Monthly Archives: April 2012

House speaker backs away from redistricting showdown with Senate

TOPEKA — House Speaker Mike O’Neal has backed away from a plan to start redrawing state Senate districts.

Today, in a brief meeting of the House Redistricting Committee, O’Neal said he’s received assurances from the Senate leadership that they’ll bring a map to a vote by Friday. In addition to cutting today’s meeting short, O’Neal canceled a redistricting meeting scheduled for Friday.

“Hopefully the next meeting will be a conference committee,” where House and Senate negotiators will get together to work out any differences between their chambers’ maps, O’Neal said.

The two Houses of the Legislature and the governor are required once every 10 years to redraw legislative districts to reflect population shifts in the Census and ensure equal representation.

O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, had earlier announced that the House would begin work on Senate district maps today, because the Senate hasn’t yet done its own redistricting.

O’Neal’s plan to have the House draw Senate maps would have been a departure from long tradition.

Ordinarily, the House would draw up its maps and the Senate would draw its own, and each chamber would pass the other’s map without changes.

But this year, the Senate has been hard pressed to pass a map because of election-year pressures.

A map currently under consideration would separate at least three and possibly more incumbent senators from House members and others who hope to challenge them in the election.

One of those potential challengers, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, said that even if the Senate does pass a map, she’d still like to see the House create its own Senate map.

Landwehr is one of the representatives who hopes to move up to the Senate and has announced plans to run against moderate Republican Jean Schodorf.

However, the Senate’s current proposed map would put Landwehr and Schodorf in different districts.

Landwehr accused the Senate of “gerrymandering” districts in an attempt to protect incumbents.

“I would hope if they continue down that path … the House might give some consideration to doing a Senate map,” Landwehr said.

Landwehr said she doesn’t understand why senators — including Schodorf — should be afraid to face an opponent if they were doing what voters elected them to do.

She said Schodorf runs on a conservative Republican platform and then votes more liberally in Topeka.

“Look how she votes, the majority of the time it’s with the Democrats,” Landwehr said.

Schodorf replied that she’s not afraid to run against Landwehr and has planned to run against her all along.

“She’s just blustering and trying to bully people,” Schodorf said. “I did not want be on that (redistricting) committee and I haven’t drawn any maps.

“The Senate’s going to draw a map they believe creates the best districts, not gerrymandered.”

O’Neal said the Senate will probably advance the “Ad Astra” map, the one that has troubled Landwehr and others, primarily conservative Republicans, who want to challenge sitting senators in the election.

O’Neal did not commit to challenging the Senate’s map if the final version does draw challengers out of incumbents’ districts, although he acknowledged that is a concern.

“We’ll take a look at it when it comes out,” he said.

Brownback agrees to delay managed-care for developmentally disabled, hours after rally brings hundreds to Capitol

Governor Sam Brownback’s office announced today he’s agreed to a one-year delay in implementing a plan to bring services for the developmentally under managed care.

The announcement, via a written statement, came hours after about 800 developmentally disabled people and their supporters descended like a red-shirted tide on the Capitol lawn. They called on the Legislature and the governor to at least delay — and preferably kill — plans to bring their community-based long-term services under managed care.

The administration’s statement acknowledged the angst his proposal has created in the developmental disabilities community and said slowing the pace of change has the potential to calm those fears.

“We have heard the concerns expressed by family members of developmentally disabled individuals about the coming reforms and the pace of the change in particular,” Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer — a physician and Brownback’s point man on health reform — said in the statement. “We believe this staggered implementation will allow for more conversations, more public input, and a more effective implementation for persons utilizing developmental disability waiver services.”

The protesters were motivated by Brownback’s plans to reform Medicaid services, replacing state-run programs with a program called KanCare that would be administered under contract by private insurance companies. Brownback is implementing the plan in an effort to cap Medicaid costs.

The developmental disabilities community has been extremely wary of the plan because, they say, the needs of the developmentally disabled vary widely from person to person and do not lend themselves well to standardized service solutions.

One concerned person is Mardell Byrd. She traveled from Wichita with her son Michael Camp, to ask legislators to carve out care for developmentally disabled Kansans from the KanCare program.

“You are going to have to show me that this big corporation is going to take better care of my child than individual people that have known him over the years and understand his needs.”

Michael Camp has participated in KETCH, a service provider for the mentally disabled, for more than 20 years. The program provides Camp with a job as well an apartment. Byrd said she would hate to see any hasty changes to a program that has worked so well for her son.

At Wednesday’s rally, an annual event called “Push Day” in the disabilities community, clients and some of the people who provide their services created an impromptu display on the South steps of the Capitol.

Under a logo saying “Don’t gamble with our lives, carve out DD,” they placed personal mementos, such as stuffed animals, Special Olympics medals and paintings, to dramatize to lawmakers and the governor that they are individuals with individual needs.

The Legislature is about to consider a budget proviso that would delay the implementation of KanCare for long-term care for the developmentally disabled for one year. That, supporters say, would give some time to evaluate how the KanCare plan works for other services before committing to implementation for the developmentally disabled.

Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, addressed the group and said the state should proceed carefully with any changes in programs for the developmentally disabled.

“How we treat those who are unable to take care of themselves … I believe defines us as a state,” he said. “It says who we are and what kind of people we are.”

Later, Kelsey said he would prefer to test the KanCare concept for the disabled with a pilot project in one or two counties before taking it statewide.

“We do not want to destroy something that is very good in the hope that we’ll get to something better,” he said. “Let’s test it first, not try to whip it all through at one time and find out it doesn’t work.”

Brownback’s statement encouraged voluntary pilot programs like Kelsey wants.

“We are confident the new KanCare system will work for the greater good of those who depend upon Medicaid,” Brownback said. “We believe that allowing another year of discussion and input from the developmental disability community will make them comfortable with the program and allow us to craft solutions to the concerns they’re expressing.”

Byrd said she would support a slower and more cautious approach to changes that could affect many Kansans’ lives.

“At some point, if we can figure it out, and it’s going to work the correct way and my child is going to be taken care of and all his cares, then let’s see that, but we are kind of pushing it,” she said. “We are not trying it out.”

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita and chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said she doesn’t think a pilot program would be feasible in the case of disabilities services.

“I think you would have a hard time getting contractors to bid on a pilot program,” Landwehr said. “I think that’s what makes it unfeasible.”

After the rally, the demonstrators fanned out through the Capitol in search of legislators to lobby.

Efforts to change the KanCare plan are paying off because of grass-roots advocacy, said Tom Laing, executive director of Interhab, a statewide association representing the developmentally disabled and their service providers.

“The governor is listening, the lieutenant governor is listening, the Legislature is listening, that’s a good thing,” Laing said.

Kobach says Romney can also embrace Rubio

Secretary of State Kris Kobach

TOPEKA — Can Mitt Romney endorse an immigration reform plan that provides a path to legal status for some illegal immigrants while also taking advice from one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents of amnesty for illegal immigrants?

Yes, says that outspoken opponent, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

“I think he can embrace both of us and go merrily along to win the election in November,” he said Monday.

Kobach’s response comes as a few political observers have begun to question whether Romney will have to choose between accepting advice from Kobach, whose strong stance on immigration became nationally known when he helped craft controversial immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, and that of Republican Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida.

Rubio, who some believe could be among Romney’s potential running mates,  has begun pushing for immigration reform that would provide non-immigrant visas to young immigrants who have no criminal record and have graduated high school. Kobach has said repeatedly that he believes such immigrants should have to return to their home country before being granted any legal status.

Kobach said he hasn’t seen all the details of Rubio’s plan, making it difficult to analyze.

Kobach has been advising Romney’s campaign on immigration issues for months. In January, the Romney campaign announced its support of Kobach and vice-versa.

“With Kris on the team, I look forward to working with him to take forceful steps to curtail illegal immigration and to support states like South Carolina and Arizona that are stepping forward to address this problem,” Romney said in a news release.

But Kobach’s role is in question. A list of advisers obtained by The Boston Globe doesn’t mention Kobach.

Today, Kobach said his role with Romney is best described as “informal adviser.”

Kobach said that he sends Romney’s close inner-circle information about developments in immigration law and offers his opinion of what to do.

“He can either take my advice or reject it,” Kobach said.

 

 

House commitment could prevent further state courts furloughs

TOPEKA — Future furloughs for state court employees across the state could be staved off now that the House Appropriations Committee has signaled its commitment, again, that it will give the courts more than $1 million to make up for shortfalls this fiscal year.

Kim Fowler, the judicial branch fiscal officer, said today that Supreme Court Justices would likely be inclined to call off future furloughs, including one slated for next Friday, now that the House Appropriations Committee has tried to make it clear that it will give $1.1 million to the court system. But it will be up to the Justices to decide.

That was about the only bright spot during about a half hour heated exchange between state representatives and Fowler.

Republican and Democrat representatives repeatedly questioned Folwer about Chief Justice Lawton Nuss’s decision to order five furlough days for court employees statewide.

Wichita Republican Rep. Joe McLeland asked why the courts believed the funding was in question when both the House and Senate had agreed — though not formally — on the $1.4 million required to keep the courts open.

“I just really question why that decision was made,” he said.

Fowler said the courts had no indication that the House and Senate would reach an agreement after their budget meltdown.

Nuss had warned lawmakers that if they didn’t agree on a supplemental budget to fund courts through July 1 that he would have to order furloughs. After House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Rhoades, R-Newton, refused to sign an agreement with the Senate at the end of March because of a disagreement about school funding, the courts money was called into question. Nuss ordered the furloughs saying he had no assurance that the legislature would approve the money when they returned from their break.

Rhoades said that he’s sorry about the communication between the legislature and the courts. But he said there’s nothing different about the commitment lawmakers had indicated last month from the one they agreed to today.

“Frankly, we’ve already taken the public hit,” he said.

One court furlough day already occurred April 13. Others are slated for April 27, May 11, 25 and June 8. Those furloughs affect nearly all court employees, but not judges and some key personnel who may have to deal with emergency court orders.

 

House committee adds money for Wichita area aquifer recharge

TOPEKA — The House Appropriations Committee this morning voted unanimously to add $600,000 more in state lottery money to help pay for the massive Equus Beds aquifer recharge project north of Wichita.

The move, prompted by Wichita Republican Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff, adds to the $500,000in state general funds recommended by Gov. Sam Brownback to bring the total to $1.1 million. That’s the same amount recommended by the Kansas Water Authority. The additional $600,000 comes from revenue generated by lottery and gaming activities in the state.

“I think they’re doing good work with that recharge,” said appropriations committee chairman Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton.

Additional state money comes as Wichita continues to hike water rates in order to pay for the project, which is intended to provide an adequate water source for Wichita and surrounding communities until at least 2050.

The project pulls above average water flows from the Little Arkansas River, purifies that water and pumps it into the aquifer for later use. It also helps push back salty, contaminated water that has been slowly migrating from 1930s era oil field evaporation pits near Burrton.

Wichita has requested $1 million each year for the past five years. The legislature’s funding has fluctuated year-to-year. So far, the state has given about $2.5 million for the project.

The Senate has agreed to $1 million for the aquifer recharge. It will negotiate the $100,000 difference with the House next week.

 

Ohaebosim challenging Faust-Goudeau again in 29th Senate District

Democrat KC Ohaebosim has filed for a rematch against Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau in the 29th District, saying that he wants to “restore integrity” to the office.

Faust-Goudeau hasn’t officially filed to run for re-election yet and Ohaebosim didn’t criticize her by name in making his announcement, but he did make reference to the senator’s highly publicized efforts to talk her way out of traffic tickets while invoking her position with the state and connections to local officials.

“My immediate goal is to restore integrity, bring back integrity to the seat of the 29th District,” Ohaebosim said. “No one should think they’re exempt from the law or above the law. People need to take a a look at someone who will respect law-enforcement officers.”

Faust-Goudeau, who said she plans to file for re-election after the upcoming legislative wrap-up session next week, said she expected someone would try to make her traffic history an issue in the campaign.

Last year, police videos of traffic stops showed Faust-Goudeau telling officers that she was a state senator and showing a police department token that was given to her by Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams. In two of the three incidents, she was let off with a warning by Wichita officers, although a state trooper did write her a $140 ticket for speeding on the Kansas Turnpike, which she paid.

Faust-Goudeau has apologized for the ticket incidents and regretted it had become “another distraction from the real issues,” such as jobs and education facing the Legislature.

“As I said in my article of apology, nobody is perfect, we learn by our mistakes and try to do better,” she said.

Faust-Goudeau said she plans to after the legislative wrap-up session that starts in Topeka next week.

Faust-Goudeau beat Ohaebosim in 2008, getting seven out of 10 votes in the 2008 Democratic primary. She won the general election by a similar margin over Republican Kenya Cox.

Faust-Goudeau is finishing out her first term as a senator after winning the seat vacated in 2008 when then-Sen. Donald Betts, D-Wichita, challenged then-Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, for the 4th District congressional seat.

Since his unsuccessful run for Senate, Ohaebosim has increased his public profile, serving on the City Council’s 1st District Advisory Board and the Wichita school district’s Oversight Committee, which monitors progress of the district’s $370 million in bonded construction projects.

He’s also been active in tutoring and mentoring through the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

He said he was troubled that the Wichita district recently had to redraw attendance boundaries and close five schools because of decreases in operating funding from the state.

“The main reason for people to elect me is to work for funding for the schools,” Ohaebosim said. “Nobody likes the idea when schools are being closed.”

Faust-Goudeau said she’s already fighting in Topeka for more money for schools. “If you look at my votes, I’ve always voted for increasing funding for public education,” she said.

She said boundary realignment and school closures are more of a local than state issue, and if Ohaebosim wants to change that, “perhaps he should run for school board.”

Westar gets $50 million rate hike; state consumer advocate says regulators are ‘cash register’ for utilities

    Springe

    The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a $50 million increase in electric rates for Westar Energy, pleasing the company but angering state consumer advocates.

    The commission accepted a settlement agreement made between the power company, KCC staff and large commercial and industrial consumers, that will add $3.54 a month to an average 900 kilowatt-hour electric bill.

    The decision was immediately denounced by the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, the state agency that represents residential and small-business customers. CURB was the only party to the case that opposed the settlement.

    “The KCC has become a cash register for the utilities,” said CURB’s chief consumer counsel, David Springe. “It’s clear the commission staff got in bed with Westar on this one.”

    About $42 million of the $50 million increase will be paid by residential and small-business customers. The increased rates will start showing up on bills in early May.

    Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said the settlement approved by the KCC “involved some significant concessions on the part of all the parties involved, including Westar.”

    Although the agreement was negotiated behind closed doors and the commission referred to it as a “black box” settlement, Penzig said the rate case was a “very transparent process” and Westar feels it resulted in a fair decision.

    “Consumers were provided with a fair view of what expenses were driving our initial rate request and ultimately the approved rate request,” Penzig said.

    CURB’s main objection was that the settlement grants Westar a 10 percent return on its stock, which Springe said is too high in the current economic climate.

    He quoted an article in Barron’s in which Bill Gross, cofounder of the Pacific Investment Management Co. — the world’s largest bond investor — said utilities “pay big dividends because they continually are granted a 10 percent return on equity by regulators in a world where returns are moving much lower. After earning 10 percent, they can pay out 4 or 5 percent to shareholders.”

    Of 13 stock analysts following Westar, 12 recommend buying or holding the stock, with only one advising to sell, according to the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch service.

    In a news release announcing the rate increase, the KCC noted that the settlement was about 45 percent less than the $90.8 million increase Westar originally requested.

    The commission’s order said the 10 percent return on equity is “within the zone of reasonableness.”

    “No evidence was presented that suggested that selecting a limited 10.0% ROE would (1) adversely impact the financial ability of the public utility to continue to provide service; (2) constitute an excessive burden on either current or future consumers; or (3) be unduly discriminatory,” the order said. “When viewed in light of the record as a whole, the (settlement agreement) conforms to applicable law and will result in just and reasonable rates that are in the public interest.”

    Springe, however, said the $50 million is only one of 13 rate increases Westar’s gotten from the commission since January of 2009, including a recent order to allow the company to begin collecting higher rates while the commission considers a permanent increase in charges for transmission expenses.

    Springe estimated that taken together, the increases have hiked summer rates by about 40 percent in the past 3 1/2 years for Westar’s northern division, the former KPL. A 1,500 kilowatt hour bill there will have gone from $123 a month to $173, Springe said.

    The southern division, formerly KGE, had higher rates to start so a similar bill has gone from $138 to $173, a 25 percent increase, he said.

    Still pending is another $19.5 million for environmental upgrades, which would be the 14th rate increase since 2009, Springe said.

Republican senators want bioscience funding to flow

TOPEKA – The Kansas Bioscience Authority has not received payments from the state since November and it is creating a “cooling effect” on its ability to attract high tech bioscience companies to the state, a KBA official said today.

Gov. Sam Brownback froze funding to the KBA earlier this year. And the uncertainty led Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, this morning to suggest the lawmakers require the state treasurer to give the KBA money on specific dates each quarter to ensure it has money to spur bioscience projects. Vratil’s suggestion came during a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing about the state budget.

“The money is supposed to be paid to the Bioscience Authority, and I want it paid to the Bioscience Authority,” Vratil said. The proposal will likely become part of budget negotiations between the House and Senate.

The KBA has received many calls from companies that are concerned about the frozen funding, but so far the doubts have driven any companies away, said KBA spokeswoman Sherlyn Manson. She said the KBA has enough money to cover current obligations, and it announced $3.3 million worth of investments in human and animal health bioscience in March.

But for future investments the KBA is counting on the state to release $22.7 million to comply with the 2004 Kansas Economic Growth Act that led to the creation of the KBA.

Meanwhile, the doubts have created a “cooling effect,” she said.

Manson said the KBA has received no assurances from Brownback’s administration that the money will be released.

“Kansas needs to reaffirm its commitment to the KBA,” she said.

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the administration isn’t aware of any funding issues with KBA, and she said the $22 million will remain on hold until the legislature decides what they want to do with it.

Sedgwick Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn, who is chair of the ways and means committee, said eventually the companies that the KBA is trying to steer toward bioscience ventures will have questions about the state’s commitment to the KBA.

In January, Gov. Sam Brownback withheld $22 million in funding earmarked for the KBA amid heated debates about results of a forensic audit.

The audit confirmed former KBA chief executive Tom Thornton had misspent public money on artwork for his home and on a plane ticket for a job interview. It also showed he had destroyed documents. But it found few problems with the KBA’s efforts to attract high-tech biological science companies to Kansas.

Wichita Republican Sen. Susan Wagle and others have said the audit downplayed problems at the KBA. Meanwhile, the House last month unanimously approved a bill that would try to prevent conflicts of interest among KBA employees and board members. The Senate sent the bill to a conference committee to negotiate changes to the bill.

Board of Education members rebuke Chappell’s op-ed letter

Dennis

At least six Kansas Board of Education members are poised to sign a letter rebuking an opinion article written by fellow board member Walt Chappell, of Wichita, that criticized standardized student testing programs being used in Kansas and many other states.

Chappell’s letter, as published in The Eagle April 5, says that federal No Child Let Behind mandates “have been a major disaster and a tremendous waste of taxpayer money,” and he contended Common Core Standards being implemented this year “will be more of the same — but worse.” Chappell also wrote that Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker, who had written her own letter to newspaper editors that boasted about the progress of Kansas students, is involved in a “cover-up” to hide poor test results among Kansas students.

In an interview today, Chappell said he stands by what he wrote. He said past results have been misleading because of changes in definitions and testing policies. And he said that the Common Core Standards will lead to teachers teaching to a test Students, parents, teachers and leaders need to have accurate information.

“I want a dialog, not an argument,” he said. Read More »

“War on women,” support for Obama highlights speeches at Democratic caucus meeting

Although their presidential candidate is a foregone conclusion and their fortunes in state politics have not been good of late, Democrats gathered for caucuses today to try to re-energize and takes some swings at Republican dominance in Kansas.

The caucus meeting at Wichita State University, one of five in Sedgwick County, drew about 90 people who were ready to cheer when state Rep. Judy Loganbill, D-Wichita, declared war on what she called a Republican “war on women” in the Legislature.

“I am glad to see so many women here,” Loganbill said. “We have seen an unprecedented attack on women and women’s issues.”

Loganbill’s speech was a Kansas take on the national issue of opposition by Republican presidential candidates and legislators to abortion rights and the inclusion of contraception services in health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Women have become “second-class citizens in our Legislature,” she said. “The bills they are supporting are heinous. They are absolutely reprehensible.”

Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, picked up on that theme and identified the “Conscience Protection Act” as particularly objectionable.

The bill would shield medical care providers who decline on personal moral grounds to provide services or advice, including popular forms of birth control, if they believe it could lead to pregnancy termination.

The bill is similar to a federal measure called the Blunt Amendment that recently failed in the US Senate by a 51-48 vote.The Kansas version was passed by the House but is stalled in the state Senate.

Finney called it “fraud.”

“They do not have to give you any service, but you still have to pay the bill,” she said.

Loganbill said on election day, “I’m going to take every female friend I have to the polls and they’re going to vote.”

She said Republicans are trying to roll back women’s rights gained in the 1960s and 1970s, and urged those in the crowd who have daughters to “get them registered, and get them registered now.”

Both lawmakers got enthusiast applause and even a couple of standing ovations.

Voter Charles Thornhill said the issue particularly resonates with him.

He said he’s a strong supporter of Catholic hospitals and Via Christi in Wichita saved his daughter’s life when she got cancer at age 21.

But about five years ago, another female relative of his was raped in Louisiana and “The Catholic hospital there would not give her a morning-after pill,” he said. “That’s terrible.”

Finney also lambasted the House majority for, she said, ignoring concerns of ordinary citizens while rushing to pass bills for special interests.

Finney, a cancer survivor, has pushed for years for a bill to allow medical use of marijuana, which she said 74 percent of Kansans support.

But, she said, she’s been unable to even get a hearing, although bills proposed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce have gone to hearings within 24 hours of being introduced.

“The Democrat party stands up for the people,” she said. “Your bills should be considered just like the Chamber of Commerce’s.”

The caucus was also an opportunity for local Democrats to show their support for President Obama.

His was the only name in nomination after the party disqualified Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, a longtime anti-abortion activist who has mounted an insurgent campaign to try to weaken the president’s chances of re-election in November.

When caucus chairman Robert Eastman asked the president’s supporters to move to one side of the room, and those who wanted to send uncommitted delegates to the Democratic National Convention move to the other, so many people started moving to the president’s side that Eastman asked for show of hands instead. The vote was unanimous to support the president.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, urged the crowd to vote for the president for “better housing, better jobs with a living wage, education and health care for all people.”

And she chided Democrats for falling into a habit of referring to the president by his last name only.

“It saddens my heart that we’re just saying ‘Obama,’” she said. “We need to give him that respect and say ‘President Obama.’”

Also speaking were retired court services office Robert Tillman, so far the only candidate to file to run against Rep. Mike Pompeo for the 4th District Congressional seat; and Esau Freeman, a house painter who hasn’t filed but characterizes himself as a “congressional applicant.”

Tillman drew cheers when he said “I support President Barack Obama.”

But he acknowledged he hears a lot of boos when he says that on the campaign trail.

“They tell me don’t mention his name, you can get some donations,” Tillman said.

But he said he won’t do that because he is inspired by Obama, the nation’s first African-American president.

He said after Obama was elected, “I woke up the next morning and said ‘Is that a dream?’ I had to look at a newspaper to assure myself that a miracle had occurred.”

He also lauded the Affordable Care Act and said he favors an immigration policy allowing people into the country to do low-wage manual-labor jobs that Americans don’t want.

“Don’t let them make you believe that immigrants are going to take your job,” he said.

Freeman highlighted health care, saying that when he and his wife were looking for a doctor who would accept Health Wave, the state’s medical care plan for low-income children, they went to a physician who began “preaching” to them and urging them not to allow their infant daughter to be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control recommend that girls be vaccinated before becoming sexually active to prevent genital warts and cervical cancer. However, some conservative and religious groups and individuals, including former presidential candidate and US Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., have opposed the vaccine, saying they believe that it’s dangerous.

Freeman said the doctor also lectured them that they should teach their daughter about abstinence instead of birth control.

“We were surprised, like ‘Why are you talking to us about this?’” Freeman said after the caucus. “It was just really weird and something I didn’t think a doctor who was being paid by the state ought to be talking about to me. I mean she’s a 1-year-old.”

One special guest recognized at the caucus was former Kansas Sen. Curtis McClinton Sr., 99. McClinton was the first African-American senator elected in Kansas, serving in that job from 1964 to 1968. At the caucus, he sat next to Faust-Goudeau, the first African-American woman elected to the Senate.

After the caucus, he said he was pleased to see the enthusiasm it brought out and that he was personally pleased to see Tillman, an African-American, running for Congress.

“The Democratic Party does a nice job,” he said. “They’re the party of progress, trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest period of time.”