Monthly Archives: February 2014

Moran, Roberts should support treaty on disabilities

disabled3Any suspicion that the political right, after suffering a defeat on the debt ceiling and facing threats from business donors, is losing its clout can be dismissed by the fight over the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities,” wrote columnist Albert Hunt. One of the biggest champions of the treaty is Bob Dole, who said that it “would have passed by voice vote” if it had come up while he was still in the Senate. But now Dole is having trouble even convincing Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts to support it.

Open thread (Feb. 28)

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New business filings don’t reflect full picture

smallbusinessBecause the Kansas economy is growing at a lower rate than the economies of neighboring states and the nation, Gov. Sam Brownback has pointed to new business filings as evidence that his tax cuts are starting to work. But noting that the state had more than 15,000 new business filings in 2013 doesn’t reflect the full picture. That’s because more than 16,000 other businesses were dissolved by their owners or forfeited for failure to file an annual report, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. The net increase in registered businesses, after adding back 4,500 businesses that owners reinstated that year, was only about 3,600. “When you do the math, the net new growth in Kansas in 2013 is actually smaller than before the tax cuts of 2012 took effect,” said Annie McKay, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.

Pompeo defends Koch brothers, criticizes Reid

reidharryRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, defended Charles and David Koch after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (in photo), D-Nev., blasted the brothers for helping finance attack ads against Democrats that Reid said were misleading and dishonest. “It’s too bad that they’re trying to buy America, and it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine,” Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday. Pompeo called Reid’s comments reprehensible. “This cannot be tolerated – not for these two great men or for any individual who disagrees with those in power,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Open thread (Feb. 27)

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So much for 20-year partnership on Finney building

finneybldgThe Brownback administration’s frustrating decision to bail on the city-owned Finney State Office Building is moving forward, though the lease doesn’t expire until Sept. 30. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services will join the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Kansas Department of Labor and the state Board of Indigents’ Defense Services in the former Ryan International Airlines building at 266 N. Main while the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Human Rights Commission will go to the Garvey Center – which at least keeps these agencies downtown. Meanwhile, the Kansas Department for Children and Families reportedly wants a 96,000-square-feet site the U.S. Postal Service is closing at 2601 S. Oliver. That means DCF’s more than 550 employees will no longer be working downtown and the agency’s low-income clients will have to adjust to an office that isn’t centrally located or accessible by multiple bus routes. Mayor Carl Brewer lobbied the governor personally to try to save the 20-year city-state partnership by offering a $6 million renovation and a deep discount on rent. He told The Eagle editorial board last week that “we’re disappointed at the fact that they chose not to stay” at the Finney building and said the goal now was to keep it from sitting empty.

Secretaries of state shouldn’t be overtly partisan

kobachcandidKansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was mentioned in a National Public Radio report on “a trend of overtly partisan figures running for a job designed to be neutral when it comes to election administration” – though he defended himself and other officeholders. “The secretaries range on the political spectrum and have policy differences, but I would vouch for every secretary of state to be able to have fair election results,” he said. But Art Sanders, a political science professor at Drake University, sees the politicization of the secretary of state office as “a very good symbol of how low our politics have sunk.”

Open thread (Feb. 26)

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Moran’s popularity stands out; Huckabee favored

huckabee,mikeThirty-seven percent of Kansas voters surveyed by Public Policy Polling approve of the job being done by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., compared with 26 percent who disapprove. That makes him more popular than Sen. Pat Roberts (29 percent approval), Gov. Sam Brownback (33 percent) or Secretary of State Kris Kobach (31 percent). And when asked about an array of potential GOP presidential nominees for 2016, the Kansans favored Mike Huckabee (20 percent; in photo), followed by Jeb Bush and Chris Christie (13 percent each), Ted Cruz (12 percent) and Rand Paul (11 percent); Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal drew less support. Democrat Hillary Clinton came out the loser in Kansas each time in hypothetical matchups against Bush, Christie, Huckabee and Paul.

Glickman: What happened to Kansas’ civil rights leadership?

glickmanAdd the voice of former Wichita congressman Dan Glickman to those of current and former Kansans expressing disappointment in the House’s passage of the bill that would have enabled government and private-sector employees to use religious beliefs to refuse service to gay couples. Writing for Huffington Post, Glickman wondered what has happened to the state linked to the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and the first lunch-counter sit-in at a Wichita drugstore in 1958. “I sincerely hope that this bill never rears its ugly head again and that this episode is nothing more than an aberration from the leadership Kansas has taken against discrimination throughout the state’s history,” wrote Glickman, now senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “From William Allen White’s fight against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s to Sen. Bob Dole’s leadership on major civil rights and anti-discrimination legislation, Kansans have a lot to be proud of in their state’s leadership against discrimination.”

Open thread (Feb. 25)

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Wichita common denominator in some Statehouse nuttiness

wichitaopenthread“The bill stems from an active anti-fluoride movement in Wichita, where fluoride is not added to the water.” “Wichita-based tea party group Kansans for Liberty is launching an e-mail campaign to try to resurrect a bill that would allow government workers and businesses to deny service to gay couples.” “A Democrat from Wichita says she wants to allow up to 10 strikes of the hand and that could leave redness and bruising.” It’s frustrating that Wichita is the common denominator in some of the recent Statehouse nuttiness. At least the No. 2-ranked Wichita State University men’s basketball team is putting a nice shine on the reputation and pride of the state’s largest city.

Gruesome X-rays, jokes don’t just hurt Wolf politically

Wolf,MiltonMilton Wolf may not just be in political trouble because he posted online and joked about gruesome X-ray images. He may also be in professional trouble. Wolf, a Leawood radiologist who is challenging Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in the GOP primary, said he posted the X-rays of gunshot fatalities and medical injuries to his Facebook page “several years ago.” After the Topeka Capital-Journal reported on the postings and Wolf’s jokes about the images, Wolf apologized, calling his actions a mistake. But even if voters forgive him, the medical community might not. “Absent any legitimate educational purpose or context, this is not ethical behavior,” said Jerry Slaughter, executive director of the Kansas Medical Society.

Open thread (Feb. 24)

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Another nod to Davis’ polling strength

davis,paulSabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has revised the Kansas gubernatorial rating for 2014 from “Safe Republican” to “Likely Republican,” based on polling suggesting Gov. Sam Brownback might be vulnerable to Democratic challenger Paul Davis (in photo), who is the House minority leader. In Kansas, the website noted, “the centrist Republicans and Democrats will sometimes effectively work together to block the conservative Republicans” and “Brownback has governed as a staunch conservative.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball also observed that “it is surprising to check the history and see that over the past 50 years, the Sunflower State has been governed more often by a Democrat (28 of the last 50 years)” than has Massachusetts (24 of the last 50 years).

Wolf’s views gaining notice

Wolf,MiltonMother Jones introduced Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf to readers with this headline: “Obama’s Tea Party Cousin Who’s Running for Senate Compared President to Hitler,” also noting Wolf has the backing of the prominent Senate Conservatives Fund in his GOP primary challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts. The Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, who has bemoaned “wacky, unvetted candidates who emulate the faction of the GOP voters dislike the most,” reacted by saying it’s a good thing that “Roberts is likable and solidly conservative.” She concluded: “Kansas Republicans have a clear choice. Republicans around the country better hope they get it right, or they’ll be spending a lot of time running from Wolf.”

Open thread (Feb. 23)

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More bad polling results for Brownback

thumbsdownOnly 33 percent of Kansans approve of Gov. Sam Brownback’s job performance and 51 percent disapprove, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. What’s more, only 46 percent of Republicans approve of the job Brownback is doing. In comparison, 34 percent of Kansans approve of President Obama’s job performance (though 60 percent disapprove). Brownback’s high disapproval rating is likely why he slightly trails House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, in a head-to-head matchup. Davis leads 42 percent to Brownback’s 40 percent, even though 59 percent of the people surveyed weren’t sure what they thought of Davis.

Roberts didn’t poll well, either

robertspat2Negative campaign ads by his GOP challenger and news reports on his residency status may be hurting Sen. Pat Roberts’ approval ratings. Only 29 percent of Kansans approve of Roberts’ job performance while 38 percent disapprove, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. Also, 47 percent said that Roberts was focused on being a Washington, D.C., insider, while only 26 percent said he was focused on representing Kansas.

Snowden an ‘ordinary traitor,’ Pompeo said

snowden,edwardRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is not among those, including some in his own party, who consider National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden (in photo) to be a patriot. “He is just an ordinary traitor” who did “extraordinary damage” to our soldiers and sailors, Pompeo told The Eagle editorial board. Pompeo, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said that there are adequate safeguards in the NSA programs and that he has seen nothing that made him worry about Americans’ privacy. What was so damaging about the Snowden leak was that most of the information was about tactics, Pompeo said – and now the Russians know all of it.

Welcome to Wichita, Monsignor Kemme

kemmeCongratulations to Monsignor Carl Kemme on being named the next bishop of Wichita. Kemme, who is currently vicar general for the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., will be ordained in Wichita May 1. Kemme said he did not seek the position and thought there were many other priests who were more qualified. His humility and pastor’s heart likely were reasons why Pope Francis chose him.

Open thread (Feb. 22)

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Pro-con: Did Kansas need religious liberty bill?

Iowa Gay Marriage RallyWill the state force a florist, a caterer, a photographer or a baker – to name only a handful – to provide goods and services to anyone, contrary to their own consciences and religious beliefs? Kansas legislators attempted to answer that question in the negative, and they were right to do so. Some ill-informed commentators have compared what’s happening in Kansas to the old Jim Crow laws that marred the South for much of the 20th century before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They forget that Jim Crow forced businesses to discriminate and segregate by race. The Kansas bill, by contrast, would do nothing more than free private citizens from legal consequences if they choose not to do business associated with same-sex marriage. Compulsion versus choice: See the difference? Kansas lawmakers fought a valiant but doomed effort to preserve a shred of liberty rightly understood – liberty of conscience, liberty of contract, liberty of property, liberty of association. The courts and the culture have shifted. We have very few of those old liberties left. But, oh, goodness, do we have coercion galore. – Ben Boychuk, City Journal

Most Kansans hate Fred Phelps, the notorious anti-gay preacher. But if a “religious freedom” bill passes the Legislature in any form similar to the one that won approval in the Kansas House, well, Kansas will be tied more tightly to the Phelps legacy than ever before. You don’t have to shout “God hates fags” at the top of your lungs to put Phelps’ philosophy into action. And the only reason the bill exists is hysteria. Yes, in Colorado, a gay couple sued a cake maker who refused his services for their wedding. But unlike Colorado, Kansas has no legal protections for gays and lesbians. They have no legal standing to sue anybody for any reason connected to their sexuality. So a bill protecting Christians from gay lawsuits accomplishes almost nothing except to whip up emotions on all sides of the issue. Except this: It sends a signal, loud and clear, to Kansans and the rest of the world, that there is one group – and one group only – that the state gives explicit permission to discriminate against: gay and lesbian Kansans. That’s a breathtaking achievement. And it is wrong. – Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Magazine

Legislature’s priorities messed up on health care

doctoroutHere is how out of whack the Legislature’s priorities are: A bill that would commit Kansas to join a state health care compact, separate and apart from the federal government, cleared a House committee this week without debate. This even though the bill is a complete dead end, as it would require federal approval. Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, can’t even get a hearing on a bill to allow a federal expansion of Medicaid. This even though expansion would inject an estimated $3 billion into the state’s economy and create 4,000 jobs over the next seven years while providing thousands of Kansans with needed insurance.

Kansas providing fodder for late-night comics

kansasgreetingsIt is no surprise that late-night comics are having a field day with recent bills in the Legislature. But it is still painful. Kansas was featured twice in a segment on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” called “The States: Meth Labs of Democracy.” Stewart led off by mocking the spanking bill proposed by Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, which he described as allowing parents to “hit their kids harder.” He later piled on the House-passed bill that would allow people, including government employees, to deny services to same-sex couples, or as Stewart called it, the “no-cake-for-gays bill.”