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Author Archives: Rhonda Holman
April 24, 20146:00 a.m.
On 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.”)
April 21, 20141:31 p.m.
The 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.
April 20, 20146:02 a.m.
Kansas 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.
April 20, 20146:00 a.m.
“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
April 19, 20146:00 a.m.
In 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.”
April 17, 201412:07 p.m.
Surely 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.
April 16, 201412:14 p.m.
There was a time when Kathleen Sebelius might have successfully challenged Kansas Republicans’ ownership of both U.S. Senate seats, which dates from 1939. That was early in her second term as governor in 2007-08, when her approval ratings averaged 66 percent (compared with the average 52 percent during the same period of Sen. Pat Roberts and 48 percent of then-Sen. Sam Brownback). But the new talk of a run by Sebelius against Roberts is far-fetched. “One person who spoke directly to Ms. Sebelius said that she was thinking about it, but added that it was too soon to say how seriously she was taking the idea,” the New York Times reported. Now, thanks to her just-ended service in President Obama’s Cabinet and responsibility for the Affordable Care Act as secretary of health and human services, Sebelius is as unpopular in Kansas as in the rest of the nation. A Public Policy Polling survey of Kansans in February found that Roberts would beat Sebelius 52 to 38 percent. It even found that Sebelius would lose by 7 percentage points to Roberts’ tea party challenger, Milton Wolf. To get into the race, she also would have to elbow aside Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, the declared Democrat.
April 15, 201411:53 a.m.
Some late-night comedy shows have gleefully noted Kathleen Sebelius’ exit from President Obama’s Cabinet. “After handling the bumpy rollout of the Obamacare site, Kathleen Sebelius announced today that she is resigning. Which explains why being thrown under a bus is now covered by Obamacare,” said Jimmy Fallon. “It’s no secret that the Obamacare website had some problems, but I think you could tell all those glitches and mistakes are behind Sebelius,” he said, introducing the clip of Sebelius realizing her prepared remarks were missing a page. “How do you botch your farewell speech?” Fallon concluded. And “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” included this, delivered by Cecily Strong: “It was announced Thursday that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the troubled launch of the Affordable Care Act, is resigning from office. Sebelius says she’s stepping down because she has so many more things she wants to barely accomplish.”
April 15, 20146:01 a.m.
Former state budget director Duane Goossen recently noted one little-discussed consequence of Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012-13 tax cuts: “When Kansans file their federal income-tax returns, they can deduct the amount they pay in state income taxes from their federal taxable income. So if a person’s state income-tax bill goes down by $1,000, their federal taxable income goes up by $1,000 because they lose the deduction,” he wrote on his blog for the Kansas Health Institute, where he is vice president for fiscal and health policy. He also wrote: “At a time when many Kansas lawmakers have been reluctant to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid eligibility, Kansas tax policy allows state dollars to flow the other way.”
April 14, 20146:01 a.m.
There was an awkward moment in the minutes after the Kansas House vote to approve the school-funding bill, observed by the dozens of teachers in the gallery who’d just lost their due-process rights: Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, made an upbeat pitch to his colleagues that there was now a jeweler in the House (Rep. Steve Anthimides, R-Wichita) and they should check out the options for legislative bling. Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss observed: “After stripping teachers of their tenure, legislators had a brief discussion about jewelry…. Remove tenure and buy a ring. Makes all kinds of sense, doesn’t it?”
April 14, 20146:00 a.m.
Gratitude and best wishes are due Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker upon her resignation to become an adviser to the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the United Arab Emirates. In her five years in the state’s top job in K-12 public education, DeBacker demonstrated a keen understanding of the complexities of education policy and policymaking as well as an enthusiasm for taking Kansas to the challenging next level on academic standards and student achievement.
April 13, 20146:01 a.m.
For Kansans who felt some guilt by association during the worst of the passage and rollout of the Affordable Care Act, there is some relief in seeing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius step down. The former Kansas governor was a smart choice for the key Cabinet post in 2009 because of her experience and her passion for health care policymaking and commitment to covering the uninsured. And Sebelius exits with ACA enrollment at 7.5 million – more than the target. But what an ordeal, including that appalling initial flop of the HealthCare.gov website. Any benefit for Kansas from her status was lost to partisanship, as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback wanted nothing to do with the ACA. Sebelius’ resume is now tarnished and her political career is surely over. Perhaps she will write a book about her experience at the center of the biggest political storm of the Obama presidency. It’s hard to believe now that Sebelius, as governor, had approval ratings in Kansas as high as 70 percent back in 2007.
April 13, 20146:00 a.m.
“What difference does it make?” – U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (in photo), R-Fowler, calling the House-passed budget blueprint crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a “ceremonial bill” (though Huelskamp voted for it)
“Brownback, see me after class!” – among the messages on signs carried by schoolteachers at the Capitol last weekend
“They took out a dozen of us. It was very personal and extremely dishonest. That’s the kind of thing that went on, and now it’s coming back to roost.” – former state Sen. Dick Kelsey, in a Politico Pro story about the 2012 purge of centrist GOP senators
“Yeah, it happens all the time.” – Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to a Florida radio host’s suggestion that “widows are voting for their dead husbands”