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.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Supreme Court Calls Lying by Politicians an Expression of Their Religion

Boehner: ‘I Don’t Want to Live in a World Where 8 Million People Get Affordable Health Care’

John Kerry Poses as Masseuse to Get Few Minutes With Putin

Supreme Court Defends Wealthy’s Right to Own Government

Study Links Meat, Sugar Consumption to Early Death Among Those Who Choose to Be Happy in Life

Rick Perry Hopes Combination of Wearing Glasses and Not Talking Will Make Him Seem Smarter

Zuckerberg Vows Facebook Will Shoot Down Google Drones

New App Matches You With Others in Vicinity Who Wasted $2.99 on Same App

Brownback ahead in new poll

thumbsupGov. Sam Brownback is leading his presumed Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, by 47 to 40 percent, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll. Surveys by two other polling groups had Davis alightly ahead in the potential fall matchup. Davis led by 42 to 37 percent among independent voters in the Rasmussen poll.

Open thread (April 22)

earthday

Stop delaying decision on Keystone pipeline

keystoneprotestThe U.S. State Department said it is delaying a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline because of a Nebraska court case about the pipeline route. But many others, including some Democratic lawmakers, see it as another stall tactic aimed at putting off the controversial decision until after the November elections. “I am frankly appalled at the continued foot-dragging by this administration on the Keystone project,” complained Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Many environmentalists oppose the pipeline, but 65 percent of Americans think it should be approved, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll.

More evidence of how far Sebelius’ star has fallen

CORRECTION State of StateThe gossip about a run for the U.S. Senate by exiting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius prompted Rasmussen Reports to do a poll last week on her prospects. It found that 55 percent of likely voters in the state have an unfavorable view of their former two-term governor, and that she would lose to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., by 17 percentage points. That’s quite a comedown for someone who has never lost an election and was once on the short list for vice president. Of those polled, 55 percent said they had a favorable view of Roberts, despite questions about his residency and the tea party challenge from Milton Wolf.

Open thread (April 21)

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States fighting ACA lag in reducing uninsured rates

Doctor Speaking with PatientStates that created their own insurance exchanges and allowed an expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act were three times more successful in reducing their percentages of uninsured citizens than states such as Kansas that did neither, according to a new Gallup survey. “The uninsured rate, on average, declined 2.5 percentage points in the 21 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have implemented both of these measures, compared with a 0.8-point drop across the 29 states that have taken only one or neither of these actions,” Gallup reported. An estimated 75,000-plus Kansans would qualify for health insurance if Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature allowed the Medicaid expansion.

GOP hatred of Obamacare may pay off at polls

healthunclesamA recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that only Republicans support repealing the Affordable Care Act; a majority of Democrats and independents (and 59 percent of those surveyed overall) favor keeping the law in place and improving it. Also, only Republicans want the debate about the ACA to continue, while everyone else wants the country to focus more on other issues. But don’t expect the debate (and certainly not the campaign ads) to stop anytime soon. That’s because Republicans are passionate in their hatred of the ACA, according to a Pew Research Center poll, and thus are more likely than Democrats and independents to vote in the midterm elections.

Open thread (April 20)

eastereggs

In Olathe and elsewhere, more taxing authority won’t offset cuts

schoolmoneyKansas City Star columnist Steve Rose praised the school-finance bill because “Johnson County schools finally got more local control,” predicting the Shawnee Mission, Olathe and Blue Valley districts will take advantage of how the legislation enables them to raise local property taxes. But the Star also reported that extra local taxing authority won’t offset years of cuts. Shawnee Mission gains $3.3 million from the bill but had to cut its spending by $28 million from 2009 to 2012. Blue Valley, where cuts have totaled $11 million, could see $3 million more because of the bill, while Olathe’s $6 million gain compares with $25 million in recent cuts. Olathe superintendent Marlin Berry told the Star the greater taxing authority is “a very small step” toward what’s needed for classrooms and staff.

Help mentally ill by expanding Medicaid

mentalhealthGov. Sam Brownback’s mental health task force made some good recommendations last week on improving the state’s mental health system, such as having the state offer financial support to preschool and early childhood behavioral health care programs and doing a better job integrating services. But the most cost-effective improvement the state could make is allowing the federal expansion of Medicaid. The expansion, which would be fully paid for by the federal government for the first three years and nearly fully funded after that, would enable thousands of Kansans to receive mental health treatment in their communities.

So they said

huelskamp,tim“Part of the problem with Washington is it’s April, and Washington somehow thinks the election is, like, next week.” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp (in photo), R-Fowler, in the Hill, complaining about GOP leaders’ foot-dragging on their alternative to the Affordable Care Act

“Today it was reported that: Kathleen Sebelius wants to return to Kansas and run for our U.S. Senate seat…. We need your financial support to resist Obama’s attempt to send his former Cabinet member back to Kansas to run for the U.S. Senate and ensure he understands that her liberal message is not welcome in our state!” – Kansas Republican Party e-mail pitch Wednesday asking for $5 or $10 contributions

“This is not your father’s Kathleen Sebelius, the competent governor who stressed her moderation, pragmatism and Kansas connections.” – Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg, discounting her rumored run for U.S. Senate before Sebelius ruled it out

Open thread (April 19)

thread-comm

Kansas Democrats ‘just don’t win federal statewide races’

gopvoteIn pondering the gossip about a possible Kathleen Sebelius run for U.S. Senate, the FiveThirtyEight website noted the state’s “ruby-red” voting record: “The last time a Democrat was elected to the Senate from Kansas was 1932. That’s not only the longest drought for the party, it’s by far the longest winless streak. (The next longest drought for Democrats is in Wyoming, where they haven’t won a Senate seat since 1970.) Democrats have lost 29 consecutive Senate races in Kansas, and they just don’t win federal statewide races. Since 1940, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964, was the only Democratic presidential nominee to win in the Sunflower State.”

Public prefers small-ball politics to big ideas

donkeyelephantfight“Americans say they want politicians to tackle the big issues and get things done… Yet almost every time elected officials have tried bold problem-solving in the past 20 years, it has produced a backlash against them,” wrote columnist Ramesh Ponnuru. “The more ambitious the attempt, the worse the political repercussions have been.” He concluded that activists with far-reaching agendas should pull the reins on their ambitions and “people considering running for office should know that politics, for the foreseeable future, is probably not going to be much fun.”

Open thread (April 18)

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Brownback should veto bill giving state control of Medicare

praeger“To include Medicare into an attempt to make political statements about the Affordable Care Act, I think, is wrong,”  said Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger (in photo). It is wrong. Yet House Bill 2553 would give the state control of all federal health care programs, subject to congressional approval, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Brownback needs to veto the bill, which is being promoted by an out-of-state group, and not jeopardize the health care of senior citizens. Praeger also cautioned that there could be political consequences if Brownback signs the bill: “I would be very nervous if I were running in a statewide campaign about making that bloc of seniors upset.”

On social media policy, regents should listen to faculty

mortarboardSurely the Kansas Board of Regents didn’t expect a work group of university professors and other personnel to endorse its sweeping, punitive policy to make faculty’s use of social media a potential firing offense if it is “contrary to the best interests of the university.” The work group, which was asked in January to make recommendations about the controversial new policy, came back with a response that affirmed academic freedom and safeguarded free speech. Eighty distinguished professors from regents universities endorsed the group’s advisory revision and inclusive, scholarly process. Yet at a Wednesday committee meeting, some regents’ initial reaction to the work group’s version was unduly hostile – and also tone-deaf to the national uproar the board’s overreaching policy had created. “Someplace this train got off the tracks,” regent Tim Emert said of the group’s work. “If any professor gave an assignment and the student came back with something completely different, the grade would not be very good.” Are the regents so intent on ensuring that universities can discipline and dump professors for tweets and Facebook posts that they are now willing to dismiss the concerns and work of dozens of university faculty members and the criticism of the American Association of University Professors, as well as chill academic speech and inquiry? Adding language saying the board “strongly supports principles of academic freedom,” as the regents have proposed, doesn’t help if the rest of the policy says otherwise.

Open thread (April 17)

thread4

Brownback: Get off the fence on due-process rights

bbackwinWhy won’t Gov. Sam Brownback say whether he supports eliminating due-process rights for public school teachers? He’s been riding the fence since the Legislature passed a school-finance bill that strips teachers of these rights. If he supports that, he should say so. If he doesn’t, he should also say so – and then take action, by either vetoing the bill or demanding that legislators repeal the provision when they return to Topeka on April 30.