Kansas Views (May 21)

KPERS – The compromise lawmakers reached on pensions for public employees constitutes progress. Among provisions is the establishment of a new plan for new employees as of 2014 that differs from the traditional plan of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System but that, importantly, falls short of becoming a 401(k). Although the House had sought the 401(k) plan, arguing that it would ease the state’s financial risk, the Senate balked, as it should have, at the proposal, which would have resembled plans common in private industry. Having a 401(k) would have unnecessarily complicated an already complex system and, over time, undermined the pension plan.

Manhattan Mercury

Arts funding – Gov. Sam Brownback has signed the legislation creating a Creative Arts Industries Commission for the state. The next step is to approve the necessary funding to make the new entity viable. Brownback included just $200,000 to fund the new agency. But Kansas legislators from both houses and both parties have agreed to include $700,000 in next year’s budget to allow the new agency to hire staff members and renew arts efforts across the state, particularly in rural areas where funding for such projects can be scarce. Re-establishing a functioning state-funded arts agency also is expected to attract more than $1 million in federal matching grants.

Lawrence Journal-World

Anti-discrimination – The Hutchinson City Council didn’t please everyone, but then we knew that would be next to impossible on a divisive issue such as anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. No matter how the decision had come down, City Council members deserved credit for working their way through this issue and not running away from it just because it was so highly controversial.

Hutchinson News

Shariah bill – The Kansas Legislature overwhelmingly passed legislation banning courts or government agencies from making decisions based on Islamic or other foreign legal codes. Even though no Kansas judge has ever based a ruling on Shariah law, nor even suggested he might, it will be illegal as soon as the governor signs the bill. Does it matter that all judges swear an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Kansas Constitution? No. Does it matter that in order for lawyers to become eligible to practice law, they must swear the same? Apparently not. What does matter is that many people believe Muslims are attempting to force Shariah law into our legal framework. It’s an unfounded belief, but oft-repeated. And that’s enough for our legislators.

Hays Daily News

Agenda 21– The House and Senate have now both passed a bill intended to prevent Islamic law from being applied in Kansas courts. No one can remember that actually happening, but your Kansas Legislature is nothing if not proactive. Also, the House adopted a resolution condemning the United Nations’ Agenda 21 environmental action plan, which clearly is a socialistic plot to transfer wealth from rich nations to poor nations and to trick local governments into supporting sinister things like bike paths. Or so its critics say. What is the matter with Kansas? This is the kind of nuttiness we expect from Missouri, but even Missouri hasn’t condemned a U.N. agenda. Yet.

Kansas City Star