Kentucky editorial roundup
Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
The Lexington Herald-Leader on nursing homes in Kentucky:
Imagine being in pain or afraid, and your cries for help go ignored.
If you’re in a Kentucky nursing home, you’re ignored because there are too few nurses and nurse’s aides to go around. No one — not even in the nursing home industry — disputes that.
Why the legislature ignores the cries for help is harder to fathom.
As John Cheves’ powerful reporting reminds us, legislative leaders have long been stubbornly incurious about how to improve care for the elderly and disabled, even though the state is responsible for overseeing nursing homes and holds their purse strings via Medicaid.
Two government insurance plans — Medicaid and Medicare — provide nursing homes with most of their revenue. Medicaid puts $1 billion a year into caring for roughly 12,500 residents of Kentucky nursing homes.
Cheves documented horrifying consequences, deaths and avoidable suffering because of routine understaffing: A 45-year-old man killed when his wheelchair crashed down stairs, undiscoverd for nine hours. A patient whose cries of pain prompted staff to mute him by shutting off a voice valve in his throat and who later was hospitalized because of a neglected catheter. Infirm residents forced to soil themselves because no one can help them to the bathroom.
The only nursing home executive who would talk to Cheves cited Kentucky’s long-running freeze on Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes as an obstacle to raising the low wages that guarantee constant turnover and low morale.
You’d think lawmakers would want to examine the funding available to care for our elders. They should want to know how minimum staffing mandates have worked in other states, whether anti-psychotic drugs are being over-prescribed. After all, demand for long-term care among their constituents is only going to rise as the baby boomers age.
To gain an accurate financial picture, nursing home companies would have to open their books. Because most in Kentucky are privately held, they have no obligation to do that. Unless they voluntarily go public, we can only guess at their profits and whether increasing staff would push them into the red.
We do know from government data that non-profit nursing homes are better staffed and also tend to provide better care than for-profit nursing homes.
Home and community-based services are cheaper than institutional care and help people remain in their homes. Besides having one of the nation’s highest concentrations of substandard nursing homes, Kentucky also trails in the portion of Medicaid funding devoted to caring for people at home. Would it be possible for more Kentuckians to age in their homes?
Shamefully, our legislature has done more to protect the nursing home industry than to protect the Kentuckians who live in nursing homes. A “tort reform” law enacted in 2017 makes it harder to sue nursing homes for negligence and abuse, even though families often go to court to hold negligent nursing homes accountable and spare other people from the torment endured by their loved ones.
We don’t expect easy solutions. The nursing home industry is a powerful lobby. But for the legislature to keep ignoring the problems in the face of so much suffering is cowardly and wrong and must end.
The Daily News of Bowling Green on the Republican-controlled legislature passing legislation that imposed a 6 percent sales tax on nonprofit organizations:
We stated in a July 8 editorial that we believed the Republican-controlled legislature was wrong to pass legislation that imposed a 6 percent sales tax on nonprofit organizations.
We are still of that opinion.
Nonprofit organizations do a lot of good for a lot of people in our city and throughout the state. They provide food for the homeless, put a roof over their heads during times of inclement weather and also try to help them find work and housing. Theses nonprofits operate on limited budgets as it is, mainly getting their funding to operate through grants, fundraisers and donations from people within their communities.
It’s worth noting that the legislation, House Bill 487, was passed near the end of the legislative session without the required three readings. This showed a total lack of transparency on behalf of the legislature and caught many of these nonprofits off guard. Due to the lack of transparency, many nonprofits had little time to become aware of what was happening to them. As a result, their voices went largely unheard.
One only has to look at the recent Bowling Green International Festival, which is a nonprofit event. Angela Jones, the president of the festival’s board of directors, saw firsthand how the sales tax mandate affected that event.
“The impact we felt was both on the gate admissions and on the fees we charge vendors,” Jones said. “We did assess the sales tax when we calculated vendor fees this year. Several expressed frustration with the fee.”
Jones said the International Festival didn’t raise ticket prices this year, opting to absorb the cost of the sales tax.
“We calculate that we will owe about $1,500,” Jones said. “That’s money that we won’t be able to invest back into the festival.”
This is a real shame and just one example of why this law needs to be overturned. Imagine how many other nonprofit organizations and nonprofit events have been impacted by this unfair law across the state.
We would venture to guess that there are quite a few, which is very disappointing because this is money that they desperately need.
Now, with the legislative session to begin in Frankfort in January, it is time for them to be heard. Even before the session has started, it appears that is already happening. A bill prefiled by state Rep. David Osborne, R-Prospect, has picked up endorsements from 37 of his colleagues in the House of Representatives. Called Bill Request 76, Osborne’s proposed legislation would maintain a tax exemption on the purchase of admission tickets sponsored by any nonprofit, charitable or religious organization.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers is on board with Osborne’s bill and expressed his support in a guest article in the Kentucky Gazette.
“It was never the intent of the legislature to force nonprofits to charge sales tax on tangible items or admissions to events,” Stivers wrote. “I expect the General Assembly to act quickly on this measure to provide relief for the nonprofit community in the commonwealth.”
It means a lot to see and hear state legislators such as Osborne and Stivers and many of their colleagues essentially say: We messed up and we’re going to do our best to do away with this unwanted tax.
As we’ve stated, this should’ve never become law, but it does say a lot that these lawmakers have indicated it wasn’t their intent to charge nonprofits sales tax. We take them at their word and are hopeful that when they convene in January they correct this wrong.
The Independent of Ashland on the dangers law enforcement face:
It was a time of mourning in Florence County, South Carolina.
It should also be a time of mourning across the nation.
We are referring to the shootings of seven officers and deputies in the South Carolina community during a single incident. Reports from CNN and other news outlets indicate a gunman opened fire with high-powered weaponry on officers serving a search warrant at an upscale home located about 40 minutes from Myrtle Beach.
Veteran Florence Police Department officer Terrence Carraway — who gave his entire career to serving the citizens of his community — was murdered by the gunman. Six other officers were shot. Witnesses said Carraway, in heroic fashion, was killed trying to help his fellow officers as they took gunfire. The search warrant was being served while authorities investigated a report that a man at the home had abused a foster child.
To put this in the proper perspective, these officers were attempting to pursue justice on behalf of a victimized child. They were doing righteous work only to be targeted. Carraway gave his life for such a noble purpose.
Fox News reports at least 67 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty so far in 2018. In 2017, 129 officers were killed. In 2016 a record number of officers, 135, were killed.
Just a quick check of recent events shows the magnitude of the lethal violence officers on an almost daily basis. In Mississippi two officers were slain, allegedly by a man repeatedly paroled from prison and with a long criminal history. Last month, an officer was shot to death while responding to a seemingly routine disturbance call at an auto parts store in Sacramento, California. Again, the alleged offender had a felony history involving weaponry. A deputy in Kansas was killed by, you guessed it, a gunman with a lengthy criminal history. In Georgia a police chief was killed by a criminal suspect fleeing authorities. In Fort Worth Texas a detective was ambushed and shot in the head while conducting surveillance related to a robbery spree. In California a corrections officer died from injuries suffered in an attack by multiple inmates.
Obviously the proliferation of guns among felons and convicts is a huge part of the equation. Another part is the hatred a small segment of our society has towards the rule of law.
... We believe our society needs to take a much more aggressive approach on keeping guns away from criminals. We also believe America needs to invest in our criminal justice system — specifically more prisons — to lock up gun toting repeat offenders for good. If you are violent, robbing people with weapons or breaking into homes, you go to prison for good. There is a pattern with these types of offenders. Robbery, arrest, conviction, released on parole, repeat.
We are thankful for the fearless work from law enforcement and believe, in our view, we can do a much better job of appreciating the profound dangers our law enforcement officers face every day. But it is more than just appreciation that is required. Reform of the system is what is truly needed to put the violent, dangerous offenders away.