KLC Speaks Out Against Reorganization of 911 Services Board

     Lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection refused to act Thursday on the governor’s reorganization of the 911 Services Board. Governor Bevin issued an executive order on May 17, 2017, removing local officials from the Board and replacing them with five gubernatorial appointees. Thursday afternoon the Committee heard from Kentucky Office of Homeland Security Deputy Director Mike Sunseri. Governor Bevin’s order transferred management and oversight of the Board to Homeland Security. The Committee also heard from KLC Deputy Executive Director J.D. Chaney who voiced opposition to the order and the removal of local officials from the Board.

     Testimony from the Office of Homeland Security focused on issues the new Board is working to clean up, including past due bills and the lack of an audit. Chaney told the committee those types of issues were the reason for House Bill 585 in the 2016 session. The bill, which went into effect in July 2016, reorganized the Board to allow more local representation. “We had only one mayor that had served on the Board in the past,” said Chaney. “We had no county officials and the number of CMRS (Commercial Mobile Radio Service) employees outnumbered the number of elected officials.” Chaney told lawmakers the new Board had not been given ample time to remedy problems. “To take off local official representation through an executive order, on legislation that just passed in 2016, I will tell you from the perspective of the Kentucky League of Cities Board of Directors, is insulting,” Chaney testified. Kentucky Senator Wil Schroder (R-Wilder) confirmed to other members of the Committee he, too, has heard from people upset with the lack of local representation on the new Board.

     Governor Bevin’s executive order cut the number of 911 Services Board members from 15 to five and made the executive director of the Office of Homeland Security, John Holiday, board chairman. The order also appointed David Dickerson, secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet; Michael Dossett, director of the Division of Emergency Management; Sandra Dunahoo, commissioner of the Department of Local Government; and William McElheney, an accountant who is serving as a citizen representative. The order also created a 13-member advisory council made up of representatives from police, fire, emergency services, the Kentucky League of Cities, the Kentucky Association of Counties and an at-large representative. Chaney told lawmakers, “Local officials who are responsible for providing and funding 911 services need to be back in an authoritative role, rather than in just some advisory capacity.”

     Sunseri testified Thursday afternoon that the governor’s order has saved the state $200,000 due to changes in office location, staff consolidation and cancellation of Board travel. Kentucky Association of Counties Director of Governmental Relations Shellie Hampton testified with Chaney on the need to reestablish local members on the Board. She pointed out more than $100 million is spent on 911 across the state. The Board oversees 911 surcharge fees on mobile phones and authorizes grants for local emergency call centers. As Chaney reminded lawmakers, “The provision of 911 services is an intimately local action. We’re talking about the oversight of funds that go to local officials to fund those operations.”

     Chaney told the group the Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Association of Counties are opposed to the codification of the executive order in its current form. He told lawmakers Executive Director Holiday has indicated a willingness to work collaboratively with groups impacted to get local representation. Senator Albert Robison, who co-chairs the Interim Committee, told lawmakers they could only approve the order, reject the order or vote to take no action. The Committee voted to take no action. Even if the Committee would have voted to reject the order, their action would not have superseded the governor’s executive order.