Judiciary funding – A small provision at the end of a bill to fund the state’s legal system – Senate Substitute for House Bill 2005 – dictates that the judicial branch will rule the Legislature’s way or risk undoing its funding. Imagine what Kansas might look like if lawmakers successfully hold the gun of funding to the heads of the judiciary. What happens if the entire criminal and civil justice system hangs in the balance of a single decision by a single district court judge somewhere in Kansas?
Maybe “blackmail” isn’t the right word for what the Legislature is doing to the judicial branch. Maybe “power grab” would be a better term. Either way, lawmakers are trying to alter the roles, responsibilities and fundamental balance of power among the state’s three branches of government. Their action also feeds the perception that they are trying to punish state courts for school finance decisions that have forced the state to increase spending for K-12 schools.
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Bioscience authority – Motivated by ultraconservative special interests, a Kansas Senate committee launched a surprise assault last week with plans to abolish the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Business and civic leaders who understand the bioscience authority’s ability to help grow technology firms were quick to protest the proposal. Not surprisingly, the lone person to testify in favor of abolishing the KBA was tied to the Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank promoting free-market views of the Koch brothers. Once again, our far-right lawmakers appear eager to take marching orders from KPI and its allies.
Welfare ATM rule – That sound you hear in Kansas is the footsteps of politicians running away from a new state requirement that limits welfare recipients to no more than $25 a day in withdrawals from ATM machines. That provision, part of a bill signed into law a few weeks ago, likely runs afoul of a federal statute that says welfare recipients must have “adequate access” to their benefits and “access to using or withdrawing assistance with minimal fees and charges.” Gov. Sam Brownback and others now say they’ll work with the federal government. There is still time to change the law – but not to avoid an embarrassment.
Tax cuts, jobs – Reducing taxes to spur employment was not a bad idea, but it was one to be entered carefully, in steps, rather than one huge leap. The exemptions should have been, and still can be, tied to actual jobs or payroll increases created. Those things would have ensured the exemptions were creating tax revenue from a different source.
Brownback e-mails – The next time you hear someone rip Hillary Clinton for her e-mail abuse, remember that here in Kansas we have our own homegrown e-mail scofflaw: Gov. Sam Brownback. Both should be held to the same standard.