Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Feb. 8

The State Journal on Sen. Adrienne Southworth's proposed bill that would prohibit face mask requirements across the state:

Last week newcomer Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg — the first Republican to hold the Senate District 7 seat, which includes Franklin County — filed a bill that would prohibit face mask requirements during a state of emergency across Kentucky.

According to the sparse wording of Senate Bill 158, only health care workers would be obligated to wear facial coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic and any other virus or disease emergencies.

Southworth said on social media that she filed SB 158 “to start the conversation on how to address acute vs. chronic and local/regional disparity.”

“This bill is a state-level measure to remove the blanket approach and give space for more nuanced approach as the numbers decline and statewide emergency comes to a close,” she told The State Journal. “I filed it (Wednesday) because words matter and without placing some version of this in public view, I was unable to get accurate feedback. So I imagine it will evolve as we go, but as of yet it is too early to tell what that would be.”

Southworth filed the bill the same day that Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd issued a restraining order to temporarily block a new law aimed at limiting the governor’s executive emergency powers.

The judge said that implementing the new law would create “chaos” and undermine measures already taken to combat the coronavirus.

The same can be said of Southworth’s SB 158, which would undo the progress Kentucky has made in an 11-month fight against COVID-19.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Wearing a facial covering is not and shouldn’t be political. When worn properly — covering your nose and mouth — face masks are used to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Wearing a face mask is a sign of respect for yourself and others.

With many Kentuckians out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and schools reopening after months of virtual learning, there are plenty of more pressing matters for politicians to take up this session. It is our hope that Southworth and other legislators will focus on the issues instead of arguing about whether face masks should be required.

Online: https://www.state-journal.com/

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Feb. 5

The News-Enterprise on 9th Circuit Judge John Simcoe:

John Simcoe is a local success story.

The judge might not look at himself in that manner because he knows the years of toil that led him to the circuit court bench. One week ago today, he took the oath of office to fill the vacancy created in Division 2 of the 9th Circuit by Ken Howard’s retirement.

The son of David and Ann Simcoe, he is a 1983 graduate of West Hardin High School who did his undergraduate work at Centre College in Danville and earned his law degree from the University of Kentucky. His career in law began in private practice in 1992 and he worked as a prosecutor before his 22 years in Hardin District Court.

This career path has been followed by others and is a “logical progression” as Simcoe described it in a recent news story.

That makes it no less impressive and certainly no less rewarding when the governor called to tell him of the appointment.

“He served honorably as district judge and we have full confidence he will be an excellent circuit judge as well,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in the formal announcement.

Simcoe, who is 55, will serve the remainder of Howard’s term, which lasts until the end of 2022. He plans to be a candidate for the non-partisan position when it appears on the ballot next year.

The pace and the responsibilities are different in circuit court. District court handles all arraignments and litigates every misdemeanor and traffic case, which means there’s a high volume of low-impact matters to process. In circuit court, the felony cases are fewer but the stakes are higher for the accused, their victims, defense attorneys and prosecutors. The decisions involve decades of prison time and often cover the most malevolent, violent and crude among us.

It’s important to have a skilled and experienced jurist like Simcoe in that chair.

“I’m excited about doing something a little bit different,” Simcoe said. “I think it’s still really important that we have experienced judges in those positions so that the transition is as seamless as possible.”

He follows a long line of top-flight judges and should keep that transition in tact.

Best wishes and con­grat­ulations go to the judge and his wife, Deanna, who deserves her own degree of acknowledgment for his accomplishments.

How long he serves ultimately will be up to local voters but there’s a great comfort level knowing he’s clearly earned this opportunity.

Online: https://www.thenewsenterprise.com/

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Feb. 4

The Lexington Herald-Leader on charges against Black Lives Matter protesters:

For nearly the entire summer of 2020, Lexington’s Black Lives Matter protests were a model for the country.

Night after night, protesters tirelessly and peacefully marched through downtown streets, demanding justice for all Black and brown victims of police brutality in general and for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in particular. Police brutality against people of color is a crime that many white people did not acknowledge until the existence of cell phone videos that showed how prevalent it was all over the nation.

The BLM protesters further educated the Lexington community willing to listen about racism, income inequality, educational disparities and centuries of oppression. Mayor Linda Gorton gave them credit for the creation of the Commission on Racial Justice and Equality, which has since provided a blueprint for our city moving forward.

The Lexington Police Department also did a good job at staying calm in many volatile situations, until they apparently lost patience and decided to start arresting protesters.

Now, according to a story by Morgan Eads, six protesters were in court on Thursday to face numerous charges, from inciting a riot to resisting arrest to disorderly conduct. They had tentative jury trial dates set for August.

As Lexington was a model for protests, it is now time for the city, the police and the County Attorney to follow the lead of other cities and drop all but the most severe charges against protesters. Inciting a riot, disorderly conduct? Unlike many, many other places, Lexington’s protesters kept their eyes on the prize and did not devolve into random violence or property damage.

The local chapter of the NAACP has called for charges to be dropped and a petition on Change.org calling for the charges to be dropped had been signed more than 4,300 times as of Wednesday afternoon.

As one protester, Sarah Williams, said: “They’ve targeted us and trumped up these charges because they don’t like that we’re demanding change.

“Our police force needs to be accountable to the public and transparent about what they do and why. Right now, they only answer to themselves. They’re trying to intimidate us into backing off.”

A lawyer for the defendants, Daniel Whitley, told Eads he could not understand why the city would want to waste the money prosecuting protesters.

“We have cases that involve real victims that are dismissed every day,” he said. “Their cases honestly only involve the police. It is truly unfortunate the judicial system is being used as a tool to punish individuals for exposing the inequalities in the business of policing.”

We know that our criminal justice system is deeply flawed and often punishes people of color when white people are let off for far more serious charges. Instead of prosecuting the protesters, we ought to thank them for their dedication to opening this community’s eyes. They fought against injustice, they should not be victims of it.

Drop the charges.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/