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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.
Nov. 29, 20136:01 a.m.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., thinks the Affordable Care Act is too flawed to be fixed, but he acknowledges that Republicans haven’t offered alternatives, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. “Many Republicans, including me, decry the terrible consequences of Obamacare,” Moran told the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. “But we ought not fail to recognize there are serious and significant problems for many Americans related to the access and affordability of health care.” Moran thinks a better solution would be to invest more in community health clinics that care for the poor and uninsured (which Obamacare does). “That’s a different approach than trying to change, all in one fell swoop, the health care delivery and insurance system,” he said. “In my view we ought to do incremental and commonsense kinds of changes.”
Nov. 29, 20136:00 a.m.
More than 31,000 Kansas seniors and people with disabilities have saved nearly $24 million on their prescription drugs so far this year, for an average of about $750 per beneficiary, according to data released this week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Overall, Kansas seniors have saved more than $85 million since the Affordable Care Act was enacted and closed the “doughnut hole” gap in Medicare Part D. Nationwide, the savings is $8.9 billion, according to CMS.
Nov. 28, 20136:01 a.m.
Congratulations to U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita – and to the general aviation industry – on the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which President Obama signed into law Wednesday. The new law updates and streamlines the certification process for general aviation manufacturers, which should encourage more innovation and improve safety. Pompeo worked closely on the bill with the Federal Aviation Administration, industry officials, labor union representatives and his Democratic colleagues in Congress. This hard work and collaboration are why the bill became law, and a model for how Washington should work.
Nov. 28, 20136:00 a.m.
State government needs to open up and let the public watch it work, as evidenced by two events Monday in Topeka. Gov. Sam Brownback held a closed-door meeting with select legislators and educators to talk about school finance (his spokeswoman said “the goal really in all of this was to have people feel as free as possible to have an open discussion”). And the Legislature’s joint oversight committee for home and community based services and KanCare held a Statehouse meeting without taking advantage of the room’s streaming-video capability, which could have provided an online audience statewide. One Capitol insider noted on Twitter, “Ironic that no one at home or in the community can watch a HCBS committee meeting” – and wrong, especially with the Statehouse renovation having just cost more than $300 million.
Nov. 27, 201311:57 a.m.
Woven together, new polls showing President Obama with a 39 percent approval and Congress with a 9 percent rating tell the story of Washington’s ongoing ineptitude, wrote columnist Joshua Green. “Americans are fast losing faith in the president, his party and his signature policy achievement,” Green wrote. “But while they’re open to the idea of handing power to the opposition, Republicans are busy demonstrating that they have no idea how to govern.”
Nov. 27, 20136:01 a.m.
It compounds the shock and tragedy of the mobile-home fire early Tuesday in east Wichita that two of the four fatalities were children. Of the 10 fire deaths so far in 2013 in the city, at least four have been kids. Though the cause of the latest fatal fire is under investigation, the deaths and injuries should serve to remind Wichitans to safeguard their own homes, including by ensuring smoke detectors are operable and chimneys are well-maintained. Other fires this year and last have been linked by investigators to hazards such as spliced, coiled and overloaded power cords; to gasoline vapors ignited by a space heater; and to children playing with a lighter or matches. This week’s four fatalities approach the five deaths for all of 2012 in Wichita, and should call the community to be especially cautious during this holiday period.
Nov. 27, 20136:00 a.m.
“As we enter the holiday season, a time when families and friends gather to celebrate traditions, I encourage Kansans to consider the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness,” Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement declaring Nov. 24-30 as “a week of reconciliation.” Brownback noted that reaching out to those who have hurt us or whom we have hurt can be difficult, but he said that “forgiveness is a sign of strength” and encouraged all Kansans to “build a bridge of reconciliation.”
Nov. 26, 201312:47 p.m.
It’s a long shot that Boeing would build its new 777X in Wichita. If it leaves Washington state, it’s more likely to go somewhere without strong unions. Still, as our Tuesday editorial notes, Wichita has a lot to offer, including the property Boeing is vacating, the skilled workforce and reliable supplier network, and local aerospace assets such as the National Center for Aviation Training and Wichita State University’s National Center for Aviation Research. And as Richard Aboulafia, aviation analyst with the Teal Group, told the Seattle Times, choosing a site without airplane manufacturing experience is “just really a bad idea. You are adding multiple layers of risk both in terms of workforce and infrastructure.”