It’s (Past) Time to Clean House in KY!

By Scott Hofstra on November 18, 2017 | Comments 2 | Affiliate Disclosure

Editor’s Note: Current charges of sexual harassment in KY’s legislature take top billing. But, wait, there’s more. (All outside links and emphases were added by me.)

For many years Kentucky has been known as perhaps the most politically corrupt state in the country. In 2015, a Harvard University study ranked Steve Beshear’s administration as the most corrupt state government in the country.

Shortly after the Bevin administration took over, two of Steve Beshear’s most trusted advisors were arrested, convicted and sent to prison by the FBI for bribery in a scheme to funnel kickbacks for no bid state contracts into Andy Beshear’s campaign for Attorney General.

An audit performed shortly after governor Bevin took office showed that Greg Stumbo and others funneled something like $56 million dollars from a fund to pay cost of living raises for police officers into the general fund in order to pay for their pork barrel projects. It appeared that the long time Democrat power base had grown increasingly corrupt.

Then, Governor Bevin and the Republican majorities in the house and Senate came to power. There was a new sheriff in town and we were promised that things were going to change. Unfortunately, it appears that the stench of corruption extends even into the Republican house leadership and beyond.

Sexual Harassment Cover-Up

Over the past several weeks, we have learned that Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover and three other House Republicans settled a sexual harassment case out of court and then tried to cover it up. Governor Bevin was quick to call for the resignations of anyone involved in this scandal. The charges quickly led to Speaker Hoover stepping down from his position as House Speaker, but not from his elected office as state rep.

There are currently several investigations in the works.

  • The FBI is conducting an investigation at the request of Rep Wesley Morgan (R).
  • An eight person group made up of representatives led by Rep Phil Moffett (R) and Rep Tim Moore (R) are conducting their own investigation (albeit without the power to subpoena).
  • A House Caucus investigation is also in progress with one of the controlling members being Rep Jonathan Shell (R), who is a strong friend and ally of Jeff Hoover.
  • The House Caucus has also hired a legal firm (that they are paying for and overseeing) to look into the charges.
  • This week, Democrat Rep Jim Wayne called for an ethics investigation into who paid for the harassment settlement.

From my understanding of the KRS, if the legislators involved did not pay for the settlement out of their own pockets, it could be chargeable as a class D felony.

The LRC immediately responded that they had not paid for the settlement.

Unfortunately, the ethics complaint will be investigated by the LRC. LRC personnel were involved in the sexual harassment settlement as complainants. I’ve met David Byerman of the LRC, and I believe that he is a good man. That being said, allowing the LRC to investigate itself concerning these ethics charges is tantamount to insanity.

Rumors (and I stress ONLY rumors!) are swirling that Jeff Hoover, Jonathan Shell and Congressman James Comer had been colluding to stall or kill Governor Bevin’s pension plan in order to make the governor look bad. Their plan (according to the rumors) was to have Congressman Comer ride in on a white horse next election season as the GOP’s savior and run against Governor Bevin in the Gubernatorial Primary.

From this CNN article: “US Rep. James Comer, who lost to Bevin in the 2015 primary by just 83 votes after a former girlfriend said that he struck her while they dated in college, is a close ally of Hoover as well. He has been considering a primary challenge to Bevin.”

The FBI may be involved in the investigation of the sexual harassment settlement because rumors have been flying that Congressman Comer may have been involved in trying to convince the women involved and others at the LRC to keep quiet about the settlement.

I hold out hope that the FBI and the eight person committee investigating these allegations will be able to get to the facts and put this issue to rest.

I have absolutely no confidence that Jonathan Shell and the House Caucus investigation (or their legal team) will get to the truth.

That’s like the fox investigating itself for raiding the hen house.

In the end, Republicans excoriated the Democrats for their corruption, yet some in the GOP are actually trying to defend those involved in this scandal.

The truth MUST come out and the Republican Party MUST clean up its own house if they EVER hope to regain the confidence of the Conservative voters in this state.

If all of these allegations get swept under the rug, the GOP is going to be hard pressed to hold onto its House and Senate majorities.

Worse yet, they will have lost the confidence of the citizens and voters who put them in office in the first place.

The Republicans must clean house and they must do it quickly. They must prove to all Kentuckians that unlike the Democrats, they are above the corruption. Its time for sanity and reality to return to Kentucky politics.

I’m suggesting that the Governor’s office appoint a completely independent investigator with the power to issue subpoenas, not beholding to the House, the Senate, the Governor’s office or the LRC, to conduct a thorough investigation into all of the charges and the ethics accusations.

Should additional Republicans and/or Democrats be discovered to be involved in the corruption, then they need to be exposed and charged as well.

We must restore credibility and honesty to Kentucky government.

Without this exposure to political sunlight, Kentucky may forever be doomed to be considered the most corrupt state government in the country. We are better than this.

The only question is, do our legislators and politicians have the political backbone to do what needs to be done?

CONTINUE READING…


RELATED:

From 1986: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/03/15/us/kentucky-officials-arrested.html

Scott Hofstra

Scott Hofstra

Scott is the founder and manager of the United Kentucky Tea Party, a coalition of tea party leaders around the state.

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Msgt. Thomas Vance: (KY) Pot Legalization Opponents Looking Desperate

(From Msgt. Thomas Tony Vance via Facebook comes the following opinion)

Thomas Tony Vance's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person

There was a Kentucky Assembly Joint Interim hearing of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee held on 12 October 2017. There was short notice of the hearing and the main topic was cannabis legalization as it relates to Public Protection. All of the scheduled speakers were members of organizations that oppose cannabis legalization. Among cannabis activists it was being called the ‘anti-legalization’ hearing.
Two of the speakers were old friends who were involved in the ‘Marijuana Summit’, held in Covington on Dec 1, 2015. Mr. Coder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and Mr. Shemelya of the National Marijuana Initiative both spoke at the December ‘Summit”. That forum was billed as a neutral look at the issue but was clearly an anti-legalization entity.
The speakers at Thursday’s hearing were Mr. Coder and Mr. Shemelya, Rick Sanders of the Kentucky State Police and Van Ingram of the Kentucky office of Drug Control Policy.
Mr. Shemelya spoke mainly of recreational legalization and how the higher potency of today’s cannabis products are a danger because we don’t understand it. After speaking about DUID, driving under the influence of drugs, he tried to blame marijuana for an increase in fatal traffic accidents, 2 seconds later, he quickly mentioned that fatal traffic accidents are actually down. Then it was back to potency and saving the children. Since cannabis would be legal only for adults over 21 this seems to be a moot point.
Mr. Ingram of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, was next and began by claiming we do not know what will happen if cannabis is legalized like tobacco. However with 20 years of citizen access in California, none of the reported claims of doom and gloom having materialized there puts his claim in serious doubt.
Mr. Coder began by wondering what effect cannabis legalization would have on employers and the economy. Stating that employers are having to change their drug screens or they will not be able to find workers etc. One wonders why cannabis would not be treated as any other commodity and problems worked out in the Assembly and the courts.
Lastly Commissioner Rick Sanders of the Kentucky State Police spoke. He went on about adult use and proceeded to repeat all the tired old claims of the negatives of legalization. Next he proceeded to list the bodies. Deaths from opioids, 52,000, from alcohol, 88,000 and tobacco 48,000 but he stopped there. No mention of cannabis deaths! Twenty-two years of citizen access since California passed medical legalization in 1996 should surely yield some deaths if it is as harmful as the speakers claim.
The discussion ended with various Legislators comments and a resolution to support and pursue research into the medical benefits of cannabis. Observers posited that the speakers looked a little desperate and it reminded me of what Mr. Shemelya said at the ‘Marijuana Summit’. He said that if California passes recreational legalization in November of 2016, which they did, then, “it’s all over folks!”

SOURCE

Not taking an action that can provide such benefit in fighting this (opioid) scourge is not only callus and inhuman but also morally indefensible!

 

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By:  Msgt. Thomas Tony Vance, Alexandria, Ky.

Callus and Morally Indefensible!

Mercy Health Hospitals in an Op-ed in the May 11, 2017 Kentucky Enquirer talks about the opioid epidemic and calls for a multi-pronged approach in dealing with it. Their program of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, SBIRT, has screened thousands of patients. Unfortunately they do not give any stats that show the program is effective. They also state we should treat addiction as the disease it is. That is exactly what Nixon’s commission on drugs advised back in the early 70s. Instead we got the war on drugs!

As effective as the Mercy Health approach is, there is a more effective action that can drop the number of opioid overdose deaths by more than half. As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, States with medical cannabis laws see a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after legalizing medical marijuana which grows to 33% by year 6. We can cut our opioid overdose deaths by a third simply by legalizing medical marijuana.

In Colorado which has both medical and recreational marijuana legalization, have seen a drop of 66% since medical legalization was approved in 2012. They had 479 opioid overdose deaths for 2015 and that dropped to 442 for 2016.

Let us compare Kentucky and Colorado. Colorado has 5.5 million people and Kentucky has 4.5 million. Colorado has comparable medical and addiction services and is similar to Kentucky in many ways. The only major difference is Colorado has embraced marijuana legalization and Kentucky, even though medical legalization polls at 80% favorability and recreational at 60%, has rejected legalization. Colorado’s numbers for 2015 were 479 and Kentucky’s were 1278, almost 3 times that of Colorado.

Given the facts of the benefits of marijuana legalization in preventing opioid overdose deaths by more than half, as is the case in Colorado, no one can claim to be serious about opioid addiction and overdose deaths without including cannabis legalization as a tool to fight this epidemic. Cannabis legalization, in reality, has a better record of mitigating this epidemic than any other policy that has been tried or is currently in use! I dare our legislators to name another policy that can drop the number of these deaths by a third. They can’t.

Veterans suffering from chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress stop taking an average of 8 different prescriptions for pain meds and meds to deal with the side effects of the various medicines they are given when they start using medical cannabis. Veterans claim far better outcomes than their counter parts who stay on the VA cocktail prescribed for pain and PTSD.

We need credible action to fight this devastating epidemic. What we are currently doing is not effective. Adding addiction services will help but it seems the easiest, most effective and credible action we can take right now is simply to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational uses and watch the numbers fall! Not taking an action that can provide such benefit in fighting this scourge is not only callus and inhuman but also morally indefensible!

CONTINUE READING…

…Under (HB 315), a gang can be any three people who share a name, symbol or leader, or who have been identified as a gang by any state or the federal government…

The Kentucky House and Senate are poised to pass a bill this week that is both unnecessary and likely to be costly in terms of both money and human potential.

If it reaches him, Gov. Matt Bevin should veto House Bill 315, the so-called gang bill. It flies in the face of the evidence-based criminal justice reforms Bevin has pushed as governor.

Last June, Bevin appointed his non-partisan Criminal Justice Police Assessment Council, saying he wanted “a smarter, compassionate, evidence-based approach.Senate Bill 120, passed this session to improve employment opportunities for people leaving prison, was a result of CJPAC’s work.

HB 315 didn’t come from CJPAC, and that’s no surprise. There’s no evidence it would reduce gang activity but its broad and vague definitions and heavy-handed punishment provisions will mean that young people who have committed low-level, non-violent crimes could spend a long time in prison with little hope for the “second chance” Bevin so vigorously supports.

Sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said HB 315 is based on a similar law in California, prompting Senate President Robert Stivers to ask when Kentucky modeled itself on California.

Good question.

Even more concerning, California’s STEP Act, passed in 1988 to “seek the eradication of criminal activity by street gangs,” hasn’t achieved that goal. A 2009 study of the measure reported the opposite: “harsher sentences for minor gang related crimes may actually increase gang commitment because individuals are forced to join gangs and strengthen their gang ties in order to survive in prison.”

Without question, HB 315 would increase our already staggeringly high prison population — over 23,000 state inmates and a $530 million annual budget. The Corrections Impact Statement on HB 315 estimated the cost at over $38 million over time.

Criminal gangs are real and responsible for crimes that deeply damage our communities. People should be punished for recruiting others into gangs, as they can be under existing Kentucky law.

In the almost 20 years since that legislation passed, there have been 22 convictions under it, including six in 2015 and none in 2016.

There will be more convictions under HB 315 because it casts a wide net in defining gangs and what it takes to tag an individual as a gang member.

Under it, a gang can be any three people who share a name, symbol or leader, or who have been identified as a gang by any state or the federal government. Their “pattern of criminal activity” could be crimes committed by one or more members at any time over five years.

The evidence a gang actually exists includes identification by an informant, a member’s parent or guardian or participation in photos or social-media interaction with gang members.

Think about it: many young people have hundreds of social-media contacts: long-ago classmates, friends of friends, former co-workers and team members. If one of them is identified as a gang member, then so can all his or her “friends.”

The results are catastrophic if the gang label sticks. Judges lose most discretion over sentencing. A Class B misdemeanor such as harassment — now subject to up to three months in jail or simply a fine — would carry a mandatory sentence of 76 to 90 days. Felony charges must be prosecuted for one level more serious when the gang element is present and those convicted must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

So, a Class C felony that carries one to five years in prison, with possibility of parole with 20 percent of time served becomes a Class B with five to 10 years and a minimum of 85 percent served before possibility of parole.

These mandatory prison terms not only fill up jails and prisons at enormous cost, they also discourage rehabilitation. Consider, a person sentenced to five years with the possibility of parole after a year, is motivated to participate in drug rehab or career-oriented classes.

But with a certain four-plus years inside, motivation shifts away from rehabilitation to survival. As noted in the California study, people join gangs to survive a long term in prison.

“Gang” is another in the long line of frightening terms invoked to bloat the criminal code, fill prisons and drain our treasuries while doing little to make us safer.

Bevin’s right in rejecting this trend. He should stay the course and veto this bad bill.

CONTINUE READING…

Editorial – Geoffrey M. Young

 

 

Dear Editorial Board of the Lexington Herald-Leader:

I was outside the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia carrying a sign that read, “Clinton is a war criminal.” The main chant of thousands of democracy-loving Americans was, “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary.”

Clinton and President Obama became aggressors – war criminals – in 2011 when they destroyed Libya, turned it into a failed state, and created thousands of jihadist terrorists for no sane reason.
Now that Bernie Sanders has endorsed Clinton the warmonger, Jill Stein of the Green Party is by far the best candidate.
Since 1968, my party has been split over the issue of war. Powerful, corrupt Democrats such as the Clintons have merely papered over the split by refusing ever to talk about Washington’s worldwide military empire.

Trump said, “Why should I denounce Putin? Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia, and China, and all these countries?” That’s wiser and more statesmanlike than anything I’ve ever heard Clinton say.

Clinton is violent, aggressive, ignorant, and reckless. She could unintentionally start a nuclear war with Russia, which could wipe out the USA forever. Helping Jill Stein or Donald Trump beat Clinton this fall should be the peace movement’s most urgent priority.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey M. Young

454 Kimberly Place
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 278-4966

Marijuana Foes Losing Direction in Kentucky

 
With Thomas Tony Vance and Angela Gatewood.
 
Thomas Tony Vance

 

An Informational Town Hall meeting on Medical Cannabis was held on November 8. 2015 in Alexandria, KY sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Campbell County Post 3205 Auxiliary and Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access. Having given the keynote speech at that event I was surprised and somewhat curious when immediately afterward the opponents of marijuana legalization organized and held one on December 1, 2015. The ‘Marijuana Summit’ was published as giving both sides of the issue.

 
I attended the event. They offered a ‘Legislative Breakfast’ and all our local legislators were there. They seemed to be very close with the organizers of the event. During breakfast Mr. Tony Coder, the Assistant Director of Drug Free Action Alliance, presided over a lively discussion of the issues. Senator Perry Clark, who attended, responded to the notion that since we already have a heroin problem we don’t need to legalize another drug. Ignoring the obvious attempt to link heroin with marijuana Senator Clark pointed out the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of a 25% drop in opioid drug overdose deaths in states that have medical cannabis programs and that that percentage is increasing.

The response was a change of subject.

I was struck by the snarky way Mr. Coder regaled us with the story of him breaking California law and lying to obtain a medical marijuana card to prove how easy it was to get one. At this point I was able to get a word in and posed him this query.

California has had medical marijuana since 1996. You say that’s a scam and Californians can access marijuana any time they want. Ok, I’ll give you that, (when I said that he looked surprised, then I continued), however that means the citizens of California have had easy access to marijuana for 20 years. You have to answer this. Where are the bodies? Where are all the bad things you all say will happen if marijuana is legalized?

Another change of subject.

Mr. Coder repeated his easy access claim during the next session on marijuana prohibition history. I quickly pointed out that he proves my point.
Change of subject.

The 3rd session was a speech by Mr. Ed Shemelya, the National Coordinator for the National Marijuana Initiative, a retired police officer who worked extensively with the High Intensity Drug Task Force and gives speeches for a living. He did point out, among a load of numbers that if 2 of the 6 states that will have legalization on the ballot pass it in 2016 it is, as he put it, “all over folks!”
Oh I wish it were true!

I had to leave at the halfway point. The first session after lunch was about hemp which is legal and really only a problem for the helicopter eradication program. The last was about the last 2 Monitoring the Future surveys concerning teen access and use which has not changed significantly with legalization. The interesting thing here is that with the exception of medical need supervised by a Doctor, no State has or will legalize marijuana for anyone under 21, so it’s really a moot point.

They always come back to protecting the children. I wonder? Marijuana has been used by women for menstrual cramps and morning sickness for 4000 years. In all that time there is no anecdotal evidence of birth defects or problems in birth resulting from marijuana use during pregnancy. Given the role we now know the cannabinoid system plays in maintaining good health and the fact of marijuana’s zero toxicity, one can envision a future in which ones Cheerios come, “fortified with THC for your protection”.

The ‘Marijuana Summit’, although misguided was certainly sincere, however we would be better served by them joining in as legalization comes and helping to craft effective policy rather than opposing it completely and having no say in the policy eventually enacted.

 

SOURCE

Kentucky to potientially become buds with bud

Posted by Julia Dake | Jan 28, 2016

Julia Dake, Staff Writer

No pun intended, but I think it’s high time weed became legalized in Kentucky.

Marijuana legalization has made some significant headway over the past few years, now legal for recreational use in four states and medicinal use in 25. Pretty soon another state, namely Kentucky, could be added to the list, either for medicinal and recreational use.

The Cannabis Freedom Act, a bill filed by state Senator Perry B. Clark of Louisville, would repeal Kentucky’s current ban on marijuana and legalize sales to people 21 and over, while those under age 21 could use it with a doctor’s prescription.

Taxes generated from the sale of marijuana would go toward a variety of government programs, including need-based scholarships to Kentucky students pursuing a college degrees. These taxes would also generate revenue for Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK), which provides money for Kentucky’s school districts and grants to police departments to purchase gear.

In addition to the fact that we live in the 21st century, the tax revenue would greatly benefit Kentucky students seeking a college education. Tuition costs rise every year, putting college out of reach for some, and further stressing those already enrolled. So given the chance to alleviate some of the financial burden on students, why are some legislators so hesitant?

Legalizing weed would also promote tourism in Kentucky, seeing that we would be the first state on the Eastern seaboard where recreational marijuana would be legal. This would become an added incentive for people visiting our state, and would help the hospitality and tourism industries flourish. Not to mention, the state is ideally suited to grow marijuana. We used to be one of the top hemp producing states, which suggests that we just might be a pretty good at growing its more heady cousin.

Critics of marijuana legalization argue that not enough research has been done and that legalization could lead to the potential for marijuana monopolies, making it difficult to regulate. While these are valid concerns, proponents of the Cannabis Freedom Act have added clauses that would create a three-tier system, preventing any one entity from monopolizing all the facets of marijuana cultivation and sales. Senator Clark insists that marijuana would be regulated exactly like alcohol is, requiring an ID to purchase through licensed dealers.

The bottom line is Kentuckians are using marijuana every day and a lot of money is changing hands. So why not set it up so a portion of that money goes to help the state?

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