- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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July 10

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on homicide statistics:

Americans believe violent crime, including homicides, is on the rise, according to a recent Gallup Poll. While statistics released last week by the Hardin County Coroner’s office might seem to support that perception, local law enforcement officials say it’s too early to see a jump in local homicides as a trend.

In the first six months of 2015, five homicides have been recorded locally. Last year, there were three recorded and only one in the previous two years by this time of the year.

The national crime rate is about half of what it was two decades ago, and violent crime rates fell by 51 percent during the same period.

Kentucky’s violent crime rate average is generally lower than the national average, according to the Kentucky Crime Statistics and Rates Report.

Elizabethtown’s violent crime statistics also show an overall downward trend based on data from the previous decade. By comparison, last year the city’s violent crime rates were lower than the state’s average by almost 43 percent and lower than the national average by 67 percent.

Reasons vary, but most experts focus on three primary factors:

Better educated and trained law enforcement personnel, improved law enforcement strategies and advances in technology available to the law enforcement community.

Social, economic and environmental issues, including a decrease in unemployment and increase in consumer confidence.

An aging population. Statistically, more violent crimes are committed by persons younger than 50.

So, despite such strong evidence of a decrease in violent crimes, why the persistent perception that violent crime is on the upswing?

Reports of high-profile crimes, an increase in the number of crime shows on network and cable television, and what is referred to as “personal fear factors” all are cited by crime prevention experts as being among the more common reasons.

While officials at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law acknowledge “fluctuations” in violent crime rates across the nation, they argue there is nothing to indicate a long-term upward swing, particularly in communities such as ours.

Vine Grove Police Chief Kenny Mattingly agrees and suggests that we are simply experiencing a local “anomaly.”

Certainly, in recent years many have taken for granted that Hardin County communities are safe and relatively free of violent crime, and the statistics have supported that belief.

Will this trend continue or will we see a continuation in the increase of violent crimes?

Only time will tell.

At the very least, the current-year increase in violent crime has raised community awareness and should prompt residents to take a more proactive approach to violent crime prevention.

That can be done by following a few simple steps:

- Educate yourself about violent crimes, including domestic violence, and learn how to prevent them.

- Ask for and support law enforcement’s efforts to make the community safer.

- Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement agencies.

Online:

http://www.thenewsenterprise.com

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July 10

The Independent, Ashland, Kentucky, on clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses:

As unpopular as it may be to many in this state, Gov. Steve Beshear gave the right advice to Casey County Clerk Casey Davis in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court striking down the bans against same sex marriages not only in Kentucky but throughout the country: Obey the law or resign.

As harsh as that may sound, all elected officials in Kentucky swear to uphold the laws of this state when they take office, and that oath does not make any exceptions for one’s personal religious convictions. Well, a divided U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that couples of the same gender have the right to marry, and that makes it the law of the land. Regardless of their personal opinions about same-sex marriages or their religious beliefs, all 120 county clerks in Kentucky are sworn to uphold the law, and that means they must issue marriage licenses to couples of the same gender.

This is not the first time a Supreme Court decision has struck down state laws on who can and cannot marry. Decades ago, the highest court in the land declared that state laws, mostly in the South, that prohibited couples of different races from marrying were unconstitutional. Many elected officials at the time disagreed with that decision every bit as much as many disagree with the latest high court ruling, but they obeyed the law and issued marriage licenses to couples of different races.

The governor is right: The same thing must happen again.

More than half the county clerks in Kentucky have signed petitions asking that Beshear call an extraordinary session of the Kentucky General Assembly regarding the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, but the governor says he is not going to do that. For one thing, the session would cost the state about $60,000, but even more important, there is no consensus on what legislators can or should do regarding same-sex marriages. The lack of a consensus would only prolong a special session and make it even more costly.

We respect the religious convictions of Davis, a pastor, and the other clerks whose views don’t align with the court ruling. In the Book of Acts, Peter and John told Jewish leaders that they had to follow the laws of God instead of man when they were told not to spread the Gospel of Jesus, and that was the right response. In this case, for who clerks truly believe that they cannot follow the laws of God if they issue marriage licenses to couples of the same gender, then they may have a moral obligation to resign from their elected office of county clerk.

The governor, who will be leaving office in December and does not have to worry about earning the wrath of voters, has given clerks a choice: Obey the law or resign. The decision is up to each clerk.

Online:

http://www.dailyindependent.com

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July 13

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Obamacare:

Obamacare is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

While the pretty wrapping paper and multicolored bow appears attractive on the outside, once the package is opened, the soaring costs, broken promises and unintended consequences are exposed for all to see.

In recent days, we have learned about the proposed merger of Kentucky-based Humana and Aetna. There are also reports that Anthem and Cigna Corp. have rekindled merger talks.

What is the relationship between Obamacare and this trend toward merger? Simply put, because health care reform put a cap on insurers’ profits, these companies seek to spread fixed costs over a larger membership base.

Should these mergers come to fruition, the implications for insurance premiums are a real cause for concern.

Less competition generally tends to reduce the pressure to hold down rate increases. It also will reduce consumer choice.

Kentucky’s own experience with health care reform over a decade ago is very instructive.

Action by our General Assembly caused a number of health insurers to cease writing coverage in our state. Employer groups as well as those with individual coverage can recall the lack of competition resulted in premiums skyrocketing.

Speaking of premiums, we learned several weeks ago that some insurers in our state’s Obamacare exchange are proposing premium increases as high as 25 percent. This same pattern is being repeated across the country.

Learning about these proposed rates has to be painful for Americans who still recall our president’s words: “I will sign a Universal Health Care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”

The horror stories continue to accumulate.

A recent Daily News editorial noted that emergency room visits were increasing since Obamacare, even though its supporters assured Americans that with universal health care, emergency room visits would decrease. It also said some small rural hospitals in our state were at risk of closing their doors.

At the same time, we are learning that Kentucky hospitals would have a net shortfall of $1 billion in revenue by 2020 as a result of losing more money under the Affordable Care Act than they gain in revenue from the law’s expanded coverage.

Services at some hospitals have been cut, and 7,700 Kentucky hospital employees have lost their jobs.

Online:

http://www.bgdailynews.com

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