Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky., on McConnell criticism:
Filibusters were created so the party in the minority in the U.S. Senate could have a voice and not be run roughshod over by the majority party.
Since filibusters were created, both political parties have used them.
We believe they serve a valuable purpose and those who use them shouldn't be labeled as obstructionists.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan sees it differently.
The union boss and some of his cronies gathered recently outside the federal courthouse in Lexington to blame Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for what Londrigan calls a surge in filibusters since Republicans lost power in the Senate.
Apparently, Londrigan thinks only Republicans use the filibuster. He would be wise to look at his history books and see the countless number of times Democrats used the same technique when they were in the minority.
Where was the criticism from Londrigan then?
Nowhere to be found.
The AFL-CIO has an agenda. It is not a fan of McConnell, and surely the feeling is mutual.
Maybe Londrigan would like to see the filibuster disappear so he could work with his union supporters in Congress to try to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed to eliminate secret ballots for union representation elections. Perhaps he would like to eliminate section 14b of the Taft-Hartley Act, which protects workers from paying union dues as a condition of employment in the 24 states that have enacted right-to-work laws.
Londrigan is making this a partisan issue, but he would be wise to look at the man he is criticizing.
McConnell worked across the aisle with longtime Senate colleague Vice President Joe Biden to craft an 11th-hour deal that averted the "fiscal cliff."
McConnell should be praised for his tireless efforts, not criticized, but one also has to consider the source.
If McConnell sees legislation in the future that he and the Republican Party disagree with, they should use their filibuster power. He and his party have that right, just as Democrats do when they are in the minority.
If Majority Leader Harry Reid allowed the minority party more occasions to offer amendments to help shape pending legislation, we suspect the number of filibusters would drop sharply. ...
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on a smoke-free Kentucky:
For the past two years, bills to create a statewide ban on smoking in public places have been filed in the General Assembly, only to get stubbed out.
Let's hope the third try is a charm.
Otherwise, Kentuckians will continue to die or become ill from cigarette smoke — their own and secondhand — until lawmakers get serious about the matter and take steps to help protect smokers from themselves as well as those exposed to their smoke. ...
Once again, Kentucky leads the nation in smoking, with 29 percent of adults who smoke.
Not coincidentally, the state has the highest rates of lung cancer and lung cancer deaths.
It also has high rates of heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes and other ailments associated with or aggravated by smoking.
A statewide smoking ban won't convince all smokers to kick the habit. But it will reduce exposure to others and possibly convince smokers to cut back or even quit if the habit becomes inconvenient enough. ...
Already, 24 states have enacted statewide bans and about 30 communities in Kentucky ban smoking in public places such as offices, restaurants and bars. Why not expand it statewide?
For lawmakers seeking reasons, we can think of about 870,000. That's about the number of adult smokers in Kentucky. Throw in another 100,000 or so kids age 12-17 estimated to smoke and the number is approaching 1 million.
Need more reasons?
According to the Smoke-Free Kentucky Coalition, a group of health, business and community groups, smoking costs the state $3.8 billion (that's billion!) a year in medical costs and lost productivity.
Smoking-related diseases are estimated to cost the state's Medicaid program alone about $500 million a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that's a significant sum as lawmakers and Gov. Steve Beshear's administration continue to seek ways to squeeze savings out of Kentucky's $6 billion a year Medicaid program. ...
Then the General Assembly can move on to something guaranteed to cut smoking — raising the state's paltry cigarette tax from 60 cents a pack to at least $1. That might be a little more "difficult."
But lawmakers could do it if they tried.
The Independent, Ashland, Ky., on felon voting rights legislation:
State Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, has prefiled a bill for consideration by the 2013 General Assembly that would automatically restore the voting rights of most convicted felons upon completion of their sentences and probation. It is a sensible idea that already exists in 46 states, but has been repeatedly rejected by the Republican majority in the state Senate.
Here's hoping the pattern of broad bipartisan approval by the House of Representatives and no action by the Senate will end in 2013 and Kentucky will finally join 46 other states in assuring individuals are not denied the right to vote for the rest of their lives for relatively minor felonies they may have committed as teenagers.
Crenshaw's bill, prefiled as Basic Resolution 166, proposes to amend Section 145 of the Constitution of Kentucky to allow persons convicted of a felony other than treason, intentional killing, a sex crime or bribery the right to vote after expiration of probation, final discharge from parole or maximum expiration of sentence. The bill would require a vote of the people to become law.
Currently, it requires a pardon by the governor to have their voting rights restored, but that should not be necessary. Once an individual has fully served his or her sentence and parole, his or her right to vote should be automatically restored. That's the way it is in most states, but Kentucky requires action by the governor to restore voting rights, and once a politician is involved in the process, there is always the chance the governor will base the decision on whether to allow the felon to vote on his or her political views. That would be wrong, of course, but stranger things have happened in Kentucky.
Crenshaw filed a nearly identical bill during the 2012 General Assembly and it was approved by the House by a lopsided 78-18 vote, only to languish without a vote in the Senate. That's been the pattern during all recent sessions of the General Assembly, and one hopes the replacement of former Senate President David Williams by Robert Stivers will get this bill moving in the Senate. ...