- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

March 9

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Ky., on attorney general effectively ignores role:

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced last week that he won’t pursue an appeal nor request any further stay in response to a decision by a federal judge that Kentucky must recognize lawful same-sex marriages from other states.

With tearful emotion, Conway called attention to his wife and family saying in this matter he had to make a decision that he and his daughters could be proud of.

Even though he personally might be satisfied with his decision, his refusal to file an appeal in this case effectively ignores his duty to the Kentucky Constitution and to the commonwealth.

When taking office as Kentucky attorney general, Conway accepted a sworn duty to defend both the Constitution of the United States as well as the Kentucky Constitution. He is certainly entitled to his personal views and convictions on the issue of gay marriage. However, his responsibility to our state Constitution shouldn’t be contingent upon whether any challenges to it align with his personal beliefs on this or any other legal issue at hand.

Gov. Steve Beshear followed Conway’s announcement with his own decision to hire outside counsel to file an appeal in defense of Kentucky’s marriage amendment. It’s too bad Kentuckians will have to shoulder these otherwise unnecessary outside costs.

It remains to be seen whether the will of Kentuckians stands on the issue of marriage or if we will be forced to abide by the will of voters and jurists from outside states.

One thing is clear, however. Regardless of what side of the same-sex marriage debate he or other Kentuckians might stand, Jack Conway failed to carry-out his duty the Kentucky Constitution and the commonwealth.




March 11

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on Big Tobacco:

After addicting our children, shortening our lives, making puppets of our politicians and using generations of Kentucky farmers, Big Tobacco has another insult in store for the state that suffers the nation’s highest rates of smoking and cancer.

Under terms of the 1998 master settlement agreement the big four tobacco companies (it’s down to three now) were freed from endless legal liability, in exchange for paying the states almost $200 billion over 25 years. States that signed on would no longer be able to sue to recover the enormous costs of caring for sick smokers.

Kentucky was due to get $93 million from the settlement this year.

But Philip Morris, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds, which merged with Brown & Williamson, and 30 smaller companies that joined the settlement later are disputing their obligation.

An arbitration panel sided with the cigarette makers last year, saying that Kentucky and five other states had been “nondiligent” in collecting escrow payments from the “non-participating” cigarette manufacturers. The non-participants are upstart generic cigarette companies that never misled the public about their research findings and whose executives never lied under oath about what they knew to be smoking’s devastating harm to human health.

In addition to getting the master liars off the legal hook, the master settlement had terms to help them maintain their market dominance against new competitors. The settlement turned Kentucky and the other states into guardians of a Philip Morris monopoly.

Kentucky is not the only state that Big Tobacco tried to stiff. A settlement was reached with 22 states earlier this year, although it’s disputed whether the master settlement even allows such settlements, and the arbitration panel that ruled against six states ruled for nine.

Kentucky has used the tobacco settlement money mainly to diversify agriculture but also for early childhood programs; financing public water expansions in rural areas, and on various health programs, though not nearly enough on smoking prevention.

Kentucky is challenging the arbitration ruling in Franklin Circuit Court, where there is a hearing today. The state insists it has been diligent, a term not defined in the master settlement, about collecting the required assessments.

Big Tobacco has always been Kentucky’s exploiter, never its friend.




March 11

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky., on bill to protect students’ data worth passage:

Students’ data on their computers should be protected in Kentucky, but unfortunately that is not being done now.

Currently, companies can access a student’s data and then package it and sell it for profit. Students who use the Internet establish a digital footprint as they make their way through the various websites and access apps. Companies can track these movements. That information is important to marketers who want to contact those students.

Something about these actions just seems wrong - not illegal, just wrong.

We are glad state Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, has co-sponsored Senate Bill 89, which would protect students’ digital data from these companies. SB 89, which has cleared the Senate and is in the House, would force any company doing business with Kentucky schools to affirm that it will not use student data for its own profit and marketing.

The bill is intended to address defects Wilson sees in a 40-year-old law regarding personal information. Wilson said the federal law in place doesn’t provide enough protections.

We agree with Wilson’s assessment.

Obviously, technology has changed in the past 40 years. It is much more advanced and continues to progress every year. What might have been an adequate law 40 years ago isn’t adequate now.

The state should modernize its student data protection laws to keep up with advanced technology. SB 89 would bring student privacy laws into the 21st century and, most importantly, protect students’ data.

These companies are essentially profiting on these students, a lot of whom don’t even know their data are being used. That is one of the many reasons why this legislation is so important.

The Kentucky Department of Education disagrees with Wilson, saying it has everything in order, although the department hasn’t taken a stance on the bill.

We hope that members of the House will get behind this important piece of legislation and pass it before the end of the session.

Kentucky students have privacy rights and those rights are violated when their data is for sale.



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