Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

September 13, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: No scientific data needed for these words

FRANKFORT — When the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee rejected new science standards – despite their approval by the Kentucky Department of Education – I promised myself I would resist the temptation to write about it in a column.

Lord knows it’s always unwise in Kentucky to side with a bunch of scientists on something like science.

So when Gov. Steve Beshear announced he will implement the regulation anyway – which he has legal authority to do – there was no reason to weigh in. The committee made its decision; the governor made his; and you’ll just have to make yours without my help.

Instead I’d rather talk about the inconsistent explanations for their votes by some subcommittee members. Words are supposed to mean something, aren’t they?

A couple of months ago the same lawmakers took another controversial vote, siding with the state Division of Water on a controversial standard for allowing Kentucky streams to be polluted by selenium, a toxic metal substance released by surface mining. Lawmakers had to evaluate complex and arcane scientific data to make their decision, an evaluation requiring a scientific sophistication most of us – and most lawmakers – don’t possess.

So some of them relied on the expertise of Department of Water personnel. Here’s Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, explaining his vote that day:

“I’m going to have to go back to confidence in the cabinet on this thing. I’m going to have to vote aye and put my confidence with the department and the cabinet.”

But when Bowen explained why he was voting against the recommendation of another government department (of education) on the science standards, he used a different criterion. This time he voted with two opponents who work for advocacy groups, not with the “experts” at the Department of Education, a litany of scientific groups, or a former professor of biology at Georgetown College (a Christian college by the way).

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