- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

Jan. 28

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on the state wisely seeking more of an energy mix:

We expect this sort of thing from the Kentucky Coal Association with its admittedly narrow set of interests.

But it’s disappointing that the state Chamber of Commerce, which represents 92,000 Kentucky businesses, is opposing Beshear administration overtures to the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at protecting Kentuckians from huge increases in electric power costs.

At issue are white papers issued last year by state Environment and Energy Secretary Len Peters that lay out options for federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA has already issued rules for new power plants and is due to issue regulations for existing power plants by June.

The Kentucky white papers make a compelling case that states should be given flexibility to meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements through efficiency, fuel switching and other means; this would avert the mass retirement of coal-fired power plants and the huge cost of replacing them with generators powered by another fossil fuel, natural gas, until the energy mix can be truly diversified.

The papers state that some state economies, including Kentucky’s, are much more energy-intensive than others. Dramatic increases in power costs could cost thousands of jobs in industries that use lots of electricity or force those jobs overseas. That would harm not just Kentucky but the whole country.

The EPA’s acceptance of Kentucky’s ideas could forestall further losses in the state’s 12,400 coal jobs, but the real prize would be protecting manufacturing, which employs 220,000 Kentuckians.

So, why wouldn’t the chamber be on board?

The chamber and the coal industry want the Beshear administration to take a hard line against any regulation of heat-trapping gases that cause climate change. By their thinking, the state’s efforts to influence the EPA amount to conceding that the agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. They’d rather Gov. Steve Beshear stand at the state line, like George Wallace in the schoolhouse door, and proclaim, “Coal now, coal forever.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Whether that authority extends to power plants is before the Supreme Court now. Meanwhile, Kentuckians in Congress are trying to block the rules.

But whether greenhouse gases from power plants are regulated this year or not, the notion that Kentucky can remain the island Kingdom of Coal in a sea of change is shortsighted and unrealistic.

It’s at odds with the emerging thinking of American business leaders and mainstream economists who, as The New York Times reported last week, “see global warming as a force that contributes to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk.” In other words, the cost of not addressing climate change will be higher than the cost of changing how we produce energy.

No wonder the world’s largest automaker, Toyota, also one of Kentucky’s top corporate citizens, has committed to helping establish “a low-carbon society.”

The Kentucky white papers are getting attention and sparking discussions nationally. The Beshear administration is proactively trying to shape federal policy to allow for an orderly transition to a more diverse energy mix, something that would protect Kentucky’s economy in any event. That’s leadership. Would the chamber rather we wait to cry like a victim when it’s too late to have an impact?

Unfortunately, some Republicans are trying to convert complex policy questions into cheap political points. A recent commentary by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, included a bunch of off-base criticisms of the white papers. The commentary was sent out by a public relations firm founded by Scott Jennings, the senior advisor to a super PAC supporting Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Elected officials who truly care about Kentucky will avoid politicizing these efforts to protect the state’s economy in a changing energy landscape. The Beshear administration, which has certainly done its part to defend the coal industry, should resist the pressure to back down and keep leading.




Jan. 22

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Ky., on why Congress should restore vets’ pay:

Even if cuts to cost-of-living increases for some military veterans are repealed, the damage already is done, and we’re not talking about money.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that Congress approved and the president signed included a 1 percent “cut” to future cost of living adjustments to retirement pay for military veterans’ younger than 62.

First, let’s be clear about the nature of the so-called cut.

No one’s income will drop, but future increases won’t be as large. Also, disabled veterans are exempted from it. The “cut” is projected to save $6.2 billion over the next 10 years. When it comes to the federal budget, that’s not even a drop in the bucket.

Second, don’t expect it to be around very long.

Just when it seemed Washington gridlock is a way of life, this budget came along. Neither side got everything it wanted, but a compromise was enacted which eliminated the threat of another protracted fight and possible government shutdown. In the end, Congress passed what it could, knowing the most egregious portions later can be fine-tuned.

No one really wants to deprive veterans of their due. Not just because it’s politically unpopular, but because it’s wrong.

To that end, a number of lawmakers already have signed on to bills that would repeal the retirees’ cuts, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Paul and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, introduced the Uphold Our Promise to Veterans Act, known as Senate Bill 1930 and House Resolution 3807. In a joint statement, Paul and Poe said, “Congress and the president broke a financial promise to the veterans of this nation.” .

“We owe it to the men and women who have served in our armed forces to protect their livelihood, just as they have protected ours, ” Paul added.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 does more than break a promise. It breaks a covenant. We owe veterans more than that.

When civilians enter military service, they raise their right hands and swear to protect the Constitution. Implied in that affirmation is the very real knowledge that to do so means putting their lives on the line.

Members of Congress also swear to uphold the Constitution, too, but their oath is a bit more pedestrian.

We have the best military in the world and it is all volunteer. Without absolute faith that both sides will honor the covenant, how many young men and women in the future will be willing to sign up for such a one-sided deal?




Jan. 27

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on creating an adult-abuse registry in state:

For five years - five too many - advocates for vulnerable adults have been urging state lawmakers to do what Kentucky already does for children:

Create a registry of people found to have mistreated vulnerable adults in their care, such as the elderly or those with disabilities, so that abusive, paid caregivers can’t skip from one job to another with no consequences.

Advocates and distraught family members have uncovered cases where such workers struck, threatened, intimidated and stole from vulnerable adults in their care, only to move on to another job when discovered, The Courier-Journal’s Chris Kenning reported Sunday.

And a criminal background check, suggested by some lawmakers, simply isn’t enough. State records show that since 2009, state social service officials have substantiated abuse or neglect in more than 7,400 cases involving adults but most do not result in criminal charges.

Yet lawmakers in past years have failed to enact a simple remedy - create a confidential registry of people who have been found by the state Adult Protective Services agency to have abused or neglected an adult in their care.

The state already maintains this type of registry of persons found to have abused or neglected children, which prevents such individuals from working in occupations around children such as day care or teaching.

And funds already are available to help pay for an electronic database prospective employers could check before hiring someone to help provide services or care for an adult. Gov. Steve Beshear included $2 million in the current budget that could still be used to create the registry, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which would operate the registry.

Prospects appear better for creation of the adult registry this year as it comes before the General Assembly for the fifth time.

It has attracted bipartisan support, with state Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, a Monticello Republican, sponsoring the Senate version, Senate Bill 98.

It would create an Adult Protection Registry but includes due-process safeguards that concerned some lawmakers in past years. No individuals would be placed on the registry until after they had exhausted all opportunities to appeal.

Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, a Lexington Democrat, is sponsoring a similar bill in the House.

Gregory, a lawyer, said it would offer further protections in the many cases where an individual has been documented by the state social service system to have abused of mistreated an adult but often is not convicted of a criminal charge.

Too often, victims impaired by conditions such as dementia, autism or other disabilities, simply aren’t able to testify or assist with prosecution.

Such was one case detailed by Kenning of Crystal Johnston, a Louisville mother of an adult son with autism, Daniel, who at age 18 was mistreated by a worker at camp but unable to communicate details.

Though abuse was substantiated after a state investigation, Johnston was dismayed to learn there was no official record of the incident and abuse investigations and findings are confidential with no listing or record employers could check.

“I found out there is no list,” she said. “There’s just a paper that goes in a file that nobody has access to.”

Johnston and others have worked hard in recent years to create an adult abuse registry.

The General Assembly needs to recognize their efforts and pass this legislation this year.



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