- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 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 Topeka Capital-Journal, Feb. 14

Secretary of state should have taken our advice to stop embarrassing our state

A few weeks ago, we issued a simple appeal to the leaders of our state: Stop embarrassing us.

From pointless, dangerous campus carry legislation to a fiscal crisis that has been moldering for years, Kansans are tired of people referring to our state as an example of what not to do. While some of the rhetoric coming from our more moderate Legislature has given us cause for optimism, Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s recent daylong stint on cable news channels was a reminder that national humiliation is always close at hand for Kansans.

On Sunday, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller was on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to defend President Donald Trump’s insistence that massive voter fraud has taken place in the U.S.

Miller made the mistake of citing Kobach as an authority on the issue: “And many, many highly qualified people, like Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, have looked deeply into this issue and have confirmed it to be true and have put together evidence.”

When Kobach appeared on CNN to discuss the “evidence” of voter fraud in New Hampshire, all he did was mention the fact that 6,000 voters had registered with out-of-state driver’s licenses (3,000 of whom came from Massachusetts). While he acknowledged that some of these votes were “legit,” he argued that others were illegal: “But many of those will be out-of-state residents who voted in the state.” Notice how he didn’t say “might” - he said “will.” When CNN’s Kate Bolduan pressed him for evidence, he was unable to produce any.

Then the topic changed to Kansas. After mentioning that he has had the authority to prosecute voter fraud for a year and a half, Kobach noted that this has only led to nine cases and six guilty pleas. Bolduan pointed out how underwhelming those numbers are: “Nine cases does not rampant widespread voter fraud make.” Kobach contended that “there will be more coming up” (yet again, he didn’t bother to present any evidence). He also failed to mention his recent string of defeats in federal and district court over Kansas’ voter ID requirements.

It isn’t surprising that Trump administration officials would look for support from Kobach on their unsubstantiated claims about fraudulent voting - he’s one of the most fervent supporters of the president’s most extreme positions on the issue. For example, on Nov. 27, Trump said he would have received far more votes than Hillary Clinton if it wasn’t for ubiquitous voter fraud: “In addition to winning the electoral college in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

While other Trump supporters were backing away from this declaration, Kobach enthusiastically commended it: “I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton at this point.” Kobach pointed to a 2014 study conducted by Old Dominion University political scientists Jesse Richman and David Earnest to support this statement, but left out the fact that their study has been widely discredited (insofar as it proves substantial voting fraud).

It’s always depressing to see another torrent of bad press for Kansas, but it’s never surprising.

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