“Under Obamacare, it does not matter if you are a middle-aged man, you need lactation services. If you are a teetotaler, you need addiction services. If you are childless, you need a pediatrician. If you are a young woman, you need Viagra. It does not matter if you like your plan and you want to keep it. Somebody decided it was substandard, so they outlawed it.” –Dr. Cameron S. Schaeffer, a Lexington pediatric urologist.
No one is a more ardent supporter of private-property rights than this columnist.
I once teamed up with former Bowling Green City Commissioner and Western Kentucky economics professor Brian Strow to debate former Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker and Kentucky League of Cities lawyer Bill Thielen on the government’s use of eminent domain before energetic students at Western Kentucky University.
I felt like the mayor had, at best, a nonchalant attitude toward private-property rights. Worse, she seemed willing to allow much-too-low threshold for the taking of private property – especially for potential uses by other private entities.
Yet while I strongly believe in opposing abuse of eminent domain, I’m not convinced that additional legislation is needed to keep it from being used by the consortium now purchasing easements for the Bluegrass Pipeline, a 1,100-mile pipeline that will carry natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale-producing areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio through Kentucky to the Gulf Coast.
For sure, private companies should not be able to use eminent domain to acquire private property from individuals who either want to sell at a higher price, or are not interested in selling at all.
Kentucky’s General Assembly passed legislation in 2006 to clarify that point and protect landowners after the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Conn., could employ eminent domain to take away the homes of seven families in order to benefit a large private development.
But some Kentucky lawmakers, who represent areas through which the pipeline will travel, worry that the changes made in 2006 will not keep a judge from wrongly allowing the use of eminent domain in cases involving the pipeline project.
The pipeline’s owners claim they can use eminent domain, if necessary, to gain easements from landowners they cannot convince or locate. Lawmakers, however, say because the pipeline delivers only natural gas liquids, which are used primarily for plastics and not energy to heat homes, it cannot be considered a public utility and thus cannot use eminent domain.
The issue would likely end up in court, which is why Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, is filing legislation to “clarify legislative intent” concerning eminent domain.
“I think the current law is clear enough that they cannot employ eminent domain because it’s a private company and that it is not for public use, which is what we said in 2006,” Floyd said. “However, their attorneys say that they are eligible for using eminent domain. I just don’t know how the judge is going to decide. So this would definitively prohibit the use of eminent domain in this case, and that’s the reason for filing.”
I’m suspicious that we need another law on this matter, especially since Floyd told WHAS radio talk-show host Leland Conway that extreme environmental attorney Tom Fitzgerald “actually drafted the idea” for his bill.
Fitzgerald has become Kentucky’s chief cheerleader against the commonwealth’s coal industry and stands squarely in the way of policies like telecommunications reform, which is vital to the economic vitality of the Bluegrass State.
This policy dust-up may really be about protecting landowners.
But do we need an out-of-town environmental-extremist lawyer like Fitzgerald dictating the future of a project that will provide as many as 1,500 construction jobs to 13 Kentucky counties during the next couple of years, $136 million in tax revenue to the commonwealth over the next decade and additional payments of up to $50 million to landowners to purchase easements?
Surely as much time as our legislators now spend in Frankfort, they can find more effective ways of protecting citizens from both the abuse of eminent domain but also from environmentally extreme, job-stopping agendas like the one offered by Fitzgerald.
WFPL Radio has an interesting article up in their web site with an interactive graph and map that discusses the wide variation in school performance across various areas of Louisville. The graph shows that within each of the 13 geographic school clusters the elementary school performance varies dramatically.
For example, in Cluster 3, schools scored from 35 to 52.5 on Unbridled Learning in 2013. The school that scored the 5.25 only bested 31 percent of all the schools in Kentucky.
In Cluster 10, the bottom school scored 48.4 while the top school racked up an accountability index of 78.3. This cluster’s top elementary school did better than 99 percent of the elementary schools in the state.
The difference in opportunity across the clusters and individual schools is obviously stupendous.
Clearly, there is a lot of pressure on many Louisville parents to get their student into a better school. And, the article has some interesting comments about that process.
“Heading into this school year, parents of 1,147 incoming kindergartners applied for a transfer after getting their child’s school assignment. Among those children, 71 percent were allowed to transfer.”
But, here is the rub, as WFPL writes:
“Transportation can be a challenge for some parents. Except for most magnet school students, JCPS doesn’t provide buses for children who go to school outside their cluster.”
But, if a parent wants to get their child out of a miserably performing school (and Jefferson County has plenty of those), they have to provide their own transportation. Yup, that’s a great choice program.
Now, if Jefferson County would get behind charter school legislation, they would have a much better chance of establishing high performing schools in places like Cluster 3 where the traditional schools have been unable to make much, if any progress. It would be better for the district (shorter bus routes) and much better for the students, too.
Bruner is the Lexington resident who wanted to start a moving company only to discover that he first had to get the permission – and I’m not even kidding here – from existing movers before he could get paid to relocate Aunt Susie from Lexington to Louisville.
I wrote Bruner’s story in my weekly Bluegrass Beacon column:
Being required to seek permission from would-be competitors before opening shop is so contemptible that R. J. Bruner, founder of Wildcat Moving Company who has a master’s degree in business from the University of Kentucky, said he did not know about the requirement and would never have thought it possible for such a law even to exist.
Bruner said his company – which has not yet obtained a CON – was hit with $2,000 fines on at least four different occasions when the firm’s moving trucks were stopped by state law enforcement officers.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Bruner said. “The law doesn’t make any sense – it’s unconstitutional and corrupt.”
It also doesn’t make sense why Senate Bill 132, which exempts moving companies from CON requirements, languished in the House after passing the Senate during this year’s legislative session.
How can an entrepreneur like Bruner, who employs 30 Kentuckians and earns awards as one of the best moving companies in Kentucky, be neglected by so many of the same politicians who claim the commonwealth’s greatest need is “jobs?”
Fortunately, Bruner is not without help.
Along with the publicity given the case by the Bluegrass Beacon column, which is read by Kentuckians in newspapers statewide, the Pacific Legal Foundation is representing him in a federal lawsuit against state officials for denying his right to earn a living, which is protected by the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.
Also the John Stossel will host a Fox News Channel on Saturday at 9 p.m. (eastern) that features a special “War on The Little Guy” – the story of R.J. Bruner.
If Bruner is forced to get permission from competitors to keep the doors of his company open, then all entrepreneurs in the commonwealth will have seen yet a bit more of their liberty slip away.
Kentucky taxpayer, citizen and parent David Adams has filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court charging there was “illegal acceptance of Common Core State Standards and forbidding any continued action relating to same until such time as specific legislative approval is granted.”
Parties being sued by Adams include:
1. Steve Beshear, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,
2. Robert Stivers, Senate President of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,
3. Roger L. Marcum, Chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education,
4. Robert L. King, President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and
5. Cassandra Webb, Chairwoman of the Education Professional Standards Board.
At the risk of oversimplification, it looks like the suit says that because the Kentucky Legislature is ultimately responsible for education but never voted as a body to approve Common Core and some of the related agreements with the US Department of Education, the adoption of Common Core was not legally performed.
The lawsuit lists no co-plaintiffs.
Note: Adams is a former Bluegrass Institute staff member but currently maintains no association with the institute.
To be sure, No Child Left Behind had some serious problems, but one of its real strengths was its focus, as the name implies, on improving education for all the country’s students. Under No Child, schools that didn’t perform for special student groups got identified even if their overall average scores looked OK.
Sadly, when the US Department of Education began to issue waivers to No Child several years ago, this focus on every child became lost very quickly. Once again, state-developed alternatives created under the waiver program – including the new Unbridled Learning school accountability system in Kentucky – began averaging special student performance together with all the rest of the students. Along the way, these waiver-based school accountability programs again began to overlook serious under-performance for minorities, English language learners, the learning disabled and the poor.
Unbridled Learning was definitely problematic in this area. Our very limited study last year of the first year of KPREP math results in Louisville found examples of schools where African-Americans were being left far behind while Unbridled Learning awarded superior scores to their schools. We note examples in that study, “Blacks Still Falling Through Gaps, the 2012 Update,” citing two Louisville schools:
“Norton and Brandeis elementary schools posted incredibly large white minus black math proficiency rate gaps of more than 51 percentage points in 2012. Nevertheless, both schools were recognized as a ‘School of Distinction.’”
Thus, despite these huge achievement gaps, Unbridled Learning ranked both of those schools among the top 10 percent of all the schools in Kentucky.
Many No Child waivers (including Kentucky’s) are now up for review and renewal. Sadly, a new announcement in Education Week says a key element states were going to have to include to get a new waiver is now being removed from the requirements.
“…the U.S. Department of Education is planning to back away from the waiver requirement that states do a better job making sure poor and minority students have equal access to effective teachers.”
And, so it goes. The dream of paying explicit attention to not leave any of our children behind seems to be growing dimmer by the day.