
With regards to the Affirmative Action Plan, Secretary Nighbert said that he did not want the Cabinet to develop policies that look good on paper but could not realistically be implemented. He stated that at the end of the day he believes that it isn't the policies on paper but rather what has actually been accomplished that matters. Secretary Nighbert said that recently the Cabinet has been criticized in the newspapers for lowering their minority goals; however, he wanted the Committee to know that the Cabinet's goals are the goals recommended by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and not by the Cabinet nor Governor Fletcher. He said that the previous administration's minority goals, which were never reached, were 7.5 percent, and currently this administration's minority goal is almost at 9.6 percent.
Secretary Nighbert said that the Cabinet is working directly with Kentucky State University (KSU) for minority recruiting. Ms. Kenyari Moore, Policy Advisor for the Cabinet, said that the Cabinet has in place an administrative scholarship program with Kentucky State University. She said that currently there are no KSU students in the program, but 20 students are anticipated to be on board by January 2006. She said the program awards a student a scholarship and summer employment and that the student agrees to work for the Cabinet one year for each year the student receives the scholarship.
Ms. Moore said the Cabinet is also in the process of re-energizing its co-op program. She said that there were five co-op students reported last year, one female and one minority, and currently there is one co-op student, a male minority, working in the Cabinet. She noted that it is the intention of the Cabinet to have five co-ops working by mid October of this year. Ms. Moore also said the Cabinet plans to attend more recruitment fairs to broaden the Cabinet's out-reach possibilities.
Secretary Nighbert said that currently the Cabinet's minority employment rate is 7.18 percent, with women comprising 19.58 percent of the Cabinet's workforce. He then stated that during Governor Fletcher's tenure, 7.65 percent of Cabinet hires have been minorities and 32.1 percent have been women.
Secretary Nighbert informed the Committee that the Cabinet currently has an engineering/scholarship program problem. This program is about 35 - 40 years old and serves as the model for the Administrative Scholarship Program at KSU. He said that historically students are recruited out of high school to attend the University of Kentucky engineering program. He said a students enters into a contract with the Cabinet, that gives the student a scholarship, and he in turn works during the summers and then is guaranteed a job upon graduation. The student is required to work one year for each scholarship year received.
Secretary Nighbert said that under current conditions, according to the Attorney General, this process violates the merit system, because it pre-selects a person for a position. He cautioned the Committee that since this is the same recruitment process that the Cabinet had intended to use to recruit minorities, if strictly followed, it would also be in violation of the merit system. He said that the Cabinet needs a mechanism, if it is going to go after its minority goals, that would not violate the merit system.
Senator Boswell asked if Secretary Nighbert planned to bring Cabinet recommendations to the 2006 General Assembly regarding the merit system. Secretary Nighbert said yes, because the Cabinet is looking to hire between 15 and 20 minority students who will have to be hired on after graduation to repay their scholarship funds.
Senator Roeding said that he would like to see Secretary Nighbert work with the Committee staff to come up with proposed legislation that would eliminate the merit system problem he is referring to.
Representative Weaver asked if Secretary Nighbert knew of anyone working on legislation to assist them with their merit system problem. He said that he became aware of this problem when examining merit system laws that pertained to veterans. Representative Weaver said that legislation has already been prefiled to correct the problem with the hiring of veterans, and it sounded like additional legislation was needed to assist the Cabinet in its scholarship programs.
Senator Boswell said that based upon his 27 years in Frankfort, either as a legislator or working in the executive branch, there does need to be some modifications made to the merit system; however, he was opposed to scrapping the entire system. He said that he believes on the whole that the merit system works. Secretary Nighbert said that it was not his intention to attack the merit system, but only to inform the Committee of the Cabinet's problems with the system.
Representative Pasley inquired about the Federal benchmark set for minority hirings and when it becomes a problem for the state to receive Federal dollars. Secretary Nighbert said that the Cabinet is working diligently with FHWA and no money is currently in jeopardy. He said that the FHWA wants to see progress in minority hiring, and as long as the Cabinet shows progress, the state will remain in good standing with them.
Representative Miller asked, under the Cabinet's engineering program, if the students have to be in the top 5 on the register in order to be hired. Secretary Nighbert said no, that those students do not have to test or be placed on any register. He said the students are guaranteed a job when they graduate, and that is what currently violates the merit system.
Chairman Guthrie said two years ago he worked on legislation for advance placement and he noticed that everyone has equal opportunity to take advance placement, but not every demographic group is aware of the opportunities, nor made aware of them, and asked how the Cabinet was going to make the various demographic groups aware of the Cabinet's scholarship program. Secretary Nighbert said that the majority of the minority students need to work in Frankfort, that is why the Cabinet is working diligently with Kentucky State University (KSU) for those, and it is working with the University of Kentucky (UK) for engineering students, basically for the same reason.
Chairman Guthrie stated that obviously KSU and UK are close to Cabinet headquarters, however he said Western Kentucky University has a credited engineering program and he felt all Kentucky students should be made aware of the Cabinet's programs. He said, for instances, students in western Kentucky could work in District 3. Secretary Nighbert said that people who go to Western Kentucky University are more likely to settle in western Kentucky and with the twelve districts, he could see the Cabinet expanding this program to other universities within the state, but that the majority of students would need to work in Frankfort.
Chairman Guthrie asked if the 15-20 scholarships Secretary Nighbert referred to are the total number of scholarships, or the minority scholarships. Secretary Nighbert said just the minority scholarships, and that the engineering scholarships are on top of those 15-20 minority scholarships.
Commissioner Tim Hazlette Department of Administrative Services, Deputy Secretary Jim Adams, and Commissioner Marc Williams, Department of Highways, Transportation Cabinet, presented the findings of the Cabinet's Fleet Management Survey of State Vehicles. Commissioner Hazlette noted that the survey identified 5,646 passenger vehicles (excluding vehicles owned or operated by state universities, the Kentucky State Police, and vehicles one ton and larger). He said that 148 vehicles had not been previously been tracked by this Office, but under the responsibility of other state agencies, are now under the Fleet Management umbrella. Commissioner Nighbert noted that the Survey found 64 vehicles had been removed from the inventory and sold. He also noted that some 287 vehicles were identify with various problems, such as damaged windshields, bodies, brakes, taillights and/or headlights, tires, and radar detectors. With three vehicles being determined to be unsafe for service.
Commissioner Hazlette informed the members that 184 surplus vehicles were sold in April 2005, with another 280 will be sold in September 2005. He said currently the replacement schedule for vehicles is 90,000+ miles or five years of service.
Representative Weaver stated that a person could drive today's automobiles for more than 90,000 miles and stated that he routinely gets over 150,000 miles on his vehicles and questioned whether the policy of surplusing a vehicle once it reaches 90,000 miles should be examined. Commissioner Hazlette stated that was a good point and that he would take Representative Weaver's comment under consideration.
Commissioner Hazlette stated that 26 fleet vehicles were reassigned to the Cabinet for Family and Health Services and is estimated to reduce privately owned vehicle reimbursements in the Cabinet by over $2 million.
Chairman Collins asked if the Cabinet has ever determined the fiscal equalization between receiving mileage per dieum using a personal automobile versus driving a state vehicle. Commissioner Hazlette stated no, not to his knowledge.
Commissioner Hazlette stated that fleet consolidation is the next logical step, and it is scheduled for May 2006. He said this will allow for greater oversight and better management of the program to ensure the Commonwealth is getting the best value for its investment. Aspects of improvements by fleet consolidation will include reduced operational costs, closer monitoring of vehicle utilization, and hopefully a reduction in the size of the commonwealth's fleet.
With regards to alternative fuels, Commissioner Hazlette stated that of 5,189 active vehicles in the fleet, 1,130 (21.7 percent), are flexible fuel vehicles (E-85 capable), 39, (0.75 percent) are powered by diesel fuel, 12 (0.23 percent) are hybrids, and none powered by natural gas.
As far as bio-diesel is concerned, Commissioner Williams stated that most diesel vehicles and equipment are under the Division of Equipment, not Fleet Management. Commissioner Williams stated that the Cabinet began implementing a program to use B-2 diesel in Cabinet equipment. The program has grown from 500 gallons used in April, May, and June in District 6, to an August usage of 17,000 gallons in four districts and the Central Office.
Commissioner Hazlette stated that, pursuant to an Executive Order 2005-124, the Cabinet is currently preparing an employee education program to educate state employees on alternative fuels and distribution locations in the Commonwealth,.
Currently, Commissioner Hazlette stated that there is no official policy dealing with state employees who do not have a CDL accused or convicted of DUIs. However, the Cabinet is implementing a new stricter policy requiring employees to report any DUI arrests or convictions to the Cabinet and the subsequent effect it has on their driving privileges. He said there are policies addressing alcoholic beverages in Fleet Management vehicles in the Fleet Management Guidance Manual. It says in part, that no illegal drugs or alcoholic beverages are permitted in the vehicles, and individuals under the influence of illegal drugs or alcoholic beverages are not allowed to operate a vehicle.
Regarding the general motoring public, Chairman Collins asked if the Cabinet has a breakdown of accidents as to whether they were caused by drunk driving or drugs. Deputy Secretary Adams said that he did not have those figures with him, but would see that the Committee received them. Secretary Adams did say that there were ten fatalities over the past Labor Day Weekend - nine of them were not wearing seatbelts. Secretary Nighbert said that the Cabinet receives daily reports of accidents, with their causes. and would be happy to forward copies to the Committee. Chairman Collins said that the information would be useful and thanked Secretary Nighbert.
Representative Gray asked, if a person, illegally driving under the influence of alcohol, is stopped at a light and is then rear ended by another vehicle, if that accident is report as alcohol related. He said that he knows of such an incident and if it is reported as alcoholic related, then Kentucky's reporting system is faulty.
In closing, Commissioner Hazlette said that St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company covers all state vehicles. The vehicles are insured for liability purposes, with the maximum amount of liability insurance per accident at $350,000. He said that the state annually pays, on average, $271 per vehicle in the fleet - or $1.4 million for all vehicles under Fleet Management control. He said the policy is bid annually by the Department of Insurance.
Representative Pasley asked if any state agencies have in-ground storage tanks. Commissioner Williams said yes, some do.
Representative Pasley noted that it seems, according to today's testimony, that the state was becoming more bio-fuels flexible and said that the Cabinet needed to better promote bio fuels. Commissioner Hazlette said yes the state was becoming more bio-fuel flexible and it is the Cabinet's intention to begin promoting the use of bio-fuels.
Representative Marcotte asked what the criteria was for using a state vehicle. Commissioner Hazlette stated that the criteria varied from agency to agency.
Representative Butler asked if the use of other fuels has been discussed. He noted that some individuals in Louisville are using vegetable oil in their diesel automobile. He said that once a diesel engine has been warmed up, vegetable oil could be substituted to operate the vehicle. Commissioner Hazlette said vegetable oil had not been considered to his knowledge.
Representative Butler asked if Supreme Court Justices drove state vehicles. Commissioner Hazlette said yes, all constitutional officers are given state automobiles.
Representative Hall said that he was appalled with the Cabinet's current DUI policy and thought it should be stricter. Commissioner Hazlette stated that it is difficult to monitor state employees' private lives. He stated that the Motor Pool does check a person's driving history, through their driver's license, prior to given that person a state vehicle to drive.
Representative Collins asked if CDLs were routinely checked for alcohol and drug use. Commissioner Hazlette said yes, where it is a sensitive matter to check state employees, it is not so with CDL holders. He also mentioned that supervisors are told to watch for abuse.
Representative Belcher asked if the Cabinet has a driver safety program in place and if so, do they handle the program in-house. Commissioner Hazlette only for CDL holders.
Representative Rader asked what the Cabinet's policy was for prescription drugs used by state employees, as well as CDL holders. Commissioner Williams said that was a delicate area and that most drug tests do not recognize prescription drugs. He said that employees are suppose to report if they are using mind alternating prescriptions and supervisors are asked to watch for such cases. Other than that, he said, there is no policy in place for prescription drug use.
No deliberation occurred on 2006 BR 21, AN ACT relating to motor fuel taxes, due to Representative John Will Stacy being unable to attend the meeting to discuss the matter.
Chairman Collins informed the members that the Committee's next meeting, October 4, 2005, would be held in Paintsville, Kentucky. He noted that the date of the meeting, hotel identification and telephone numbers, as well as tour information, was listed in the back of their meeting materials and that staff would be sending out a more detailed memorandum in a few days.
With no further business before the Committee, the meeting adjourned at 2:50 p.m.