- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


June 15

Daily News on the South Central Workforce Development Board :

We support an effort by the South Central Workforce Development Board to retain federal funds that the region has received but not used prior to June 30.

Officials say $390,899.80 was not programmed and obligated by the Barren River Area Development District for the current fiscal year. There is a danger of losing that money.

Workforce board Chairman Ron Sowell recently said he will contact state Workforce Commissioner Beth Kuhn to see if the state can do something so the local region does not lose access to the federal money. Sowell admits it is long shot. Local officials have said they don’t want to give back more than a quarter of a million dollars. Sowell said recently he’s not sure if the state government has the power to keep the money in the region, but it makes sense to try to see who does have the authority.

It was previously mentioned in this paper that about a quarter of a million dollars in workforce services money once was returned by BRADD to the state of Kentucky, and maybe even the federal government, because it wasn’t used within a specific fiscal year.

That’s a travesty.

It is hard enough for southcentral Kentucky to obtain its fair share of tax dollars from the state of Kentucky or the federal government in a climate of limited government spending pursued in both the U.S. House and Senate in Washington and Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration and the lawmakers in Frankfort. So when some money lands here, any money quite frankly, we need to hang onto it with both hands, quickly find a viable program in which to use it, then get that money working for the people of the region.

For BRADD to turn back the money once again points out the flaw in its business plan: BRADD thinks the money is theirs, not money owned by the taxpayers of the region. From payment of bonuses to employees to inefficient utilization of workforce funds - as demonstrated by countless state reports reviewed by this paper - it is quite clear BRADD just doesn’t get it.

Not to worry. With the new workforce board in place, the city of Bowling Green acting as that board’s fiscal agent for the federal funds and an upcoming audit as the fiscal agent responsibility shifts from BRADD to the city, the workforce issue is slowly being resolved. Let’s get that money, Mr. Sowell, and find people in southcentral Kentucky the training and the stable, well-paying jobs that they deserve.




June 14

The Lexington Herald-Leader on Gov. Matt Bevin:

There is something almost trivial about Gov. Matt Bevin issuing two executive orders to undo an earlier executive order - as if being chief executive of a state is like running a test kitchen trying to perfect recipes.

But what’s really troubling about his convoluted machinations over the panel appointed to nominate people to serve as judges in workers’ compensation cases is an apparent confusion - or lack of concern - about separation of powers among the government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches.

In this case, Bevin rewrote legislation by executive order - taking on legislative duties - then decided a judge was simply wrong (“would no doubt be reversed on appeal”) in a decision temporarily blocking his changes.

So, Bevin has asserted his executive power to legislate and blithely concluded how an appeals court would look upon the lower-court decision.

Most historians and political scientists agree the genius of our form of government is that distinct powers are reserved for each of the three branches, creating a system of checks and balances. This was very important to the Founders who lived in a world where many monarchs held almost absolute power.

Bevin’s disregard for the fundamental limits imposed on his power also came into focus in the intimidation tactics his administration used in an attempt to impose control over the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees at a May meeting. The attorney general decision this week ruled that the governor’s delegates violated Kentucky Open Meetings law by threatening to arrest one board member and to initiate an investigation of another, if they did not comply with the administration’s wishes.

Here again, Bevin had employed an executive order to remove the chair, appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear, before his term was up and replace him with his own appointee.

Attorney General Andy Beshear - the former governor’s son elected attorney general last fall when Bevin was elected governor - issued an opinion saying Bevin did not have the authority to remove an appointee mid-term and that the person he wanted to appoint did not meet the legal standards for the position.

Granted, this is a politically charged environment but, rather than appeal the decision through the courts, Bevin sent state police officers, his chief of staff, the secretary of the personnel cabinet (who is a member of the KRS board by law) and that cabinet’s legal services executive director to the meeting to enforce his appointment.

With at least three state troopers on hand, the Bevin representatives told the chair that if he attempted to participate in the meeting he would be arrested and imprisoned for disrupting a public meeting.

In testimony cited in the AG’s decision this week, they also told another board member contemplating running for the chairmanship in opposition to Bevin’s appointee that if he were elected chair he would be investigated and documents damaging to him would be released.

Voters chose Bevin last fall, but he was only elected governor. There was no vote to abolish the legislature or dismantle the courts to give him absolute power.

That’s something this governor and his advisers should keep in mind.




June 13

The Kentucky New Era on a healthy Kentucky:

Two news stories last week about Kentucky health statistics were technically unrelated but both point to the importance of community-based solutions to improving health.

One story outlined substantial differences in average life expectancy among the state’s 120 counties as reported in a study by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Oldham County has the longest life expectancy at 79 years. Breathitt, Perry and Wolfe have the shortest at 70. Christian and Trigg counties are at the mid-range, 75 years, and Trigg County was slightly better at 76 years.

“Health researchers say life expectancy is driven by a complex web of factors that influence health: opportunities for education and jobs, safe and affordable housing, availability of nutritious food and places for physical activity, and access to health care, child care and social services,” Kentucky Health News reported.

The other story came from the Saving Our Appalachian Region Innovation Summit last week at Pikeville, which an estimated 1,000 people attended. One of the speakers for the SOAR meeting, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited successful approaches to improving health in regions affected by different factors.

“Health is not just about health, it’s about society,” Frieden said, according to Kentucky Health News. “Healthy societies are more productive, and productive societies are more healthy.”

Frieden noted several U.S. communities that have addressed specific health concerns. Somerville, Massachusetts, for example, reduced obesity in children under 6 by 21 percent with an emphasis on healthy food and activity. The approach included an expansion of farmers’ markets selling local produce and the creation of walking paths. Somerville’s mayor set an example by leading walks.

Public health officials consistently rank healthful eating, physical activity and smoking cessation as keys to addressing obesity, heart disease and cancer - all health factors that consistently rank among our state’s most serious issues.

These are not new revelations, but the two stories are important reminders that local policy-makers, including city councils, school boards and fiscal courts, have a role in a community’s efforts to improve health. This work is not limited to health departments and hospitals. Often, the most significant changes come from public agencies that are not directly involved in health care.



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