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APRIL 28, 2015

by Ky. House Speaker Greg Stumbo

Greg Stumbo Over the last four months, there has unfortunately been a renewed effort to breathe life into a proposal that most economists declared dead long ago.  Supporters call it “right to work”; the rest of us, with the facts on our side, call it “right to work for less.”

Those backing the concept claim it will cure everything but the common cold.  Not embracing it, they say, has cost Kentucky countless jobs and limited worker choice.

They’re wrong on both counts.

For those unsure of what right to work means, it allows new workers to avoid joining a union and paying dues while still being represented by the union.  Imagine trying to join a civic club, a country club or even a Sam’s Club without paying the membership fees, and you can better understand why this is not about choice; it’s about ending unions and organized labor.

Supporters of “right to work” say states taking this step have seen phenomenal economic growth when compared to states like Kentucky.  Research, however, has found that this is simply not true.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy noted that Oklahoma actually saw a relative decline in jobs after it made the switch in 2001.  Since the end of the recession, meanwhile, the center says Kentucky’s manufacturing gains have easily outpaced those in Indiana – which switched to right to work in 2012 – and Tennessee, which has been a right-to-work state since the 1940s.

It’s worth pointing out that Kentucky has a diverse workforce profile.  In the auto industry, for example, the Ford and GM assembly plants in Louisville and Bowling Green are unionized, but Toyota’s in Georgetown is not.

Those who downplay Kentucky’s job prospects must not have been paying attention to the steady stream of good news the Beshear administration and other outlets have announced in recent years.  In the last few weeks alone, we learned that every single county saw its unemployment rate decline last year, something that has never happened before.  At the same time, our monthly unemployment rate has dipped below the national average and is at its lowest point in nearly 14 years.

We have added almost 36,000 new jobs over the last 12 months, and Site Selection magazine – a trade publication monitoring economic development – says no state had more major job announcements per capita last year than Kentucky.

Few, if any, states can match our export growth.  Our manufacturers are on track to break the $30 billion mark in the not-too-distant future, while products stamped “Made in Kentucky” can now be found in nearly 200 countries.  Other states trail us as well when it comes to business climate and entrepreneurship.

What “right-to-work” supporters neglect to tell Kentuckians is that this step harms more than just unions.  A national study cited by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy found that the average worker’s hourly wage in “right to work” states is 3.2 percent lower than in states like Kentucky, and benefits are lower as well.

If those backing “right to work” would put even half of their energy into pursuing policies businesses really want and need – such as investing more in education, workforce development and infrastructure – I am convinced the gains I mentioned would be even greater.

If they are not going work for true job growth in our state, though, then they at least need to stop promoting a tired and discredited idea.  The verdict is in: “right to work” is wrong for Kentucky.

APRIL 26, 2015

IT'S NOT THE RELATIONSHIP THAT BOTHERS ME, IT'S CALLING IT MARRIAGE'

SALYERSVILLE, Ky. – Tucked in the hills 100 miles east of Lexington, Magoffin County is best known for two things: Election fraud — a local lawyer once called it the "vote buying capital of the world" — and as the birthplace of pornographer Larry Flynt, who likes to joke that its biggest industry is jury duty.

But Magoffin is also home to 85 churches, many of the Pentecostal, Holiness and other fundamentalist Christian varieties. And that is probably why it enjoys another distinction as well.

Eleven years ago, when Kentucky voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, 94 percent of Magoffin residents voted for it, the highest percentage in any Kentucky county.

With the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in cases from Kentucky and three other states that will finally decide whether gays have a constitutional right to marry, a reporter and photographer visited Magoffin County last week to see if views had shifted.

In more than a dozen and a half interviews in and around the county seat of Salyersville, most expressed tolerance for gays and even for gay couples. But most said they continue to resolutely object to letting them marry.

"It's not the relationships that bother me," said Bertie K. Salyer, who recently retired as director of the county health department and previously taught at a community college. "It is calling them marriage."

Justin Williams, who pastors Lakeville Baptist Church and has organized a minister's coalition against vote fraud, said, "I know of homosexuals in Magoffin County and I would hope and pray they don't feel they're treated differently because of it."

But he says Magoffin sits in the "buckle of the Bible belt" and that most people — including even some nonbelievers — believe in the Old Testament's pronouncement that marriage is between a man and a woman.

At Straight Shooters Billiards, a man who would only identify himself by his nickname, Cheetah, gripped a wad of bills in one hand, gambled at a video machine with another and confided he's been divorced three times and once had sex with two women — simultaneously. But he said he thinks gay marriage is wrong.

"It's right there in the Bible," said the man, who is disabled and lives on what he calls his "crazy check."

In 2004, 4,519 residents voted for the amendment, which bars performing or recognizing gay marriages in Kentucky, and only 299, or 6 percent, voted against it. Statewide, 75 percent voted for the amendment and 25 percent against.

Statewide, opposition to gay marriage has dropped, to 50 percent last July and 57 percent in March, according to Bluegrass Polls. But Salyersville Mayor James Shepherd says he doubts many minds in Magoffin have changed.

"People here are pretty well set in their values and set in their ways," he said.

Miriam Silman, a transplanted New Yorker who moved to Kentucky 30 years ago and married into an old Magoffin family, said that while residents are "pretty tolerant" it doesn't translate into support for "civil rights."

Referring to one of the only gay couples who live openly in Salyersville, she said, "If people could vote on whether Mike and Jeff could marry, they probably would. But they oppose it as a matter of policy. They default to the party line — what they have heard in church."

In a quick interview before he pulled out of his driveway in an American flag-decorated sport utility vehicle, Mike Bailey, 49, a letter carrier, said most gays in Magoffin are still in the closet, though he said he and his partner of 25 years, Jeff Porter, are accepted by their neighbors.

Even if the Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage, though, he said he and Porter are unlikely to run to the county clerk's office to get a marriage license.

"Most people think we're already married anyway," he said, laughing.

At her family-owned trucking company, Salyer, the former health department head, said that as both a "sociologist and Christian," she is conflicted on gay marriage. As a trained professional, she said, she believes gays are born that way and that gay couples should have the same rights and benefits as opposite sex couples. But she says only couples wed in a religious ceremony — gay or straight — should be able to call themselves married.

She said her twin sons, Jimmy and John, 53, have staked out diametrically opposed views on gay marriage, like Kentucky brothers who went off to fight for different sides in the Civil War.

Sitting next to his brother in a trailer that serves as their office, Jimmy, who graduated from Morehead State University, said that in 27 years as a social worker for the Cabinet for Family and Children he saw "a significant number of couples in alternate lifestyles" who were "as committed to each other as Mother is to Dad." And he said they should have the same rights.

But John, who dropped out of college to run the family business, said, "I feel pretty strongly since I am straight and I am a Christian that marriage can only be between one woman and one man, and I believe that because my Bible tells me so. That is a union that I think is designed by God because the mechanics only work between a man and a woman."

He also said: "If just anybody can get married it will take away from my marriage."

On a pleasant spring day, Magoffin residents said they are focused on issues besides gay marriage, such as the recent flooding on the Licking River and County Judge-Executive Charles "Doc" Hardin's legal fight to stay in office after a circuit judge invalidated his 28-vote victory in last November's election, saying it was won through fraud and bribery. Hardin, a physician who was seeing patients in his clinic, declined to speak with a reporter about gay marriage — or anything else.

Vote fraud has been the county's scourge, along with poverty. A school superintendent once told The Herald-Leader that he could quit buying votes but that he would lose his job if he did and "they would get somebody in this job that will do it, and he'll keep the job because he does it."

Thirty-six percent of Magoffin's residents live below the poverty line, unemployment is 16.5 percent, and nearly 10 percent of the residents live on disability. One lawyer advertises that "when your working days are over, come see Grover."

Many residents who were interviewed, including the mayor, said they didn't know any gays. Others, like Garrett Ward, a retired mobile home transporter and pastor, say they find gay sex and gay marriage morally repugnant.

"The Bible says it's an abomination under God, and I want to go to heaven," Ward said. "I believe what God wrote is true — one man for one woman."

While Ward may represent the rule in Magoffin, there are exceptions like Jonathan Dyer and Garlena Workman.

Waiting for his next customer, Dyer, a third-generation barber, said, "Personally, I don't really care if gays marry gays. If they want to be miserable, they have that right."

Workman, a deputy sheriff who was guarding the front door of the Magoffin County Courthouse, said, "I think everybody should get to live their life as they please. To each his own."

She said she believes in the Bible "but it's their choice."

She said she probably thinks differently than most county residents because she lived in Florida for 21 years before returning home. And she said she has seen family members turn their backs on gay relatives. "That is wrong," she said.

Pastors say their flocks are unlikely to change their views, even if the Supreme Court rules for gay marriage.

"We do believe in obeying the law, but that doesn't mean we will respect the law," said Bishop Kennie Barker of the Unitarian Church of the Living, a Pentecostal church.

"Quite frankly," he added, "you are not going to get any full-blood Christian to accept it because we only accept the Lord's court."

Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at (502) 582-7189


Vote on gay marriage ban

Here's how Kentucky and Magoffin and Jefferson counties voted on the gay-marriage ban in 2004:

Kentucky:

For: 1,222,125

Against: 417,997

Percent for: 75

Magoffin:

For: 4,519

Against: 299

Percent for: 94

Jefferson:

For: 199,099

Against: 125,525

Percent for: 61

Kentucky's gay marriage amendment

Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

By Andrew Wolfson

The Courier-Journal

APRIL 22, 2015

Please Support Mike Hogan for Attorney General on May 19th!

Willett

Dear Fellow County Official,

As you know, four weeks from today, on Tuesday, May 19th, we will go to the polls to elect our Republican nominees for statewide constitutional office in Kentucky.

Regardless of who you are supporting for governor or for any of the other offices, I am writing to you today to tell you that I am endorsing Mike Hogan for Attorney General and I urge you to support Mike, too.  

As the four term elected county attorney in Lawrence County, Mike Hogan shares the concerns of local officials like us who want what's best for our communities.  In terms of experience, Mike stands head and shoulders above both of the other candidates for attorney general this year as a 21 year practicing attorney.  Mike just turned 47 years old and during his career he has tried over 100 cases in addition to maintaining a 100% jury trial conviction rate as county attorney.  Mike is also a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves.  

While I think Mike's GOP primary opponent--State Sen. Whitney Westerfield--is an honest and decent young man, I must express a profound disagreement with the vote Whitney made in this year's regular session of the General Assembly against a bill that insured Kentucky's fuel tax revenue was stabilized so that our citizens have safe, good roads to travel on in each of the Commonwealth's 120 counties.  These are the roads traveled on a daily basis by our school buses, ambulances, fire trucks and every other citizen going about their daily lives for work, school, church and other activities.  

Senate President Robert Stivers and House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, along with many other Republican and Democratic senators and representatives understood that Kentucky's people are too important to play politics with--that's why they voted to pass the gas tax stabilization bill that saved our roads in Kentucky.  If Sen. Westerfield would have had his way, Kentucky's counties would have lost a combined total of almost $90 million (see attached figures).  As Mike pointed out so on-target in the recent KET televised forum, many things in government are "pork" that should be cut out as wasteful spending, but our roads are surely not among them!

While Sen. Westerfield was voting against our rural, urban and suburban roads in Kentucky, Mike Hogan was standing tall with his fiscal court in Lawrence County as well as with the Kentucky Farm Bureau, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and other groups who know how vital safe, well maintained roads are to Kentucky's economy by keeping good jobs in our state and helping to bring more jobs in. (See attached Resolution of the Lawrence Co. Fiscal Court). 

I implore you to please forward and share this email with your fellow county officials as well as your constituents to insure that we elect a man who shares our concerns and who believes that we must put our people first and before any desire to score cheap political points.  

I urge you to join me in supporting Mike Hogan for Attorney General.  When Hogan wins, Kentucky wins!

Sincerely,

Tommy Willett

Monroe County Judge/Executive

APRIL 23, 2015

A Key to Happiness

By Glenn Mollette

Americans hoard too much stuff. Everywhere I go in small or large towns I see storage facilities being built. Americans have "stuff" and we need more storage space. We spend most of our lives wanting stuff and then we have to worry about keeping or maintaining what we have accumulated.

My wife and I cleaned out a bedroom closet recently. I looked through my clothes and saw too much I had not worn in the last year. I bagged it and carried it off to the local charity pickup truck. I realize they will sell it but they will sell it for cheap and somebody else will hopefully use it. I suspect together we hauled off seven or eight bags of clothes. I really don't buy that much but I had a lot of clothes that I had accumulated and I thought just maybe someday I might put some of them to use. Some stuff was just old and outdated and as I hate to confess, some of it wouldn't fit anymore.

One of the good things is that I can now better see what I really have to wear and I have worn about all of it in the last year. Well, wait; I have a pair of cowboy boots. I haven't worn them in a long time but I held onto to them because, well, I might wear them someday. 

I know I have too much stuff. Honestly, the goal of my life has never been to have more. I've wanted a roof over my head and a warm place to sleep and some good food and a comfortable car. I know thousands in America are homeless and I am fortunate.

The point I am trying to make is that it just feels so good to get rid of junk. I feel happier just being able to walk into my closet. And, maybe my junk will be somebody else's lucky buy or find.

We are on a journey through this world and we try to carry too much. It's really amazing how little we really need.

The sooner we realize how little we really need the sooner we can enjoy what we have.  A happier life is free from a lot of junk. 

Glenn Mollette is the author of eleven books and his column is read across the country. This column does not necessarily reflect the view of any organization, institution or this paper or media source.  

APRIL 15, 2015

 

Bad decisions,

        Age is only a number

By Glenn Mollette

Two police officers - one from South Carolina and one from Oklahoma should never have pulled their handguns. Their decisions took lives and forever destroyed families and their own personal lives. One cop was just 33 and the other 72.

A lot has been said about Michael T. Slager, a young man with a new baby due any day. His life is forever ruined by the decision to pull his gun and shoot Walter Scott in the back as he ran away.  Much is also now being said about Bob Bates, a 72 year- old reserve cop from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He too made a very bad judgment that took the life of Eric Courtney and also forever changed lives.

Police officers have gotten more than their share of bad publicity in recent months. They've earned it.  No one feels happy about cops if they've ever been harassed or talked down to by a police officer. What person has not felt somewhat threatened when pulled over by a police officer? The police have the authority and guns.

I am a supporter of the police. What kind of society would we have without them? If I need them I want them to show up.

People should not resist arrest or run from police officers. There is no future in such actions. While I believe that most of our police officers are good, hard working and ethical people there is the occasional lone idiot who has a badge and a gun and that combination of lunacy, authority and weaponry is very dangerous. They will surely hurt somebody, destroy a family and make the news. They also make it really difficult for the good police officers.

Putting a North Charleston, South Carolina officer Michael T. Slager, age 33, in jail recently for shooting a man eight times in the back was the right thing to do. He has zero business being a policeman. Bob Bates a 73 year-old reserve officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said he was reaching for his stun gun but instead pulled his real gun and killed a man already on the ground. He has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Two men are dead. Their families are in pain. Two police officers are going to jail. Multiple families are ruined forever. Bad decisions were made by people young and old and on both sides of the law.

This column is the opinion of Glenn Mollette and does not necessarily reflect the view of any organization, institution or this paper or media source.  

Like his facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/GlennMollette