Kentucky editorial roundup

September 18, 2019 GMT

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

Sept. 17

The Daily Independent on lowering Kentucky worker compensation costs:

There was some interesting news this past week from the Kentucky Chamber regarding the ongoing reduction of costs employers are facing when it comes to worker compensation.

The chamber said in an article posted on the chamber site The Bottom Line the following:

— Employers should see their worker compensation costs go down again. The chamber said the Kentucky Department of Insurance is developing the rates for workers’ compensation coverage and that these rates are “showing an average decrease of 9 percent for Kentucky employers” in the upcoming year.


“The average reduction of 9 percent across the class codes includes manufacturing, office and clerical, contracting, and goods and services. Over the past two years, employers have seen an average 25 percent decrease.”

This is rather remarkable news. A 25 percent decrease? You don’t see that every day when it comes to reduced costs for businesses.

The chamber said the reason for the decrease is due to the passage of House Bill 2. We’ve written about this before. The law greatly reformed workers compensation in Kentucky and is viewed by the business community as an overwhelmingly positive development.

Of course there is another side to this coin. Ann Baumann of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy wrote in a forum piece published in The Daily Independent recently that the state has “made it harder for employees injured on the job including in coal mines to get workers’ compensation.” Clearly the reform has two sides.

We believe, as always, that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Of course worker compensation is in place for a reason, and it is a very good reason. Workers deserve the right to be protected via wages and medical benefits if they are hurt on the job. Such a system is important for all of us and it says a lot about our nation - that we are willing to make sure that workers are not taken advantage of if they are injured.

With that said, we believe the lowering of costs for employers in this system is a good thing. It was a needed reform and we believe it helps the private sector. This, in turn, is likely to help spur job growth.



Sept. 15

The Somerset Journal on an upcoming pride event in Kentucky:


Milton Berle. Flip Wilson. Bugs Bunny.

Indecent, corrupt troublemakers unfit for a morally upright community like Somerset?

Or classic comic geniuses whose on-air shenanigans would actually be considered quite quaint now?

How about, all men known for dressing up in women’s clothing for the entertainment value?

Few things have been talked about more in this county over the last couple of weeks than the upcoming “Chill Out and Proud 2019” event, slated for October 5. Somerset’s first real “Pride” festival celebrating members of the local LGTBQ community, it has predictably met with resistance from some vocal corners of the religious community.

The reality is that people of different sexual orientations or identities have always been here. In the past, perhaps, people just didn’t talk about it. Those issues were swept under the rug, gay people kept their love lives hidden while straight folks felt no such compulsion to stay in the shadows and whispers, and LQBTQ individuals didn’t really have a voice in the collective discussion.

Now they do. That’s what “Pride” is about. Having an event like this is not “throwing it in anyone’s face,” as some people seem to feel; it’s just about not being afraid to be out in the open anymore. Straight people are proud of who they are and their relationships; gay people want to feel that way too. That’s what being part of “the land of the free” is all about.

That said, in cities with different sets of values than Somerset, Pride-related events can get fairly risque. People have probably seen media images of shirtless guys in leather chaps or sexually charged acts purposed to push conventional boundaries, and worry that’s what a Pride event is all about.

One size does not fit all, in this case. Based on every bit of information available about “Chill Out and Proud,” that’s nothing like what these organizers have planned. They’ve stressed that it will be “family-friendly.” We’ve got a schedule with things like painting and yoga and chili and kids activities. Basically the same as any other event held on the judicial center plaza — including those held by church groups.

The one real difference — that night, to go along with the festivities, a drag show is scheduled for Jarfly Brewing Co. A citizen concerned about all this asked the Somerset City Council whether an adult entertainment ordinance license would be needed to have such a thing. And that license costs a lot — $1,000.

The crux of the issue is this — do drag performances constitute adult entertainment?

In and of themselves, no, they don’t.

“Drag” is not the same as “transgender,” which is a frequent topic in the news. While it’s a common staple of the LGBTQ community as part of the cultural fabric, it’s really about camp — a form of comedy. Some drag shows can be a little spicier than others, at least in terms of the comic material, but it’s all in good fun. It’s not about sex acts or exhibitionism and certainly not about nudity — heaven forbid, no. It’s about what the performers have on, not off.

We see “drag” all the time in various ways, played up for the sake of having fun. Berle and Wilson did it in in their TV skits. Bugs Bunny did it to fool Elmer Fudd. The theatre has a grand tradition of putting men in women’s roles and vice versa — including numerous plays that have been staged right here in Pulaski County. Local high schools have even held “opposite sex day” during homecoming week. All different forms of the medium known as “drag.” A drag show is its own specific type of performance, but at its essence, it exists for the sake of fun, not titillation.

City officials thankfully realized this. A letter from Somerset City Attorney John Adams released to the Commonwealth Journal this week noted that adult entertainment is prohibited by law at establishments that serve alcohol like Jarfly, but that “performing ‘in drag’ is not by itself ‘adult entertainment,’ lewd, obscene, or otherwise a violation” of the policies in place.

The drag show is indoors in a microbrewery, not out on the the plaza in front of the public with the rest of the events. It’s not something that involves any acts that would normally be considered sexual in nature. It’s not even anything you’d be unfamiliar with if you’ve ever watched “Looney Tunes,” probably.

That’s what we at the Commonwealth Journal expect. We’re confident this will be an event that’s all in good fun, and won’t reflect poorly on the Chill Out and Proud festival, the community, or anyone else involved.

If that’s not the case, then we’ll be as disappointed as anyone, and will point out where things went wrong. But the most likely outcome is an event more in keeping with the values of a tight-knit, small town community like Somerset than, say, the streets of Las Vegas.

In other words, it’s something everyone in Somerset should be able to take Pride in.



Sept. 14

The Richmond Register on overcrowding at a county jail and a report that examines cash bail practices in Kentucky:

While citizens are concerned about a property tax increase in Madison County, many have questioned what has caused the continuous overcrowding at the detention center.

There is no doubt the drug epidemic is the biggest cause, but it’s not the only culprit. Another factor is the extensive lag time in the judicial system from arrest to sentencing.

Ashley Spalding, senior policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP), said more specifically, a primary driver for this issue is Madison County’s high rate of pretrial incarceration.

In Madison County, the jail has consistently been at more than 200% capacity for months. Of those in the facility, Jailer Steve Tussey estimates that 80% are unsentenced — or presumed innocent and awaiting trial.

In a KCEP report, “Disparate Justice: Where Kentuckians Live Determines Whether They Stay in Jail Because They Can’t Afford Cash Bail,” Spalding notes that only 30% of cases include non-financial bonds in Madison County, meaning that a majority of those arrested are subject to money bail. Of those that are given a financial bail, Spalding says that only 42% of MCDC inmates are able to afford to pay it.

Mention is made in Spalding’s report that by law, money bail in Kentucky cannot be used to punish or detain individuals, but can only be used to ensure reasonable appearance at a trial, and only in the amount “sufficient” to do such. However, many defendants throughout Kentucky are not able to afford their bail, resulting in being detained until their pretrial hearing.

The report shows people incarcerated pretrial are more likely to be found guilty and receive harsher penalties. Defendants also are more like to plead guilty, although they may be innocent, in order to return home quicker. This then puts individuals facing more consequences with having a felony record and it is associated with an increased likelihood of future criminal activity.

And for Madison County, this is proven to be true, as the detention center has a recidivism rate of 80%, meaning if 10 inmates are released today, eight will most likely return.

While citizens have every right to protest the tax increase to build or expand the detention center, residents also need to talk with our state leaders about justice system reforms, including bail reform.

It is clear that our current system isn’t working.

In Madison County, the problem didn’t start at the jail. And citizens should be just as mad about that as they are a tax increase.