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February 9, 2015;

By Al Cross

Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

Efforts to help the region as a whole are undercut by the competitive feeling among the region’s counties and towns

Eastern Kentucky needs ““a sustained change of culture and mindset across many communities” if it is to achieve the promise created by the first year of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative, SOAR’s executive director said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Jared Arnett was questioned by KET’s “One to One” by Bill Goodman, in a broadcast timed to advance the SOAR Strategy Summit, to be held in Pikeville on Monday, Feb. 16. “We’re looking for the leaders, the army that will make this happen,” he said. Goodman noted an op-ed piece that Arnett published in December, in which he advocated three or four regional chambers of commerce like the one that he headed – based in Pike County but laying claim to economic-development efforts in eight nearby counties.

“A county judge-executive claimed that the chamber was breaking the law by getting involved in economic development,” Arnett wrote. “We can't let local politics and turf wars hold us back any longer, if we want to create jobs that generate wealth." 

Arnett, a native of Salyersville, started at SOAR Jan. 1. He told Goodman that he lives in Floyd County, “but that’s just where I live. I’m an Eastern Kentuckian. That’s what SOAR is about, is a shift in the mindset and our culture.”

He said efforts to help the region as a whole are undercut by the competitive feeling among the region’s counties and towns. “We’re losing as a region, and need to be competing for jobs and economic growth,” he said. “What has to drive the future of Eastern Kentucky is a shared ownership of what we’re trying to do.”

Arnett said regional efforts would be helpful in developing tourism, which he noted has been discussed as a potential asset for Eastern Kentucky since 1959. Tourism promotion is done by the state or by local tourism commissions, using money from lodging and restaurant taxes, and Arnett suggested that isn’t the best approach. He said the local commissions “have done a good job,” but he goes on vacation, “Very rarely do I know what county I’m in.”

When it comes to recruiting industry, Arnett said, “We’ve not been proactive.” The region needs to decide what industries it wants and go get them, he said. He also endorsed the idea of a regional development fund using coal severance tax revenue “or whatever the state would decide to invest.”

Arnett said the success of SOAR would be measured by metrics such as health, unemployment rates, poverty rates, private investment and new business start-ups over the next five to 10 years.

“If we’re not able to impact those numbers,” he said, “I’ll be tremendously disappointed.”

Date: 02-09-2015;

Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday about whether voluntary sexual conduct between children should be prosecuted as a crime.

The eighth-grade boy and his seventh-grade girlfriend had been dating about 1½ years when they decided to have sex, which they did twice at her house when nobody was home.

The boy, 15, also texted two nude pictures of himself to the girl, 13, who sent him one back.

When the girl's parents found the pictures on her phone, they took out a warrant in Woodford Circuit Court, and the boy was charged with sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor, and possessing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor, a felony.

Even though "B.H," as the boy is identified in court records, was too young to consent to sex — the minimum age is 16 in Kentucky — he was charged with a crime for engaging in it. And even though the boy's parents could have gone to the county attorney's office and taken out charges against the girl — just as C.W.'s parents had done — only B.H. was charged.

In a case that has captured national attention, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday about whether voluntary sexual conduct between children should be prosecuted as a crime.

"This case matters to any parent who has a teenage child, or will have a teenage child," B.H.'s lawyer, assistant public advocate John Wampler, said in an interview. "The simple fact is that unfortunately, many young teens under 16 are having sex with each other and engaging in sexting.

"If the Commonwealth's position is held to be correct, then approximately one third of all teenagers, according to recent statistics, could be charged with a felony sex offense," Wampler said. "That should strike fear in the hearts of every parent who has bought their child a smartphone."

The Kentucky attorney general's office, which is defending the prosecution, says that punishing only the boy was justified because he initiated the acts and because he had a prior offense for indecent exposure.

But the nation's oldest public interest law firm for children, the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, and the Children's Law Center of Covington say in a friend-of-the court brief that criminalizing "sexual explorations" among consenting teens is bad law and policy and stigmatizes youths.

"Dealing with sexual feelings is an important part of adolescence," they say in their brief, which notes that most states impose no punishment, or reduce punishment, when teen partners are of similar ages.

Wampler says B.H.'s prior offense is irrelevant to the constitutional issues in the current case.

"There is no dispute that B.H. and C.W. had sex, and it is clear that the sex was consensual," Wampler writes in his brief. "Yet B.H. is painted as villain, C.W. as victim."

Wampler also notes that while both texted nude pictures to each other, only B.H. was charged with a crime — violating the constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

Recalling the infamous example of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, Wampler argues that prosecuting B.H. for sexting — while adults would go unpunished for the same conduct — is also unfair. "While the former congressman's sexting did unquestionable damage to his political career (and presumably, to his marriage as well), he did not find himself in jail over his actions."

Neither Wampler nor the youth law centers say that underage youths like B.H. and C.W. should have "carte blanche to engage in gratuitous sex without culpability," as Wampler put it.

Instead, the lawyers say both could have been referred as status offenders for counseling and ordered to take classes on sexual boundaries and appropriate interactions with their peers.

B.H. pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in May 2011 and District Judge Vanessa Dickson designated him a juvenile sex offender, which under the law required that he be removed and placed in a secure youth center for treatment for about 11 months as a sexual predator.

Appeals to the Woodford Circuit Court and state Court of Appeals were unsuccessful, but the state Supreme Court agreed to hear his case.

Arguing to uphold the prosecution, Gregory Fuchs, the assistant attorney general, says that by pleading guilty, B.H. lost the right to challenge the constitutionality of his conviction.

Fuchs also says it's important to note that the boy's problems began more than a year before when he adjudicated on the indecent exposure charge, for knocking on a neighbor's door dressed only in a towel, removing it, then fondling himself in front of the neighbor when she asked him to go away.

B.H. was still on probation when the other offenses arose, justifying the court's decision to punish him rather than the girl, Fuchs said.

He also cites the girl's testimony that B.H. said he "would tell me what to do and how to do it," and says B.H. was more culpable because he sent the first photo and threatened to tell friends they were having sex if she didn't send him one back.

"There was only one victim in this case, C.W.," Fuchs writes, "and it was just as illegal" for B.H. to "possess child pornography" — the sexted photos — "as it would have been if he was 51 years old."

Wampler said B.H.'s conduct might not earn him "any points for boyfriend of the year."

But the youth center lawyers — Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto for the Kentucky group and Marsha Levick for the national organization — say that engaging in sexting, "while arguably stupid or reckless," is "a normal part of modern adolescent behavior."

Wampler, citing a 2013 pediatric study that found about one-third of all adolescents in the United States are sexually active by age 16, says it would "double the damage" if they were all charged with crimes.

"It is misbehavior, not criminal behavior," DiLoreto said in an interview.

Wampler also asserts it makes no sense for the state to say a 15-year-old lacks the maturity to consent to sex with an adult, then hold him criminally liable for the same behavior with a juvenile.

That has resulted in absurd results elsewhere. In Ogden, Utah, for example, a 13-year-old girl was charged as both an offender and named as a victim in the same act of consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend. Utah's high court dismissed the charge, calling it "absurd."

Several states have adopted what are dubbed Romeo and Juliet laws to prevent teens of roughly the same age from being prosecuted for rape or other crimes for consensual sex with one another.

In Texas, for example, either partner has a defense if the couple is older than 14, in a consensual relationship and within three years of each other. Indiana statute provides an affirmative defense if the defendant can prove that he had an "ongoing or dating relationship" with the victim.

And in neighboring Ohio, the state Supreme Court in 2010 held that it was unconstitutional to criminally charge a child who was himself legally unable to consent when he engaged in sexual conduct with a same-aged peer.

"Each child is both an offender and a victim," that court said, "and the distinction between those two terms breaks down."

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, which is not involved with the case, said that if what happened between B.H. and C.W was truly consensual, it was a "classic case of adolescents being adolescents and making careless and less-than-well-reasoned decisions."

He said the courts and society need to "reset" the future path of such teenagers, rather than adopt policies that "forfeit" their future.

"It is complicated — but imperative — to be smart about kids when they make an ill-advised decision," Brooks said.

By Andrew Wolfson
The Courier-Journal

Boots On The Ground...

By Glenn Mollette

The war against ISIS may require boots on the ground. These boots should not be the soldiers of the United States of America. I have been as incensed as any other American over the barbaric beheadings of our own Americans, and burning of a recent Jordanian prisoner. Isis is truly the scum of the earth. They are worse than scum. My Christian upbringing will not allow me to use words to express my feelings about Isis. They are evil and need to be eliminated from the planet. Our world cannot tolerate this cancer that is filled with such vicious hate for the rest of the planet.

America should help, but not with boots on the ground. Isis would love nothing more than for America to send 20,000 troops over to fight with them. That's not the answer. We've had boots on the ground for too many years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are sick and tired of the Middle East. For years the Middle East manipulated us with their vast amounts of oil. America has worried too much about the flow of oil from this part of the world because of our dependence on oil. We have plenty of energy and we must stop all senseless Middle East wars just to protect oil interests.

The boots on the ground against Isis should be the people in the region where Isis is at work. America can help with air strikes that already are costing us millions of dollars. America has the best intelligence in the world. Let's use our intelligence forces, drones, air strikes and strategically coordinate with Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan the elimination of Isis, for a time. Unfortunately this will be a malignancy that will come back. This is all the more reason why the people in the Middle East must be do the ground work.

Why get into a ground war that will cost us two trillion dollars and sacrifice 4000 more of our men and women? This would become a war that would be another ten years or maybe an assault that might go on forever. The armies and soldiers of the Middle East can fight this war. We can help them with arms, intelligence, airstrikes and money but keep our troops off the ground.

Kobani is a good example. After 112 days of fighting and many US and Arab airstrikes the Kurdish fighters took back the city of Kobani. The city is in ruins. However the Kurds with US and Arab air support eventually ran Isis out of this strategic spot. With weapons, ammunition, air support and our Intelligence helping these Kurdish fighters, Jordan and other Arab allies we can eventually beat back and destroy much of Isis for the time being.

In the meantime we must secure our own nation. As terror plots are hatched in our own country it will be up to us to defend America. When those times come, America will have boots on the ground - all of our boots.

Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group, organization or this publication.
Like his facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GlennMollette
visit www.glennmollette.com

February 8, 2015; 

Some Parents  

You know what makes me mad...so mad that I could just snatch the last donut off a Police Officer's plate and eat it right there in front of him? People do...especially those parents who think their little darlings can’t and don’t do any wrong!

We all know these kids...we even called them; Spoiled, Brats, Mommy’s little baby plus other names...  They are the kids that have most everything/everything they want, and have an attitude like “I can do anything I please.”  These kids are usually undisciplined at home and seldom if ever spanked, and most likely NEVER corrected by parents for fear of hurting their little self-esteem.

The grooming for this type kid starts at home in the early years, by over protective parents, especially mothers, who do not let the kids go outside to play because they might get dirty or pick up a bug or come in contact with a kid from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  Further, this Kid, is allowed to set in on adult conversations, and interrupts he adults, an act waived off by his mother, who utters something like...isn’t that sweet and giggles about it.  Is it a wonder, the kid thinks the world revolves around him/her. 

Later, in a group setting mommy’s little angel bites another child and mommy brushes it off as “ he didn’t mean to hurt the other child” or, “well, he had the toy first.”  In other words making excuses instead of disciplining the little angel.  I would suggest a swift hand to the butt!  But, alas another part of the puzzle added to the shaping of his/her future personality. 

Entering school, the little darling carries his home world with him...and decides that he wants a toy another kid has and tries to take it away...but to his surprise the other kid strikes back...leaving the little angel surprised and bewildered.  Upon telling his great protector what that mean girl did to him...Mommy becomes irate and jumps on the teacher, wanting that bully disciplined for striking her little darling...for no reason...another part of the puzzle in place.  As the kid moves up in school more parts of the puzzle is added until his personality is complete...the little angel can do no wrong...if he gets a speeding ticket...the police were picking on him...or he gets caught with Marijuana...oh, he is just sewing his oats.   Then he commits a violent crime...and mommy can’t help him...but the excuse is now...”it’s the kids he was running around with...they were the cause of all his problems.  Off to jail...he goes...now, Mommy is saying the laws should be changed.  

Other Excuses I have heard over the years:

  • He gets a girl pregnant – It’s her fault she was just after his money.  Yea right, she did everything all by herself.
  • He/She gets booked for dunk driving – the police must have messed with the machine after all only one beer was drunk.  The why did he/she blow a .12.
  • The kid hits another vehicle – yup the other vehicle’s fault.  It was old and unsafe...should not have been on the road.  Yea ‘right...It was parked. 
  • Arrested for shoplifting - don’t know what the big deal is, the Kid offered to return the item.  Humm, too late thought stealing was stealing...PERIOD!
  • The Kid tears up another Kids toy – he did not mean to and it was old anyway plus there are other toys he can play with.  Why not make him give the offended kid one of his toys? 
  • The kid bullies one kid too often and runs home to Mommy with a couple of black eyes and bloody nose – Mom calls the police and wants that Juvenile Delinquent arrested for assault.  Investigation reveals that Mommy’s Angel had tripped the other kid and started punching him – no arrest made for defending himself.  The cops did not like my angel.

 

GETTING THE PICTURE???

Wake up parents, before it is too late...your kid is no Angel...unless you train him/her to be one...and that is...discipline starts at home...no one else is responsible for this...IT IS NOT THE TEACHERS’ RESPONSIBILITY TO TEACH YOUR KID DICIPLINE...IT IS YOURS.  But I can guarantee you one thing for sure...when he/she comes under the jurisdiction of JUDICIAL SYSTEM...the kid WILL face a different kind of discipline, then it just might be too late to save your sweet, innocent precious little Angel.  

PS: The jails are full of these little Angels...

THINK ABOUT IT PARENTS, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!!

General Assembly begins digging into bills, committees at work

By Jill York

One of my great joys as a legislator is the moments I get to spend in classrooms explaining the process by which we Kentuckians craft the laws that govern us.

Usually, I’ll walk the students through the process and they delight in seeing how an idea can evolve and change during the bill to possible law journey. It’s wonderful to see them dive in and analyze. They debate, try to rally support for the parts of the bill they like and have no trouble expressing their views on what they see as “bad ideas.”

Young people are interested in the good the bill might do plus the fairness of it. Does it treat everyone the same? Sometimes a student will pipe up with an “I want this because I said so!” sort of comment only to be met with a chorus of disapproval from their peers.

That brings up the idea of control. Who gets to decide? Is it an idea that citizens see use in and will embrace or does it steal citizen control and fall back on “… because the government said so?” 

Of course, many of you reading this recognize that those are the very questions that legislators wrestle with in the hopes of creating good policy for our citizens. I can report that all of those components are firmly in play in Frankfort this past few days as the legislature reconvened after a three-week recess. 

At last, bills finally began getting their first appearances before members in committee. That’s where most of the questioning and debate can occur as the bill’s sponsor and supporters present the legislation and present all the reasons they feel this “idea” should become a law.

The discussion can get pretty heated or sometimes technical as members push those testifying to troubleshoot the legislation.  This part helps refine the bill to truly meet the need it intended. 

A resolution designed to take a deep look at Kentucky Retirement Systems and begin the process of making them more solvent, House Concurrent Resolution 7, would direct that an outside independent audit of the Kentucky Retirement Systems be conducted, and those findings be reported back to the Public Pension Oversight Board.  A recent story by Bloomberg ranked Kentucky’s pension system the worst in the nation due to its funding gap.  The aim here is to have another set of analysts – another set of eyes not associated with state government – conduct a review and issue their findings.   

Another bill gaining attention this week is the effort to pass a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky.  House Bill 145, approved by the House Committee on Health and Welfare, would prohibit smoking in all businesses and places of employment in Kentucky.  Similar bills have been proposed in past sessions and have drawn great debate. This issue has come to some prominence in our region and I have fielded comments from citizens on both sides of question. I am very appreciative of the feedback and commentary that I have received. If this is an issue that you feel strongly about, I urge you to contact our toll free legislative message line where your comments will forwarded to me, 1-800-372-7181.

Also expected to generate a lot of debate and conversations over the next week is House Bill 1, which is the local option sales tax proposal.  If House Bill 1 should become law, a Constitutional Amendment would be placed on the ballot before Kentucky voters. If that amendment is approved by voters, it would give local governments the option of placing a local sales tax of no more than one percent to pay for infrastructure projects in their counties and communities.  That local tax would first have to be approved by voters, and would then expire once the project has been paid off.  

It seems that this short session has more than its fair share of controversial, important, and timely bills up for consideration. I hope in my next few articles that I might highlight some legislation I have sponsored, such as HB 175, which would create a refundable tax credit for firefighters. This has primary importance for the many volunteer fire departments in our district, where our firefighters are unpaid and fund much of their own training and equipment out of their own pockets. 

You can also expect me to keep you advised on progress on proposals to combat the growing problem of heroin in Kentucky, to expand broadband access in the Commonwealth, and measures to bring greater transparency to government. 

I hope you will follow the action taken on all these ideas and that you will reach out to me with your insights and opinions so I can make the best informed decisions when it is time to vote.  I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at jill.yorkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181 to share your thoughts about what is important to you.