Letters to the editor: Feb. 10

February 10, 2013 

Ag commissioner must explain exactly how hemp would aid Ky. economy

I was disappointed to discover that Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has been misrepresenting his research into the viability and safety of industrial hemp as a money crop for this state.

I was led to believe by his comments that the crop was genetically different from marijuana and would, if grown near the latter, alter it so that it could not be used for a gateway drug.

I was also led to believe that they were not easily mistaken for one another, when actually only expensive lab tests are able to prove the difference between the two. His policy meetings with experts were limited and did not include the extensive research of those in law enforcement.

A recent Herald-Leader article seemed to indicate that there were countless ways in which this plant could be utilized. However, when asked to specify which would be the most lucrative product for a farmer to pursue, Comer had no answer. For three years, Canada has had to subsidize all the industrial hemp crops being raised there.

A question about why Kentucky doesn't invest in a program to develop the plant Kenaf for our climate, since it is not related to a drug and is already being used successfully in industry, went unaddressed by the commissioner. His concluding remark that he is not interested in conflicting opinions to his own was shocking. Fact-check Comer before publishing.

Susan Taylor


Hemp not worth the risk

My husband was a farmer who grew seed for other farmers to plant for larger hemp stalks that were turned into rope.

The hemp plants were harvested, dried, and the combine separated the seed from the plant. Each day, the men had to burn the leaves and stalks before leaving the field, as even inhaling the smoke was dangerous. One evening one of the helpers must have taken some of the leaves home with him. The next morning the police reported that he had gone home and almost killed his wife with a knife, due to the effects of smoking the leaves.

I have been told that the new industrial hemp is not as dangerous as it once was, but I wonder how much less harmful.

The plants are so close in appearance that the legal plants can be mistaken for the wild variety, or vice versa. For that reason, I know the law-enforcement people are against the idea of allowing industrial hemp to be grown in Kentucky.

Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, who are now in favor of growing hemp, are relying on others who probably are not much more knowledgeable on the subject. I would rather be on the safe side and allow other states to take the risk. I am still a farmer, and I would not want to grow hemp on my farm even though it may be very profitable.

To stop growing tobacco and start growing hemp is not the route to prosperity for Kentuckians.

Martha H. McConnell


Realities of coal-severance tax

The Jan. 29 Herald-Leader editorial, "Raise coal tax, spend it better" is very misleading.

I proposed the coal severance tax in 1970 and was eventually successful in getting it passed.

In the third paragraph, the "itsy-bitsy pieces" referenced go toward parks, senior citizens centers and volunteer fire departments. Although this may not pack a "broad economic punch" it is vital to the protection and quality of life of the people in the counties in which the coal was mined.

Look at how much coal severance tax funds Fayette County receives.

In regard to Kentucky's rate of taxation compared to that of West Virginia, this is because the coal mined in West Virginia is metallurgical and demands a higher premium than coal mined in Eastern Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky coal has some metallurgical quality, but is not the same metallurgical grade as West Virginia coal.

The idea that Eastern Kentucky is getting a "disproportionate share of revenue through health care spending on the poor" because of Medicaid is preposterous.

A large amount of Medicaid funding is spent at hospitals in Lexington and Louisville. Although the people may come from Eastern Kentucky, Lexington and Louisville are the beneficiaries.

The editorial states the legislature began sending half of coal severance tax back to coal communities, which was true 40 years ago. Greedy governors and legislators not from coal producing counties took all coal severance tax. We now receive 12 percent.

Wayne T. Rutherford

Pike County Judge/Executive


Expand visitation-exchange offices

Thank you for the article bringing attention to the need for supervised visitation and exchange services in Kentucky, especially in cases with a history of family violence.

The recent tragic deaths of three members of the Cornett family point out the extremely high level of risk present in some timesharing cases; risks not only to family members, but to the public.

In the vast majority of visitation/exchange cases that result in serious injury or death, the perpetrator has threatened, harassed, stalked and/or assaulted the other parent many times before. In fact, perpetrators often predict the murder, telling victims they will kill them if they leave or try to get custody of their children. It should be no surprise when they do. Of course children are at great risk in these cases, too. Most parents' worst nightmare is harm coming to their children.

Unfortunately, making the other parent's life a nightmare is the very intention of many domestic violence perpetrators.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government recognized the need to safeguard families and the public 10 years ago when we helped develop supervised visitation services with Sunflower Kids.

Fayette Family Court has established a position in the Friend of the Court Office to identify risks in timesharing cases with a history of domestic violence. We knew supervised visitations/exchanges could make the difference between life and death in high-risk cases.

Unfortunately, most communities in Kentucky do not have these services. It is time we, as a state, make them available to the people who need them.

Teri Faragher

Director, Domestic Violence Prevention Board


Pharmacies hurt by managed care

Independent pharmacies across the state are in complete agreement with the sentiments expressed in the Feb. 3 commentary by Harold C. Warman Jr. and Charles D. Lovell Jr. of the Kentucky Hospital Association.

Since the inception of Medicaid managed care on Nov. 1, 2011, we have encountered many of the same issues that are threatening the health and welfare of our patients.

Having served Medicaid patients in rural Eastern Kentucky for over 40 years, my husband, Luther, and I have teamed with the more than 500 independent pharmacies to form Kentucky Independent Pharmacist Alliance as a way to be a voice for our patients, our employees and the communities who have depended on our professional service. Independent pharmacies have documented the following critical issues with the managed care program:

• Patients having problems with the continuance of their prescribed medications.

• Patients with chronic and/or terminal illnesses being subjected to an untenable four-script limit.

• Managed care companies are often not paying pharmacies on time with respect to state law. Some payments are still outstanding from over a year ago.

• Administrative issues including exhausting pre-authorization processes that interrupt patient care.

• Frequent reimbursement to pharmacies below actual cost of the drug.

• Refusal to provide pharmacies with information needed to obtain a drug at the reimbursed price.

Independent pharmacies stand with the hospital association in asking that state laws be strengthened to ensure that Medicaid managed care works for the benefit of patients, providers and for all Kentucky taxpayers.

Rosemary C. Smith

Kentucky Independent Pharmacist Alliance


Bill protects nursing homes

I was amazed to be present, in America, at a carefully scripted performance by the chairperson of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and the nursing-home industry.

Senate Bill 9 proposes that a Medical Review Board decide the validity of complaints of neglect and abuse before any action can be taken to file suit. The text was unavailable for review until Wednesday, the morning of the hearing, making it impossible for opponents to present specific objections.

An affirmative vote was taken before patients and families were even permitted to speak. The news feed and cameras were turned off, thus preventing any record of objections.

The bill does nothing to provide support or better care for nursing-home residents. Its sole purpose is to reduce litigation expenses for owners.

Under the bill, the complainant is denied access to the panel, which operates in private. The panel is to be composed of one lawyer and three doctors. Doctors are unusually sensitive to the prospect of lawsuits and therefore less likely to find in favor of complainants.

There is no direction as to what medical specialties are permitted to serve. Where is a social worker or geriatric specialist? Most neglect and abuse situations are not medical in nature: physical abuse, verbal or sexual assault, basic care, etc. And the bill does not allow enough time to gather information. Depositions are needed in many cases and homes have been known to alter records.

SB 9 is a travesty. Call your legislators and tell them to vote no.

Lois Pemble

Kentucky Initiative for Quality Nursing Home Standards


Civil servant to the rescue

The Herald-Leader published my last desperate letter asking for someone to summon Batman to come to the rescue of 4247 Georgetown Rd.

Batman pajamas are in the mail to Jim Marx of the Planning Commission staff.

Thanks to his efforts, the Board of Adjustment revoked the conditional permit for composting on the Con Robinson property and the environmental holocaust has been halted.

We are extremely grateful to Marx for his patience, resourcefulness and professional courtesy during this lengthy ordeal. I hope this is the last chapter of the illegal and catastrophic misuse of this prime agriculturally zoned Bluegrass land. Now it's time for the next city department to step up and require proper land reclamation to begin.

Bill Wofford


Pension bill ignores real issue

Kentucky legislators are proposing a pension-destruction bill that creates an inferior plan for new government hires and contains a "pinky swear" that they will address the real issue — the unfunded liability — in the next session.

Their own experts from the Pew Center on the States and the Arnold Foundation testified before the Task Force on Public Pensions that, "Changing benefits for new employees does not offer substantial savings."

Pension experts at the Kentucky Pension Coalition briefing Jan. 30 said switching to a cash-balance plan would lead to reduced benefits for new hires while doing nothing to address the unfunded liability.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, was quoted in a Herald-Leader article: "Let's stop the bleeding right now. Let's get the fix in place. Then we go into the context of the whole budget in 2014, then we can start making the necessary contributions to fill that hole in."

The legislators are attempting to "stop the bleeding" by putting a Band-Aid in the wrong place. This is nonsensical and reminds me of an old joke:

A man is looking for his lost keys under a streetlight. A passerby asks if he is sure about where he dropped them, and the man replies, "I'm actually pretty sure I dropped them in the grass over there."

"Then why aren't you looking where you think you dropped them?"

"Because the light is better here."

Eva Smith-Carroll

Kentucky Government Retirees


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