Monthly Archives: December 2013

Brownback a champion of climate change?

Arctic MeltGov. Sam Brownback likely winced at being included in a list of “eight champions of climate change in the U.S. in 2013” published in the Guardian newspaper. Brownback was cited for fighting off “cynical attacks to repeal state renewable portfolio standards.” Brownback’s motive likely was more economic than environmental, as energy standards and wind tax credits have helped fuel billions of dollars of investment in wind projects in Kansas in the past few years.

Open thread (Dec. 31)

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Sebelius touts Jan. 1 as ‘new day in health care’

sebeliushandsupDespite all the trouble that the Affordable Care Act experienced this year, including the disastrous rollout of its online marketplace, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is upbeat about what the reform law will mean to Americans in 2014. In an Eagle commentary, the former Kansas governor called Jan. 1 “a new day in health care” because, among other changes, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or impose an annual benefits cap. “Now, not only are there new rights and benefits, we are also seeing the slowest health care price inflation in 50 years,” she wrote. The Obama administration also is touting a December surge in enrollments, though the 2 million total signups between the federal and state exchanges is still far short of the goal of enrolling 7 million by March 31.

Open thread (Dec. 30)

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Activism paid off for Bullers, but what about others?

bullersFinn Bullers is getting his attendant care restored. It’s a Christmas miracle. Bullers, a former Kansas City Star reporter who is almost completely paralyzed by muscular dystrophy, became a high-profile critic of KanCare after one of the private insurance companies now managing Medicaid sharply reduced his round-the-clock care. But on Christmas Eve, a case manager from UnitedHealthcare went to his Prairie Village home and said the company was restoring his care. That’s great for Bullers, who had become a public-relations problem for KanCare, but what about all the other disabled Kansans he represented?

Huelskamp claims a victory in ‘war on Christmas’

huelskamp,timU.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, successfully lobbied the House Franking Commission this year to change a 40-year-old policy that prevented lawmakers from using taxpayer money to pay for religious-themed mailings at Christmas. Huelskamp said that the policy established in 1973 reflected the “continual leftist war on Christmas.” Who knew this phony war had been going on that long? “The new refusal of the U.S. House to cater to the PC Police moves us one small step away from that carefully crafted secular society devoid of any reference to our religious and cultural heritage,” Huelskamp said in a statement. He then wished everyone “a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.”

Open thread (Dec. 29)

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Kansas agriculture still being punished for Huelskamp’s defiance

farmRep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, recently asked about rejoining the House Agriculture Committee but was told by a member of his chamber’s GOP leadership “that until I voted the way they wanted me to vote, they were not going to put me back on the Ag Committee,” Huelskamp told the Wall Street Journal. In response, the spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told the Journal that “the speaker, and the entire leadership team, urged all House Republicans to support the (budget) agreement, which lowered the deficit without raising taxes.” Huelskamp, who has called that deal “more of the same,” was among four Republicans stripped of committee assignments last year for failing to be team players. Huelskamp’s unproductive defiance means Kansas has no representation on the House Agriculture Committee for the first time in more than a century.

So they said

Senate Race“What good? Well, you really threw me for a loop. Oh, God.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., when first asked by the Huffington Post to name what good happened in Congress in 2013

“There are two very different opinions and philosophies here on the part of Republicans and Democrats, but we can occasionally build a bridge. And we’ll keep doing it in spite of 2014, which happens to be an even-numbered year, and you know what happens then.” – Roberts again, expanding on his answer

“The governor’s poll numbers show that Kansans are not happy with what he is doing.” – Rochelle Chronister of Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, a group of former state legislators working against Sam Brownback’s re-election

“They are a sour grapes caucus.” – Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, about Chronister’s group

Open thread (Dec. 28)

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Wise to delay I/DD shift to KanCare

CB060917The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were wise to delay approval of shifting long-term care for Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities into KanCare. There were too many questions and concerns about for-profit insurance companies managing these services to approve it starting Jan. 1, as the Brownback administration wanted. The rollout of other Medicaid services this year has been rocky, particularly the payments to providers. And the I/DD community is overwhelmingly opposed to privatizing long-term care. State officials hope to resolve the concerns by Feb. 1, but the federal agency shouldn’t approve the waiver unless it is convinced that Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities will be protected.

Drug-testing money will go up in smoke

cashWhen they passed a law this past session requiring some welfare recipients to take drug tests, Kansas legislators didn’t care that other states have spent a lot of money on such testing and found few violations. They were determined to require it anyway. So with all the budget problems facing the state, Kansas will spend $1 million next year to implement its own drug-testing plan. More than likely, Kansas will have results similar to those in Missouri, which spent about $500,000 this year and had only 20 welfare recipients fail the drug test.

Open thread (Dec. 27)

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Roberts isn’t conservative enough for Ryun

ryunjimSen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., long ago locked in the 2014 endorsements of the state’s GOP officeholders. But it made news in the political world last week when former Kansas congressman Jim Ryun (in photo) effectively endorsed Roberts’ tea party challenger, Milton Wolf, via the conservative group Ryun now heads, the Madison Project. Ryun issued a statement praising Wolf, a Leawood radiologist and distant cousin of President Obama, for a “command of the issues and a dedication to conservative values that is lacking among most individuals in Washington,” adding that the Senate needs “fewer career politicians and more citizen leaders.” But Heritage Action ranked Roberts as the fifth most conservator senator, and he has an 86 percent lifetime rating with the American Conservative Union. “Some of our friends out there are getting a bit out of hand,” Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told the Washington Times of Wolf’s challenge to Roberts.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Record for Worst Congress of All Time So Close Boehner Can Taste It

Scalia Calls ‘Duck Dynasty’ Decision Unconstitutional

Fast-Food Industry Rejects Workers’ Demand to Be Considered Human

30-Year-Old Has Earned $11 More Than He Would Have Without College Education

Miami Heat Fans Growing Frustrated With Team’s Lack of NBA Titles Since June

Regents’ social-media policy too vague, severe

computerdeleteThe Kansas Board of Regents’ new social-media policy for the state’s public universities is getting hammered – and for good reason. The new policy is too vague and severe, allowing the university chief executive to fire or suspend faculty or staff members for the “improper use” of social media. This includes communication considered “contrary to the best interests of the university” or that “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers.” Columnist Rebecca Schuman argued in Slate this week that “it is these two phrases’ ominously wide reach – and overt insistence on lockstep fealty – that are legitimately terrifying.”

Open thread (Dec. 26)

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Lame-duck lawmakers (and council members) should stay home

airplanetakeoff2Good for leaders of the Kansas House and Senate for agreeing last week to change the Legislature’s travel reimbursement policies to keep retiring or defeated lawmakers from taking trips at the state’s expense. The policy change, which was suggested by House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, has an exception if the outgoing legislator is an officer of a recognized organization or is asked by legislative leaders to represent Kansas at an event. The Eagle editorial board has raised similar concerns in the past about lame-duck Wichita City Council members going to out-of-state conferences on taxpayers’ dime.

New WSU dorm tops state for room-and-board cost

collegetuitionWichita State University’s new dormitory, which opens next fall, will have the highest room-and-board rate of any dorm at the state’s public universities – by far. But it also should be a lot nicer. The rate for two shared bedrooms and one bath with a 15-meals-a-week plan and $300 in “Shocker Dollars” will be $10,164 per year. The room-and-board rates next year for the other state schools, which the Kansas Board of Regents also approved last week, are $7,910 at Kansas State University, $7,896 at the University of Kansas, $7,280 at Fort Hays State University, $7,034 at Emporia State University and $6,936 at Pittsburg State University. The average room-and-board charge for public universities in the Midwest is $8,737. WSU president John Bardo has said that the rate for the new dorm is comparable to what other universities charge for new facilities.

Open thread (Dec. 25)

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Putting milk before partisan politics

bipartisanGood for state Sens. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, and Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, for distributing more than 600 gallons of milk at three area Walmart stores Sunday. They were joined by Sedgwick County Treasurer Linda Kizzire at one of the giveaways. O’Donnell paid for the milk out of his campaign funds, and he said that people were very grateful and appreciated seeing a Republican and Democrat working together to help others.

Praeger maintains resolve, sense of humor

praegerIt must be lonely being the only top GOP officeholder in Kansas to support the Affordable Care Act, but Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has maintained her resolve – and her sense of humor. When asked by Associated Press about being among only a handful of prominent Republicans nationally to publicly support the ACA, Praeger joked: “I would be curious as to who they are, because I don’t know them.” Praeger doesn’t regret wanting to reform a dysfunctional insurance system and extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. “I have been probably the most vocal Republican that has said this is better than what we had and we should try to make this work,” she said.

Drug testing of lawmakers is a joke

urinetestTo counter criticism that it was placing requirements on welfare recipients that it wasn’t imposing on itself, the Legislature agreed to require some state lawmakers to take drug tests. Now the person the state selected to oversee the program says the law has no penalty for lawmakers who fail the drug test. What’s more, privacy rules prevent him from releasing the name of any lawmaker who fails the test. Also, it’s unclear what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” of drug use that would trigger the drug-test requirement for legislators. So, in other words, the testing is a joke.

Open thread (Dec. 24)

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Legalized pot will lead to more damaged lives

marijuanaToo many people have been locked up for years for smoking or possessing marijuana. “But legalizing pot would almost certainly lead to much wider smoking of the weed, leaving millions damaged for life, especially today’s youths,” journalist Ben Barber wrote. He acknowledges that many people would be able to smoke pot and maintain productive lives, but he contends that “there are many more who simply will fail to graduate, fail to learn, fail to specialize, fail to excel and fail to contribute.”