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Community dinner conversations about Kentucky’s energy future

By Jerry Hardt

Residents of Lawrence County will help shape a new Empower Kentucky Plan to map out an energy future for Kentucky that grows jobs, benefits health and addresses racial and economic inequality while also addressing the risks of climate change.

These questions will be addressed at a community dinner conversation next week, Tuesday, April 19 in Hindman at the Hindman Settlement School.

Called “A Seat At The Table,” the gathering will allow participants to enjoy a locally sourced meal, consider their relationship with energy, and share their vision and ideas about Kentucky’s energy future. Each event will feature fun and interactive presentations, cultural performances, and facilitated discussions.

The event is sponsored by Kentuckians For the Commonwealth and its eastern Kentucky chapters that include Lawrence and surrounding counties.

“We all have something to contribute in this move toward a clean energy economy,” said KFTC Executive Committee member Elizabeth Sanders of Whitesburg. “These ‘Seat At The Table’ events will be inclusive of a broad spectrum of Kentuckians, and will allow us to lead and shape the conversations about the clean energy future we want to see, which is how it should be.”

The eastern Kentucky community conversation is the second of six being held throughout the state in April and May. These regional gatherings will be supplemented by smaller community gatherings, house parties, online surveys and listening sessions that began last fall.

The ideas shared at these events will inform the writing of a people’s plan, called the Empower Kentucky Plan, that will describe steps for transitioning to a new clean energy economy in Kentucky. Emphasis will be given to creating new jobs and investments, improving community health, addressing racial and economic inequality, and meeting the goals of the Clean Power Plan.

“The community conversations are designed to bring together diverse people to think about and help build a bright energy future for Kentucky,” said KFTC Chairperson Dana Beasley Brown of Bowling Green. “A Seat At The Table provides a chance for all Kentuckians to help shape a just transition to a clean energy economy – one that is good for all of us.”

These events are free, but seating is limited and tickets must be reserved in advance. Free tickets are available through www.EmpowerKentucky.org/events. The gathering will take place from 6 to 9 p.m.

KFTC is a grassroots social justice organization

Law benefits about 100K low-level felons

Gov. Matt Bevin signs the expungement bill into law.

 

Gov. Matt Bevin signed a second-chance bill affecting about 100,000 Kentuckians with Class D felonies Tuesday.

Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville) and Rep. David Floyd (R-Bardstown) have championed an expungement bill for low-level Class D felons for several years, but usually found Republican opponents in the House and Senate.

But after West Powell testified of how he stole a car stereo when he was 18 and was charged with a felony, Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville) said something clicked and changed his position on the subject and ultimately also the Senate’s.

“Westerfield… is the man who that I think most critical to this,” Owens said. “Mr. Powell you testified and he had an epiphany. He changed, but your testimony led him to understand the difficulty that people in your situation have. As the chair of the judiciary committee of the Senate, his help and support were critical.”

Westerfield changed the scope of low-level Class D felonies to 61 offenses, capturing about 70 percent of the Class-D felon population.

The bill’s language, written by Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) allows felons not to expunge their records, but erase them after meeting certain requirements, such as a five-year waiting period and completing all sentence requirements. The bill passed in the Senate 33-5 and later in the House 84-13.

Owens finished his short speech by saying the bill’s passage would be “life-altering piece of legislation,” and the “most consequential” to come out of the 2016 legislative session.

For Westerfield, the bill is about nearly 100,000 Kentuckians who it can give both hope and redemption.

Bevin, who rescinded former Gov. Steve Beshear’s prior expungement order, said the bill was the right thing to do at the right time and it is good for the Commonwealth.

Bevin told The State Journal he hopes to see more civil rights restored in the future.

“I’m in favor of other civil rights being restored,” Bevin said. “I think it’s important that we change the constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. To put this on the ballot, to allow the restoration of voting rights for example. Whether it’s voting rights or the right to bear arms or whatever the case may be, there are certain civil rights that people lose as a part of the judicial process that I would be a proponent of seeing be restored.”

By Brad Bowman
The State Journal

Choose Life - It's a brief experience

By Glenn Mollette

Life is an opportunity to spend a brief period of time in this world. During this minimal space of time we are fortunate to enjoy what most others cannot do. Most of the people who have ever lived are dead. Therefore we are in a very rare state of existence. We are in the land of the living. We breathe, eat, work, worry, cry, laugh and either enjoy or hate life.

I read about young adults who die almost every day. Young people overdosing on drugs, alcohol or committing suicide. Millions more live in a depressive state. Life has its ups and downs and there is really no such thing as a perfect life. All of us are faced with sickness, caregiving, worries, stress, messes, disappointments, sadness, victories and more. It's life.

We often look at other lives and envy them. We develop the impression that others are free of problems and sadness when often those who seem to be the happiest struggle the most. While being a caregiver for 12 years an acquaintance commented to me, "You seem to have the world by the tail. No one would ever dream you have a problem in the world." Smiling, trying to keep a good attitude and being kind to others throws a lot of people off. Sadly, we aren't used to seeing this in most people.

We can't live our lives based on others. No one thing will make you happy or fill you with a vibrant life. No one person makes you alive. No one certain job will make you alive. Life is not ultimately found in money, a relationship, a child, a career, a house or anything. All of these of course add to our living. However, ultimate living is more powerful than any one certain thing, event or person. I understand losing a child or spouse in death cuts our hearts out. I've buried a child and a wife. It's horrific. I've had disappointments in business, frustrating jobs and fallen flat on my face.
I know what it's like to draw unemployment. I know what it feels like to go to the county social services office and apply for Medicaid because I couldn't afford to pay for my wife's nursing home expenses. I know what it's like to lose "friends" because I didn't do exactly as they thought I should do. Oh well.

Lots of stuff can rob us of life. Don't let this political season sour your life. Carefully consider who you think will be best for protecting our country by bringing our jobs back, updating our infrastructure, strengthening our Social Security and strengthening our military. Fighting and arguing about it all day is a waste of energy. Make your choice and vote.

My preacher was talking a lot about life at church this past Sunday. He quoted a verse of scripture from Proverbs 12:28, "In the way of righteousness there is life." He talked about choosing to live. There are choices that lead to death but there are choices that lead to life. I hope today that you choose to live and love life. It's a brief experience.

Glenn Mollette is an American Syndicated Columnist and Author. He is the author of eleven books and read in all fifty states. Enjoy Books By Glenn Mollette at Amazon.com

This column does not necessarily reflect the view of any organization, institution or this paper or media source.

Benefind woes affect over 50K, group says

 

By Deborah Yetter
The Courier-Journal

An advocacy group claims that despite efforts by Gov. Matt Bevin's administration to fix widespread problems with Kentucky's new public benefit system, massive disruption continues for "tens of thousands of Kentuckians" in vital services such as Medicaid health coverage and food stamps.

"Our fellow Kentuckians now find themselves in desperate, life-altering situations," said the five-page statement from Keep Kentucky Covered, a coalition of advocacy and public interest organizations. It says more than 50,000 Kentuckians have been affected so far under the Feb. 29 launch of the new system known as Benefind.

The statement comes as people continue to report infuriating problems such as abrupt cancellation of benefits, hours-long waits on the phone or at state benefit offices, and repeated rejections from the computerized system supposed to provide a one-stop shop for public benefits.

Elderly and disabled people, sick children and even refugee survivors of torture have been cut off essential benefits, according to reports from individuals and advocates.

"I don't mean to be greedy," said Gayle Downs, 69, a retiree from Jeffersontown who said she's been trying for more than two months to get food stamps to which she's entitled. "It just seems an affront to those of us who are trying to make it."

Bevin and top officials with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services held a news conference last week to try to explain problems with the Benefind system started under the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear. They said they are working to fix the system, which Bevin said "has not worked as anticipated."

An official with Deloitte Consulting, which developed the $101 million system for the state, said it was thoroughly tested but unexpected problems arose after it was launched.

People who work with Benefind on a daily basis said the problems continue, with new ones arising even as old ones are fixed.

"It has been a total disaster," said Jennifer Jackson, who works in Clay County in Eastern Kentucky helping people sign up for health coverage.

Ky. Gov. Matt BevinOne client with a brain tumor had Medicaid coverage canceled, she said. An impoverished and disabled grandmother raising young grandchildren has been cut off assistance, including food stamps and Medicaid for the past month.

"She's been to the food stamp office every day, on oxygen, crying and begging them to help her, " Jackson said.

State workers, bewildered by the complicated new Benefind system, find themselves obstructed from helping many clients by errors, glitches and programming flaws, said Jackson, who has gone to the Clay County state benefit office with some clients seeking help.

"It was packed, with people standing at the door," she said. "People were cussing and hollering. I've never seen anything like it."

Refugees in Kentucky, who are legal residents and entitled to public benefits while they get settled and find jobs, have been cut off or find applications blocked despite hours of efforts by case workers, said Rebecca Jordan, a Kentucky state refugee coordinator.

Letter to Bevin

Jordan sent an eight-page letter to Bevin on Tuesday detailing the problems that have "jeopardized the health and stability of an already vulnerable population." It prompted a quick response from state human service officials who said they are working to fix the problems, Jordan said.

"Hopefully, we will start to see some improvements," she said.

The affected refugees include survivors of torture who get services through a nonprofit treatment program in Louisville, said Dr. Sarah Acland, a psychiatrist who works with them. Since Feb. 29, a steady procession of clients have shown up, bewildered by the sudden loss of benefits, she said.

Many need regular health care and medication for physical or psychological damage.

"These people have survived unimaginable horrors," Acland said. "This is just a system they find difficult to navigate."

Kendel Arthur, who works in Eastern Kentucky helping people get health coverage, said she has spent "outrageously long hours" on hold with the state, trying to help families who've been cut off coverage.

"It's really frustrating to tell parents with sick kids that the system has errors in it, just be patient," she said.

Meanwhile, complaints and calls for help from panicked Kentuckians continue to grow, said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of health advocacy organizations that launched the Keep Kentucky Covered campaign.

While the state claims that many of the thousands of letters notifying people of loss of coverage are in error, Beauregard said that doesn't help people who have been cut off or fear being cut off because of new demands, such as providing proof of income or citizenship the state already has.

Some people have received letters telling them they owe the state money for benefits that have been cut off, demanding payment, she said.

"Imagine the stress that is causing low-income individuals, the elderly and the disabled," she said. "They've lost their benefits and now owe money back to the state they don't have."

Kynect and Benefind

Beauregard's group says one of its chief concerns is Bevin's plans to dismantle kynect, Kentucky's nationally recognized health insurance exchange, by the end of this year in the midst of widespread disruption caused by Benefind.

Benefind was designed to work with kynect, launched by Beshear under the Affordable Care Act for Kentuckians to shop for private health coverage or enroll in Medicaid if they qualify as low-income.

But Bevin plans to transition Kentuckians to the federal healthcare.gov site to shop for private insurance plans and use Benefind as the primary means for people to enroll in Medicaid.

But given the startup problems with Benefind, the group questions whether the state can meet federal mandates to continue coverage for Kentuckians and provide a "seamless transition," the group said.

Already, some 500 "kynectors" around the state, trained to help people access health coverage through kynect, have been largely shut out of the new system, unable to help clients, the group said.

"The bottom line is that Benefind was never built to replace kynect," the statement said.

While Bevin administration officials claim kynectors should have access to the benefit system, in reality they don't, the group's statement said. Meanwhile, people have disappeared from the kynect system and workers can't locate any record of their health coverage, it said.

Jackson, the Clay County worker, said she was trained as a kynector but has been helpless to aid clients who need coverage through kynect or had already obtained it but have been canceled. She was even unable to help one client trying to buy a private health plan through the exchange, she said.

"The system wouldn't let me submit an application," she said.

Beauregard said she doesn't know how the state will correct the seemingly massive number of problems with peoples' benefits.

"I think it will take a very long time to deal with a backlog of cases," she said. "The repercussions are causing harm now."

APRIL FOOL'S JOKE NOT SO FUNNY TO SCHOOL OFFICIALS

 

 

LOUISA, Ky. -- Several years ago I opened a copy of the old Paintsville Herald and saw a top headline that almost made me fall over. Editor Scott Perry (may he rest in peace) had come up with a huge story that shocked the readership - but it was really an April Fools joke.

In the years since I have done the same thing at various times with the newspaper I owned in Martin County and I believe with the Lazer, too. To me it is fun.

So today I decided to get everybody's goat with an April Fools joke story that said Spring Break had been cancelled for next week in Lawrence County and within ten minutes after posting it I got a call from a BOE Central office employee asking me to take the story down. The guy said the scantily clad Spring Breaker I used for a graphic was not appropriate and the article cast Supt. Fletcher in a bad light and made him look bad (which was never my intention of course).

So I took the picture off and put a nice Spring like one in its place... and figured our viewers would get a kick out of the joke.

Nope. Ten minutes later the BOE guy called back and asked if I would take the April Fools story completely off. He said it was causing a lot of trouble for all the schools as people called to see what was going on about Spring Break.

Wow!

I didn't realize that so many viewers would not read past the headline to the story which plainly said April Fools at the end. I also didn't realize that many people would see it that quickly -- like 500 in 10 minutes. But since I shared it on our Lazer FB page, I guess a lot of people saw it there and didn't click on the story, they just saw the headline.

I sure am sorry if I caused anyone any real trouble with this innocent April Fools joke which was intended to get laughs - not scowls - so I promise to not do it any more.

April Fools!

 

Here is what the original story looked like:

SPRING BREAK CANCELLED IN LAWRENCE COUNTY

Fletcher says students, teachers need to be in class

SPRING BREAK CANCELLED

LOUISA, Ky. -- Lawrence Schools chief Dr. Rob Fletcher announced today that he has decided to cancel next week's planned Spring Break. He said teachers and students have already missed too much school and the extra classroom time is needed to boost test scores.

The Spring break trips to Myrtle Beach for the baseball and softball teams have also been cancelled. Busses will run at normal times each day.

"This is not a time to be having fun, we need to buckle down and PAY ATTENTION to the important things in life," Fletcher said.

He said he and his family will, however, be gone to the Bahamas next week in case he needs to be reached. All cenral office employees will also be on vacation.

April Fools! Have a nice Spring Break 2016...