- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


July 5

Lexington Herald-Leader on Kentucky’s plan to cut off federal funds the Bluegrass Area Development District administers for aging and independent living services:

The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin has gotten very good at blowing up state government-as-it-has-been but the learning curve on picking up the pieces after the explosion is way too slow.

The state’s plan to cut off federal funds the Bluegrass Area Development District administers for aging and independent living services is a case in point.

There is every reason to keep a wary eye trained on the Bluegrass ADD. Both its top management and the regional elected officials who oversee it have done little to inspire confidence. Truculent and defensive, they have chosen to spend a ton of money on self-promotion and lawyers rather than settling disputes with their funding source over allegedly misspent funds.

But none of that changes the fact that, at least as far as the aging and independent living services are concerned, the people depending on the services are most likely to feel the sting from a slap aimed at the Bluegrass ADD.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services provided less than two weeks’ notice of this abrupt change to the 5,500 people affected in 17 Central Kentucky counties. Remarkably, it also said that services would not be affected.

This was hardly the impression of a few dozen of the affected people who gathered at the ADD’s offices last week.

Some are parents who rely on workers paid through the independent living program to help care for profoundly disabled children at home. They told stories of calling the number in a letter from the cabinet only to either remain on hold for hours or be transferred multiple times, or both. None reported they received satisfactory information.

The Bluegrass ADD has understandably been a focus of this administration, although until last month the apparent emphasis was on the federal workforce money that flows through the ADD.

There is a long history behind that action, going back well before the 2014 examination by the state auditor that revealed a host of serious problems and very lax oversight.

It continued through this year when at state insistence the ADD bid out the workforce services to be performed and - surprise! - chose itself as the best bidder. The state insisted the ADD rebid the contract but the ADD refused to do so.

But, at least in public view, there has been little to signal what’s behind the state’s move on the ADD’s aging and independent living programs.

The administration keeps making noise about the ADD’s management and fiscal integrity regarding these programs but has not offered any facts to support its case.

Certainly Bevin was elected to be a disruptive force in state government. It’s an appealing pitch in a state so mired in corruption and poverty. Certainly, voters think, anything’s got to be better.

But until the Bevin administration learns how to pick up the pieces and make life better for those whom government has failed, disruption alone will just cause more chaos, and pain.




July 6

The News-Enterprise on justice reform:

A civilized society requires laws and enforcement, including due process, that brings about charges requiring some degree of punishment.

Determining the appropriate measure on the scale between judgment and vindictiveness often changes.

The law of retaliation - an eye for an eye - long ago moved from physically harming the assailant to being seen instead as a monetary makegood. Compensating the victim for damages, pain and suffering, medical expenses or incapacitation seems more responsible than mortally wounding the attacker.

Capital punishment is oft-debated but still on the books, yet seldom carried out. America has turned aside from the hangman’s noose and, in general, discarded the electric chair for medical injections to induce this court-ordered execution.

At a lower level, drug court and home incarceration have been introduced as techniques for finding cures for poor choices and bad behavior that aren’t being solved in dark jail cells.

The depiction of the blindfolded Lady Justice holding her ever-balanced scales is an ideal built upon the laws of the land plus the resolve of the people to see them executed fairly. In reality, the effort frequently must be balanced anew through re-evaluating and improving standards of justice.

Gov. Matt Bevin recently appointed a 23-member task force charged with looking at the effectiveness of Kentucky’s practices. The Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council has a significant task and a tight timetable. The goal is to have recommendations ready for the next legislative session in January.

Criminal justice reform is getting a serious look across the country. Organizations as diverse as the ACLU, FreedomWorks, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, Right on Crime and the NAACP have joined this effort.

Working with conservatives, liberals, progressives and everyone in between is an Elizabethtown woman who serves as executive director of the U.S. Justice Action Network. In that role, Holly Harris correctly defines this pendulum shift as a move away from mandatory minimum sentencing introduced more than two decades ago during Bill Clinton’s administration.

Building more prisons and jails to meet the demand has brought the nation significantly more expense and few improved results.

America is not safer today. If anything, more jail time has given us better criminals instead of reformed citizens.

Sentencing reform is about ensuring the right people are behind bars for the right amount of time. Prison should protect society from people it fears and not simply those we are mad at.

The answers will raise questions of their own. Expect any proposals from the governor’s task force to be challenged. That’s as it should be when considering major legislative matters. The logic of reform-focused incarceration is not easy to swallow in a law-and-order, just-the-facts culture. But this matter deserves a fair hearing.

What we have is not working. It is time to ride the pendulum in another direction and hope to find appropriate and affordable answers.




July 5

Kentucky New Era on a lawsuit involving Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget vetoes:

A lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget vetoes has taken a curious detour following allegations of a dirty political trick by the House’s Democratic leadership.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who filed the lawsuit, wants Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd to overturn Bevin’s vetoes based on the fact that Bevin’s office filed copies of his veto paperwork rather than the originals to the Secretary of State’s office. No one has argued that the copies aren’t actually copies of the documents - only that the governor should have filed the originals with the secretary.

But an attorney for the governor said during a hearing Wednesday that Bevin’s office couldn’t file the originals. They were locked up in House Clerk Jean Burgin’s office.

“Officials in Bevin’s office say Burgin promised them she would file the vetoes with the Secretary of State,” The Associated Press reported. “But when she did not, they found Burgin had left for the day and locked the vetoes in her office.”

It was April 27, the last day the governor could legally file vetoes. Stumbo says he told the clerk she could lock the office at 4:30 p.m. because she had to leave for an appointment.

When Bevin’s staff learned that the Senate clerk had filed his vetoes but the House clerk had not, they apparently hustled over to the Secretary of State’s office with copies of the locked-up House vetoes.

“It’s the speaker’s unclean hands here in instructing the House clerk not to fulfill her commitment to take the veto messages to the Secretary of State,” said Bevin’s attorney, M. Stephen Pitt.

The judge has said the clerk’s testimony about her locked office might have no bearing on the eventual ruling about the vetoes.

Still, if Stumbo or others in the House leadership instructed the clerk to lock her door and leave so the governor’s veto paperwork wouldn’t be sent to the secretary’s office in time, we’ve seen a new low in Frankfort shenanigans.

We elect adults and send them to Frankfort to handle our state’s budget and adopt laws. Childish antics in the General Assembly are an insult to Kentuckians. Even in the hardest fought political battles over spending and policies, both sides have to respect rules of procedure and basic decency. Our state lawmakers must reject tactics that threaten our trust in the legislative process.



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