Category: Advocacy

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.

 

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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
Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Hey, everyone!

How has everyone’s 2018 been so far? Our environment continues to be a pressing importance in my life and hopefully you are making it one in yours!

That being said, let’s keep talking about Environmental Justice in Appalachia!

Last month, I mentioned that this blog would be dedicated to a specific case example. One that is personal to me and has been making some news recently, is Martin County, Kentucky.

The story of Martin County is close to me because I have spent the past year studying the environmental injustices of this county for my dissertation research. What have I been doing and what’s going on with Martin County? First let’s get a baseline of the area.

Martin County is:

  • A Central Appalachian county of Kentucky that borders West Virginia.
  • Contains around 12,000 individuals.
  • Predominantly white (94 percent of the population).
  • The 115th poorest county in Kentucky.
    • The medium household income is around $25,000
    • 35 percent fall below the poverty level.
  • Where the War on Poverty was born.
  • A coal mining community.

Since coal mining is predominant in Martin County, their risk to environmental stressors is increased. Unfortunately this risk increased too far and in the fall of 2000 a disaster struck the county. One of the coal slurry impoundments broke, releasing over 300 million gallons of slurry in two hollows of Martin County: Coldwater and Wolf Creek.

What is “coal slurry?” It is the stuff that comes off coal after it’s washed. “Washed”? Why is coal being washed? Is it dirty? Well…yes! Before it is burned for energy purposes, it must be cleaned to rid various impurities, like soil and rock. The byproduct that comes off during this process is called “slurry” and it is housed in large dams call impoundments, like the one over Martin County.

Appalachian writer, Harry Caudill once said impoundments are “like a pool of gravy in a mound of mashed potato”. I really love that analogy. I feel like it gives a vivid picture of what these things are. It also gives you a good idea of what it looked like seeping into the community. The black gravy mixture contaminated local creeks, water sources, soil and killed aquatic life. For such a small community, tucked in the Appalachian Mountains, you might not think this was a big deal, but it was actually the worst environmental disaster in the southeast, exceeding the amount released from the Exxon Valdeez Oil Spill!

It was my goal to study the recovery of this disaster for my dissertation, so I started interviewing the people impacted. I soon learned that there is another environmental issue plaguing the county.  In a nutshell, their infrastructure is poor.

I found that:

  • Water lines were breaking, allowing contaminants to enter into the water source.
  • There is an average of 60 percent water loss across the county.
  • Their water smells, is discolored, and is reported to burn their skin.
  • No one drinks the water! Their source comes from bottled water.
  • People are organizing and trying to get a new water source for their community.
  • People are concerned over their health and community future.

You will probably hear more about Martin County and their struggles in the coming weeks and months as it is gaining more media attention day after day! I am not going into the details of why individuals believe their water system is inadequate; you will have to read my dissertation for that!

Regardless of the reason, this county experiences environmental stressors. It is truly unjust. The story of Martin County is a reminder that environmental stressors are not equally shared across populations!

Until next time,

Adam

Environmental Justice 101

Environmental Justice 101

Hello, again!

As I’m sure you know, our environment is not always maintained as well as it should be (or if you don’t, welcome to reality). There are many environmental impacts that affect us in our every day lives, which put our health at risk. I’m hoping, since you are taking the time to read this blog, you know that we should, and must, be more conscience of these impacts and make efforts to improve them. However, did you know these risks are unequally shared across race and class? Some of you may be asking yourselves now, “What do you mean, unequally shared?” or “What does race or class have to do with anything”. These are the questions I hope to answer for you. I also hope to give you a better understanding of the injustices that often get looked over and are not always brought to light by the media and/or politicians (which, face it, that’s where most of us get our news whether we like it or not).

Environmental Justice:

  • Things like hazardous plants, pollution, and contamination are disproportionately located in black and poor communities.
  • This spawned an area of research and social movement aimed at addressing these inequities: Environmental Justice.
  • It advocates that all people and communities, regardless of their race or class status, are entitled to a healthy environment, as well as equal protection of environmental laws and regulations.
  • Click here for the 17 guiding principles of environmental justice!
  • There are two main debates with environmental justice: race vs. class and the chicken and the egg.

“Race vs. Class Debate”

  • Debates whether race or class is a better predictor of “environmental bads”.
  • Answering this debate is complicated because race and class connected.
  • Poor racially concentrated communities are the best predictors.
  • This occurs wherever people have the least amount of power, called “the path of least resistance”.
  • Occurs in poor black communities, as well as poor white communities.
  • This rarely occurs in rich white communities.

“The Chicken and The Egg”

  • Debates whether the “environmental bad” or the people came first into a community.
  • This assumes only one form of discrimination: the environmental bad moving in.
  • If people move into a contaminated community, it is discrimination too because those of a lower socioeconomic status are often forced into them.
  • NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) is the act of rich white folks opposing environmental bads.
  • NIMBY acts concentrate these into marginalized communities!

I can’t stress to you enough how difficult it is for me to provide an introduction of environmental justice, alongside the two debates, in such a short blog! There are so many components to environmental justice that warrant their own blogs! In the coming months I plan on discussing many of these with you because it is a highly important topic to discuss, as well as a crucial component to environmentalism. In the mean time, I encourage each and every one of you to think about something in a community that negatively impacts the environment (power plant, factory etc.) around you. Then, ask yourself, where are these located?

Until next time!

Adam