State leaders deliver Christmas wish list to legislative committee

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FRANKFORT, Ky.  (KT) - Kentucky's constitutional officers presented a Christmas wish list of new legislation they would like to see passed in the coming year.

Among those appearing before a legislative committee on Wednesday was State Treasurer Allison Ball.  She said one of her priorities is to reform the Unclaimed Property Division, which is overseen by her office.

"Unclaimed Property has not been updated since the 1980s," she said.  "We have several ideas to cut regulations, cut red tape, in order to make it easier for businesses and individuals who are trying to make claims."

She also wants to streamline the process whereby college savings plan funds can be easily converted to a STABLE account, which allows people with disabilities to save and invest money without losing eligibility for public benefits programs like Medicaid, SSI or SSDI.

"We're trying to help Kentucky families be able to use that money the best way possible," Ball told lawmakers.  "Most work on 529 accounts is being done on the federal level.  We'll need to do it at the state level as well."

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture was represented by General Counsel Joseph Bilby, as Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles was at the Kentucky Farm Bureau meeting in Louisville.

Bilby said they have three priorities:  First, a reorganization of the office, to bring it up to the 21st century in terms of its structure and the names of offices.  Second is to expand the agriculture exemption to installing electronic logging devices that track hours of service rules for drivers of trucks with ag products from 100 to 150 miles, to conform with federal law.  A third is a resolution calling on state agencies to do a self-assessment about food waste practices, which goes along with Quarles' hunger initiative.

State Auditor Mike Harmon also appeared before the panel. He told them he would like to have shorter audit processes in some cases. 

"We're looking at our county clerks and sheriffs," said Harmon. "It would be specific to those who have a history of clean audits, and would be used for a couple years, before we do a normal, standardize audit."

Harmon also wants lawmakers to close a loophole he found regarding cities and finds it disconcerting that even if they have not had audits, they can still receive state road funds and other money. 

"Many of these cities, including one we're currently examining, has not had an audit since 2009," Harmon testified.  "They are having audits done, but are skipping three years."

Although he wouldn't comment on findings thus far, Harmon said work is progressing on special examinations of the Kentucky Fire Commission, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Kentucky 911 Services Board.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was also asked to appear before the committee, but said she had a scheduling conflict.  She did send a letter outlining some of her agenda.

It includes legislation allowing for early voting, waiving administrative fees for veterans filing business entities, both of which did not pass during the 2016 and 2017 regular sessions.  She also mentioned a possible bill, from a recommendation by the task force she formed along with Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg, on legalization of medical marijuana.

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