- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


May 13

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on ethics ruling:

When the Legislative Ethics Commission in April fell one vote short of finding former state Rep. John Arnold guilty of ethical violations involving sexual harassment, the ensuing storm of protest was driven by two distinct perceptions of a system failing to function properly.

The most basic of these perceptions was the feeling by many that, given the strength of the evidence, justice was denied for the three female Legislative Research Commission employees who accused Arnold of inappropriate behavior toward them.

On this level, Wednesday’s decision by the ethics panel to issue a public reprimand and fine Arnold $1,000 on each of the three charges against him can be viewed as rectifying a miscarriage of justice.

However, revisiting the Arnold case did nothing to address the other perception of system failure in the ethics commission’s operations.

When the panel took up the allegations against Arnold in April, just five of its eight members were present. A ninth seat on the commission has been vacant for two years because House and Senate leaders have not agreed on a joint appointment.

Since five votes are required for any commission action, to say it is unwise to take up a high-profile case (or any ethics complaint, for that matter) when a single dissenter can derail it is an understatement. Given the firestorm created by the panel’s April misstep, we hope the commission learned a valuable lesson.

But this misstep was simply a product of more fundamental problems involving the appointment process for the panel (that two-year vacancy) and its members’ record of attendance, or more accurately, non-attendance.

Finally, it must be noted that going into a closed session to discuss procedural issues, as the ethics commission did Wednesday over the objections of members of the media, was a terrible move by a panel badly in need of doing everything possible to restore its credibility. Procedural issues do not qualify under Kentucky law as a valid reason to conduct the public’s business in secretive meetings.




May 13

The Independent, Ashland, Ky., on Recovery Fest:

The wet weather no doubt impacted the size of the crowd at Recovery Fest 2014 at Veterans Riverfront Park in Ashland, but there were plenty of reasons for addicts who are now drug free to celebrate and for speakers like State Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, and others to talk about the impact the prescription drug epidemic has had on this region and for others to distribute literature and offer words of encouragement that could convince some to seek help in their battle with their drug addictions.

One of those recovering addicts is Robb Oldham, who has gone from being a heavy user of drugs to founding the Boyd Addiction Resource Center, the nonprofit organization that sponsored Recovery Fest 2014. While disappointed that the rain probably kept many from attending Recovery Fest 2014, Oldham said he never considered postponing the event because of the weather.

In addition to celebrating with others who have kicked their habits, Oldham said he just wanted those attending the daylong event to have fun.

“I want to show people that it is possible to have fun sober,” Oldham said. “Back when I was using, I never went to a concert sober, I never did anything sober.”

Had he continued abusing drugs, Oldham could have very well been dead by now as one of the many grim statistics from this region’s drug epidemic. Instead, Oldham founded an organization that has earned the praise of Sen. Webb for the positive work it is doing. Webb said in addition to serving in the Kentucky legislature, she has seen the impact of the region’s drug problem first hand as a defense attorney. She said many crimes occur in this region just to feed drug habits.

Last year’s first Recovery Fest was much smaller, being limited to a candlelight vigil. Next year, Oldham said he hopes to expand it to a two-day event, preferably with sunny skies instead of at times heavy rains.

We like the idea behind Recovery Fest because addicts who have ceased using drugs have reason to celebrate and to tell anyone willing to listen that you can conquer your addictions. They have a message that those who are still using drugs need to hear.




May 11

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on making cockfighting a felony:

It has the amenities of the world’s most famous horse race - and then some.

Powerful animals, trained to compete. Huge entry fees for owners. Crowds of spectators.

Ample seating, VIP rooms and laminated photo IDs for members. Official vendors. Preferred permit parking. A sit-down restaurant.

And of course, high-stakes gambling - even slot machines for those who prefer more than just betting cash on animals.

Welcome to cockfighting in Kentucky, an illegal but apparently thriving enterprise where roosters, placed in pits and outfitted with sharpened spurs, fight to the death in contests called “derbies,” according to a federal affidavit filed recently in connection with an alleged cockfighting operation in Eastern Kentucky.

But the operation in Floyd County known as the “Big Blue Sportsman’s Club” isn’t just any cockfighting outfit, according to the federal investigation which led to the arrest of three people.

Raking in as much as $1 million a year, “the Big Blue pit in Kentucky is one of the largest, most organized and lucrative illegal cockfighting enterprises in the United States,” the federal affidavit said.

It’s impossible to overstate the sheer horror of the blood sport the Humane Society of the United States calls barbaric.

“Cockfighting is an extremely painful, bloody and deadly event,” the affidavit said. “Birds are stabbed, slashed open, eviscerated and partially decapitated. Birds that lose a match most often die.”

Birds drowning in their own blood are resuscitated to keep fighting.

Yet the Big Blue operation apparently flourished unchecked in Kentucky for the past year, boasting 6,000 members and drawing participants from as far away as Michigan and Florida. A special attraction is that Kentucky is part of the so-called “cockfighting corridor” - a string of states where cockfighting is only a misdemeanor.

It is a felony in all but 42 states. And after Virginia made cockfighting a felony, business picked up in Kentucky, according to the affidavit.

The news of the arrests of three Floyd County people on federal charges related to the operation have stirred up a silly political skirmish over which politicians support or oppose a provision in the recent federal Farm Bill that makes attending a cockfight a federal offense.

But that’s not the problem.

Cockfighting in Kentucky remains a misdemeanor. Lawmakers must make it a state felony.



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