Editorial Roundup: Kentucky

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Jan. 12

Bowling Green Daily News on a bill that could hurt local newspapers:

Newspapers are businesses just like any other.

Many of us who work at newspapers have families and children. We all pay city, state and federal taxes just like other businesses, we have bills to pay and we all want to continue putting a newspaper out not only because it’s our passion, but more importantly, because we believe that every community should have a newspaper. Newspapers provide valuable information to the public and newspapers also serve as watchdogs for their communities.

Newspapers have been around for hundreds of years and we believe they will continue to be around for a long time to come.

Sometimes, elected officials don’t like what was written about them in the newspaper, although the majority of the time what was written was correct. So, in return, they try to use their power to retaliate against newspapers by going after their revenue.

We’ve seen it the last several years when mainly Republican lawmakers in Frankfort have repeatedly introduced legislation to keep city and county legal notices out of newspapers and instead put them online. We’ve also seen certain elected officials introduce legislation that would take school notices out of newspapers and put them online only.

In reality, this has little to do with helping out school districts in the state, many of whom have very large operating budgets, but more about revenge against businesses these politicians see as their enemy. What is very odd about this, amongst other things, is that there are quite a few conservative weekly newspapers and daily newspapers in the state that have supported and continue to support much of these Republicans’ political agendas.

Recently, we learned that state Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Eastwood, introduced House Bill 195, which would allow local government entities to opt out of publishing public notice advertising in newspapers and allow them to be strictly printed online.

Miller is chair of the House State and Local Government Committee, so he can ensure his bill is sent to his own committee and be able to control its future. With Miller controlling this committee, it is highly likely that it will get out of committee and go to the House for a full vote.

It’s no coincidence that Miller filed this bill as it is widely known he is not a friend of newspapers, judging from comments he made a month or so ago in an interim committee hearing.

Miller would be wise to consider several things before he really pushes this legislation. One would be that a lot of people in our state don’t have internet access – information provided Jan. 10 by the Kentucky Press Association cites a recent study indicating more than 18 percent of Kentuckians lack broadband access — so how are they going to view these notices if they’re not published in the newspaper? What about hacking? If these public notice sites get hacked, these notices wouldn’t be available to the public for some time until the hack is fixed. Also, has Miller really given any real thought about the harm he could do to a lot of smaller newspapers in the state if this bill were to become law? His selfish actions could cause some of these newspapers to cut staff and perhaps endanger some whose margins are close to break-even.

Beyond that, newspapers function as a single source for residents to view public notices. But should Miller’s bill become law, “a resident would have to go to the website of each and every public agency to find out what’s going on in the county,” according to the KPA. Think about the number of school districts, public utilities, government departments and elected boards in a given community, and then imagine having to visit individual websites for each one in order to see all the public notices. It’s a convoluted mess that does not serve the public interest.

This would be a real shame, because not only would some people lose jobs and income, the affected communities would not be well-served by a newspaper less able to perform the important role our Founders envisioned.

We can ill afford to let this happen.

Miller’s bill is a very misguided one that could do great harm. The newspaper industry is somewhat like a fraternity, with a common bond among members who look out for one another. Miller needs to know that the newspaper industry in this state will not take his bill lying down. We will fight him with every ounce of our strength to see that his bill does not become law. We urge all legislators to adamantly oppose this horrible bill and ensure it does not become law.

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

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Jan. 10

The Richmond Register on the state's priorities heading into the 2020 legislative session:

It's always interesting to see what the top priorities in each Kentucky legislative chamber will be. Those priorities are typically given Bill 1, Bill 2, etc., in their respective chamber.

In 2019, the State Senate's top bill was the School Safety and Resiliency Act, which quickly passed both chambers.

In 2018, Senate Bill 1 was a pension reform bill, and in 2017, SB1 was education reform that would establish new learning standards and evaluation procedures for schools and teachers.

As one can see, many of these bills were crafted from pressing needs.

Yet this year, we question if Senate Bill 1 -- banning so-called sanctuary cities -- and Senate Bill 2 -- requiring photo ID to vote -- are the most pressing issues in Kentucky.

The state is once again facing a budget shortfall, potentially $1 billion over the two-year budget that new Governor Andy Beshear will present later this month. The state also continues to have one of the worst pension systems in the nation -- although it was fully funded in recent years, which has helped -- that has caused quasi-government agencies, regional universities and others to take hits to their perspective budgets as their required contributions have risen sharply.

State Senate President Robert Stivers responded to criticism of the bills recently.

"I saw some statements that these were political statements," he said. "It has nothing to do with political statements. These are things we truly believe are policy issues that need to be dealt with."

However, Kentucky has no sanctuary cities at this time.

Senate Bill 2 has received support from new Secretary of State Michael Adams, who campaigned on the promise of requiring a photo ID to vote. However, University of Kentucky law professor Josh Douglas said, while Adams campaigned on the law, and to the victor go the spoils, there is no need for the law since there is "zero evidence" of in-person voter fraud in Kentucky.

Douglas, who was part of Adams' transition team, said Adams has been open minded to the concerns.

This week, Stivers said the bills have some bipartisan support, but overwhelming support from most Kentuckians.

"If you want to look at polling data, you'll see the overwhelming majority of Kentuckians believe in both Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2," he said.

We don't doubt there is support for these bills. We also don't doubt they'll pass and become law. We just question if these should be the Senate's top priorities.

From medical marijuana and expanded sports betting to the pension system and finding more revenue, we're sure there are bigger needs and issues than banning sanctuary cities and requiring photo ID to vote.

Online: https://www.richmondregister.com/

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Jan. 8

The Daily Independent on local counties' Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions:

Fiscal court meetings have never been so popular.

In northeastern Kentucky, Lewis, Carter and, most recently, Boyd counties have passed resolutions to become Second Amendment sanctuaries.

The people are making their voices heard loud and clear. They are standing up for their Second Amendment rights.

The movement has picked up serious steam, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Just last week, only 14 counties had adopted the resolution. According to Kentucky United, efforts to pass similar resolutions are under way in 50-plus counties.

While the language of each resolution differs, they virtually all declare unyielding support for the Second Amendment. This will create a situation in which each county’s local law enforcement will have the control to refuse or enforce any state or federal gun control legislation.

Citizens have shown overwhelming support for this movement. Is there a chance Kentucky could become like Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Wyoming? Those four states are completely full of sanctuary counties, essentially, as a result of state laws approved during the Barack Obama presidency.

Perhaps not all 120 counties will hop on board.

Even if you disagree with the movement, here’s one common thing visible across every county that has adopted this resolution, at least at these meetings: Unity.

Concerned citizens have banded together and attended fiscal court meetings in droves.

So, if nothing else, this movement has brought communities together.

Online: https://www.dailyindependent.com/