- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, Salina Journal

They didn’t go away:

When Sam Brownback returned to Kansas to take over as governor and launch his next presidential bid, he and his allies probably weren’t worried about those moderate Republicans they kicked out of the Legislature.

After using the proven economic strategy of deep tax cuts to give the state’s economy a shot of adrenaline, happy days and national acclaim would be sure to follow. As for the moderates, other than slinking off in humiliation, what options did they have? Join up with the Democrats?

Ha. Ha. Ha.

This past week, a number of those high-profile, Bob Dole-type Republicans - or as Salina GOP Rep. J.R. Claeys likes to call them, nursing home residents - announced they were backing Democrat Rep. Paul Davis for governor.

Among those who signed on for Davis, the presumed Democratic nominee, were some from Salina, including former Sen. Pete Brungardt, former Reps. Charlie Roth and Jayne Aylward, former and current Salina School Board members Carol Brandert, Nedra Elbl, Gary Denning, Larry Michel, Pat Grimwood and Mary Ann Trickle; former mayors Kristin Gunn and John Vanier, and city Commissioner Randall Hardy.

Kansas Republican Party Chair Kelly Arnold responded in part with this statement:

“The Kansas Republican Party is disappointed these former elected officials, many of whom were thrown out by the Kansas voters, have decided to endorse the Obama agenda.”

Classy. Can’t win on the issues? Blame Obama.

This split in the Kansas GOP shouldn’t be news to anyone. At least in Saline County, it started decades ago when the God-and-guns wing of the party tried to take over at the precinct level.

The only surprise is that the moderates’ anger has reached the point that they’ve done the formerly unthinkable, join with Democrats to try and oust a sitting Republican governor.

If Brownback hadn’t been so ruthless in his takeover of the state party, so nakedly ambitious in his political aspirations, then maybe this could have been avoided. But he wasn’t subtle or accommodating, and now he faces a formidable opponent bolstered by group of Republicans largely of his own making.

What goes around …

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Lawrence Journal-World, July 21

Gun grandstanding:

A state law that exempts firearms manufactured in Kansas from all federal regulations has drawn a lot of attention recently - from both supporters and critics.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has filed a lawsuit about the 2013 law that declares the federal government has no authority to regulate guns, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas. The Brady Center said the law is an unconstitutional attempt to nullify federal gun laws.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign used the lawsuit as a springboard to send out a fundraising email saying the Brady Center was suing the governor “for protecting the Second Amendment rights of Kansans.”

Regardless of which side of this debate you’re on, the “Second Amendment Protection Act” certainly raises some interesting issues.

The statute makes it a felony for any federal employee to enforce federal gun regulations on Kansas only-weapons. It also says no state or local officials can attempt to enforce any federal gun regulations on Kansas-only weapons.

The Brady Center lawsuit already guarantees that this state law is headed to federal court. What will happen if the state tries to charge a federal official with a felony for trying to enforce a federal law?

The law declares that Kansas-only guns are exempt from any federal regulations. So what, if any, regulations will those firearms be subject to? Will Kansas manufacturers now be allowed to make guns without serial numbers, making it difficult to trace any gun involved in a crime? Can they legally make guns that can elude mental detectors or other security devices? Can such guns be sold without the background checks required by federal law?

Eliminating federal regulations without setting any state regulations on Kansas-only guns poses a significant safety issue for Kansas residents. However, setting and enforcing a set of Kansas-only regulations likely would represent a new expense for state taxpayers.

It’s pretty obvious that the Second Amendment Protection Act was intended more as a political protest than as a practical benefit for Kansans. Only time will tell how many tax dollars the state will spend to defend a law that has little chance of standing up to constitutional scrutiny.

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The Topeka Capital-Journal, July 21

Kansas should join hemp parade:

Republican Jennifer Winn, the owner of a Wichita-area property management company, is running a very low-budget campaign for her party’s gubernatorial nomination.

No one - except perhaps Winn - expects her to wrest the party’s nomination from incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback. And few people expect the Legislature will legalize marijuana for medical purposes, one of the issues Winn is championing, anytime soon. But all that doesn’t mean Winn has no good ideas. She does, among them her promotion of industrial hemp production.

Before we go any further, we’ll note that while industrial hemp and marijuana both come from cannabis plants, hemp comes from a strain grown primarily for the fiber in its stalk. The potent marijuana people in this country and across the world are smoking these days is the product of a different strain of cannabis grown for the THC, which produces the desired high, in its leaves. Hemp grown for industrial purposes contains less than 1 percent THC, whereas marijuana can contain from 5 percent to 20 percent THC.

No self-respecting marijuana aficionado would smoke the leaves of an industrial hemp plant with all the strains of the good stuff available to them.

That’s probably why many states and Congress are pushing back on the prohibition of hemp production that’s been in place since the early part of the last century.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, many states - including Nebraska, Indiana, Utah and Montana - have passed statutes authorizing industrial hemp production. The farm bill passed earlier this year by Congress also authorized universities to grow hemp for research projects. And Canada grows hemp and looks to the United States as a market for its exports.

It appears reasonable people finally can agree to differentiate between a plant engineered to grow marijuana and one bred to grow hemp. There’s no reason Kansas and its farmers shouldn’t be allowed to examine the possibilities for hemp production and decide whether it would be a profitable crop here.

It makes little sense to continue importing a product if it can be grown profitably by our own farmers.

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The Wichita Eagle, July 18

Prairie chicken plan misguided:

Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for the state to raise and release lesser prairie chickens didn’t help his argument that Kansas should be trusted to protect the threatened species. It’s hard to be taken seriously when scientists are laughing.

The plan, which Brownback announced last week, was quickly dismissed and mocked by biologists. And for good reason.

In addition to being costly to raise lesser prairie chickens in captivity, very few of them survive when released into the wild.

“There are numerous studies all over the country, with different research techniques, that all come to that same conclusion: It just doesn’t work,” said Randy Rodgers, a retired biologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Brownback is correct to be concerned about the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision earlier this year to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. Though the agency invoked a special exception in the Endangered Species Act to allow Kansas to proceed with an already planned five-state conservation plan, many agriculture and energy experts still worry that the listing could bring costly restrictions on land use that could harm the Kansas economy.

That worry is understandable, given the regulatory uncertainty. However, mitigators who help landowners and oil companies work around the regulations also may be exaggerating some of the concern to generate business. Conservationists contend that there are so many exemptions that the threatened-species listing is mostly meaningless.

“It’s almost impossible to conceive how someone could violate the rule other than by deliberately going out and shooting a chicken,” said Jason Rylander, a staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, one of three environmental groups that are suing for more aggressive protections of the birds.

Brownback is also correct that federal agencies are working against one another. One reason for the drop in lesser prairie chickens is a loss of habitat. And one reason for that is reductions in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to place environmentally sensitive acreage out of production. A better approach to protecting threatened species is through programs such as CRP, Brownback has argued, not more regulations.

Brownback also correctly notes that the other big reason for the population decline is the drought - which is beyond anyone’s control. “When the drought ends, the population will rebound,” he said.

In fact, estimates of the bird’s population increased 20 percent this year, thanks to increased rain that improved habitat.

Brownback is on target with many of his comments and concerns about the threatened-species listing and potential federal intervention. But his plan to raise and release prairie chickens is for the birds.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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