Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): June 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I Need a Shower

Being around politicians and their people sometimes feels like rolling around in a pig pen. Today, I need a shower.

Folks have been sending me their opposition research. Some of it is disgusting, and seriously, I don’t get why people with these kinds of skeletons in their closets put their names on a ballot. Some of the skeletons are decades old. Some are recent. Some are a matter of public record. Others are a matter of insider public knowledge. They include things like domestic abuse arrests, open marriages, sleeping with everything that moves, federal criminal investigations, and plain old infidelity. By the way, this is one reason I don't believe anyone should put absolute faith and trust in any politician, or really any human. They will let you down, and those in power seem to be easily corruptible. (I think that's in part, because there are more temptations, and that's courtesy of a lot of stuff in the spiritual realm.)

The most salacious stuff, I will not write. I don’t want to be a tool to trash others, because the politicians who dug the stuff up were too afraid to put their names on it. That’s not an insult on the folks who’ve asked me to do it. I get it. The goal of politics, in addition to getting elected, seems to be to push the dirt in the pig pen on someone else. Or better yet, to get someone else to push the dirt for you--it’s easier to stay clean that way.

This is officially the crazy season, and I get a little depressed every year around this time. Everyone loses their ever-loving minds. Every perceived slight is a massive wound. An ill-fated Facebook post about some issue is cause for hysterics. Losing out on a sign location is a hemorrhage.
Sometimes, people put an opposition sign in their yards, because they know the person personally, even if they don’t agree with them politically. Friends do that kind of thing for one another. Sometimes, one spouse supports one candidate and the other supports someone else. Some people are Ado Annies--they can’t say no. These things aren’t the end of the world.

Everyone, take a breath. The very worst of this season is going to be over come Aug. 2. And when it is, no matter how the pieces fall, life is going to go on. Those who win will go back to Topeka, hopefully with the goal of continuing to move Kansas in the direction of smaller government. (And fortunately, I really believe most of my conservative friends will wake up winners on Aug. 3.) Those few who lose will have more time to spend with family and friends and the opportunity to do new and different things. It’s time for everyone to strap on the armor, work hard, and then put it in God’s hands.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Truth Stretcher Smack Down

It’s final. For now.

The Kansas Supreme Court issued a three-page order yesterday saying the equity school funding question was resolved by legislation approved last week. Justices have yet to rule on the question of whether government schools are funded adequately.

Though schools will open, and the equity issue is resolved,there’s ongoing debate over exactly which legislators authored the plan that legislators eventually passed last Friday evening. Sen. Melissa Rooker said she teamed with a group of legislators to draft a set of bills that addressed her concerns, however, her bills never saw the light of day. No one involved in the actual negotiations even knew of those proposals until they were mentioned in media reports long after the votes were tallied for the Ryckman-Masterson plan.

Leading up to the special session and when legislators and school officials waffled on things they’d earler agreed to, Rep. Ron Ryckman and Sen. Ty Masterson worked with officials and lawsuit plaintiffs to reach an agreement that ended the equity part of the lawsuit. Their efforts eventually garnered enough votes to pass both houses and the Governor’s desk.

For those interested in what actually happened behind the scenes last week, as opposed to what one legislator said happened, here’s the full story here.

Second Verse, Same as the First

You didn’t imagine the sound of a thundering herd of RINOs shuffling across the Kansas plains in their house slippers. The Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, Women for Kansas, Moderate Kansas, and others are rallying again.

In case you missed it, there’s a new group --second verse, same as the first-- hoping to wrench power from the hands of conservatives. Calling itself the Save Kansas Coalition, this group is a collection of has-been groups who’ve tried this before. Actually, they’ve tried it every year since 2010, when the majority of so-called mods were swept out of office in a landslide.  I wish they’d just be honest and call themselves Democrats. (And, you know what? The Democrats are starting to wish they’d do that too.)

If these groups weren’t so obnoxious and sanctimonious, I would want to bring them a ham and offer my condolences. After six  years, they still don’t get it. Kansas is conservative, and no amount of their whining is going to change that.

These groups threw their best at the Sunflower State in 2014 and walked away empty handed. Paul Davis--sanctimony is thy name--was walloped. So-called independent Greg Orman was blasted back to wherever. (Where DID that guy go?)

So here we go again. These exact same people are rebranding AGAIN. It would be an inspirational story--group of downtroddens get back on the horse again--if these groups weren’t so ridiculous. Also, inspirational stories require a happy ending. Yeah, I don’t see that happening. But the film version could definitely be a comedy. I know I can’t look at pictures of the Women for Kansas without laughing. Every event, every press release is a hippy drum circle of silly.

Tagline: If you’re not laughing at those photos of actual Women for Kansas, womenning for Kansas, you’re doing it wrong.

And then there’s this group: Traditional Republicans for Common Sense. This is an organization comprised of 74 former office holders. For the most part, these aren’t office holders who gracefully retired. They were tossed out of office by voters. I’m just going to repeat what I wrote in 2012 about these has-beens:

Whenever a liberal starts talking about "common sense" they mean anything but...To them, "common sense" is the exact opposite of critical thinking.  
Anyway, they're in the news again, complaining that the Republican Party was "hijacked." 
And by 'hijacked,' they mean that many of their members were thrown out of office on their asses, not by violent overthrow but by Kansas voters. I guess the official position of the TRCS is, How Dare They? 
Lucky for them, I can explain how dare we, the voters, throw you out on your collective rears: The third world called. They want their political philosophy back. 
Among the rank and file of the TRCS are former Republican Senators Steve Morris, Terrie Huntington, Jean Schodorf, and Tim Owens. They lost fair and square in primary elections, but they somehow think they're entitled to retain their power. 
I hate to break it to them, but that's not how it works here in the U.S.A. If you peddle tired ideas, the voters may get tired of you. That's what happened. It wasn't a hijacking. Circa summer 2012, they became irrelevant -- just like the policies they were pimping.

You'll note that the group, comprised mainly of whiny losers, sounds suspiciously like a herd of rhinoceroses thundering across the Kansas plains. It's a relatively small herd, but they make a lot of noise.

And then there are the recent groups, created by useful tools in teacher’s unions and filled with former school librarians, current public school counselors and kneecap-breaking-Teamsters. (Seriously, if people knew the kind of things some of these current public school staffers were saying on Twitter, they’d be remiss about sending their children into their lairs on a daily basis.) These groups include the scrapbooking cat ladies calling themselves GameOn for Kansas Schools and Stand Up Blue Valley.

The Stand Up Blue Valley folks are diabolical. In a baffling display, this group rallied to have money taken from their own school district in order to offer western Kansas families tax breaks.

And then there’s Republicans for Kansas Values, a group who proudly supported Paul Davis for Governor. Serious question: If you don’t support any Republican policies and you don’t support any Republican candidates, should you call yourselves ‘Republicans?’ Asking for a friend.

These groups are the same old people saying the same old things they’ve been saying since they lost power in 2010. In many cases, the memberships of every group overlaps so much it’s odd that they’ve created separate organizations.

This is bitterness and sour grapes and a desperate attempt to regain the power they lost. Kansans rejected them, and rejection stings. It was not a clean break-up, and now these groups are like a stalker ex-boyfriend who refuses to move on.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Guys, I Can't Even...

Alert the masses. Bob Dole is on Twitter, and he's not taking a break from bashing conservatives. I am pretty sure I addressed this EXACT same issue a few days ago, when I wrote in a post entitled, Disgraceful Has-Beens: "When true leaders leave office, they give those who follow wide berths to set their own course." This was the nicest sentence in the entire post, and pretty much everything else I wrote there can be applied to Bob Dole.

So the Tax Collector for the Welfare State-- that's former Sen. Bob Dole-- got on Twitter YESTERDAY, and he waited approximately 25 seconds before taking to the site dedicated almost solely to trolling people, to lament that Congressman Tim Huelskamp is campaigning. (And can I just say how utterly tacky and distasteful it is that Dole got on Twitter and followed exactly 13 people. I thought the ENTIRE point of Twitter was to engage with others. Apparently Dole sees it as a platform from which he can sermonize.)

Literally, Dole's SECOND tweet--after the first one in which he congratulates himself on figuring out how to use the Twitter-- says this: "I've been keeping an eye on the First District congressional race in Kansas. I would suggest the current congressman focus on the issues rather than misleading attacks on his opponent."

And I would suggest that Dole bow out. Seriously, go away.

Guys, I am doing everything in my power to contain my rage. Bob Dole is exactly the reason we must be oh-so careful who we elect to any office. Under his tutelage, the national debt exploded. He never saw a dollar in your pockets that he didn't think should be sent to Washington where he could spend it better. 

Finding a human of integrity to run for office has become virtually impossible, so at this point, I'm grudgingly willing to settle for anyone who won't become a flaming moronic arrogant donkey's behind the moment they leave office. Bob Dole has repeatedly failed this simple low standard. 

His Twitter panoramic photo is of a water tower with his name on it. (Next week, he'll probably change it to a statue of himself with people bowing to it.)

Every time I turn around, the revered former Senator is stabbing conservatives in the back. It's like he can't take a five second break from telling the world how awesome he thinks he is and how sad it is that the politicians who succeeded him can't act more like liberals.

As sure as I write this, I am about to get a ration of manure for saying anything that isn't reverential and worshipful about Dole. He's an old man, people will tell me. Give him a break. Yeah, no. I won't. Either he's an old man who deserves a break, or he's a man we should take seriously. He can't be both. And as long as he's going to pretend we should take him seriously, and as long as Kansans are going to continue to worship at the altar of a guy who managed to get elected a bunch of times, I'm going to point out when he's wrong and out-of-touch and enraging. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Credit... or Blame?

There's a tiny skirmish happening deep in the Kansas Republican backwoods. The so-called moderates and actual conservatives are clashing over which faction gets credit for the school funding legislation passed during the special session.

I'm going to clear things up, but first, I want to make clear: I don't think voters gives a rat's behind about who authored this legislative attempt to keep schools open. (Again, they never closed. The Court's threat was an empty one, yada, yada, yada, ad naseum, but here we are.) 

Potential voters are checked out in a way that should be frightening. Seriously, almost no one is paying a lick of attention. Voters barely registered the threat of schools closing, and the very few (who weren't members of teacher's unions) who did, placed blame correctly and recognized Court overreach. Most voters never thought schools would actually close, if it registered at all. Schools won't close, and so, primary voters will go to the polls on Aug. 2 indifferent to the drama that occurred last week in Topeka.

It's comical that Melissa Rooker was knocking down people in a rush to get to television cameras to explain how she saved the schools. That takes an amount of hubris that should make decent people cringe, especially since Rooker had absolutely nothing to do with negotiating a solution save for voting in the affirmative, as did the vast majority of all legislators. (I have great respect for the legislators who voted against this abomination. It was a tiny number.)

Here's what went down: Prior to Friday's session, many school districts, including Blue Valley and Olathe, appeared to sign off on a Ryckman drafted plan to give every district a half of a percent cut and back fill some other funding using a variety of means. Between Thursday night and Friday morning, school officials back tracked. (I have to believe it was because their so-called moderate allies waffled at the idea of a political loss.) So, the House sat around for hours while Ryckman, Ty Masterson, Jim Denning, and some school superintendents negotiated a funding policy with the taxpayer funded schools for fair funding lawyer. For all I know, Rooker and the other "mods" were out sipping cocktails at the Lazy Toad. I don't know where they were, but I can tell you without reservation that they weren't in that room when this deal, which eventually passed both chambers, was negotiated. 

Following the bill's passage, some school officials and Johnson County Republicans sans the so-called moderates staged a press conference. This victory lap was designed to take political credit for "keeping the schools open." Rumor has it, the Governor wanted to take part in this press conference. He was brutally rebuffed. (Seriously, give him a hug, Friends of Brownback). 

Meanwhile, somehow that night and the following few days, Rooker and the mods were chasing down television cameras seeking recognition for their deft negotiating skills. I never actually saw footage of the JoCo legislators press conference, but I saw lots and lots of Rooker.  

As a completely misinformed Star editorial proves, conservatives will never receive credit for out-liberaling Democrats. (I am still trying to figure out why conservatives would want to, but it appears that's our plan.)

This legislation is a total loser, in my humble opinion. Rather than battling for credit, everyone involved should be attempting to place blame at the feet of others. I think that's going to become quite apparent circa September, when the school districts that promised to lay off suing over equity will be before the Kangaroo Supremes arguing about adequacy. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Disgraceful Has-Beens

When true leaders leave office, they give those who follow wide berths to set their own course. 

The four former Kansas Governors who issued a letter about current Gov. Sam Brownback are a disgrace, and quite frankly, they're an embarrassment to the Sunflower State. I have long been disgusted by what passes for political discourse these days, but that really takes the cake. Four former Kansas Governors, Kathleen Sebelius, Mike Hayden, John Carlin, and Bill Graves, issued a letter, saying Brownback is damaging Kansas. It's clearly a desperate attempt for relevance and cash, and it's shameful. I expect better from people who call themselves leaders, and I certainly expect better from Kansans. 

This pathetic group helped steer Kansas in the direction of a high precipice. They cut critical services, and media called it necessary painful cuts. They decimated KPERs, crashed the state budget and left it for dead on fire at the base of a cliff and then, went on to destroy other parts of the national economy. (Ahem. Former Human and Health Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.) For more on their stellar "legacy," check out this post.

Gov. Sam Brownback isn't perfect, but these former Governors really, really need to take the logs out of their own eyes. Their disgraceful, classless display deserves to be mocked. It's nothing but sour grapes (and a desperate attempt to raise anonymous, so-called dark money). At one point, a handful of Democrats and so-called moderates had a vice grip on Kansas. Brownback and his allies were instrumental in returning power to its proper place-- with the very conservative people of this state. Brownback mopped the floor with those folks and began the arduous task of cleaning up their messes. If those former Governors had an ounce of class, they'd issue a mass apology, claim dementia, and crawl back into whatever holes from whence they came. 

Just disgusting.

Schools Will Be Open

That headline? I felt stupid writing it. Of course schools are going to open. I'm going to keep saying this, because someone has to-- the Courts didn't have the authority to close the schools. Justices can rule whether something is constitutional. Theoretically, I guess they could all form a human chain across one set of school doors, but other than that, they're simply a couple of people in black robes waiving papers around. I'm not a huge fan of civil disobedience, but if that's the only remedy, it's better than the alternative--being enslaved.

It doesn't seem like we have many people in the legislature or in the school lobby who get that. 

When the day began, legislators were set to run a plan that most school districts who testified said they supported. Sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, they changed their minds. Half of a percent of a cut was just too devastating. 

Honestly, I'm sick of writing about this. I've said it all before. Until every dime in the state general fund is diverted to the wallets of school administrators, this will continue. 

Republicans think this quick solution is some sort of political maneuver that's going to allow them to get back out there and campaign (true), and they hope this decision will somehow help in a campaign to toss renegade judges from the Supreme Court (I doubt it.).

The plan that eventually passed was only slightly less liberal than the plan Democrats attempted to float. This doesn't feel like a victory to me. At all.

The one bright spot-- and I mean tiny light in a black hole-- is that the plaintiffs in the recent school court case basically settled saying they will not litigate over "equity" in this fix. In almost the next breath, however, the school litigants' attorney said now they'll concentrate on "adequacy." 

The litigation isn't over. The war continues, and conservatives just gave up ground. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Prediction

I think the special session will be over by day's end, and I think the plan that cuts every district by a half percent, and adds money to equalization from the tobacco settlement and by cuts to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and freezing the online school fund is the plan that passes.

That plan will breeze through the Senate, and probably pass the House. You know who isn't going to support it?

The so-called moderates and the Dems. Mark it down. Despite their school districts offering support for that (icky) plan, the moderates and Dems, in partnership with the public school lobby, will not support the solution offered. Remember 2011 and 2012? During those heady early days of the Brownback administration, one of Brownback's advisors and eventual chief of staff, Landon Fulmer, drafted a school funding formula with heavy input from people like John Vratil and Tom Trigg, former Blue Valley School District Superintendent. Seriously, they helped write the plan, and then they and their friends refused to support it. 

The easiest votes for legislators to make is a no vote, and Dems and mods have been dining out on that word for years. The bill may come due in August if they refuse to vote for a solution they said we had to have.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Proposed Plans

Here are a few snapshots of four proposed school funding plans. The Democrat plan was dead on arrival.

Almost every one of them includes cutting Kansas virtual schools. Government schools must have all the money. 

Special Session Nonsense

A bunch of loons will descend on Topeka this morning--and I'm not talking about legislators. (Ba-dum ching. I'll be here all week.)

This school funding issue is a red herring and a political shell game designed to force Republicans to raise taxes. The end goal is a political one--calling Republicans "hypocrites." 

This was never about the children. It's about the adults. 

Adults, and probably some misguided children being used as political tools, are going to descend on the Capitol today. My hope is that they'll behave and listen and learn. But if history is any indication, these folks may curse and even spit at legislators. This happened recently. Specifically, I heard horror stories from when the KNEA rallied to advocate against making changes that limited some of the things that teachers unions can negotiate. (Legislators did what needed to be done and overhauled 1970s collective bargaining rules.)

Today, there are no good solutions (other than ignoring the Court's June 30 deadline and no one has the courage to do that). 

I hate the "plan" on the table right now, but it very may well pass. Boo. There are two potential ways this thing fails: 

1. Since Sens. Susan Wagle and Terry Bruce are attempting to out-conservative one another in the lead-up to leadership elections in the Senate next year, one or both may be willing to play hard ball and advocate for calling the Court's bluff. I have my fingers and toes crossed, but I hear Wagle is #TeamBadPlan, so we'll see. 

2. Enough of the liberty-leaning conservatives refuse to fall for this bad plan. I don't have high hopes for this either. Some of the liberty-leaning conservatives will refuse to vote on the plan unless it's tied to some policy legislation--like the Constitutional Amendment telling Courts to stuff it. But there may not be enough of those folks to prevent this horrid plan. 

My sincere hope is that legislators realize that all of those boneheads rallying today don't speak for anyone but themselves. They don't speak for me. They don't speak for all parents. They don't speak for all teachers or school board members or school administrators. Those people, a majority of which will be on the public school dole, speak only for themselves. Please remember that. They're screaming the loudest, in part, because they can. Thanks to their unions and shadow groups funded by John Vratil and friends, they're well organized, and they've been working on this for years. Conveniently, they also don't have to work in the summer. 

There is another side to this issue, and we're at our desks hoping you'll spare our pocketbooks, not just today, but long term. There will never be enough money to satiate them, and if you give the Court's and the Unions the idea that they can make funding decisions by taking hostages and threatening to close public institutions, it's game over in the long term.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Bad Plan

Michael Mahoney, a TV guy, writes (and probably talks on video--TLDNW) that there's a legislative plan to fix school funding.

The plan, which I am assuming is a House plan, would cut every district by ½ a percent. Thus ends the only part of the plan that I can potentially support.

For the love of all things holy, there’s only so much money in the Kansas budget--all of which was taken from taxpayers at the point of a gun I remind you--and if we want roads, services to the less fortunate, assistance for the elderly, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the National Guard, we can’t give all of it to the greedsters known as the public school lobby.

According to Mahoney, the plan would also use money from the tobacco settlement and cut money from the extraordinary needs fund, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program and an online school fund. (Can TANF money be used for anything OTHER than TANF? Asking for a friend.)

There’s so much to hate here that I’m having trouble deciding where to start. Head to your safe spaces, friends, because I have nothing nice left to say.

First, let’s talk about that tobacco settlement fund. It’s bad public policy to use one-time money to fund ongoing operations. Once the tobacco money is gone, I’m pretty sure schools are going to continue expecting cash. Down that road leads a tax increase. (That’s the entire point of this exercise, as I told you yesterday.)

There is one bright spot in using tobacco settlement money. This requires firing up the Way Back Machine, all the way back to 1999. Britney Spears was burning up the charts with “Baby One More Time,” jelly shoes and overalls were popular, and in Kansas, Bill Graves was piloting the  U.S.S. Kansas into choppy, ice filled waters.

That was also the year ambulance chasers won a $1.6 billion settlement with tobacco companies, and Kansas was awarded a $131 million cut of it. Thank you, smokers! What followed was an epic display of so-called children’s advocacy organizations acting like buzzards fighting over a carcass. These are liberal-leaning groups like Kansas Action for Children, whose stated purpose is FOR THE CHILDREN, which really means, give us tax money so we can advocate for more money. These are some of the same groups screaming that the state of Kansas (aka Johnson County) needs to put more money into giving Wichita property owners ad valorem tax breaks FOR THE CHILDREN. It would be a pretty rich irony if Kansas used money that was to go to them to solve the non-problem they helped create.

I remain #TeamCalltheCourt’sBluff. Guys, we can’t continue down this road. It’s time to play the long game. If you’re casting a vote based on what happens on Aug. 2 or even what happens on the first day of school, you’re doing it wrong. Acquiescing to the demands of a Court determined to make life difficult for conservatives is a terrible plan for the future. If legislators allow this to continue, it’s only a matter of time before someone sues the state on the Kansas Department of Transportation’s behalf, demanding more money. And then, someone sues on the Department of Whatever’s behalf, demanding more money. And the cycle continues. How do Kansans survive the onslaught of tax hikes? Do we become Detroit, who managed to tax and spend itself into oblivion? Negotiating with hostage takers incentivizes hostage taking. It really is that simple.

Meanwhile, I’m absolutely sickened that this plan may be passed without even a nod to conservatives. Cutting online schools, Kansas’ only school choice provision? Not even voting on an unnecessary, but relevant Constitutional Amendment laying out expressly the Court’s ability to “close the schools.” (Seriously, I have yet to hear anyone explain how that works. The Court is just going to waive some papers around and stamp their feet saying schools are closed. It’s so laughable. I can’t believe anyone is taking that threat seriously. Seriously!)

Someone tell me why conservatives should even bother going to the polls on Aug. 2 or in November if winning means losing. Consistently. Constantly. Already, I’m not voting in many races that will appear on my ballot. I can’t vote for the presidency--barring something dramatic in Cleveland (oh, pretty please!). And I can’t vote in local races for reasons I would’ve once listed here, but thanks Tyler Longbine I won’t. The only question on my ballot that I’ll for sure mark at this point is against retaining members of Kansas’ kangaroo court.

The people have checked out completely, and apparently, so have most legislators and the Governor’s Office. (And here’s where I’ll say something nice about the Governor: Guys, be kind to the man. Clearly, he needs your encouragement. Say what you must on doorsteps, but privately, give him a hug. His wells of inner strength appear to be fairly shallow, but you have the power to add some water to that well. Do it for the good of the state.)

At this point, everything is hyperbole. No one’s crystal ball can say for certain how the majority of Kansans or conservatives will react on anything that happens in the next few days. I really wish we’d get the opportunity to see how the people would react if legislators called the Court’s bluff. Unfortunately, my crystal ball says that’s not in the cards.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Will Happen on June 23

Welp. That solves one mystery. I've been trying to nail down a schedule or some details about what's going to occur during the special session on June 23 and June 24. 

I know what's not going to happen in the Senate: Floor votes. Word on the street is that the Senate President Susan Wagle has sent word to the caucus that there will be no Senate floor votes until Monday.

The other thing that's going to happen: GameOn for Kansas Schools, a hobby organization like scrapbooking, but with hate, (h/t Emily Wellman) is rounding up school employees to attend the session on June 23. So that ought to be fun! (Or not fun. Probably not fun. The real question is if the school marms actually hurl curse words at legislators and their families during this visit to the Capitol, will anyone report it?) 

Dems Want More for Schools and It Has Nothing To Do with Education

Why do the Democrats want Republicans to add money to the state budget? It’s not because an infusion of $38 million to “equalize” Kansas school funding will go to the classrooms. According to legislative research, the money will offset property taxes in some district. It’s not new or extra money for classrooms or teachers or even administrators. It will allow some school districts to tax its users at a lower rate. (Or, in simpler terms, it redistributes money from Johnson County residents to western Kansans.)

And we know the Democrats and moderates are screaming mad about limited funding for other services, like the Kansas Department of Transportation--don’t get me started; and cuts to senior services. And they’re also fighting angry about the Kansas universities increasing tuition due to funding cuts. (It’s odd that public universities don’t opt to make cuts of their own rather than just asking students and their parents--and federal loan programs-- for more money, but that’s how these things work.) Surely, Democrats realize that extra school funding has to come from somewhere, and that making those cuts to other parts of the budget is painful and at this point unnecessary considering the extra school funding won’t even go to classrooms.

So I ask again: Why are Democrats so desperate to sacrifice everything on the altar of public education? They’re playing the long game, and they want Kansas Republicans to vote for tax increases simply so they can call Republicans and conservatives hypocrites.

I just hope conservatives are too smart to fall for it. I guess we’ll find out later this week. If Republicans vote to fund schools in greater amounts than we already are, tax increases are coming, and it has nothing to do with providing more or better services or educating children and everything to do with Democrats wanting an excuse to use the word “hypocrite.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Not Losing Sleep

I know we're supposed to be desperately disappointed and discouraged by news that Kansas fell to 49th in the nation in construction jobs.

Do I want more jobs? Of course! But this report in the Topeka Capitol-Journal suggests that the Sunflower State has fewer jobs because the Kansas Department of Transportation received funding cuts. Oh pardon me, while I don't cry one single weepy liberal tear. 

This story was designed specifically as an attempt to share bad news, because Kansas' employment picture is looking pretty stellar at the moment. I don't know how anyone can drive around Johnson County and believe for one second that the state isn't funding highways well enough. My entire commute is one giant obstacle course through orange barrels and cones. And it's that way ALL OVER the suburbs. Exits closed or under construction on Interstate 35 in Johnson County due to road work: 151st Street, Sante Fe/135th Street, Interstate 435, 95th Street, Johnson Drive. There are probably more. I just don't get that far north all that often. 

I'd also like to note that the last time I paid careful attention to a major construction project in Kansas--it was large enough to include the construction of interchanges as well as large industrial buildings--I couldn't help but notice that most of the work trucks had tags from other states, and not necessarily Missouri. I don't actually know why that is, and obviously, that's anecdotal. So make of it what you will.

Kansas' unemployment is at an all-time low, 3.7 percent. And for what it's worth, Kansas officials are in no position to juggle those numbers to make themselves look good. That unemployment rate comes courtesy the feds. 

And you guys, if you saw the questions U.S. Census workers are asking about employment, you would be outraged. I have the questionnaire, but I am unsure whether those specific questions are sensitive so I won't quote it verbatim. But the questions go something like this: If you answered yes, you didn't work at least one day last week, which of the following reasons most closely matches the reason:

1. You didn't work because the state didn't fund enough highway work, so you had to take time off.

2. You missed a day of work last week, because the government shut down and you were forced to take a day off.

3. You didn't work one day last week because the government cut funding to your employer, so you had to take a vacation day.

I am not kidding. Almost all of the answers whine about less funding. Washington bureaucrats are playing a horrible joke, and regular citizens are the punchline.

Anyway, so Kansas unemployment is in the basement--I don't agree with the way the feds tally these numbers, BUT Kansas' unemployment numbers are accurate as compared to other states-- and those numbers are despite the fact that the feds are trying their best to pin the few people without jobs on the government not spending enough money.

Good news makes the haters uneasy so they attempt to bludgeon conservatives with supposedly bad news.  That's the ENTIRE point of this non-story about fewer construction jobs. The media shouldn't be selling it, and quite frankly, no one who pays a bit of attention should be buying. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Word on the Street

I am hearing such varying accounts of what's about to go down next week in Topeka that I can't make heads or tails of it. I'm going to dump it all here, and maybe someone smarter than me can make sense of how the push to give more money to property owners in support of government schools is going to go down.

1. Seriously, the Governor HATES the members of his own party. I don't get it at all. He's apparently the most loyal of people to old friends, but Kim Borchers and Mark Dugan didn't get that guy elected twice all on their own. They had help--loads and loads of it, from current legislators and their grassroots supporters. (True story: I still have Brownback literature and signs in my trunk. Anyone need some?) It's absolutely enraging that the Governor is in a position to lead and lead with strength from the right, and it appears he will not do it. Brownback's spokesperson said he believes legislators need to approve $38 million for LOB equalization. 

This is where I'm pretty certain Brownback comes from the Washington, D.C., school of budgeting. Tagline: Just throw more money at it! We'll print more!

Kansas doesn't have that option. There is no money tree. The money tree is the taxpayers, and we're broke. Our salaries haven't kept pace with inflation. Two-thirds of us don't have enough money to fund a $400 emergency. This cash tree is in a drought. Someone has to stop spending our money, and Governor, that's why we elected you.

I think Brownback is beaten down, but that's not an excuse. Here's the very specific story I heard: The Governor has checked out. He told legislative leaders to "go head and pay them," meaning the schools. (I TOLD YOU IT WAS A HOSTAGE SITUATION!) The response to the Governor's suggestion was that there aren't enough votes to pull money from Johnson County, which is what would be required to equalize without additional spending. And so Brownback basically said, go ahead and figure it out. I hope everything I just wrote is inaccurate. 

Throw a brief pity party if you must, Governor, and then strap on the armor, man! 

Strap it on, and get out there and lead. And for the love of all things holy, lead from the right. We're the ones who brought you to this dance, so sign our dance cards. This may mean political seppuku, but at least you get to leave office with your dignity and principles in tact. People admire that. I admire that.

2. The Senate, for now, appears far, far less wobbly than the House. Though SenAtor Jeff King has floated a plan to take some money from the highway fund, I hear that won't work, because the highway funds are all federal funds with strings. 

I also hear the Senate is highly likely to move on a constitutional amendment that would make it illegal for the Court to close schools. (Again, I think the suggestion that the Court currently has that authority is absolutely laughable. But apparently the Court needs to really have it spelled out in detail so simple that even a third grader could understand it.) 

3. House appropriations folks are working on a plan. I've been warned that I will hate it. This means it's a plan in which there's some political theater followed by schools getting even more money. And, yes, I hate it. A quick rehash: If we capitulate to the Court's demands for more cash, we create a dangerous precedent that puts far, far too much power in the hands of a few people selected by a secret committee of ambulance chasers. This is untenable for the future, and it leaves conservatives and reasonable people in support of fiscal sanity no choice but to treat the Kansas Supreme Court as a political arm. (It always has been, but liberals say they don't want that.)

Second, at some point, we just can't keep throwing money at the schools. Schools already receive 50 percent of the Kansas budget. There are other people in this state and other services the state provides. We've cut services to the elderly; we've cut services to mental health; this is what happens when we sacrifice everything on the altar of THE CHILDREN. 

4. All of this eventually ends with some sort of conference committee. That's assuming either body--the House or the Senate--is able to pass anything. I seriously don't know how either body gets the votes required to move on anything. It's either take money from Johnson County, which I have trouble seeing JoCo legislators agreeing to, or take money already budgeted to somewhere else. I honestly don't see the west half of the state going for that. (By west, I mean everything west of Douglas County.) I don't see how you create a coalition out of these folks, and I definitely don't see how you create anything remotely resembling a conservative coalition, despite the fact that Kansas and its legislature is one of the most conservative in the nation. 

This failure belongs to all of us, conservatives. We're going to have to work harder. (Or listen to the soothing music as the ship sinks. Sigh.) Here's the small pep talk for us: These liberal screamers are getting louder and more awful, because we're making real strides. So take some heart, friends.

5. I wish legislators and the Governor recognized that the people screaming the loudest don't speak for everyone. I don't even think they speak for a majority. I wrote some pretty aggressive things about firing the judges, and the feedback I received privately from many, many teachers, school officials, and even other judges across the state was, yes, the Court was completely out of line. I really think the silent majority has drawn that conclusion. We need to rally those folks. (And if you happen to be one of those folks, please, please contact  your conservative legislators and/or the Governor's Office and let them know you're with them. Clearly they need to hear it.)

Even people who think the schools should get more money--which we need to be reminding people that "giving money to schools" in this instance will actually mean property tax relief for some homeowners in Wichita-- think the Courts went too far.

6. Again, the Justices up for retention should be canned, and I sincerely hope someone is working on a grassroots effort to make that happen. That's where conservatives ought to focus ALL of their attention this fall. On my ballot, I'll vote to retain Caleb Stegall. He didn't rule on the scandalous Court decision threatening to close schools. He's only been on the Court briefly. But, if you aren't able to remember names and specifics, it's better to fire all of the Justices than to keep the one who may or may not be a bust. Stegall has said a few things in this aftermath that make me feel a little stabby, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Backing away from the Ledge

I may need to walk back the post beneath this one. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are submitting minutes without any formal recommendations. I do not know what this means.

I guess it means this will be a giant free-for-all when the full legislature returns next week. I'm maybe OK with that. Well, as OK as I can be all things considered.

Don't Look Now... But Caving Is Imminent

I am just going to get out my I-Told-You-So sandwich board and parade through the streets of Kansas.

I KNEW if legislators were called back to Topeka, they'd surrender like the French in the face of mild German aggression. Actually, they're lamer than the French. At least the French actually passed out weapons and acted like they might use them.

The members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee sound like they're about to pass out of committee a "recommendation" that Kansans just pony up $38 million. 

Guys, this is a loser. A major loser in every way you slice it. The liberals and moderates get to say I told you so. (Least of my worries, really.) Their campaigns can now count on a conservative backlash. Seriously, I keep adding to the races on my ballot that I'm going to have to leave blank. I'll go to the polls, because I haven't missed one since the 1990s, but I may turn in an unmarked ballot. If conservative legislators are looking for a way to depress conservative turnout, they may have just landed on it with this crazy plan. Perhaps most offensive in this entire episode is that now it's not just school children who will be held endlessly hostage by this charade of a Kansas (Kangaroo) Supreme Court; now all public institutions can just run up the Court chain seeking more and more funding. It's only a matter of time before the Kansas Department of Transportation or the Kansas Department for Children and Families sues the state for more money. The taxpayers will be soaked--even more than we already have been-- with no end in sight. This consolidates a dangerous, dangerous precedent, in which the people have no say in how much of their money is spent or where it goes.

These boneheads are going to try to tie this new school spending to a Constitutional Amendment. I am all for the amendment, but there is a (tiny) risk that it fails before voters. And even if a proposed amendment doesn't pass, if the Legislature solidifies a precedence to turn over all funding decisions to the Court, it will not longer matter whether the unelected ambulance chasers selected by secret committee have the authority to actually close buildings. They won't need it! (Ahem. They STILL can't actually close buildings, but I guess the educrats could essentially go on strike and hide behind the skirts of the kangaroo court).

Seriously, Kansans, just hand over your wallets. Turn in the keys to your house, and start looking for a place to move. Florida or Texas sound nice this time of year.

Limited Edition: The Circus Returns to Town

Yesterday, a bucket load of clown cars arrived in Topeka for the start of two-day’s worth of Senate and House Judiciary Committee hearings before the legislature reconvenes in a special session next week. As per usual, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by the only people who don’t have to work in the summer.

As someone with a job--that isn’t provided courtesy of taxpayers--I was unable to attend the circus yesterday. I won’t be there today, either. Sad face. However, for what may be the first time, someone in Topeka decided to use the Internet for good instead of evil. Written testimony was provided!! (I can’t find it to link to it. Ugh.) Many thanks to the folks that decided to do that for we the poor schmucks who can’t take off work every five minutes to run to Topeka.

Also, many thanks to the Lawrence Journal-World for attempting to live stream the committee session. Between Twitter (where the trolls go to commune), the stream, and the written testimony, I got a pretty good feel for what occurred yesterday. Seriously, thanks for that.

Here’s what I gathered:

  • Many complaints that the only people attending were on only one side of the issue. Allow me to explain this phenomenon: Regular taxpayers can’t go galavanting off to Topeka to testify and wail every 5 minutes. We have to be in our seats, behind our desks, attempting to make enough money to continue to feed our families after the public schools take their pounds of flesh. Make what you will of that. So the people demanding more money have the summer off. The rest of us: Not so much.

  • Sen. Julia Lynn said what surely everyone in the room was thinking: “I’m telling you, everybody is weary of this. What I would like to do is find some type of number that would be satisfactory, and I guess nothing ever will be.”

Nailed it. The Whining Whiners Who Whine basically said as much during the committee hearing. Sen. Lynn attempted to pin down a number or a percent of the budget, and the answer was something like-- well, there are a lot of variables. It’s impossible to come up with a number. It’s impossible to come up with a number, because there’s no amount of money that will satiate them. Ever. If possible, they would take every single dime in the Kansas economy and use it to fund lavish administrator vehicles and vacation homes. (And some fancy school buildings.) Your local school may get a really nice indoor training facility to put the Kansas City Chiefs’ training facility to shame, but the teachers screaming about more money are unlikely to see more than a few nickels for their classrooms, their salaries or even their retirement funds. (The KPERS mess? They should be blaming former Gov. Sebelius, but that will never happen, because intellectual dishonesty.)

  • The Internet liberals think that the opposition is just a bunch of people taking orders from the Koch brothers. I feel micro-aggressed and man-splained. I know it’s beyond the comprehension of people who worship at the altar of socialized systems, but there are a lot of people in this world who draw conclusions based on their own experiences and belief systems. The suggestion that people who think like me are taking marching orders and ideas from somewhere else is so offensive. Those people really need to check their privilege.

  • It makes perfect sense that this hostage situation end with a Constitutional Amendment saying that the Kansas Supreme Court is prohibited from closing public institutions at the whim of a handful of ambulance chasers selected by secret committee. I can’t even believe all of the so-called FOR THE CHILDREN people who advocated against the amendment. This should tell everyone something--they don’t actually care if anyone gets an education. They just want you to hand over your checks. (And if they absolutely MUST spend a day or two per week in the classroom educating children, parents shouldn’t have a lick of say in what their kids are taught.)

  • Can we talk about Game On for Kansas Schools? (Stupid name. Probably penned by a coven of cat ladies.) Anyway, that organizations’ testimony before the committee really clarifies something--for whom they advocate: “We advocate for Kansas public schools to ensure our teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members have the resources necessary to deliver quality education to all Kansas students.” Please note, the children are secondary. At least, that’s what I take from the statement. This isn’t about the children. It’s about the adults.

  • Meanwhile, Johnson County school districts have come up with a plan that only requires an additional $12-ish million in state funding. They issued a plea that legislators fund to 81.2 percent--whatever that means--while holding all schools harmless. You know why Johnson County schools are so insistent that school districts be held harmless (don’t lose funding already established)? Because the Johnson County schools will lose millions if the state legislature simply decides to “equalize” school funding. Socialism-- it’s totally not cool if you’re successful, because it basically means everyone suffers equally. Nice work, JoCo public schools. The obvious solution to this problem was always taking money from you, because there’s no money left. And I’ll entertain no words about how we just need to fix the tax situation. The mods and Democrats had the opportunity--twice--and they rejected it.

  • Gov. Brownback made a huge mistake by agreeing to negotiate with the terrorists. Even if the Kansas Legislature bent to every insane demand being made by the school lobby, conservatives will be blamed. If you’re fortunate enough to be represented by a conservative in the Kansas House and/or the Kansas Senate, your legislators need to hear from you. They’re getting no help from the Governor, and because taxpayers all have jobs, we’re unable to be there in person to advocate on behalf of fiscal sanity. In this instance, he who screams the loudest wins. Conservatives, please get off of your behinds and let your representatives know that you’re sick of being an ATM machine for people who actively work against your values and the best interests of your family.

  • And I just want to say this one more time, mostly because I've seen few things that anger up the liberals more than this suggestion: Voters should FIRE members of the Kansas Supreme Court up for retention this fall.