- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Wichita Eagle, Feb. 20

Know who shouldn’t write bills in the Kansas Legislature? Small-minded fanatics

Now that the disturbing origin of several anti-gay, anti-porn bills introduced in the Kansas Legislature has been exposed, it’s time to demand common-sense practices from elected officials:

Do your research.

Know who’s trying to influence you and why.

And don’t be a puppet for widely discredited, small-minded fanatics.

Recent reports have shown that Rep. Randy Garber, a Sabetha Republican, appears to be acting as a legislative mouthpiece for anti-gay extremist Chris Sevier, introducing several bills copied from Sevier’s model legislation.

Sevier, a 40-something zealot who has tried to marry his laptop and has sued Apple Inc. for a porn addiction that he said ruined his marriage, has been rebuffed in at least a dozen states. On Thursday, officials in the Missouri Capitol deemed him a “security concern” after several representatives reported uncomfortable meetings with him.

But unfortunately - embarrassingly - he found a friend in Topeka.

Garber, who met with Sevier in December, is chief sponsor of a series of bills filed in the Kansas House last week, including one that would declare same-sex marriages “parody marriages,” and another that would mandate an anti-porn filter on all new phones and computers sold in the state.

The bills have other co-sponsors as well, including Wichita-area lawmakers Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Mulvane Republican, and Rep. Steve Huebert, a Valley Center Republican.

Garber said the “one guy” who lobbied him on the anti-gay bills “came to me and I said, ‘Yeah, sounds like a good bill to me. I’ll definitely introduce it,’” Garber told The Wichita Eagle.

The Kansas lawmaker said he was unaware of Sevier’s dubious history, including the fact that he can no longer practice law in Tennessee after the court declared him “incapacitated … by reason of mental infirmity or illness.”

But no matter, Garber said: “I try not to judge people on what’s happened in their past.”

In previous years, Garber’s series of anti-gay proposals could have been introduced without a named sponsor. Thankfully, Kansas lawmakers recently agreed to end the longstanding practice of anonymous bills, which kept the public from knowing who is behind a proposal.

But that obviously hasn’t stopped questionable bills from happening.

It’s bad enough that the bigoted, ridiculous bills were added to the Legislature’s agenda at a time when lawmakers have serious issues to resolve, such as school funding, child welfare, taxes and Medicaid. We hope lawmakers roundly reject them and move on.

It’s more troubling that some elected officials, so focused on their quest to discount same-sex marriage or LGBTQ rights, seem fine acting as a mouthpiece for shady characters.

Legislators should be careful where they get their information - and their inspiration.


The Lawrence Journal-World, Feb. 24

Why not make voting easier?

It’s disappointing that Republicans have killed a bill that would allow voter registration on election day in Kansas.

On Thursday, the House Elections Committee voted 7-5 to reject the bill. The vote was mostly along party lines, with committee Democrats voting for and Republicans against except for one: GOP Rep. J.C. Moore of Clearwater.

Under current law, Kansans must register to vote three weeks prior to an election to be eligible to vote in that election.

Advocates of same-day voter registration argue that such laws encourage participation and boost turnout. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already allow same-day voter registration. Washington state has approved same-day voter registration and will implement it later this year. And North Carolina allows for same-day registration during early voting.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew told Kansas Public Radio that same-day registration would help registration and turnout locally.

“It’s huge for us, as we’re a very transitory population,” Shew said. “It’s not just the university. My population’s constantly moving out and about.”

But opponents argue that same-day registration would increase the risk of voter fraud and increase costs for counties.

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab does not support same-day voter registration. Schwab has argued that current election laws are adequate and that any problems stem from a lack of thorough training of the state and local election officials. He doesn’t see it as the secretary of state’s role to encourage voter participation.

For eight years, Schwab’s predecessor, Kris Kobach, worked to make Kansas one of the most difficult places in the United States to exercise the right to vote. He pushed through some of the nation’s strictest voter registration laws, disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansas voters and spent significant taxpayer dollars unsuccessfully defending his policies in court.

One could argue that Kobach’s draconian approach to voting laws cost Republicans the governorship in the 2018 election. It would seem some open-mindedness to policies that make voting easier and more accessible would be smart political strategy.

Then again, Schwab defeated Democrat Brian McClendon, who did advocate for same-day voter registration and other innovative approaches to making registration and voting easier and more accessible.

Policies that expand voting options and encourage participation in elections should be no-brainers in a democracy. Instead, even something as simple as same-day voter registration inspires a partisan divide.


The Kansas City Star, Feb. 25

Kansas Republicans are pushing a junk argument for junk health insurance

Insurance that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, mental illness, maternity care, prescription drugs or treatment for substance abuse is called junk insurance for a reason: You might as well just pretend you have coverage, because for anything in between routine care and cataclysm, you really do not.

Republican legislators in Kansas show no sign they’re ashamed to be pushing to allow trade association health plans that are cheaper, but don’t necessarily include all of the coverage required under the Affordable Care Act.

But they should be embarrassed by the bill requested by the Kansas Farm Bureau that passed the Republican-controlled Senate 28-11 last week. The measure, which is headed to the House now, would allow the Kansas Farm Bureau to sell coverage that not only doesn’t follow ACA rules but is not subject to any state rules under the Kansas Insurance Department, either.

Here’s their junk argument for junk insurance: Kansans “are more concerned about rising health premiums than pre-existing conditions,” said state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee who voted for the bill. “We should support lower cost of acquiring health care coverage, so people can have it before they develop what would otherwise be pre-existing conditions.”

Costs are too high, and that’s a serious problem. But shrinking the cost by simply cutting coverage is not the answer.

That only cuts the cost in the short term, anyway, because since emergency rooms cannot turn patients away, we would all pay more in the long run.

Suggesting, as Pilcher-Cook does, that everybody can get around the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions by signing up for bare-bones coverage is disingenuous. That wouldn’t work for those who have already had cancer, asthma, diabetes, autism or any number of other chronic illnesses or disabilities. In the past, insurance companies were inventive in finding ways to deny coverage.

The thinking that this lower level of coverage is fine for young, healthy people isn’t a safe bet even for them: If you are in your 20s and experiencing serious symptoms of a mental illness at the most common age of onset, for example, the Republican members of the Kansas Legislature would no doubt wish you well, but treatment would not have to be covered under several bills they’re pushing.

And the hypocrisy of allowing insurance companies to once again discriminate against women who need maternal care while also pushing for an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively ban abortion is stunning if no longer surprising.

“For some people, it will work out fine,” said Sen. Barbara Bollier, a doctor and Democrat from Mission Hills. But if you get sick, “it’s bad, and then for everyone else, when you take out healthy people from the market, all our costs go up.”

Instead of paring the list of illnesses and conditions that have to be covered, lawmakers should be expanding the number of Kansans eligible for Medicaid.

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