In a letter to members of the General Assembly sent Monday, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson asked legislators to pass legislation seeking to bring transparency and accountability to the state’s area development districts on the final day of the 2016 session.
After the state Senate recently indicated their plans to consider the legislation, Adkisson voiced the support of the business community for much needed transparency.
“Workforce development has emerged as a key public policy issue that must be addressed at a state level. In order to pursue policies that tackle workforce challenges, the public must have confidence in the entities responsible for administering funds and programs related to workforce and economic development. That’s why the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce urges passage of HB 438,” Adkisson said.
House Bill 438, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, seeks to place more scrutiny on the spending and programs of the state’s 15 area development districts (ADDs) and require more financial reporting. The bill also brings the ADDs under the same oversight rules that have long governed other state agencies and local governments.
In a press conference about the bill, Westrom highlighted that the bill:
- Bans bonuses or any other one-time payments to any ADD employee.
- Protects “whistleblowers” in accordance with state law.
- Requires advertising of an open executive director position with adequate notice and sufficient time for interested candidates to apply.
- Requires the ADDs to follow federal and state procurement statutes and regulations.
Area development districts currently spend state and federal dollars given to them on aging programs and employment services. ADDs are run by the county judge executives of each represented county.
Westrom’s bill comes after major questions over spending by the Bluegrass Area Development District in her region were raised following an audit by former state Auditor Adam Edelen which found “numerous conflicts of interest and questionable financial activity.”
The Lexington representative said she believes more transparency will help the ADDs continue to do good work in their communities while addressing the issues within the system.
In his letter, Adkisson agreed that the bill will help all area development districts function in a healthier environment.
“Transparency and accountability are key to ensuring that the distribution of nearly $175 million by Kentucky’s Area Development Districts (ADDs) is done so correctly and effectively. Many ADDs in our state do an excellent job handling these public funds, but there are well-documented concerns with some of these entities,” Adkisson said. “Passing legislation that will help ensure all ADDs operate properly will not only help restore public trust but will help ensure improvements in workforce training programs that are urgently needed in Kentucky.”
House Bill 438 passed the House with a 92-6 vote and is expected to be voted on in the Senate chamber on Friday.