KY lawmakers ‘kick out’ more than 170 executive branch employees from Capitol Annex

·5 min read

Kentucky lawmakers’ decades-long effort to take over the huge Capitol Annex behind the Capitol in Frankfort is nearly complete, and the Beshear Administration is not happy about it.

State legislative leaders have informed executive branch employees working in the Annex they must move out by Dec. 1 to make room for legislative branch employees.

Jill Midkiff, director of communications for the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, which must vacate the Annex, said Finance Secretary Holly Johnson was informed July 1 by a memo emailed by Legislative Research Commission General Counsel Greg Woosley that legislative leaders intend to “kick out” more than 170 executive branch employees who work in the Capitol Annex to accommodate about 50 employees who work for lawmakers.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, had sent out the memo June 24 to legislative members.

The executive branch, which Beshear heads, now is trying to find places to work for its relocated employees, said Midkiff.

“We continue to search for office space under an extremely tight time frame and estimate that there will be significant additional cost to taxpayers to acquire and move office spaces for our employees who oversee the critical operations of the state’s investments, purchases and budget,” Midkiff said. “The General Assembly will likely spend more taxpayer dollars to move employees, equipment and purchase furniture.”

Stivers’ office did not respond to questions from the Lexington Herald-Leader about the move. Laura Leigh Goins, a spokeswoman for Osborne, referred questions to the memo.

The three-page memo from the legislative leaders says the move is necessary because “the General Assembly and the Legislative Research Commission are in need of additional office and meeting space in the New State Capitol Annex.”

It quoted the law and a majority vote of the Legislative Research Commission in saying that as of Dec. 1, “the legislative branch shall occupy all additional space in the Capitol Annex in the basement and on its four floors” excluding the cafeteria, snack bar, security offices, nurse’s station and a room occupied by Secretary of State Michael Adams in the basement and utility, mechanical, janitorial space and public entrances and restrooms throughout the building.

Also, the loading dock at the rear of the basement will be available for use by the General Assembly and the Legislative Research Commission, with maintenance and other agency use subject to further agreement between the legislative branch and the Finance Cabinet.

Legislative leaders said the relocation was necessary because office space on the fourth floor of the Capitol, which has been occupied by the General Assembly, is unsuitable for continued use and renovation of it is not feasible.

They noted that major planned renovation projects in the Capitol will likely impact the legislature’s print shop in the basement and other offices in the Capitol and they must be moved to the Annex.

The legislative leaders also said both the Senate and House are in need of more meeting space in the Annex, particularly in light of the Capitol renovation, and the additional space will allow the legislature to bring its Office of Education Accountability to the Capitol campus. It now is about 3.3 miles from the Capitol on Coffee Tree Road.

They want to “immediately begin the process” to increase meeting room space on the second floor of the Annex so it would be ready for the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly, which begins in early January.

They also said Jay Hartz, the director of the Legislative Research Commission, is to inspect the office and meeting room spaces in the Capitol by Aug. 6 and work with the Finance Cabinet to come up with updated plans and cost estimates for the move.

State lawmakers have had a yearning to occupy more workspace since the first Kentucky Capitol was built in 1793-1794 in downtown Frankfort, shortly after Kentucky was admitted to the Union in 1792.

In the late 1800s, the Old Capitol became overcrowded and deteriorated. During the legislative sessions, lawmakers would meet in any available space, including taverns.

In 1910, when the new Kentucky State Capitol building was complete, many people predicted that the immense structure would serve all of the state’s needs for many years to come. But it became overcrowded with various state offices.

The Capitol Annex Building behind the Capitol was completed in 1950, and became home to several executive offices.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, lawmakers set up crowded offices in the basement of the Annex equipped only with a desk and phones. Over the years, they took over much of the building for individual office spaces, while keeping the third floor of the Capitol for the House and Senate chambers, leadership offices and offices for the Legislative Research Commission director and staff.

The legislature’s last big expansion within the Annex was in 2003, when the executive branch had to give up about 115,000 square feet that legislators turned into offices and meeting rooms. A 2003 law detailed the legislature’s authority over the Annex.

The latest move affects the Finance and Administration Cabinet staff, who occupy approximately 45,000 square feet in the basement, first, third and fourth floors of the west wing of the Capitol Annex; and staff in the Office of the state budget director and the Governor’s Office for Economic Analysis, who occupy nearly 10,500 square feet of office space located in the west wing of the second floor of the Annex.

Other offices and officials who would be affected include the state controller; staff of the Office of Financial Management; staff of the Office of Procurement Services; staff of the Division of Goods and Services and the Division of Technology Services Procurement; and staff of the Customer Resource Center, which operates a help desk to support the nearly 5,000 users of the state’s electronic web-based service called eMARS.