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Despite GOP Objections, Kentucky House Moves On Legislative Research Commission Reforms

Kentucky state Capitol
Kentucky state Capitol

The state House on Friday passed a bill that would create a personnel policy for the troubled Legislative Research Commission, the state agency that provides staffers and research for legislators.

The bill would require the LRC to develop job descriptions for LRC staff, establish a pay scale, and come up with guidelines for promotions and grievances. The bill would also require job openings to be posted online for 30 days.

The draft of an audit of the LRC, performed by the National Conference of State Legislatures and made public last month, recommended similar changes. The report, which stemmed from surveys of LRC employees and state lawmakers, said staffers thought hiring, pay and career advancement were largely arbitrary.

Rep. James Kay, a Democrat from Versailles and a former LRC staffer, sponsored the bill.

“We see what’s going on. Now is the time to act,” Kay said. “And we’re not acting on a draft audit, we’re acting on the concerns of the staff.”

Several Democratic lawmakers said Statehouse staffers worked hard but were frustrated, leading them to leave for new jobs.

Rep. Marzian, a Democrat from Louisville, said the LRC’s personnel policies are messy and opaque.

“The pay scales: who knows what they are. Who knows how you get transferred or promoted or demoted? It’s who you know,” Marzian said.

On Friday, House Republicans noted that the proposed LRC personnel policy overhaul didn't include a cost estimate.

“That should be concerning for every one of us that he does not know the exact amount this will cost,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown.

The bill might be a non-starter on the other side of the Capitol. Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, has repeatedly said that the legislature needs to receive a finalized audit from the NCSL before moving forward with any reforms to the state agency.

Legislative leaders commissioned the NCSL to conduct the audit of the LRC in the fall 2013 when 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.

Marcia Seiler, the head of the LRC’s Education and Accountability Office, has served as acting director since Sherman stepped down in September 2013.