Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Judges Campaigns with Issue Positions!

If the Family Trust Foundation gets their way judicial candidates will probably sink to the level of the rest of Kentucky's political races. The organization has filed a lawsuit in U.S District Court arguing that the state's judicial-ethics laws are a violation of a judge's rights to free speech and association. Foundation members want a federal judge to allow state judicial candidates to state their views on political issues. The group sent a survey to judicial candidates asking their views on cloning, gay marriage, religious freedom, pornography, posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings, abortion and other hot button issues.

Kentucky state law does not allow candidates in judicial races to give opinions on issues that are likely to come before the court. The purpose of judicial-ethics regulations is to protect state judges from pre-committing themselves on issues. In other words, Kentucky wants judges to be fair and impartial and has imposed ethics rules to protect the court. Yes, this does limit a judge's freedom of speech and association. That is the price candidates accept if they wish to become members of the judiciary.

We, as citizens, cannot afford to lose those protections. The right to free speech in judicial races must be secondary to the right of citizens to a fair trial. Judges are not lawmakers, they are charged with the weighty task of interpreting the law and applying it impartially. Their duty demands that they be concerned with the law not with their personal feelings. Otherwise, they are unfit to sit in judgment.

Mr. Ostrander, executive director of the foundation, cannot understand the need for a court divorced from the sorted political battles engaged in at other levels of government. Perhaps, he has not watched Senator Bunning's commercial attacking his opponent, or seen the fights breaking out all over Lexington over ownership of the water company. Let us pray that the federal courts stand behind Kentucky in the effort to keep the judiciary out of the mud pits of politics.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Political Mud Slinging or Water Company Vote Fraud?

Robert Moreland, a former candidate for the Urban County Council, has filed a complaint against Kentucky American Water alleging fraud and corporate interference in the 2002 city council elections. Moreland's 16-page complaint alleges that water company officials, their wives, and members of the marketing firm representing Kentucky American Water Company have violated state campaign finance laws. Together, these individuals contributed over 14,000 dollars to the council election. He also alleges that Governor Fletcher rewarded former Kentucky American president Roy Mundy for supporting anti-condemnation candidates by appointing him state vehicle regulation commissioner in July.

Water company officials maintain that the allegations are nothing more than a pre-election smear campaign. They argue that state campaign finance laws prohibit corporations from contributing directly or indirectly to a campaign but do not prohibit officials or their wives from making up to $1000 contributions to a candidate.

The governor's office has refused to comment about the allegations. However, our councilman, Bill Cegelka, has denied the allegations made by Moreland. He argues that accepting donations from water company officials as part of the $60,000 he raised for his election campaign was not in violation of the campaign finance law.

In the wake of last weeks allegations by Councilman Paul Brooks that Kentucky American Water Officials offered to run his campaign if he changed his vote on condemnation of the water company it is going to be interesting to see how seriously the Registry of Election Finance takes the investigation into Moreland's complaint. The registry gives defendants up to 20 days to respond to a complaint. The Registry has the authority to level penalties and fines against companies and individuals they deem in violation of the law. If they determine there was no violation of the law Mr. Moreland my find himself facing charges.

Monday, September 27, 2004

500 Teachers March on Frankfort

"A-B-C-D-E-F-G, Fletcher's plan is killing me!" teacher's chanted as they marched on Frankfort this morning in an effort to get the state lawmakers to roll back the changes in healthcare made by the Fletcher administration. Kentucky teachers are already paying the highest rate in the United States for family health coverage. Under the new health plan thousands of current and retired state workers face additional increases in health insurance premiums, deductibles, prescription medicines and out-of-pocket medical expenses. One of the controversial provisions of the new coverage is the replacement of co-pays with co-insurance for hospital covreage. This measure would leave patients paying a percentage of cost rather than a fixed co-pay.

While most of us have faced increases in our health insurance the average person has not had to take the 170% increase 229,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents have had to squeeze into their budgets over the last five years. We can hardly be surprised that the hard-pressed teachers are planning to strike. A 1% pay increase doesn't begin to offset the cost of the new insurance plan. It is time the education governor made good on his promises to teachers. He may have forgotten those promises to bring wages and benefits closer to the national average but the teachers haven't.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Should Kentucky Teachers be headed to Frankfort Monday?

Yesterday, I was commenting on the special session Governor Fletcher has called to deal with the health care crisis facing Kentucky's teachers and other state employees. If you are not familiar with the crisis, this is a simplified version of events. Governor Fletcher announced the signing of contracts with health care providers that would significantly increase the out of pocket expenses state workers, teachers, and retirees would have to pay for health care coverage. In response the Kentucky Education Association voted to go on strike October 27, 2004 unless their current benefits are restored. In the face of mounting opposition to the rate increases the Governor called a special session of the state legislature to deal with the crisis.

On Monday, a week before the special session is scheduled to begin, the KEA has called a day of protest. 14 schools have announced they will close and 3 others will dismiss classes early to allow teachers to travel to Frankfort to protest the changes in coverage. I support the teachers in collective bargaining efforts but I must question the timing of this event. While having a delegation of teachers visit Frankfort during the planning stages of the special session, the logic of having school closings and mass meetings in Frankfort now escapes me. Wouldn't it serve the interest of the teachers better to stage the Frankfort gathering on Tuesday, October 5, when all of the legislators are in Frankfort and can meet with the visiting teachers?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

A special session for state workers and teachers healthcare?

Governor Fletcher seems to be passing the buck. For the first time ever, a special session has been called to deal with an issue that is exclusively the responsibility of the governor. It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out. How much of the insurance rate increases have been finalized? Is there really any room to negotiate left or does the legislative session indicate that the Governor heads a sinking ship and wants to take others down with him?

Now that he has called the session, will Governor Fletcher give the legislature the information they need to assist him in the difficult task ahead? Let us hope that the administration has not finalized the various contracts and that the legislature can work together in a bi-partisan way. With the well being of thousands of public employees hanging in the balance we will be praying for more cooperation that we witnessed during the general session. But teachers and other state workers shouldn't hold their breath. It might damage their health...and, well...we know how cooperative the governor has been with the legislature this year and how eager the parties have been to work together on a budget.

What this is About

Focus on Ky's 88th LD is about issues and events that impact the lives of people living in Kentucky's 88th Legislative District. Topics can range from the neighborhoods and schools to national or world events that have a direct effect on us. Politics are important to our lives. When the legislature is in session or the Lexington city council meets I will be discussing how we are represented. However crime, neighborhood meetings, school events, and social organization activities that involve the citizens of the 88th district are also important to the quality of our lives. Expect the topics to cover anything that gets my attention and affects people in 88th district.

Please remember that postings are my opinions, which I hope are fair. However, as my opinions, they are not balanced unless others with different opinions express them. I urge readers, particularly those living in the 88th Legislative District, to contribute their own views on the topic, draw my attention to issues I haven't addressed, or give thoughtful feedback on the issues discussed here. I also ask you to be thoughtful in your comments. Disagree if you wish but please keep it honest and be prepared to cite the source of your information.