Remembering John Seigenthaler

Friday, July 18th, 2014

John Seigenthaler made a difference in the 86 years he lived on this earth.

Last week, journalists, members of the civil rights movement, defenders of the First Amendment, and ordinary folks gathered in Nashville for his funeral service.

Seigenthaler was a legendary reporter and editor for The Tennessean newspaper, adviser to the Kennedy family, acclaimed author, and host of a book discussion program on Nashville Public Television. He founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, and he was the editorial director of USA Today when it first rolled off the presses in 1982.

As a young reporter in Nashville, I was fortunate to be in his presence a few times. When he came to the University of Kentucky to speak seven years ago, Seigenthaler sat down with me for a One to One conversation about his life. Still passionate about every aspect of his past and present, he had everyone’s attention in the studio listening to his stories.

Click here for a look back at that program.

Same-Sex Marriage and the 14th Amendment:
Why It’s Important to Understand the Debate

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Last week the website Politico reported a poll by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute that shows evangelical support for gay marriage has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

According to numbers from the Pew Research Poll on Social and Demographic Trends released earlier this year, support for same-sex marriage has increased dramatically over the past decade. Now 68 percent of millennials (persons 18 to 34 in age) favor allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry, and 46 percent of baby boomer adults agree.

Yesterday, the Louisville Courier-Journal cited numbers from a Bluegrass Poll in 2004 that indicated 72 percent of registered voters in the commonwealth supported a ban on gay marriage. By this year, that poll shows the number had dropped to 55 percent.

2004 was the year Kentuckians approved an amendment to the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. In February of this year, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled that marriage ban violates the constitutional principle of equal protection. Recently, Heyburn issued a second marriage equality decision striking down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex unions.

Those two decisions and the appeal of Heyburn’s rulings, which will be argued before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in early August, was at the heart of Monday’s discussion on Kentucky Tonight. Our panel included Louisville lawyer Dan Canon; Lexington attorney Stan Cave; Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky; and Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign. Their discussion reveals how the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is central to the argument on both sides of the debate.

Watch the full Kentucky Tonight program or read a recap of the discussion.

Budget Shortfall and Solutions

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Even though Monday’s Kentucky Tonight program was promoted as a discussion about the state budget and tax reform, it was really a conversation about the fall campaign and control of the State House of Representatives.

For a look at why the panelists got off topic, we’ll review the video in just a moment.

According to Kentucky Budget Director Jane Driskell, as reported by the Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus, the Beshear administration is facing a significant shortfall in state revenue, forcing Driskell and cabinet heads to find ways to balance the 2014-16 budget. Some have mentioned more departmental spending cuts and dipping into the state’s Rainy Day fund as possible alternatives.

Kentucky Tonight panelist Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Economic Policy Center, noted that individual income tax receipts fell short of projections, creating part of the problem.

Our discussion made a sharp turn away from the shortfall to how Kentucky can improve its anemic revenue growth. The group debated creating more jobs, the costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and pursuing tax reform.

And then came a tweet from a viewer about right-to-work and why Kentucky hasn’t joined several neighboring states in adopting the law that allows workers to be hired without compelling them to belong to a union.

Roll the video.

A number of state legislators favor a right-to-work law.

Republicans need to gain only five seats to take control of the Kentucky House of Representatives. The state Senate already has a Republican majority.

I’m often asked why I like reporting, discussing, and teaching politics. One of my answers is because no matter how frustrating and impossible the political process seems to be, politics does matter. You only have to look to this fall’s battle for the state legislature and the future of Kentucky to make that observation.

Watch the full Kentucky Tonight discussion, or read a recap.

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