- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Jan. 5

The Daily News of Bowling Green on state legislators:

Kentucky’s legislature is unique in many ways.

Our state holds one of the shortest legislative sessions in the country - in odd-numbered years, our legislators are in session for 30 days. In even-numbered years such as this, legislators are in session for 60 days. Gov. Matt Bevin only has about three weeks once the session begins to present his budget to the legislature, something that is a monumental task for any newly seated governor.

On Tuesday, our General Assembly convenes in Frankfort. Returning legislators and new legislators will be in our state’s capital taking the oath of office, getting appointed to their committees, participating in their caucuses and trying to get the people’s business of the state completed over the next three months.

It will be a tall order, as there are many issues facing the state that must be dealt with.

Regardless of political party, at the end of the day we are all Kentuckians. No matter whether our legislators are Republicans or Democrats, they should come together where possible and do their best to do the people’s work during this session.

Too often, the citizens of this state have witnessed partisan bickering and political games between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate. In the past, as a result of these partisan games, taxpayers have had to foot the bill for a special session at a cost of $160,000 per day to do what should have been done during the regular session.

We hope that isn’t the case this year.

We would be naive to believe that both sides of the aisle will agree on certain pieces of legislation that have been filed or will totally agree with Bevin’s budget proposal. That’s simply politics, but we hope there will be civil discourse among our legislators in debating the issues before them during this session.

That is why we urge House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, to lead in encouraging their respective chambers to get to serious work early during this session.

We would also urge lawmakers to move forward in the period before Bevin’s budget release and start debating and voting on legislation that isn’t revenue related. Legislators can hold hearings, debate and possibly vote on a statewide smoking ban proposal and on other pieces of legislation in coming weeks.

In this session and every other, time is of the essence, so we urge lawmakers to take advantage of their limited time in Frankfort to come together for the common good of Kentuckians and begin debating, voting and passing sound legislation in the days and weeks ahead.

Online:

https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Jan. 5

The Lexington Herald-Leader on Obama’s gun control executive order:

The difference between being president and running for that office was evident Tuesday.

When it comes to gun violence, candidates can rely on underlings to tweet out pious remarks about prayers and thoughts when U.S. citizens go on killing rampages here at home while a president must consider whether his oath of office demands he address this domestic threat.

And so it was that as President Barack Obama proposed a modest set of reforms to crack down on illegal gun sales and improve background checks to prevent people who our laws have long said can’t buy guns from getting them, the Republican contenders fell rapidly into all-too-familiar dire, and misleading, rants.

“Rather than taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens,” Jeb Bush said in a statement, “we should focus on keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists.”

Please.

The rhetoric is informed by the enormous financial and other clout of the National Rifle Association.

OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in politics, reported that in the 2014 election cycle the National Rifle Association contributed just under $1 million to candidates, mostly Republicans, spent over $3.3 million lobbying and accounted for over $28 million in outside campaign spending.

To clarify, Obama’s actions will not take guns away from law-abiding citizens. His plans could make it harder for terrorists - foreign and domestic - to buy guns.

There are two large gaps that allow people the 1968 federal Gun Control Act says shouldn’t have guns to get them.

The first is that too many sellers - at gun shows, on the Internet and in private transactions - are not federally licensed dealers. That means they aren’t required to conduct federal background checks as licensed dealers that sell guns.

The second is that the background check system, due to technical limitations and limited staffing, simply doesn’t catch all those who aren’t allowed to buy guns.

The executive actions Obama described Tuesday address those two areas.

One clarifies the definition of a regulated gun dealer to include more of the so-called hobby sellers, who have long been exempt from the rules requiring businesses to conduct a federal background check before selling a gun.

Obama also plans to increase the number of officers involved in enforcing those rules.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence - named for Jim Brady, press secretary for President Ronald Reagan, who was seriously injured during a 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan - estimates that about 40 percent of U.S gun sales, including thousands of online, gun-show and flea-market sales, fall under the hobby, or gun-show loophole. A disproportionate number of those guns are used in criminal acts.

Obama’s other important initiative will ramp up the resources of the background-check system, increasing the number of people conducting checks and allocating resources to improve the quality of information in the system.

Polls consistently show that an overwhelming majority of voters support commonsense gun-control proposals like these but many politicians, their ears deadened by the NRA’s generous purse and threatening rhetoric, ignore them.

Obama’s actions will not prevent any person eligible under existing federal law from exercising his or her Second Amendment rights. They also will not stop gun violence in the U.S.

But they will make it harder for gun dealers to sell to criminals, the mentally disturbed and people associated with dangerous foreign and domestic groups.

Online:

https://www.kentucky.com/

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Jan. 6

The Kentucky New Era on smoking ban:

A new poll about attitudes toward smoke-free legislation in Kentucky confirms what has been clear for at least a few years now. Most adults - 66 percent, according to the Kentucky Health Impact Poll released Monday - support a statewide ban on smoking for indoor public places.

Unfortunately, some state lawmakers have stubbornly resisted public opinion, along with overwhelming health and financial considerations, in the debate over passing legislation to protect Kentuckians from secondhand smoke in restaurants, stores and offices.

As the General Assembly convenes this week in Frankfort, there ought to be some hope that 2016 will be the year Kentucky breaks this deadlock.

The key to winning passage could start with a recognition of the economic toll smoking takes on state government and Kentucky businesses. Medical costs related to tobacco use exceed $1.9 billion annually, and nearly $500 million of that is covered by Medicaid, according to Smoke-Free Kentucky.

Reducing these expenses would make a great deal of sense as Gov. Matt Bevin formulates plans for changing his predecessor’s Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Given the poll results about support for a statewide smoking ban, Bevin wouldn’t risk any political capital with Kentuckians if he encourages the Republican Senate to pass the legislation. His support would be grounded in fiscal responsibility.

The Republican Senate has been the last obstacle for a smoke-free bill. A year ago, the House narrowly passed a statewide ban but the Senate failed to advance the bill out of committee.

For two straight years, Republican leaders have assigned the legislation to a committee chaired by a lawmaker they knew would let the bill die in committee. In 2014, it was the Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville. Last year, it was assigned to the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, headed by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London.

The proper assignment would be the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville. She supports the measure and would ensure it gets a fair hearing.

Although 24 communities have passed comprehensive bans, Smoke-Free Kentucky estimates 67 percent of the state’s residents live in an area without protection from secondhand smoke in public indoor places.

It’s time to provide protection to the entire state and to reduce the cost of treating tobacco-related illnesses. Kentucky can no longer afford this burden.

Online:

https://www.kentuckynewera.com/


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