Kentucky editorial roundup
Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
The Lexington Herald-Leader on a ban on bump stocks:
The U.S. Justice Department’s recent ban of bump stocks — devices that allow semi-automatics to fire at a faster pace — is welcome news after congressional gun-safety efforts stalled earlier this year.
Fulfilling a promise by President Donald Trump, the rule would not only prohibit the devices from being produced or sold, it requires that any existing devices be destroyed or turned into authorities by March 21. Enforcement steps are not spelled out.
The devices received national attention after being used in the October, 2017 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people. The shooter fired more than 1,000 rounds in a matter of minutes. At least 10 states have passed their own restrictions against bump stocks and similar devices.
While legal battles over the rule are expected, it’s still a good step in the push for gun safety and could provide some momentum for legislation as Democrats take control of the House next month.
The surest way to make bump stocks and similar gadgets illegal is for Congress to pass a law. Sixty-one percent of Americans favor stricter laws on the sale of firearms, according to a Gallup survey conducted in October. That is the strongest support for restrictions since 1990.
The administration’s ban is based on the argument that bump stocks are equivalent to machine guns, which are already illegal. The rule reverses a 2010 decision that such devices were not machine guns and could not be regulated unless Congress said so.
Gun Owners of America has already said it would file a lawsuit against the “unconstitutional regulations.” The National Rifle Association earlier agreed to support a bump-stock ban, but now wants amnesty for current owners.
We hope the administration overcomes any legal challenge to this reasonable step. In the meantime, we can’t ignore the irony that — after all the propaganda about the Obama administration coming to take away people’s guns — it is the Trump administration demanding people turn in weapon devices.
The Daily News of Bowling Green on a special session intended to get a pension reform bill passed:
This newspaper has repeatedly said that something must be done to fix our broken public pension system.
It’s one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country. It really is unfortunate that previous administrations turned a blind eye to this elephant in the room. Gov. Matt Bevin and a Republican-controlled legislature recognized this oncoming train wreck and tried to address it. This is to their credit. The result wasn’t popular with some teachers or the powerful teachers’ union out of Jefferson County, but Bevin and the legislators knew they had to act to get this broken pension system under control.
Last session, they acted by passing public pension reform, a modest step to help pay down the enormous debt in the pension system. We applauded Bevin and the majority of the legislature for their effort to start paying this massive debt down. Soon after, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear — who is running for governor against Bevin if he wins the Democratic primary — sued, arguing the legislature violated the state Constitution by not voting on the proposal three times over three separate days. Last week, the Kentucky Supreme Court sided with Beshear, ruling lawmakers cannot take a bill close to final passage and replace it without voting on it three times over three separate days, as the Constitution requires.
We stated after the court ruling that we believe the court got it right but that it could be fixed by simply voting on a new pension bill the required three times when it comes up again. We believed pension reform was going to come up again as it should, but indicated it may not this year because the legislature is only in session for 30 days and because there’s an election for governor next year.
But, Bevin called legislators to Frankfort for a special session intended to get the pension reform bill passed. Lawmakers rushed to Frankfort with very little notice, only to find that the legislation they passed last year wasn’t what they were voting on. Reports indicate that Republicans would’ve likely passed the bill they passed last year, but they didn’t like the new one because Bevin came with proposals they weren’t prepared to pass. The legislature adjourned the next day without voting.
In hindsight, Bevin should’ve had his ducks in a row and notified lawmakers on both sides that it was going to put forth a different piece of legislation before he made them travel to Frankfort. Had they known that and seen a copy prior to a special session being called, GOP leadership might have told Bevin he didn’t have the votes to get his legislation passed.
Doing this would’ve not only saved legislators time, but it also would’ve saved the taxpayers of this state $125,000, which is what this special session cost.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said it best when he said, “It’s just very difficult to start making significant changes to the bill and have any confidence that there’s a full understanding of it when it was not what we believed we had when we were coming in.”
We do believe that Bevin’s heart is in the right place in trying to fix this pension mess, but we also simply believe that he should’ve better prepared legislators for the changes he wanted.
At the end of the day, a special session probably shouldn’t have been called, knowing what we know now. We do believe pension reform will ultimately be passed that can pass legal muster in this state. While we take issue with Bevin for not notifying legislators of his changes, we do applaud him for at least trying to deal with arguably our state’s largest problem, which won’t be solved simply by ignoring it.
The Independent of Ashland on falling life expectancy among Americans:
Remarkably, the life expectancy of Americans is falling.
How is this possible? We know more about human health than ever before. We have the most advanced, high-tech medical care system in the world, yet life expectancy has been falling since 2014. The Associated Press ran a very comprehensive report on this month, going in depth on the trend and looking to West Virginia for guidance on the answers as to why.
The AP?called the state “a bellwether of bad health.” Yikes.
“It seems that the worst outcomes happen here first,” said Dr. Michael Brumage, a West Virginia University public health expert who formerly ran the health department in Charleston. “We’re the canary in the coal mine.”
The drug overdose death rate for all Americans today is where West Virginia’s rate was 10 years ago. The nation’s suicide rate is where West Virginia’s was nearly 20 years ago.
Obesity was common in West Virginia before it became widespread in the rest of the country. And life expectancy started tumbling in the Mountain State before it began falling across the U.S., the AP?reported.
We touch on these issues quite regularly in this editorial column and we do so again today because they are critically important to community well being. The culprits for a significant chunk of people who are dying early are economic despair and hopelessness, leading to high rates of suicide and drug abuse. We also believe a very significant factor in shorter life expectancies is obesity, and this — unlike many economic tides, trends, ebbs and flows — is completely within our own control. The AP?said West Virginia eclipses most other states in the percentage of people affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity, but as we read this story, we thought to ourselves it is unfair to talk strictly about West Virginia in this regard. This is a problem that stretches across all state boundaries. It stretches from California to New York and to every state in between.
The key here to reversing this concerning health trend is awareness and education. We risk today being perceived as preachy, but we are not intending to be this way. We say what we are about to say strictly in the best interests of our fellow citizens, and in the hope that talking about improving our health brings so much less suffering. It doesn’t have to be this way — where many Americans end up suffering greatly in the latter years of their life due to poor health.
Again, good health is within reach. All it takes is having more information and acting on that information. The information is straight forward: more fruits and vegetables, eliminating unnatural sugar and all processed foods from our diet, and lots of exercise. We need to get moving, finding some form of exercise, every single day. These steps alone lead to astonishing transformations of the human mind, body and spirit.
As January arrives, so do the New Year’s resolutions. Let’s all join together in 2019 and reverse this troubling trend of falling life expectancies. We can take great steps in reducing human suffering through the pursuit of better health, and pursuit starts with each of us.