The Forward Five – Wednesday, 3/24/21

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Five Things to Know Today

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— Publisher’s Note —

Good morning! Most of us, including me, are expecting the legislature to override all of Governor Beshear’s vetoes. After all, they’ve got the votes, they want the power, so they will just do it without too much debate or thought.

I hope they give some thought, though, to letting some of the vetoes stand, as they need to ask themselves “How would this play out if the Democrats controlled the chamber?

An example is HB 312, that guts our state’s open records laws.

I’m sure most people (including you, dear reader) may not get too worked up over the “open records” subject. Truth be told, you should. The ability for both news organizations and everyday citizens to request and receive documents showing what your government is doing is one of the most important protections we have. Case after case after case have shown that government officials often want to hide things, and open records requests are sometimes the only way for the truth to get out.

The worst thing about HB 312, in my opinion, is the part that makes the Legislative Research Commission the final arbiter of what records will be allowed to be released. Note that the LRC is led by the leaders in each chamber. So, in effect, the legislature gets to protect itself.

Before this bill, if you were denied the records you requested, you could appeal that decision to the Attorney General’s office, and if that didn’t work, you could go to the courts. HB 312 ends that appeal process by saying that the decision of the LRC about your open records request is final, and cannot be appealed.

It’s a horrible bill, and one that deserves to die a swift death. Let’s hope the General Assembly sees the danger it poses, and lets the veto stand.

Bruce Maples, publisher
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Today’s Five Things to Know

Beshear vetoes three more bills, including one attacking open records laws

Governor Andy Beshear issued vetoes on three more bills on Tuesday, noting that each of the bills harmed Kentuckians instead of helping them. One of the vetoes was for HB 321, which guts the state’s open records laws. (Forward Kentucky)

We’re looking for an investment’: Educators push Andy Beshear to veto school choice bill

Several of Kentucky’s superintendents, educators and the state’s schools chief are imploring Gov. Andy Beshear to veto legislation to create scholarship tax credits and for lawmakers to not override his rejection.

The controversial school choice measure, housed in House Bill 563, would reduce state revenue by up to $25 million a year to provide tax credits to drum up donations to cover education expenses, including private school tuition in some counties. While that money would not solely impact education funding, a potential loss to state coffers comes as K-12 schools are already underfunded.

In the new state budget, lawmakers do not fully fund textbooks, teacher training programs, transportation or full-day kindergarten. The per-student funding rate remains flat. (Courier-Journal)

3/23 update — Vaccinations hit new high, but several locations have hundreds of slots open, and the U.S. pandemic plateau may be coming to Ky.

Kentucky broke another weekly record for coronavirus shots, but several vaccination sites still have many slots open next week. (The story has the locations.) And, the state’s COVID numbers seem to be leveling off, perhaps showing that the plateau affecting the rest of the country is starting to happen in Kentucky. (Forward Kentucky)

Kentucky pension bill offers relief to community agencies

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation Tuesday designed to provide relief for community social services agencies that have struggled with rising pension costs.

By changing the pension formula, the bill aims to safeguard essential services offered by the quasi-governmental organizations, the governor said. Some services were at risk of cutbacks because the frontline agencies were faced with surging pension contribution rates. The measure offers relief for such agencies as rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, child advocacy centers and other organizations at the forefront of caring for vulnerable Kentuckians. (Herald-Leader)

Kentucky residents more interested in armed hate groups than other states, study says

Kentucky ranked above the national average in Google searches tied to violent extremist groups over the last six months, according to a new study from a tech safety firm. The state’s residents made Google searches related to armed domestic groups at a rate 13 percent higher than the national per capita average, according to Moonshot CVE. Those searches included inquiries on how to join armed groups.

Nearly one-third of Kentucky’s searches connected to extremist movements in the United States were in the study’s highest risk category: “desire to cause harm and join groups.” Some Kentuckians were looking for instructions on how to make bombs, and one of the most-searched phrases in Kentucky was “make a Molotov cocktail.” (Herald-Leader)

Recent Content on Forward Kentucky
[new] indicates item not in a Forward Five before
🔥 indicates high # of reads, social media shares, or both

[New] Beshear signs ten bills in signing ceremony on Tuesday – On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear signed 10 bills that prioritize the well-being and safety of all Kentuckians, with a special focus on protecting seniors and vulnerable children and families. (Press Release)

Governor signs 13 health-related bills into law, including one that caps insulin co-payment at $30/month – Gov. Andy Beshear signed 13 health bills into law Monday, highlighting one that caps insulin costs for about 30 percent of Kentuckians who need the life-preserving hormone. (News)

Veto-proof budget includes health-departments pension reforms, but no money for health-related proposals made by governor – The budget does not include money for the many health-related items that were in Beshear’s proposal, but it does include money for one: pension reform for health departments and quasi-governmental agencies. (News)

Ky. Congressional delegation signs disaster declaration – Gov. Andy Beshear has gotten the backing of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation in his effort to have President Joe Biden issue a major disaster declaration for the state, due to February’s snow and ice. (News)

🔥Dear Repubs – We’ve got your call-out culture right here! – Repubs are worried about being “called out” when they don’t deserve it. But, based on these hair-on-fire statements they’ve made through the years, they actually need to be called out regularly. (Commentary)

LG&E and KU seek regressive residential & commercial rate hikes & restructuring – LG&E has filed another case with the Public Service Commission asking to raise and restructure its gas and electric rates in regressive, anti-consumer ways. Learn more here, including what YOU can do. (Action)

Indivisible group puts up new billboard about HR1 – The Indivisible group in western Kentucky has put up another billboard in Padacuh, this timing raising support for HR1, the “For the People Act.” (News)

🔥Beshear helps Kentuckians, while GOP abandons us – Governor Beshear provided the legislature with a budget that would provide relief to so many in need of help right now. Republicans in Frankfort chose to abandon the people of this Commonwealth instead. (Commentary)

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Forward Kentucky is an independent media organization focused on progressive news and issues in Kentucky. Our objectives are to provide journalism that is objective, policies that are effective, and commentary that is progressive. Our goal is to help Kentucky become all that it can be through government that works, for all. We are "the progressive voice for Kentucky politics."

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