Above: Arthur Laffer, the former Reagan Administration economist who advised Gov. Sam Brownback on his tax plan, testifies before the Kansas House Tax committee at the statehouse, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in Topeka, Kan. Thad Allton AP
Last fall, a group of five wealthy men from out-of-state dumped at least $211,500 into Republican efforts to take over the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time since 1921.
They live from Miami to New York, but have one common bond: Arthur Laffer, a prominent conservative economist who served in the Reagan administration.
They also share a similar goal: reshaping how Kentuckians pay taxes.
“I think now’s a good time for any state like Kentucky to look at their tax structure and say ‘how can we modernize?’” said Travis H. Brown, a Missouri lobbyist who donated $23,000 to GOP House members, more than any other individual.
They picked a winning horse, pumping $105,000 of their money directly to winning candidates and another $59,500 to state GOP committees that gave more than $1.8 million to successful GOP House candidates.
Republicans claimed a super majority in the House and quickly pledged support for Gov. Matt Bevin’s promise to call a special law-making session later this year to transition Kentucky’s tax system from one based on production (income taxes) to one based on consumption (sales taxes).
That economic philosophy was, in many ways, coined by Laffer. His message of lowering income taxes and reducing business taxes has been embraced by scores of Republican politicians across the country.
Though Laffer and his associates may feel the time is right for business-friendly tax reform in Kentucky, there’s a roadblock — massively underfunded pension systems for state workers and teachers.
Last November, financial projections showed Kentucky’s state pension systems had an unfunded liability of $32.5 billion, with the main pension system for state employees only 16 percent funded (anything below 80 percent is considered underfunded). Now, Bevin claims that number is grossly miscalculated, suggesting the state’s real pension debt is closer to $82 billion.
To meet that challenge, Bevin warned in his State of the Commonwealth Address last month that any changes to Kentucky’s tax code will have to raise revenue, not reduce it.
“This is not going to be a revenue neutral tax plan,” Bevin said in the speech. “It’s not. We can’t afford for it to be, that’s a straight up fact. We cannot pay off eight times what we bring in if we simply reshuffle the deck.”
Brown, though, says Kentucky can still raise revenue without raising taxes, arguing that the state can even cut taxes if it’s on the right side of the “Laffer Curve,” an economic concept that says a higher tax rate doesn’t necessarily mean more government revenue.
“What percent of your state government is not efficient as it should be?” Brown asked. “What voters typically believe is they know how to spend their money better than the government knows how to spend their money.”
Regardless of how lawmakers in Frankfort decide to rewrite the tax code, Laffer and his associates clearly thought Kentucky was ripe for an influx of conservative philosophy.
“It just looked like the time and place where it was to come,” Brown said.
Here’s a closer look at the five men, of which only Brown responded to Herald-Leader requests for interviews.
As details about the plan emerged over the past few weeks, Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely defended the rules and the process, saying it included “full public participation.”
But documents obtained by WFPL News show the process was far from public and instead included more than a year of backroom meetings — under both former Gov. Steve Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin — with representatives of the utility industry. During that time, documents show the regulations were significantly revised and weakened.
When regulators began meeting with representatives of the utility industry in September 2015, the regulations they had drafted (left) were extensive. By the time they submitted the drafts to the Legislative Research Commission in October 2016 (right), the regulations were weakened.
Environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, who has spent more than 44 years working in the state, and oftentimes on workgroups with members of industry and regulators to craft regulations, said to his knowledge, such one-sided input from industry is unprecedented in recent years.
“I think it’s unconscionable, and I think it does not reflect well on how little value [the regulators] place on public involvement in the development of regulations that are intended to protect the public,” FitzGerald said.
Representatives from the Energy and Environment Cabinet declined an interview request. In response to emailed questions, spokesman John Mura defended the cabinet’s regulatory process.
“As a part of the pre-KRS 13A deliberative process of regulation development, it is common for the state to informally discuss regulatory matters with the regulated sector that are directly impacted by those regulations,” Mura wrote.
He also pointed to a public comment period and a public hearing held in November 2016. After public comments were received, the agency made minor changes to the rule.
Dangers of Coal Ash
Coal ash — also called “coal combustion residuals,” or CCR — is the byproduct of burning coal for electricity. It’s often stored in dry landfills or wet ponds, or recycled into products like concrete or wall boards.
But it also contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic. And environmental advocates say that’s why it’s so important there’s adequate state and federal oversight over coal ash disposal.
“Coal ash is a toxic substance that if handled incorrectly can take human lives, can make people sick, can ruin the environment, lakes, rivers, streams, permanently,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans.
In the past decade, there have been two high-profile instances — in Kingston, Tennesee and Eden, North Carolina — where large-scale coal ash spills have contaminated miles of rivers and land. But there have also been numerous other cases where there have been smaller amounts of pollution, where coal ash has caused air problems or has leached chemicals into groundwater.
Kentucky Division of Waste Management geologist Todd Hendricks mentioned a few of those instances in public comments he made about the cabinet’s proposed coal ash rule:
“Analysis of groundwater and leachate from CCR units in Kentucky has shown elevated levels of heavy metals, sulfate, boron, and other contaminants. One facility is conducting groundwater corrective action for contamination of karst springs with arsenic leaching from an inactive surface impoundment. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated groundwater per day are captured and pumped to the active surface impoundment for dilution and discharge through a permitted outfall. At another facility, state laboratory analysis of one recent sample of fluid (presumably leachate) flowing from the toe of a closed CCR landfill showed 9.81 mg/L of arsenic, which is 981 times the maximum contaminant level (MCL).”
Coal ash wasn’t regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency until 2015. But with the publication of the first-ever federal coal ash rules in the Federal Register, the EPA set out new standards designed to be incorporated into states’ existing regulatory framework.
And that’s when the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet began working on the state’s version of the regulations.
Emails Show Industry-State Meetings
By its own admission, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management spent more than 1,600 hours working on the regulation in 2015, under former governor Steve Beshear.
On Sept. 3, 2015, regulators sat down with representatives from Kentucky’s utility industry. They screened a PowerPoint presentation on the current draft version of the rules. And on the 12th slide, regulators told the utility representatives that their facilities would no longer be able to qualify for a program called a “permit-by-rule” for coal ash sites. Instead, they would have to stop accepting coal ash into their landfills and ponds by Oct. 19, 2015, or get a permit for disposal.
That wasn’t the last meeting between regulators and industry representatives to discuss the coal ash rules. Emails obtained through an open records request show they met in person at least three more times — in October 2015, and April and June 2016.
State regulators shared drafts of the regulations with Tom Shaw, the environmental director of Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and Jack Bender, the attorney representing the Utility Information Exchange of Kentucky, an industry group. And both men sent regulators UIEK’s comments on the proposals multiple times, months before the agency took comments from the public.
Bender declined a request for additional comment, and Shaw didn’t respond to a voicemail message.
When regulators went into that meeting on Sept. 3, 2015, the draft CCR rules were extensive. They covered groundwater monitoring, inspections, technical specifications for recycling coal ash and plans for closing facilities.
But by the time the draft regulations were released to the public in October 2016, they didn’t contain any of those specifics. And the regulations proposed regulating the electric utilities with a “permit-by-rule” — the very mechanism that the state declared it would not use during that September meeting.
Oversight Steps for Coal Ash Removed
In the proposal released to the public in October, electric utilities wouldn’t have to apply with the state for a permit to build a landfill or pond for coal ash. Instead, the state determined the utilities would have a “permit-by-rule” and could begin constructing coal ash units without prior permitting or review by state regulators.
Right now, utilities building coal ash units need a permit from the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. The process sometimes takes years and involves professional engineers, geologists and environmental technicians. Often permits are also needed from the Kentucky Division of Water.
Under the new proposal, those wouldn’t be necessary.
The state’s approach has been modified somewhat in the final version to a “registered permit-by-rule.” This means utilities will have to register before they begin construction of landfills or ponds, but there will still not be a rigorous permitting process.
“It’s the Wild West, basically,” FitzGerald said. “You get to characterize [the project] on your own, if you do at all, you get to manage it at the location you decide, you get to control the design, the construction, the operation, the closure, the post-closure. And the only time the state is going to become involved is after you screw up. If they find out about it.”
FitzGerald said skipping a rigorous permit review process — where the utility and regulators work together to design the project — could pose myriad problems.
If groundwater monitors aren’t put in the correct locations, they might not detect water pollution. Sensitive ecological or historical sites — like Wentworth Cave on Louisville Gas and Electric’s Trimble County property — could be buried under coal ash forever.
Or, in the most extreme cases, an engineering error could lead to structural flaws in a project and result in a catastrophic coal ash spill.
Cabinet spokesman Mura wrote in an email that the state’s end product is an attempt to comply with the federal rules.
“It was the Obama EPA, after a lengthy regulation development process, that promulgated an industry self-implementing program with no permitting program and with the public/state involvement process done via posting of information on industry website(s),” Mura said.
The EPA’s rules were self-implementing but intended to be incorporated into a state’s existing framework. More recently, Congress approved the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which directs states to work the new federal standards into existing permitting programs.
Legal Challenges Possible
It’s not illegal for regulators to consult with industry representatives before a draft regulation is released for public comment.
Instead, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet routinely seeks input from so-called stakeholders early in the process. But usually that input includes people on different sides of the issue — not just industry representatives but also people from environmental groups, landowners and others with a stake in how the regulations play out,
FitzGerald said that kind of approach — where all sides are engaged early on in the process — ensures that when the regulations are released for public comment, multiple perspectives have been taken into account.
“It is far preferable and I think much more productive and you get a much more responsible work product when you have input from all of the stakeholders,” he said. “And yet in this case, the input came solely from the regulated industry. And the result was a serial weakening of a responsible approach into one that I think is the most irresponsible approach I have seen in my 44 years of working on these issues on behalf of the public.”
Before the rule is finalized, it will need approval from two legislative committees. FitzGerald said if it wins approval, he might consider seeking judicial review.
Lynch resident Mike O’Bradovich talks about the 100th birthday of the historic Harlan County coal town. Bill Estep email@example.com
By Bill Estep
The valley along Looney Creek in Harlan County was a wooded wilderness in 1917 when U.S. Steel, hungry for coal to make steel during World War I, bought 19,000 acres and set about creating the largest company-owned coal town in the world.
The company built an entire town from scratch — hundreds of houses, stores, schools, a hotel, a hospital, a baseball field, a fire station, water and power plants and industrial buildings, including a machine shop and the highest-capacity coal tipple anywhere.
Despite the buzz of work and grand intentions, some thought the town would be a flash in the pan.
The L&N Railroad refused to extend tracks to Lynch from Benham, a coal town about a mile away, because officials felt the town would die after the war when demand for steel went down, according to one history by a U.S. Steel official.
The company built its own tracks, and Lynch survived. The town at the foot of Kentucky’s highest peak, Black Mountain, turns 100 this year.
In that century, Lynch has mirrored the history of Eastern Kentucky as coal jobs swung up and down and families moved out to find work during hard times.
More than half the coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky have disappeared since a precipitous slide started in 2012. At the end of 2016, there were fewer miners on the job in all of Eastern Kentucky than there were at the U.S. Steel mines at Lynch at their peak.
The town’s population has declined to less than 800 from a peak of 10,000, and a third of the houses are vacant, according to U.S. Census figures.
Now, like the rest of the region, Lynch is looking for a new way forward. Residents are trying to promote tourism and small businesses to create jobs, and a study about the possibility of merging with two nearby towns is underway.
The challenges from an anemic economy and a declining tax base are steep, but many in Lynch have a fierce pride in the historic town and are determined to breathe new life into it.
A committee of volunteers is working to schedule events each month to mark the anniversary. On Jan. 1, local churches rang their bells for 100 seconds, and in February, residents put up red ribbons around town. The big event will be in September, with plans for a car show, vendors, family games and performances by several bands.
Residents also have set up a Facebook page where they are posting historic photos and trivia about the town’s past.
The hope is that the centennial will be a springboard for efforts to keep Lynch from withering away.
“The city was built by coal but it can be maintained by something else,” said Rev. Ronnie Hampton, a retired mine inspector who was the town’s first black mayor. “As long as we’ve got breath, we won’t give up.”
Coal companies built hundreds of towns in Southern Appalachia in the early 1900s. Many were thrown together with cookie-cutter houses, poor sanitation and few amenities.
A photo from July 1919 shows construction of mining and other facilities at Lynch, in Harlan County. The historic coal town turns 100 this year. Photo provided
Lynch, however, was considered a model town, with better-built houses of varying styles; health care better than that available to most people in the region; recreation opportunities that included lighted tennis courts, the baseball field, a bowling alley and dances at the hotel ballroom; paved streets; a sewage system; and a company commissary that was reputed to be the best department store in Eastern Kentucky, according to historians.
Italian immigrants used sandstone quarried from the nearby hills to build impressive public buildings.
“None of them rivaled Lynch,” James B. Goode, a retired community college professor who grew up in the neighboring coal town of Benham and has studied the history of Lynch, said of other coal towns.
The thought was that keeping miners content would enhance production and keep down problems.
‘A lot of fun here’
Lynch resident Irene Florek, who is 100, arrived in town with her family when she was a few months old. Her father had moved from a U.S. Steel coal town in West Virginia to work at the new Lynch mines.
Florek lived near the baseball field and remembers frequent activities including games and parades. One local history recounts that the company would close off the street to the hotel when it snowed so kids could go sledding.
“It was a lot of fun here at that time,” Florek said.
The company history recounts milestones from Lynch’s first 40 years, including a meningitis epidemic that hit the area in early 1936. U.S. Steel banned church services and public gatherings to try to limit the spread, and set up a temporary hospital.
Six of the 100 Lynch residents who got sick died, but the death rate was 80 percent or more in nearby communities, according to the company history, which attributed the relatively few deaths in town to the good medical care from company doctors.
In the Depression, people relied on gardens to help get by and the Red Cross gave out flour and other commodities, the history said.
Two miners ride a machine out of one of U.S. Steel’s mines at Lynch in the 1920s. Photo provided
Lynch was a classic melting pot of white people from the region, black people from the South and immigrants of more than 30 nationalities. In 1921, nearly 60 percent of the outgoing mail was to Europe, according to one history.
U.S. Steel recruited black workers from Alabama and other Southern states who were looking for better work than sharecropping, including some recruited from older mines in the Birmingham area.
The company also had recruiters at Ellis Island who used ship manifests to identify European immigrants with mining experience that they could hire, Goode said.
The first load of coal left Lynch in November 1917. By June of 1920, the Lynch mines employed 2,300 men and the population of the town had already reached 5,350, according to a company history.
“It was hustle and bustle here,” said Mike O’Bradovich, a first-generation American whose father came to Lynch from what became Yugoslavia and whose mother was from Germany.
O’Bradovich followed his father into the mines, working from 1974 to 2002.
The sense of pride many in Lynch felt was rooted in immigrants making their way in a new country, O’Bradovich said.
“The pride started when these people were coming over, becoming Americans,” he said.
Generations of black residents have maintained ties to Lynch through the Eastern Kentucky Social Club, which has chapters around the country and sponsors a Labor Day reunion each year, and through a homecoming to Lynch each Memorial Day.
When a former city clerk was charged in 2009 with stealing $137,000 from the city, leaving it strapped, the city council appointed Hampton to steer the city through the crisis.
Hampton sent letters to Eastern Kentucky Social Club members and former residents seeking help, which brought in thousands in donations.
Lynch was segregated until the 1960s. Black and white employees worked together in the mines, but black miners could not move up to supervisory positions until winning a lawsuit in the 1970s, and schools and entertainment were segregated.
There was racial violence directed at black residents in the Appalachian coalfields, especially in the early days, but there was a relatively high degree of harmony between the races at a personal level, historian Ron Eller wrote in his 1982 book “Miners, Millhands and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the American South 1880-1930.”
Whites and blacks in the mines had to rely on each other for their safety, and there were not major differences in pay or living conditions for miners of different races, Eller said.
When the schools integrated in the mid-1960s, U.S. Steel “made it seamless,” said Dwain Morrow, whose father, William Morrow, retired after working 40 years for the company.
‘Virtual reign of terror’
Labor relations were another matter.
Harlan County had some of the most widely reported labor clashes in the country between the world wars. Coal operators used control over the county’s economy and politicians to beat back organizing efforts, evicting union members from company houses, blacklisting them from getting jobs and paying the salaries of sheriff’s deputies who intimidated miners.
Lynch was not immune from the violence associated with those struggles that cemented the nickname “Bloody Harlan.”
There were shootings in Lynch, including one fight at the bathhouse in which two men died, Goode said.
“They didn’t hesitate to resort to violence,” he said of the union organizers and the coal companies.
U.S. Steel and other coal companies exerted authoritarian control over employees and the economic, political and social life in the county, John W. Hevener said in his 1978 account of the labor battles of the 1930s, “Which Side Are You On?”
When the United Mine Workers of America tried in 1935 to sign up members at U.S. Coal and Coke, the U.S. Steel division that operated Lynch, the company laid in a supply of tear gas and extra ammunition, barred organizers and followed union members and destroyed their literature, Hevener wrote.
A state commission later said that a “virtual reign of terror” existed in the county, financed by coal operators in collusion with public officials, and that miners had been evicted, beaten and mistreated.
Goode said U.S. Steel eventually accepted the UMW at Lynch in the late 1930s, deciding that the cost wouldn’t be onerous.
Pay and benefits for miners improved under the union, said William Morrow, 94, who lied about his age to go to work for U.S. Steel at 16.
“It made it better,” Morrow said.
By the late 1950s, mechanization had eliminated many miners’ jobs and railroads and factories switched to other fuel sources, reducing demand for coal.
Coal production hit a 50-year-low in Harlan County in 1960, and the county’s population dropped by nearly half between 1950 and 1970 as people left to find work, according to Census figures.
U.S. Steel and other companies, including International Harvester at neighboring Benham, decided it was too costly to maintain company-owned towns. They tore down many houses, sold others to residents, turned over schools to county districts and gave offices and other buildings to the towns, keeping only their mining operations.
U.S. Steel eventually ended its involvement in Lynch after more than six decades, selling its mines to Arch Coal in 1984.
These days, the city is living month to month financially and operates in the red at times, said Mayor John Adams.
“Getting by — that would be optimistic,” Adams said.
Arch stopped mining around town in the late 1980s, cutting a key source of revenue for the city from selling water to the mines.
Adams said the city needs more employees but can’t afford to hire. When both of its water-plant operators quit in January, the mayor pressed his sons into service to keep the plant going.
But residents say Lynch also has assets to develop its tourism economy, including the beauty of the mountains, a fascinating history and its coal-camp houses and buildings.
Some of the original buildings in town are still in use, such as the hospital and a building that was a bank and post office, which now holds City Hall.
Kitty Dougoud, administrator of the Kentucky Main Street Program at the Kentucky Heritage Council, said she was not aware of a more intact coal town.
“The potential is there,” Dougoud said.
Neighboring Benham is home to the Kentucky Coal Museum in the renovated coal-company commissary and other historic buildings, including the School House Inn, which was a high school for decades beginning in the 1920s but was converted to a hotel.
Cumberland, Benham and Lynch have been designated as trail towns. They are working to develop hiking and horse trails, and Lynch has started work on a campground.
The city received a grant to renovate the old coal-camp fire station, which now houses Fire House Gifts and Crafts, and a Christian service organization called Meridzo Center Ministries financed the renovation of a building that housed a popular restaurant in the 1920s across from the portal of a mine in the center of town. The Lamp House Coffee shop is in the building now.
There has been interest for years in restoring more of the town’s old stone buildings, but not enough money to match the interest.
The town did receive financing to create a unique attraction at the Portal 31 exhibition mine. Visitors tour a restored section of an underground mine where workers produced more than 100 million tons of coal from 1917 to the early 1960s.
Recordings and animatronic displays tell the story of mining and the town over decades, covering technology, safety concerns, union organizing, and the rise and fall of Lynch.
‘Here to help people’
Residents say Meridzo also is a key resource for the town.
In addition to renovating the building for the coffee shop, the ministry operates a convenience store, a gym, a veterinary clinic, retreat centers and a stable in Harlan and Letcher counties.
Meridzo sees its mission as helping people with practical needs, including jobs, and in the process share the Gospel of Christ, said Lonnie Riley, who founded the ministry with his wife, Belinda, in 1999.
“We’re here to help people,” Riley said.
Meridzo is working to recruit a chiropractor, and has started a facility to grow shiitake mushrooms in sections of hardwood logs in the old bathhouse where miners cleaned up before going home.
There also is an effort underway to develop a customer-service center to provide jobs locally.
Betsy Shirey, who is developing the project, said her idea is a center where employees would field telephone calls and emails for other companies, and could provide other services, such as bookkeeping and marketing.
Shirey works for Humana, but after visiting Lynch on mission trips coordinated by Meridzo, she felt a spiritual calling to try to bring jobs to the area.
She can do her job from home, so she bought a house in Lynch and moved from Louisville.
Shirey said the lack of jobs in the area has helped create an attitude of entrenched hopelessness for many people.
“We’ve got to build up some infrastructure of meaningful work for people,” Shirey said.
Some think merging services for Lynch, Benham and Cumberland — or even merging local governments — would put all three on better footing.
The three lie end to end over a space of a few miles and have been known as the Tri-Cities for decades, but grew up as distinct places, with their own schools and competing sports teams, and have always maintained separate city services.
With all three stretched thin, however, their councils agreed to a merger study proposed by the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce, which said in its application for a grant that with declining populations and tax bases, the three towns “have struggled mightily in their efforts to maintain basic services to their citizens.”
The study will focus on how the towns could form one government, how services could be combined, potential savings and how layoffs would be handled if needed.
I really fear for their existence unless they are willing to come together and work as one.
W. Bruce Ayers, former president of Southeast Community and Technical College
W. Bruce Ayers, former president of Southeast Community and Technical College in Cumberland and head of the chamber, said many members believe merger is needed.
A merger would reduce costs, increase efficiency and give the unified city a better shot at government grants, Ayers said.
“I really fear for their existence unless they are willing to come together and work as one,” Ayers said.
It will probably be next year before the study is done and the towns have to decide on merging.
Even if they do, Lynch won’t lose its identity in its second century, said Mary Jo O’Bradovich, who with her husband Mike is involved in the centennial committee.
“After 100 years, I don’t think anyone is going to say, I am from the Tri-Cities,’” she said. “Lynch will be Lynch.”
BIG PHARMACY AT WORK HERE IN KENTUCKY.
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED..IF YOU CARE ABOUT THIS STATE…THIS PLANT..AND IT’S FARMERS.
Legislators’ Hot Line: 1-800-372-7181
HB 333 – Fentanyl Bill:
In this bill they have buried something that will undo a lot of the good work Jamie Comer did when he was Ag Commissioner.
This bill deals with Fentanyl, not Industrial Hemp or CBD oil.
Right now, Big Pharma, more specifically GW Pharmaceuticals is working on a synthetic CBD Oil for prescription to be allowed by the FDA.
In Section 25 (d) of this bill it tinkers with what Marijuana is and is not, and what Marijuana will not be in Kentucky if this passes is CBD Oil Prescription Approved by the FDA.
By doing this any natural CBD oil from Industrial Hemp plants that is not prescribed will then be by default Marijuana, and thus a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance.
What needs to happen is Section 25(d) needs to be stricken as not germane, or amended to included CBD oil from Industrial Hemp.
TBK Opposes, if these changes are not made.
ACTION: Call Rep. Moser and your Representative and see if we can get section 25 (d) changed. – Reported favorably out of committee, posted for passage, floor amendment filed that does not address our concerns.
12 mins ·
Send this to your Kentucky Legislators NOW!!!!
In 1969, the 1937 marijuana tax stamp act was declared unconstitutional.
In 1970 they began creating the 1970 Controlled substances Act and without any scientific input made marijuana schedule one, right up there with heroin. A schedule that cannot be questioned or changed without the approval of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Very few drugs are in this category.
Now we know it was all a political scam to use the drug war to go after and suppress Nixon’s enemies. We know this for sure because the Nixon Administration said so.
The cover story in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine was, “Legalize it all” written by Dan Baum. Mister Baum was asking Nixon aide John Ehrlichman questions about the politics of drug prohibition and as he tells it, Ehrlichman asked,
“You want to know what this was really all about?” He went on to say, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did”.
The new AG, Senator Sessions is saying he is going to step up the war on pot users. For what reason?
They claim States Rights when deciding whether or not to protect transgender kids’ right to go to the bathroom of their choice, but not when deciding a State Marijuana policy!
Please ease the fears of the tens of thousands of marijuana users in our State and send a message to the new administration that as a State we will not be bullied by the Feds.
PS: Scientifically, there is a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after passage of a medical marijuana bill that grows to 33% by year 6 after legalization. that means 250 of our citizens will die in the coming year if a bill is not passed this year.
So Git Busy!
You may never know but passage might save the life of one of your family members!
The Kentucky House has passed legislation aimed at creating elective Bible literacy courses in public schools.
The bill would require the state Board of Education to establish policies for local school boards that choose to offer elective social studies courses on the Hebrew texts and New Testament.
The measure passed the House on an 80-14 vote Thursday and now goes to the Senate.
Rep. DJ Johnson of Owensboro, the bill’s sponsor, said the Bible is the “single-most impactful literary document” in western civilization.
The bill’s opponents said it intrudes on the principles separating church and state by sanctioning one faith.
Under the bill, Bible literacy would be an optional course for public school students, with curriculum set by Kentucky’s Board of Education.
The legislation is House Bill 128.
Chief removes Punisher emblem, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ from police cars after public reacts
By Fernando Alfonso III
An Eastern Kentucky police chief has removed large decals with the Punisher skull and “Blue Lives Matter” from eight police cars after a backlash following the publication of a Herald-Leader story.
The Catlettsburg Police department, which employs eight full-time and two part-time officers for a population of about 2,500, featured the images on the hoods of its 2013 and 2017 Ford Interceptor sedans and sport-utility vehicles, assistant police chief Gerry Hatzel said. The stylized skull was from “The Punisher” comic book series.
The vinyl decals featuring “Blue Lives Matter” and the Punisher logo were created in Louisiana and affixed to the Catlettsburg Police Department vehicles. Fernando Alfonso III firstname.lastname@example.org
The logo was praised by local residents but raised questions among others in the commonwealth.
The designs were spearheaded by Police Chief Cameron Logan, who worked with a vinyl decal shop in Louisiana to get the decals printed. Logan installed the decals on all the police vehicles in December. He would not discuss how much the decals cost.
“That design is basically to give back to the police officers,” Logan, who has been with the department for 13 years, said before reversing course on the emblems. “Our lives matter just as much as anybody’s. … I’m not racist or anything like that, I’m not trying to stir anything up like that. I consider it to be a ‘warrior logo.’ Just ’cause it has ‘Blue Lives Matter’ on the hood, all lives matter. That decal represents that we will take any means necessary to keep our community safe.”
Overdoses and drug-related crimes have been on the rise, the chief said.
The city council and Mayor Randall Peterman approved the designs, Logan said. The Herald-Leader unsuccessfully sought comment from the mayor.
Richard “Andy” Brown, 37, who was elected to the six-person council after its vote on the decals, was critical of the decals.
“I don’t see why they’d waste the money, honestly,” said Brown, a Catlettsburg native whose family owns the IGA grocery in town. “My main objective is to make sure the taxpayers’ money is used in the most efficient way possible. It wasn’t expensive, but still. If it’s something they feel strongly about, they’re risking their lives and I understand that. I just think it’s a little bit strange. There’s been a lot of people mistreated by police, and their lives matter, too, like that guy in North Carolina.”
The shooting Brown referred to was of Keith Lamont Scott, 43, in September 2016 by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.
Central to the decals was the Punisher, the nom de guerre of the Marvel anti-hero Frank Castle, a former Force Reconnaissance Marine and Vietnam War veteran who doles out justice “using torture, murder and kidnapping in his anti-crime crusade,” according to Time Magazine. The logo has been unofficially used by military units and was popularized in the award-winning film “American Sniper.”
The “Blue Lives Matter” movement unofficially began in December 2014 after two New York Police Department officers were shot and killed “by a fanatic who believed the lies of Black Lives Matter, the media, and politicians,” states Bluelivesmatter.blue, a media company founded by active and retired officers. The movement has since been embraced by President Donald Trump and has been used to describe a series of bills in Mississippi and Kentucky that would label crimes against police officers as hate crimes.
Kentucky’s “Blue Lives Matter” legislation is House Bill 14. The bill passed in Kentucky’s House on Feb. 13 after Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, was called a racist by Black Lives Matter protesters angry over her support of the legislation. Louisiana became the first state to pass a “Blue Lives Matter” bill in May 2016.
Some Catlettsburg residents said they hope Kentucky is the next to formally embrace the “Blue Lives Matter” movement.
Daniel Ray, 63, grew up in Catlettsburg and said that respect for police has suffered nationwide.
“I think everybody should be out there supporting their police and their community,” Ray said. “They’re out there putting their lives on the line every day. They get little gratitude for that already, and when we have silly people who challenge them and wonder what’s going to happen, what do you expect is going to happen? We shouldn’t be challenging our police officers. We should be supporting them.”
That opinion was shared by Charles Allen, the pastor of Catlettsburg’s United Methodist Church. Allen has lived in Catlettsburg since 1968 and is originally from Michigan.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Allen said. “I think all lives matter. Nothing to do with color. Black lives, yellow lives, red lives, whatever color of your skin. To God, every human being has a soul and we matter to God and we matter to each other.”
Photos of the Catlettsburg police cars were positively featured on the Kentucky Going Blue’s Facebook page, but on Reddit’s Kentucky community, the response was more critical. Reddit users questioned the legality of the decals and suggested the Punisher was “a really poorly thought-out message for a law enforcement agency to be putting out there.”
Syracuse University’s Roy Gutterman, who also is director of the school’s Tully Center for Free Speech, said the Catlettsburg Police Department was within its rights to feature the decals, which are often “an ordinary governmental administrative decision.”
“Even though the slogan mimics the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, I would not say that ‘Blue Lives Matter’ necessarily demeans any other slogan that would subject the city to any other additional criticism,” Gutterman said.
Gutterman also said the department’s use of the Punisher could generate negative attention from the Walt Disney Co., which acquired Marvel Entertainment in December 2009 for $4.2 billion. Disney threatened legal action against a gun accessory manufacturer in Nov. 2015 for using its Punisher imagery. The city didn’t seek Disney’s approval, the chief said. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
“If the department is using an actual comic book character, I suspect this usage is an infringement of intellectual property rights, specifically the copyright held by the creators or owners of that character,’ Gutterman said before the decals were removed Friday. “The appropriation of that image might be more troubling than whatever the character may stand for. They might as well put Batman or Superman on the cruisers while they’re at it.”
BY GINA KINSLOW email@example.com
CAVE CITY — A group of about 15 people turned out for a town hall meeting Thursday night to discuss projects and events for the upcoming summer and fall.
Some of the ideas discussed were monthly, summer concerts, a Fourth of July Parade and continuation of Cave City Proud Days.
“One thing we are including is we are going to try to expand our community garden,” said Mayor Dwayne Hatcher. “We have some folks who have consented to let us use some of their land.”
The community garden project is being spearheaded by Councilman Gary “Doc” Hogan.
“We are probably gong to try to increase the number of plots we have down at E.P. Terry Estates,” Hogan said, adding there is also plans to till a few acres for the planting of fruits and vegetables, such as sweet corn, watermelons and cantaloupes, that can’t be easily grown in garden boxes. “We found someone who is going to let us use their land. The city is going to provide some of the equipment (for the garden).”
The project will not only help reduce grocery bills for E.P.Terry residents, but Hogan said it will also provide them with a more healthy diet.
He would like for the project to be a learning experience for children, so they may understand that their food doesn’t come just from the grocery store.
“We are taking orders from people of what they are wanting to grow,” Hogan said.
He urges those wanting to participate to contact Cave City City Hall at 270-773-2188.
There are plans for another town hall meeting, which has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 9. The location for the meeting will be announced at a later date.
By Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Jack Brammer
The Kentucky Senate on Friday unanimously approved a wide-ranging public education bill that would establish a new process for intervening in low-performing schools and establish a new process for reviewing classroom academic standards.
Under Senate Bill 1, revisions would be made to the Kentucky academic standards in 2017-18 and every six years after that. Teams of educators from public schools and higher education would recommend changes with suggestions from citizens.
Senate Bill 1 would repeal the controversial Common Core academic standards, but not until the new standards are rolled out in a staggered fashion, the bill’s sponsor State Sen. Mike Wilson, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has said.
Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core standards and subsequently incorporated them into the Kentucky academic standards. Those standards, which have undergone other revisions, define what Kentucky students should learn at each grade level. How the standards are taught is decided by local schools.
There was no debate on the bill in the Senate on Friday but two Democratic senators praised Wilson, R-Bowling Green, for his handling of the measure that was approved on a 35-0 vote.
Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said there is no need to question the bill because Wilson has done a good job explaining it to all involved. Wilson contacted educators, policymakers and citizens, including families of students, as he developed the bill.
Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, said Wilson’s approach to listen to all parties involved “is exactly how this body ought to function.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said this is the third year Wilson has worked on this “major piece of policy.”
He said it combines the realities, demands and desires of returning control of school systems back to locals.
Also under Senate Bill 1, a new assessment system would still rate schools but would not use a single numerical score that ranks schools against each other. Local districts would establish their own evaluation systems for teachers, principals and other staff aligned with a statewide framework. Evaluation results would not be reported to the state education department.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.