Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
The Daily Independent of Ashland on Kentucky bourbon:
Anyone who has the pleasure of sampling the Commonwealth’s most well known export, Kentucky bourbon, knows that the older the bourbon, the better it is.
In other words this stuff definitely gets better with time.
Hence we have a fitting analogy today for how the bourbon industry is doing in Kentucky. The Associated Press said this week that as time has passed here in Kentucky, the bourbon industry has continued to age well, demonstrating serious economic power when it comes to job growth. And, its economic clout is maturing as well, making for contributions of $8.6 billion annually to the state’s economy.
The AP said the numbers are based on an industry report showing the distilling industry’s economic output increased 60 percent in the past decade in Kentucky, where most of the world’s bourbon is made.
It says total licensed Kentucky distilleries surged from 19 in 2009 to 68 last spring.
The report says distilling generates more than 20,100 jobs - more than double the jobs in 2009. Bourbon inventory rose more than 60 percent in the past decade.
Kentucky distillers shipped more than $452 million of their spirits abroad in 2017. Spirits makers are worried retaliatory tariffs in some key overseas markets could hurt sales.
The sector also pointed to big increases in jobs, capital investment and tax revenue.
“This is a monumental success story,” Rick Robinson, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association board of directors, said at the statehouse event.
Industry officials credited Kentucky lawmakers with speeding the momentum by setting a new policy course for the sector. The idea was that lowering the spirits industry’s tax burden at a time when it was growing would increase the flow of tax revenue to the state.
Lawmakers followed through a few years ago by approving a credit to offset the cost of a tax on aging barrels of distilled spirits, effectively eliminating it for distillers. Distillers still pay the tax, and the money goes mainly to public education, but they get the money back through the tax credit. State leaders also eased regulations on the spirits industry.
Not too shabby. We are big believers that this region of Kentucky is, to some degree, at least, missing out on the potential economic boom the craft beer and distillery industries can offer. We have written before - and will say again - that a huge economic growth area is found in craft beer and distilleries. Ashland needs to explore this further, as Pikeville has done. Doing so brings the potential for jobs, and we know this region needs jobs. The craft brewing industry alone reported recently that it contributed a whopping $76.2 billion to the U.S. Economy in 2017, and that helped provide for more than 500,000 jobs nationwide.
We are advocates for exploring what it will take to get this type of investment going further in the Ashland area. Doing so requires thinking outside the box and capital investment, but it’s time.
This is one of those sectors that is a true economic driver, and not doing everything possible to explore the growth potential here is a mistake.
The State Journal on Marsy’s Law:
Our support for Marsy’s Law - which would enshrine in Kentucky’s Constitution the rights of crime victims to have a voice and representation in the courts - is unwavering.
That said, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate got it right last year when he ruled that a 38-word question on the November ballot was insufficient for voters to make an informed decision on the constitutional amendment.
The Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments on an appeal of Wingate’s ruling. The justices’ decision will determine whether Marsy’s Law goes back before voters, who approved it overwhelmingly on Nov. 6 - and will do so again, we predict, if the Supreme Court requires a “do-over.”
When dealing with something as important as a two-page amendment to the commonwealth’s founding document, complete transparency should be required. Some states require publication of the full text of constitutional amendments in newspapers or own independent websites and to be made available at polling places for inspection by voters. In Kentucky, voters who didn’t independently seek out the text of the amendment before going to vote had only the following to go by:
“Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process.”
Wingate determined, correctly in our view, that the wording was a grossly insufficient summary of a multifaceted change in state law. To his credit, he allowed the election to proceed but required the State Board of Elections to hold on certifying the result - 63 percent approval - until an appeal of his decision could be heard.
If the Supreme Court agrees, we hope lawmakers send it right back to voters in November - but this time with all of the facts on full display. On legislation as important and needed as Marsy’s Law, there’s no reason to cut corners on transparency.
Richmond Register on restoring the right to vote:
More than 312,000 Kentuckians cannot vote. And it is all because of a felony conviction.
Those findings are from a report by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, which says there has been a 68 percent increase in those who can’t vote because of felony convictions since 2006.
Kentucky is one of just three states, including Iowa and Virginia, that impose lifetime voting bans on those with felony convictions. The League said 92 percent of those with felony convictions have been released from prison or jail and live in the community, but cannot vote.
“I think it is not a point of honor to be possibly the last state that permanently disenfranchises people,” said Judy Johnson, the felon and voting rights chairwoman for the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.
The Kentucky Constitution bans convicted felons from voting, holding public office, owning a gun and serving on a jury. The governor can restore voting rights to convicted felons with a pardon. And in 2016, the state legislature passed a law allowing people convicted of nonviolent felonies to have their records expunged, a process that includes a $500 fee.
The court has granted 2,032 expungement requests between July 15, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018, according to the report. The prior three governors have issued 11,500 partial pardons to restore voting rights. But since 2016, the report noted the number of people who have completed their prison sentences yet still cannot vote jumped 88.6 percent.
And while we believe those convicted of a felony should sacrifice certain rights, we also believe in second chances for most.
We believe it is time for the Commonwealth to revisit this issue and state Rep. George Brown has a proposal that would do just that. The amendment to the state’s constitution would automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons once they have completed their prison sentences.
If state lawmakers approve the proposal, the amendment would be put on the ballot in 2020 for voters to decide.
We believe this is a common sense idea that should be supported.
While not all felons turn their life around, there are countless ones who do. And those who have turned their life around should have the right to vote and make a positive impact in their community.
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