Monthly Archives: April 2014

Kansas near bottom in new business development

smallbusinessThe 2013 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity ranks Kansas 45th among the states and Washington, D.C., in new business development. Kansans created new businesses each month at a rate of 180 per 100,000 adults, according to the report. Montana had the highest entrepreneurial activity rate, with 610 new businesses per 100,000 adults. The U.S. average was 280. All the states immediately surrounding Kansas had higher entrepreneurial rates.

Open thread (April 30)

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Did X-ray scandal sink Wolf’s chances?

Wolf,MiltonWhile observing that most campaign gaffes and errors don’t matter, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics saw an exception in Kansas’ GOP primary for U.S. Senate, where tea partier Milton Wolf is challenging three-term Sen. Pat Roberts. The incumbent “played right into Wolf’s hands when he admitted that he didn’t have a home in Kansas. This set off alarm bells with observers because residency issues likely played a big role in Sen. Richard Lugar’s (R-IN) primary loss in 2012,” the website wrote. “But then Wolf’s problems overshadowed Roberts: The insurgent, a physician, had posted morbid photos of X-rays on Facebook and made snarky remarks about them. Ultimately, the latter matters more: Wolf’s only chance to win was to run a flawless race against Roberts, and the X-ray disaster zaps any problems Roberts might have.” Still, Wolf showed unexpected strength with his first-quarter fundraising: more than $318,000, all but $5,050 of it from individual donors. Roberts raised more than $534,000 during the same period, including nearly $260,000 from political action committees (he had $2 million on hand).

Colvin students met high expectations

colvinchallengeCongratulations to Brianna Falvey’s fourth-graders at Colvin Elementary School for completing their homework for 100 consecutive days. Falvey promised her students that if they met the goal, she would dye her hair orange and wear a prom dress to school – which she did Monday. Someone also is donating $10 to the school for every day all the students did their homework, and the class plans to use part of the money on a trip to All Star Adventures. But the biggest reward is the pride of accomplishment and the lessons the students learned about persistence, teamwork and personal responsibility. Nearly 98 percent of Colvin students are from low-income families. Falvey and the students proved that if you set high expectations, students can rise to meet them.

Reactions to Cliven Bundy raise questions

bundy,clivenWe should think very hard about the implications of the various – and quickly shifting – reactions to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy (in photo), columnist Davis Merritt wrote. “At the most basic level, we need to ask: If expressing racist sentiments is not acceptable, how can stealing a million dollars from American taxpayers be acceptable? At a broader level, we need to ask: If we condemn racist expression because it implies the possibility of racist action, how can we condone blatant lawbreaking, which implies the possibility of anarchy?”

Open thread (April 29)

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Will Brownback lose some support from senior citizens?

votingbooth2A recent Rasmussen Reports poll had Gov. Sam Brownback leading his presumed Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, by 47 to 40 percent. What’s most interesting is the demographic divide of those polled. Brownback leads among men, while Davis is ahead among women. Davis has a 20-percentage point lead in the 18- to 39-year-old age bracket, while Brownback is up by 9 points among 40- to 64-year-olds and by 17 points among those 65 and older. Older citizens are more likely to vote than younger ones, which benefits Brownback. But will Brownback lose some of his support from senior citizens now that he has signed a bill that could give the state control of Medicare?

Nuss will speak out when court’s authority is undermined

nussSome state lawmakers don’t like Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss criticizing a bill, which Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law, linking operational funding for the courts to reforms aimed at weakening the Supreme Court’s authority. “He needs to keep his comments and political actions within the walls of the judiciary,” Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, told the Kansas City Star. But Nuss is justified in challenging the reforms, particularly when they appear to violate the Kansas Constitution, which gives the Supreme Court “general administrative authority over all courts in this state.” Nuss said: “When I see that authority and the respect for this constitutional institution eroded or being undermined, yes, I speak out.”

Open thread (April 28)

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Huelskamp’s claim about uninsured Kansans is ‘phony’

huelskamp,timRep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, told a Salina audience this month that “there are more people uninsured today in Kansas than there were before the president’s health care plan went into effect.” But on Friday the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog called that claim “bogus,” giving it the maximum four Pinocchios. After Huelskamp’s staff failed to provide backup data, the blog found that “there are no useful numbers on the number of uninsured since the enrollment period started in October of 2013.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported that 29,309 Kansans had signed up for health care on the federal exchanges as of March 1. Saying “few plans were canceled in Kansas despite initial reports that thousands of plans might be terminated,” the Fact Checker concluded that Huelskamp can be as critical “of the law as he wants, but he’s not entitled to conjure phony facts out of thin air.”

Is Sebelius hanging around to get federal pension?

sebeliuswhiteWhy is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius staying on the job for weeks or even months until her replacement is confirmed? The conservative Daily Caller pointed to a possible financial motive: This week Sebelius “becomes eligible to receive a government pension and continue certain taxpayer-funded health care benefits when she hits her five-year employment mark with the federal government, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) policy indicates.” According to the Daily Caller’s math, “Sebelius, under the Federal Employee Retirement System, could receive an estimated $10,000 pension from the government each year.” That’s not much, but Kansas governors, insurance commissioners and state legislators are eligible for benefits from the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, and Sebelius has held all three of those jobs.

Open thread (April 27)

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Compact wouldn’t ‘return’ Medicare control to Kansas

doctorswashinghands1Proponents of the multistate health care compact have touted how “it would allow the state of Kansas to once again be back in control,” as Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, put it. “This is a states’ rights issue of returning health care back to the states,” said Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, as Gov. Sam Brownback signed the bill last week. That “back-in-control” talk is misleading at best. States have never had a role in providing services and benefits via Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program covering people 65 and older and certain people with disabilities and permanent kidney failure. The Kansas Insurance Commissioner’s Office has a regulatory role relating to Medicare supplemental plans and private companies that have contracted with the federal government to provide Medicare. But the control and authority rest with the federal government. So if the health care compact wins congressional approval, Kansas will be assuming responsibility for Kansans’ Medicare not “again” but for the first time.

So they said

brownbackofficialmug“Thanks for what you do. Take care.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), waving to protesting schoolteachers as he got out of a car in Hays on Wednesday

“Hopefully this is going to put this litigation to bed.” – House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, at the Monday signing ceremony for the school-finance bill

“I’m trying to cover all 105 counties. I don’t know whether I’ll make it or not. When you’re 90, you don’t order room service.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, quoted by the Washington Post cracking up an Olathe crowd on Monday on the first leg of his tour of the state

“I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.” – Dole again, speaking in Ottawa

“4th Time’s the Charm. Dole 2016.” – a sign spotted Tuesday during Dole’s visit to the Dole Institute in Lawrence

Open thread (April 26)

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Fuss over first lady’s speech made Kansas look bad again

Obama 2008The upset Topeka parents had a point about problems to be caused by having first lady Michelle Obama speak at a combined high school graduation ceremony on May 17, including the limited seating for graduates’ families. At the very least, Topeka district officials didn’t think through the invitation before extending it. And the revised plan for Obama to speak a day earlier at a “senior recognition day” ceremony seems like an improvement. Too bad the whole incident ended up making Kansas look bad – again, after rough national headlines this year about anti-gay, anti-teacher and pro-spanking legislation at the Statehouse and the recent shootings at Jewish facilities in Overland Park. In any case, Topeka and Kansas should prepare to give the first lady a warm welcome as she celebrates the graduates and marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision that desegregated the nation’s schools.

Aid to poor decreasing while poverty increasing

CLAIRE CRAWFORD“Currently we are spending 41 percent less on TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) than we were in 2008. In the meantime, poverty, particularly childhood poverty, has gone up. How you rationalize those two numbers is beyond me,” Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said at a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing this week. Here’s how they reconcile the figures: At the same time needs of families have increased, the Brownback administration has tightened eligibility requirements for welfare, food stamps and child care assistance. Last year, Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland contrasted these policies with Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “I was hungry, and you cut my food stamps. I was sick, and you refused to expand Medicaid.”

Open thread (April 25)

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‘Sebelius for Senate’ idea inspires caption contest

sebeliushandsupA Roll Call blog asked readers to vote for the best caption to accompany a cartoon depicting former Kansas governor and soon-to-be-former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tapping at a keyboard in front of a “Sebelius for Senate” website labeled as under construction. The choices: “Let me try this again.” “I’m going to need an extension on that campaign deadline.” “Comes with the territory. I wouldn’t exchange a thing.” “Yes! Definitely! Emoji symbols are planned for the finished product.” “Would you vote for me? I can help fix Obamacare!” The winning caption will be revealed Sunday.

Congratulations to top-ranked East High

easthighThanks to U.S. News and World Report’s latest rankings of U.S. public high schools, Wichita East High School now stands out as not only the biggest high school in Kansas but also the best. That is a great new point of pride for USD 259 as well as for East and its 130 full-time teachers and 2,300 students. The evaluation took into account test scores and academic rigor, including that of East’s International Baccalaureate program and Advanced Placement courses, as well as schools’ effectiveness in educating at-risk students. At East, 67 percent of students are minorities and 68 percent are economically disadvantaged. Congratulations to East and its fellow silver-medal winner, second-ranked Liberal High School, as well as to the 30 Kansas public high schools accorded bronze medals, including Andover Central, Belle Plaine, Goddard, Haven, Hesston, Hutchinson and Sedgwick. There was no cause for celebration in the state-by-state rankings, unfortunately: Only the Dakotas, Louisiana and Mississippi ranked below Kansas in how many of its high schools earned gold or silver medals.

Open thread (April 24)

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Arizona governor again vetoes gun bills

gun3On the same day that Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill nullifying local gun ordinances in Kansas, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed guns in public buildings and events lacking security guards and metal detectors. Brewer has vetoed two other similar bills, saying in 2012 that such a decision on whether to allow or prohibit guns in “sensitive” government locations “should be cooperatively reached and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including citizens, law enforcement officials and local government leaders.” She also vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would allow local government officials involved in regulating firearms to be fined and removed from office. (And also unlike Brownback, Brewer vetoed a bill in 2011 to set up a health care compact with other states. Brewer was concerned about the structure of the compact and that it would “result in additional fiscal challenges for our health care system.”)

Lawmakers focused on what’s best for students, Merrick says

merrick_ray“With the education bill officially signed into law, Kansas children will now reap the benefits of more money in the classroom, broader local control, expanded opportunities for those from low-income families, and millions in property-tax relief,” House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, wrote in a commentary on Wednesday’s Opinion page. Though lawmakers have been strongly criticized for eliminating state due-process protections for public school teachers, he argued that lawmakers were focused on Kansas students. “Too often in debating school finance and policy, the conversation somehow gets twisted into what’s best for the institutions, teachers and administrators,” he wrote.

Open thread (April 23)

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Suddenly due-process change is about local control?

teacherstenureThere was little discussion about local control when state lawmakers debated revoking due-process rights for public school teachers. But after criticism of the provision began mounting, local control suddenly became a key GOP talking point. If revoking a right that has existed since the 1950s was about local control, what locals asked for that control? The Kansas Association of School Boards didn’t propose the law change. There wasn’t even a hearing to ask locals what they thought of the change. About the only group to endorse the change was Americans for Prosperity. The local-control claim also rings hollow given that lawmakers ignored the pleas of local governments this session and banned local weapons regulations, and they regularly meddle in school curriculum issues.