Big 10: Issues that drove debate in 2009

Certain issues and events drove debate on The Eagle's Opinion pages this year. In crafting this list, we focused on political and policy issues that generated the most public passion, not just big news stories.

Health care reform. After a long and ugly legislative process that included town-hall shouting matches, tea-party protests, GOP filibusters and claims of death panels, the House and Senate passed historic health care reform bills. Now those bills must be reconciled, yet public support for the reform continues to drop.

State budget. Declining tax collections forced the state to cut $1 billion from its budget, affecting all government services. Projections of more shortfalls and budget cuts next fiscal year led school districts to vote to reopen their funding lawsuit.

Economy. Though the stock market improved and economists say the recession is over, employers continued to lay off workers. Government bailouts and stimulus money helped stabilize the economy and boost car sales, but raised concerns about deficits and didn't lower unemployment rates.

Abortion. Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered in the lobby of his church, leading to the closing of his clinic and debate about extremism and whether the "necessity defense" is allowable. Pro-life opposition shaped the health care bills but was unsuccessful in blocking the appointment of former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary.

President Obama. Obama is not an "issue," but his historic inauguration, his bad-mouthing of business jets, his outreach efforts to the Muslim world, his beer summit, his Nobel Peace Prize, his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan and even his citizenship fueled debate.

Property management. The Wichita City Council struggled with where to locate a Vietnamese war memorial, whether to place a new Lord's Diner in northeast Wichita, and what to do with the Boathouse, while Mayor Carl Brewer led a push to redevelop downtown.

Global warming. Gov. Mark Parkinson negotiated a settlement in the coal-plant fight, the U.S. House passed cap-and-trade legislation, and the Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide a health hazard. Meanwhile, "Climategate" fired up opponents, and the Copenhagen summit fizzled.

Intrust Bank Arena. The announcements of performers next year have been impressive, but the quick sellout of Taylor Swift's concert brought complaints about ticket scalping. Parking availability and cost remain hot topics.

Commission leadership. A divided Sedgwick County Commission considered firing the county manager and struggled with how to reduce the jail population, where to locate a new work-release center and what to do with the Kansas Coliseum.

2010 elections. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, and Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, began their battle for the U.S. Senate seat, which included the Tiahrt campaign's claim that Moran had been endorsed by communists. Meanwhile, Democrats struggled to find a candidate to take on Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., in next year's governor race, after Parkinson announced he would not run.

Honorable mentions. H1N1 virus and vaccine; Sebelius' resignation; possible transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to Kansas; USD 259's new superintendent; Air Force tanker contract; graduated driver's license bill.

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