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Eagle editorial: Lawmakers gone wild

  • Published Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Though every session has its dumb bills, the current Kansas Legislature has set an exhausting new standard for the introduction of legislation that would flout the feds, trample on local control and judicial review, and serve as lawsuit bait.

It’s a further embarrassment that the push for some of these measures is coming from members of the Wichita-area delegation, and a mystery as to how some of the people introducing and voting for these bills can call themselves small-government conservatives.

Proposed legislation would tell courts to butt out of school funding, tell science teachers they have to spend class time on climate-change denial, and tell doctors they can’t ask patients whether they own guns and that they must tell women seeking abortions the fiction that abortion is linked to breast cancer. One measure would tell Transportation Security Administration screeners which passengers’ parts not to pat down in Kansas. Another bill would regulate dancing at strip clubs. There’s a measure requiring communities with fluoridated water to provide residents with the bogus warning “that the latest science confirms that ingested fluoride lowers the IQ in children.” Other bills would bar local governments from using public dollars to promote sustainable planning or to lobby the Legislature about anything.

The urge to meddle in public schools is especially egregious – bills would block use of the Common Core standards and require that slow readers repeat third grade, for example – given that Kansas already has a State Board of Education to make curriculum and policy decisions statewide and local school boards and superintendents to manage districts.

Of course, the poster child for bad bills may be the mandate that the University of Kansas and Kansas State University play Wichita State University annually in men’s basketball.

At least Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, who introduced the anti-fluoridation bill, told the Kansas Health Institute News Service that he didn’t expect it to advance and had no interest in it himself.

But other bills have strong support, unfortunately.

Lawmakers eager to pass the Second Amendment Protection Act, which supposedly could shield Kansas-made and -owned guns from federal restrictions, should heed Assistant Attorney General Charles Klebe. In written testimony, Klebe noted that “the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution cannot be waived by state law” and that barring physicians from asking patients whether they own guns raises First Amendment issues. His office also thinks the bill could cost the state $825,000 for lawsuits over the next three years – reason enough not to pass it.

Local officials and other constituencies must be alert and ready to respond to all these proposals with facts, as they did last week at the packed hearing that apparently beat back the fearmongering bill from state Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, that would have told local health departments they couldn’t pursue national accreditation.

But 28 days in, it’s hard not to be impatient for the final gavel on what the Legislature’s GOP leaders hope will be an 80-day session. While a bill’s introduction hardly assures passage, Kansans will only be safe from all the unneeded, unfounded and legally questionable legislation once lawmakers have called it a year.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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