Picking judges – Gov. Sam Brownback would scrap Kansas’ nonpartisan, merit-based judicial selection process in favor of either direct election of judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, or a model in which the governor would appoint judges with Senate confirmation – in essence letting him handpick judges sympathetic to his ultraconservative fiscal and social agenda. It’s little more than a plot to control the judiciary, and part of a blueprint calling for control of all three branches of state government as a way to forward an extreme ideology without checks and balances. And it’s frightening.
Garden City Telegram
Turnpike – The Kansas Turnpike, born out of the old Kansas Highway Department, now is in its 50s but looking great. That’s why it seems to make little sense to step backward and combine Kansas Turnpike Authority operations with today’s Kansas Department of Transportation as a money-saving venture, as Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing. It seems shortsighted, based on the facts that have so far been provided, to consider the sort of ill-defined and ill-explained switcheroo that’s on the table.
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KOMA – Reports that legislators appeared to be getting serious this year about becoming more familiar with the Kansas Open Meetings Act were interpreted here as a sign they were standing up for open government and transparency. Alas, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The almost total lack of understanding displayed by some legislators about the law and its purpose at a recent informational meeting was incredulous and bordered on arrogance. Nothing was more amazing than statements by Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, who obviously thinks her constituents and other Kansans don’t need to be let in on what’s going on under the Capitol dome until it’s time to take a vote.
Ethics – The Republican-dominated Legislature – and the Brownback administration – should proceed with caution when it comes to cutting the state ethics commission. There are already rumblings across the state that the conservative wing of the Kansas GOP has too much power. There are already questions about too-close connections between right-wing Republican lawmakers and deep-pocket campaign activists. The appearance of favoritism, including out-of-state boondoggles, attaches to the executive branch. The ethics commission has served as a check on campaigns and candidates who tried to cut corners. The commission needs full funding to balance the torrent of money pouring into our state’s electoral system.
Winfield Daily Courier
Kansas chamber – In 2010, the Kansas Legislature was grappling with a budget deficit of just less than half a billion dollars. Understanding the economic harm that would result from cutting spending by that amount, lawmakers chose to impose a temporary 1-percent statewide sales tax. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce came unglued, accusing the Hays-area chamber and others around the state of “throwing their members under the bus.” And later that year, the self-proclaimed pro-business association financed a number of successful campaigns against Democrats and moderate Republicans who had voted for the tax. In 2011, there was no support for repealing the three-year tax early. Not even from the chamber. The about-face didn’t even come with an apology; new Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t want the revenue to disappear. Brownback still doesn’t. His budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 doesn’t allow the increased sales tax to sunset as designed. Of course, the state chamber is fully supportive.
Hays Daily News