Monthly Archives: June 2014

Roberts, Kobach doing better than Brownback

robertsmugkobachThough Gov. Sam Brownback is trailing his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, in a new poll, two other incumbents are faring better. Sen. Pat Roberts (left), R-Kan., is leading Milton Wolf in the GOP primary by 56 to 23 percent, according to a SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KSN, Channel 3. He also leads his potential Democratic opponent, Chad Taylor, 43 to 33 percent. (Of note: Taylor leads Wolf in a hypothetical general election matchup 36 to 33 percent.) Secretary of State Kris Kobach (right) leads GOP challenger Scott Morgan 61 to 29 percent, and he is ahead of Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf 47 to 41 percent. In Wichita, Schodorf leads Kobach 51 to 40 percent.

Open thread (June 30)

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Key lawmakers lack college degrees

mortarboardKansas is consistent with the nation in that 1 in 4 of its state legislators lacks a college degree, noted Kansas City Star columnist Steve Rose. Among the non-degreed chairmen of legislative committees, Rose wrote, are Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance Chairman Rob Olson, R-Olathe. House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg, and House Minority Whip Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, don’t hold college degrees either. Nor does Kansas Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan. “One can be plenty smart without a college degree,” Rose wrote, but “with the inevitable budget cuts coming down the road, as our deficits explode from massive tax cuts, legislators will once again be looking to higher education to cut. That’s when I hope that our legislative leaders without four-year degrees will not deprioritize higher education, which is one of the state’s most important economic development tools.”

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Dick Cheney: ‘My Thoughts and Prayers Are With the Iraqi Oil Wells’

Boehner Calls Obama’s Practice of Accomplishing Things Unconstitutional

Elite Congressman Trained to Kill Legislation in 24 Different Ways

Study Finds Americans Lead World in Ability to Justify Unnecessary Purchases

Magical Office Worker Able to Turn Everything He Touches Into More Work for Colleagues

New Report Suggests It’s Kind of Weird Baseball Uniforms Have Belts

NFL Thankful Northwestern’s Activist Players Will Never Make It to League

Open thread (June 29)

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Estes has full confidence Kansas will pay bills

estes,ronIn a Q&A with Bloomberg.com, Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes said he has “complete confidence that Kansas is going to pay its bills” despite last month’s downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service, and described himself as “cautiously optimistic” that the income tax cuts will work. “The plan originally was designed so that over a three- to four-year period we’d see an increase in economic activity…. We’ve got to make sure that we maintain our fiscal responsibility and don’t spend too much until we get to see how it plays out over the next year or two,” he said. Estes, former Sedgwick County treasurer, also said the state “bit the bullet” and will enable the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to “get back to 100 percent funding” over the next two decades, including through increased individual and government contribution levels. Also, Estes said, “the tea party has been very good for the country.”

So they said

sebeliuswhite“Not a chance.” – former Obama Cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius (in photo), asked Friday whether she’d run for office again in Kansas

“I congratulate Thad Cochran on winning the Democratic primary in Mississippi.” – Milton Wolf, tea party challenger to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., tweeting after the Mississippi senator narrowly escaped a tea party challenge

“Attn. pundits: Unlike MS, in KS voters are registered by party and legislature took steps to minimize Democrat voting in GOP primary.” – Roberts campaign manager Leroy Towns, tweeting about the same election

“I don’t think we should acquiesce to bad laws.” – Lawrence City Commissioner Terry Riordan, on the city’s refusal to repeal its concealed knife ordinance even though a new state law prohibits local bans

“Sen. Wagle is probably as honest as anybody about this.” – Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, on Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, saying a goal of the tax cuts was to force budget cuts

Open thread (June 28)

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Wagle candid about one point of tax cuts

waglenew1The stated purpose of Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts was to kick start the economy. But if conservatives’ goal is to shrink government to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub, as Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist has famously put it, what better way than to starve it of revenue? Credit Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, with some candor in framing the state’s looming budget problems as a plus. “The government has less money to spend. But that’s what the people want. They want more money in their pockets,” she said after state leaders approved borrowing $675 million over the next year. Asked later whether the tax cuts were meant to force spending cuts, she told the Kansas Health Institute News Service: “I can tell you that’s how I view it as a conservative Republican, yes. I think you do have to put restraints on government and on taxation and operate in the same manner as all the private businesses out there.”

Erect safeguards against mass surveillance

eavesdrop“One year ago this month, Americans learned that their government was engaged in secret dragnet surveillance, which contradicted years of assurances to the contrary from senior government officials and intelligence leaders,” Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Rand Paul wrote. “On this anniversary, it is more important than ever to let Congress and the administration know that Americans will reject half-measures that could still allow the government to collect millions of Americans’ records without any individual suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing. It is time to end the dragnet – and to affirm that we can keep our nation secure without trampling on and abandoning Americans’ constitutional rights.”

Open thread (June 27)

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Brownback polling poorly in Wichita, among women

brownbackofficialmugOne of the most striking findings in a new poll on the Kansas gubernatorial race is how poorly Gov. Sam Brownback is doing in Wichita. Statewide, Brownback trails his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, by 6 points, 41 to 47 percent, in a SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KSN, Channel 3. But in Wichita, Brownback is behind by a whopping 15 points, 36 to 51 percent. What’s even more stunning, Brownback trails his GOP primary opponent, Jennifer Winn, among Wichitans by 3 points, 45 to 48 percent. Statewide, Brownback leads Winn 55 to 37 percent, which still isn’t that great, considering how few people have even heard of Winn. Also of note in the survey is the sizable gender gap. Statewide, Brownback narrowly leads Davis 44 to 43 percent among men. But among women surveyed, Brownback trails Davis 37 to 51 percent. Brownback also is far behind Davis among moderates (23 to 69 percent) and independents (27 to 46 percent), two groups that sometimes swing close elections.

Smaller drop in revenue expected, but still a concern

jordannickState Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said this week that he expects June tax collections to be $10 million to $20 million less than projections. That’s certainly better than April and May, when collections were $310 million less than estimates. Still, because of the April and May drop, the state was already forecast to have only about $50 million in its cash reserves by the end of next fiscal year. A drop in this month’s collections will leave an even slimmer margin for error.

Open thread (June 26)

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Little faith in Obama, political parties, Congress

thumbsdownOnly 41 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of President Obama, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. Public opinion of the Democratic Party is slightly worse, 38 percent positive, while only 29 percent have a positive opinion of the Republican Party and 22 percent of the tea party. Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll found that only 7 percent of Americans have confidence in Congress, a record low.

Wagle made good picks to education commission

school-fundingGood for Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, for appointing Ken Thiessen, principal of Wichita’s East High School, to the new K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission. Thiessen has worked for the Wichita school district since 1981 and will bring a wealth of practical experience to the commission, which will be studying ways to use state dollars to maximize student outcomes. Wagle also appointed Sam Williams, former chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce – another good choice. Wagle’s picks are in sharp contrast to those of her counterpart in the Kansas House, Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, who appointed two lobbyists who are critics of public education and have pushed for private alternatives.

Open thread (June 25)

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Kansas earns ‘F’ on protecting new parents

newbornPresident Obama called this week for paid maternity leave, saying the United States should join the rest of the industrialized world. Meanwhile, a new study gave Kansas an “F” grade on its policies (or lack thereof) to protect new parents. Kansas is among 17 states that don’t expand upon federal rights or protections, limited as they are, for new and expecting parents, according to a study by the National Partnership for Women and Families. Internationally, America ranks dead last among 38 nations for its government support for working parents, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center report. Family values?

Politics at all levels has room for improvement

debate“Change second terms of presidents and governors to two-year miniterms,” and “require candidates for federal office, governor and mayor to take part in at least three debates no matter the strength of the opponent,” suggested Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske. In his more perfect political world, presidential caucuses and primaries wouldn’t begin until April or May, independent commissions of retired judges would redraw districts, and donors to independent campaign ads would have to reveal themselves. And that three-debate mandate? “The rule would apply to primaries, too,” Kraske wrote. “Voters deserve it, and that would avoid the silly dance that Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is now performing as he seeks to skip a showdown with Milton Wolf.”

Open thread (June 24)

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Don’t let gang walk go away permanently

gangwalkHere’s hoping Safe Streets’ Wichita Walk Against Gang Violence will be back soon. Such grassroots efforts to deter crime and gangs and to build awareness and community are important. So it was discouraging to see the Rev. Dave Fulton, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and founder of Safe Streets, suggest that “Wichita has very little interest in nonprofit groups doing crime prevention.” Given the funding pressure that Sedgwick County’s Comcare is under, it wasn’t surprising that Safe Streets’ latest grant request was unsuccessful. Perhaps combining the event with the Black Arts Festival is a viable short-term strategy. Good for Fulton, City Council member Lavonta Williams and others who are trying to ensure the event’s absence is temporary.

Public wants action on climate change

coalplant3More than 6 in 10 Americans think action is needed to combat climate change, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. What’s more, 57 percent support requiring companies to reduce greenhouse gases, even if it would mean higher utility bills for consumers. Also, 67 percent support a recent Environmental Protection Agency proposal to set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants, which was not affected by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday limiting some of EPA’s authority.

Open thread (June 23)

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Kobach likens moonlighting time to golf

kobach2Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is nationally known for his crusading legal work fighting illegal immigration. The question is how much time he spends on such moonlighting, which is why GOP challenger Scott Morgan demanded last week that Kobach release his income tax records. “You can’t have two professional jobs any more than you can have two spouses,” Morgan, a Lawrence attorney and businessman, told the Associated Press. Kobach said his private legal work this year has averaged 4.9 hours a week. “Playing golf as slow as I do, that’s one round of golf,” he said. But Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf tweeted: “Sec Kobach says that he has worked over 100 hours on his agenda in 2014. That’s nearly 3 weeks of full time work.” Outside the job description of his $86,000-a-year job as secretary of state, of course, Kobach also has been in the middle of contentious Kansas lawmaking on guns, Obamacare and the lesser prairie chicken.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Pressure on Obama to Quickly Resolve Centuries-Old Sunni-Shiite Conflict

McCain Calls for Emergency Blame Game on Iraq

Resigning House Leader Cantor Reflects on All the Accomplishments He Thwarted

Boehner Announces Ambitious Plan to Avoid Eye Contact With Cantor

Nancy Pelosi Rushes Into Living Room to Hear Grandson’s First Talking Point