- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


May 25

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on economic doldrums:

This is an election year in a poor state, five years into a slow recovery from a devastating recession. No wonder everyone is talking about jobs.

Political talk about jobs is often just that - talk. But two recent economic reports offered insight that candidates and officeholders should take to heart.

One says that places with an educated, trained work force not only attract more and better jobs - no surprise there - but also that they recover more quickly from economic shocks.

The other report shows that Kentucky has been slower than the rest of the nation to emerge from the recession, producing fewer and less desirable jobs than most other states.

But the truly bad news is that unless policy makers are willing to do the hard work of tax reform, this downward cycle will not change.

Kentucky’s tax code gives away more revenue in loopholes than is collected, and captures virtually nothing from the rapidly growing service sector of the economy.

Louisville economist Paul Coomes, in a study for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, found our state has been slower than the nation to emerge from the recession.

Perhaps even more disturbing for all of Kentucky is where our jobs have been created in the last four years, according to Coomes’ analysis. The leader by far is “employment services,” more commonly known as temp agencies. Coomes’ list also includes government and auto manufacturing - sectors that generally provide living wages and benefits - but is rounded out with sectors like food service and nursing homes.

Any job is a lifeline to someone without one. But too many of Kentucky’s jobs leave people treading water, getting nowhere. And that’s the way it will be as long as Kentucky’s leaders avoid setting our tax structure on a course that will sustain adequate work-force training and education.




May 22

The Kentucky Standard on open records:

Enshrined in Kentucky law is the right of its citizens to inspect public records. That definition covers many kinds of documents, including many filed at county clerks’ offices such as birth records, marriage licenses and property transfers, among others.

By law, any person may inspect public records for free, except for 14 types of records specifically exempted by the statute. Any person may also ask for a reproduction of that record for a “reasonable fee.” According to the Kentucky attorney general’s 2012 publication “Your Duty Under the Law,” which lays out how public officials must adhere to open records and meetings laws, the recommended price agencies should charge is 10 cents per copy for paper records, unless an agency can prove that the cost of reproduction is greater. If the request is for “commercial purposes,” then the agency may charge more, although the fuzzy term “reasonable cost” is used to determine what that price should be.

The Attorney General’s Office has also addressed online access to public documents. The guidelines allow an agency to require that the requester enter into a contract, license or other agreement, and may charge fees. But those fees “cannot exceed the cost of physical connection to the system and the reasonable cost of computer time access charges.”

Beyond those requirements governing online access, the guidelines leave much to the individual agencies to interpret, which is why, out of Kentucky’s 120 counties, online access is being done about 100 different ways, from completely open and free to not available.

While there is much left to interpretation to the definition of “reasonable,” the Attorney General’s office stated quite clearly that the Nelson County clerk’s solution and the fee that office charged was not reasonable in an April open records decision.

Nelson County Clerk Elaine Filiatreau has cited two chief reasons for not opening up online access to the general public: the loss of revenue generated for the office by charging for copies and privacy concerns.

Each of her justifications falls short.

Granting online access to public documents is not about convenience.

It’s about access to information in the modern age.




May 26

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on an honor for “Fitz”:

Elections really do have consequences.

Consider the Cincinnati-based federal agency with a clunky name, ORSANCO, and a big mission to keep cleaning up the Ohio River.

One appointment by President George W. Bush was an attorney who fought for expanded hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas fields of the upper Midwest and Northeast.

President Barack Obama has just appointed Tom FitzGerald.

We could stop right there. People across Kentucky will immediately recognize the stark contrast.

The eight-state Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission sets water quality standards for the Ohio River, and we are hard-pressed to think of any of any previous commissioner quite like FitzGerald.

Each state selects three commissioners and the president gets to appoint three commissioners to represent the United States. Members often work for state, federal or local agencies and have science, engineering or regulatory backgrounds. Some are attorneys, often with client lists including industries that use the Ohio River or its tributaries for waste disposal.

FitzGerald, a Louisville attorney and director of the Kentucky Resources Council, has made a career out of representing people on the receiving end of pollution. He has fought fearlessly for enforcement of clean air and clean water laws, using a science-based and fact-based approach that has earned him respect from all sides.

He sweats the details, poring over the arcane language of environmental laws and rules, with an eye toward justice, fairness and a cleaner world. And he can’t be fooled.

Most recently, FitzGerald won an important court case that preemptively blocked the developers of the private, natural gas liquids Bluegrass Pipeline from using the power of eminent domain to buy easements in Kentucky.

President Obama’s appointment of Fitzgerald is well-deserved national recognition.

We are glad he accepted.

When FitzGerald attends his first commission meeting in June, with two other new federal appointees, it will be a good day for the Ohio River and the millions of people who rely on it for drinking water, recreation and commerce.



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