Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): January 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Hippy Circle sans Drums

Fifteen  Fourteen Dems and one conservative gathered last night to share tales of woe and frustration about the Donald Trump inauguration. I had hoped to sneak into the back of the meeting and go unnoticed. For about 5 minutes, my diabolical plan to be a fly on the wall at the initial Indivisible Kansas meeting was successful. I had my bongos on hand so I could blend, but sadly, no one else brought their drums to the hippy drum circle at the JoCo Library in Prairie Village.

Individual Kansas (KS-03) is part of a national Indivisible movement to resist the Trump agenda. Crafted by former Democratic Congressional staffers, its goal is to take action against the President. Last night's meeting--for the first 5 minutes anyway--ran more like a Liberal Voters Anonymous meeting. We sat in a circle while everyone introduced themselves and explained how they were "woke." Attendees checked their privilege, explained how terrified they were for themselves and especially their minority friends, and bemoaned their common belief that beginning today, police will be shooting protesters in the streets and sending Democrats, Muslims, minorities and members of the LBGTQZYEIZLOEK (Do they have all the letters yet? I can't keep track?) to the internment camps. 

As we went around the table of individuals describing the challenges of privileged white people with government jobs living in wealthy communities like Prairie Village, I was trembling in fear. I was going to have to say my name. There are days I really wish my parents had the good graces to name me Jane. Or Carrie. or Emma. Or Jennifer. Fortunately, as I began introducing myself--long before I got to the part about my actual name--the wife of one Democratic Kansas House Representative j'accused, "You're Gidget!" She told the people that I wasn't one of their tribe, and so they should be careful what they said. Head desk.

They didn't kick me out--they were very welcoming--but I suspect my presence scuttled their real plans. Instead of planning an "action"--which is what the Indivisible group leader guide suggests doing in an initial meeting--they talked about elections, Johnson County's decommissioned voting machines, and the 13,000 provisional ballots that were thrown out due to a glitch in the state's voter registration website. It was all very innocuous and really, not crazy. There was no dancing. No bongos. And there was only one person who seemed to have an unhealthy, unrelenting general anger. (Otherwise, mostly a group of really lovely and pleasant people who care about our country and our state. Thanks for being so kind to me.)

I suspect their action--when they plan one without me--will be to stage some kind of sit-in in Congressman Kevin Yoder's office. I don't think they'll limit their efforts to emails and phone calls. As one person put it: We need "disruptive and effective" tools. 

And obviously, their short term goal is to find a viable liberal candidate who can beat Yoder in 2020. A very common refrain was--we just have to get through the next two years, though one person intoned: Are we all worried that 2020 might not come? (Because Trump may just stop future elections from occurring and name himself Supreme Leader forever.)

The group was comprised of 12 women, including me, and 3 men. There was one Millenial. I'd say the average age of the group members was mid-40s. Two of the men did the majority of the speaking, along with the wife of a Democratic House member. Oh, the patriarchy. That's not where the irony ended, however. Members remained suspicious that Republican were paying brown people to pose in photos at rallies and political events. Um... the only brown person in that room last night was the conservative--so I'll just leave that one there.

I did want to give them all a hug. I have been EXACTLY where they are right now, circa 2008. I still have some questions about shenanigans that occurred on Election Day 2012 in Pennsylvania and other critical states. I was worried that there may never be another election, and that Obama was going to take all of our guns and send us all to re-education camps. I didn't generally wear my tin foil hat in public, but I had one.

I feared the worst. The last eight years were pretty unpleasant politically, but for the most part, I came out the other side unscathed, as liberal Facebookers remind me almost daily with memes about how no one collected conservatives' guns. 

In a few hours, we have one of the greatest privileges in human history, a peaceful transition of enormous power. Conservatives came out the other side of the Obama Administration unscathed, and in four or eight years, my new liberal friends, you will, too. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Solution to Gun Bans on College Campuses

Legislators are gearing up to make Kansas college students sitting ducks. I speak of course of plans to undo a law that allows students to carry concealed guns on campus.

I'm pretty certain this legislation will be dead on arrival. Though there are plenty of liberal Republicans in western Kansas willing to redistribute wealth, they have the good graces to support gun rights. Couple that fact with a Governor who is pretty solid on Second Amendment issues and this legislation is likely to belly flop.

That said, I've come up with a compromise that will mollify the people terrified of law-abiding citizens having the ability to defend themselves. I call it, The Gidget Southway Signs for Safety Act. Since some believe the height of personal safety is a sign making it illegal to carry a gun in certain places, I recommend printing t-shirts for them that make it clear that shooting a person is illegal. Problem solved. A t-shirt offers the same safety provisions as the No Guns Allowed sign, while still allowing law abiding citizens the right to protect themselves. 

I know I feel safer already.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Test of Wills

This legislative session is clearly going to come down to a test of wills. The group that digs its heels in hardest will walk away with some integrity. All other legislators are going to look like lily-livered, spineless eels. It's going to be so gross.

I write that not as an accusation. Compromise is going to be necessary, but we find ourselves in a place where honest compromise and negotiation are going to be nearly impossible.

If you think government spends too much (Ahem. This girl.), where do you compromise? There's simply no path. The Brownback plan increases government spending. Taxes on cigarettes! Taxes on alcohol! Taxes and more taxes, only less taxes than whatever hellish solution comes out of the Senate--where they seem to be seriously considering parts of the RiseUp plan, also known as the Great Wealth Transfer™. Under those genius's tutelage, the budget may just take money from the pockets of all the humans who have jobs and give it directly to teachers unions and construction workers, after laundering it through state coffers, of course. It is the Worst Plan in History™. 

So if you're a person who thinks government could shed a few pounds, you're in a boat alone in the middle of stormy waters. 

Over in the House, it appears the Democrat plan is to sit back and eat sandwiches the whole session. Those guys aren't going to vote for anything. They showed their hands when they named Rep. Jim Ward as House minority leader. He basically said he won't vote for a one-off LLC-loophole close; he'll only vote for a comprehensive tax package. I'm pretty sure I know the steps to that dance routine. When someone introduces a "comprehensive tax package," there will be some other reason he can't support it. He's probably got tap shoes lined up for every member of the Democratic Caucus in the House. (This is the long game in hopes that the Dems can retake the Governor's Office in 2018.) 

Back in the Senate, the likely purveyors of the Take all the Money and Throw It at Anyone Who Says a Mean Thing™ plan, are about to approve Senate rule changes designed to crush the spirits of even the strongest willed. I speak of a proposed rule change that would allow Senate leadership to make an undebatable motion to recess until a certain time. They're set to vote on this one today. Basically, this new rule will allow leadership (or Senate members) to extend the legislative session under the same legislative day. On the books, it will make it appear as though the session is fewer days than it may in actuality be. This little quirk also means legislators would only be paid for the one day instead of the actual number of days. In short, this will be used as a negotiation tactic, because there are members of the Senate who may not be able to afford staying in session for the rest of their lives with only a day's pay to show for it. 

With an inability to get an agreement of any sort in the House--no faction has the numbers--and a Senate gearing up to throw dissenters under a fiscal bus, Kansans are virtually assured a spike in spending and a bucket full of new taxes. 

The compromise position will require more taxes. For example, the laughable RiseUp proposal includes an 11 cent per gallon gas tax increase. (I will cut someone.) The "compromise" is a smaller gas tax. It makes me physically ill that we're about to tax off the deep end while Missouri is over there with some conservatives in power. Our current legislature is actually gearing up to stick a dagger in Johnson County. If by some miracle KCMO gets its education act together, JoCo will slowly cease to be the economic engine of the state. It's real trouble friends, with a capital "T" that rhymes with "P". And that stands for politics. The tragic part is the disastrous results of a fiscally sane Missouri and a Kansas Legislature acting like Detroit leadership won't be obvious for several years. This makes bleeding Kansas to a slow death the politically easy thing to do. Head desk.

Here's the unicorn I would like to see: A refusal of conservatives in the House and the Senate to vote for any proposal that increases bottom line government spending. This means for every tax increase added, there should be an equal or greater spending cut somewhere else. The likelihood of that happening is right up there with the probability of me marrying Prince Harry. 

It's going to be a very long session culminating in an epic test of wills. May the most frugal and principled win.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Brownback Gives an Address; Was It a Farewell?

If you weren't able to watch Gov. Brownback's State of the State Address, you can read the whole thing here. You can watch it here. (You'll need to fast forward to about minute 43.) It wasn't Brownback's worst address--oh, 2014 address, you still give me nightmares. 

For the first time--at least in my memory--Brownback  used his speech to talk about fiscal conservatism and the values of small government. However, Brownback can't just give a speech without the promise of additional spending. 

He proposed spending $5 million for a rural medical residency program. He proposed establishing a privately funded Doctor of Osteopathy School in Kansas, and he suggested creating a dental school. These proposals would be an attempt to fill a decades long shortage of doctors and dentists in Kansas.

I think these are decent plans, but I'm not sure they're affordable plans at this time. Also, it makes no sense to locate a dental school geographically at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Plant the school  as a KU Med satellite campus in rural Kansas, where the dental shortage is acute. There's a dental school right across the river from KU Med. The University of Missouri--Kansas City has a great dental school. It just doesn't make sense to locate a new one practically next door.

Honestly, the 2017 speech is kind of a microcosm of the entire challenge of the Brownback years--we've always needed to streamline government service; we've always needed to balance the budget so that it "reconciles spending with available revenue." Compare those words with previous Brownback State of the State Addresses in which he announced plans to grow government and the bureaucracy. And then consider this: Under Brownback some government processes have been streamlined. The so-called government cuts have been cuts on proposed spending increases, not actual dollars cut.

Meanwhile, we cut taxes, for which I am grateful. However, you can't cut taxes without cutting spending. THAT is what created Kansas' budget challenges in recent years. In past years, back when Sebelius just held onto your tax returns to balance the budget, the budget shortfalls were a direct result of just spending without any sense of abandon at all. 

On a side note, as a lover of words and language, I appreciated the effort of the Titanic metaphor. That's not the metaphor I would have chosen--far too many in the media have gone out of their way to liken Kansas to a sinking ship, so using that as a metaphor seemed well, not that smart. I would have used something aviation related and tied it to Wichita's aviation industry--or... something else. 

Finally, the speech reads something like a farewell address, and it's especially telling that many of the initiatives and goals set forth are absolutely in Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer's wheelhouse. (Goodbye, Kansas? Hello, Rome?)

Stuff Mainstream Beat Reporters Should Have Broken

According to Got News, Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain torpedoed a potential Kris Kobach nomination for U.S. Department of Homeland Security, swearing to block a Kobach nomination. 

I don't doubt the story's veracity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We're Number 4...

If Kansas is number four, what kind of dictatorial hell holes are the rest of the country living in?
That sounds a teensy bit harsh, I guess. But I was flabbergasted to learn that Kansas tops the list of personal property rights freedom in the 50 states. 
Do you know the hell people go through in Johnson County to rezone property? To get permission to divide land? To get a building permit approved? Our local governing bodies -- including planning commissions, zoning boards, city councils and the board of county commissioners -- stop just short of requiring a live lung donation. It's abominable. I'm not kidding. 
At least in Johnson County, the processes to rezone, get a building permit, divide land is awful. You'll need lawyers, engineers and a bevy of professionals to argue your case. You will miss work. You will probably spend half your life savings, all the while, knowing that at any step in the process some bureaucrat could pull the plug based on the height of a proposed sign. Or, a governing body -- a planning commission, a zoning board, a city council or the county commission -- could decide your plans for the property you own aren't good enough. It would be better suited as a hotel or a highway or as a park. So what if it may be 20 years before that happens? The bureaucrats and public body members can't take the risk that your plan for your property might limit the amount of tax money they can squander from you in the form of future property taxes. In some communities -- and I don't mean Home Owners Associations -- I mean in some municipalities, there are rules about what color homeowners can paint their houses. There's a reason almost every home in Johnson County is "Johnson County beige."
And don't get me started on the smoking ban. No, I'm not a smoker. And I don't really like being around it, but it takes a lot of hubris for a governing entity -- yeah, that's you state of Kansas -- to tell a property owner what legal activities they can allow in their own establishments. 

The survey, it appears, takes into consideration things like eminent domain processes and land-use regulations. It also considers things like local rent control laws. That's a very limited list, but it's still extensive enough that the final results have me scratching my head.

So, color me super surprised to learn that Kansas tops nation where personal property rights are concerned. What sort of dictatorial hell holes is everyone else living in? I don't even want to know. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Calling Yourself a PhD Makes You Truer

The Leavenworth Times will apparently believe anything you say if you put this behind your name "PhD." The paper recently printed a letter to the editor written by a Ruth Heflin, "PhD." In the letter, she suggests that regular citizens need to do math, because Kansas spends way less than 50 percent on public education. She writes that the state spends between 9.7 percent to 36.9 percent of its budget on public education, or $587 million of a $6 billion state budget. 

I don't have a PhD so take this with a grain of salt, but a quick glance at the Kansas Department of Education website reveals that the state spent $3.9 billion on public education last year, or $8,540--in state aid per pupil. That figure doesn't include money from federal and local. When those numbers are included, Kansas districts spent $13,025 per pupil. 

She quotes a Kansas per pupil expenditure of $9,972 from Governing Magazine. Admittedly, I know little about that magazine. Perhaps, that periodical's careful editing includes the same amount of fact checking the Leavenworth Times employs. (So, that's none.) 

Dr. Ruth writes that legislators like Mary Pilcher Cook and organizations like Kansas Policy Institute use suspect numbers to advance their agendas to "undermine the actual value of Kansas public education systems." As Heflin intones in her nonsensical letter, "A little fibbing helps, too. After all, who is going to check their figures?" Right back at you, Dr. Ruth. 

By the way, my Google machine tells me Dr. Ruth taught English at Kansas City Kansas Community College, and that she had a somewhat litigious and complicated relationship with the school. (The Google machine also tells me she once wrote a letter to the editor calling former Rep. Tony Barton a bigot.)

By the way, AP Style doesn't confer the title of "doctor" on anyone but medical doctors. It's odd (to me) that the "PhD" would be used in a letter to the editor unless it was somehow relevant to the topic at hand. The topic at hand in her letter appears to be math. I'm guessing her doctorate is in English. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Pompeo Confirmation Hearing Set

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will consider confirming Congressman Mike Pompeo as CIA director on Jan. 11. 

Between his nomination and the hearing, Pompeo has been the subject of a lengthy background check by the FBI and the Office of Government Ethics has vetted him for potential conflicts of interest. 

I have no insider information, but typically, nominees meet with Senate committee members and their staff prior to the hearing. I'm assuming that's been happening. On Jan. 11, Pompeo will be formally introduced to the committee prior to testifying and taking questions from the committee during a public hearing. Others may testify in support of Pompeo. 

The committee will vote on the nomination in executive session, and if Pompeo receives a majority, Pompeo's nomination will be forwarded to the full Senate. It used to require 60 votes to confirm a nominee, but the Democrats--in their infinite wisdom--changed Senate rules in 2013. Pompeo will only need 51 Senate votes for confirmation. With 52 Republicans in the Senate, Pompeo's confirmation is virtually assured. 

Once Pompeo is confirmed, Gov. Brownback will have 5 days to set an election date to replace Pompeo in Congress. The election date must be more than 45 days, but less than 60 days, from the day the vacancy occurs. Pompeo can't be formally confirmed by the Senate until he is formally nominated by President Trump--so sometime after Jan. 20. If Pompeo is confirmed before the end of January, which I think is likely, the election to replace him occur no later than April 1. It could be as early as March 7, if Pompeo were confirmed on Jan. 20, and Brownback scheduled the election in the shortest amount of time possible.

Here's how Pompeo will be replaced.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Bad Start

Well, Kansas' new Congressman is off to a rocky and embarrassing start, after his son "dabbed" during Dr. Roger Marshall's swearing in ceremony.

Dabbing, for anyone over the age and mental capacity of 10, is a dance move that resembles sneezing. Cal Marshall, 17, told U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan that he was about to sneeze during the Roger Marshall's swearing in ceremony yesterday. However, the lengthy pose holding, coupled with a questionable, joke-y facial expression, would suggest otherwise. You can watch it here. Prepare to be horrified.

I hate to comment on the children of any politician, however, it's difficult to ignore when overseas publications pick up the story. I'll simply say this: Cal's parents should be embarrassed. His father's response was a joke-y tweet suggesting Cal is "grounded." Ho, ho, ho, guys. Our Congressman and his kin appear to think that representing the people of the Big First of Kansas is a great big joke. 

It's probably not much of a secret that I liked Congressman Tim Huelskamp a lot. I recognize he was difficult to work with and a bit of a grandstander, and I still submit that a legislative body needs those people. Heaven knows, the Left certainly has them. (Off the top of my head--Emanuel Cleaver pretending that people spit at him as he was entering the Capitol. That entire staged sit-in over gun control. Wendy pink Nikes Davis filibustering in Texas. Nancy Pelosi's entire existence.) On the Right, we need Congress people who are willing to drag Congressional Republicans kicking and screaming to the right, too. 

That said, I've been reserving judgment on our newest Congressman. It seems unfair not to give him the benefit of the doubt. This incident is hindering my resolve to do so.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Race for Kansas Governor Warming

There are only 681 days until Kansans elect a new Governor--even fewer days until Kansas Republicans narrow what is likely to be a crowded field for the state's top job. With so little time between now and the next election, count on gubernatorial candidates announcing their candidacy in 2017. So, who's in and who's out?

The front runner--for now--is Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. Jenkins declined to run for leadership in the U.S. House, likely in anticipation of a gubernatorial run. In November, she told local media and The Hill that she is eyeing the race. As far back as late summer, rumors were spinning that not only was Jenkins in the race, but that she'd offered the carrots of cabinet positions and the Lt. Governor slot on her ticket to some Kansas pols. Back then, rumor had it Rep. Mark Hutton, who did not seek re-election in 2016, would be offered a slot as Secretary of Commerce in a hypothetical Jenkins' administration, and Sen. Jim Denning would be Jenkins' running mate. 

Word on the street is that another familiar face will seek the Republican nomination for Kansas Governor. Former state Sen. Jim Barnett of Emporia is rumored to be testing the waters for a run. This wouldn't be Barnett's first rodeo. Barnett mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2006, where he lost to incumbent Kathleen Sebelius. A few years later, the Emporia doctor ran against Tim Huelskamp, hoping to represent the Big First in Congress. Whispers suggest Barnett has tapped Dave Dreiling, the former CEO of GTM Sportswear, to be his running mate. K-State alums should be familiar with Dreiling who has owned, it seems, every establishment in Manhattan.

A variety of other potential candidate names are circulating, but several of those are people who reside in Kansas' Fourth District--the Wichita area. Many of those folks are sidelined as the race to replace Congressman Mike Pompeo shakes out. That special election will likely occur this spring. Among the losers in that race, there may be a few who consider a run at the top job in Kansas. 

It's worth noting that Pompeo was widely considered a likely candidate for Governor until President-elect Trump named him to his cabinet. The President-elect's cabinet may take more potential Kansas gubernatorial candidates yet. Kansas Secretary of State is still rumored to be in contention for a role in the Donald's administration. Whispers suggest that unless Kobach is offered a pretty heady gig in Washington, he'll remain in Kansas and run for Governor. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is widely mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor, especially as it appears he may run as an incumbent should Gov. Brownback accept a role in the Trump administration's foreign service. (Vatican? India?) Colyer is certainly acting as if he may play a larger role than normal role this year. Meanwhile, plenty of folks are suggesting that Colyer may also be seeking a spot in the Trump Administration.