- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

Sept. 25

The Bowling Green Daily News on Gov. Matt Bevin’s response to questions about his use of state-owned, taxpayer-funded aircraft:

Gov. Matt Bevin has taken a lot of heat recently about his use of state-owned, taxpayer-funded aircraft for business trips.

Late Thursday (Sept. 19), Bevin’s office released a log disclosing the purposes of his official trips on state-owned aircraft. Bevin’s office said the disclosure goes beyond what Kentucky law requires.

The log shows the purposes for more than 140 flights Bevin has taken as governor. The reasons include business recruitment, policy conferences, community forums and meetings with White House officials. The log also included reimbursements for unofficial trips. Bevin’s office said the law does not require that the purpose of unofficial travel be disclosed, but records can be accessed to show the flight destination, cost and name of who reimbursed the state.

Bevin’s critics called the list a stunt and said it failed to document trips taken on state aircraft by the governor for political purposes and other reasons unrelated to his duties as governor.

“Since the start of our administration, we have been 100 percent committed to financial integrity and to ensuring that we are good stewards of taxpayer resources,” Bevin said in a statement.

We believe Bevin did the right thing by handing over these documents, especially since a 1995 state law clearly shows that he doesn’t have to.

His handing over this log was not good enough for his Democratic opponent for governor, Attorney General Andy Beshear, and his buddies at the Kentucky Democratic Party.

“The governor needs to stop hiding the ball and show Kentuckians the respect they deserve,” Kentucky Democratic Party spokeswoman Marisa McNee said in a statement. “This is our plane and we deserve straight-forward answers about where he is flying it and why, including all personal and political travel.”

We believe Bevin gave Kentuckians and the KDP straightforward answers when, once again, he didn’t have to do so.

What is very interesting about the Beshear campaign trying to make an issue out of this is the hypocrisy involved in it.

The Lexington Herald-Leader noted that in 2011, then-Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear’s father, refused to disclose why he took certain trips on the state plane that were reimbursed by the Kentucky Democratic Party. Andy Beshear took trips on the state plane when his father was governor, including a trip to the Final Four, the newspaper reported. Bevin supporters said Friday that Andy Beshear was being hypocritical by attacking Bevin on the matter.

Beshear and the KDP are being very hypocritical when it comes to this matter. It appears it was OK with Andy Beshear and the KDP when his dad didn’t disclose why he took certain trips when he was governor.

Anyone who has watched politics for a long period of time must see through the hypocrisy here. To us, this shows a campaign that is running scared and is throwing all it can at Bevin in a last-ditch attempt to win the governorship in less than 50 days.

Bevin showed clear transparency Thursday when he released this log of flights he’s been on. The same cannot be said of Andy Beshear’s father.

This is the height of hypocrisy, and we believe Andy Beshear - who was elected to his current position in 2015 by a little more than 2,000 votes in large part due to his father’s name - and the KDP know it is.

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


Sept. 22

The News-Enterprise on criticism of Kentucky’s Harm Reduction and Syringe Exchange Program:

In 2015, Senate Bill 192 was signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear establishing the Harm Reduction and Syringe Exchange Program. The legislation came in response to an outbreak of HIV in a small southeastern Indiana community near Louisville, largely caused by needle sharing among intravenous drug users.

Previously banned, Kentucky communities now are allowed to operate syringe service programs based upon locally defined need.

The priority intent of the SSPs is reduction of transmitted infectious diseases such HIV and viral hepatitis by providing intravenous drug addicts free access to sterile syringes while encouraging and facilitating safe disposal of used needles.

Those who come to the centers for free syringes are given access to education on practices to lower their risk of contracting disease and experiencing overdose. Counseling and referral to substance abuse treatment services; disease screenings; and other medical, social and mental health services are offered. They also leave with a sharps disposal container and instruction on how to use it to dispose of used syringes in a safe manner.

An abundance of reputable research supports effectiveness and benefits these programs can provide. However, they still are fraught with controversy and opposition. Such is the case with Lincoln Trail District Health Department’s proposed expansion the program into Hardin County.

Criticism and opposition typically centers on the view these programs do little more than enable addicts to continue, or even increase the frequency of their drug use habit while pumping more contaminated needles into the community on the taxpayers’ dime. Fear of potential increased rates of disease infection and crime near exchange centers also creates resistance.

County Attorney Jenny Oldham shares such concerns.

Oldham voices opposition saying there is no safe way for an addict to use illegal drugs. She points out there is no requirement nor guarantee the needles handed out won’t be shared or dangerously discarded. And she calls attention to the societal and judicial system toll drug abuse is having on Hardin County.

Oldham is right. All these problems are present. But so are the very real public health and safety risks for the community without them.

The most effective way for an addict to avoid the physical, emotional, mental and social health-risk consequences of injected drug use is to break the drug abuse cycle. And the most effective way for a community to erase direct and indirect health risks associated with IV drug abuse is to rid the drugs, pushers and addicts from its streets.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to accomplish either task.

According to the Centers for Decease Control and Prevention, the surging opioid abuse epidemic has resulted in marked increases in IV drug abuse including heroin and fentanyl.

CDC statistics show 775,000 Americans report having injected an illegal drug in the past year. In 2017, 14 percent of high school teens reported illegal abuse of opioids while 1.5 percent reported injecting an illegal drug. This sobering statistics lead to large increases in overdose deaths and tens of thousands of viral hepatitis infections annually. The CDC warns it also threatens progress made in HIV prevention.

Of 220 counties across the U.S. determined by the CDC to have high risk of HIV outbreak related to illicit IV drug abuse, 54 are in Kentucky. And 47 of these 54 counties have syringe programs in place.

Lincoln Trail District Health Department already operates a syringe service in Nelson County. According to its data from July 2017 through July 2019, the branch provided 28,639 clean syringes while taking in 17,489 used ones, a ratio of 1:64.

While a user isn’t required to exchange a dirty syringe for new one, those brought in are properly disposed of by health department employees.

The health department knows how to effectively operate a program and has processes and training in place to do so. Officials in county and city government along with law enforcement and health services should support expansion into Hardin County for the benefit of the public’s health and safety.

While opposition is understandable, it is also an emotionally driven reaction to a very real public health risk reduction opportunity.

Online: http://www.thenewsenterprise.com/


Sept. 19

The State Journal on problems and delays with a pilot program to distribute Real IDs:

Already in the shadow of a looming federal deadline to issue new driver’s licenses that are compliant with a nationwide travel law, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) admitted Wednesday (Sept. 18) that its pilot program to distribute Real IDs solely through circuit court clerk’s offices in Franklin and Woodford counties created more problems than it solved.

Under the Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, states are required to upgrade the security of their driver’s licenses in order for residents to drive, vote and apply for federal benefits. A voluntary travel ID will be necessary to board domestic flights and enter U.S. military bases starting Oct. 1, 2020.

The state’s plan seemed doomed almost from the start. Not only was Kentucky one of the last states to comply with the new law, but the pilot program was originally scheduled to launch in the spring and the rollout was delayed until June 28.

On the first day Real IDs were available about 100 residents applied for the licenses at Franklin Circuit Clerk Amy Feldman’s already busy office and ended up standing in long lines. Officials estimated the new ID process takes on average 2-4 minutes longer than its predecessor. An opening-day system crash only added to the delay.

“The pilot program identified staffing and workload increases in circuit court clerk offices that are not sustainable both in the short and long term,” the KYTC said in statement Wednesday.

The cabinet explained it will work with lawmakers to have a network of regional offices issue the travel IDs, while circuit court clerk’s offices in all 120 counties will continue to distribute traditional driver’s licenses. While KYTC did not elaborate on its regional network plan or where it would secure funding for the project, the cabinet said it is “committed to successful rollout.”

While it’s not easy being the state’s guinea pig, we are thankful that the kinks are being worked out before the program goes statewide. It is our hope that KYTC’s regional network option streamlines the process.

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


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