Monthly Archives: January 2014

Brownback better deliver on I/DD promises

ddprotestThe Brownback administration went against the pleas of parents and other advocates and privatized the long-term care of Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, beginning Feb. 1. It now officially owns the reform, and it had better deliver on its promises of improved care to this vulnerable population. The parents will be watching closely and holding the administration accountable. “We are not going away,” said Marla Flentje of Wichita. Based on problems with KanCare this past year – including difficulty obtaining approvals for care and delayed and denied payments to providers – there is real reason to worry.

Open thread (Jan. 31)

wichitaopenthread

Praeger no longer holding tongue about Brownback

praegerIt’s been clear for some time that Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is no fan of Gov. Sam Brownback, particularly after he undercut her work to develop a Kansas-run insurance exchange. But the long-serving Republican made her feelings know in a very public way this week. Praeger announced her opposition to Brownback’s re-election in a video by a new bipartisan coalition called “Reroute the Roadmap.” In the video, Praeger says, “We looked at the road map that the governor outlined when he took office, and when you look at where we’re going today, we’re going in the wrong direction.”

Huelskamp’s tweets embarrassing but not surprising

huelskamp,timIt was disappointing and embarrassing that Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, tweeted belittling comments while President Obama was delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday. It’s fine to oppose Obama and criticize what he said, but doing so during the speech was disrespectful of the presidency and the address. Sadly, such behavior is what Kansans have come to expect from Huelskamp. It’s also what Americans now expect from the House of Representatives. As Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty noted, “Lately it’s not if a breach of decorum will occur, but when.”

Open thread (Jan. 30)

thread3

Koch brothers have even bigger political plans for 2014

kochs“If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond,” Politico reported. It said that this year the Kochs’ close allies are “wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.” Though the Koch network tries to mask the source of its funding, tax filings show that the network raised more than $400 million during the 2012 campaign, the Washington Post reported. Charles and David Koch convened an invitation-only gathering of wealthy GOP donors and officials in Palm Springs, Calif., last weekend that Politico said was aimed at raising “millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.”

Will House act on immigration reform?

Barack ObamaThere isn’t much cause to hope that the current Congress will work together for the common good. But one significant reform that it could accomplish, if House leadership allows it, is immigration reform. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, but GOP leaders haven’t allowed a vote in the House. “Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted,” Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday. “I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.” By not scolding House lawmakers or mentioning specific provisions that must be in the bill, Obama was extending an olive branch. But as Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote: “Will/can House Republican leaders – many of whom applauded Obama’s line on immigration – grasp it?”

Open thread (Jan. 29)

thread

Dedication of Capitol a great way to celebrate Kansas Day

capitalnewHappy 153rd birthday, Kansas. And a dedication ceremony of the newly restored Kansas Capitol is a great way to celebrate Kansas’ admission to the Union as a free state. Gov. Sam Brownback and other dignitaries will speak at the ceremony, which begins at noon in the rotunda. The restoration project returned some of the original opulence and grandeur of the building, as workers polished the pressed copper and uncovered some of the gold leaf. There also is now a visitor center with historical displays and a gift shop selling Kansas products. An article in the Sunday Eagle reported that “Kansas’ Capitol building was inspired by the state’s residents and what they thought the future would hold.” The restoration projects reflects pride in our state’s past and continued optimism about its future.

Senate committee has turned into a circus

pilcher_cookIt’s good that Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, doesn’t micromanage committee chairmen, but she might want to make an exception for Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee (in photo). In the past week, Pilcher-Cook had sonograms performed on two women during a Public Health and Welfare Committee meeting and held a hearing on her bill to criminalize surrogacy contracts. As Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, complained, the committee meetings have turned into “a three-ring circus.”

Open thread (Jan. 28)

thread3

Governor should release names of judicial applicants

shhhhAfter Gov. Sam Brownback nominated his chief counsel to the Kansas Court of Appeals last year, he refused to release the names of other people who had applied for the job. That was ironic, and irritating, because one argument that Brownback and GOP legislators had made for changing the appointment system was that they wanted more transparency. Under the old system, not only did a nominating commission release the names of those who applied, its interview process was open to the public. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, wants to return some transparency to the process. He sponsored a bill that would require the governor to release the names of all applicants.

GOP state convention gets even more conservative

gopvoteThe crowd at the state GOP convention in Wichita last weekend “was more conservative than it has been in decades,” observed Martin Hawver of Hawver’s Capitol Report. State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, announced that he is challenging U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, in the August GOP primary, claiming that Jenkins is too moderate. The biggest question of the convention was whether former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt would announce a challenge to U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. Tiahrt is still thinking it over, Hawver said. Meanwhile, GOP insiders are arguing about whether a small straw poll means anything. The poll taken at a Kansas Young Republicans business meeting resulted in a 17-17 tie between Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and challenger Milton Wolf.

Open thread (Jan. 27)

thread

Pompeo joining in ‘destination’ fundraising

pompeo,mikeRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, was one of the lawmakers mentioned and pictured in a New York Times article on “destination fundraisers, where business interests blend with pleasure in exclusive vacation venues.” Pompeo was among the “special guests” at a “Winter Escape to Vail Weekend” early this month at the Four Seasons Resort, when the “suggested contribution” was $2,500 per political action committee and $1,500 per individual. “Neither the lawmakers nor the lobbyists attending the events want to talk about them, even though such trips are permitted under the law,” the Times reported, though Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., was quoted as saying of the Colorado gathering: “This was a good way to raise some funds.” A health care lobbyist who attended called it “a way to get some large chunks of a lawmaker’s time.” The fundraising trend is bipartisan: “It has become kind of the norm,” said Democratic lobbyist Vic Fazio, a former California congressman.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Fox News: Obama to Force All Americans to Buy Pot

Mayors Bullied by Christie Form Support Group

Nation Recalls Simpler Time When Health Care System Was Broken Beyond Repair

Kim Jong Un: Bieber Just a Few Arrests From Being My Friend

Royals Courted Masahiro Tanaka by Highlighting Kansas City’s Rich Japanese History

Open thread (Jan. 26)

thread4

State’s cash reserves are going, going . . .

emptypocketGov. Sam Brownback likes to talk about how the state’s cash reserves were virtually zero when he came into office in 2011, and how they have since been built back up (in large part because of spending cuts to public education and an increase in the statewide sales tax). But because of massive tax cuts Brownback pushed through and various spending obligations, those reserves could disappear soon. The Kansas Legislative Research Department estimates that the state’s ending balance will shrink by half by the end of next fiscal year and could be gone the year after that – and that’s without factoring in any court-ordered increase in school funding. Brownback has faith that his tax cuts will generate enough growth to prevent this shortfall, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Brownback: Listen to Utah governor on Medicaid

Doctor Speaking with PatientAnother GOP governor has come to his senses and is backing the federal expansion of Medicaid. Unfortunately, it isn’t Sam Brownback. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said last week that his state would expand Medicaid to cover more low-income citizens. “Doing nothing is not an option,” he said. It shouldn’t be for Brownback, either.

So they said

roberts3“In Kansas, we’re bootstrap people.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., at the Kansas Workforce Summit in Topeka

“You cannot make friends with our adversaries.” – Milton Wolf, Roberts’ tea party challenger, telling a Lawrence crowd that Republicans shouldn’t work with Democrats

“I have yet to see any United States citizen in the state of Kansas who is unable to register to vote because of our proof-of-citizenship requirement.” – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, despite the more than 20,000 voter registrations on hold because of the law

“A rising tide floats all boats, but it appears ours is sinking.” – Rep. John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, on how Kansas’ economy could be contracting while the rest of the country’s is growing

“They won’t be playing so much ‘Candy Crush’ on their phones.” – Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, on how lawmakers might respond if committee hearings were viewable online

“I’m not going to make a motion. I don’t even understand motions anymore.” – Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton, amid an hour-long debate and multiple votes on a confusing drainage-related annexation proposal

Open thread (Jan. 25)

thread3

Kansans like wind power, energy standard

turbinecowsMore than 9 in 10 Kansas voters support using renewable energy, according to a new poll conducted by North Star Opinion Research and commissioned by environmental and wind-energy advocates. And though some state lawmakers, including House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, want to revoke the state’s renewable energy standard, 75 percent of voters surveyed (including 73 percent of Republicans) support the 2009 law requiring Kansas utility companies to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. More than two-thirds of voters would support raising the energy standard to 25 percent, even if that would cost them more, according to the poll. Majorities of voters said they would be willing to pay between $1 and $5 more per month to increase the renewable energy standard.

Are abortion and slavery similar?

abortionprotestGov. Sam Brownback flattered his ultraconservative followers in his State of the State address last week by “equating Kansas’ gun- and Bible-toting abolitionists from the 1850s with the anti-abortion protesters who staged demonstrations in Wichita in 1991,” columnist Mary Sanchez wrote. She argued that abortion and slavery are not the same. “If abortion is evil, it is not a social evil, a crime against a class of people for the benefit of another,” she wrote. “The zealots Brownback praised – and upon whom he no doubt depends in his upcoming election – are not doing their cause or the victims it claims to protect any good by pretending that this weak analogy holds.”

Open thread (Jan. 24)

thread3

Special unit reflects importance of open government

CLOSED-MEETINGGood for Attorney General Derek Schmidt for wanting to create a special two-person unit in his agency to investigate Kansas Open Meetings Act and Kansas Open Records Act complaints. The proposal is backed by the Kansas Press Association and the Kansas Association of Counties, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. KPA executive director Doug Anstaett said that potential violations are widespread. “It seems we continue to make the same mistakes over and over,” he said.