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Allison Ball and Ryan Quarles

Bill speaks with Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. They are two of the youngest elected state officeholders in the nation.
Season 11 Episode 12 Length 28:16 Premiere: 04/02/16

Treasurer Allison Ball and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles

They are two of the youngest statewide elected officials in the country and they have big plans for how they want to improve their offices and life in the commonwealth.

Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball and Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles appeared on KET’s One to One to discuss what they’ve learned since they started work in January and their goals for the future.

A Watchdog for the State’s Finances
Although some have questioned the need for a state treasurer, Allison Ball says the importance of the office has been affirmed for her after just three months on the job. She says the treasurer is responsible for timely and accurate payments to the Internal Revenue Service, which if handled incorrectly could result in steep fines for the commonwealth. And she says state retirees and other beneficiaries depend on getting their benefit checks on time. As an example, Ball says she asked staff to work during the January snowstorm when all other government offices were closed so that pension payments to 50,000 retired teachers would still be delivered.

“As I’ve been doing the job, I’ve come to see more and more about how important it is,” says Ball. “You need somebody who’s actually making sure the money is being spent the way it’s supposed to and, as an attorney, I care very deeply about, ‘Is it constitutional [and] is it statutory?"”

Ball says she’s pleased with how well the merit employees in the treasurer’s office have embraced her watchdog philosophy. She relates how one long-time staffer discovered and corrected a printing problem that had occasionally caused duplicate checks to be cut.

In addition to overseeing the state’s checkbook, Ball serves on boards for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, the Kentucky Lottery, and the state investment commission. Given her background as a bankruptcy attorney in Prestonsburg, Ball says she’s also eager to help Kentuckians improve their personal finances. Since the treasurer’s office has no budget for such an effort, Ball wants to partner with private and civic organizations to promote financial literacy training.

Ball’s other goals for her office include pushing for tax reform to help the state’s economy, and advocating for more transparency in government. She supported two Senate bills during the legislative session that would give the public more access to information about how the state pension funds are invested and what retirement benefits legislators receive.

“Good government is transparent government,” Ball says. “If we’re going to make the right decisions when it comes to our money, we need to know what we’re spending it on.”

Ag Commissioner Hits the Ground Running
The immediate demands of the job left Ryan Quarles little time to settle in to his work as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture. He traveled the state to attend various winter livestock and commodity meetings, and his office helped address a bird flu threat to the state’s chicken industry, as well as the aftermath of the fire that destroyed the Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington.

The Scott County native and former state representative has been able to work with his former legislative colleagues on several agriculture-related bills. He notes water resource management legislation backed by the Kentucky Farm Bureau, as well as bills regarding grain inspections, tax exemptions for agricultural activities, restructuring the state fair board, and regulating zipline attractions.

In addition to his regulatory responsibilities (the agency calibrates weights, measures, and gas pumps around the state), Quarles says he wants to build on the success of the Kentucky Proud food products marketing program and the various educational functions of the department. The commissioner is also eager to promote crop diversity in the commonwealth, ranging from hops to supply local craft beer brewers to hemp for the state’s burgeoning fiber industry.

Hemp used to be a cash crop in Kentucky until it was restricted under anti-marijuana laws. Recent legislation has allowed test plots of hemp to be grown, and Quarles says the fibrous plant can be financially viable once again if federal authorities allow it.

“It’s a crop that connects Kentucky’s past to its future,” Quarles says. “So it’s important for us to continue to research the growing methods and also create a business environment to attract processors here and treat them no different than a manufacturer who wants to come to Kentucky to expand or relocate.”

Going forward the commissioner says he wants to promote more international trade for the state’s farm products and fight what he sees as federal regulatory overreach. Quarles also hopes to launch Kentucky’s first-ever commission on hunger.

“I believe the department of ag is the best facilitator to talk about an issue that affects far too many Kentuckians,” Quarles says. “One in six people go to bed hungry … and I believe the Department of Agriculture, which is focused on food, can have that discussion.”

A New Generation of Political Leadership
At 32 years old, Commissioner Quarles is the youngest statewide elected official currently serving in the United States, while Treasurer Ball, age 34, is the nation’s youngest female statewide official. As such, the two say their generation brings a fresh approach to governing that is less partisan and more open to accountability and transparency.

Ball says she hasn’t had time to follow the presidential campaign so far, but she has applied to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

Quarles says he’s been disturbed by some of the rhetoric coming from the presidential candidates. Whoever wins in November, Quarles says he hopes the new president will address issues that concern millennials, such as the soaring student loan debts.

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Season 11 Episodes

Mitch McConnell on Politics

S11 E49 Length 28:04 Premiere Date 12/19/16

Speaker-Elect Jeff Hoover

S11 E48 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 12/19/16

Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition

S11 E46 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 12/18/16

Former Congressman Barney Frank

S11 E45 Length 28:36 Premiere Date 12/11/16

Kentucky Youth Advocates

S11 E44 Length 29:02 Premiere Date 11/20/16

Ramez Naam and Seth Siegel

S11 E43 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 11/13/16

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle

S11 E42 Length 27:35 Premiere Date 11/06/16

Kentucky Book Fair Preview

S11 E41 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/30/16

U.S. Sen Rand Paul

S11 E40 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/23/16

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray

S11 E39 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/16/16

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr

S11 E38 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 10/09/16

Nancy Jo Kemper

S11 E37 Length 27:46 Premiere Date 10/02/16

Gary Gregg; Daniel Hayes

S11 E36 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 09/25/16

Adam Edelen and Matt Jones

S11 E35 Length 27:51 Premiere Date 09/17/16

Ky. Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey

S11 E34 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 09/11/16

Stephen Pruitt on Education Policy

S11 E32 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 08/28/16

Work Ready Skills Initiative

S11 E31 Length 27:52 Premiere Date 08/21/16

Mary Matalin and James Carville

S11 E30 Length 27:18 Premiere Date 08/14/16

BBC Anchor Katty Kay

S11 E29 Length 29:02 Premiere Date 08/07/16

Fancy Farm 2016 Preview

S11 E28 Length 28:36 Premiere Date 07/31/16

Kentucky's Open Records Law

S11 E27 Length 27:51 Premiere Date 07/24/16

Kentucky's Medicaid Waiver

S11 E26 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 07/17/16

The Future of Agribusiness

S11 E25 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 07/09/16

Sen. Mitch McConnell's Memoir

S11 E24 Length 29:46 Premiere Date 07/03/16

Oral Health Integration

S11 E23 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 06/19/16

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak

S11 E22 Length 28:26 Premiere Date 06/12/16

Pearse Lyons and Family

S11 E21 Length 28:51 Premiere Date 06/05/16

"Dreamland" Author Sam Quinones

S11 E20 Length 29:31 Premiere Date 05/29/16

Rethinking Pain Treatment

S11 E19 Length 27:11 Premiere Date 05/22/16

Drug Czar Michael Botticelli

S11 E18 Length 29:01 Premiere Date 05/15/16

Drug Addiction and the Brain

S11 E17 Length 27:41 Premiere Date 05/08/16

Kentucky's Opioid Abuse Epidemic

S11 E16 Length 29:01 Premiere Date 05/01/16

David Adkisson and Jason Bailey

S11 E15 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 04/24/16

Ben Chandler on Baseball and Family

S11 E14 Length 27:47 Premiere Date 04/17/16

Highlights from the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit

S11 E13 Length 29:06 Premiere Date 04/10/16

Allison Ball and Ryan Quarles

S11 E12 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 04/02/16

Author Fenton Johnson

S11 E11 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 03/27/16

Rep. Sannie Overly

S11 E9 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 02/28/16

Kentucky's Republican Presidential Caucus

S11 E8 Length 27:51 Premiere Date 02/21/16

Education Secretary Hal Heiner

S11 E7 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/14/16

Presidential Politics in Kentucky

S11 E6 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/07/16

Gov. Bevin on Budget Proposals

S11 E5 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 01/29/16

Postsecondary Education Funding

S11 E4 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 01/24/16

House Speaker Greg Stumbo

S11 E3 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/17/16

Mitch McConnell on 2016

S11 E2 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 01/10/16

Senate President Robert Stivers

S11 E1 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 01/03/16

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