Kentucky editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

Jan. 19

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on state legislature must fund pensions:

On the closing day of the 2013 General Assembly, state lawmakers passed a “pension reform” bill and a companion measure expected to generate about $100 million annually in new revenue.

Ostensibly, the extra money will allow legislators to fulfill the commitment made in the reform part of the package to fully fund the state’s share of the actuarially recommended contribution (ARC) to the beleaguered Kentucky Retirement Systems starting with the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014.

Unfortunately, this reform and revenue package contained no direct linkage between the commitment and the money.

Instead of creating a dedicated revenue stream for the pension fund, lawmakers chose to let the new tax dollars go into the General Fund and rely on their (and their successors’) integrity to live up to the commitment to fully fund the ARC.

The integrity of current legislators, the ones who made the commitment not so many months ago, will be challenged as they get to work on the budget Gov. Steve Beshear will propose in an address to a joint session of the House and Senate Tuesday night.

And more than 20 years of history suggests they may try to avoid fulfilling their commitment to fund the ARC.

So, the temptation for lawmakers to abandon their 2013 commitment and once again succumb to their decades-old habit of robbing state pension plans to pay for other programs and services will also be great. They must not do so. They must shake their addiction and fully fund the ARC, in the next biennial budget and all the budgets to come.

If they do not, if they break another promise and shirk another responsibility with another exercise in fiscal insanity, they all need to be sent home in November.



Jan. 17

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Ky., on proposed statewide smoking ban:

In Hardin County and many other Kentucky communities, it now seems bizarre to walk into a store, office or even restaurant and be met with the haze and distinct smell of tobacco smoke.

In this area, smoking has been banned from public buildings — including all workplaces — for some time. Now, a statewide ban is again under consideration.

Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, and Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, have filed bills to prohibit smoking in all public buildings across Kentucky.

Such bans have proven successful in local communities and its time the rest of Kentucky enjoys smoke-free air inside public buildings.

There are a lot of arguments for and against smoking in public. But the heart of the issue is this: Nonsmokers deserve to come and go without being exposed to secondhand smoke while not unreasonably restricting the personal rights of smokers. Taking the cigarettes and other smoking products outside does just that.

The health risks of breathing secondhand smoke are many and have been extensively studied and well documented. Someone who doesn’t want to be exposed should not have to encounter smoke in public buildings whether they are at their workplace or in a social setting.

And over recent years, respectful smokers have gotten the picture. At the very least, they recognize cigarette smoke is a burden to other people. Responsible smokers don’t have an issue with stepping outside.

Advocacy group Smoke Free Kentucky reports 23 Kentucky communities have banned smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places.

Many other states already have shown they care about the vast risks of secondhand smoke. Twenty-four states and Washington, D.C., prohibit smoking in non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants and bars.

Kentucky should take a forward-thinking approach in the interest of public health and join that list. It’s time to finally clear the Commonwealth’s air and give all its residents reasonable protection from secondhand smoke.



Jan. 20

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on Agitprop comes to Senate race:

Is it really only January?

Election Day is still nine months away. But already Kentucky’s senior Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Louisville Republican, has taken political bombast to new extremes with his astonishingly false claim that an opponent likened him to a Nazi.

And that’s an impressive accomplishment for the five-term politician known for his mastery of agitprop, political propaganda designed to agitate.

The fake controversy erupted after state Rep. Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, last week spoke at a campaign event for Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Lexington Democrat hoping to unseat McConnell in November.

Stumbo compared a Grimes win to the Allied liberation of Europe after World War II.

“Can you imagine what it felt like to know you were liberating a country?” he asked, according to The Courier-Journal’s Joseph Gerth. “Well, you are about to liberate your state … from the worst reign of mis-abuse that we’ve seen in the last 30 years.”

The McConnell campaign fired off a press release denouncing “hateful rhetoric” it said compared him to a Nazi. It also demanded an apology from Stumbo.

An amused Stumbo was not contrite, calling the claim “ridiculous,” noting that he neither called McConnell a Nazi nor did he call him a U.S. senator.

“One name is too bad for him and one is too good,” the wily legislator said.

The senator has played this card before: McConnell’s campaign didn’t hesitate last year to lash out at “Gestapo tactics” of two feckless Democratic operatives who secretly recorded him with campaign staff plotting to attack a potential opponent for past bouts of depression.

And he didn’t express any concern whatsoever in 1998 when fellow Republican Jim Bunning, running for re-election to Kentucky’s other Senate seat, released a television ad of his Democratic challenger engaged in an arm-waving rant critics said recalled images of Adolph Hitler’s frenzied speeches.

Lest anyone miss the point, the ad dubbed in as background music “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner, a composer who happened to be greatly admired by the Nazis because of his strong anti-Semitic views.

McConnell at the time acknowledged he had reviewed the ad and saw no problems with it.

His latest blast, as Stumbo said, is ridiculous. But never underestimate McConnell’s grasp of propaganda, true or false, or his understanding of its power.


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