House passes bill revamping personnel practices at the Legislative Research Commission

02/27/2015 06:59 PM

FRANKFORT — A bill mandating the Legislative Research Commission draft comprehensive personnel policies cleared the state House on a 55-26 vote Friday.

The legislation comes after top lawmakers decided to release the National Conference of State Legislatures’ draft audit of the LRC last month. The report, which has not been finalized, detailed a lax personnel system and low morale within the agency’s nonpartisan staff.

Rep. James Kay, sponsor of House Bill 262, said many of the complaints found in the draft audit mirror grumblings he’s heard from LRC staffers. The bill would mandate that the LRC hire a human resources consultant to develop personnel policies and a deputy director of human resources as well as comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act, among other provisions.

Some Republicans balked at the legislation’s unknown price tag, but Kay said there’s much more at stake in not passing HB 262.

“The cost is not only financial,” said Kay, D-Versailles. “The cost is in the people that work here. … It’s the cost of doing business to make sure they have an employment system that is fair an equitable, that is understandable and that is common sense.”

Price wasn’t the lone concern against HB 262 as some in the GOP ranks questioned hiring the NCSL to audit the LRC, then implementing wholesale changes at the agency with auditors’ work incomplete.

“We’re preparing to enact legislation that’s not even taking their recommendations, their final recommendations which we don’t have, into consideration,” said House Minority Caucus Chairman Stan Lee, R-Lexington. “And if I was a taxpayer I’d be a little concerned with that, that we’ve just spent money on consultants and we’re going to act without hearing what they have to say.”

Still, some lawmakers said they didn’t need the NCSL’s report to know the LRC has substantial room for improvement in its personnel policies.

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, noted he lost a legislative secretary because the agency’s personnel practices are “ad hoc” and depend on “who you know, who you talk to” while Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said LRC has been “a mess” since she joined the General Assembly in 1994, adding the agency’s morale is at a “critical” point.

Rep. Derrick Graham, in casting his vote for HB 262, said lawmakers who supported the bill can tell LRC staffers that they’re backing “everything the legislature’s trying to do to make the work environment a better place for you and for us.”

“Because if they’re happy and they’re serving our constituents in the capacity that makes us look good here, then they’re doing everything they can to make us look good back in our districts,” said Graham, D-Frankfort.

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, however, took umbrage at Graham classifying an affirmative vote for the bill as support for LRC workers, calling the Democrat’s remarks “totally unfair.”

“During this debate we went out of our way to talk about the tremendous staff that we have at the LRC and that this vote was in no way a reflection of our appreciation and support for the staff that we have at LRC,” said Hoover, R-Jamestown. “And for the gentleman from Franklin to get up and imply and say otherwise should be an embarrassment to everybody on this floor, and I make no apologies for that.”

In other action Friday, the House also passed:

House Bill 427, a bill called “Alicia’s Law” after a Pittsburgh woman who befriended a man over the Internet at age 13 before he kidnapped and held her in a basement, by 93-0 vote. where she was raped and tortured. Alicia Kozakiewicz told lawmakers her rape and torture was broadcast on the Internet during committee testimony Tuesday.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, would set a $10 fee for criminal cases heard in district and circuit courts, and the money would supplement the Kentucky State Police’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

House Bill 515, which would amend the state’s human trafficking law to eliminate a person’s ability to deny knowledge of a minor’s age during criminal prosecution, by 90-0 vote. House Majority Caucus Chairwoman Sannie Overly, D-Paris, carried the bill.


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