Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): October 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Vote for the Non-Hippies

There's a chance conservatives are focusing on the wrong things during this new, fall local election season. Obviously, the Gina Burke-Terry Goodman election is a barn burner. That guy. He's probably going to lose, and it will be his own doing.

However, while conservatives are carefully watching that race, we don't have our eyes on a few races with really unfortunate liberal candidates. 

I'm going to be kind of lukewarm on this whole endorsement thing and tell you that conservatives need to get behind Mandi Hunter for the Shawnee Mission School Board and Dave Janson for Overland Park City Council. 

Hunter and Janson aren't exciting candidates. (Dear friends telling me I HAVE to get people interested in them--it's not that easy. People are interested in the Burke campaign because she's a good candidate and her opponent is acting nutty.)

Opponents of Hunter and Janson aren't acting crazy, but make no mistake: Their opponents are Bernie burnouts who can't tell you which pronoun to use when someone has 'XY' chromosomes. 

Hunter faces Heather Ousley. Her claim to fame is walking every year to Topeka from Shawnee "advocating," because kids in the Shawnee Mission School District have to make do with aquatic centers valued at only $20 million. She is also married to a state legislator. He has a beard. (But can he change a tire? He didn't campaign on it.) She last presided over a hippy drum circle meeting in January in which people explained why they're "woke." (I shudder at playing that fast and loose with the English.) What I am trying to say here is she's super liberal in ways that are uncomfortable for people who don't live in San Francisco. Hunter is the better of the two in the race, so pull the correct lever, Shawnee Mission voters.

Janson is an incumbent on the Overland Park City Council, and that good ol' boy network is turning out to be a bit of an embarrassment. That said, Janson faces Logan Heley, and the Democrats are keen on giving this fraternity bro a platform from which to run for bigger things. (As an aside, I really feel like the political ranks are already too full of fraternity brothers bro-ing. These now deleted tweets aren't all that old.) 

He went to the University of Southern California and that was like last week. He's young, and on LinkedIn, he lists his job as fighting hunger. The only things missing are patchouli incense, and a Nancy Pelosi poster. So, let's just not, OK? Direct your vote in Janson's direction.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Topeka Weinstein-ing

If you heard rumors--LOTS of them--about an individual sexually harassing young ladies to the point he was instructed (per leadership) never to be alone in the room with young women, would you say something? Would you name names? Would you find it acceptable that leadership made such a deal with the devil? 

Asking for a friend.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fish Gotta Swim. Birds Gotta Fly. I Have To Get This Off My Chest

It's shower time. Again. Sigh.

It's also 3:30 a.m. and I am having trouble sleeping. I want to regurgitate the things I know, but I can't and THAT my friends is one of the many reasons I once started an anonymous blog. 

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the sorry state of the Kansas Republican Party. The GOP holds a LOT of seats in the Kansas Legislature, the entire statewide delegation and every Congressional Kansas seat, but the brand itself is in tatters. (The same can probably be said for the national party.) What does "Republican" stand for? 

Right now, I think the answer is "not Democrat," but the party has a platform with specific things listed. A good third of our elected state legislators probably couldn't tell you anything that's in it, and they certainly don't vote as if they've ever read it. Here's a small taste:

"The judicial branch of our federal government, and that of our state, must recognize that it is a co-equal branch of government, not a super-legislative body...We believe judges should be arbiters of conflict and not policy makers."

How many of our current legislators believe that? Not enough. The Kansas Supreme Court doesn't have the power to appropriate funds, but lawmakers dance whenever the Court says "more." If "provide a suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state" can be translated to mean "give school attorneys all the money," it's only a matter of time before Justices find a phrase in the Kansas Constitution requiring that judicial branch employees receive raises equal to 10 percent of the state general fund each year.

The Kansas Republican Party platform also expressly opposes Medicaid expansion. It reads, "We ask that the Governor and/or legislators refrain from expanding Medicaid and other federal health care programs." About half of the Kansas Republican legislators didn't receive that memo. They're dying to expand Medicaid, even as many privately admit it's terrible policy that will bankrupt the state. 

The platform says Republicans "recognize that prosperity can only be achieved when economic resources remain in the hands of the people." It expressly supports the Fair Tax, which would eliminate individual and corporate income taxes in Kansas. 

"Government should always seek first to constrain its expenditures to the least possible. Increasing the burden on its citizens should be a last resort, and any effort to do so beyond the rate of economic growth should be submitted by a vote of the citizenry."

Of course, we all know what happened last session: Every attempt at finding government efficiencies was scrapped, though many Republicans regurgitate the lie that there just wasn't a penny to be cut anywhere. Legislation to require school districts to use state procurement services for things like technology and to develop a statewide health plan for all school districts--rather than 286 different school district health plans -- were deemed ineffective, because change is scary. 

And then lawmakers dropped NEW spending into the budget. In one example, $2.7 million was drained from a special health plan reserve fund to create a state employee health clinic. That's new spending for something that will compete with the hospital down the street. You'll recall lawmakers spent hours and hours worrying about the fate of St. Francis Hospital and handwringing that they had no choice but to drop the largest tax increase in state history on hard working Kansans. It's revolting.

Here's what's kept me awake tonight: 

Last year about this time, I was in trouble with some party insiders, because a person I nominated for the Eisenhower Series wrote on her Facebook page that a Democratic candidate for state senate was looking for volunteers. She didn't say she was volunteering herself, but the candidate was a personal friend. I assume she was being helpful. I never asked, because I'm not a jerk. I don't think that if I nominate you for something or do something nice for you that I get to tell you what to write on your own Facebook page.

The whole thing caused what I thought was mild drama, which I learned recently a bigger deal than I thought. (Drama is super not my thing. I like to watch it, but I have zero interest in being a party to it.)

I was told I nominated someone who "wasn't a Republican," despite the fact that my nominee was once a sitting council member with a conservative voting record. She never voted for a tax increase, and a good half of the Republican Party can't say that.

Anyway, I was over it, I thought, until I started thinking about what it means to be a Republican. What exactly is our brand?

Does it mean absolute fealty to the party platform? Does it mean some weird sort of loyalty to individuals within the party? If you have a perfect Republican voting record, but say something nice about a Democrat, are you black balled forever? What are the standards? And are the standards different for one person than they are for another?

I don't know the answer to those questions, but I'd be happy to hear your take.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Colyer and the Medicaid Expansion Conundrum

Word on the street is that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is ready to cave on Medicaid expansion. This is abject gossip, and I'm putting it here, because someone needs to say it and it looks like no one else will.
(I call this taking one for the team, which means there will be no Miss Congeniality tiaras in my future. Sigh.)

There is no issue more important to the future of Kansas and even the nation right now than Medicaid expansion. I won't bore you with the details of why I believe this to be true. I'll simply say -- getting entwined in a long-term social welfare program is a terrible idea because math. And getting in bed with the federal government for the promise of extra funding never ends well.

Brownback is leaving. Full stop. Unless someone in the Senate digs up a dead puppy scandal, Brownback is headed to Washington to fight for religious freedom. That's probably best for all of us. 

Colyer is going to be the next Governor of Kansas for at least the next year, and if he wants to continue on in the role, he's going to HAVE to distance himself from Brownback. It's an unreasonable demand from a very uneducated public, but it's true. 

Colyer could attempt to step to the right of Brownback, perhaps by limiting some of Brownback's beloved economic development tools, like PEAK and STAR Bonds. But that would mean no ribbon cuttings for things like horse arenas in KCK and medical clinics for state employees in Topeka. (And potentially campaign checks from one of Kansas' biggest companies.) The clinic and the horse arena are already happening, but there are still lots of options, like a southwest Johnson County airport that could mean one of the biggest ribbon cuttings and accomplishments in recent memory. (It.is.killing.me.not.to.write.about.this, but stay tuned.)

The challenge with Colyer stepping to the right of Brownback is a guy named Kris Kobach. Kobach probably has that market all locked up. Colyer is going to have to go big and go Left or go home, and nothing is bigger or lefter than Medicaid expansion. 

Here's the crux: There aren't enough votes to override Medicaid expansion in the Kansas Legislature, but there are more than enough to pass it, and Colyer can allow it to become law without his signature. This is what I've heard he'll do as long as the legislation includes three things. I do not know what those three things are, but that's the rumor. If a Medicaid expansion bill crosses Colyer's desk with the magical three beans (whatever those are) he will allow it to become law without his signature.

I have a theory as to what one of those magic beans is: a federal waiver that would allow Kansas to tie Medicaid to work for able-bodied adults. 

Kansas already has work requirements for its welfare program and that has paid dividends, but Kansas isn't in control of whether the federal government grants such a waiver. That decision is dependent on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the federal government. Right now, there is no HHS Secretary, because swamp thing Tom Price decided to fly around on private jets drinking champagne instead of riding in steerage on commercial flights. So there's that. But also, there are no guarantees that Republicans will hold the office of President beyond the next three years. Whatever the feds giveth, they can taketh away, and a Democratic President will have zero qualms about yanking Kansas' waiver. 

Colyer has always struck me as very sincere in his distaste for Medicaid expansion, so I hope what I'm hearing is so much idle gossip and a fear of the unknown. Medicaid expansion is bad policy and crippling to Kansas' budget long term. I'm putting this out there so that you, dear voters and activists, can rally your representatives and senators and the LG himself on the off chance there's any truth to the rumors.