- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Feb. 13

The Bowling Green Daily News on a child abuse initiative:

We have editorialized many times about the harms of child abuse and what can be done to make it less prevalent.

While we are realistic and know that child sexual abuse will unfortunately never fully be eliminated, we do believe there are ways to reduce it.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and first lady Glenna Bevin understand the problem and recently announced a statewide campaign to try to reduce child sexual abuse.

Beshear called it an epidemic and said that sexual abuse is a difficult and uncomfortable topic to talk about, but is one that must be addressed.

We agree with Beshear’s comments.

Bevin, who has made child protection and adoption her priority as first lady, said by expanding training in communities more people will be able to learn how to recognize, report and educate others on child abuse.

The program, which is aimed at a broad group of adults who work in that field including police, prosecutors, social workers, teachers and others, will feature a nationally recognized expert on sex offenders to provide training on techniques commonly used by predators. It will begin next month with an eight-hour training offered in the 15 area development districts in coordination with Kentucky’s 15 Child Advocacy Centers, which serve children and families affected by sexual abuse. After the initial round of training, the program will expand to offer additional programs in the spring aimed at law enforcement and victims’ advocates as well as a program on using technology safely.

One interesting aspect of the training features Cory Jewell Jensen, co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention. Jensen has spent her career working with sex offenders.

Jensen has the potential to provide a lot of insight into how child sexual offenders think and operate which could be a very useful tool in detecting child sexual abuse victims and helping locate and eventually punish those who violated them.

Beshear and Bevin are both on the same playing field. We are glad to see that political differences didn’t get in the way of fighting this most serious matter. Beshear made a really good point when he said, “Child abuse is not political and should never be political.”

The program put forth by Beshear and Bevin sounds like it has the potential to do some real positive things in battling child sexual abuse in our state.

We are hopeful that it does.

Online:

http://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Feb. 13

The Courier-Journal on cuts to higher education budgets:

Draconian.

Our liberal arts education from a fine Kentucky university did teach us that it means unusually severe or cruel.

Somehow that same liberal arts education didn’t introduce us to the word’s etymology. We did, however, learn how to enlighten ourselves through a dictionary, where we discovered that it derives from the Athenian statesman Draco, who laid down the first written code of laws, which were considered particularly harsh.

We did our research after the normally reserved University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto used the word to describe the proposed 9 percent cut in state funding to state universities.

“Make no mistake about it. Every student, every employee, faculty, staff, everybody, will feel it. There’s no way around it,” Dr. Capilouto told members of a House budget subcommittee on Thursday.

Dr. Capilouto’s testimony culminated weeks filled with concerns coming from across Kentucky’s system of postsecondary education about the cuts Gov. Matt Bevin proposed in his budget speech on Jan. 26, especially his call for 4.5 percent cuts in the balance of the current fiscal year.

Kentucky State University President Raymond Burse said the historically black school might even have to close if its state funding is cut that severely. Dr. Burse told the Courier-Journal he understands what Gov. Bevin is trying to do, but he thinks KSU is the “victim of unintended consequences.”

The College Heights Herald reported that two construction projects on the Western Kentucky University campus had come to a halt while WKU sorts out the impact of the budget cuts. And we have to wonder if the decision of WKU President Gary Ransdell to announce plans to retire next year was prompted in part by facing his 10th straight year of budget cuts he must address.

Yes, we wrote two weeks ago that dealing with what is rightly the state’s top priority - the gaping deficit in the pension system - will require sacrifice. But the level of sacrifice does seem to be falling particularly hard on institutions that already have endured 15.6 percent in cumulative reductions in state spending and that are vital to the state’s economic future.

Equally troubling has been Gov. Bevin’s suggestion that he will put the higher education system on a performance basis tilted dramatically toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degrees. Suggestion is all we can call it now because we’ve been unable to obtain any information on what he intends to propose. All we have to go on is his budget speech comments:

“There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than to French literature majors. All the people in the world that want to study French literature can do so, they are just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayer like engineers.”

That little tidbit did set off a flurry of commentary on the value of liberal arts educations. But it hasn’t been followed with any explanation of how performance and outcomes would be measured and funding apportioned.

The Council on Postsecondary Education did lay out a sensible approach to tying outcomes to funding in a proposal it offered for restoring some of the money cut from the higher education budgets over recent years. Its approach covered a range of measures, including increases in STEM degrees awarded.

Gov. Bevin and his team would do well to tap into the expertise the CPE has developed over 18 months of investigating performance measurement and balancing competing academic needs.

In 7th century BC Athens, a simple thief could be given the death penalty under Draco’s laws. We don’t think large swathes of academia should get a similarly harsh penalty.

Online:

http://www.courier-journal.com/

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Feb. 11

The Lexington Herald-Leader on right-to-work in Kentucky:

In late 2014, when Warren County became the first in Kentucky to enact a local right-to-work law, there were assurances that the legal costs would be picked up by a Florida-based group, Protect My Check.

Since then, 11 other counties have enacted similar anti-union ordinances, which a federal judge in Louisville last week ruled are illegal.

The ruling came in a challenge brought by a union to Hardin County’s ordinance. U.S. District Judge David Hale shredded every argument offered by Hardin County and others who filed briefs on behalf of local right-to-work laws, which ban labor agreements requiring employees to join or pay dues to a union.

Hale found that only states and territories, not local governments, have been empowered by Congress to enact such exceptions to federal labor law. The judge wrote that he would have to ignore loads of precedent to uphold the contested ordinance.

The ruling was unsurprising. The legal minds behind the local right-to-work movement have always been aiming for the U.S. Supreme Court.

What might be surprising is that 112 other Kentucky counties are helping to pay for this quixotic quest, through premiums to their insurer, the Kentucky Association of Counties.

Hardin County has said it will appeal. KACO has not decided whether it will foot the bill for that appeal.

Counties ordinarily need insurance to defend themselves when an employee or inmate sues or a planning and zoning decision is challenged. KACO warned local government officials last year that a county racking up legal bills after diving into unknown legal waters would see its premiums rise.

Proponents of local right-to-work laws - most prominently, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity - are hopeful that high-court decisions in 1991 and 2000 have paved the way for a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court. But the judge in Kentucky rejected their interpretation of those rulings, saying they relied on “carefully selected quotations” from cases unrelated to labor law.

We suspect that the majority of counties that have not enacted anti-union laws would rather not be subject to higher premiums to cover legal expenses for those that have.

Protect My Check, which as a 501(c)(4) organization does not have to reveal its donors, is headed by Tampa attorney and former Kentuckian Brent Yessin. Now would be a good time for the deep pockets behind the movement to pick up the legal tab.

Proponents insist that local right-to-work laws send a strong pro-business message that will promote economic development. Let’s hope they’re right and that Hardin and the 11 other counties don’t just come off as places where politicians were manipulated into intentionally picking a legal fight with labor.

Online:

http://www.kentucky.com/

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