Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
Bowling Green Daily News on pension transparency:
Transparency is always needed in local, state and federal government. After all, lawmakers work for us, on our dime.
That's why we believe it is only fair they reveal as much as possible about the work they do in regard to legislation. Anything taxpayer-related that falls under the Freedom of Information Act should be shared with citizens.
That's why we support a bill that would reveal how much Kentucky legislators collect from public pensions. Senate Bill 45, which has passed the Senate and is now in the House, would require disclosure, under the Kentucky Open Records Act, of public requirement benefits information for current and former members of the General Assembly. This would include legislative pensions and any other benefits lawmakers might draw from the systems for state workers and schoolteachers.
This legislation is fair, offers transparency and is very much needed.
Most states have laws that allow for public disclosure of information about individual public pensions.
The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Chris McDaniel said while most legislators don't draw large pensions, there are "some abuses of the system" and some longtime lawmakers have inflated their legislative pensions by taking short-term jobs at high salaries in the executive or judicial branches.
Abuses within the system by longtime lawmakers, even if technically legal, are certainly cause for concern.
McDaniel is also on target when he says people have a right to know. He is correct when he says our public workers, state police, schoolteachers and taxpayers all have a right to know whether there is any conflict or whether legislators will personally benefit.
We as citizens of this state pay the salaries of our lawmakers, which is all the more reason this information needs to be made available to the public.
Apparently state Rep. Derrick Graham believes the public doesn't have the right to know what he is collecting from public pensions as he voted against McDaniel's bill, citing it as an invasion of a public servant's privacy.
For those like Graham who object to McDaniel's bill, we would simply ask: What are you trying to hide from your constituents?
The people of this state deserve transparency. We deserve to know what our legislators' public pensions are. This piece of legislation does just that. We urge the House to pass it before the session ends and look forward to seeing Gov. Matt Bevin sign it into law.
The Kentucky New Era school personnel moves:
The resignation of Anthony Hickey Sr., the girls' basketball coach at Christian County High School for the past nine years, was announced to the public through a news release the same afternoon he stepped down from job.
But the release failed to make a critical piece of information clear to the public. The release did not explain — as Hickey later told the New Era — that he was asked to resign.
There's a significant difference between resigning from a job and being asked to resign. If Hickey had declined to submit to the request, he most likely would have been fired. And that leads to the next glaring omission by the district: Why was he asked to leave the coaching job?
In a phone interview with New Era Sports Editor Chris Jung, Hickey said his resignation was requested during a meeting with CCHS Principal Chris Bentzel, another administrator and the athletic director. He said Bentzel told him the school wants to take the program in a different direction.
After interviewing Hickey, Jung contacted district spokeswoman Heather Lancaster for clarification. In a text message, she said, "Out of respect for Mr. Hickey it is preferred that details of the meeting are not shared with the public. The CCHS administration wishes him the best and will do their very best to move forward when making a selection of a new coach for the CCHS girls basketball team."
There is an obvious question in this situation. What was the district's motivation in keeping the details of Hickey's resignation private? Was it out of respect for Hickey? Or could it be that the administration for Christian County Public Schools declined to provide a straight answer because district officials did not want public scrutiny on a matter that might be controversial?
We've seen a pattern with the district, and the central office seems dedicated to shielding anything unfavorable from public view. If leaders at CCHS want to take the basketball program in a new direction, that's something that ought to be shared more openly. The girls' basketball program does not belong to administrators. It belongs to the student body, the community and the public who pays the bills.
Hickey felt like the news release was misleading, and he has a point.
"My girls were told in a different manner than what they should have been told," he said. "They were never told that (Christian County) wanted to go in a different direction and asked me to resign. I always tell my kids never to quit, so I don't want the misconception to my kids that I quit on them. I'm not a quitter, and I'm never going to quit on kids."
We don't know if the decision to force Hickey's resignation was strictly about his record — 121-124 in nine years — or based on some other factor.
A public school system is a government entity, and it is obligated to provide a full understanding of its operations. That includes accurate information about personnel changes — especially high-profile positions like high school basketball coaches.
The district's news release about Hickey was misleading. And the response to a follow-up question about the nature of the resignation does not seem genuine.
The public has a right to expect more transparency from the school district.
The Lexington Herald-Leader on opioid abuse:
The most consistent and profound message emerging from the drug summit this week in Atlanta is that drug addiction is a disease.
And we're failing at treating that disease. The Centers for Disease Control, in a recent statement, noted, "in the past decade, while the death rates for the top leading causes of death such as heart disease and cancer have decreased substantially, the death rate associated with opioid pain medication has increased markedly."
Despite that, the resources for treating this disease fall woefully short of the need. Worse, the medical system too often enables addiction through over-prescribing powerful painkillers.
Speaking on a panel at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, President Barack Obama called for investing equal resources to address the public health problem of drug abuse as are allocated to fighting it through law enforcement.
Specifically, that means increasing drug treatment, including medication assisted treatment; stepping up intervention activities to prevent drug abuse, especially among young people, including mental health services; and teaching physicians, medical students and other health-care providers how to manage pain without putting their patients at risk of deadly addiction.
The summit is organized by Operation UNITE, which Congressman Hal Rogers founded in 2003 to fight drug addiction in Eastern Kentucky. Summit sponsors include University of Kentucky Healthcare.
Obama has proposed increased federal spending in all these areas — as well as in enforcement — but the rubber can't meet the road until Congress and the states sign on. He's proposed $920 million in the next budget to work with states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependency. States that apply to participate will receive funds based on the quality of their application and the severity of the problem in their area.
Kentucky physicians, medical educators and policymakers must seize this opportunity to increase care for the epidemic they all decry.
Kentucky has one of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the nation, and there is all too much evidence of the devastation drug abuse has wrought in Kentucky. It has destroyed lives, diminished the workforce, filled up courts and prisons and caused no end of pain to families.
We know it is popular to demonize Obama in this state but, as Rogers, a Republican whose Fifth District has been devastated by drug abuse, said at the Summit, "this is a bipartisan issue, actually a non-partisan issue."
While it's essential to shift from a punishment to a treatment mode on drug addiction, the most efficient approach to address it is prevention, as with other diseases.
Prescription drugs remain the overwhelming source of drug abuse and addiction in this country, and this state, despite the recent spike in heroin use and deaths. Many of the prescriptions that ultimately land people in addiction are written by well-intentioned caregivers who aren't adequately trained in pain management or in the dangers of opioids. In 2012, 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain meds were written in the U.S., enough for one bottle for every adult in the country.
The Centers for Disease Control this month issued guidelines for prescribing opioids to help stem the tide of over-prescription.
With this roadmap in hand, Kentucky's medical schools, the Kentucky Medical Association, hospitals and other health-care providers have a good starting point for improving education among caregivers in pain management and opioid prescription.