Optimism in the Commonwealth
By Governor Matt Bevin
Earlier this month, I spoke before the General Assembly and a live KET audience to deliver the State of the Commonwealth Address. If you missed the speech, you can view it on the Governor Matt Bevin Facebook page. Any such speech must cover a broad variety of topics and this address was certainly no exception. However, the overall take away from the speech was that the State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky should be a source of great optimism for Kentuckians.
There is no doubt that we face significant challenges including the pension crisis and the opioid epidemic that have plagued our state for years. Those challenges were presented to the Assembly and the audience with clarity and detail. I was straightforward that the solutions will require difficult decisions and bold leadership. In the case of the pension system, I stated that the financial obligation and debt that has been allowed to accumulate is far greater than has been communicated by past administrations. The actual unfunded liability is $82 billion or roughly eight times our state’s annual revenue.
Solutions to our problems cannot be developed unless we accurately identify their scope. Meaningful tax modernization must result in lower rates and a simpler and fairer system for all Kentuckians. There will be much discussion and debate on the part of our legislature before the “how” of tax modernization is fully defined.
I spent a great deal of time discussing a variety of exciting and beneficial things that are happening in Kentucky. We can be enthusiastic as Kentuckians about the accomplishments we have achieved over the past year and in the early session of 2017.
When I spoke about things like workforce development and improvements in our education system I wasn’t only speaking about things that will help students or those who attend manufacturing training courses, I was talking about programs that will make our workforce an attractive resource for every business which, in turn, will grow our economy. When that occurs, all of Kentucky will benefit.
We become a better version of ourselves as a people when we give a second chance to non-violent felony offenders who have paid their debt to society. We become a greater place to live, with a greater sense of community, when we enhance our foster care system and adoption policies and when we protect the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.
When I spoke about the increased funding and efforts to maintain our parks, I was highlighting something that makes the quality of life better for Kentuckians from all walks of life. In addition, maintaining the natural beauty of our state and our park system by cleaning up after ourselves, attracts tourists who bring revenue into our commonwealth, again, benefitting all Kentuckians.
I was grateful to read the emails that our fellow Kentuckians took the time to write and send to my office. I was inspired by their passion for worthy causes and their willingness to not only register a complaint, but to actually volunteer to participate in a solution. It was gratifying how many folks, regardless of political party, expressed areas of common ground with our administration and a willingness to work together.
The State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is this: we are growing economically, hope is high, and opportunity is limitless. I am highly confident that we will meet the challenges before us. The work ethic and the values that built this state are still here in our people.
The fight, drive and determination that cleared the dense forests of this region and turned them into beautiful meadows where thoroughbreds graze, remains an integral part of our culture. The work ethic that ventured deep underground to provide coal that energized a nation, is woven into our people’s DNA. During my first year in office, I have met thousands of Kentuckians who are amazingly generous, who have a servant’s heart and a frontiersman’s determination. Kentucky has resources and a location that you could not buy at any price. For all those reasons, we will overcome our challenges, we will become the North American hub of engineering and manufacturing excellence, and we will make Kentucky the economic crown jewel of the greatest nation on earth. We will do these things, because we are Kentucky!
Signs of hope for Kentucky’s suffering children?
By The Lexington Herald
Kentucky must do a better job of protecting its children. Too many are succumbing to abuse, neglect and their parents’ drug addictions.
We’ve known this for a long time. Lest we forget, John Cheves’ recent reporting on the hellish life of one child and the bleak overall picture of child protection serves as a staggering reminder.
Gov. Matt Bevin has signaled that he is serious about doing better. In his state of the commonwealth address Wednesday, Bevin said he plans to appoint a “czar” to lead reform of a system that is responsible for 8,000 children in foster care and many thousands more who are at risk in their homes.
Bevin also vowed that a special session later this year will enact tax reform that increases state revenue. Money to hire and retain more case workers is essential to saving children and families. No amount of quality control can make up for the shortage of front-line staff and services.
We understand that Bevin’s top priority is stabilizing pension funds that threaten the state’s solvency. Just as Bevin wisely demanded tax reform that’s more than revenue neutral, lawmakers should raise enough new money to care for other pressing needs. Nothing is more pressing than protecting the children who are Kentucky’s future.
At the beginning of this century, about 1 in 5 Kentucky children lived in poverty; the state’s child poverty rate has risen to 1 in 4.
While abuse and neglect cases are up, the state “grossly” under-funds its child-protection agency, says an external review board that the legislature created to analyze child deaths and near deaths and make recommendations.
Cheves reports that some social workers are juggling 60 to 80 cases — an overload that violates all standards and guarantees burnout and high turnover. The agency is so strained that some infants born with prenatal substance abuse are sent home with no oversight, according to the review panel, when what they need are wrap-around services, case management and home visits. The panel’s top recommendation is to address the substance abuse epidemic followed by providing the funding needed by the Department of Community Based Services to do its job.
That agency’s involvement in a child’s life is no guarantee of safety, however. The child who was brought from Berea to the University of Kentucky emergency room near death a few days shy of her ninth birthday in 2014 was well known to the agency and to agencies in other states. Her father and his live-in girlfriend had beaten, starved and tortured her. But her case worker, who had a record of unpaid suspensions and reprimands for poor performance and is still employed by the agency, concluded there was no abuse, despite multiple red flags, including a decision to home school the child after public school personnel reported her injuries. A later tip that the child had a black eye went nowhere because it was filed under the wrong name. The father and girlfriend are in prison; the child has a new home.
Of 116 cases of abuse and neglect resulting in the death or grave injury of a child last year, 59 percent were potentially preventable, concluded the review panel, had an adult — social worker, educator, doctor, neighbor, judge — acted differently. A judge’s involvement made little difference. Fifty-seven percent of the cases the panel reviewed in 2016 had gone through criminal proceedings or confidential dependency, abuse and neglect hearings.
This system-wide failure illuminates the complexities of helping families beset by drugs, violence and poverty rooted in an economy that excludes too many Kentuckians from real opportunity. The challenges are huge.
Bevin, who also criticized deadbeat dads in his speech, seems genuinely to care. The proof will be in Kentucky’s next biennial budget to be enacted in 2018.
By Jeff Vanderbeck
I supported Trump and, in some cases, continue to do so. He clearly is mixing things up in D.C. and the world. Time will tell if he will be successful or if we, as Americans, made another mistake.
I support his decisions, but I think he needs to be more concise and less broad in implementing the executive orders.
This week, he made two decisions that I think were not very well thought-out. One was to repeal a law that enables welfare recipients who have mental disabilities to obtain firearms. I believe in the Constitution, but with the mental illness issues in this country, the last thing we need is firearms in the hands of unstable individuals. I know some people who have guns and are borderline on the mental stability scale.
The other law repealed was the Stream Buffer Rule. This law calls for coal companies to monitor debris like ash in waterways during operation. It was enacted because, at one point, mining companies were to police themselves and a few bad operators dumped debris into waterways with reckless abandon and screwed up the industry for the good operators.
If this is an attempt to put coal miners back to work, it’s a wrong move. What needs to happen is to enact legislation where power plants are forced to use coal and mandate that clean coal technology is used. The technology is there, and coal is still an abundant resource. But because the Obama administration forced the EPA to over restrict the coal industry and forced power plants to shut down their coal burning capabilities, the industry went dry.
The argument was that natural gas would burn cleaner and be cheaper. BULL!!! Have you seen your power bill lately? Power bills are up almost 25 percent and the PSC — Public Scamming Crooks — approved the measure allowing power companies like AEP to tack on all the fees associated with the gas conversion and the expiration of the coal-fired plants.
In the end, the consumer got screwed by a massive loss of jobs and higher power bills.
Repealing the Stream Buffer Rule only opens the floodgates for the tree huggers to come out in droves protesting in their Birkenstocks and headbands while whining about the clean water for their $12 Starbucks coffee.
If and when the industry bounces back, they need to make sure that rouge operators don’t mess things up for the good operators. The industry needs to be more transparent and inclusive. They need to help write legislation that is fair and equitable to the industry but also ensures that safer, cleaner techniques are enacted. The industry needs to set the standards, the government needs to allow them to work within the standards that are set and everybody else needs to mind their own business.
The gas industry is booming now and it’s apparent that neither the gas industry nor the government learned anything from the coal industry.
In Oklahoma, there are gas wells being drilled daily and there is more fracking now than ever before. Ironically, there are more earthquakes in Oklahoma than ever before. I would suspect that some gas operators are cutting corners and will ruin the industry for the good operators and the government will be scratching its head wondering what to do next. Soon, in an Obama-like fashion, they, too, will be put out of work.
If Trump wants to help the coal industry, he needs to start with the power plants and work backwards. Clean coal technology will power this nation and create new jobs in many different industries that are sustainable.
Darts and Laurels
Laurel: Kudos to the Mountain Regional Prevention Center for hosting a community baby shower on Thursday, Feb. 2 at the Paintsville Recreation Center. The shower helped provide new parents with supplies and education to help babies be born drug and alcohol free.
Dart: The Kentucky Health Department issued a warning about the norovirus making its way across the area. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea and can strike six hours after exposure. Severely contagious, those inflicted should just stay home and recover.
Laurel: Congratulation to 9-year old Kaylyn Woods of Paintsville for winning a Bonnie Plant Scholarship for $1,000 after growing a 17-pound cabbage as part of a school project.
Laurel: A laurel to Jeanetta Thornbury for her appointment to the Kentucky Board of Hairdressers and Cosmetology and Charles “Chuck” Sexton for his “40 Under 40” award in economic development. Eastern Kentucky has a lot of talent and proud to see it shine.
Laurel: Congratulations to Jim Matney, Johnson Central football coach for being named the Associated Presses Coach of the Year title. Matney guided the JCHS Eagles to their first state championship during the 2016 season.
Misnamed “Stream Protection Rule” must be overturned
By U.S. Senator Rand Paul
For the last eight years, Kentuckians have been subject to an unprecedented and destructive level of overregulation. From the coal industry to the family farm, the federal government’s regulatory burden has weighed heavy on our Commonwealth.
I have always led the fight against the War on Coal, and in keeping with my promise to continue to do so, this week I am proud to join my Republican colleagues in introducing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the misnamed “Stream Protection Rule.”
While the list of overbearing regulations hurting our coal miners is certainly lengthy, the so-called Stream Protection Rule tops the list when it comes to the damage it could do. And don’t let the cleverly crafted name fool you; this rule is actually aimed at wiping out the entire coal industry.
First of all, this ruling by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), which became effective earlier this month, is duplicative of many other regulations that already exist under the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, and states. That’s not only unnecessary, but also prohibited by law.
In addition to further limiting the places where you can and can’t mine coal, this rule essentially takes away all due process from those seeking permits for surface mining: the OSM can deny a mining permit if the operation just might potentially affect a species that is being proposed as threatened or endangered. It doesn’t even have to be on the official list.
Despite Congress requiring OSM to work with states before finalizing this rule– including providing certain documents and meeting with states at their request – OSM virtually ignored the many states who wanted to weigh in. I would know, because I wrote to them and the Department of the Interior demanding that OSM comply with the congressional directive.
And adding more insult to injury, the National Mining Association estimates that the rule will result in a loss of up to 77,000 mining jobs, up to 52,000+ in Appalachia, and up to $6.4 billion in federal and state tax revenues annually because of the coal production that will be halted. Coal-dependent supply chain jobs lost, such as trucking and railroad transportation, brings that number up to 280,809 lost jobs across the country.
I know how important stopping this rule is, which is why in addition to cosponsoring this resolution of disapproval and writing to OSM, I cosponsored the STREAM Act to delay implementation. Additionally, I introduced the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act to require additional consent from the state’s Governor and Congress before new species are listed as threatened or endangered, and allows states to regulate any federally determined endangered species within their borders.
With a new Republican Congress and White House we now have the opportunity to not just fight back against the War on Coal, but actually defeat it once and for all by passing repeal of rules like this one. I’m optimistic that we will continue to make progress, and I look forward to seeing Kentucky’s hardworking coal miners and their families finally find relief from the rampant over-regulation of their industry.