A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Amye Bensenhaver: How to succeed in open records by refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer

Al Cross, director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, has succeeded where other open records disputants often fail. He did this by simply refusing to take “no” for an answer. Cross is no stranger to the open records law, and his reputation for tenacity no doubt precedes him. On March 20, Cross submitted a request to the Kentucky Horse Racing...

Al Cross: Gov. Bevin is reckless to disregard the science on chickenpox; public health matters

When Gov. Matt Bevin volunteered to a Southern Kentucky radio audience March 19 that he had exposed his nine children to chickenpox, and questioned the need for vaccinations and laws requiring them, it was more than the latest example of him being reckless with his mouth. It was a new low in public officials’ willful ignorance or disregard of science, an alarming trend that is taking us to new highs...

Al Cross: As General Assembly ends, it did not — in most big ways — act in the public interest

FRANKFORT – With almost all its work done, has the current session of the Kentucky General Assembly acted in the public interest? In many small ways, yes. But in most big ways, no. And, of course, it depends on how you define “public interest.” For example, what some see as needed competition for failing public schools, and more opportunity for students, is seen by others as a drain on schools...

Ban on tobacco in schools still alive; may pass House with measure raising to 21 legal age to buy

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross Kentucky Health News With just three days left to pass bills, lawmakers in the state House are still working on measures that would protect Kentucky’s youth from tobacco and electronic cigarettes, efforts that health advocates have said could stop nearly one in three Kentucky students from ever smoking. David Osborne A bill to ban the use of tobacco at all public...

Al Cross: At 77, McConnell faces big decision about his legacy — a Trump enabler or a Senate leader?

Mitch McConnell turned 77 Wednesday. He’s at the point in life where you reflect, sometimes at length, on how you will be remembered. If the Senate majority leader had any such ruminations in the last week or so, they should have troubled him. He risks going down in history as the main enabler of an autocratic president’s challenge to our constitutional system of government. Mitch McConnell The...

Al Cross: AG’s race shapes up as most interesting; Republican side rests on McConnell’s involvement

The filing deadline has passed, so let’s make up the scorecard for this year’s statewide elections, starting with the party labels and the top job on the ballots. Republicans are at real risk of losing the governorship, mainly due to Gov. Matt Bevin’s self-inflicted wounds. Al Cross But the Kentucky Democratic Party, after decades of decline, risks being shut out of statewide office. Its best...

Long-time Kentucky journalist, political commentator Al Cross joins KyForward as regular columnist

Al Cross, a Kentucky journalist with a long, distinguished career, has joined KyForward as a regular columnist. His column will appear at least twice-monthly at KyForward and its sister publication, NKyTribune.com, and is offered to publications throughout the Commonwealth, free of charge with attribution. KyForward and NKyTribune are published by the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism “We...

Al Cross: Bevin’s chances for re-election, if he runs, are better than you think, popularity notwithstanding

If Gov. Matt Bevin really does run for re-election, as he keeps saying he will, and as I believe he will, what chance does he have of winning? Better than you might think. Yes, he may be America’s most unpopular governor. In the latest Morning Consult state-by-state poll, for the last quarter of 2018, his approval rating was 34 percent and his disapproval was 51 percent. (Four other governors had...

Kentucky flu cases jump 65 percent in first week of the year; nearly half of all reported cases are children

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News The number of influenza cases confirmed in Kentucky rose by 65 percent in the first week of 2019, adding nearly 1,000 cases for a total of 2,408 in the current flu season, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from the state Department for Public Health. The department reported the first flu outbreak in a long-term-care facility, and for the first time...

Rural Blog: Analysts think Ky.’s newly approved Medicaid work requirement poses little political risk

“On Jan. 12, Kentucky became the first state to get federal permission to suspend Medicaid coverage for “‘able-bodied’ adults who don’t complete 80 hours per month of community engagement activities,” like employment, education, job-skills training and community service,” Tony Pugh reports for McClatchy’s DC bureau. And though Kentucky is one of the poorest...

Author of opioid epidemic book Dreamland says it began with easy answers to tough questions

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News The opioid epidemic began with a desire for “easy answers to complicated problems,” and the solution to it needs to avoid similar mistakes, the author of the seminal book on the topic said recently on KET’s “Connections with Renee Shaw.” “As a culture we need to learn patience. It took us a long time to get into this and it will take...

Sam Shepard chose to die in rural Kentucky, where people in Midway always respected his privacy

By Al Cross The Rural Blog Tonight on Broadway in New York, the lights of theater marquees will go dark for one minute to honor Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, author, screenwriter, director and Oscar-nominated actor, who died Thursday at 73. In one small town in Kentucky, spirits are already dimmer, because folks there remembered Shepard as a good neighbor, and one whose privacy...

Blocked again, Republicans divided about whether to keep trying to pass a health insurance bill

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News After his last-ditch attempt to pass a health-insurance bill failed early Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “It’s time to move on,” and scheduled other business. President Donald Trump, hungry for a legislative victory, did not agree. “Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead!...

House approves bill halting Medicaid expansion, clears way to higher premiums for pre-existing conditions

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News The health-care bill passed Thursday by House Republicans would end the expansion of Medicaid in 2020, limit the program’s funding after that to a fixed amount per person, and let states allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions. On a 217-212 vote, the bill went to the Senate, which undoubtedly will change it. About...

Bill Straub: Bevin stiff-arming state’s media does disservice to public and pursuit of accountability

WASHINGTON – Ben Bradlee, who would go on to become the legendary editor of The Washington Post, once wrote a story highly critical of then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his administration, leading LBJ to invite Bradlee, then working for Newsweek, into the Oval Office for what was sure to be a dressing down. What Bradlee instead encountered were tepid protestations from the president, free...

Health care bill appears dead for this year, but changes still likely in Medicaid, subsidized insurance

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News What does the failure of the bill to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” mean for Kentucky? Probably not much right away, but big changes are still likely next year in the Medicaid program, the expansion of which under the 2010 law had a much larger impact on Kentucky than reform of the private...

Paul says conservatives won’t support Republican health plan, hope to negotiate one more to their liking

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul laid out his objections to House GOP leaders’ bill to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Paul called for an end to federal mandates for what insurance policies must cover, which the 2010 law called “essential benefits.” He said that change would enable consumers to buy the sort...

Pence touts Republican health plan, seeking Paul’s support; Dems say remarks about state are off base

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky again became the epicenter of the health-care debate on Saturday, as Vice President Mike Pence claimed in Louisville that “Kentucky is a textbook example of Obamacare’s failures,” while Democrats said Pence didn’t know what he was talking about. “Obamacare has failed the people of Kentucky, Obamacare has failed the people of America...

Kentucky was one of states to benefit most when pre-existing coverage was added to health reform

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky was one of the states helped most by the health reform law’s requirement that people with pre-existing conditions could get insurance – a key rule that president-elect Donald Trump says he wants to maintain while “repealing Obamacare.” Before the law took full effect three years ago, 33 percent of non-elderly Kentuckians had pre-existing...

Bevin administration will continue Medicaid waiver negotiations despite Trump’s election

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin says it will continue negotiations with federal officials about its requested waiver of some Medicaid rules despite the election of Republican Donald Trump, who vowed in his campaign to “repeal Obamacare” but now says he will keep parts of it. “Until changes occur at the federal level, the Bevin administration will...