March 29, 2013

• The Waning Moments were like a ‘Sausage Factory’; 2 House Bills approved but won’t become law

• 50 cents for weekly single price still the favorite but 75 cents growing

• ARK passes 100-newspaper mark

• Did I tell you we still need judges for Alabama’s news content? Well, we do!!

WHO KNOWS WHAT THE LEGISLATURE DID AT ‘THE SAUSAGE FACTORY’

I’m not certain anyone really knows what passed and what didn’t pass in the 2013 General Assembly. The dust hasn’t settled on some last day rewrites of legislation. And I’m not certain I can even explain. But let me try.

House Bill 57 on expunging some driving records was gutted in favor of another piece of legislation. Well, gutted might not be the right word. Let’s just say they did a transplant, taking the language out of HB57 and moving it over to Senate Bill 78. That bill had nothing to do with expungement but at the 11th hour it makes no difference.

Putting Rep. Brent Yonts’ bill on SB78 wasn’t a major concern; we hadn’t fought it or supported it. But a few minutes later, Rep. Daryl Owens tried to put his language in HB47 on felony expungements on the same bill with a floor amendment. That would have been a major problem for it’s the same legislation we’ve battled for 10 to 12 years.

So SB78 is okay the way it went to the governor. We think.

Then there’s Rep. Jill York’s legislation on public agency Open Meetings. Originally known as House Bill 392, it added language to the Open Meetings Law to state: (1) All meetings of all public agencies of this state, and any committees or subcommittees thereof, shall be held at specified times and places which are convenient to the public. In considering locations for public meetings, the agency shall evaluate space requirements, seating capacity, and acoustics. (The underlined/bold portion is new language added to the law.)

HB392 made it through the House on a 98-1 vote a couple of weeks ago. But there was no time for it to be considered in the Senate so you would figure she’d have to bring it back in 2014.

Not so. In the late hours of the 2013 session, on HB54, a bill originally affecting Money Transmitters, the Senate gutted that bill and did a couple of transplants on it. And there is Rep. York’s language as stated above. And that’s fine because we testified with her on it and supported the language.

And then there’s Rep. Kevin Bratcher’s HB115. This would allow a crime victim to publicly discuss information related to his or her case and within his or her own knowledge or disclosed to the victim during a juvenile court proceeding. That’s good though we tried to make it better in the original form by allowing victims AND defendants to publicly discuss a case without retribution. HB115 got through the House, went to Senate Judiciary but it was taken from the committee along the way and given its first reading. That was March 6 and nothing had happened since.

Until — you guessed it — near the stroke of midnight Tuesday. The language gets added to another bill.

HB203 was legislation from Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes that would keep the names and addresses private of people wanting to vote by absentee in any election. After checking with editors, we found no need for the names but as long as we had access to the number of people applying for absentee ballots, we were fine. The legislation allowed for county clerks to give out the number of people.

Well, like many before it, it didn’t get a vote by the Senate though it was close to that. It appeared on March 7 nothing else would happen to the bill.

You might have heard of Senate Bill 1, the legislation about allowing military personnel overseas to be allowed to vote. Well, guess where HB203 ended up? You got it, transplanted into SB1.

And so goes the waning hours of the 2013 General Assembly. Got a bill that isn’t going anywhere? No problem. We’ll take your language and put it somewhere else, even if it means we gut the original language to put it in there.

This all came to light as the process on Tuesday afternoon when the Free Conference Committee met to talk about the funding mechanism for the state pension rewrite. House Bill 440 was that vehicle but I thought they had their bill numbers mixed up. After all, HB440 had to do with microbreweries. How that came into play on the pension bill we’ll never fully know. But the Free Conference Committee gutted the entire language in HB440 and then put in language on how the new pension bill would be funded.

I’m almost scared to look for anything else but it makes one wonder why don’t they just meet one day a year, throw all ideas into a hopper, pull them out, transplant them to something else and make a law.

Maybe the last few minutes of each session should be referred to as “The Sausage Factory.”

BUT WITH HOUSE BILL 57, IT’S NOT GOING TO BE LAW

And just to confuse you more, the bill process, after it goes through both chambers, requires it to be “enrolled” in the chamber. In fact, there is an “enrollment” committee and that committee makes sure all the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted. And then it goes to the Speaker of the House and then the President of the Senate to be signed, and then heads off to the governor’s desk.

Well, guess what. The legislature didn’t “enroll” House Bill 57 so while it did pass both chambers, having not been “enrolled” it won’t become law.

And that didn’t happen just once. House Bill 56 was also approved by both chambers but not enrolled so it’s dead, too.

1500 CONSECUTIVE ISSUES AND COUNTING

That’s where Loyd and Teri Ford stand with The Lake News in Calvert City. From celebrating their eighth anniversary by buying a chaise lounge for their daughter to sleep on at the office while mom and dad worked, The Lake News has made it nearly 30 years.

Here’s a note from Loyd:

I just wanted to let you know that this week at The Lake News we are printing our 1500th consecutive edition. I started the paper on May 29, 1984, and printed the first issue on the following Wednesday, June 6, 1984. Our first press day was June 5, 1984, which was also mine and Teri’s 8th anniversary instead of going out we worked almost all night. We put our daughter who was three and a half to bed on a cheap chase lounge while we worked in our rented building. I can’t believe we made it.

ARK GROWS BY FOUR PAPERS; NOW AT 101 TOTAL

Earlier this week, Teresa put out an email about ARK ads and noted that we were having some email problems, thanks to the Frankfort Plant Board. In a short time, four newspapers not in the network had requested information about the program, and a fifth followed up the next day. But our largest advertising network — for ads from 2×2 to 2×4 size — has grown from 97 to 101. And the fifth could sign up any day.

MOST WEEKLIES AT 50 CENTS BUT 75 CENTS IS BECOMING POPULAR

We had a request this week from a member on weekly newspaper single copy sale prices. Over the years, we’ve done this periodically with single copy prices and annual subscription costs.

We have the information from 68 weekly newspapers so we were able to quickly get some information together for the request.

We found that:

• 43 of the weekly newspapers charge 50 cents for single copies

• 22 of them charge 75 cents

•3 charge $1 per single copy

Of the 43 charging 50 cents, 19 have a circulation up to 3,000; 13 have a 3001 to 4600 circulation; and 11 are 4601 or above.

Of the 22 charging 75 cents, 6 are under 3000 circulation; 9 are 3001 to 4600; and 7 are 4601 or above.

As for the $1 per copy, 1 is in the 3001 to 4600 circulation range; and 2 are above 4601.

The first one of these we did, back in the late ’80s, came at a time newspapers were wanting to change the 25-cent price and move to 30 or 35, maybe even 40 cents. And one, and I’m thinking it was the Paintsville Herald or the Floyd County Times, was considering 75 cents. In fact, whichever one it was it was the first weekly to get to that plateau with 75 cents per copy.

And at a follow-up convention session, we had a speaker address changing single copy prices and how to approach that. One thing sticks out from his presentation (though I can’t remember who it was). He encouraged newspapers at the time to increase their rates “but make it a price that uses the fewest number of coins. If you make it 40 or 45 cents, you’re losing sales because people might not have the exact change. Chances are they will have a quarter and a nickel, or a quarter and a dime, so 30 or 35 might be okay. Even 50 cents would be okay because it just takes two coins (two quarters) to buy the paper then. It would take three or more coins to pay 40 or 45 cents.

CONGRESS TO END POLITICAL PARTY USPS DISCOUNT?

Maybe so. But it’s probably no surprise that somewhere along the line, Congress had USPS extend some good postal discounts to political parties. They were able to classify those political parties as non-profit thus making them eligible for the discount. Ending that privilege for political parties is in the budget bill but remains to be seen if that action takes effect.

DODY ADKINS NOT LEAVING CJ JUST BACK TO PRODUCTION

The ad staff got a reminder email this week from Dody Adkins, our long-time contact in the Courier-Journal ad department that Friday would be her last day. As such it is. Dody needed some information on the ARK program so I gave her that and then wished her well and that I/we appreciate all her help along the way. She sent back a nice note and one that explains she’ll still be at the CJ but going back to Production. She was in production 15.5 years and even with all that experience the business has changed substantially so she’ll have a lot to learn. She’d been in the advertising department for the last 14.5 years.

David,

Thank you and thank you!

I’ve been in sales for 14.5 years. Time for this old dog to find a new trick (so-to-speak). I’m headed back to the Production Dept. It’s where I worked my 15.5 years before coming to sales but, I’m sure it’s changed drastically in the years that I’ve been over here selling. I have a lot to learn – everything is done electronically now! Thank you for the well wishes. It has been a pleasure working with Kentucky Press all of these years. You really have some exceptional people working there (Rachel comes to mind first and foremost and Holly, Buffy, Teresa … they’re all exceptional in my book!).

Best of luck to you and the rest of your crew down there. You guys are the best and I will miss you all!!

‘NUTSO’ AND HERE’S AN EXAMPLE

Herald-Leader reporter Beth Musgrave said the waning minutes of Tuesday night’s ending to the General Assembly was “nutso.” That’s much more descriptive than hectic.

As the clock ticked toward the bewitching hour, Leigh Ann Thacker who helps me with lobbying started a rapid-fire of text messages with what was going on.

Here’s part of that play-by-play, text by text until midnight:

Some good news and bad news. York’s 296 passed…

On HB54. But so did Bratcher’s 115….

HB57 was gutted. Nothing to do with expungement. Good news.

Hold up York’s bill may not have been included. Hold….

Lots of confusion on York’s bill. May be morning before we can sort out HB 54 for certain…

See email re: update on 54.

A DIFFERENT SPIRIT

We’ve heard at the beginning of each session for the last decade or more than the legislature wanted to work in a spirit of bipartisan. That spirit would last about as long as it took for them to mutter those words.

But this year’s session was so different from any of the last 10 to 12 years that they should be complimented. Not everything was worked out perfectly and one side held its ground while the other wanted some tweaks. But all in all camaraderie was more evident this session.

In past years, I almost refused to watch the Senate in full session unless I was in the mood for some near knockdown drag outs. (As a Seinfeld fan, I recall the segment with the Soup Nazi but I won’t go there.)

This session was much more professional, more toward bipartisanship and a spirit actually displayed of working together. Senators weren’t afraid to speak their mind, albeit in a more respectful tone than previous ones, and President Stivers would listen intently. The same goes for other members of Senate leadership. The entire session was a different tone. That also carried over into committee meetings where members listened to testimony, listened to other committee members state concerns with any piece of legislation and displayed a willingness to see if two sides could work together to address the concerns.

So yes, I watched the Senate full session much more this year than in the past.

It carried over to the House for the most part, with more respect for members, though there were still comments about the majority wanting full control without consideration of the minority party on certain matters.

And then bring it all together to show BOTH chambers working together on the major issues. It showed Tuesday when the state pension reform bill was finally approved in the Free Conference Committee. Sen. Damon Thayer, the Senate majority leader, couldn’t thank Governor Beshear enough for his willingness to work with the legislature as a whole to get the bill in an acceptable form. It hasn’t happened when the Republicans thanked the Democratic governor for the spirit of cooperativeness. Nor did the Democrats acknowledge the Governor when a Republican, Ernie Fletcher, held that office.

Hopefully this will continue during the interim and into the 2014 session. There are still some rather important issues that must be dealt with — redistricting for legislative seats and potentially tax reform. But there’s hope it will be done respectfully and in true bipartisanship.

End of soapbox.

BIG SPENDERS FOR THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION – MORE THAN $4.2 MILLION

This from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission: I always look over the list first to make sure KPA hasn’t made the top 10 spenders. There are a lot of associations on the list, but not KPA!!

About $4.2 million was spent on lobbying during the first two months of the 2013 General Assembly session. This is about 10 percent more than the $3.8 million spent during the same period two years ago, in the previous odd-year, ‘short’ session.

So far, the top-spending employers of lobbyists in the 2013 session are: Altria Client Services, which has spent $85,244 lobbying on bills changing or increasing taxes on tobacco products; and Century Aluminum of Kentucky, which has spent $82,950 lobbying on legislation to allow large industrial consumers of electricity (like Century Aluminum) to purchase electricity “off the grid” instead of from local retail electric suppliers. Other 2013 top-spenders are: Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ($61,513); Kentucky Hospital Association ($58,101); Build Our Bridge Now ($48,432); Kentucky Retail Federation ($42,972); Kentucky Medical Association ($42,891); Kentucky Bankers Association ($36,160); Kentuckians for the Commonwealth ($34,827); Kentucky Association of Healthcare Facilities ($34,720); AT&T ($32,085); Baptist Healthcare ($30,144); Kentucky Justice Association ($30,126); Kentucky League of Cities ($29,789); and CSX Corporation ($27,964).

POSTAL ISSUES ABOUND; SOME CLOSURES MAY COME EARLIER

I received this from Max Heath yesterday and wanted to share some updated information about USPS considering closing some post offices earlier than previously announced. Instead of waiting til 2014, many are being moved up to 2013.

Here’s an email from Max and then below is a link to the USPS site he references:

Friends, I just finished a Webinar by Dave Williams, VP Network Operations, who spoke to our Postal Summit. They just announced a very drastic timetable to accelerate many 2014 scheduled closures into 2013 due to deteriorating finances and no Congressional action. I am unable to grab the PowerPoint and we are told it won’t be updated on RIBBS web site until 5 p.m. tomorrow. We will share info as available to you. Tonda just shared this below from Postalnews.com posted by APWU (American Postal Workers Union). She is trying to get the letter to APWU.

https://ribbs.usps.gov/importantupdates/NRWinter2013.xls

AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS DENOUNCE PLANS TO EXPEDITE CLOSURES

Here’s the letter Max references from the APWU on accelerating post office closures:

“The APWU is outraged by USPS plans to accelerate the closure of 71 mail processing plants that were originally slated for possible consolidation in 2014,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey.

“These closures will eliminate jobs, harm communities, and delay mail delivery every day — Monday, through Saturday,” he said. The consolidations will drastically curtail local mail sortation and will virtually eliminate overnight delivery.

“The Postal Service is on the brink of cutting service in a way that will permanently damage our treasured institution. This would be a tragic mistake, and it is unnecessary,” Guffey said. The USPS notified [PDF]the APWU on March 26 that it would implement 53 consolidations this year that were originally scheduled for 2014. In January, the Postal Service said it would accelerate implementation of 18 other closures.

“These closures could have been avoided entirely,” Guffey said. “They are a casualty of congressional inaction.

“Congress must act now to enact meaningful postal reform — reform that restores the Postal Service to financial stability without destroying service or harming postal workers,” he said. “And Congress must act now to prevent the Postal Service from implementing these devastating cuts in service.

“We are calling on members of Congress to support the Postal Service Protection Act, which was introduced in the Senate and House on Feb. 13. This legislation would address the cause of the Postal Service’s manufactured financial crisis and allow the USPS to develop new products and services, so that it can remain relevant in the digital age,” he said. The Protect Service Protection Act would protect — at least temporarily — current service standards.

EDELEN’S OFFICE AUDITS SCOTT COUNTY

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Scott County government has a policy that employees are to be paid on their lunch hour even though they might visit one of the numerous restaurants around town. This practice only came to light when the county clerk suggested that her employees be paid for their actual work hours — 35 hours per week.

Now comes word that the State Auditor has completed its audit of Scott County government and guess what one of the issues is? Paying employees for their lunch hour even though they aren’t working.

The issue came to light in the report when the auditor looked into overtime. One timesheet was audited and the person was paid overtime once hitting 40 hours per week.

However, the auditor states, and the administrative code confirms, that overtime can only be counted when an employee has actually worked 40 hours in a week, emphasis on ACTUALLY. The auditor’s recommendation is that overtime not start then until an employee has 45 hours in a week, since they are paid for the lunch hour but not working.

Judge Executive George Lusby shrugs off the issue noting that it’s just always been that way. If so, wonder why any previous auditor hasn’t made an issue of it? Could it be that the county clerk making the policy public during a fiscal court meeting brought it to everyone’s attention? And that the Georgetown News Graphic focused on clerk Rebecca Johnson’s suggestion that employees only be paid for actual work hours?

OKAY, SO NOW PAY ATTENTION

Thanks to many of you on the advertising side for volunteering to help judge the Alabama Press Association’s ad contest on Thursday, April 4. We need 10 to 12 and we have that.

But for the news side, we are woefully short. It’s unwritten that if you enter a contest you will be expected to help judge in a future state press association contest. Unwritten but I hope you understand. I know staff numbers are lower than a few years ago and people are pressed for time to get their job done but taking a day to help once or twice a year shouldn’t be that disruptive to the work schedule.

Who knows, they might just get an idea for a story, or a picture, or a page layout to try. And that could make it worth the time spent judging another state’s contest. I know advertising folks get several ideas for ads when they judge a contest and it’s no different on the news side.

So we need some help on the news side — reporters, columnists, sports, photography, and layout/design. Just let me know by email ASAP who’s coming from your newsroom.

It’s Thursday, April 4, 9 a.m. to about 3:30 p.m. at the Kentucky Broadcasters Associations office here in Frankfort. Easy-off, easy-on I-64. Even committing to a half-day, three solid hours of reading or looking at photographs or layouts will help. So what say?

SCHEDULE NEXT WEEK

That being said, you know where some of our staff will be on Thursday.

On Wednesday, at 2 p.m., the staff is having a webinar with Darryl Armstrong as part of its preparation for the staff retreat focus May 16. Darryl says it will take about 45 minutes so we should be done by 3 p.m.

As always, call or email if you have questions, comments, concerns, can send a judge or two next week, issue, corrections, clarifications, can send a judge or two next week, additions or deletions, or can send a judge or two next week.

Otherwise, thanx!!

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