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Recent Kansas editorials

January 16, 2018

The Kansas City Star, Jan. 16

Come on, Kansas lawmakers. Putting your names on bills and amendments should be easy

Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Clayton wants her colleagues to start putting their names on bills sponsored by committee.

“You need to know whose interest is behind legislation,” she says.

Let’s be clear: Kansas must immediately end the practice of introducing measures by committee instead of attaching the name of a specific member of the body. In 2016, more than nine out of 10 bills passed had no named sponsor.

We’d go even further: Kansas must stop the use of anonymous committee amendments to bills under debate on the floor.

This should be a threshold issue for every Kansan. If any lawmaker tells you he or she can’t function without anonymous bills, he or she is endorsing secret government. Period.

Clayton’s approach may be too complicated. She wants to change state law to require the names of sponsors rather than just changing House and Senate rules.

The Overland Park Republican said revising the Legislature’s rules might create a “Pandora’s box” effect, with members rushing to change other rules they don’t like.

But Kansans would see who caused the chaos and how. And lawmakers should have enough self-control to limit themselves to a simple fix requiring names.

Clayton also wants committee legislation to carry the name of the “requester,” not just the sponsor. A requester could be a state department, a lobbyist or “Joe Schmo” as she puts it.

“I’ve seen some really messed-up bills come through here as anonymous committee bills,” she said.

Requiring requester names would be enormously helpful: Imagine a bill sponsored by a senator “at the request of the Tobacco Lobby of America.”

It has little chance of passing.

This can be simple. The Kansas Legislature, by rule, should require an individual sponsor for every bill and every amendment. It should abolish the artificial deadline for submitting individual bills and allow members to make proposals until the end of the session.

Legislative leaders say they must protect a process called “gut and go,” where language in an innocuous bill is removed and replaced with unrelated items. The procedure allows members to consider measures without a new committee hearing or other procedural steps.

We think that’s wrong. But even if Kansas lawmakers keep the practice, they can remove a sponsor’s name from a “gut” and replace it with a specific name for a “go.” It’s just that easy.

Convincing the leadership on this issue has turned out to be difficult. House Speaker Ron Ryckman recently warned us of “unintended consequences” if the rules are changed.

By unintended consequences, he means members would be held accountable for their actions. That seems like a worthy goal.

John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence in a bold hand. No one could mistake his views on the document or his role in creating it.

And no one suggested attributing the Declaration to an anonymous committee. The Hancock spirit needs to drift through the Kansas statehouse, and soon.

Well, yes. That seems pretty fundamental.

Lawrence Journal-World, Jan. 14

KU right to seek restoration of cuts

University of Kansas officials should not be surprised that Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget for 2018 did not restore funding cuts implemented at the end of the 2016 legislative session.

Disappointed? Yes. But surprised? Absolutely not, given Brownback’s disregard for higher education in general and KU specifically.

At the end of the 2016 legislative session, the governor ordered nearly $100 million in cuts above and beyond those included in the budget bill. The new cuts hit funding for Medicaid and higher education especially hard.

The cuts amounted to a 4 percent reduction for most colleges and universities, but in a deal with legislators, Brownback singled out KU and Kansas State to shoulder larger cuts than the state’s other Regents universities.

For KU’s Lawrence campus, the additional cuts equated to $7 million. The KU Medical Center took a $3.7 million cut, bringing the total cut for the KU system to $10.7 million. Kansas State endured a $5.2 million cut. The cuts were about 5.1 percent lower than the funding lawmakers initially approved in adopting the 2016 budget.

KU and the Board of Regents have made it a legislative priority to have the funding restored, but Brownback’s budget proposal, unveiled last week, included $600 million over five years for K-12 education but no restoration of funding for higher education.

Reggie Robinson, KU’s vice chancellor for public affairs, said the loss of funding has a real impact.

“In recent years, cuts to our state appropriation have affected all aspects of our mission — including our ability to educate students, serve Kansas communities, and make discoveries that change lives and grow the economy,” Robinson said.

Perhaps most importantly, the cuts have forced KU to continue to increase tuition. Since the cuts, KU raised tuition 5 percent for the 2016-17 year and 2.5 percent for 2017-18. Such tuition hikes weigh heavily on Kansas families at a time when postsecondary education is almost a requirement for success.

Last summer, the Kansas Department of Education reported that within the next couple of years, 71 percent of the state’s jobs will require postsecondary education. But only 46 percent of the state’s high school graduates were enrolled in postsecondary programs two years after graduating high school. KU is a critical component in helping the state close that gap.

KU has endured $46 million in state funding cuts since 2008, Robinson said. It is reasonable for the university to seek restoration of the 2016 cuts and such an investment — in KU as well as the state’s other colleges and universities — would benefit the state as a whole.

If Brownback can’t see that, perhaps there are lawmakers who can.

GateHouse Kansas, Jan. 16

Kobach won’t ease up with selfish quest

Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s antics grow more ridiculous by the day.

His tireless quest to prove rampant voter fraud that doesn’t exist now involves a former Garden City Community College student.

As a 19-year-old at GCCC, Bailey McCaughey voted in the 2016 presidential election in Finney County without knowing her mother in Colorado already had submitted her mail-in ballot.

Voting for the first time in a presidential election should be a highlight for every American. But it became a nightmare for McCaughey, now accused of criminal acts.

She’s among the latest targets of a self-serving Republican who’s desperate to uncover and prosecute anything — including a scant few honest mistakes among voters in Kansas — to power his crusade.

Unfortunately, a Statehouse dominated by ultra-conservatives in 2015 gave Kobach the ability to prosecute voter fraud, even though local prosecutors can handle those rare situations.

The real fraud, meanwhile, is Kobach’s claim of illegal immigrants flooding to the polls.

Kobach and fellow ultraconservatives used the lie to push forward impractical restrictions that hindered many prospective, legal voters.

Low voter turnout often favors candidates on the far right. Ultraconservative policymakers out to gain an edge enacted changes, such as an onerous proof-of-citizenship requirement, that sidelined thousands of would-be voters in Kansas.

The assault on voter rights brought a string of legitimate courtroom challenges. President Trump recently disbanded his useless voter fraud commission, with Kobach as vice chairman, amid multiple lawsuits after Kobach asked for personal information on every U.S. voter.

Undeterred, Kobach — a candidate for governor — sought more attention by filing criminal charges in Kansas against McCaughey and Que Fulmer of Syracuse, a property owner in Hamilton County and Colorado who apparently also double voted due to his misunderstanding.

The goal should be stepped-up education: more information for people who move from state to state or own property in multiple states, for example.

We also need to make the voting process easier, not harder.

But that wouldn’t serve Kobach’s end game. Rather, he’s out to do what it takes to rig election results in his favor — one of many reasons he’s the most unfit of all candidates running for governor of Kansas.

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