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Recent Kansas Editorials

February 19, 2019

The Manhattan Mercury, Feb. 15

Anti-gay legislation is not what level-headed Kansas is about

We’d like to take up this space today to send a message to friends and family members who live out of state. And to some of the people who drop in on Kansas news occasionally for whatever reason.

Here’s the basic point: The extremists who introduced the anti-gay measures in the Kansas Legislature this week don’t represent what Kansas is all about. Their efforts are sure to fail, because the rest of the Legislature and the governor are more level-headed. That’s the real Kansas.

The bill we’re talking about is an attempt to end the government’s recognition of same-sex marriage. The text of the bill includes this: “The government’s endorsement of LGBTQ ideology has amounted to the greatest sham since the inception of American jurisprudence.” It goes on to say that “so-called marriages that do not involve a man and a woman ... amount to doctrines that are inseparably linked to the religion of secular humanism.”

In fact, the bill is an interesting intellectual contortion, attempting to say that the government is promoting a particular religion by endorsing same-sex marriages. That’s how the bill attempts to invalidate them. It’s clearly wrongheaded, which is part of why it won’t go anywhere, but it’s going to get plenty of attention.

The legislation also goes on to say that the “term ‘parody marriage’ refers to so-called marriages between more than two people, persons of the same sex, a person and an animal, or a person and an object.” In addition, the legislation denounces gay or transgender individuals who link their struggle to work of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The bill says “there are no ex-blacks, but there are thousands of ex-gays.”

It’s pure mean-spiritidness. We’re disappointed — no, we’re embarrassed — to note that Rep. Ron Highland of Wamego is among the five sponsors of the bill. He and the other supporters of the bill should simply try out the notion of empathy. It’d be quite a revelation.

The vast majority of Kansans are reasonable, moderate, forward-thinking people. They know that who you love should not determine your legal status. They know that marriage between two loving, unrelated adults is a reasonable standard. Attempting to equate it with marriage to a goat, or a Toyota? Attempting to diminish the struggle for equal rights? Attempting to say that government recognition of gay marriage amounts to a sham?

That’s the approach of fundamentally misguided, unkind people.

We’re better than that here in Kansas. Just you watch.

_____

The Kansas City Star, Feb. 12

The no-bid fiasco: Gov. Laura Kelly left with another Sam Brownback mess to clean up

You can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for Kansas’ new governor, Laura Kelly.

The list of woes she inherited from the Gov. Sam Brownback years is long and well-documented. The financial challenges are immense, and they continue to grow.

Even Kelly has admitted the problems are worse than imagined.

School funding. Highways. Pensions. Prisons. Foster care. Republican legislative leaders, meantime, are hell-bent on going backwards and returning to the Brownback years with a large tax cut that would boost Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle’s U.S. Senate bid and throw nails underneath Kelly’s tires as she tries to get moving in Topeka. It’s the wrong approach.

And now, tack another headache onto Kelly’s list: What to do about the no-bid contracts totaling $110 million over 10 years that the Brownback administration awarded to CGI Technologies. The work was intended to upgrade the state’s tax return processing.

In October, the company missed a key deadline, and legislators were buzzing about a meltdown. The state is now forced to rely on its old system.

“So, they defaulted on their contract by not having it operating?” state Rep. Troy Waymaster, a Republican who chairs the House budget committee, asked this month during a hearing.

Kelly and her team face another treacherous decision: Do they plunge ahead, give CGI more time and try to make the new system work? Or do they pull the plug and sever the relationship, possibly leading to costly litigation?

The issue brings to light yet another disturbing aspect of the Brownback years: the administration’s reliance on no-bid contracts. A recent review by The Star and The Wichita Eagle found that the number of no-bid contracts had skyrocketed to more than 7,300. That’s double the total from just five years ago. The Kansas Legislature should take a closer look and consider reforms.

Kelly, for good reason, has promised a crackdown. Good Government 101 advises that most no-bid contracts are just asking for trouble. They rarely result in a good deal for taxpayers — and citizens don’t trust them.

As The Star’s and The Eagle’s reporting revealed, CGI appears to have relied on political connections to win its no-bid arrangement. Mark Dugan ran Brownback’s 2014 re-election effort and had worked as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. Yet, there he was, working as a lobbyist on CGI’s behalf and appearing on a list of scheduled attendees for a key face-to-face meeting involving CGI and revenue officials in 2016.

The question of whether a contract with CGI had to be bid out was a thorny issue. But that, too, was decided in CGI’s favor. The man who made the call for the state, former Revenue Secretary Sam Williams, declined comment.

Any government needs flexibility to pursue no-bid contracts under certain circumstances. But the subterfuge the Brownback administration relied on in this case, and surely others, is beyond reproach. CGI promised a way for Kansans to pay back taxes online, a process the state lacked. That surely was seen as a way to boost revenue and bolster Brownback’s desperate assertion that his tax cuts would lead to growth.

All those factors could have fueled the push to sign CGI. Now Kelly is left with another mess. That’s too bad for her, and it’s too bad for Kansas.