- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Jan. 6

The Courier-Journal on the University of Louisville board bill:

The Kentucky General Assembly needs to slow down on its plans to restructure the University of Louisville’s board of trustees.

If the legislature doesn’t do this right, it could cost the university millions of dollars in scholarship money, funding that pays for important research and all of its athletic programs.

The Senate fast-tracked Senate Bill 12 on Jan. 5, sticking the language to ditch the old board onto a bill that dealt with pet ownership. It then handed the bill off to the House, which is also rushing the measure and could pass the bill Saturday morning.

There’s a long history of problems with the board that cross party lines, and in June Gov. Matt Bevin fired the old board and appointed a 10-member panel to oversee the school. A court ruled that the move violated the law and returned the old board to power.

SB 12 would simply grant Bevin power to do what he did in June - while also giving the Senate the authority to reject his board nominations.

The Republican majority is flexing its muscle and enacting numerous bills before it adjourns for the rest of the month. Among those bills is legislation intended to limit access to abortions and weaken labor unions. But those bills have been hanging around the legislature for years and all sides have had plenty of time to weigh in.

But this - this is different. It’s new.

And it’s complex.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the accrediting body, is expected to report to U of L next week on what it must do to get off probation. One edict is likely to be that legally appointed trustees must have due process rights - something SB 12 doesn’t afford them.

If the legislation goes forward and SACS strips the school of its accreditation, U of L degrees would become worthless, students could be forced to drop out, labs could be idled and the wildly successful Cardinals sports teams would be sidelined from NCAA competition.

Bevin and Republicans will ultimately get their way. They control both the House and Senate. They should take their time and do it right.

The reputation of a university and its 23,000 students depend on it.

Online: https://www.courier-journal.com/

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Jan. 8

The Bowling Green Daily News on record expungement:

Just because someone has been incarcerated for a low-level crime doesn’t mean he or she is a bad person.

A lot of people who have been convicted of non-violent and low-level felonies deserve a second shot at being a productive member of society.

In years past, people who have been convicted of these crimes had a stigma attached to them, resulting in low self-esteem and crippling their ability to find good jobs.

That’s really unfortunate, because even after they’ve paid the price by serving time for their crimes and been released from jail or prison, they were still technically being punished by not being able to get the jobs they were seeking.

Thankfully, a new law, HB 40, went into effect July 15, that allows these types of offenders to have their records expunged.

The law really seems to be paying off in not only getting offenders’ records expunged but in helping those who are trying to turn things around and get a job to support them and their families.

The number of requests to expunge criminal records in the state from July 15 to Dec. 28, 2015, nearly doubled during the same time frame this year. From July 15 through Dec. 27, the Administrative Office of the Courts received requests for 6,127 criminal record reports for expungement. That’s compared to 3,265 requests for the same period a year ago. Those requests include ones for misdemeanor expungements as well as felony expungements.

This is really amazing and is a further example of how many low-level offenders really want to get back into the workforce and make a difference in their lives.

The expungement law was a much needed one from some employers who were facing workforce shortage issues.

Currently, there are more than 55,000 open jobs within a 50-mile radius of Bowling Green.

Many of these jobs now have the potential to be filled because of this expungement law.

This expungement law really does offer people a second chance at life. There is an old saying that two wrongs don’t make a right. The old way of doing things applied to the law prior to HB 40, but the new law corrects a wrong by allowing those who have committed low-level crimes a second shot at not only life, but a career that could last them a lifetime.

There’s a lot to be said for that.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Jan. 10

The Lexington Herald-Leader on why Kentucky Republicans should beware of overreaching:

Two moments capture the 2017 General Assembly so far:

? Working Kentuckians were shut out of the first hearing on two anti-union bills because the committee room had been reserved for a breakfast by Americans For Prosperity, the Tea Party-embracing organization founded by the Koch brothers. All the seats were taken before the union members arrived.

Political metaphors don’t get much better than that.

Republican candidates received generous support from AFP, which keeps its donors’ identities secret, and also from right-wing, out-of-state interests, including supply-side economist and consultant Arthur Laffer. Laffer and five of his associates invested at least $228,500 in the effort that ended 95 years of Democratic control of the Kentucky House.

AFP, which is out to diminish the power of labor unions in business and politics, helped set the table for this session, in which Republicans control Kentucky’s legislature and governorship.

Enacting anti-union legislation was a priority for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and the legislature, which held a rare Saturday session to deliver.

Supporters of the new right-to-work law, including the state Chamber of Commerce, say many companies rule out states that lack right-to-work laws, which weaken unions by enabling workers to receive union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying union dues. They say Kentucky will be rewarded with more jobs.

Kentucky is already a low-wage state. If the goal is prosperity for more than a few, we need not just more jobs but more jobs that pay enough for Kentuckians to buy a home and car and feed their kids without food stamps.

? In another telling moment, the real-life anguish of a Lexington couple could not penetrate the self-righteousness of lawmakers grounded in anti-abortion dogma, doctored videos and fear of being targeted by Right to Life.

A House committee heard Heather Hyden explain the agonizing decisions that she and James Earley face because the baby they very much want has a worsening and possibly fatal medical condition. They won’t know for sure until she is almost 20 weeks into her pregnancy. After hearing her heartbreaking and lucid account of why she might need an abortion after 20 weeks to avoid a stillbirth, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, testified in gory, uninformed detail in favor of banning abortions after 20 weeks.

Hyden, sitting behind Smith, began to cry, and said, “please, Brandon, please.”

The 1 percent of abortions after 20 weeks are almost always under circumstances in which government has no place interfering, and the new law has no exceptions for rape, incest or mental illness.

Although Attorney General Andy Beshear says the 20-week ban is clearly unconstitutional based on federal court rulings in other states, it and another bill restricting abortion in Kentucky became law by even wider margins than the anti-union bills.

Bevin and the newly empowered Republicans wanted Kentuckians to see them taking action - and they succeeded in the first five legislative days, even if the 2017 General Assembly has resembled a speeding freight train more than a deliberative process.

If they hope to avoid a wreck, they will take time when they return in February to really hear the Kentuckians who will be most directly affected by their decisions.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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