- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


June 28

Lexington Herald-Leader on abortion-related legislation:

From now on lawmakers in Kentucky and other states will have to base abortion laws on scientific fact and medical necessity, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down restrictions that closed more than half of the abortion providers in Texas.

The 5-3 decision exposed the favorite anti-choice pretense - “we’re only trying to protect women’s safety” - for the sanctimonious sham that it is.

The Texas law, like legislation approved this year by the Kentucky Senate, served no medical purpose and, in fact, increased risk by delaying abortions, overcrowding the remaining clinics and increasing the pressure on women to self-induce abortions, the high court found.

In a transparent move that other states rushed to copy, Texas had required abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, a big expense and an impossibility for some facilities. Texas also required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 50 miles, which some hospitals had denied. All of this was ostensibly to protect women from medical complications of abortion.

That pretense was dashed by reams of evidence that abortion is as safe as other procedures routinely performed in outpatient settings. Complications arise in fewer than 4 percent of first trimester abortions and most are easily treatable. According to undisputed evidence in the case, the overall complication rate for abortion is much lower than for tonsillectomy, which is around 9 percent, and about the same as or slightly less than a colonoscopy. Major complications occur in fewer than half of 1 percent of abortions, and the abortion mortality rate is roughly the same as in-office dental surgery. A person is 14 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to die from having an abortion.

“Given those realities,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her concurrence, “it is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 (the Texas law) could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

Also, Ginsburg wrote: “When a state severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faux de mieux (for lack of any other alternative), at great risk to their health and safety.”

The Supreme Court ruled 43 years ago that the Constitution guarantees women the right to choose to end a pregnancy. In 1992, the court ruled that states may not place an undue burden on women seeking to exercise that right.

The Texas legislature obviously was out to make it as hard as possible for Texas women to exercise their constitutional right - with scant if any medical benefits to justify that burden or the additional risks it imposed.

Making it as hard as possible for Kentucky women to exercise their right is behind Gov. Matt Bevin’s actions shutting down two of Kentucky’s three abortion providers, while offering zero evidence of harm to any patient at any of the clinics.

Likewise for Kentucky’s Republican lawmakers, and many Democrats as well, who are eager to enact unconstitutional restrictions like the one the Supreme Court just struck down.

Given that future laws must reflect an understanding of their medical implications, the Senate may have to start vetting its unconstitutional abortion bills through the Health and Welfare Committee rather than its usual standby on gynecological matters, the all-male Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection chaired by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London.

And anti-abortion politicians should stop saying they’re just trying to protect women.




June 28

The Daily Independent on switching from coal to natural gas power:

For more than a half century, the Big Sandy Power Plant provided dependable, good-paying jobs to generations of coal miner and coal truck drivers. Those days ended on May 30, when the remaining generator at the plant near Louisa switched from being powered by coal to natural gas.

While the conversion of Big Sandy Unit has been a certainty for many months, having a power plant in the heart of coal country abandon coal marks the end of an era. It also brings the power plant in compliance within the current guidelines of the federal Clean Air Act.

The switch of the smaller of the two generators at Big Sandy comes two years after Kentucky Power shut down the largest generator, when KPC purchased half interest in a coal-powered plant in Mitchell, W.Va., to make up for the lost generating power of the plant near Louisa. Unlike the Big Sandy Plant, the Mitchell plant already was in compliance with current EPA anti-pollution regulations.

While the changes were forced by the EPA, Kentucky Power officials have tried to put a positive spin on the situation.

“This is a significant accomplishment,” Kentucky Power President and COO Greg Pauley said as Big Sandy became completely operated by natural gas after being coal-powered since its opening in 1963. “Our employees have done a fantastic job over the years and will continue to provide eastern Kentucky with safe, reliable and affordable electricity, generated now from natural gas at Big Sandy, as well as from coal at our Mitchell plant in West Virginia.”

How the conversion has unfolded is documented in a video.

“Our goal here in doing this is to make a reliable grid to power our neighbors’ homes,” Ricky Brown, an 8-year employee, said. “With the plant still here in Lawrence County, it provides jobs, it provides a tax base. It’s a big help for the community.”

Big Sandy and its employees have been a part of the community for more than 50 years, and will continue to be active supporters, Big Sandy Plant manager Aaron Sink said. “We will always cherish the memories and what Big Sandy has meant and will continue to mean to the area. We have provided low-cost electricity to the region and, with this conversion, will continue to do so well into the future.”

There is no question natural gas is a much cleaner fuel than coal, and air quality in Lawrence County is likely to improve significantly as a result of the conversion just as air quality in Ashland has improved since the closing of the AK Steel Coke Plant, another decision forced by tougher federal environmental regulations.

While we dislike the impact the changes at Big Sandy have had on the local economy, Kentucky Power made the right decision for both its customers and its investors.

Pauley said the land Kentucky Power owns near the Big Sandy plant has tremendous potential for future economic development.

“The flat land at Big Sandy is located between a four-lane highway and the Big Sandy River,” Pauley said. “It has not only highway and river access, but also rail. It has the potential to be an ideal industrial park site and we look forward to pursuing that possibility for the region.”

Whether future developments at Big Sandy will offset the job losses caused by switching from coal to natural gas is unlikely to be known for many years, but the potential holds out a ray of hope for future economic growth in Lawrence County. It is going to take the concerted efforts of many local leaders to realize that potential.




June 29

Bowling Green Daily News on Attorney General Andy Beshear’s involvement in the University of Louisville case:

Attorneys are taught in law school that when a case comes before them that presents a conflict of interest, it is their duty and obligation to step aside and let another attorney handle the proceeding. This guarantees that fair representation is given to the clients and that there is no clear favoritism.

There could not be another case pending in our state that more clearly involves a total conflict of interest than Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear’s legal action against Gov. Matt Bevin over Bevin’s abolishing of the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees. Beshear, who for the first six months of his term has repeatedly taken the Bevin administration to court, is arguing that Bevin can’t do this without the approval of the legislature.

While there are gray areas in the laws pertaining to this, we do know that Kentucky Revised Statute 12.028 specifically permits the governor to “create, alter, or abolish” executive branch boards and commissions.

Unfortunately, people who criticize Bevin fail to mention that for decades, previous Democratic and Republican governors used this statute to abolish and re-create various boards and commissions - 357 times in the past 25 years, including 103 times during the eight-year administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear, who is Andy Beshear’s father. This pattern and precedent could undermine Andy Beshear’s lawsuit against Bevin.

It’s also worth mentioning an opinion from former Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in September that says the governor does have the authority to reorganize the Board of Trustees at UofL.

Beyond the fact that this statute exists and would on the surface show that Bevin does have legal authority, it is well known that members of this now-dissolved board were contributors to the campaigns of both Beshears. This is an obvious conflict of interest.

The former members of the board who Andy Beshear are representing are financial supporters of his political career. As attorney general, how could he not see this as a conflict of interest?

This isn’t Andy Beshear’s first run-in with a conflict of interest since becoming attorney general.

Several months ago, Andy Beshear announced he would prosecute his former Deputy Attorney General Tim Longmeyer, who also worked in Steve Beshear’s cabinet. Longmeyer was charged in a stunning bribery complaint filed by the U.S. attorney in Lexington.

Only after public pressure from media outlets and others citing a clear conflict of interest did Andy Beshear announce be would appoint a special prosecutor to the case.

Longmeyer has since pleaded guilty to the charges.

Andy Beshear was right to recuse himself in that case, although it took media pressure for him to do so. The UofL Board of Trustees case is somewhat similar, since Longmeyer and the trustees are and were financial supporters of the Beshears.

There is an obvious conflict of interest in this case, which is why we call on Andy Beshear to rescue himself and appoint a special prosecutor.



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