- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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March 2

The Bowling Green Daily News on dogfighting bill:

Dogfighting has no place in our society.

It is a barbaric practice, and it is way past time for it to become an illegal practice in our state. Kentucky is the only state in the country where training and owning dogs for the purpose of fighting is legal.

Something is seriously wrong with this. We need to join the rest of the country on this practice and make it illegal once and for all.

Original legislation and substitute legislation filed this year in the Kentucky Senate are intended to make the state’s dogfighting law easier to enforce. Currently, the act of dogfighting is a Class D felony.

The original bill, which would have outlawed owning, training and selling dogs for the purposes of fighting, had the support of the Humane Society of the United States, but not the support of hunting groups in the state. The substitute bill, SB14, is now being criticized by the humane society but has gained the hunting groups’ support.

The substitute bill would specify that anyone owning, possessing, keeping, breeding, training or selling a dog for the primary purpose of fighting is guilty of cruelty to animals.

It’s quite clear that some middle ground is needed to please all parties involved.

Humane society officials say the “primary” word could be used by dogfighters to escape prosecution by claiming their dog may have been involved in dogfighting, but that was not primarily how the dog was used.

We can see where the use of this word could be cause for concern for organizations such as the humane society as a dogfighting owner could use this language to avoid prosecution. Perhaps the Senate could tweak the bill and drop this word to make it easier for people to be arrested and prosecuted.

The substitute bill would provide exemptions for dogs involved with hunting, field trials, dog trials or other activities authorized by “accredited national organizations.” It recognizes the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club as accredited organizations.

It appears that this part of the bill makes sense as hunters who use dogs for bird hunting and those who use them for field trials should be exempted as they are not participating in dogfighting - they are participating in a sport.

Humane society officials say the substitute bill is toothless and sets Kentucky back on efforts to end dogfighting.

We see both sides of the argument. There has to be a compromise made in this bill to make those who buy, sell, willingly train and use dogs solely for the purpose of dogfighting be prosecuted for this barbaric act. At the same time, we must protect the large group of hunters in our state and those who use dogs to guard livestock or their homes.

We are hopeful that compromise can be found so that both sides are satisfied and, more importantly, that Kentucky joins the rest of the nation in making dogfighting illegal.

Online:

http://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Feb. 25

The Kentucky New Era on government and private businesses:

A Kentucky city’s decision nearly two years ago to compete with local businesses by selling gasoline is at the center of a debate in the General Assembly. A bill introduced earlier in February would create some hurdles for cities that want to sell commercial products or services.

Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, introduced similar legislation in 2015, but the measure did not advance to a vote. He hopes he can make a better case for the legislation this year.

Senate Bill 173, filed on Feb. 10 with Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, as a co-sponsor, has our attention because we typically oppose governments doing business in direct competition with private entities. In most cases, this kind of interference from a government just tramples on the free market - and there’s already too much of that going on.

Girdler is behind this bill because his hometown started selling gasoline in the summer of 2014. Mayor Eddie Girdler, who is a distant cousin of the senator, and other supporters of the city’s fuel center have argued the enterprise benefits residents because it forced privately owned gas stations to lower their prices.

If it passes, the bill would require a government to examine the impact of its business on the local economy before selling a product or service. A public hearing on the proposal would be required, and the government would have to explain the findings of its impact study.

Sen. Girdler describes his bill as a transparency measure.

“In this day and age when the government has a hard time running itself, the last thing it should do is compete with private business,” the senator said, according to the Commonwealth Journal newspaper in Somerset. “This is why I filed SB 173, to bring some common sense and transparency to the operation of all forms of government in Kentucky if they should pursue such an endeavor.”

One provision of the bill, which deals with a public notice prior to a government’s hearing on a business, caught our attention. Some lawmakers want to allow a government agency to publish the notice on a government website. We are not shy to make a cause for keeping those notices in newspapers because it can ensure a wider distribution and protects against a government agency that might want to hide a notice in an obscure spot on its website.

We can sympathize with Somerset officials who wanted to help residents with their fuel costs. But their approach sets a bad precedent and potentially creates another level of bureaucracy.

Online:

http://www.kentuckynewera.com/

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March 1

The Lexington Herald-Leader on Kentucky Horse Park bill:

The Kentucky Horse Park has come under intense and, frankly, peculiar, scrutiny in the Kentucky Senate this session, thanks to Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

Thayer has made vague but serious accusations about both the management of the park and the commission that oversees it, alleging political patronage in hiring and letting contracts, low morale among employees and that prices for both camping and equine events at the Horse Park have become so high they exclude some people and organizations from using the facility.

He has called for a full performance audit of the Horse Park and his Senate Bill 200 seeks to dismantle the existing 17-member commission that oversees it and replace it with a nine-member commission appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin. The bill easily passed out of the committee and the full Senate on party-line votes.

The House should slow down this train - the bill was only introduced in the Senate Feb. 12 and zipped through to passage in less than two weeks - and insist on a full vetting of Thayer’s allegations before taking action on the measure.

The first step should not be to wipe away the current commission and overhaul management but to conduct the full performance audit, which Thayer asked for and Horse Park management has welcomed.

Thayer had promised this effort late last year when former Gov. Steve Beshear in the final days of his administration appointed his wife to fill out a vacated term on the Horse Park Commission. Jane Beshear had previously served on the commission, as well as on other equine-related boards.

Another strong connection to the former governor is Horse Park executive director Jamie Link, who served as Beshear’s deputy chief of staff. Link had served as deputy executive director of the Horse Park previously and as CEO of the World Equestrian Games held there in 2010.

A 2014 audit of the Horse Park by the Finance Cabinet raised serious questions about management at the park before Link came on board. In testimony before the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee, Link said that his administration had corrected all the major issues addressed in the audit.

Link said that since he and his management group took over, the Horse Park’s annual deficit has dropped from $3.1 million to $1.8 million. The state General Fund contributes about $2.4 million to the park’s annual $14.5 million budget. Link said his management group had analyzed the costs of hosting events and the market competition to arrive at pricing for admissions, hosting events and camping.

None of this seemed to faze Thayer, who on the Senate floor accused Link of lying about fixing the problems in the audit. He read aloud a Feb. 25 letter, which he referred to as a “smoking gun,” from Bevin’s Finance and Administration Cabinet saying the Horse Park had not followed appropriate purchasing practices and had spent more than $500,000 with a vendor that did not have a contract during Link’s tenure.

This is indeed a tangled tale. It would be better to consider the future of this very important asset for our region and state in a reasoned manner with facts at hand than in a fevered political rush.

Online:

http://www.kentucky.com/

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