Opinion Columns & Blogs

Kansas views on state budget, arts funding, anti-union bill, drug testing, picking judges, medical pot

State budget – Almost daily, it seems, some new surprise springs forth from Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed 2014 budget. The overriding theme, however, seems to be that middle-class families are the cash cow for the perpetual tax holiday extended to 200,000 Kansas businesses. It is increasingly clear that Brownback’s road map for prosperity is written on the backs of poor and middle-class working families, who appear to be the financing mechanism for Brownback’s effort to turn Kansas into a testing ground for his most pro-business ideas.

Hutchinson News

Arts – Any hope that Kansans had for a renewed effort to preserve a state arts agency has been dashed by drastic reductions in the state arts budget proposed last month by Gov. Sam Brownback. When Brownback took office, he said he didn’t think that supporting the arts was an appropriate use of public money. Barring drastic action by Kansas residents or legislators, the governor appears on his way to accomplishing that goal in Kansas.

Lawrence Journal-World

Anti-union bill – Backers of anti-union legislation usually try to put some kind of positive spin on their efforts. They are “protecting workers’ paychecks,” for instance. Rarely does anyone speak with the candor exhibited by Eric Stafford, chief lobbyist for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, who blurted out in a committee hearing that “I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public-sector unions.” The bill does not protect teachers against bullying by unions, as one lawmaker suggested. But if the endgame is to get rid of unions, which provide valuable protections for public-sector workers, it certainly is a step in that direction.

Kansas City Star

Drug tests – Another legislative session in Topeka; another attempt to drug test Kansans who receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The oft-introduced measure hasn’t passed in the past, but this just might be the year. Ultraconservatives dominate the state Capitol. And among the numerous tendencies regularly displayed by such individuals, one seemingly irresistible action is to impose their own moral standards whenever possible upon those with no means to prevent it.

Hays Daily News

Picking judges – The effort to change the way Kansas high court justices are selected is shortsighted. It is driven by the desire of some new conservative Republicans to punish the courts for ordering the Legislature to increase school funding. Yet if the change is adopted, a future Democratic governor will be able to use it against the GOP. Kansas will be better off if this game of political one-upmanship is not even played. The state will also be better off if no governor – including Sam Brownback – can gain control of all three branches of state government.

Winfield Daily Courier

Medical pot – While many other states have embraced the benefit of allowing ill patients to seek relief from medical marijuana, don’t expect as much in Kansas anytime soon. That’s the unfortunate reality in a state where conservative Republicans apparently don’t see such help for sick individuals as a priority.

Garden City Telegram

Short session – House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, wants Kansas legislators to wrap up their work in 80 days, then go home. It’s a proposal we can endorse without reservation. The 2012 Legislature exceeded the traditional 90-day session by nine days and cost taxpayers an extra $314,316. Getting all that back plus a little extra sounds like a good deal.

Topeka Capital-Journal