Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Bowling Green Daily News on child sex laws:
It's a sad reality that in our country, children are sold into the commercial sex business or sex trade.
Those selling kids in the sex trade business are very sick individuals who should be locked away to never again see the light of day.
We will never entirely put a stop to this practice, but we as a state can do much more than we currently are to make sure those supplying children for sex and those paying to have sex with them can no longer use as a defense that they didn't know their age when they had sex with them.
In Kentucky and several other states, people on trial for statutory rape crimes can use the defense of mistaken age. They will argue in their defense during a trial that they thought the person they paid for sex was at least 18 years old.
This is a weak and insulting defense to even try to use.
The simple fact is that most people who are paying to have sex with underage kids know that they're underage and if they get caught are able to use this absurd excuse of not knowing they weren't 18 years old as a defense in court.
It's quite clear that something has to change within our state's judicial system so this lame excuse can no longer be used as a defense against statutory rape.
We are quite fortunate to have Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Cohron leading the charge on this issue. He, too, realizes that more must be done to do away with defendants using this defense.
Cohron is pushing for a strict liability law that says any individual who patronizes another individual for prostitution would be responsible for whatever age that individual is.
This sounds like a reasonable and sound proposal that one would think every legislator in Frankfort would gladly support, but unfortunately, that hasn't been the case.
The strict liability law has been mentioned as human trafficking provisions have been expanded by the General Assembly, but it hasn't garnered enough support.
Cohron said he believes some legislators don't fully understand the severity of this issue.
We agree with Cohron's assessment. We would also submit that his proposal is a no brainer.
These girls are having their identities and their innocence stolen from them from these predators.
What about their futures?
We believe most people would agree that their lives are the ones that need protection, not the sex traffickers and the rapists who use an outdated law to sometimes escape the punishment they deserve.
Cohron put it best when he said: "The long-term impact it has on these children is incomprehensible."
Cohron also said if the law were changed, he believes some people would stop and think before paying minors for sex acts. He is correct. If someone knew they could no longer use the current law as a defense, there could be a reduction of those who are committing these acts.
There is simply no justification for someone who knowingly has sex with an underage girl to sit in a court of law and say that they believed the girl was 18 years old.
The current law is outdated, unfair and an insult to the victims.
That is why it needs to be changed, and we urge the legislature to get behind the strict liability law next session and pass it, not just to make it tougher on perpetrators, but more importantly to bring justice for the victims of these sordid crimes.
The Kentucky New Era on banking scams:
The holiday shopping season can make or break many retailers each year, including some in our own community, but it is also a potential bonanza for criminals who prey on busy consumers.
It is the season of giving — and unfortunately, it is the time for taking.
Now is a good time to think about ways to protect your bank accounts, your wallet and the personal financial information you want to keep private. During the last two months of the year, when stores are packed and online sites are busy, there is a greater potential for theft.
Bank ATMs and gas pumps are two places where digital thieves can gain access to your bank accounts. That's why the Financial Cybercrime Task Force of Kentucky just issued a warning to consumers, banks and retailers. A skimmer attached to the device where you swipe your card can capture data from the card's magnetic strip. Thieves can combine this with a hidden camera that records your four-digit PIN and then produce fake cards to clean out your account.
"We're taking a proactive step to ensure community banks and credit unions are aware of the risk and keeping consumers protected," Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions Commissioner Charles Vice said in a news release. "However, skimming could happen anywhere a card is swiped — not just ATMs — so it's important for consumers to be aware of the risks."
Consumer protection groups recommend you examine card readers for evidence of loose attachments, tape or glue.
Other risks to shoppers include email or phone calls requesting personal financial information. Don't provide that information except in person at your bank or through a known contact in a phone call you make to your bank or credit card company.
Online shopping requires safeguards. You should never shop, pay bills or do banking when using public Wi-Fi at places like coffee shops or hotels. A thief can access your information whether you are using a laptop, tablet or cellphone.
It's usually best to use a credit card rather than a debit card in places where you are at risk of identity theft. Credit cards generally provide more protection to reimburse you in the case of fraudulent purchases.
There's also some risk in filling out credit applications in a store. These are generally done the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, which a clerk then keys into a store computer. What's left behind is a written record of your Social Security number and other personal information that could be used to open other accounts in your name without your knowledge.
Even with all these digital concerns during the holidays, it's also important to remember that purse-snatching and pick-pocketing still occur. While you are out shopping and enjoying the season, be aware of your surroundings and take care of your belongings.
It only takes one successful thief to dampen your Christmastime enjoyment. Protect yourself and your money.
The Lexington Herald-Leader on nepotism in state government:
Let's say you learn that one of your employees has stolen money from another's purse. Or, that another is giving away company-owned construction materials in return for favors. Or, even that an employee breaks into his own office and steals money to feed a habit.
Simple enough, right? The offenders have to go.
The picture becomes murkier if those larcenous employees are family members.
And even more messy if you all work in government, drawing taxpayer-funded salaries.
Hard to believe but all these scenarios have played out in Kentucky, according to a troubling report on nepotism in county government by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Research.
There are no uniform rules on hiring relatives in Kentucky's 120 counties, and no one keeps track of nepotism.
While some counties, including Fayette, ban public officials from hiring or supervising close relatives, KyCIR's James McNair found that in 75 of Kentucky's 120 counties hiring relatives is more or less accepted practice. One of them is Rowan County where County Clerk Kim Davis worked under her mother during the decades she served as county clerk. When Davis herself took over the job in January she expanded the family business to include her 21-year-old son Nathan as an assistant clerk.
While Davis is certainly the best-known of the county officials practising nepotism, she is by no means alone. KyCIR lists clerks who employ their sisters, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers and first cousins. Judge- executives, circuit court clerks, county attorneys, jailers, sheriffs and magistrates also contribute to the full-family-employment-at-taxpayer-expense trend in Kentucky, some even hiring in-laws.
It's common that these jobs are never advertised, that no one else is interviewed or considered for the position.
Why doesn't someone do something about this, you might ask. As McNair reports, a reform-minded state legislature walked up to it in 1994. While the law that resulted does require cities and counties to have nepotism policies, that's all it said. As a result, there's a crazy-quilt of rules: some policies say it's banned, some say it's allowed, others limit it to only one relative per elected official.
By all accounts and the evidence of low voter turnout, citizens have become jaded about elected officials. This report offers an opportunity for legislators in the upcoming session to restore some faith by ending this widespread nepotism.
One way family dynasties maintain control over local offices is the widespread practice of including elected officials' names in addition to their offices on a wide range of documents and mailings. This often amounts to free advertising for a person who keeps his or her job by winning votes.
Since Gov.-elect Matt Bevin and others are eager to remove clerks' names from marriage licenses, they should broaden their reforms to remove office-holder names from as many public documents as possible. If we don't need the clerk's name on a marriage license, we certainly don't need politicians' names on business forms or gas pumps. It's time to cut back this taxpayer-subsidized free advertising.
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting report on nepotism in county government can be found at: kycir.org/2015/11/12/in-hiring-county-officials-can-and-do-turn-to-relatives.