Monthly Archives: June 2013

Kansas, Brownback average on job creation

Gov. Sam Brownback ranks No. 25 among governors for jobs created in their states since they’ve been in office, the Wichita Business Journal reported. The rankings were based on private-sector employment, which has increased about 4 percent since Brownback took office in 2011. It’s debatable how much influence governors have on job creation. Several of the states leading in job creation, including No. 1 North Dakota and No. 2 Texas, are benefiting from a boom in energy production.

Raise child-care costs to encourage work?

To encourage poor people to work more, the Kansas Department for Children and Families wants to increase their cost of child care. Huh? DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, who chairs Gov. Sam Brownback’s task force on reducing childhood poverty, argues that increasing the co-pays would encourage parents – mostly single mothers – to work longer hours and pursue workplace promotions, the Kansas Health Institute News Service reported. “Encouraging full-time employment will reduce poverty,” Gilmore said. But Barry Feaker, executive director of the Topeka Rescue Mission, noted that it doesn’t do much good to encourage the poor to get good jobs when those jobs aren’t available.

Providers concerned about KanCare

Steve Kelly, chief executive of Newton Medical Center, raised several concerns last week about KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid system. Kelly, who is chairman of the KanCare Advisory Council, told the Kansas Health Institute News Service that his hospital and Newton doctors and nursing homes were experiencing various problems, chief among them the amount of time it takes to get “prior authorizations” or approvals for patient services from the private insurance companies. Though it has improved, the lag in payments for services is also still a problem, he said. Larry Martin of Valley Falls, a representative for consumers on the advisory council, noted that payments from the insurance companies aren’t covering pharmacies’ costs for prescriptions. “That’s tough for the smaller pharmacies to absorb,” he said. “That could be a real problem in smaller, rural communities.” Meanwhile, the state has asked the federal government to allow KanCare to provide long-term care services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities – a move that the I/DD community strongly opposes.

So they said

“Aye. I’m sorry, no.” – Sen. Jerry Moran (in photo), R-Kan., causing laughter on the Senate floor for his voting mishap on the immigration reform bill

“Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas can now argue on immigration that he was for it before he was against it.” – Ryan Teague Beckwith, politics editor at Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome, on Twitter

“Clever attempt to get nation to discover that there is a Sen. Moran.” – New Republic writer Alec MacGillis, on Twitter

“The idea of letting this administration define border security is like letting Bill Clinton define sexual relations.” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, to Politico

“It’s a free market out there. If they want to leave, they leave and somebody else is going to take their place. To say we need to compete with everybody else – I don’t buy that.” – House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, on the privately funded raises the Kansas Board of Regents just gave to university leaders

“With your help, we’re turning Kansas around.” – Gov. Sam Brownback, in a re-election fundraising letter to supporters

Pro-con: Was same-sex marriage ruling the right decision?

Wednesday saw a triumph in the continuing struggle for equality in America. A divided Supreme Court rolled back two discriminatory laws, California’s Proposition 8 and a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Though not a total victory for those who believe gay and lesbian couples everywhere should be able to marry, the decisions nonetheless built upon and extended what has been a momentous half year for gay rights. Until the justices rule more forcefully, same-sex marriage advocates must look beyond the courts for action and toward democratic legitimacy. If Californians voted again on same-sex marriage, polls show that what was a close call in 2008 would be an easy win today. The court’s rulings Wednesday were welcome, but in essence they only affirmed how quickly the nation has moved away from prejudice and toward essential respect for all Americans. – Washington Post

It was outrageous for the Supreme Court to invalidate Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the potential invalidation of California’s Proposition 8, a law passed with the support of more than 7 million voters. Although Wednesday was a sad day for democracy and for marriage, this is not the end of the battle. The vast majority of states recognize marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex “marriage,” and nothing the Supreme Court just did changes that fact. If anything, the court’s opinion in United States v. Windsor, the DOMA case, shows that the federal government must respect the decision of states to define marriage as they choose. – Brian S. Brown, National Organization for Marriage

How could Kobach still believe he is correct?

How could Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach think that Kansas’ law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote is constitutional when a nearly identical Arizona law was tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court? Kansas City Star contributor Steve Rose suggested several reasons, including: “His ego is so bloated Kobach cannot conceive that he could possibly be wrong,” “Kobach is so anti-immigrant (OK, illegal immigrant) he is blinded by his own prejudices,” and “Kobach is so unbelievably ambitious that he will step on anyone and stoop to any level to raise his own profile.”

Kansas now seen as higher bond risk

Here’s another consequence of Gov. Sam Brownback’s push to eliminate state income taxes: a lower bond rating. Moody’s Investors Services has downgraded bond ratings for a Kansas Department of Commerce program that used to pay for a worker-training program. The lower rating affects about $200 million in outstanding debt. Because the bonds are backed by income-tax withholdings, “efforts to eliminate the state income tax without defeasing the debt or substituting a new revenue source will expose bondholders to risks greater than previously anticipated,” the credit rating service reported this week. Drip, drip, drip.

KCC doesn’t want media watching open meeting

At the same meeting this week that the Kansas Corporation Commission asked the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to defend it against charges that it violated the state’s open-meetings law, KCC staff shut down a videoconference feed of the open meeting to its Wichita office after an Eagle reporter tried to watch it. How fitting. The commission is facing a lawsuit filed by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office over a process it has routinely used in which a staff attorney circulates a proposed order individually to commissioners and obtains their signatures indicating approval instead of holding a public vote. It voted Wednesday to stop that practice. This week the KCC also hired Kim Christiansen as its new executive director. She replaces Patti Petersen-Klein, who was forced out after an audit revealed serious management problems. In addition to pulling the KCC out of the ditch, Christiansen needs to make sure it follows the open-meetings law.

Top Kansas leaders mostly silent on same-sex marriage decisions

It was interesting that Kansas’ two U.S. senators and three of its four members of the U.S. House did not release official statements about the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, considering that in the past they have weighed in on big court decisions. Nor did Gov. Sam Brownback issue a statement Wednesday, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt did not respond to the Lawrence Journal-World’s repeated requests for comment about the impacts of the decision in Kansas. That left Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, to speak to and, some might assume, for Kansans in condemning the rulings and announcing his push to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. But former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now in President Obama’s Cabinet, tweeted: “Decision on #DOMA reaffirms the core belief that we are all created equal and must be treated as equal; victory for families, #equality.”

UPDATE: Late Thursday afternoon Pompeo’s office called our attention to a statement posted on his website during the day: “The court’s attack on marriage – as defined as between one man and one woman – is both sad and counter to the most profound tradition of our great nation. As an attorney and a conservative, I am confounded by the Supreme Court’s bizarre set of decisions that found DOMA unconstitutional and didn’t rule on the merits of Prop 8. The Supreme Court has taken the position of refusing the right of Congress to legislate federal law based on the will of the people. This is a travesty. I remain dedicated to strengthening the institution of traditional marriage.” In addition, when asked about the decisions Thursday, Brownback said he was reviewing them before making a statement, according to the Lawrence Journal-World’s Scott Rothschild.

Kansas lawmakers speak out against new pollution rules

It isn’t surprising that Kansas GOP lawmakers oppose President Obama’s move this week to increase regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said that Obama’s plan would “do little to curb emissions at great cost to the American workforce. And states like ours – Kansas – which rely upon coal for electricity and have a large manufacturing base would be especially hurt.” Moran contends that the regulations will drive business overseas, which wouldn’t reduce worldwide CO2 emissions. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, said he wants a “more prosperous America, one that can take care of its environment and utilize its abundant resources. I only wish the president would agree.”

Growth of minorities helping keep U.S. afloat

“Due to immigration, a combination of more deaths and fewer births among whites and an explosion of minority births, the U.S. is poised to be a majority-minority country sooner than predicted,” the Brookings Institution noted. Minorities are already the majority in three states – Texas, New Mexico and California. And minorities are the majority among children younger than 5 in 11 other states. William Frey of Brookings said that the United States is fortunate to have this growth of minorities. Otherwise, it would be like some European countries in which the population is declining. “Younger minorities are helping us stay afloat,” he said.

Big day for gay rights

Though they stopped short of declaring there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Wednesday’s decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 will stand together as a milestone in gay rights. Opponents can be expected to push harder for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and the rulings won’t affect the state laws and amendments barring it, such as in Kansas. But they mean that same-sex married couples are entitled to federal tax and other benefits, and presumably that gay marriages will resume in populous California as they continue in 12 other states and the District of Columbia. The 5-4 decisions found the court about as split as the American public, 51 percent of which supports same-sex marriage. But they also signal that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is inevitable – just as 72 percent of Americans believe it to be.

More than 11,000 so far suspended from voting rolls

Since Jan. 1, more than 11,000 people in Kansas who have attempted to register to vote have been placed in “suspense” because of lack of proof of citizenship, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. That is more than 1 in 3 registration applications during that period. The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship to register, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach insists that Kansas’ requirement is legal. An analysis of Douglas County registrations found that the vast majority of people in suspense registered at the state’s Division of Vehicles. That office is supposed to send citizenship documentation to election officials electronically, but that isn’t happening, the Journal-World reported.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

The following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Agency Busy Spying on 300 Million People Failed to Notice One Dude Working for It

U.S. Seemingly Unaware of Irony in Accusing Snowden of Spying

U.S. Promises Smooth Transfer of Quagmire From Afghanistan to Syria

Obama, Putin Agree Never to Speak to Each Other Again

Americans Sent More Than a Hundred Million Father’s Day Messages, Says NSA

GOP: ‘We Support Our Nation’s 11 Million Latino Criminals’

New Iranian President Really Impressed With Country’s Nuclear Arms Program

Biden Investigated for Questionable Workers’ Comp Claim

No justifying ‘Redskins’ as mascot

“Fans of franchises bearing Indian names often resist changing them out of sentiment,” columnist Leonard Pitts (in photo) wrote. But that’s shortsighted. “Whether we choose to acknowledge it, or never do, doesn’t change the fact: ‘Redskins’ is a curse word,” Pitts wrote. Wichita North High School periodically debates whether to change its mascot, but its teams remain the Redskins.

Farm bill failure a preview of immigration reform?

The U.S. House’s failure last week to pass a new farm bill doesn’t bode well for immigration reform, the New York Times reported. The farm bill is not controversial and should be relatively easy to approve, but some House Republicans – including Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler – wanted even steeper cuts to the food-stamp program than what was included in the bill. Some Republicans also added amendments to allow states to drug-test food-stamp applicants and require food-stamp recipients to meet federal welfare work requirements, which caused Democrats to oppose the bill. “If you think this is hard,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., told the Times, “try getting 218 (a majority vote) on a path to legal status.”

Brownback is off and running for re-election

Though there hasn’t been a formal announcement, an e-mail that Gov. Sam Brownback sent out last week made it clear he is running for re-election next year. The e-mail asked for campaign donations so that Brownback can share his “record of accomplishment with Kansans.” The e-mail selectively highlighted some of those accomplishments and said that “now is the time to protect and build on our achievements.” It also claimed that Brownback  is fighting off efforts by President Obama and others in Washington, D.C., “to make Kansas, our precious Kansas, look more like their vision for Washington.”

Huelskamp won’t help with Obamacare

Questions about Obamacare? Don’t expect answers from Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who is among the Republicans indicating their unwillingness to be a resource for constituents as they navigate the new health care changes. “Given that we come from Kansas, it’s much easier to say, ‘Call your former governor,’” Huelskamp told the Hill newspaper, referring to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “You say, ‘She’s the one. She’s responsible. She was your governor, elected twice, and now you re-elected the president, but he picked her,’” said Huelskamp. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said: “We know how to forward a phone call.”

Kansas should be like Arizona on Medicaid expansion

Though the GOP-controlled Arizona Legislature resisted Gov. Jan Brewer’s push for Medicaid expansion, it finally agreed. As a result, more than 300,000 low-income Arizona citizens will be able to get health insurance starting in January. “It will extend cost-effective care to Arizona’s working poor using the very tax dollars our citizens already pay to the federal government,” said Brewer (in photo). Kansas has the same opportunity, but Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature have yet to act. Expansion in Kansas would enable more than 150,000 Kansans to get insurance, inject more than $3 billion into the state’s economy over the next seven years, and save the state more money than it costs.

Insurance company wants no part in guns at schools

Most school districts across the state, including USD 259, already were planning not to allow employees to carry concealed guns in schools. But the districts have an added financial reason to continue their bans on guns: insurance. EMC Insurance Companies, the state’s main insurer of schools, informed districts that it won’t insure them if they allow employees to carry guns, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” the company said in a letter to districts. The Wichita district gets its insurance through Lexington Insurance. The company has not said whether it would drop coverage or raise rates if guns were allowed, a district spokeswoman said. Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who championed gun-law changes, isn’t concerned about the insurance issue. “There are alternative insurers,” he told the Capital-Journal. “The markets are going to take care of this.”

So they said

“The Republicans in the House, we must use our majority, our subpoena power, to expose the cancer that is growing in that house, and this presidency.” – U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (in photo), R-Fowler, also calling the president “Barack O’Nixon” at a tea party rally

“Too many Democrats and Republicans allowed politics to trump progress.” – U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, on her “yes” vote on the failed House farm bill

“Good Kansans with guns make all of Kansas safer.” – Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, defending the new state law expanding concealed-carry

“Please, Kansas Legislature, look at this again. You have to start being more reasonable.” – Kansas Board of Regents member Dan Lykins, on state funding cuts for higher education and resulting tuition hikes

“If we don’t get it, we’ve got to cry.” – Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, mocking regents’ complaints

Wichita attorneys sure can sing and dance

Bravo to the Wichita Bar Association for a very funny Wichita Bar Show last week at the Orpheum Theatre (in photo). The show featured dozens of Wichita-area attorneys singing and dancing (yes, they are quite good) in songs skewering state and national political leaders. Among the highlights was a bit about Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach trying to keep zombies from voting that turned into a spoof of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

Fixing leaks faster seems like no-brainer

So the city of Wichita will start making all leaks in water mains a “top priority,” to quote a recent front-page headline in The Eagle about one aspect of the city’s new internal water conservation plan. That’s a smart step but also a head-scratcher – as to how a city that has been warning for months about Cheney Reservoir running dry by 2015 could let a water main leak of any size go unattended for up to two weeks. Residents can report water main breaks or leaks by calling 316-262-6000. Speaking of priorities, city leaders also need to identify where they’re going to find $2.1 billion over the next 30 years to repair and upgrade the water and sewer systems.

How GOP can win young voters

“GOP politicians need to stop turning off younger voters by living up to their stereotype of intolerance, and they need to explain why their agenda is better for young people,” columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote. That agenda, she said, should be “built on optimism, growth, opportunity and self-determination.” She noted that President Reagan “won the youth vote as the oldest elected president because he was offering something fresh, a vision larger than self-interest and a demeanor of openness. That, not crabbiness and perpetual anger at foes (imagined and otherwise), is an outlook worth emulating.”

Social conservatives still wield influence in GOP

After Republicans badly lost the women’s vote in the 2012 presidential election, and after anti-abortion comments cost them Senate races they should have won, there were calls by party leaders and strategists to focus less on social issues. That word apparently didn’t get to Republican U.S. House members. Or, more likely, Tuesday’s vote to restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception reflects the influence that social conservatives still have in the GOP – and their unwillingness to be marginalized. The bill has no chance of making it through the Senate.