Community support shines in midst of grief
From The Kentucky Standard
This community showed its true character last week in the wake of Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis’ murder.
In the face of a seemingly senseless act of violence that ended a man’s life too early, Bardstown and Nelson County pulled together — local leaders, his brothers and sisters in blue, and those who had never even met the man.
Hundreds of people turned out in support of the Ellis family on Memorial Day as people stopped by the Bardstown Police Department to leave tributes on a police cruiser. The support stretched into the night, with several hundred people turning out for a solemn candlelight vigil led by the fallen officer’s family.
That support lasted all week, culminating in Thursday’s services, where hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the state and even more community members gathered to pay their last respects to Officer Ellis.
The whole community mourned Ellis’ passing. While his murder shed light on the most evil aspect of our society, it also revealed its finest, personified by the hundreds of citizens who came together and shared in some small part with the family’s and the department’s pain.
Perhaps that grief showed most clearly in public on the face of Police Chief Rick McCubbin, whose anguish was evident at every press conference, every memorial and at the funeral. He is to be commended in his efforts to head the police department during perhaps the most trying time in its history. His heartfelt comments, while criticized by some for his vocalization of his desire to see the murderer dead, were raw and emotional and summed up the feelings of many in this community. Too often, authority figures are reluctant to state publicly what everyone knows they feel privately. Honesty is refreshing, and those who would criticize his statements should put themselves in his shoes before judging.
While his role was more behind the scenes, Bardstown Mayor Bill Sheckles has also provided important leadership in manning the city’s helm through this storm.
Thursday’s ceremony put to an end the mass displays of grief. But the healing has just begun, and it will take a long time. The family, the department and the city will take a long time to recover, even as what could prove a long investigation continues.
This community lent its shoulder to cry upon in this moment of grief. There is no doubt it will also lend those same shoulders to carry those who need it through the days ahead.
Public, not politicians, can thwart sound bites
From the Kentucky New Era
If a U.S. senator and members of an advocacy group
meet in a public library for a panel discussion on immigration
reform, the meeting ought to be open to anyone
who wants to sit and listen. Right?
That would make sense, but that’s not what happened
last week in Lexington when Sen. Rand Paul, a Bowling
Green Republican, spoke at a panel discussion with the
Office of the Immigrant, Solidarity and Information.
News reporters and photographers were turned away. The
discussion was apparently open to anyone else.
Seth Norat, a spokesman for the immigrant group, said
the meeting was made off-limits to the press at the request
of Paul’s office, according to reports in the Lexington
Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal.
The Courier-Journal’s political blog also quoted Norat
saying, “It was a joint decision … so that we could make
sure the conversation went on. Having us in a room without
press might go a little ways toward us having an open
and honest discussion. I think some people were concerned
that might not happen if everybody was just trying
to create sound bites.”
We’ll be the first to agree that sound bites are a problem
in much of today’s news media. Sound bites and orchestrated
shouting among talking heads do little to inform
and educate. Serious people who want to participate in a
healthy democracy ought to be wary of news media that
lean toward this style of reporting.
Thankfully, news consumers have choices. They don’t
have to accept sound-bite reporting.
And it’s interesting that a perfect example of a fully
formed news story actually materialized from the panel
discussion — the one that organizers had deemed too precious
for media coverage.
Valarie Honeycutt, a reporter for the Herald-Leader, put
her name on a sign-in sheet and walked into the meeting.
No one recognized her as a reporter. Good for her and for
When the meeting was over, Honeycutt helped write a
story that included quotes from Paul and reaction from at
least three people who listened to the discussion. It included
context that helped readers see that Paul’s position on
immigration issues could be changing.
Two years ago, the story noted, Paul sponsored a resolution
for a constitutional amendment that would bar automatic
citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.
But at the panel discussion, Paul said, “Some conservatives,
I think frankly have been overly harsh in describing
this as ‘You’re a lawbreaker, you’re a bad person.’And I
think really to imply that someone who wanted to work
for a better wage and took a job is the same as a thief or a
murderer or a rapist is wrong, and I think we have to figure
out how to make the system better so we aren’t calling
people lawbreakers who simply want to get a job.”
The story, by the way, was 850 words.
That’s no sound bite.
Capital Planning Advisory Board looks at 6 year plan
By Rep. Hubert Collins
More than $2.5 billion in proposed capital projects were submitted to the state Capital Planning Advisory Board for review last week. The proposals were submitted by eight state government entities seeking funding for capital projects over the next six-year period.
The Board is tentatively scheduled to complete its review of all state agency capital plans in July. Those plans will then be used to develop a proposed Six-Year Statewide Capital Improvements Plan, as required by state law, and submitted to the heads of the three branches of government by November 1. The Board is scheduled to meet in September to approve the final plan.
The two largest capital plans reviewed last week were submitted by the Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet and the School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC). Combined, two plans combined represent a total of $1.29 million in project requests. The Cabinet’s capital plan contained $717 million in proposed capital projects, and SFCC’s capital plan contained $675 million in proposed projects.
Most of the Cabinet’s funding would go toward maintenance, renovation, replacement, or expansion of facilities and three large non-maintenance projects for the 2014-2016 biennium, according to Cabinet finance official Tim Pollard. Those non-maintenance projects include a $180 million renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, $35 million for expansion of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, and demolition and replacement of old Cardinal Stadium with a 70,000 square foot warehouse at a cost of $15 million.
Pollard told the Board that the Cabinet’s capital plan is “first and foremost focused on the maintenance of existing infrastructure,” including maintenance of Kentucky’s state parks.
The School Facilities Construction Commission’s plan includes $675 million in proposed projects (known as Offers of Assistance) to help local school districts meet their construction needs. Commission Executive Director Dr. Bob Tarvin said his agency’s plan includes two major funding initiatives: SFCC Regular Offers of Assistance, offered to schools with unmet facility needs, and the SFCC Urgent Need School Trust Fund, targeted funding for what Dr. Tarvin called “the worst facilities in our state.”
The Kentucky General Assembly authorized $65.4 million in bonds for the Urgent Need School Trust Fund in the 2010-2012 Executive Budget for thirteen Category Five projects in twelve school districts.
The remaining agency capital plans reviewed by the Board last week include: $436.9 million in projects proposed by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services; $351.1 million in projects proposed by the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; $129.8 million in projects proposed by the Transportation Cabinet; $90 million in proposed projects from the Economic Development Cabinet; $59.3 million in projects proposed by the Kentucky River Authority; and $42 million in projects proposed by the Department for Local Government.
Any project that will be submitted in an agency capital budget request to the Kentucky General Assembly for budget authorization is required to be submitted in an agency capital plan to the Board. Most plans are from Cabinets and agencies of the Executive Branch, including postsecondary education institutions, according to the Legislative Research Commission, which administers the Board.
The Capital Planning Advisory Board is comprised of both legislative and non-legislative members and is co-chaired by Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, and Rep. Terry Mills, D-Lebanon. The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 26.
Lest we forget
By Rep. Hubert Collins
Memorial Day signifies the start of summer for most Americans, but that is not its intended purpose.
Those who appreciate and know American history know that Memorial Day was first celebrated in the 1800s to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. Then called Decoration Day, the holiday evolved after World War I into a national observance for all Americans who have died in U.S. military service. It has been officially observed on the last Monday in May since the early 1970s.
This year, Memorial Day falls on May 27, and it is my hope that each of us will observe all or part of this holiday by remembering the service and sacrifice of all members of our U.S. military, past and present. For without them, the America we know and love would not be the symbol of freedom it is today.
Consider the sage advice of President George Washington who wrote, “The willingness of future generations to serve in our military will be directly dependent upon how we have treated those who have served in the past.” In other words, if we want to attract the best recruits into the U.S. Armed Forces, we must give honor to whom honor is due.
But there is something else we should do: Observe every major U.S. military event all year through, for each honors America’s patriotic past, present, and future.
Most of the celebrations—with the exception of Veterans Day, observed usually on Nov. 11—are held between mid-May and Independence Day, beginning with Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May. First celebrated on May 20, 1950, Armed Forces Day honors all five branches of service, and recognizes their unified efforts to defend our country.
Armed Forces Day is followed by the Memorial Day holiday, which is followed a little over a week later by celebrations of the June 6, 1944 D-Day Invasion at Normandy in France—a monumental event in U.S. and world history that led to Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945. The final event before Independence Day is Flag Day, celebrated on June 14 each year in recognition of the adoption of the U.S. flag by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
Many of us either have family or friends who have served in the military or have served ourselves. We know the importance of a strong military, of patriotism, of honor and sacrifice. We are torch bearers, of sorts, of our nation’s patriotic flame. And we must guard that flame or risk letting it go out.
Join me in supporting our U.S. military by observing the true meaning of Memorial Day this year. And please also join in the celebration of all our nation’s patriotic events throughout the year.
It is the least we as Americans can do, “lest we forget.”
Medicaid expansion, what it means for Kentucky
By Gov. Steve Beshear
On May 9, I announced what I believe is the most important single decision for the health of Kentuckians in our lifetimes; the expansion of Medicaid coverage to the approximately 308,000 uninsured Kentuckians. This expansion, coupled with the creation of the Health Benefit Exchange under the Affordable Care Act, means that for the first time in Kentucky’s history, every Kentuckian will have access to affordable health care.
Who will be covered by this expansion? These are single working men or women with incomes below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level – less than $16,000 a year, or families of four making less than $32,500.
Contrary to what some might have you believe, these are not individuals waiting for a handout, content to live off of government support. These are people we all know and interact with every day. They live in our communities, they go to our churches and our children attend school with them. They are hardworking individuals and families doing all that they can to pay their bills, put a roof over their heads, food on their tables and clothes on their backs. Health care coverage is not provided by their employer, individual coverage is too expensive for them to afford on their own, but they don’t qualify for Medicaid under the current system. These folks currently do without health insurance, at an alarming cost to themselves and our entire society.
Kentucky is one of the least healthy states in the nation. In 2012, Kentucky’s overall health ranking was 44th. Kentucky is at or near the very bottom of many national health rankings. We are 50th in smoking, 40th in obesity, 41st in diabetes, 50th in cancer deaths, 49th in cardiac heart disease, 43rd in high cholesterol and 48th in heart attacks. And the list goes on.
A multitude of state and national reports have shown the positive impacts on health status that occur when an individual becomes insured. They are more likely to get preventive care and seek out medical treatment when they need it. When they do have serious health problems, they are better prepared to deal with them, and the costs of treatment are less. They miss fewer days of work and school. And they live longer and more productive lives.
And while my primary concern is for the improved health outcomes that will be possible for many of our citizens through the expansion of Medicaid, my decision was not solely based on the obvious health benefits that extending insurance coverage will provide to the people of Kentucky. It was also based on the far-reaching economic benefits of expanding Medicaid.
The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion through 2016 with federal funding gradually decreasing to 90 percent by 2020. The expansion of Medicaid will create nearly 17,000 new jobs for Kentuckians and a $15.6 billion positive economic impact to the Commonwealth between 2014 and 2021. In that same time frame, our state budget will see a positive impact of $802.4 million. If we chose not to expand, our budget would see a negative impact of nearly $40 million. Not only is expansion the right thing to do, it’s a savvy financial investment.
Another important consideration in my decision to expand Medicaid is the cost that the Commonwealth would be required to absorb if it does not expand. These costs include reduced payments to hospitals for uncompensated care; the cost of new substance abuse treatment coverage required under the Affordable Care Act; and the likelihood that a large number of individuals already eligible for Medicaid, but not currently enrolled, would apply as public awareness increases.
We’ve done exhaustive research on the impacts of expansion on our state and on each individual county. Statewide, 640,000 residents are currently uninsured. Expanding Medicaid will have a profound effect, allowing 308,000 Kentuckians to become eligible for Medicaid. Additionally, in January 2014 when the Affordable Care Act is implemented, the remaining 332,000 will have access to subsidized insurance through the Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange.
The expansion will also protect funding for hospitals. Hospitals receive federal Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments to help cover the cost of treating low-income, uninsured patients. The Affordable Care Act reduces federal DSH payments; for Kentucky’s hospitals, the reduction is an estimated $287.5 million over 7 years. This includes a $47.9 million reduction to state mental hospitals and a $239.6 million reduction to acute care, private psychiatric and university hospitals. Expanding Medicaid means that local hospitals will continue to receive payment for care, because many people who were previously uninsured will now be covered through Medicaid or through the Health Benefit Exchange.
Finally, the expansion is good news for local and county budgets as well. Not only will the expansion generate additional local taxes, it will ease some of the burden of paying medical costs at county jails.
It comes down to this; if a company was willing to invest billions of dollars in Kentucky over the next 7 years, creating nearly 17,000 jobs and significantly reducing the uninsured population, while greatly improving the health of our citizens, we would not hesitate to welcome them into our state.
Medicaid expansion is no different.