- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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May 2

Lexington Herald-Leader on the Zika virus:

Mosquitoes were not a concern in Kentucky in February, when the World Health Organization declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus a global public health emergency and President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion to combat the disease.

For the past two months, the Republicans who control Congress - prominent among them, Kentuckians Hal Rogers in the key role of House Appropriations chairman and Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate - have responded to the Zika threat by doing nothing - except blame the White House.

Now, as another spectacular Bluegrass spring melts into summer, the buzz of mosquitoes will replace the pollen in the air. And the National Center for Atmospheric Research predicts that by June, Kentucky will have a moderate to high abundance of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus. (This species is described as an aggressive daytime biter that also bites at night.)

And, still, the Republicans in Congress are dragging their feet, doing nothing. They would rather expose their constituents to a birth defect-causing disease for which there is no vaccine or reliable diagnostic test than approve new spending or give Obama anything resembling a win. It’s unbelievable.

Rogers and other Republicans have complained that the administration has not provided enough information about how it plans to deploy the requested money. They’ve said the president should shift money from the fight against Ebola, as if Ebola is no longer a threat. The administration has shifted $510 million from Ebola and $79 million from other public health accounts into fighting Zika. Some Republican leaders say the money for fighting Zika should be offset by cuts in other areas and approved through the regular budget process, which means it would not be available until October, when the new fiscal year begins and the mosquito season is almost over.

None of that would be unexpected except we’re talking about a public health emergency, as in “a serious, unexpected and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.”

The response to Zika will have to be driven in large part by new knowledge as it’s gained, and there’s a lot to learn and do. Not only is there no vaccine against Zika, there also are no diagnostic tests, and most people who are infected will show either mild or no symptoms. However, Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly in which a baby’s head and brain are abnormally small, as well as other serious birth defects and complications.

Brazil, where the Olympics will open in August, has had a major outbreak of the virus which has reached as far north as Puerto Rico, where more than 600 Zika cases have been documented. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person who has the virus, so people returning from the Olympics can spread the disease. The virus can also be sexually transmitted and has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves.

Congress is taking a break this week. When it gets back, the Republicans should get over themselves and act as if they know what “emergency” and “immediate action” mean.

Online:

http://www.kentucky.com/

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May 1

Kentucky New Era on public college tuition hikes:

In perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Kentuckians will soon pay more for a public college education. That is the assumption after a decision Tuesday by the Council on Postsecondary Education to allow tuition hikes in the range of 5 percent.

Trustees at individual colleges set the tuition rates each year, but given the battle over higher education funding in Frankfort, it seems likely that most of the state’s public universities and the Kentucky Technical and Community College System will hike tuition. Some have already announced increases, including Western Kentucky University (4.5 percent) and Northern Kentucky University (3 percent.)

According to The Associated Press, here’s what the Council on Postsecondary Education’s decision means for students: The University of Kentucky could hike tuition by $547 a year. The University of Louisville could increase its tuition by $527. At the regional universities tuition could increase $432 annually. Hopkinsville Community College’s tuition might be $9 more per credit hour. A full-time community college student taking 15 hours a semester would pay up to $270 more annually.

Hal Heiner, who is Gov. Matt Bevin’s new secretary for the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, wisely discouraged colleges from implementing large tuition increases.

“A 5 percent tuition increase would not be responsible. The budget reduction impacts 1 percent of the universities’ budgets,” Heiner said. “It is our expectation that our colleges and universities will find ways to operate efficiently, without passing undue tuition increases to their students. After extensive conversations with university presidents, we believe this is possible.”

Like many states, Kentucky lacks a consensus on higher education funding. While almost everyone agrees that college and postsecondary vocational training is the key to lifting more Kentuckians out of poverty, there’s great disagreement over how much the state should invest in education.

The fracture is deepest between Bevin, the new Republican governor, and the Kentucky House, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Bevin was successful in securing 2 percent to higher education cuts in this fiscal year and 4.5 percent over the next two years. (The current-year cuts are being challenged in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Andy Beshear.) Also, Bevin vetoed the House program that would provide free community college tuition for high school grads. The governor wants to delay that program until 2017-18.

These are all legitimate disagreements over policy and how to balance the state’s obligation to pay down pension plan shortfalls while also ensuring the viability of educational programs that prepare Kentuckians for good careers. Ultimately, the state needs to have more residents who are able to support themselves financially, and the way to achieve that is through postsecondary education.

Unfortunately, Kentucky is danger of making college unaffordable for the students who most need it. For that reason, we believe colleges should avoid rate hikes that add hundreds of dollars to a student’s tuition bill.

Online:

http://www.kentuckynewera.com/

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May 1

Bowling Green Daily News on Gov. Matt Bevin and former Gov. Steve Beshear:

It is quite obvious that there is no love lost between Gov. Matt Bevin and the Beshear family.

That’s a shame really, but it’s a reality unfolding before our own eyes.

In the past few weeks, some serious accusations have been made by Bevin against former Gov. Steve Beshear and his administration. And some serious allegations have been made against Bevin by Beshear’s son, Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Andy Beshear has asked for an ethics investigation of Bevin to find out if he fired some politically appointed state workers because they donated money to his political rivals and whether such actions violated the state’s ethics code.

Bevin accused the former governor of coercing state employees to donate to Democratic candidates, including Andy Beshear’s 2015 campaign for attorney general. Bevin has called for Andy Beshear to return any questionable contributions and announced he would use public money to hire a private law firm to assist with his own investigation of Steve Beshear, including whether he violated state procurement laws.

Andy Beshear, who is also suing Bevin over his 2 percent mid-year budget cuts to most state colleges and universities, says Bevin is within his right to investigate financial mismanagement. But he said Bevin cannot investigate ethics code violations. He says that responsibility falls to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, made up by five people who were appointed by Steve Beshear. Andy Beshear has asked the ethics commission to take over Bevin’s investigation and to tell Bevin he does not have jurisdiction.

These are some very serious allegations that have been levied against Bevin and Steve Beshear. It’s quite obvious that if there is merit to these allegations then they must be investigated and answers revealed to the public in due time.

It would really be a disservice to the voters of this state though to learn that all of these allegations are over petty grievances. In suing Bevin, Andy Beshear said it wasn’t personal.

Sure it is.

Andy Beshear doesn’t like Matt Bevin and the feeling is very mutual. Steve Beshear is also obviously no fan of Bevin either. He gave a nearly 14-minute speech this week bashing Bevin. That is his First Amendment right, but Steve Beshear really needs to first realize that he is no longer our governor, return quietly to his law practice and let the current governor do his job.

We sincerely hope that all of this doesn’t turn out to be grandstanding by Bevin and Andy Beshear. If it indeed is, then both men have failed the people of this state and should really be ashamed of themselves.

Online:

http://www.bgdailynews.com/

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