- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Clay Center Dispatch, May 8

Brownbackonomics:

The results of Brownbackonomics - take from the poor and give to the rich - are beginning to show:

- Tax collections last month are $40 million short of the April, 2013 figures.

- The state takeover of the federal Medicaid program, now called KanCare, has resulted in a $100 million loss and the threat of insurance companies pulling out of the program. (The legislature blocked health care access for 100,000 Kansans and now Brownback would have the State take over and manage Medicare.)

- The state continues to suffer out-migration of taxpayers, some 10,200 between 2010 and 2013.

- What little funding increase Brownback and the tea partyers promised Kansas schools has fallen $12 million short of projections.

- And as a result of all or some of that, the State’s bond rating has been downgraded, meaning Kansas taxpayers may be paying higher interest on funds the state borrows.

How many presidential campaigns have been built on a record like that?

Gov. Brownback insists, of course, that the state’s woes are not his doing, but rather are the result of “failed economic policies of the Obama administration.”

Would that be the same Obama administration that has overseen an unemployment rate that plunged from 6.7 to 6.3 percent in March alone, a 40 percent decline in deficit spending, record high stock markets and federal government employment at a 47-year-low?

Would that be the same failed Obama health care plan that signed more than eight million Americans by the deadline, including a rush of last minute filers, most of them young and healthy?

No, the fault for Kansas’ predicament lies squarely with Mr. Brownback and the toadies and bootlickers with which he has stacked the statehouse and whose numbers are so great that four of them authored the Kansas budget which then passed with no House debate.

The RINO hunters populating the legislature, along with Gov. Brownback, are so firmly in charge that they are utterly responsible for everything Gov. Brownback’s vision does in and to Kansas.

Democrats remain a minority. The RINOs are all but absent - traditional GOP elephants replaced by Brownback sycophants.

The statehouse is full of ideologues. That has changed. But most Kansans are not ideologues and that hasn’t changed.

So hopefully, now that the political fever is subsiding in the chill of the new economic reality in Kansas, Republican voters will realize we aren’t in Kansas anymore - and haven’t been for four years now - and will make some changes at the polls come this August and November.

Provided, of course, they can secure a ballot.

___

The Topeka Capital-Journal, May 8

At least they were quick about it:

Kansas legislators finished their work in 79 days this year, 11 days short of the 90 days favored by the Kansas Constitution, which does allow extended legislative sessions.

Given that this newspaper usually encourages our lawmakers to get their work done early, the short session must be recognized here as a positive achievement. The only remaining work is a formal adjournment, scheduled for May 30.

Whether Kansans think what happened during the 79 days qualifies as positive achievement probably depends on which political party they support. Most Republicans likely are pleased, which means Democrats are not. But no one should be surprised.

Legislators had two pressing duties when the session began, finalize the second year of a two-year budget adopted by the 2013 Legislature and address a pending Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the school finance issue. Lawmakers addressed the school finance issue by tweaking the funding mechanism and making additional money available, apparently to the Supreme Court’s satisfaction if not everyone’s, and worked into the wee hours of Saturday, May 3, to complete a budget.

Democrats may rail about how those two issues were handled, but they had no reason to expect anything different. Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative leaders in the Republican-dominated Legislature have staked out their policy on government spending and taxation (increases in both, or either, are not good) and are being faithful to it, even in the face of a $92 million shortfall in revenue expectations for April.

Democrats called for action (changes in tax policy), but Republicans contended reserves were sufficient to cover the shortfall. It also should be noted the shortfall came after months of higher-than-anticipated revenues.

While they weren’t wrangling with school finance or the budget, lawmakers passed some good legislation, including a bill that opens probable cause documents law enforcement officers and prosecutors use to obtain search and arrest warrants.

Other examples of the legislators’ good work includes a bill that requires health insurers to pay for behavioral therapy sessions for some children with autism and one that increases the penalties for Medicaid fraud.

Rejection of a bill that would have granted tax exemptions to privately owned fitness centers goes in legislators’ “good” column for the 2014 session. The bill would have set a dangerous precedent on tax exemptions for private-sector businesses that offer services in field where both sectors, private and government, are active.

Legislators also ultimately declined to pass a proposed “religious freedom” bill, which would have allowed Kansans to deny services to same-sex couples, after business leaders said it could have a negative impact on the private sector.

It was a case of inaction being the right action, and was almost enough to make us forgive the time legislators devoted to making two fossils the official state fossils.

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The Wichita Eagle, May 11

More voter suppression to come:

Though Secretary of State Kris Kobach likes to say that the law he pushed made it “easy to vote but hard to cheat,” Kansas actually has made it harder to register and to vote by treating constitutionally eligible voters like cheaters. At least some judges are concerned about the consequences of such legislation, in sharp contrast to Kobach and other state leaders.

The Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act required that registered voters show government-issued photo ID at the polling place as of 2012 and that those wishing to register to vote provide documentary proof of citizenship as of 2013.

The voter-ID provision seems like common sense to most people in the 21st century, but its impact is troubling. It meant that more than 500 ballots went uncounted statewide in the 2012 election - not because they were fraudulent but because the voters lacked the right ID at the polls and didn’t follow up before the results were finalized.

The proof-of-citizenship requirement risks being far more dramatic in suppressing voter participation, with missing documentation having stalled the registrations of nearly 18,000 Kansans even as the 2014 primary and general elections draw near. Yet Kobach told a Senate committee early this year that the 72 percent of Kansans (52,000 people) who tried to register to vote last year and who met the proof-of-citizenship requirement and completed their registrations was “an extraordinarily high percentage.”

So much for the other 28 percent. If Election Day comes and goes and they didn’t or couldn’t produce the birth certificate or other approved document, their lost votes apparently won’t be missed - at least by state leaders who just concluded the year’s legislative session without showing a trace of concern for the voting rights of these fellow Kansans.

One has to look beyond Kansas’ borders for hope.

It was the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that last week temporarily stayed U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren’s March ruling that the federal voter-registration form be modified right away to reflect the proof-of-citizenship requirements in Arizona as well as Kansas. Though most Kansans register using the state forms, the appellate court’s stay at least maintains the status quo for now.

It was in Pennsylvania where the governor last week declined to fight a state court’s decision that a voter-ID law was unconstitutional because “there is no legal, non-burdensome provision of a compliant photo ID to all qualified electors.”

It was in Wisconsin where a federal judge recently struck down a voter-ID law as violating both the equal-protection clause of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and in Arkansas where a judge struck down a voter-ID law as violating the state constitution (while leaving it in effect for upcoming elections). The Justice Department is pursuing cases over similar requirements in Texas and North Carolina.

“A person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud,” wrote federal Judge Lynn Adelman in the Wisconsin decision, contrasting an offender’s tough potential punishment with the minimal potential gain. He concluded that the law “will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”

It’s clear that’s already the case in Kansas, with much more voter suppression to come.

___

The Hutchinson News, May 9

All in the family:

Americans for Prosperity might need to rename itself in a way that truly reflects its identity and purpose, which increasingly appears to be a purposeful effort to mislead the people of Kansas on nearly every important issue.

Perhaps something like Amnesia For Purpose, Altering For Politics or Always False Points might fit the bill for this well-heeled and politically influential group that tirelessly aims to mislead the people of Kansas.

Last week, AFP-Kansas’ leader denied the group’s involvement in a statewide mailing that urged seniors to press lawmakers for repeal of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 - a standard most utilities already have met.

The flyer - featuring a despondent senior trying to figure out how to make ends meet - was distributed by the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance, formed in late April and founded by Virginia Crossland-Macha, sister of Kansas Chamber of Commerce board chairman Ivan Crossland. When initially asked about whether AFP assisted the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance, AFP director Jeff Glendening offered a definitive “no.”

“Jeff Glendening, AFP’s current state director, said the two organizations did not coordinate on the postcards and that the only connection was that they’re both opposed to the RPS,” The Wichita Eagle reported on May 7.

A day later, however, the Topeka attorney listed as the contact person for the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance offered a different story.

“I was engaged by Americans for Prosperity to form an LLC and that’s the extent of my involvement,” W. Robert Alderson told The Topeka Capital-Journal on Thursday.

Faced with Alderson’s revelation, Glendening’s memory became a little clearer.

“I’ve known Virginia for years and she contacted me about forming a group of some sort,” Glendening told the Capital-Journal. “On a personal level, not as AFP, I simply connected the two.”

Alderson also felt the need to clarify his earlier statement to the Capital-Journal.

“As you might suspect, Jeff Glendening called me and I made a really dumb mistake,” Alderson said. “Jeff had contacted me (about forming the LLC). He was contacting me on behalf of Virginia Crossland-Macha. … Because Jeff had called me, I just automatically assumed it was AFP. It was not.”

It might be convenient to separate Jeff Glendening the person from Jeff Glendening the AFP director who sends lawmakers emails about how to vote and submits his off-kilter thoughts for publication in the state’s newspapers - but they are inextricably one in the same and to say otherwise is disingenuous.

As the parties in question tell it, they had no connection, collusion or coordination - it just so happens that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, AFP-Kansas and this new Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance all felt so strongly about the evils of a renewable energy standard they relied on the same untruthful message. Everything else was simply coincidental.

Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, plainly and rightly called the groups’ denial what it is: bogus.

“That’s just further evidence of the kind of dark money campaigning that goes on in Kansas politics these days,” Hineman said. “Well-funded special interest groups try to hide behind sham organizations in order to try to influence the electorate.”

Kansans should automatically dismiss as untrue anything published, produced or associated with Americans for Prosperity, beginning with the organization’s name.

Because if AFP truly cared about the prosperity of Kansans, it wouldn’t be kicking and screaming about the growth of wind energy, and neither the group, nor its director, would assist a fly-by-night operation with the purpose to spread fear and worry to the state’s seniors.

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