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Dec. 7, 20136:00 a.m.
The Guardian newspaper got hold of internal documents showing that the American Legislative Exchange Council is trying to regain some of the support it lost after it was linked to state gun and voter-ID laws. ALEC is a corporate-backed group that is most known for drafting “model legislation” that lawmakers can introduce, often word for word, in state legislatures. “The network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding,” the Guardian reported. “In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income.”
Dec. 6, 20131:03 p.m.
Gov. Sam Brownback was among the many U.S. and world leaders to react to the death Thursday of former South African President Nelson Mandela (in photo), 95. “Nelson Mandela was a great man who stood up for his principles and human rights,” Brownback said in a statement. “He was an inspiration to many, including myself.” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that Mandela “embodied unsurpassed courage and commitment to equality.” President Obama ordered flags to half-staff until Monday. His presidential proclamation said that “the United States has lost a close friend, South Africa has lost an incomparable liberator, and the world has lost an inspiration for freedom, justice and human dignity.”
Dec. 6, 20136:00 a.m.
GOP: HealthCare.gov Too Fast Now
Iran’s Supreme Leader Hopes Nuke Deal Distracts Attention From Obamacare
Hubble Telescope Sends Back Annoying Stream of Selfies
New England Patriots Now Using Drones to Take Out Offensive Threats
Dec. 5, 201312:17 p.m.
Sedgwick County commissioners’ welcome vote Wednesday to give Episcopal Social Services’ Breakthrough Club $137,500 from their contingency fund moved the club out of immediate danger, as it removed any doubt about the county’s appreciation for all the club does for its members and the community. The meeting also highlighted how unique and effective Breakthrough Club is as a resource for those with serious and persistent mental illnesses. Now the hope is that the grant – half the amount that the club has received from the county since it lost access to Medicaid funding in 2010 – can be leveraged to find sustainable funding. Given the budget pressures the county has seen and expects going forward, its Comcare community mental health agency will continue to feel the need to keep resources focused on clinical mental health treatment, especially for those in crisis.
Dec. 5, 20136:00 a.m.
Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, described Kansas’ Sam Brownback as a “phenomenal” governor and counted him among the seven current or former state CEOs he sees as serious contenders for the Republican nomination in 2016. His list for the Daily Caller also included New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. They “could raise the money and have governed well enough to be able to straight-faced say, ‘I’m running for president and you should consider me as a Reagan Republican,’” Norquist said.
Dec. 4, 201312:23 p.m.
Not only are the state tax cuts not acting like “a shot of adrenaline to the heart” of the Kansas economy, as Gov. Sam Brownback promised, it will be difficult to tell what effect the changes will make, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. We’ll never know “for sure whether Kansas specifically experienced significant gains as a result of this policy,” Justin Ross, an assistant professor at Indiana University, said at a recent conference at the University of Kansas. That’s because there are numerous factors that affect the economy, and the impact of the tax changes can’t be isolated. However, it is clear that the tax cuts are causing a large drop in state revenue – estimated to total about $3.8 billion over six years.
Dec. 4, 20136:00 a.m.
Kansas is one of only five states – along with Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho and Mississippi – that don’t put any corporate subsidy recipient data on the Internet, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Obtaining this information requires filing open-records requests and paying fees, sometimes hundreds of dollars. Randy Brown, executive director of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government and a former editorial page editor at The Eagle, said that putting the information online would save time in processing open-records request and build trust with the public. “I don’t understand what government officials are afraid of in not putting this stuff out there,” Brown said.
Dec. 3, 201312:01 p.m.
When the Wichita City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to proceed with a design and planning study of Century II, a formal $30,000 to $50,000 consideration of the performing arts’ needs and potential was included. That was appropriate – and a relief after the initial push for a study mostly focused on facility improvements that could bolster Wichita as a convention market. In addressing the council, Music Theatre of Wichita producing artistic director Wayne Bryan noted that quality-of-life issues are an important part of planning Wichita’s future. He also confirmed that Century II’s arts tenants draw more than locals; for example, Music Theatre’s 75,000 attendees over a summer include about 15,000 from out of town and even season ticket holders from Colorado, Arkansas and Oklahoma. “Maybe some of them have private planes. I don’t know, but they show up every two weeks in the summer to come see the shows,” Bryan said.
Dec. 3, 20136:00 a.m.
President Obama’s signing last week of the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which was championed by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is even more noteworthy because so few bills have become law this year. Fewer than 60 public laws were enacted in the first 11 months of this year, the Washington Post reported. That makes the first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. By far. No wonder Congress’ approval rating – 9 percent according to a Gallup poll – is at a record low.
Dec. 2, 201312:12 p.m.
Being more like Texas, as Gov. Sam Brownback wants, could mean much higher property taxes and fewer services, Emporia State University professor Michael A. Smith warns. Major Texas cities have among the highest property-tax rates in the nation. And even with all its oil and gas revenue, Texas ranks 40th in per-pupil education funding and leads the nation in the percentage of people without health insurance.
Dec. 2, 201312:11 p.m.
A frustrating number of area drivers failed to switch on their headlights in Monday morning’s fog. Maybe they could see without difficulty, or so they assumed, but they made it challenging for other drivers to see and avoid them. Using headlights in fog isn’t just common sense. It’s also in state law, which calls for lighted head and other lamps whenever, “due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, including smoke or fog, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead.” Since 2006, Kansans also have been required to use headlights “when windshield wipers are in continuous use as a result of rain, sleet or snow” – another law too often ignored.
Dec. 2, 20136:01 a.m.
Pope Francis is not only calling on Catholics to focus less on social issues and more on caring for the poor, he is critical of economic policies that hold the poor down. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” the pope wrote in a new treatise. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson noted how these views are in sharp contrast with those of some U.S. politicians who “are determined to keep the poor from receiving health care, food assistance, housing subsidies and a host of other benefits” and who consider income inequality a virtue.
Dec. 2, 20136:00 a.m.
There is still room for improvement in USD 259’s graduation rate of 76.5 percent, which lags the state average of 86 percent. But the district is moving in the right direction, having brought up the rate from 63.1 percent four years ago. With the help of special programs that engage and support students, the Wichita district has been able to help more Hispanic males (up 30 percent) and African-American males (up 24 percent) reach the finish line since 2009 during a time when state per-pupil funding has been cut. Well done.
Dec. 1, 20136:02 a.m.
The farm bill has become a poster child of congressional dysfunction. The previous bill expired two months ago, yet the House and Senate still can’t agree on a new bill. The biggest hang-up is food stamps. The Senate approved a $4 billion cut over 10 years, while the House approved a $20 billion cut. Meanwhile, some House GOP lawmakers are holding out for a $39 billion cut. Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole helped pass previous farm bills with broad bipartisan support. What is his advice to today’s lawmakers, particularly House members? In a commentary he co-wrote earlier this fall, Dole was blunt as usual: “This is no time to play politics with hunger.”
Dec. 1, 20136:01 a.m.
Pondering who’s up and down in politics these days, the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske noted that the old conventional wisdom was that Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo) would “breeze to a second four years. The new CW: He still will, but with a hitch in his gait against the Paul Davis-Jill Docking Democratic ticket. Put Brownback’s odds at maybe 3-to-1. The issue remains Brownback’s anemic poll numbers. We’re going to have a race, folks.” As for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Kraske wrote: “He’s making all the right moves with tea party challenger Milton Wolf now staring him in the face for the August 2014 primary. Roberts remains a prohibitive favorite. Still, it’s breathtaking to see the extent to which the challenge has re-energized the three-term senator.”
Dec. 1, 20136:00 a.m.
“Legislating is a very intensive process. Emotions run high, and it can be confrontational. That’s why one of the first things I did when I became Senate president was get rid of the space underneath the door to my office, so people can’t hear what is going on outside. We sealed it, because we didn’t want those conversations to be heard.” – Senate President Susan Wagle (in photo), R-Wichita, in a Pittsburg speech
“I can’t use KPERS to gas up our buses.” – Paul Dorathy, superintendent of Baldwin City schools, on how the governor’s efforts to better fund the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System don’t help pay district bills
“Looks like Wichita special interests won’t be happy until they control all #ksleg in #joco. It’s time to stand up.” – Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, tweeting about a report that Craig Gabel’s Wichita-based Kansas for Liberty group may try to recall Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, and Rep. Diana Dierks, R-Salina, over their education voting records
Nov. 30, 20136:00 a.m.
Is concealed-carry welcome at Kansas polling places? Well, it depends. According to an opinion issued Wednesday by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whatever the rule in a building the rest of the year will prevail on Election Day, except in the unlikely event that a county rents an entire private building as a polling place. “The use of real property as a polling place does not transform the nature of that property for the purposes of the (Personal and Family Protection Act),” he wrote. But in answering Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s question that way, Schmidt likely has sowed confusion for voters and local election officials. It would be better if Kansas did as Texas and Florida have done, and specifically barred guns at polling places.