Darts and Laurels
Laurel: Becoming a presidential favorite, Marlana Vanhoose once again sang the National Anthem for Pres. Donald Trump’s appearance in Louisville on Monday March 20.
Dart: Former Paintsville police officer Darren Estep pled guilty to 10 counts of forgery in the 2nd degree for writing $4,608 worth of Paintsville Funeral Home checks to himself. His sentencing is scheduled for April 21 at 10 a.m. at the Johnson County Circuit Courthouse.
Laurel: Louisa-born singer Kelsie May has signed a contract with Blue Sapphire Music to produce her first album on Saturday, March 18. May appeared at the Paintsville Apple Festival last year and gave us a sneak preview of her talent.
Dart: It is a shame that the 201 Speedway will be closed for the 2017 season, summer won’t be the same without a visit to the dirt track to cheer on local heroes when they race. Let’s hope things get straightened out so they can open doors soon!
Laurel: Congratulations to new interim Paintsville Tourism Director Randall Scott “Shoes” Hale. He has been an active part of Paintsville for years and his intimate knowledge of the best parts of our community will help him in his role.
Prescription Drug Epidemic Must Be Tackled Head-On
By Representative Larry Brown
All across America, but especially right here in my home of Eastern Kentucky, the prescription drug scourge is devastating our families and communities. In a time when so many want to get ahead, they are instead falling down the road of addiction.
Much contributes to the epidemic we are facing, and a lack of economic opportunity in rural America has sparked a drug crisis that has hindered the hardworking, talented people of Eastern Kentucky. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014. Almost 200,000 have died from prescription overdose since the turn of the century. In Kentucky, trends continue to follow suit as we see an increase in addiction and overdose deaths each year. Our people deserve better than this.
Drug dependency has created a predatory environment for far too many of our citizens. In order to get back to what made our region great, lawmakers are taking action to accomplish three very important things: education, prevention, and treatment.
Education is vital to stopping addiction before it begins. We must ensure our children are fully aware of the dangers addiction presents, and the House has taken significant steps to do so. Specifically, we passed a measure that will allow public school students from elementary through high school to learn about the harmful effects of prescription opioid abuse and addiction. Recommendations for the curriculum would be developed by the state Office of Drug Control Policy and implemented by the Kentucky Department of Education. It is our duty to see that Kentucky’s youth are educated on the harsh realities of drug addiction, and not let them fall prey to the belief that drugs are socially acceptable.
Prevention is also key to stopping the epidemic that has swept across our Commonwealth. The House has sent a clear message that we will not tolerate drugs in our communities by passing House Bill 333. This is an aggressive measure aimed at tackling our state’s drug problem by increasing penalties for carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives while also preventing medical patients from succumbing to pain pill addiction. We increasingly see addiction begin in our medicine cabinets, and it is vital we stop the mindset that opioids are the only solution to pain. House Bill 333 will prevent the excessive prescribing of pain pills, while promoting alternative treatments, and stopping addiction that begins with a medical need.
While education and prevention are imperative to stopping addiction, the reality is that many Kentuckians are already suffering through this epidemic with nowhere to turn. We heard Governor Bevin address it earlier this year in the State of the Commonwealth, and the House remains committed to increasing access to treatment. With the number of individuals facing addiction in our state, it is unacceptable that we are not properly equipped to help them. The House will allocate funding in the upcoming biennial budget to increase access to treatment and help those struggling through this battle.
Eastern Kentucky has a rich tradition of the very best people: kind, loyal, and hardworking individuals wanting to provide a better life for their families. In order to build a better Kentucky, we must seek to rid ourselves of this life-altering, life-threating drug abuse. We must educate our youth, prevent the continuation of this epidemic, and increase access to treatment for those who have gone down a path they need help back from. We in the General Assembly are committed to helping Appalachia. We are committed to a better Kentucky.
Darts and Laurels
Laurel: Paintsville was the center of attention last Monday, March 13 while federal, state, regional and local leadership headed by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin reaffirmed their dedication to economic development through technology during a round-table discussion last week at Big Sandy Community and Technical College, Mayo Campus.
Dart: Monday was “free ice cream” day at Dairy Queen, where all visitors could get a vanilla soft serve cone at no cost. Why couldn’t this wait until July when a cool treat could be appreciated, rather than in March when cold weather interspaced with rain and possible snow could dampen enthusiasm?
Laurel: Congratulations to Paintsville and Johnson County students for their achievements while competing for the 2017 Governor’s Cup.
Dart: Two Paintsville residents were indicted in Martin County on serious and extensive child sexual abuse charges. Why they could not have been discovered sooner, before such harm was inflicted on innocent children, is a question we all need to ask ourselves.
Laurel: Kudos to both Paintsville Utilities and the Paintsville City Council for coming to a compromise concerning rising water and sewage rates. The decision will be ratified by the city council during their next session.
Darts and Laurels
Laurel: Paintsville Mayor Bill Mike Runyon presented Skip Holley, Potentate the El Hasa Shrine Center in Ashland with a proclamation and the key to the city of Paintsville for their efforts to help the children of our community. The next event the Paintsville Shriners are hosting is the 2017 Casting For Kids Open Bass Tournament on Paintsville Lake on Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30.
Dart: A major rockslide destroyed a 100-year old roadside stand and two demonstration buildings for sale on Sunday, March 5 at the intersection of Little Mud Lick and Ky. Rt. 40 in Staffordsville. It is unknown if owner Janie Franklin will rebuild or move the stand to a new location.
Laurel: The Paintsville City Council followed through with their promise to buy and install an outdoor siren at Paintsville Fire Station One to warn residents of severe weather. The siren will be tested every first Monday of the month at noon, weather permitting.
Dart: Daylight savings time has once again robbed us of an hour of sleep. The time change occurred on Sunday morning at 2 a.m. and stays in place until Nov. 5. As it will be once again dark during the morning commute, please be careful on the road.
Laurel: Johnson Central High School welcomed a visit from 93-year-old WWII veteran Hershel “Woody” Willams, the last Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. Kudos to teacher J.R. VanHoose for personalizing their history studies with the visit to allow students to speak with Williams after completing their history lesson on WWII.
Denial of records by universities strikes at the heart of Kentucky’s transparency laws
By Andy Beshear
Kentucky Attorney General
Sunshine Week is celebrated across the nation every March to highlight the importance of open government and how only transparency can ensure accountability.
In Kentucky, Sunshine Week (March 12-18) could not come at a more important time, as the very protections afforded by our state’s Open Records laws are being attacked, and could even be eviscerated, by some of our public universities.
As attorney general, I have made protecting Kentuckians’ right to know how government agencies are operating one of my office’s highest priorities.
Under Kentucky law, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for safeguarding the Open Meetings Act and Open Records Act. Under the law, if citizens or journalists are wrongfully denied a request for information to a public agency, they can appeal directly to my office.
No need for lawyers.
Your government is supposed to be open to you.
In reviewing each appeal, we deal with issues that are complicated and nuanced, which require significant research and analysis in the application of the law. One important step we can and do take is to request a confidential review of documents an agency is withholding. That way, we know if their reasons are honest, or merely an excuse to hide information.
In several recent decisions, my office ruled that four public universities violated the Open Records Act when they denied documents containing allegations of sexual misconduct by university staff.
In each case, the universities also refused to allow my office to confidentially review the documents. We told the universities that the review was confidential under law. We told them they could redact the names and identifying information on any student victim. They still refused.
To be clear, state law gives authority to the Attorney General to confidentially review documents. Without that review, a bad actor could easily cheat the system by providing false or fraudulent reasons to withhold information. However, if the Attorney General cannot review the documents, the bad actor could never be caught or proven wrong.
We are currently in front of a judge in our case to protect these transparency laws against the University of Kentucky, and we are seeking to intervene in cases involving Kentucky State University and Western Kentucky University.
Essentially, the universities’ actions are attempting to turn Kentucky’s Open Records Act into a ‘trust me’ law.
In the context of a university, this approach threatens the safety of our students. Campus sexual assault is one of the greatest threats facing our young adults. One in five women and one in 16 men were sexually assaulted while in college in 2015.
How did the university investigate these sexual assaults?
Did the victims secure justice?
Alternatively, were the victims not believed and forced to continue to sit in the same classes as their offender?
Are the universities’ investigators and administrators doing a good job?
As a parent, I want to know these questions before sending my child to any campus.
Sadly, what we do know is that by hiding documents related to university faculty who have harassed or assaulted students, universities around the country have quietly allowed these perpetrators to move to other schools, endangering the safety of other students.
This is what happens when an institution chooses secrecy over transparency.
Our decisions on these matters demonstrate how critical transparency is to good government, and how my office is committed to the law and being tough on those who are found to be in violation of it.
It also shows my commitment to seeking justice for victims of rape and sexual assault. In order for us to fulfill this mission, we must stand up for those who have known the devastating impact of violence or abuse.
This includes ensuring our public universities are not hiding from the law or hiding just how prevalent sexual assaults might be on their campuses.