- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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Nov. 28

Lexington Herald-Leader on the prison system’s employment of a supervisor despite a $1.6 million judgment and extensive testimony:

Gov. Matt Bevin’s vociferous condemnation of sexual harassment apparently excludes some state employees. The prison system still employs a supervisor despite a $1.6 million judgment and extensive testimony that he was allowed to sexually prey on female co-workers for several years.

The state, which botched the investigations of the women’s complaints and then attempted to discredit their claims in court, is now appealing the decision by a Carter County jury to award four victims a total of $1.6 million.

The jury heard testimony from the four women and corroborating witnesses about how Sgt. Stephen Harper attempted to rape a female guard, masturbated in front of one of them, touched co-workers’ breasts and buttocks, exposed himself to them, rubbed against them and tried to force them to touch him.

Harper did not testify at the civil trial in March. He had already entered into a confidential settlement with the women, which Bevin has said should require his resignation. “Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately,” the governor said during a rare Saturday news conference on Nov. 4, as he demanded the resignations of four lawmakers who settled sexual harassment claims.

While voters can force legislators out of office, Bevin and his administration have the power to terminate state employees, which raises an obvious question:

? Why is Harper still on the Little Sandy Correctional Complex payroll? The women’s lawyers heard he may even have been promoted.

? Also, what steps has the Kentucky Department of Corrections taken to prevent another such travesty? Why did the complaints, filed separately and at different times, never receive proper consideration at the prison or up the chain in Frankfort?

At the trial, the prison official who handled the complaints said she was never trained in how to respond to workplace sexual harassment. Plus, she worked with Harper’s wife, an administrator at the prison. His father also works there. After one of the complaints, Harper was assigned to central control, requiring the women to interact with him daily.

Details of the lawmakers’ settlement are still secret. We do know their settlement did not come at taxpayers’ expense, unlike at Little Sandy where taxpayers are footing the bill for the abuse and mismanagement. Circuit Judge Rebecca K. Phillips ordered the Department of Corrections to pay the victims’ lawyers $256,769 in fees and costs.

Rep. Jeff Hoover, who resigned as House speaker after Bevin’s denunciation, has said that he engaged in salacious text messaging with a legislative employee.

“Disgusting” and “repulsive” are how Bevin has described the lawmakers’ behavior. Those words certainly describe what women guards at Little Sandy endured.

Only one of the four women who filed suit still works there. The warden, who was a defendant in their lawsuit, has retired.

Bevin also has said, “You either publicly condemn or you publicly condone this type of behavior.”

Under the governor’s logic, the state is publicly condoning the sexual abuse and harassment of women who work in state prisons, which is one of several reasons that Harper should be fired.

Online: http://www.kentucky.com/

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Nov. 24

Daily News of Bowling Green on a program that helps transitioning veterans find employment:

Some people who join the military choose to make a career out of it, while others eventually decide they want to do something else for a living.

And sometimes people do both - they retire after a military career and begin a new occupation as a civilian. And for those who are transitioning out of the military or retiring from it, there are options. Among them is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce program called Hiring Our Heroes.

The program out of Fort Campbell has helped many former soldiers become leaders at industries in Tennessee cities such as Clarksville, Murfreesboro and Portland. Now, those involved with Hiring Our Heroes want to bring the program to veterans in Bowling Green. The program, intended for soldiers who are within six months of transitioning out of the military, could allow local employers to add transitioning veterans to their staffs for 11 weeks at no cost to the company.

Not only is this program a win for the veterans, it’s also a win for employers. Transitioning veterans who participate are still being paid by the military until they retire, so the employer is out nothing. It also allows employers to see if the veterans will be a good fit at their companies. Soon-to-be-retiring veterans will receive on-site training in jobs they will be potentially hold after their retirement from the military. The goal is for them to receive a job offer, and while that won’t always happen, it is certainly worth a shot.

This sounds like a good program that has a real chance to help veterans through the process of transitioning from the military into the business world. We should always do all we can to take care of our veterans, and this program does exactly that.

Online: http://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Nov. 29

The Independent on smoking bans having the desired effect:

Strong restrictions on public smoking enacted in the first decade of this century in communities across Kentucky, including Ashland, have been linked in a new University of Kentucky study to a decline in lung cancer rates in those communities.

While a decline in cancer rates was predicted by advocates of the smoking bans because of the reduction of contact with second-hand smoke, the new study by anti-smoking advocate Ellen Hahn of the UK College of Nursing is the first to show that lung cancer rates go down when smoke-free laws protect workers and the general public from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer in the country and one of the highest adult smoking rates.

Lung cancer mortality rates in Kentucky here are 50 percent higher than the national average.

Hahn’s team looked at 20 years of lung cancer data for more than 80,000 Kentuckians over age 50 in communities with strong, moderate and weak smoke-free laws. Strong laws cover all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Ashland falls in that category, although the enforcement restrictions against workplace smoking is left more to employers than law enforcement

The lung cancer incidence was eight percent lower in places with strong smoke-free laws compared to those without the laws. There was not a difference between places with moderate and weak laws and those without any bans.

The study was recently published in “Cancer,” a journal of the American Cancer Society.

When the study started in 2014, 33 Kentucky municipalities had one or more smoke-free laws.

Lexington became tobacco-rich Kentucky’s first city to enact a smoking ban in 2003, partly due to Hahn’s advocacy. The ban was challenged in court, but the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that it was government’s duty to protect the public’s health. The Ashland Board of City Commissioners approved its anti-public smoking ordinance soon after Lexington, and the smoking ban has had no impact on city elections. In fact, the smoking restrictions are now an accepted fact of life in the city.

However, no other area county or city has followed Ashland’s lead in approving strong restrictions on public smoking.

Hahn’s work through UK’s BREATHE (Bridging Research Efforts and Advocacy Toward Healthy Environments) has documented other benefits of Lexington’s ban. In 2005, she found a 22 percent decline in asthma-related visits to Fayette County emergency rooms, along with a dramatic reduction in nicotine exposure. Twenty months after the ban, there were 16,500 fewer smokers in Fayette County.

Hahn says she hope her study will encourage more counties and cities to enact smoking restrictions. So do we, but we are not expecting it. For the last four years, the influential Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has listed a statewide ban of most public smoking as one of its top legislative goals, but the Kentucky General Assembly has never come close to enacting such a ban.

As fewer and fewer Kentucky adults smoke, we think the day will come when a state law restricting public smoking will be enacted, but that still is years away. However, it may still be possible for more communities to enact anti-smoking ordinances. That will require an organized effort to pressure public officials to enact such restrictions.

Online: http://www.dailyindependent.com/

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