Social-media policy – The Kansas Board of Regents’ new social-media policy gives university CEOs broad authority to dole out discipline for “improper use of social media,” which also is broadly defined to include anything that “adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.” There is no specific mention of academic freedom or protections for tenured faculty, although individual universities must establish a grievance procedure to allow faculty and staff to appeal a CEO’s decision. As noted by a KU professor who also is state conference president for the American Association of University Professors, the new policy is “fraught with potential for abuse.”
The Kansas Board of Regents’ social-media policy is overly broad and actively limits the free speech of all its employees. And while members of the NRA and fierce defenders of the Second Amendment might relish a policy that would prevent people like University of Kansas journalism professor David Guth from speaking their minds on social media, the policy also means that a regents employee who shared the views of firearms enthusiast Ted Nugent similarly would find himself in trouble. And therein is the danger of policies that restrict free speech, and why it is important to fight any effort by the state to determine what is or is not acceptable for someone to say.
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Border war – Gov. Sam Brownback appears ready to provide much-needed leadership in working toward reducing the costly economic development border war between Kansas and Missouri. That’s a positive change from a few years when Brownback and others – including the mayors of some large Johnson County cities – downplayed the concerns about “competition” between the states, ignoring the fiscal damages both were suffering. Brownback is in a perfect position to tell the mayors and others that Kansas can, indeed, compete with Missouri and other states when it comes to luring jobs. But keeping the status quo is unacceptable, because it ratchets up corporate welfare in both states.
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Drug tests – Kansas lawmakers put some teeth into a bill they passed earlier this year that authorized drug testing of people who receive cash assistance from the state. But they left any semblance of bite out of a provision that subjects themselves to testing, based on reasonable suspicion of drug use. It is a discrepancy that should be corrected. The absence of a penalty for any legislator who fails a drug test – although it’s likely none will ever be administered – was not an oversight. An amendment to the bill that would have reduced the pay and per diem of legislators who tested positive was defeated in the Senate. When legislators convene next year, they should eliminate provisions of the law that subject themselves to drug testing or add an appropriate penalty clause.
2014 agenda – We advocate for the new year: Local governments that respect the public’s right to know through understanding of and adherence to the Kansas Open Meetings Act and the Kansas Open Records Act; a state Legislature that restores money cut from public schools, community colleges and universities in recent years; a Legislature that listens to all of its constituents – not just corporate lobbyists – and recognizes the importance of sustainable economic development for rural Kansas.