Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): January 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

K Yo wins an award. I am so not swooning

Le sigh.

K. Yo has won an award for a cause that causes the bile to rise.

Here's how you know it's a nonsense award: It's called the PROMISE Award, aka, the 2015 Head Start Protecting Opportunities for our Most Important Students Early Award.

The bureaucrat who came up with the title probably spent at least $1,000 in federal staff time just naming it. 

This probably isn't a secret, but in case it is: I am no friend to Head Start. The program is a federal pre-school program designed to begin the public indoctrination process a little earlier. 

Taxpayers have dumped more than $180 billion into Head Start programs since its inception in 1965. And what do we have to show for it? (I mean, other than a KYo award?)

Answer: Not a whole lot. A report (using data collected in 2008 but released in 2012 *red flag!* *red flag!*) revealed that despite billions in expenditures, Head Start had little to no impact on the cognitive, emotional, health or parenting practicing of participants.

Not only did the report show virtually no improvement in educational outcomes, but by some measures, access to Head Start was harmful to children!! I am not making this up.

Kindergarten teachers of those students who started Head Start at the age of three were less prepared in math skills than the children who skipped Head Start.

 The obvious response to this failed program is clearly, clearly more spending. 

In a press release, Yoder essentially said he works hard to ensure the continued funding of such a critical program.

"I've seen firsthand at schools in my district that Head Start is a vital program that invests in our children's future by providing them an avenue to a good education that may not be there otherwise," Yoder said. "As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I've worked hard to show my colleagues the value of early childhood education, so that it remains a top priority."

First, I would like to note that there's a significant difference between "early childhood education" and Head Start. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Second, I note the Head Start data and report here. (Scroll to the bottom and click the .pdf link at the bottom, if you'd like to bang your head against a wall by reading it.) 

The report and data suggest something other than what K. Yo reports. You're welcome to buy his story. I mean, he has visited Head Start programs throughout the Third District, "reading to students and visiting with parents and administrators." So maybe Yoder knows better than the federal data repository.

According to Yoder, Kansas has 8,130 Head Start enrollees supported by more than $56 million in annual funding, or $6,880 per student.

At some point, we need to start basing funding decisions on educational outcomes instead of pie-in-the-sky "hope." 

I'd rather have an extra $180 billion in the till, or better yet, back in taxpayers' pockets than a program designed to encourage better educational outcomes that doesn't produce. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

GOP House stabs pro lifers in the back

I typically don't write all that much about national politics here, because there are so many others who do it so much better.

That said, conservatives in Bleeding Kansas should take note of just how brutally the U.S. House of Representatives just stabbed pro-lifers in the back. And on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade no less.

There are likely to be more than 650,000 pro life people marching in Washington today -- people of conscience who spend their own time and money defending life. I personally believe there is no greater cause than theirs. 

We have a Republican majority in the House (and Senate) and Americans disapprove of late-term abortions 2-to-1.

I won't say much more about it, but please, if you're so inclined, head over to the Federalist and read Mollie Hemingway's column about the House's about face on a bill that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- a point after which infants can feel pain and survive if born.

Hemingway calls says the House GOP's "level of incompetence and cowardice should alarm us all."

And to that, I say, "Amen." It is exhausting to wade into the public sphere, fighting for a culture of life only to have a knife in the back at virtually every turn.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Basil meets bitter herbs

After a bitter debate between the better angels of my nature, I have decided to write this post. 

Mostly, I'm shocked we're still doing this thing -- where we endlessly bash Milton Wolf. 

But that's where we're at. 

Here's the brief 4-1-1:

Basil Dannenbohm, a new Kansas Representative, had the gall to invite Wolf as his guest to Brownback's State of the State Address. Apparently, Wolf at one point tweeted some harsh things about Brownback. Clearly, this means Wolf should never, EVER be allowed to attend any sort of public function EVER. 

And then, Basil had the audacity to post a photo of himself posing with Wolf. 

Quick. Someone grab the stakes. I'll get the lighter fluid. And then, the ill-timed invite became the stuff of social media hyperbole. An investigation was launched. The party insiders gathered their pitchforks.

Basil told people he brought Wolf to fish for information, but GOP investigators discovered that no, Basil just invited Wolf without asking anyone's permission.

I am baffled by the outrage this whole thing invoked. 

First, Basil should be able to bring whomever he wants to the State of the State Address. I mean, I'm going to kindly suggest that no sitting Republican officeholder invite David Duke to an event. But Wolf isn't David Duke.  He's just a guy who ran against Sen. Pat Roberts. That's not a crime. In fact, I would argue that a "family discussion" or a primary is a good thing. My feelings aren't hurt that Sen. Roberts had to work a little harder to get re-elected. No one has a RIGHT to a U.S. Senate seat. No one.

Second, people are saying Basil "lied" about his reasons for inviting Wolf. And I'm saying, Basil should never have been asked why he brought Wolf in the first place. Sure, lying is never acceptable, but he should never have been asked to explain his friendship, support, invitation because some people are still hoping to burn Wolf at the stake.

Somehow, the invite and the photo became the most petulant scandal in the history of well, post high school. I don't get it.

Roberts won, and for what it's worth, it appears Roberts was the right man for the job. Surely Roberts himself isn't holding onto this bitter herb of a hard-fought campaign. I sure hope he's going about the business of stopping President Obama rather than worrying about some guy who took a picture with some other irrelevant guy.

As Elsa once sang in the most virulent ear bug of a song -- Let it Go.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Brownback gives a speech, and I don't lose my lunch

Sam Brownback gave a perfectly tolerable speech last night. For that, I offer my congratulations. I have a few critiques, but far, far fewer than in previous years. I am so, so grateful that Brownback didn't apologize for anything in this speech and he kept the complete pandering at a bare minimum. Good job, Governor!

Brownback deserves much credit for bold ideas. I was beginning to think the Governor didn't have it in him. He just might.

Among his ballsy suggestions:

• Two Constitutional Amendments -- one to change the way Kansas selects Supreme Court Justices. 

"With the Court involving itself in so many public policy issues, it is time the selection process be more democratic," Brownback said.

Sing it, brother Sam. This change is so desperately needed. Brownback has made this suggestion before. I just hope this wasn't just words. I hope Brownback aggressively takes action to make it happen.

My feelings won't be hurt if Brownback's other Constitutional Amendment was just hyperbole. The Governor suggested an amendment that says, "debt of the state is a general obligation of the state and we will pay it first."

I'm going to need more information before I say I hate the idea. BUT at first glance, I certainly don't love it. To me, that means we'll pay debts above and beyond all else, and I'm not sure that's wise. In theory, I agree with it whole-heartedly, but in reality necessities should be top priority. It's probably stupid for me to Dave Ramsey this one, but in a family budget, you pay for food and shelter first and THEN put funds to debt. I'm just not sure codifying the state Constitution to suggest we do otherwise is smart. (Again, I totally reserve the right to change my mind on this one! I need to hear more about it first!)

• A truce in the school finance wars and a re-write of the financing formula. 

Brownback had mentioned re-working the school finance formula before the State of the State Address. He fleshed it out a little bit, suggesting a way to have a truce while giving the Kansas Legislature time to work out the details. I think his plan to fund schools temporarily through a block grant process is a good one.

And clearly, obviously, the school finance formula is a hot mess if it requires litigation every other week. Sadly, the good guys aren't the ones dragging the Legislature to court every other week over it. The good guys have called for a truce. We'll see what the other side does. Judging from my teacher-y Facebook feed, I don't see it happen. (Aside for teachers: Change is scary. That doesn't mean it's bad. In fact, if the formula is re-worked in a way that funnels more money to classrooms, instead of administrators, you may be seeing better raises. So chill out for five minutes would you, KNEA and friends?)

Strangely missing from his bold suggestions: The obvious solution to the funding crisis, school choice.

• Continuing the move to 0 percent income tax rate. 

YAY! I figured with the budget shortfall, Brownback wouldn't have the nerve to suggest we continue in that direction. I'm glad he has the spine, and hopefully, the conviction to stay that course.

•   Moving spring elections to the fall. 

This should have been done a million years ago, but later is better than never. I hope the Governor leads on this one and makes it happen. There really is no good reason it shouldn't.

So now with the praise out of the way, I didn't love everything about the speech.

I will say, I feel like he took some of my advice. In last year's speech, he introduced military guests in the middle of the speech. It was just ick. This year, he intro-ed most guests at the start. 

This was refreshing and appropriate. 

That said, if you're going to introduce Valerie and her son, I think it would be wise to give a little more information about exactly how the state assisted them in moving from the welfare rolls and into a job.

I appreciated the personalization of a policy. (You'll recall I suggested he do that in his campaign commercials.) BUT, I don't think this is his strong suit. Either that, or it's not the strong suit of his speech writer. I would have appreciated more about Valerie and the successful program that assisted her. As an added bonus, it would have made the speech a little less boring.

Finally, a quick word about his actual stage presence. I am not all that impressed. I don't know how he fixes that. Better language choices? More emotion in tone and delivery? Less? I'm not sure, but the man bores me to near tears. And I can say, other than the section about water resources (important, but meh.), it's not the subject matter. It's the speaker.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oh, KK. No.

I am not sure what Kris Kobach's end game is here, but out of the blocks, this one looks pretty silly.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach proposed a bill to a legislative committee yesterday that would create straight-ticket voting. Voters would check a single box to vote for every candidate on the ballot from one party.

Um. I'm pretty partisan, but no thanks.

Kobach's reasoning for the proposal was limited on well, reasoning. He told the committee that he wants cut down on the number of voters who come to the polls, vote in major races and leave the rest of the ballot blank.

No thank you, sir. 

I'm pretty partisan and vote straight-ticket more often than not. However, I regularly leave blanks on my ballot, and it's intentional. There are (so many) times I can't stomach the thought of any of the candidates on the ballot.

And I know of several people of integrity who leave blanks on their ballots because they don't feel informed enough to vote in a particular race. I am so OK with that. The last thing we need is to force the dumb-dumbs out there to blindly pick a side. I'd prefer they pay some attention to the issues and candidates. 

The straight-ticket voting would assist voters, he said. But some of us would rather the government just stop assisting us. We've got this figured out. Thanks.

The initiative would also cut down on lines on election day, because as KK said, marking one box is so much quicker than voting in every race. 

I hate to ask what he's smoking, and yet, that's the question that must be asked. KK is talking crazy. I didn't know election lines were a problem. I can't remember the last time I voted and waited more than a minute or two. I wait much, much longer in line every time I go to the grocery store or convenience store. (Convenience stores, save for the QT, are monumentally inconvenient, if you ask me.) And yet, I don't think we need a law to fix it. 

There is some precedence for straight-ticket voting. BUT there's also precedent for denying women the right to vote. Just because it's been done in the past, doesn't mean we should do it today.

If there is some logical reason I'm missing, please, please let me know. I'm trying to look at this proposal from all sides, and from every angle, it looks like complete nonsense.

I'm kind of shocked that KK is wasting time on something so ridiculous. Secretary Kobach also proposed a bill that would disallow removing any candidate from a ballot unless they die. 

I kind of agree the Chad Taylor-removal-from-Dem-ballot-to-help-Orman was kind of gross and tacky, and disenfranchised all those who worked, donated and voted for Taylor in the Democratic primary -- not to mention the Dem voters who cast ballots for the other guy. 

I'm surprised Kobach thinks his proposal -- no leaving the ballot unless you DIE -- is the best way to handle it. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Men's Club

The Kansas City Star's political writer, Dave Helling, would like the world to note that Kansas no longer has a statewide female office holder.

I think readers are supposed to be aghast that Kansas has had one such official every year since 1966. And now we don't.

Pardon me, while I sing a song of sorrow to my ovaries. Oh wait. I don't care. 

As a general rule, I typically prefer female candidates. After years of watching government in action, I think conservative women play the game better than just about anyone in the business. But there was no such woman on any of the statewide tickets in November. 

And I would like to note that I cannot remember the KC Star ever having a woman cover the Kansas Legislature. There was Sullinger, Cooper, Helling, Kraske... all ovary-challenged.

This story is dumb. That is all.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article6044154.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Positioning for the big offices

The 2015 legislative session is open. Let the torment begin. At some point in the near future, I'll break down a few of the bills that may (or more likely won't) see play this session. 

2015 is all about the budget and school funding. If legislators manage to accomplish one or both within 90 days, I will be shocked. This session is going to go long.

Anyway, the bulk of activity in Topeka in the last few days has been glad-handing. Whatevs. (Though if I see one more picture of a glad-hander in suit or tux smiling next to Sam Brownback at the Governor's inaugural ball, I may have to stop Facebooking for awhile. It's gotten way, way out of hand. And don't get me started on Mary Brownback's white dress. I'm not Perez Hilton, so I'll spare you my worst thoughts -- but seriously, this wasn't a wedding. I'm calling fashion faux pas.)

In the background of the glad-handing and jockeying for popularity, there's a strange undercurrent to this session so far. I have been baffled by what appears to be a lack of really forward-pushing legislation. 

Conservatives won pretty handily. It's the beginning of Brownback's final term. He can't have a third, and if he strikes now, any political stand-offs will be forgotten by the next election at the end of 2016. 

So, where are the calls for dramatic change? Where is the legislation to change the Supreme Court appointment system? Where are the bold plans to consolidate schools or create a school voucher system? 

There's an opportunity to make meaningful, conservative inroads. And still, Republicans are allowing liberals to steer the conversation. It's stunning.

I've been mulling over why it should be this way. First, of course, is the media which never met a conservative or conservative idea that it didn't want to suction out of the atmosphere before the ideas were even birthed or voiced.

That's always going to be the case, though, so it should come as no surprise.

Second, I guess there's possibly, maybe concern about the Brownback campaign loan thing. I don't think this story has legs, but it's moved further than I ever thought possible, so...

Finally, and most likely, there are two very large, very competitive spots about to be ripe for the picking for Kansas politicians. No one wants to do anything to ruffle any feathers, lest it cost them a chance at Pat Roberts' Senate seat in two years or a legitimate shot at the Governor's office in four years.

Who wants those seats? Well, everyone. Who has a chance at them? Can't say for sure.

It's the worst-kept secret in Kansas politics, but Roberts will resign either in 2016 or in 2018. (His term expires in 2020. He will not serve until then.) I can see the Roberts' seat being used to head off a possible primary in the Jerry Moran race. Moran's term expires in 2016.

1. Sam Brownback for Pat Roberts' seat. It's possible that Roberts could wait to retire until 2018, around the same time Brownback's term as Governor expires.

2. Jeff Colyer for Pat Roberts' seat. This is the most likely scenario. There's no question Roberts intends to resign before the end of his term, and there's no doubt Colyer has always had Washington, D.C. in his sights. I personally believe this possibility is the primary reason Roberts ran in 2014 -- to protect the seat for his chosen replacement, Colyer and to help avoid a nasty primary between all four Kansas representatives. Watch for the Milton Wolf people to mount a campaign to keep this from happening. Actually, no matter who the Establishment choice is to replace Roberts, Wolf will be in the race. I have no idea how that shakes out. 

3. Kevin Yoder, Tim Huelskamp, Mike Pompeo, Todd Tiahrt, Lynn Jenkins for Roberts' seat. I don't think Jenkins will be interested. For some insane reason, I think she actually enjoys hanging out with that orange guy in the House. Tiahrt is an incredibly long shot, but I'd be surprised if he didn't become a part of the conversation. The other three are also unlikely. But they'll be interested and possibly angling.

4. Derek Schmidt or Kris Kobach for Roberts' seat. These two are headed for a collision, I think. They're both to the right of center, but they're about as far apart as possible on the right side of the line. Both are angling to take their political careers to the next level. I think they'll both be left out of the conversation when Roberts steps down, but one or both will run for the seat and/or the Governorship in 2018.

Brownback isn't a lame duck Governor, yet, but he's mighty close. I have heard several rumors about who hopes to be Kansas' next Governor, and I anticipate those players will use the next year or so to test the waters.

1. Derek Schmidt. He wants the job. Blech.

2. Kevin Yoder -- I've heard he's interested. I don't see it, but OK. I have trouble envisioning a young, slickster lawyer from Johnson County wooing Kansas farmers. (I KNOW Yoder claims to be from western Kansas, but is anyone buying it?? You CAN actually take the farm out of the boy, and you do it by sending the boy to law school.)

3. Jeff Colyer -- he's the natural choice, but I am positive he's mentally checked out of Kansas and in to something in D.C. The Senate? I'm guessing he'd try for Congress, if Yoder decided to run for Governor, which again -- weird.

4. Kris Kobach -- I want this to happen, but I know Kobach dreams of Washington, also. Kobach has the same problems Yoder has -- he's a northeast Kansas lawyer, who went to the Ivy League no less. Will western Kansas buy what Kobach wants to sell them? I don't know. I live in the northeast. I do not have a farm. I have never driven a tractor, and I get my beef from the grocery store. Every time. 

5. Susan Wagle -- I don't know. There's been a lot of glowing commentary about her lately. I have to believe that's part of some sort of political positioning or a plan to mount some sort of political coup. 

So there you have it. Outside of a budget and some judicial-enforced chatter about school finance, what's happening this legislative session is a warm-up for two very desirable political seats about to open in the next few years.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ballots in the mail

Election season never really ends anymore. Such is the case here in Johnson County where virtually every school district has their hands out asking for more money.

I believe every Johnson County school district, with the exception of Spring Hill, (SH people, look for your ballots in March or so) is asking voters for greater taxing authority or an increase in Local Option Budget authority.

I won't bore you by attempting to explain the LOB. (If you read this blog, you're smarter than the average bear, and probably already have an acceptable understanding.) 

I will be voting against it, but I actually don't fault conservatives who would vote in favor of the increased authority. The LOB is flexible money that local districts can spend as they see fit, as opposed to much of districts' other funding, which is earmarked for very specific expenditures.

That said, I still think public school districts are a bottomless pit of wild spending, and until I see evidence that my local district becomes a better steward of the revenue it already receives, I can't see the logic of giving school officials even more cash.

I'm also reluctant to give the schools more money when they may be fat with cash very soon, thanks to the judiciary believing they can set budget policy. (But that's a story for another day.)

I am also troubled by the fact that there is no opportunity to take back the increased budget authority once voters give it. There's no mechanism to petition to lower the tax authority should a district misuse it. For example, a district could ask for increased taxing powers and then take that money to send all of its staff on junkets to Hawaii.

If that occurred, I would immediately want to revoke a school board's authorization. I can remove the board members, but I can't remove the privilege once given. Future boards will have the same increased authority forever. 

I'm told boards could have opted to put a sunset on its LOB authority, allowing voters to have a future say about extending the authority. One logical reason against a board voting to sunset the tax is that the local districts must pay for the election, which by law, must be a mail-in (expensive!) election. Boards can't just put the question on a general election ballot.

The mail-in requirement was written into the law allowing school boards to seek additional LOB authority.

Rumor has it, that requirement was added, because some in the legislature did not like the idea of PTA voters running to the polls in say, November, and potentially ousting more conservative candidates.

I sincerely hope that rumor isn't true, but it probably is. Head. Desk.

Dear legislators: That could also work in conservatives' favor, and it may encourage some of those low-informed voters who only go to the polls to "support" schools to do their research on other topics.

Anyway, if you live in Johnson County and haven't yet received a ballot -- you may want to call the election office. LOB ballots are due back to the election office by Jan. 27.