- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Pittsburg Morning Sun, Feb. 6

Legislature must address cronyism

In 2017 we called for an amendment to Kansas Statutes to prevent so-called “seat swapping” in the state.

We did so after a pair of incidents in Crawford County - one in Frontenac and one in Arma - in which someone either already on a governing board, as in Frontenac, or - more egregiously - who had lost an election, as in Arma, was appointed to an open seat with two or more years to run.

We asked the local legislative delegation to spearhead this. Moreover we joined with other newspapers in Kansas to investigate this sort of cronyism and found that, disturbingly, these incidents were not isolated.



We said then this is antithetical to the sort of democratic republican form of government upon which this country was founded.

In the Arma case the will of the voters was clear - and thwarted by the mayor who decided to appoint the man who lost the seat over other qualified candidates.

We brought this to the attention of the legislature. We even provided proposed language:

“Upon resigning from a Governing Body, no former member of that Body shall be eligible to serve upon that Body, by appointment or election, until at least 12 months shall have passed.”

A hearing was even scheduled, although we weren’t made aware of it until after the fact, and when no one showed up the hearing was canceled.

Let us be clear, had we been informed, we would have been happy to attend and testify.

But the bill died without so much as debate.

In 2018 we called again upon the Legislature to make this a priority in the 2019 session. We have yet to hear that anyone in Topeka is taking this seriously.

We said in 2018 “This is cronyism at its worst. Regardless of whether or not these people were qualified - and in the Crawford County cases we stipulate that they indeed -were- qualified - the voters either were denied a chance to weigh in, or were ignored.

“That this practice is legal does not make it ethical.

“Moreover, we find it very difficult to believe that such ‘seat-swaps’ were not discussed beforehand - in direct violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.”

We said then, and say now, this is political cowardice. This should be something both sides of our sharply-divided legislature easily can agree on.

We will be in Topeka this week, and be assured, we will discuss it with legislators.

We again call on the Crawford County delegation to bring this to the floor.

We hear much from the Legislature on transparency, let them then stand for it, rather than for “good-old-boy” networking and cronyism.

_____

The Iola Register, Feb. 11

Senate Republicans buck voters’ message for a new direction

Last week, a majority of Republicans in the Kansas Senate ignored the will of their constituents by giving $190 million in tax relief for wealthy individuals and multinational corporations.

The tax break comes from Republicans’ decision not to tax the income earned on a portion of an individual’s or corporation’s investments held abroad through a new provision of the 2017 federal tax code.

If legislators do nothing, the tax, for which Gov. Laura Kelly has argued, would automatically be levied against these multinational corporations.

On the other side of the argument is Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and president of the Senate, who says tax breaks for the wealthy help grow the economy.

Gee, where have we heard that before?

After eight years of such a ruinous tax policy under Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansans need no further proof that when the wealthy receive massive tax cuts, they do not reinvest those funds into the state economy.

Not all Republicans fell in line behind Wagle.

Sen. John Skubal, Republican from Overland Park, in fact said the $190 million would help take care of the core functions of government, particularly the Department of Transportation, which has been raided by more than $2 billion since 2011 to fund the state’s general operating budget.

Sen. Mary Jo Taylor of Stafford was the other Republican to side with Democrats.

The votes of Taylor and Skubal were crucial in that they prevented Republicans from securing the necessary two-thirds margin to override the governor’s possible veto if the bill makes it to her desk.

It took a lot of Republicans to elect Gov. Kelly, who as a Democrat is in the vast minority of those who hold elective office in Topeka.

Kelly won precisely because Kansans are sick and tired of a government that rewards the wealthy while starving crucial state services and programs.

If there’s going to be a tax break ahead, Kelly has said, it will be to reduce the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax on groceries - not pad the pockets of large corporations.

House Republicans should put the people of Kansas first, and stop this bill in its tracks.

_____

The Kansas City Star, Feb. 11

Is Kansas ready to allow medical marijuana? Lawmakers should say yes this year

Kansas is set to begin an important discussion about the use of marijuana for pain relief and other medical issues.

Four House members have introduced the “Veterans First Medical Cannabis Act,” which would establish a plan for making medical marijuana available in the state. If passed, the measure would make Kansas the 34th state to authorize use of cannabis for health reasons.

The bill was also introduced in the Kansas Senate.

The efforts to make medical marijuana available in Kansas deserve support. Last November, we endorsed a medical marijuana ballot proposal in Missouri.

Kansas needs to develop its own medical cannabis program, and the new legislation is a welcome starting place for the conversation.

It isn’t clear that this particular bill is the answer, though, at least in its current form.

Among other things, the measure restricts the issuance of required medical marijuana cards to military veterans or active military personnel for the first 60 days after it becomes law.

“Because wounded warriors were put on the front line, this bill puts our veterans at the front of the line,” Kansas state Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City said Thursday.

All Kansans are deeply appreciative of the sacrifices of veterans and their families. But restricting marijuana access to veterans, even for a short time, implies pot is a gift for the state to bestow, not a medicine for everyone who needs it.

Giving veterans a tax break on marijuana might be a better way to accomplish the same objective.

Missouri’s new law will allow patients to grow a small amount of medical marijuana at home. The Kansas bill, on the other hand, would establish a complicated scheme of licensed growers and dispensaries, with a fairly expensive tax structure to boot.

The primary purpose of a medical marijuana law should not be raising new money for the state. Taxes to pay for oversight of the industry should be enough.

There are some things to like in the bill. Kansas would establish a “Cannabis Regulatory Commission,” which would keep an eye on the strength and quality of marijuana offered for sale (only Kansas-grown pot would be made available).

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the quality and efficacy of medical marijuana can vary widely. Like all medicines, someone needs to ensure that marijuana is safe and is of consistent quality.

These questions and others should be addressed by lawmakers as they study this issue. But the facts are clear: States are making this therapy available to their residents, and Kansas should do the same.

Gov. Laura Kelly has endorsed a “Kansas-style” medical marijuana law. That means lawmakers who want medical pot can likely accomplish their goal without facing a veto.

This is the year to vote on the idea. Kansans in pain are waiting for the Legislature to act.

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