Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Independent, Ashland, Ky., on sale of fuel lab's equipment generating $1.65 million:
While the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's operation of its own laboratory to test gasoline and pesticides never lived up to its promise of not only saving the state money but actually earning a profit, it turns out the failed lab was not as costly as some feared.
In 2008, former Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer convinced legislators the state should invest in its own fuel lab.
However, Farmer's successor, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, in March closed the lab started by his fellow Republican, saying it was "hemorrhaging" tax dollars. Comer said the lab never generated the outside business Farmer predicted it would. In fact, he said it failed to efficiently handle the number of tests conducted in Kentucky and conducted only a few pesticide tests.
When Auditor Adam Edelen, at Comer's request, examined the agriculture department's finances under Farmer, the audit found the lab had tested only about 3,800 fuel examples during several years of operation, or far fewer than the 20,000 samples it was projected to test each year. ...
While the agriculture department may seem like an odd agency to test the quality of gasoline and the accuracy of measurements, it is an important job that protects consumers. ...
Comer's decision to close the lab clearly was the right one, but this story does not end there. Comer last week presented Kentucky Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, a Democrat who is in his second and final term, with $1.65 million generated by auctioning equipment at its now-defunct fuel lab.
At Comer's request, the state Finance and Administration Cabinet auctioned the lab equipment in September. The state recovered $2.14 million in the two-day sale — more than the original value of the equipment.
Hollenbach praised Comer for overhauling fuel testing. He said the Republican agriculture commissioner deserves credit for "taking a lemon and turning it into lemonade."
Closing the lab is just one of the many good things Comer has done since the former member of the House of Representatives was elected to the usually low-profile office of agriculture commissioner. Although he can run for a second term in 2015, Comer is an early favorite to be the GOP's nominee for governor that year.
Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville, Ky., on statewide smoke ban logical step for state:
Medical research and good science keep providing all the evidence Kentucky lawmakers need to support smoke-free legislation. They should look to the science — and to the experience of communities that already have smoke-free laws — as they prepare for the 2014 session of the General Assembly.
We've known for years that a statewide ban on smoking in all indoor public places makes sense, but a report released this week from Kentucky Youth Advocates ought to give lawmakers the push they need to finally pass smoke-free legislation.
"We know smoke-free policies will improve the health of Kentucky newborns," said Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates. "But, children and unborn babies in 85 counties are not protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. There were more than 25,000 babies born in 2011 to mothers without the protection of a comprehensive, smoke-free policy in their county. We need to protect all kids, not just those kids lucky enough to live in a smoke-free community. Kentucky babies can't wait."
The report, titled "Blueprint for Kentucky's Children," can be read at www.kyyouth.org.
Too often in Kentucky, we hear people describing secondhand smoke as nothing more than an unpleasant smell. That attitude has allowed too many lawmakers to ignore the truth. Secondhand tobacco smoke contains carcinogens and toxic chemicals that cause lung and cardiovascular diseases. Secondhand smoke is not only an irritant to people who don't smoke. It is an environmental hazard to everyone, including children who typically have no choice about their exposure.
Only a third of Kentucky's children live in a place protected by a comprehensive smoking ordinance. Lawmakers can address this health risk for children and adults, and they can do it with the knowledge that most Kentuckians already support smoke-free legislation.
In a poll conducted last year by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, 59 percent of people said they support statewide smoking legislation. We suspect a poll taken today would reveal more Kentuckians support a public smoking ban.
There's also no reason to believe that smoke-free legislation would hurt stores, restaurants and other businesses. Lawmakers can look to the experience of Hopkinsville. After a lengthy debate in this community, city council adopted a smoke-free ordinance that was enacted Jan. 1. Contrary to the misinformation spread by opponents, Hopkinsville's smoking ban is not hurting businesses. In fact, some restaurants have attracted new customers who wanted a smoke-free dining experience all along.
More than 20 Kentucky cities have a smoke-free ordinance, and they've all learned the same thing. It works. It's good for a community's health. It's good for business.
State lawmakers should not let another session expire without adopting smoking legislation.