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County officials testify before state legislative committees

By Gracie Lagadinos
This week, counties were well represented in several legislative committees to discuss the effects of COVID-19 and potential legislation for the 2021 Session.

PVA Task Force

Tuesday, Henderson County PVA Andrew Powell testified before the Property Valuation Administrator’s Office Task Force. Powell discussed the responsibilities that Kentucky PVAs must implement, including conducting assessments and identifying and maintaining maps of all county properties. 

PVA funding and expenses were discussed during the meeting in addition to potential legislation to help ease underfunding for PVA offices. Documents from the meeting can be found here. The meeting can be viewed on the Legislative Research Commission’s YouTube channel or by clicking here

Justice and Judiciary

On Thursday, during the Justice and Judiciary Interim Joint Committee, Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders and Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield, also president of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association, testified. 

Both members stressed the substantial case backlog due to court proceedings being shut down during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Trials that used to take two to three days are now taking at least three to four days,” Sanders said. 

Social distancing and sanitation requirements have also slowed down cases as some courtrooms have been reserved for public viewing of court proceedings.

One positive outcome of the pandemic was the use of video capabilities for arraignment and expert witness testimony. This technology has saved counties substantial dollars due to a decrease in the cost of transporting prisoners.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s Executive Orders, which have allowed the commutation of more than 800 inmates’ sentences due to COVID-19 concerns, also were discussed. Several committee members voiced their concerns with the governor’s use of power and the safety of communities due to the commutations. 

Hatfield shared with the committee issues that the County Attorney’s Association will be advocating for during the 2021 Session, including child support guidelines and the indemnification of prosecutors addressed by SB64 but not passed during the abbreviated 2020 Session. 

The committee meeting can be viewed here

Jail and Corrections Reform Task Force

During the Jail and Corrections Reform Task Force, Marion County Jailer Barry Brady shared the financial obstacles of county jails with the committee due to rising costs and COVID-19 and his support of performance-based funding for jails. 

“County jails are the largest incarceration provider in Kentucky,” Brady said.

“The cost of corrections continues to rise year after year.” 

Brady discussed the top three growing liabilities to Marion County’s jail from 2013-21, including inmate medical costs, deputy wages and staff benefits. He also informed the committee that there had not been an increase in the state’s housing per diem to counties in more than 15 years. It remains at $31.34 per state inmate per day. 

Meeting materials from the meeting can be found here. Click here to watch the full committee. 


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