School funding – The Senate Education Committee wants to add a sentence to Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution: “The financing of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power” and “shall be established solely by the Legislature.” We are not surprised this year’s crop of legislators is pursuing nonsense. But such folly should not involve altering the document that guides this great state. Separation of powers is one of the primary reasons our country exists to this day. Tinkering with such a fundamental component of this democratic republic, particularly when it’s based on willful ignorance, is not a good way to govern.
Hays Daily News
Turnpike – Gov. Sam Brownback contends that merging the Kansas Turnpike Authority with the Kansas Department of Transportation would save the state $15 million a year, and his budget reflects a $30 million saving over the next two years. However, when members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee asked KDOT Secretary Mike King how those savings would be achieved, he had no answer. He said that his department would start working with the KTA to find those savings if lawmakers approve the merger. That is putting the cart before the horse. It would be irresponsible of legislators to approve such a merger – not to mention a $30 million budget cut – without having any idea how it would impact KDOT and Kansas Turnpike operations.
Unions – In packed hearing rooms where tempers run short and accusations fly, the Missouri and Kansas legislatures are consumed with debates on bills intended to weaken unions. Most private- and public-sector unions are not particularly powerful in either state. Kansas already is a “right to work” state, meaning nonunion workers are entitled to all the benefits of union representation, as required by the federal Taft-Hartley Act, but they need not pay any union dues. Lawmakers could better spend their time working on health care, education or other truly significant issues.
Kansas City Star
Campaign funds – Kansas law prohibits elected state officials from transferring contributions to their campaigns for one office to a campaign war chest for another office. It is a good law, and a bill that would lift current restrictions on the movement of campaign money should be rejected by the House Elections Committee. Absent such restraint, the full House or the Legislature should act to ensure the existing law is retained.
Rural growth – Some rural Kansas counties are starting to see some activity from the availability of Rural Opportunity Zones programs. The numbers may not be big yet, but any spark of growth is better than the long, slow decline that rural Kansas has been experiencing for decades. Identified counties should be taking advantage of these incentives, using them to actively recruit families, and the whole state should watch to see if they are going to make a difference.