Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Paducah (Ky.) Sun on video racing legislation:
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is performing an old political trick: Try to get what you want by tying it to something the people want.
Stumbo wants to address a problem Frankfort is under public pressure to fix with a pet project that public opposition has heretofore prevented from gaining traction. He proposes to expand gambling, tax it and apply the new revenue to the state's public employee pension funds, which are now straining under the weight of an unfunded liability of more than $30 billion.
The public wants pension reform. Frankfort wants new revenue sources — i.e., taxes on expanded gambling. Not exactly a perfect match, but it'll do.
Gov. Steve Beshear is cheering Stumbo on. Naturally. The governor has tried unsuccessfully every year since his 2007 election to expand gambling in the commonwealth. He tried a different approach each time but never found the right formula. Stumbo's plan won't be the magic ticket either.
His proposal is to statutorily expand a probably illegal enterprise already taking place on a limited scale in the state. Video betting machines that allow gamblers to wager on past horse races were installed at Kentucky Downs in 2011 and Ellis Park last year. It's called "instant racing."
Stumbo wants the machines at all tracks, which have been crying for ways to increase gambling revenue. The problem is, gambling is constitutionally prohibited in Kentucky. Wagering on horse racing is allowed only by virtue of a court created fiction: such betting is not "gambling" because "there is skill involved." ...
One obvious question is, if instant racing is already legal, as gambling proponents insist, why does it need this legislation? To influence the court, perhaps?
Now that the camel's nose is in the tent, Beshear, Stumbo and Co. hope to lure the smelly critter further in — bringing the commonwealth closer to what the governor admits is his ultimate goal: casinos.
Stumbo says wagers on instant racing could total $1 billion a year, with the tax on wagers generating $25 million to $30 million. But that would not come close to filling the pension gap, which is 1,000 times that amount.
... The program is structurally unsound. Until the General Assembly changes the system from the ground up, including scaling back the benefit packages for future hires, Kentucky's fund will continue down its present road to collapse.
Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky., on immigration legislation:
Many teenagers and young adults who immigrate to our country face obstacles upon arriving here.
Some have trouble assimilating, whether it be the language barriers, finding housing or simply adjusting to a new culture.
It must be very trying for them and at times overwhelming, but help might be on the way in the form of a bill pending in the Kentucky General Assembly.
House Bill 131, which is sponsored by state Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, would allow refugees and legal immigrants to stay in high school longer. It would allow them to stay in school until age 23 and allow schools to receive state funding for those students.
The bill is co-sponsored by state Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, and state Rep. Wilson, D-Scottsville.
Schools currently stop receiving state funding for a student at age 21 and are not required to keep them enrolled past that point, though exceptions are sometimes made.
House Bill 131 makes perfect sense and levels the playing field.
We must remember that many of these immigrants and refugees are coming here from Third World countries, where many aren't well educated.
Some arriving here may enroll in our schools later in their youth, compared to the average age of an American high school student. Extending the age that they could stay in school would give them an extra edge that many of them might need for completing their high school education.
Another problem is the language barrier. In a perfect world, it would be better if more of these immigrants and refugees spoke English before they came to the U.S., but that's simply not always the case. Many of those coming here don't speak English, so they are already at a disadvantage of having to learn the language while also trying to learn the curriculum.
This furthers the argument that these students need more time.
We back House Bill 131 100 percent and urge its passage in the Senate.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on expanding Medicaid:
It appears that more and more officials are beginning to see the light when it comes to expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Just recently, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott — once one of the staunchest opponents of "Obamacare" — reversed course and announced he will accept the expansion of federal Medicaid that could bring health coverage to as many as a million, low-income Floridians.
He joins six other Republican governors who, in recent months, have agreed to accept the expansion in the best interests of the millions of poor people in their states who lack access to health care.
Too bad some officials in Kentucky aren't as compassionate.
Kentucky is one of the states still on the fence, with Gov. Steve Beshear yet to make an announcement on whether he will accept the expansion that could bring coverage to as many as 300,000 low-income people in Kentucky.
But he's probably just waiting for the members of the General Assembly to get out of town.
Senate Republicans, still battling to obstruct expansion of health care reform in Kentucky, passed legislation on party lines meant to prevent Beshear from doing anything to advance health care reform.
Senate Bill 39, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican, would require the Legislature to vote on whether to approve the Medicaid expansion.
Given the obstructive nature of Frankfort, and the inability of lawmakers to agree on almost anything, this is a very bad idea.
Already, around 650,000 people in Kentucky have no health coverage and this bill would provide access to health care for many of them. It could also ease the strain on hospital emergency rooms, which provide the free care of last resort.
And it could help the rest of us who are paying the costs one way or another — through taxes to support hospital charity care or through higher health insurance premiums.
The Senate also passed its companion Senate Bill 40, which would require legislative approval of the Health Care Exchange Beshear authorized by executive order. It serves as a key component of the Affordable Care Act by creating a one-stop, online shopping site for people and small businesses to shop for health coverage. ...
Fortunately, both Senate bills likely will be scuttled in the House. ...