Special Reports

KACo transparency bill advances, but fate remains uncertain

FRANKFORT — Legislation that would make actions of the Kentucky Association of Counties and Kentucky League of Cities more transparent moved Thursday in the state General Assembly, but the proposal's fate remains uncertain.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee unanimously approved House Bill 325, sponsored by Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, and sent it to the full Senate.

The committee chairman, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he will try to replace Simpson's bill on the Senate floor with a similar measure he has proposed. Thayer's Senate Bill 87 has been stalled on the House floor since March 10.

Both bills would make KACo and the League subject to open records and open meetings laws, give their boards a code of ethics and allow the state auditor to review their books. Thayer's bill would require KACo and the League to post their expenses online.

The legislation stems from reports last year by the Herald-Leader and state audits that showed the two organizations spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel, meals and entertainment, including expenses at strip clubs.

Thayer said he still hopes the House will pass his bill but pledged to work with Simpson's legislation "to make sure this becomes law."

"It is too important to die," he said.

Asked why the House has not voted on Thayer's bill, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he has not talked to House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, about calling it for a floor vote.

"There's a House bill over in the Senate that I think is probably a little bit better bill," Stumbo said, referring to Simpson's measure.

Thayer said Wednesday that House leaders have blocked his bill because of politics. He is backing Republican House candidate Ryan Quarles against Rep. Charlie Hoffman, D-Georgetown. Hoffman denied trying to block the bill.