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House Democrats File Bills to Reform Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

Kentucky state Capitol
Kentucky state Capitol

State House Democrats are pushing to make changes to the troubled Legislative Research Commission, as recommended in the draft of an audit of the state agency released last month.

The report said staffers took issue with the LRC’s pay structure and hiring practices, which were described as opaque and unfair.

Rep. James Kay, a Democrat from Versailles and a former LRC staffer, filed a bill that would create a personnel policy for the LRC. During a recent committee hearing, Kay said the LRC has no such policy.

“The NCSL draft audit only confirmed what I hear at my House, in these halls, and I know from my own time working here,” Kay said.

The bill would establish a classification and compensation system for staffers and would require job openings to be posted online for 30 days.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, also filed a bill to remodel the LRC. His bill would establish a hiring committee to find a new director of the state agency by June 1.

Stumbo said a director would be essential in implementing reforms in the LRC, which is responsible for providing staffing and support to Kentucky state legislators.

“We need to make it an agency where it is fair and that advancement is based upon standard practices and performance, job performance, job evaluation— that pay is related to performance in some fair manner and that we don’t have people who make exorbitant salaries just because they may happen to be in favor with whoever the current director is,” Stumbo said.

House and Senate Republicans haven’t supported making changes to the agency yet, including hiring a new director, saying the state needs to get a final draft of the LRC audit from the National Council on State Legislatures.

Rep. John Carney, a Republican from Campbellsville, said he supports many of the provisions in Stumbo's bill, but passed decided not to vote on the bill in committee.

"There seems to be some question as to why we’re looking at the draft instead of the final report," Carney said.

Both Stumbo and Kay's bills passed out of the House State Government committee on Thursday.

The legislative leaders, who make up the leadership board of the LRC, commissioned the NCSL to conduct the audit in the fall 2013 after three staffers accused then-Rep. John Arnold of sexual harassment. LRC Director Robert Sherman retired soon after amid allegations that he didn’t do enough to address sexual harassment in the Statehouse.

A draft of the audit was completed in April 2014 and released to the public in Jan. 2015.