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Author Archives: Rhonda Holman
July 2, 201411:20 a.m.
A National Journal article headlined “Can a Democrat Win in Kansas?” reported the polling showing Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is vulnerable to the challenge by House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, amid the state’s deepening revenue problems. It concluded with an interesting flashback: “A Cook Political Report race ranking by Charlie Cook on the 1996 Kansas Senate contest – when Brownback first ran for Senate against Democrat Jill Docking, Davis’ running mate this year – reads like a preview of this year’s gubernatorial race. The summary comes complete with moderate grievances against Brownback for his conservative record…. The race was considered a toss-up to the end, when Brownback ultimately defeated Docking by 10 percentage points.”
July 1, 201411:24 a.m.
Gov. Sam Brownback welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, saying it “affirmed the right of religious freedom, one of the bedrock principles enshrined in our Constitution,” and “again rebuked a needless overreach of President Obama’s administration.” In its response to the ruling, Kansans for Life gratefully linked the opinion’s author, Justice Samuel Alito, to Brownback: “Alito’s appointment to the court would not have occurred had not our governor, then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, led the resistance to President Bush’s 2005 nomination of Harriet Miers to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.” Of course, Brownback has done plenty for the anti-abortion cause as governor, too, after having said in his 2011 State of the State address: “I call on the Legislature to bring to my desk legislation that protects the unborn, establishing a culture of life in Kansas.” As of early this year, Kansas had paid private law firms more than $1 million to defend anti-abortion laws enacted under Brownback.
June 30, 20146:01 a.m.
Kansas 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.”
June 29, 20146:01 a.m.
In 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.”
June 29, 20146:00 a.m.
“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
June 28, 20146:00 a.m.
The 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.”
June 24, 201411:44 a.m.
“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.”
June 24, 20146:00 a.m.
Here’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.
June 23, 20146:01 a.m.
Kansas 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.
June 22, 20146:01 a.m.
“Absence Does Not Make the KS-04 Heart Grow Fonder,” reported SurveyUSA in releasing its poll showing two-term Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, with 51 percent support compared with 34 percent for eight-term former Rep. Todd Tiahrt for the Aug. 5 GOP primary. In the poll, sponsored by KSN News, Channel 3 in Wichita, 43 percent of likely primary voters said jobs and the economy were the biggest factors in their vote; 26 percent said Obamacare while 14 percent said immigration.
June 22, 20146:00 a.m.
As legislative leaders declined Thursday to do anything to stop plans to allow permit holders to concealed-carry at the Capitol as of July 1, it was noted that lawmakers already have that right. Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, estimated to the Topeka Capital-Journal that as many as 50 of 165 legislators had carried a concealed handgun into the Capitol during the past session. Meanwhile, Kansas had 80,810 active concealed-carry license holders as of last month, out of the nearly 2 million Kansans old enough (at least 21) to apply for a permit. Is it really possible that while 4 percent of Kansas adults are concealed-carry permit holders, 30 percent of state legislators are?