- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


April 23

The Glasgow Daily Times on Gov. Matt Bevin’s decision to hire a private agency in an investigation of former Gov. Steve Beshear’s practices:

Is there smoke billowing from the remnants of Steve Beshear’s time as Kentucky’s governor? You bet there is.

The notion that there might be fire there does not support the action by sitting Gov. Matt Bevin to hire a private agency to assist his Finance Cabinet in an investigation of the former governor’s practices. We in Barren County have explicit knowledge of what can happen when one political entity pays a private entity to investigate another political entity.

It’s a little ditty we like to call the “Private Investigator Jail Fiasco.”

In December 2011, the Barren County Fiscal Court passed a motion to inquire about the credentials of a private investigator to look into complaints against the Barren County Detention Center. In January 2012, they followed through on a 6-2 vote to hire the private investigator, Mike Ober, to conduct an investigation into the jail at a cost of $3,500. Five months later, Ober delivered to the magistrates a verbal summary of his investigation. It turned out, following a nearly year-long legal battle won by the Glasgow Daily Times, that Ober had never put together a complete written report. He had recordings of conversations with some former and then-present jail employees.

The fiscal court members voted to drop an appeal of the Daily Times’ open records lawsuit and release without redaction the recordings to the Daily Times and other media outlets that had filed their own open records requests for Ober’s findings. Then-Magistrate Chris Steward obtained a copy of the raw audio files and posted them online in March 2013.

We did learn through Ober’s work that there was a federal investigation of the jail and we learned that at least some of the magistrates were aware of the FBI’s poking around prior to their hiring the PI. We also learned that public officials are willing to waste taxpayer money to fight political fights.

That brings us back to Bevin.

It was reported Tuesday that the Republican governor will hire a private law firm to look into some no-bid contracts issued by his Democratic predecessor Steve Beshear. Bevin also alleged reports of state workers being forced to make political contributions. What the firm will be paid to conduct its investigation was not revealed.

The governor’s actions do come on the heels of a guilty plea by Tim Longmeyer, the former Personnel Cabinet secretary under Beshear and long-time Democratic party activist, to charges of using his position to push political contributions to Democratic campaigns. Longmeyer, only a few days before being federally indicted on the charges, resigned as a deputy attorney general from Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office. The attorney general is the former governor’s son.

Bevin and others see smoke coming from Steve Beshear’s time as governor. There might be a fire.

But there are public agencies tasked with conducting investigations and those should be used first. If the governor doesn’t trust the state investigative agencies, request help from the U.S. Department of Justice. They are more than willing to tackle a corruption scandal as witnessed by the number of years they spent investigating officials in Barren County.

By September 2014, the federal investigation into the Barren County Detention Center had ended with this conclusion: “After careful consideration, we concluded that the evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, we have closed our investigation.”

By then, the damage had been done to the reputations of many people who had not signed up as pawns in a political game. They had been thrown into the arena. That will also be the outcome of the political fight being being waged between Bevin and Beshear.




April 21

The Kentucky New Era on the Kentucky Lottery Corp.:

The Kentucky Lottery Corp. is going where its future customers presumably will be doing business - on the internet. Sales online of Powerball, MegaMillions and Kentucky Cash Ball began Monday, making Kentucky the third state to offer lottery tickets through internet accounts.

Modest predictions have been made for online revenue in the first year. Overall sales for 2015-16 will be $994.5 million, while online sales in 2016-17 will be approximately $7 million, according to the state’s projections.

“Our customers are aging, and in order to maintain our business, we need to be more attractive to a younger demographic who are accustomed to conducting a majority of their retail purchases online,” Kentucky Lottery Corp. President and CEO Arch Gleason said in a news release. “This group is very mobile, and they expect brands to be accessible online and on their devices. We’re delivering what they want.”

From a business perspective, this makes good sense.

But the rollout of online lottery sales could be trouble for many Kentucky families with a breadwinner who has a gambling problem.

Assuming a customer has access to the internet and sets up a lottery account, it will be easy and tempting to buy lottery tickets at any time from the kitchen table or on a cellphone. There won’t be many obstacles to an impulse buy. At least before online sales were legal, a buyer had to put on shoes, grab a wallet and drive to a store to spend cash money on tickets.

Lottery officials have placed some caps on online business. A player cannot make deposits that exceed $200 daily, $500 weekly or $1,000 monthly.

Those are generous limits. At those amounts, some players could blow through all their take-home pay rather quickly.

We respect the fact that adults ought to be able to spend their own money as they please. But some players who overspend on the lottery aren’t just making poor choices for themselves. They have children who pay a price, and Kentucky has an obligation to monitor the impact of online lottery sales on them.

“It’s delivery of an existing product, just through a different channel,” lottery spokesman Chip Polston told the Lexington Herald-Leader after online sales were launched Monday. “We’re offering games we already have in retail, just through a different means.”

Technically, this is true. But online sales have the potential to create a dangerous path for lottery players who don’t know when to say when. Gambling does not build a community.

At the very least, the General Assembly and the governor’s office should keep tabs on the impact of online sales.




April 20

The Courier-Journal on LGBT laws in Kentucky:

Some Kentucky politicians are fond of pointing to Indiana as a state from which the commonwealth can learn a lot (other than on the basketball court).

They say we should follow Indiana’s example on implementing the Affordable Care Act through the federal exchange and getting a waiver to create its own version of Medicaid expansion. They suggest Kentucky should adopt Right to Work to compete for jobs going to Indiana, which has a Right to Work law.

But one lesson some don’t seem to want to learn is the lesson of Indiana’s disastrous passage last year of its version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Kentucky does not need to wade into those dangerous waters, yet that’s exactly where the Kentucky Senate headed last week.

Consider that about this time last year, large employers such as Angie’s List said they would cancel expansion plans in Indiana. Organizations, including the NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis, which was preparing for the Final Four at the time, pledged to pull future events from the state. Some governments banned travel to the state. The CEO of Apple voiced his opposition. The Twitter hashtag #boycottindiana became popular.

At the urging of Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP-led Indiana legislature modified the law to clarify it can’t be used to undermine local “fairness” laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

So why did the Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate on Tuesday pass Senate Bill 180? The bill’s language leaves some room for its proponents to argue that it isn’t as sweeping as Indiana’s original law, but that’s hardly clear. It certainly is aimed at negating the civil rights protections for LGBT adopted by eight forward-thinking Kentucky cities - Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Midway, Morehead and Vicco.

We applaud the six Senate Republicans who joined their Democratic colleagues in voting against SB180. We fully expect the measure either will not get a vote in the House or will be voted down handily, as it should be.

We’d go a step further and encourage the General Assembly to take up SB176, rightly pointing the state in the correct direction.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, one of the Republicans voting against SB180, is also part of a bipartisan group that put forward SB 176, which they’re calling the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Act.

Nearly 200 Kentucky employers in the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition back the bill, including some of the commonwealth’s largest employers as well as numerous small, locally owned companies. By the way, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has taken a similar stand in the Hoosier state.

SB176 would add to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act protections against discrimination to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“We need to show that we have the inclusive and competitive atmosphere where they want to live, where they want to work, and where they want to raise their families,” said Sen. Morgan McGarvey, the Louisville Democrat who led the group sponsoring the bill.

Economic development isn’t the only reason states should be extending protections to the LGBT community. It’s the right thing to do in any case. But if that argument won’t win over some legislators, then let’s use the economic incentive to kill SB180 and move ahead on SB176.



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