- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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April 9

The Daily Independent of Ashland on bankruptcy, fines and accountability:

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services is trying to prevent a business man facing a $2.65 million fine for the illegal disposal of radioactive waste from erasing that penalty in bankruptcy court.

Through his company, Advanced TENORM Services LLC, Cory Hoskins imported or arranged for the collection, transport and disposal of 2.4 million pounds of low-level radioactive waste from West Virginia and Ohio. The waste was dumped into Green Valley Landfill in Greenup County and another landfill in Estill County from June 2015 through January 2016.

The cabinet wants a judge to determine that Hoskins’ debt is “nondischargeable,” meaning it can’t be wiped out in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to a complaint filed in U.S Bankruptcy Court.

The cabinet, citing federal law, says an individual debtor should be not discharged from any debt payable to a government unit and is not compensation for “actual pecuniary loss.”

TENORM is an acronym for “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material,” which is a byproduct of pressurized oil drilling or fracking. In November, the state sought more than $8 million in penalties against eight companies involved in the transport or disposal of out-of-state waste in Kentucky.

The cabinet says the $2.65 million civil penalty against Hoskins doesn’t include recovery for future abatement and remedial costs at either landfill. Another cabinet, the Energy and Environment Cabinet, is seeking remediation costs through the landfills that accepted the out-of-state waste.

Hoskins appealed his civil penalty in December. On March 16, Hoskins notified the cabinet of his bankruptcy filing and automatically stayed his administrative appeal. No state hearing has been rescheduled.

The state also sought a separate penalty of $2.65 million against Advanced TENORM Services. The Cabinet doesn’t seek to have that penalty declared “nondischargeable,” attorney Jennifer Wolsing said.

“If you are a corporation and you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and after the bankruptcy is done, the corporation dissolves,” Wolsing said. “So that means there would be no entity to go get that debt after the bankruptcy is over.”

None of the other firms fined by the state has filed for bankruptcy.

“Every other entity has at least engaged in settlement talks with us,” Wolsing said. “The only exception has been Cory Hoskins and Advanced TENORM Services. We reached out to them at least twice to say, ‘Hey, do you want to talk to us about settlement options?’ and not a word. They didn’t want to do it.”

If Advanced TENORM Services ceases to be because of its bankruptcy, there is little chance of any of the cabinet’s fines being paid. That’s why the cabinet wants to hold Hoskins accountable for the fines against his company while it exists. Holding companies and the individuals who own them accountable for their misdeeds is the best way to discourage future misdeeds and to pay for the costs incurred by those misdeeds. Bankruptcy should not be a way to escape that accountability.

Online:

https://www.dailyindependent.com

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April 9

The Bowling Green Daily News on Real ID standards:

Meeting federal Real ID standards is important for all Kentuckians.

Kentucky lawmakers voted this session to comply with Real ID standards for Kentucky’s driver’s licenses. Had they not acted, Kentuckians would have needed to apply for costly passports to use for air travel and official identification for access to certain federally owned properties.

Elizabethtown Republican Jim DuPlessis sponsored the legislation Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law March 21. Before the new law, Kentucky residents would not have been able to use their driver’s licenses as official identification to board airplanes and visit federal courthouses, Social Security offices or military bases. The new law will allow Kentuckians to receive an optional voluntary travel identification operator’s license good for eight years for $48 or get the standard operator’s license for $43, also good for eight years.

This was much-needed legislation and gives Kentucky residents the option to choose which form of identification they prefer.

A driver who opts for the travel identification operator’s license must provide his or her birth certificate to the circuit court clerk to have the certificate scanned. If the applicant wants only a standard driver’s license, the birth certificate does not have to be scanned.

The state won’t start issuing the new licenses until 2019. Kentuckians are expected to be able to use their current licenses for all travel and access to federal office buildings and military installations until they have the opportunity to get the new licenses in 2019.

Currently, Kentucky’s driver’s license process is not considered secure enough, Warren Circuit Court Clerk Brandi Duvall said.

“Kentucky is the only state in the country where you obtain your driver’s license through the court clerk,” Duvall said. “We have 120 court clerks. But there are around 144 issuing offices because some clerks have satellite offices.

“You have hundreds of different people issuing every day,” she said. “It just wasn’t a secure process.”

Due to Real ID standards, the state will establish a central printing location to print licenses. Right now, the logistics are in the planning stages. Duvall said it take some time to work out all of the details.

The legislature and Bevin made the right call for Kentucky.

Online:

https://www.bgdailynews.com

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April 12

The Lexington Herald-Leader on statewide smoke-free legislation:

Give House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell credit for honesty, if not integrity. He shrugs off smoking’s intolerable toll on Kentucky because, as he told the Associated Press’ Adam Beam, tobacco “has bought and paid for everything (in) my life. My house, my education.”

Shell, 29, part of a Garrard County farm family, is following in the steps of Kentucky politicians before him who defended the tobacco industry on economic grounds, while it killed their constituents at the nation’s highest rate from cancer and one of the highest rates from heart disease.

Shell and other House leaders blocked a bill that would have made the grounds of Kentucky’s public school smoke-free.

After clearing the Senate 25-8, smoke-free schools got not so much as a hearing in the House.

But Shell’s devotion to toxic air is putting him and the House at odds with Kentuckians. Support for a statewide smoke-free law has risen to 71 percent, up from 54 percent when the question was first asked in 2011, according to a recent poll. Opposition was down from 43 percent in 2011 to just 25 percent today.

Kentuckians - even 41 percent of smokers - favor prohibiting smoking in most public places, including workplaces, restaurants and bars. Democrats are more likely to favor such a law (76 percent) but 68 percent of Republicans voiced support when questioned by phone for the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, a random sample of 1,580 adults, sponsored by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. In every region, a smoke-free law garnered at least two-thirds support.

Bottom line: There is no political risk. The legislature could enact protections from the dangers of breathing secondhand smoke and voters would cheer.

A smoke-free law would be pro-business and has long had the support of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce which says such laws lower health care costs “without negatively affecting business.” The Chamber pegs Kentucky’s annual smoking-attributable health spending at more than $1.5 billion and economic productivity loss at $2.3 billion. Kentucky’s excessive smoking - usually the nation’s highest rate - is an undeniable drag on economic development.

Kentucky has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into agriculture over the past 20 years to help farmers transition from tobacco.

House Republicans increased the punishments for criminals who sell deadly drugs. But what’s legal also can be lethal. Tobacco use kills more than 8,000 Kentuckians a year, almost eight times as many as die from drug overdoses. That does not count deaths from exposure to someone else’s smoking.

Why, when the losses are so huge, do lawmakers still bow to tobacco?

Altria (the company formerly known as Philip Morris) has spent $573,000 since 2013 to lobby the legislature. It’s always one of the top spenders on lobbying our lawmakers.

In 2015, the House, under Democratic control, narrowly approved a smoke-free law, only to have it die in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Since Republicans took both chambers last year, there’s been much talk of a new day under the new majority. But there’s nothing new about Kentucky lawmakers who won’t see the light through the smoke.

Online:

https://www.kentucky.com

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