- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Hutchinson News, Feb. 12

Kansas budget fix will require an old idea: compromise


It’s one of the ideals on which America was built. No one faction gets all it wants. Power is divided among many people, who, to accomplish anything, must find a way to work together, to set aside their egos and self interest and be happy with getting only some of what they want.

But that idea has been tarnished in recent years. Compromise, instead of serving as a guiding principle of governance, has become a dirty word - the near equivalent of failure. And in few places has that been more the case than in Kansas under the leadership of Gov. Sam Brownback.

Yet as the current legislature begins its work to address a budget that has languished under ill-conceived ideas forced through by too many like-minded lawmakers, it will be necessary for the idea of compromise again take to center stage in Topeka.

There are few good choices to shore up the state’s finances. Our typically conservative state decided to gamble on a shaky economic theory. Instead of the fiscal prudence Kansans have grown to expect, they saw a radical approach to taxation and budgeting. It has resulted in some people paying no taxes while others pay more, cuts to education and highways and other state services, and the accumulation of a dangerous amount of long-term debt.

A group of people unwilling to compromise brought us here. It will take a group of people who embrace compromise to get us someplace else.

Schools understandably don’t want to face additional cuts, but they likely will. Few want to see taxes increased, but they likely will. There is room, however, for the cuts and increases to be less if both sides are willing to accept getting less than everything they want.

The current Kansas budget has a shortfall of $320 million. The senate planned to vote on a budget bill Friday, but pressure from education activists squashed debate. The message is “no cuts to education,” yet education, of all areas, should understand what happens when there is no room for compromise. The cancellation of the senate debate shuttled an effort by freshman Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, to offer a plan to mitigate proposed education cuts from 5 to 2 percent. The senate plan also contains increases to income taxes, which is equally unpopular on the conservative side of the aisle.

Lawmakers this year have a chance to begin turning Kansas toward a more reasonable, measured and viable position for the future. But it will not make everyone happy, nor should it. Kansas has been bleeding from an open wound for some time.

It won’t heal overnight, but we can start by stopping the bleeding, first, then work on building something stronger.

That isn’t done by unreasonable demands or a refusal to accept a less-than-perfect situation. It’s done through compromise and a recognition that in order to get to some place good, we first have to get out of a place that is bad.


The Kansas City Star, Feb. 12

Editorial: University of Kansas Health System needs concealed-carry exemption

The University of Kansas Health System is nearly a city unto itself.

There is the main hospital, of course. But there are also spaces devoted to other aspects of health care, including the school of nursing and centers specializing in cancer, brain imaging, life sciences, orthopedics and advanced heart care. A chapel is on the grounds, along with doctors’ offices, a fitness center, a courtyard and the many parking garages necessary to accommodate all of the people coming and going daily.

So it should be no surprise that officials there take quite seriously the security of the many patients, visitors, doctors, nurses, students and others who traverse the complex. Commissioned police officers patrol the grounds, augmented by a staff of security guards on site.

There’s even a jail.

The response time for the system’s commissioned police averages 90 seconds, far faster than what’s expected in most neighboring cities.

Those highly trained officers need the latitude to perform their jobs without having to determine who is a threat in a tense situation where multiple people might be brandishing guns, albeit some of them well-intentioned good Samaritans.

For this, and a multitude of other reasons, the health system should be excluded from the Kansas law that will allow concealed weapons in state buildings beginning in July.

A House bill seeking the exemption is making its way through the Kansas Legislature via the Federal and State Affairs Committee. The proposal is drawing thoughtful debate.

The hospital clearly deserves the consideration. As a spokesman noted, the health system is a densely populated campus “filled with people who can’t run, who can’t hide and can’t fight.” Hence, the acute sensitivity to those patients’ safety.

The health system has increased the number of commissioned officers it employs in recent years and has enhanced many other security measures as well. Security training efforts, including drills, have also increased for all hospital staff, so everyone is prepared for emergency situations.

Considered a health care district by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., the sprawling complex of buildings has more than 100 entrances and exits.

To keep guns out of buildings, Kansas law requires additional security measures, such as an armed guard and a metal detector at every public entrance. The costs and disruption to doctors, patients and visitors would be unworkable.

If the Legislature declines to extend the exemption, Kansas risks appearing tone-deaf to the special considerations deemed essential for hospitals in other states, including Missouri. Unless the bill is passed, the health system will become the only hospital in the metropolitan area forced to allow concealed handguns. The distinction would not be a proud one.

Even Texas, recognized as a stalwart for the Second Amendment, recognizes the unique challenges of medical centers. The famed MD Anderson Cancer Center allows concealed guns only in restricted areas, generally parking garages. By Texas law, loaded guns are not allowed where patients are treated at the center nor in the surrounding complex of medical buildings.

An inescapable challenge for the KU Health System and other urban hospitals is that people who do not respect weaponry may enter as patients or visitors. The health system has instituted a web of security measures with that reality in mind.

Medical centers can be stressful places, where people may become upset by the illness of a loved one or a dire diagnosis. Doctors and other staff are trained to manage such tensions and shouldn’t be forced to worry that a firearm might escalate a situation.

Also noteworthy is the feedback the health system received from the community it serves. A survey of 500 registered voters in Wyandotte, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Atchison counties was conducted last summer by Public Opinion Strategies.

A wide majority, 72 percent of the respondents, said that hospitals should be able to prohibit concealed weapons. A majority of GOP voters polled were also in agreement, as were most men and women, no matter their age.

That’s a strong consensus of voters, drawing from areas that are most likely to be served by the medical staff.

Now, the Legislature should heed that guidance and allow the Kansas Health System to prohibit concealed guns.


The Lawrence Journal-World, Feb. 13

Editorial: Public deserves open records

A bill that would limit public knowledge of police conduct is bad policy and should be defeated.

Recent investigations involving Lawrence police officers make compelling cases for keeping records of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Training and Standards open to public inspection.

The CPOST registry in Topeka includes records on all certified law enforcement officers in Kansas. Law enforcement agencies are required to file updates any time an officer has a change in status. Only officers with active certifications in the registry can work as law enforcement officers in the state.

House Bill 2070, filed last month, would exempt CPOST records from the Kansas Open Records Act, meaning basic information on the certification status, employment history and complaints against law enforcement officers would not be subject to public inspection. A compromise on the bill was reached last week during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that would keep some records open but limit most of the information available.

Since 2014, at least four former Lawrence police officers - Kyle Owens, Nicolas Simon, William Burke and Frank McClelland - have been accused of violence against others. CPOST records have been important to the Lawrence Journal-World’s research of their cases. Three of the officers - Owens, Burke and McClelland - remain certified with CPOST.

Owens was accused of battery against a man with an outstanding warrant at a strip club in April 2016. He resigned in August, and a week later the district attorney said no charges would be filed. Owens remains certified and is working as a police officer in Kansas.

CPOST records show Simon was accused of covering a woman’s mouth and pushing her head into a wall, a misdemeanor. Simon was on duty at the time of the incident. CPOST documents indicate Simon left the department on Dec. 17, 2014, and his certification was revoked on Aug. 21, 2015.

Burke was arrested in early 2015 on suspicion of felony kidnapping, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, domestic battery and criminal threat in connection with an incident in which he is alleged to have, among other things, assaulted a female officer and locked her in a dog cage. Burke, who has sued the city, is no longer with the department but remains certified according to CPOST.

McClelland was accused of knocking a man to the ground and punching him in the face several times while on duty last August. He previously is alleged to have bashed a man’s head into a squad car. McClelland has been charged with misdemeanor battery in connection with the incident. He remains certified.

“We are an agency of 187 employees,” Police Chief Tarik Khatib said when asked about the incidents involving Lawrence officers. “Mistakes and misconduct will occur. It’s a reality of our humanity and the stress of the job.”

Of course, Khatib is right. But sealing records of such episodes runs the risk of compounding those mistakes and misconduct. CPOST records are already heavily redacted before being made available to the public. Further limits are unnecessary and House Bill 2070 should be defeated.


The Pittsburg Morning Sun, Feb. 12

On SAPA and federal overreach

In 2013 the Kansas Legislature passed the Second Amendment Protection Act, which tried to nullify on 10th Amendment grounds most of the federal restrictions on such things as suppressors (commonly called silencers - they aren’t, more on that later) short barreled rifles or shotguns and such - so-called NFA (National Firearms Act) items - so long as they were made in Kansas and stayed in Kansas.

It was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback and shortly thereafter then-Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter warning the governor this was unconstitutional. Several states did this at about the same time.

Most of us who were paying attention at the time figured this was a mostly symbolic act, knowing that NFA items are regulated by a federal tax, and - no matter how stupid the restrictions on many of these items (seriously some of the restrictions are arbitrary and DUMB. Even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recognizes this, having recently circulated a whitepaper to that effect) are - Holder was right. The courts had repeatedly held this was the proper purview of the feds.

The problem with symbolic acts such as this, is that sooner or later they’re going to bite someone in the rear.

Which it did.

Moving on to 2016, Shane Cox, of Chanute, the owner of a military surplus store, decided to make and sell silencers (suppressors, as noted above, is the correct term. Unlike the movies they do not “silence” firearms, but merely make them quieter. Think of it as the difference between an unmuffled hot rod and your family car.) and sell them in Kansas.

He sold one to Jeremy Kettler, a disabled vet.

Both were arrested, charged and convicted of federal firearms felonies. The sentencing was last week and both men got what amounted to a slap on the wrist. Both got small fines and probation. The problem is that two men acting in good faith are now felons.

There are several villains in this little tableau, starting with the Legislature who passed this idiotic legislation, Cox’s attorney who may have known Kansas law but certainly didn’t understand federal law, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt who declined to help two men caught in a law he had to know was invalid and, frankly, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas James Cross who overcharged this.

You see where they got bit was that the Justice Department was looking for a test case. They needed a case to show that the states can’t simply nullify federal law, or arrest federal agents trying to enforce it. But mere misdemeanor convictions weren’t going to get the job done.

If Cross really thought this was worth the felony charges he levied against these men, he would have pushed the judge for prison time. But the feds needed a pair of felony convictions to make the point to the states that they can’t thumb their noses at the Federal Regulatory Colossus and walk away scot-free.

So now two men are convicted felons, cannot own firearms and one has now lost his business all so that state legislators and the governor could score a few political points.

The bitter irony here is there is legislation wending its way through Congress which would remove suppressors from the NFA list, ATF appears prepared to support it and President Trump has said he would sign it.

If there is any justice in this world (and Lord knows there ain’t much) the same day Trump signs the Act removing suppressors from the NFA list he’ll sign a pardon for Cox and Kettler and order their convictions expunged.

But I’m not holding my breath.

All IMHO, of course

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