Author: friendsoflimestone

How to Get Involved in the Midterm Elections

How to Get Involved in the Midterm Elections

By Taylor Forns, M.D.

As inconceivable as it may seem right now, the dog days of summer will soon be drawing to a close as we inch nearer to a great autumn tradition.

No, I’m not talking about football. But if you want to learn more about the upcoming season for your Cards or Cats, I recommend you check out the great local media coverage we are privy to here in the Commonwealth.

The fall ritual I’m referring to is the fast-approaching election season.

Young people have long been unreliable voters. In 2016, Kentucky voters 34 and younger had a 47.9% turnout rate, well below the 59.1% average of all voters. In the 2014 midterm the numbers are much worse, as only 26.1% came out to the polls compared to the 45.9% total. Voting is the single most important constitutional right we have as American citizens…if we don’t like our government, we have the power to vote to change it, so use that power!

This past presidential election cycle has certainly spurred me to take a more active role in the election process outside of simply voting. If you, too, are thinking about becoming more involved in the upcoming midterm elections, I’m here to give you a few ideas of different ways to get involved.

My first piece of advice would be to register! It’s hard to affect change within a democratic system if you mute your own voice by not being a registered voter. It’s an easy and painless process here in Kentucky: all you have to do is visit the Secretary of State’s website and fill out the simple form the State Board of Elections offers.

Once you’ve registered to vote, you can really start to rev your political engine. Perhaps the most organic way to influence others during an election is to volunteer for a campaign. Be it a national election, a state primary, or even a mayoral race, any campaign adviser will say the most important thing for a campaign, other than many willing donors, is a plethora of volunteers.

There are many roles for volunteers on the campaign trail that fit the busy schedules of nearly everybody, which means you can get involved even if you work long hours. Just reach out to a candidate’s team, and they will find a way to utilize your skills.

But what if you don’t know for whom to vote? How can you even know what a candidate truly believes? This is where your own research comes into play. My biggest belief is that reading local news tells me a lot about candidates and their views. For example, if you live in Mercer County, it makes sense to read a publication local to Mercer County that explains how a candidate’s plan will affect those that live in the area instead of how it might affect people living in Lexington or Louisville.

Another great avenue to learn more about candidates is to attend campaign events. Many times, candidates will field questions, giving you a perfect opportunity to ask about the issues that matter most to you. When you are able to have a frank and honest conversation with a candidate in settings like these, you can develop an informed opinion about all the candidates.

Now that you have a few more tools to be engaged during this year’s election cycle, I challenge you to put them to use. Register if you have not already registered. Do your due diligence when researching and learning about candidates. Volunteer for a campaign, go door-to-door, make phone calls. If you want to see a change in your world, be the start of that change and do something about it.

But most importantly, vote. Maybe you’ll get a cool “I Just Voted” sticker to post on your Instagram.

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Expanded Gaming in Kentucky: A Winning Bet

Expanded Gaming in Kentucky: A Winning Bet

By Taylor Forns, Friends of Limestone Chief Development Officer

 

The first Saturday in May. For 144 years, this has been a day of pride for Kentuckians as the entire country tunes in for the Run for the Roses. The majesty, the pageantry, the spectacle of the day is always something to behold.

As I reflect back on this year’s Kentucky Derby, I am drawn to the social and political influences of the race. Though the world’s most famous horse race takes place in Kentucky, the state government refuses to allow gambling on anything other than horse racing. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing states to legalize sports gambling, I could not help but think about the current climate surrounding expanded gaming in the Commonwealth.

In 2017, people wagered $139 million on the Kentucky Derby alone, a horse race that lasts two minutes. Imagine the economic impact that would have on Kentucky if we didn’t have that cash coming into the system. Now imagine the economic impact if the Commonwealth coupled the total earnings from the horse racing industry yearly with expanded gaming in casinos and sports books. It isn’t hard to imagine that funding for many of Kentucky’s programs, including Medicaid, the failing state pension plans, and education, would receive a significant boost and ultimately lead to better outcomes for millions of Kentuckians.

The idea for expanded gaming here in Kentucky is not a novel one. Former Governor Steve Beshear was a strong advocate for it during his term as governor, and his son, Attorney General Andy Beshear, continues to push for legalization of expanded gaming to solve Kentucky’s revenue needs.

Rivals of expanded gaming do recognize its economic impact, but they believe that the “societal costs,” as Governor Matt Bevin put it in September 2017, would be too great to realize any true benefit.

Personally, I side with the idea that we live in a state where the vices of horse racing, bourbon, tobacco, and marijuana make up a large portion of the economy, so we have already paid the Pied Piper in terms of societal costs. Additionally, Kentuckians continue to leave the Commonwealth to gamble in casinos just across the Ohio River in both Indiana and Ohio. Why should we allow our dollars to continue to go to neighboring states that seem to be doing just fine with the casinos in their communities?

Not only would expanded gaming keep money within the Commonwealth, but also bringing casinos to Kentucky would create thousands of jobs, giving more citizens the chance to earn a decent wage and improve the economy. To top it all off, the sheer volume of revenue generated by expanded gaming would help to stave off tax increases to fund many of the state’s programs. To this effect, Democrats would be able to fund the myriad of state-funded programs that support Kentuckians, and Republicans would be able to make good on campaign promises to their constituents by keeping taxes low.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly did not make money on Derby day this year. My pick 6 bet lost on the first race, I didn’t hit my exacta, and I thought Mendelssohn was going to win it over Justify. Clearly, I made the wrong bets that day.

However, I have a bet that is sure to have a big payoff: legalize expanded gaming. It’s a winning bet for Kentucky.

 

Take the FOL Oaks Challenge!

Take the FOL Oaks Challenge!

The world knows about the Kentucky Derby, but it is the Kentucky Oaks that holds a special place in the hearts of Kentuckians. It has long been considered the racing day for “the People”, as locals take the opportunity to get into Churchill Downs before tourists get in for Derby day.

The Oaks first ran in 1875, over time the race has evolved from a much smaller race at the Louisville Jockey Club to an event that annually attracts over 120,000 people from all walks of life. The Oaks is more than a mile and an eighth or a garland of lilies, for Kentuckians it is a moment of a communal and unified feeling before we as a state walk become the center of the world. Where else do schools close for a horse race?

What makes the Oaks and Derby feel so Kentuckian is a unity that seems to surround the festivities. Starting on Friday, inside and outside of Churchill Downs, the Commonwealth comes together. The people set aside red & blue, political party, urban or rural, and instead start a weekend chock full of our unique Kentucky traditions.

When we started Friends of Limestone almost a year ago, one of our main reasons for doing so was to advocate for and celebrate the things that bring Kentuckians together. Indeed, FOL truly believes that we have more in common than we do differently.

With this in mind, on this Kentucky Oaks Day whether you are at the track, watching at home, or work we challenge you to talk to someone you may not see eye to eye with. Strike up a conversation about what Oaks and Derby mean to you. Share a glass of Kentucky bourbon, or just a glass of water (both of which we owe to Kentucky limestone).

From such a conversation we imagine you will find that for maybe 363 days a year you share very little in common. For two days a year, a unifying feeling takes over, making us all Kentuckians. By doing this, we as Kentuckians can show ourselves and the rest of the world, that when we come together, we are stronger than when we apart.

Here’s to hoping that the unifying nature of Oaks and Derby defines more than a weekend but also what it means to be a Kentuckian.

Join us, by taking the FOL Oaks Challenge. Share your story with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram about how Oaks and Derby bring people together.

Use the hashtag #FOLOaks to share your experience on Kentucky’s best weekend.

Take Action: The Primary Registration Deadline is Almost Here!

Take Action: The Primary Registration Deadline is Almost Here!

As the primaries approach, Friends of Limestone hopes to help equip young voters with all the tools they need to take action in this important step in our state’s electoral process. This is the first of several posts coming to help ensure you’re ready for the primaries!

By the time the filing deadline for running in the 2018 elections passed, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced an overall surge in the amount of candidates. “Nearly every race has got a challenger,” Grimes told the press. “Few incumbents are going without primaries.”

This year voters will see a record 86 women running for a seat in Frankfort, as well as over fifty educators.

Since the ballots were finalized on January 30th, these candidates have been crisscrossing the counties of the Commonwealth in the hopes of convincing us they deserve to be our leaders.

Their first tests come on May 22nd in their party primaries and your final chance to register or update your registration is this coming Monday April 23rd. 

Not registered or need to add your new address? That’s a problem. Only 12.6 percent of voters aged 17-33 voted in the 2016 primaries, and this year’s elections offer a great opportunity for young people to make an impact in our state government.

Solving this problem is easy though, thanks to Kentucky’s online voter registration.

Step 1. Visit the Kentucky online voter registration site. 

Step 2. Ensure your eligibility by answer these questions from the state.

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Step 3. Enter your social security number and date of birth.

Step 4. You’ll then be asked to enter your information if you’ve never registered or verify if you’ve previously registered.

Step 5. Now you must select a political party. You can only vote in the primary of the party you register for in Kentucky.

Step 6. Next you’ll be asked for your current address.

Step 7. Take one last look to verify your information. Remember if your info is incorrect it could prevent you from voting in the primary.

Congrats! You’re ready to vote next month!

A Kentucky Legislative Session Update

A Kentucky Legislative Session Update

By: Brandon McReynolds, Ph.D, Friends of Limestone Founder

Hey Friends!

We are now a little over halfway through the 2018 Kentucky Regular Legislative Session (the legislature only has 59 legislative days this year), which provides an opportunity to check-in on the bills connected to Friends of Limestone’s mission.

Over the past week, our team reviewed all the proposed legislation from this session. As of publication, over 150 bills have been filed in the Senate and close to 400 in the House. These bills cover a variety of policy areas connected to limestone and the industries that exist in Kentucky because of limestone. Below we listed several of the bills that stand out to us.

We have provided a brief description of each piece of legislation along with why the legislation is of importance to Friends of Limestone. We also recommend checking out the Legislative Research Commission’s website where you can see the bills and resolutions your representatives have sponsored! Also, be on the lookout for a separate blog post about Kentucky’s pension problem, and how it affects us all as Friends of Limestone.

House Bills:

HB 26- Natural resource severance and processing tax

Currently: in House to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Amends state law to define the “processing” of limestone to include the act of loading and unloading
  • Amends state law to allow for a tax credit for identical severance or processing tax paid in another state or political subdivision.

FOL Perspective: the mining and processing of limestone as a natural resource is one use of Kentucky’s large limestone deposit. Legislation focused on the continued mining of limestone needs to consider the environmental, social, and economic impacts of mining each time legislation such as this is proposed.

HB 159- Increase sales tax on alcohol

Currently: in House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to increase the whole sales tax rate for beer, wine, and distilled spirits to 14 percent
  • Forbids local governments from imposing a regulatory fee on the sale of alcoholic beverages
  • Amends state law to establish a $100 annual transporters license fee
  • Amends state law to require that every distiller, rectifier, winery, and nonresident wholesaler make its brands available to any wholesaler and not grant the distributing rights of any particular brand to only one wholesaler exclusively
  • Amends state law to require that alcohol wholesalers make deliveries to retailers on a timely basis and no later than one week after the order date
  • Amends state law to require that alcohol distributors make deliveries to retailers on a timely basis and no later than one week after the order date
  • Amends state law to permit a quota retail package licensee or a nonquota malt beverage package licensee to transport alcoholic beverages between stores of common ownership if the licensee derives not less than 90 percent of his or her cash receipts from the sale of alcohol and pays the annual license fee

FOL Perspective: The sell of alcohol is highly regulated and taxed in Kentucky. As Kaitlyn pointed out in her recent blog, taxes incurred throughout the process make up a substantial cost that is passed onto consumers. This law adds further taxes and regulation.

HB 267- All wet counties through a local option election to approve license fee

Currently: in House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to allow all wet cities and counties containing wet cities through a local option election to impose a regulatory license fee on the sale of alcoholic beverages

HB 41, 42, and 229– All deal with gambling

FOL’s mission does not directly connect to the issue of legalized casino gambling. However, due to the on-going discussion around casino gambling and Kentucky’s horse industry we wanted to make people aware of these pieces of legislation.

 

Senate Bills

SB 22- Sports wagering

Currently: In Senate to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Requires Kentucky Horseracing Commission to institute a sports wagering system
  • Vest control of sports wagering with the commission
  • Establishes a 20% tax on the total amount wagered at sports wagering facilities

FOL Perspective: The equine industry plays a substantial role in the Kentucky economy.  Legislators and voters need to understand the economic and social impacts of expanded sports gambling along with how legislation such as this will support the long-term growth of Kentuck’s equine industry.

SB 56- Kentucky Horse Racing Commission

Currently: Has passed in the Senate, and is in the House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to make ex officio members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission nonvoting members.

SB 110- Alcohol license quotas

Currently: In Senate, passed out of committee, seven-floor amendments were added, waiting for second reading

  • Codify the quota system for alcoholic beverages for wet counties and cities
  • Creates new process for verifying quota numbers
  • Create a process to allow for a city or county to petition for a quota increase

Various amendments have been added and range from eliminating the quota system to shifting how the system is managed.

FOL Perspective: As legislators debate the pros and cons of Kentucky’s quota system, FOL believes that they should work to give agency and power to counties and cities across the state.

SB 129- Reorganize energy and environmental cabinet

Currently: In Senate to Natural Resources & Energy

  • Amends over 25 state statutes regarding the Energy and Environmental Cabinet
  • Changes names of various portions of the Energy and Environmental Cabinet
  • Amends state law regarding responsibility for who can take legal action regarding various programs

FOL Perspective: Every issue before the legislature is an environmental issue, a reorganization of  Energy and Environmental Cabinet needs to ensure the environmental justice is a part of the policy process both inside and outside of the cabinet.

SB111- Breeder’s Cup exemption

Currently: In Senate to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Amends state law to make permanent the Breeder’s Cup exemption relating to wagering
Meet a Friend of Limestone: Irma Kocer

Meet a Friend of Limestone: Irma Kocer

This month’s profile of a Kentuckian you should get to know takes us to Lexington!

Meet Irma!

 

What’s your name?

Irma Kocer

Where are you from?

Croatia/Bosnia but also Woodford County.

Where do you live currently?

Tiny yellow cottage, Lexington, KY.

What is your profession?

Public Health graduate student and Student Coordinator for UK’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards

Why are you a friend of limestone?

Limestone is (literally) the foundation of Kentucky. FOL is creating a multifaceted approach to educating the great citizens of Kentucky about our foundation while simultaneously creating spaces for advocacy and community engagement. I truly believe FOL is creating a grassroots effort to bring Kentucky’s prioritizes where they need to be in terms of conservation and environment. I am thrilled to be a part of it!

What is your favorite thing about Kentucky?

Autumn in Kentucky is truly magical. No matter where I have lived or traveled, the Bluegrass in that time of year is one of the best sights I’ve ever seen. Oh, and the food.

What makes Kentucky special?

Kentucky has a vast refugee and immigrant population. My past work in refugee resettlement as well as the fact that my family was resettled through Kentucky Refugee Ministries makes this an aspect of Kentucky that I hold dear. The Bosnian population in Bowling Green, the Congolese population in Lexington, the Somalian and Cuban population in Louisville, the Burmese population in northern Kentucky, and everyone in between truly speaks to the rich and colorful culture of our great state.

If you could name a Kentucky Derby horse, what would you name it?

Cheesy Grits

What is your vision for Kentucky?

My vision is a Kentucky without health and wealth disparities. It is a Kentucky where every individual, no matter their background or immigration status, has equal access to the tools they need to create the best life for themselves.

What is your favorite bourbon?

Woodford, of course! With a splash of Ale81.

What is your favorite place in Kentucky?

It’s a toss up: the backroads of Woodford County or the Old San Juan Cuban restaurant in Lexington.

What is one thing you would change about Kentucky?

We as Kentuckians often see ourselves divided into Louisville, Lexington, and everyone else. This leads to losing sight of the united commonwealth due to the variety of backgrounds and socio-economic differences. So I would change how divided we are. If we were able to come together, especially from a political perspective, we could create policies that would work for every Kentuckian instead of just those that have been representing us at the national level for years.

For you, what does it mean to be a friend of limestone?

It means supporting FOL in every way that I can. That may be in big ways such as advocacy and reducing my own carbon footprint. It may be in small everyday things like wearing my FOL t-shirt and happily explaining the mission to inquiring minds. Or a combination of both!

 

Thanks to Irma for participating!

Know someone we should talk to next? Email us at Communications@FriendsOfLimestone.com!

Meet a Friend of Limestone, Dr. Alan Fryar

Meet a Friend of Limestone, Dr. Alan Fryar

It’s hard to be more of a friend to limestone than Dr. Alan Fryar, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Fryar’s specialty is understanding how water moves through karst, a special kind of landscape formed by the dissolution of limestone. He has studied it across the Bluegrass region. One study performed in Woodford County compared a spring under UK’s Animal Research Center with another in downtown Versailles. He has also researched sinkholes and “telling people where to and where not to build from an engineering perspective.”

This extensive understanding of karst makes him one of the Bluegrass’ top experts on the natural foundation on which our Commonwealth stands.

He explained that Kentucky’s limestone gives it a unique geographic difference. “The Bluegrass region is sort of a dome of limestone.” Dr. Fryar noted that this limestone had an immediate effect on how Kentucky grew and evolved.

“It has to do with historical settlements,” he noted. “People settled in areas where limestone was fundamental.” The Falls of the Ohio and the unique properties of central Kentucky’s soil are both thanks to limestone and attracted settlers.

Dr. Fryar’s interest and knowledge about karst and Kentucky’s history with limestone has led to a hobby of speaking to the landscape’s role in bourbon distilling. He’s been interviewed by several journalists and authors about the role of limestone in Kentucky’s unique industries.

He notes that “interesting coincidences” led settlers to the industries that remain the cornerstones of Kentucky’s cultural and economic identity.

“Bourbon is what people started distilling because the ingredients were available,” Fryar notes. The limestone water that came from natural springs across the Bluegrass was a key ingredient. It isn’t a coincidence that Royal Spring, Kentucky is where Elijah Craig began making whiskey in 1789.

It turned out that the high pH of limestone water is ideal for promoting fermentation, and it naturally filters out impurities like iron that alter the taste. This made water from the Bluegrass region the perfect ingredient for the earliest bourbon distillers.

While limestone water is not essential to bourbon production at this point, it has created a myth around the spirit. “I think that’s where the concept of terroir comes in, where it’s not just physical factors, but it’s also what the consumer perceives as the place, the origin of the spirit that gives it value,” he told Louisville Public Radio in 2013.

Even his students have gotten into the act of studying the relationship between geology and distilling. One of his UK graduates now works as an environmental compliance officer for a major name in Kentucky bourbon.

Dr. Fryar is helping the public understand the geological reasons behind bourbon’s rise in Kentucky. That makes him a great Kentuckian and a true Friend of Limestone.