Monthly Archives: September 2013

Pompeo ready to try to sign up for Obamacare

As political stunts go, the move by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, to try to sign up on the health care exchange when it opens Tuesday would seem to do no harm. “It’s going to be chaos; the president knows that,” Pompeo said Monday on CNN of the exchanges’ opening day. The experience might even help Pompeo and his staff assist constituents for whom the insurance marketplace is actually intended – those who lack health insurance because they have been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition or find insurance unaffordable. It’s easy to forget amid all the Capitol Hill brinkmanship about Tuesday’s opening of the Obamacare enrollment period, but as Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger wrote earlier this year: For some Kansans, the law’s launch “will be welcome relief. They have suffered through the worries of being uninsured during the past recession years, and they will now have a method of providing insured health care for themselves and their families.” Unfortunately, the political atmosphere is too toxic to allow for any bipartisan effort to fix Obamacare’s problems.

Open thread (Sept. 30)

Common Core debate not really about math, language arts

“During a nearly two-hour discussion of the Common Core educational standards in math and language arts Tuesday night in Salina, guess which words or phrases were most used,” began a Salina Journal article about an event sponsored by the Saline County Democratic Party. The choices were “verb,” “Koch brothers,” “algebra” and “Bill Gates.” The most-mentioned Koch brothers were credited with targeting Common Core, with one speaker claiming they “don’t want children to grow up with critical thinking skills.” In second place was Gates, who was criticized by speaker Walt Chappell of Wichita (a former Kansas State Board of Education member) for donating to pro-Common Core groups so Microsoft could benefit. “If a test requires a touch-screen, where do you get the software to do that? Windows 8,” Chappell said. Next came “algebra.” And “verb” wasn’t mentioned once, the Journal reported.

Miller’s nomination a plus for Kansas

Especially considering the high hopes in Wichita and south-central Kansas for a revival of passenger-rail service, it was great to see President Obama nominate former Kansas Transportation Secretary Deb Miller last week to the Surface Transportation Board. The three-member panel not only oversees the rail industry but handles some issues related to trucking, ocean shipping and city buses. Miller, whose nomination requires U.S. Senate confirmation, deserves the full support of Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. Miller did an impressive job serving from 2003 to 2011 in the cabinets of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson – no easy task when it came to managing planned highway projects amid the spending cuts of the Great Recession.

Public concerned about Old Town safety

A SurveyUSA poll of Kansans sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, underscored the importance of safeguarding not only Old Town-goers but also the nightlife district’s reputation in the wake of last weekend’s fatal shooting spree. When respondents were asked whether Old Town was safe, 37 percent said “somewhat,” 27 percent said “not very,” and 16 percent said “not at all,” while 55 percent said reports of violence there make them less likely to visit the neighborhood. Forty-two percent said police could be doing more to make it safe.

Kansas still struggling in U.S. News’ university rankings

When then-Gov. Mark Parkinson challenged the Kansas Board of Regents in 2009 to improve the state universities’ standings nationally, U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Kansas as 96th among 260 national universities and put Kansas State University in its third tier (between 134th and 196th) and Wichita State University in its fourth (between 197th and 260th). Parkinson proposed a 10-year goal of vaulting KU into the top 50 and K-State into the top 100 and having no Kansas institution in the bottom tier. Since then, the institutions’ leaders and the regents have sought to increase graduation rates and enrollments as well as court research and other funding. But in the U.S. News rankings released last month, KU was 101st, K-State was 135th, and WSU’s unpublished ranking was in the bottom one-fourth. The regents recently voted to ask Gov. Sam Brownback to restore tens of millions of dollars of higher-education funding cut last spring. On our Opinion pages Sunday, WSU president John Bardo writes about his strategy for significantly boosting enrollment and enhancing quality.

So they said

“I want to thank you for being truly senatorial and basically doing what senators do, and that is respecting everybody’s point of view.… I’d be happy to buy you breakfast.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., addressing the long-talking Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, early Wednesday

“This, we believe, won’t take a single calorie off the plate of kids, but it will make some adults who are laying around, make them go to work.” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show, defending food stamp cuts and requiring able-bodied recipients to work

“By not adopting Medicaid expansion you’re leaving not only a lot of federal dollars, but a lot of people on the side of the road.” – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaking in Kansas City, Mo.

Moran, Pompeo called out for Obamacare hypocrisy

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., “proudly appeared at a publicity event to promote the groundbreaking of a $4.7 million expansion of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas last August,” while failing to acknowledge the “$4.7 million came completely from Affordable Care Act discretionary spending,” wrote the Nation’s Lee Fang. And at a town hall last year, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, pointed to federally funded health facilities such as Hunter Health Clinic and GraceMed in Wichita as great examples of how to care for people who can’t afford health insurance. “Pompeo failed to note that both clinics are actually heavily funded by Obamacare,” Fang wrote, or that “his repeal effort would withdraw funds from health clinics like the ones he praised as examples of the right type of reforms.”

Roberts, Moran stand against funding bill

Both Kansans in the U.S. Senate, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, were among the 19 Republicans who voted against ending debate on the short-term funding bill, which then was amended to restore Obamacare funding and sent to the House. On Facebook, Moran said the funding bill “is damaging to our country, our economy, and to the American people” and that “now is the time to defund, dismantle and replace the Affordable Care Act.” House members have been told they will be working over the weekend. At some point lawmakers surely will wish they could reclaim those 21 hours that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, burned up with his fake filibuster. The truest words of the day may have been spoken by Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black, who opened Friday’s proceedings by praying to “keep us from shackling ourselves with the chains of dysfunction” and also said: “Lord, deliver us from governing by crisis, empowering us to be responsible stewards of your bounty.”

Government in the red for rest of the year

If the federal government’s spending were spread out evenly over the calendar year, Wednesday would have been the day the revenue ran out. For the remaining 97 days of this year, the government will borrow all the money it spends – at a rate of more than $10 billion a day. The only good news is that last year the government ran out of money 16 days earlier.

Catholic Church at a pivot moment

Pope Francis’ recent statements about how the Catholic Church should be focused more on the poor and less on gay marriage, abortion and contraception are “a pivot moment for the church,” Bob Keeler wrote. “Like St. Francis of Assisi, whose name he took, this pope is trying to repair the church by calling it back to the words of Jesus, who cared a lot more about the poor than about rigid rules and fancy robes.” But, Keeler asked, will the bishops go along?

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Senate Reaches Bipartisan Deal to Shut Down Ted Cruz

Republicans Warn Iranian President Against Shaking Obama’s Hand

Kerry Shocked to Be Taken Seriously

House Republicans Line Up for Free Annual Physicals Before Defunding Obamacare

Scalia Forms Search Committee for New Pope

In Poll About Debt-Ceiling Crisis, Americans Totally Excited About New iPhone

Schodorf a welcome addition to secretary of state race

It’s not surprising that candidates already are lining up to challenge Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in next year’s election. Kobach has spent much of his time in office trying to scare people about nearly nonexistent voter fraud in order to push through restrictions on voting – that is, when he isn’t flying around the country promoting anti-immigration legislation. Former Wichita school board president and state Sen. Jean Schodorf announced Wednesday that she is running in the Democratic primary. Randy Rolston of Mission Hills also is running. Schodorf noted the more than 17,000 Kansans so far who have had their voting rights placed in “suspense” by Kobach’s new rules. “That’s voter suppression,” she said. It’s particularly galling when the U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled that it is unconstitutional to require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

Obamacare no longer a political debate, Sebelius says

Though House Republicans and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, clearly think otherwise, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius contends that the Affordable Care Act is no longer a political debate. “It’s what we call the law,” she said at a conference last weekend in Kansas City, Mo. “It was passed by the United States Congress. It was signed into law by the president in March of 2010. It was upheld by the Supreme Court in July of 2012. The president was re-elected. It’s the law.”

Hensley’s conspiracy theory about Stegall is lame

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, has sound reasons for objecting to the new method of selecting judges for the Kansas Court of Appeals, which threatens the quality, nonpartisanship and independence of the court. But Hensley is off base in seeing a conspiracy in the four-month delay in swearing in Caleb Stegall, whose nomination was confirmed by the Kansas Senate early this month. If Hensley were right about the timing being designed by Gov. Sam Brownback to spare Stegall a November 2014 retention vote, that would mean court officials including Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, as well as Brownback’s office, have lied about the delay being necessary for budgetary and remodeling reasons. Plus, 53 years of judicial-retention elections for members of Kansas’ appellate courts suggest Stegall need not worry about being thrown off the bench by voters, whenever his name first appears on the ballot.

What was the purpose of Cruz’s talkathon?

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has ended his 21-hour talkathon, and it’s still not clear what its purpose was. It wasn’t a real filibuster, and Cruz admitted last week that the GOP doesn’t have the votes in the Senate to block Obamacare (let alone the votes needed to override a certain presidential veto). The view among many GOP senators is that Cruz was mostly interested in promoting himself.

Anti-Obamacare ad is beyond creepy

An anti-Obamacare ad by a group with ties to the Koch brothers is beyond creepy; it is offensive and bizarrely anti-personal responsibility. One of two ads by Generation Opportunity – which received $5 million last year from the Koch-financed Freedom Partners – shows a young woman in a hospital gown, feet in stirrups, ready for a gynecological exam. A creepy Uncle Sam then rises up between her legs while the young woman screams and recoils. The ad’s tagline says: “Don’t let government play doctor,” then urges viewers to “opt out of Obamacare.” Women’s groups object to the sexual-assault imagery, but Generation Opportunity president Evan Feinberg – who previously worked for the Charles Koch Institute – tweeted that he was offended anyone took it that way. Kate Pickert of Time magazine noted that the ad reflects a shift from the defunding debate in Congress. “Persuading younger, generally healthy people that they don’t need insurance is an acknowledgment by conservatives that their only true hope of sinking Obamacare is to try and make it function poorly,” she wrote. Another Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, also launched an anti-Obama ad campaign last week arguing that “Obamacare is dangerous.”

Westar increase still stings

Well, a $3-a-month increase in residential electric bills is better than what Westar Energy wanted. And the new proposal, which still must be approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission, drops the bad idea of increasing rates on residential customers and small businesses so that Westar can cut rates on big businesses. But the increase still stings, especially when it is Westar’s 19th requested rate hike in the past four years.

GOP House should follow lead of governors

Talk show host Michael Medved can’t believe the House GOP is recklessly charging into a battle to defund Obamacare that it is sure to lose. “The GOP shouldn’t pursue noble defeat while standing on principle,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “You build momentum for a movement by achieving legislative victories, not by racking up high-profile losses.” The GOP’s only hope comes from bold conservative governors, Medved said, mentioning Gov. Sam Brownback in a list of examples. GOP governors “have no choice but to face up to the grubby, imperfect business of governance,” Medved said. “If only those in Congress would follow their lead.”

Help for standoff victims slow in coming

It’s good to see the city of Wichita close to wrapping up 12 settlements for Southlake Village Apartments residents affected by the 32-hour police standoff in July. On Tuesday the Wichita City Council will consider a $25,500 settlement for Justin Zoucher, leaving only four claims likely to be approved by City Manager Robert Layton and City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf. The total $113,992 payout to the residents seems reasonable and necessary, considering the displacement and damage caused by the ordeal and law enforcement’s use of tear gas, a water cannon, controlled blasts and gunfire. It would have been better if City Hall had acted to help compensate these residents for their losses within days, rather than months.

Charter schools falling out of favor in Kansas

The number of charter schools in Kansas is rapidly declining, dropping from 33 in 2010 to only 11 this year, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. Supporters of charter schools say the problem is that charter schools in Kansas must be approved and overseen by their local school districts. In other states, charter schools operate more independently. But critics argue that charter schools divert funding from public schools and haven’t proved to be more successful.

GOP’s problem in two sentences

Here’s the Republican Party’s problem in two sentences, wrote Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas of the Washington Post: “It would be a disaster for the party to shut down the government over Obamacare. But it’s good for every individual Republican politician to support shutting down the government over Obamacare.” Unlike in the past, GOP leaders no longer have enough power and influence to convince lawmakers to do what is best for their party. Robert Costa of National Review tweeted that power has shifted away from the Capitol leadership offices to Tea Party Inc. and backbench members of Congress.

Kobach sure doesn’t talk like a nonpartisan elections officer

Winston Churchill is credited (probably inaccurately) with having said: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach tried a twist on that comment, telling a recent GOP gathering in Kansas City, Mo.: “If you’re 20 and a Democrat, you have no brain.” Kobach later told the Huffington Post that he was advocating the GOP use an intellectual approach when recruiting on college campuses: “I am not trying to insult college students. College students are won where you can appeal to the mind of the voter.” Such bluster is expected from a partisan hack, but inappropriate from someone trusted by voters with the nonpartisan role of chief elections officer for the state.

Another Docking as lieutenant governor?

An e-mail making the rounds from a prominent backer of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis names Wichita financial planner Jill Docking (in photo) as his running mate, according to the Kansas City Star. Docking, who ran against Sam Brownback in 1996 for the U.S. Senate and formerly chaired the Kansas Board of Regents, told The Eagle editorial board via e-mail Thursday: “I have a determined commitment to this race. My focus right now is supporting Paul Davis for governor. I plan to work as hard as I can to deny Sam Brownback a second term.” If she sought the lieutenant governor spot, it would give Davis, the Lawrence Democrat who is House minority leader, the benefit of the association with two of the biggest families in Kansas political history. Docking is married to former Lt. Gov. Tom Docking, whose father, Robert, and grandfather George both served as governor, and Davis’ campaign treasurer is William A. Kassebaum, a Republican and former state legislator who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker and the grandson of former Gov. Alf Landon.

Voters ‘in suspense’ a local problem in Derby, Colwich

The statewide problem posed by the 17,000 voter registrations “in suspense” is an imminent threat to voting rights in two area communities. According to the Sedgwick County Election Office, 104 voter registrations were on hold as of last week in Derby, where residents will vote Oct. 8 on a 10-year, half-cent sales tax for a park project, the library, and the Derby Fire and Rescue Department. Eleven would-be voters were in similar limbo in Colwich, where residents will decide Oct. 8 whether to build a $1.65 million swimming pool complex. Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman told The Eagle editorial board that her “office has sent these applicants multiple notices and called them” (if they provided a phone number) and provided sample ballots. In order to vote, she said, they must submit proof-of-citizenship documents to her office by 11:59 p.m. Oct. 7. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has said it’s sufficient for people to pledge they are citizens, and that a year ago these voter registrations would have been good to go.