A Great Day for Kansas!

Aug 3, 2016 by

Kansas-Governor-Sam-Brownback-800x430Yesterday in the Kansas primary elections supporters of the Brownback experiment were removed from office. Six incumbent Brownback allies in the Kansas Senate lost their bids for reelection to moderate Republican challengers. Tom Arpke, Terry Bruce, Forrest Knox, Jeff Melcher, Larry Powell, and Greg Smith were all ousted. In addition, two more Brownback allies who were vying for open Senate seats – Virgil Peck wanting to replace Jeff King and Larry Salmans hoping to replace Mitch Holmes – found themselves on the losing end of their challenge with moderate Republicans winning both primaries. Two moderate incumbents who were being challenged by Brownback conservatives – Vicki Schmidt and Carolyn McGinn – both won reelection.

Over in the House, eight Brownback allies lost their bids for reelection. Craig McPherson, Brett Hildabrand, Rob Bruchman, Jerry Lunn, Charles Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Will Carpenter, and Kasha Kelly all went down in defeat. Conservative John Faber lost his comeback attempt out west. Open seats formerly held by Brownback conservatives (Marc Kahrs and Kevin Jones) were won by moderates Roger Elliot and Brenda Dietirch. Moderate incumbents facing conservative challengers – Susie Swanson, Steven Becker, and Greg Lewis – all won their races.

All these moderate Republicans ran on a message of tax fairness and real support for public schools.

Winning from Border to Border

It was very clear that the public was behind the moderate comeback. Over in Johnson County where two incumbent senators and six incumbent house members were defeated by moderates, KNEA members worked like never before. And the teachers were bolstered by an unprecedented level of public support. Kansas Families for Education, Game On for Kansas Schools, and Stand Up Blue Valley – citizens groups formed by angry and frustrated parents – grew in strength and resolve. It was teachers, parents, and concerned citizens who chose to engage in politics and who led the battle on behalf of common sense candidates.

But the turning out of conservatives was not just a Johnson County issue. Statewide voters have had enough of the Brownback experiment.  An experiment that has bankrupted the state leaving our schools, highways, public safety efforts, and social services in jeopardy. It happened in southeast Kansas with the defeat of Virgil Peck and Forrest Knox; it happened in central Kansas with the defeat of Terry Bruce and Tom Arpke; it happened in southern Kansas with defeat of Kasha Kelley; it happened in western Kansas with the defeat of Larry Powell. This is a statewide repudiation of the path Brownback and his allies have set upon Kansas.  Let us not forget that we can send another message to his remaining allies in November. 

Cranking Up the Spin Machines

Brownback’s allies are already putting out their spin, trying to make people believe that the election results have nothing to do with his “road map” for Kansas. You will find their spin in an article in the Wall Street Journal (not known as the “liberal media”). Brownback’s Spokeswoman Eileen Hawley and KPI’s Dave Trabert tried to blame other trends or other issues:

“Kansas is not immune from the widespread anti-incumbency sentiment we have seen across the nation this election season.” Eileen Hawley, Brownback Spokeswoman

From the Wall Street Journal: “It’s not a repudiation of either side but of the legislature in general for not dealing with the core issue,” Mr. Trabert said reducing the cost of state government by 6% to 7% would enable the state to keep its lower taxes and balance the budget going forward.

None of the victorious Republican moderates ever campaigned on the desire to cut state services any more. None of them campaigned on the promise of continuing Brownback’s experiment. They campaigned on returning Kansas to a common sense center; a state with a fair tax system that provides the necessary revenue to maintain the high quality of life for which Kansas is known.

Going Forward

Today is day to savor these victories. We all woke up with a renewed sense of hope for our state. But this is not over. The Governor still holds a veto pen with which to threaten these new legislators. There is still a general election during which the forces that brought us Brownback – the Kansas Chamber, KPI, Americans for Prosperity – will unleash their fury on Democrats, hoping to stop any further losses in their anti-government conservative caucus.

We savor today and we gear up for tomorrow. We must carry our efforts forward to November to protect our Democrats. We must seek to replace more of the Brownback allies now with Democrats. We helped the moderate Republicans defeat Brownback conservatives in August. Let’s help the Democrats defeat some more of them in November.

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Fixing? Talking. Purging!

Nov 13, 2015 by

Two down, 35,998 to go!

Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office had, until recently, a list of 36,000 Kansas who tried to register to vote and had their registration suspended by Kobach because they did not have the necessary documents to prove their citizenship on hand.

Two of those on the list filed suit and guess what? Kobach cleared them, registered them to vote, and immediately asked the court to toss out the lawsuit. They lack standing, Kobach argued, because they are now registered and suffered no harm.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World,

“one of the men’s attorneys, Will Lawrence, said Kobach appeared to be ‘playing games’ with voters’ rights.

‘Obviously we are happy that our two clients are registered to vote but it’s more than these two individuals who are being affected,’ Lawrence said. ‘If Kobach can just go in and get this done, why not do this for everyone?’”

That’s a pretty good question! Read more about it here.

K-12 Student Success Committee meets again

The second meeting of the 2015 Special Committee on K-12 Student Success was held on Tuesday and was consumed with yet more information gathering.

There were a few interesting notes:

  • In reviewing data on new construction, Sen. Masterson noted that new construction seemed to be resulting in more square footage per student.
  • During a review of superintendent salaries, Rep. Lunn wanted to know if the numbers included special annuity deals (an apparent reference to the agreement between the Blue Valley School District and former superintendent Trigg).
  • When hearing about recent declines in student assessment results, Rep. Lunn asserted that school funding was increased by $312 million but scores went down. This is proof, according to Lunn, that there is no correlation between spending and achievement. (And, yes, Lunn’s assertion about increased funding for school operations is misleading.)
  • During a presentation by Scott Frank, Director of the Legislative Post Audit Division, Sen. Hensley asked Frank to tell the committee what the LPA had discovered about the relationship between spending and achievement. Frank reported that the LPA found a very strong correlation between the two; about 90%.

All of the documents from the latest meeting can be found here. Be prepared! That’s a lot of spreadsheets!

The committee will meet again on December 9.

Is Dissent Treason?

You might remember 2012 when a group of moderate Republican Senators dared to stand up against Governor Brownback’s tax “experiment” and were subsequently purged from the Senate during the Republican primary elections by candidates supported by the Governor. The message then was clear – oppose the Governor’s agenda at your own risk!

During the 2014 legislative session, the public education agenda of the Governor and his allies was blocked by a single vote in the House Education Committee as voucher bills were defeated by one vote when moderate Republicans joined Democrats in supporting public schools. Speaker Ray Merrick took care of that in 2015 by simply removing Rep. Melissa Rooker – the most outspoken Republican advocate for public education on the committee – and sending her to the Transportation Committee.

It appears there will be yet another purging of the moderates this year.

Merrick just announced that two more moderate Republicans will lose their seats on the education committee. Rep. Diana Dierks (Salina) and John Ewy (Jetmore) will be replaced by Kasha Kelley (Arkansas City) and Becky Hutchins (Holton).

Beyond that change, moderate Republicans who have supported the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas have been removed from the House Health and Human Services Committee. Looks like Merrick and Brownback will not tolerate their advocacy either.

Since all legislation must go through the committee process before hitting the floor, these changes are monumental. Brownback and Merrick are trying to ensure that no legislation they oppose will come out of these committees. Moderates are being marginalized. They will be left with taking their advocacy to the floor of the House only, making it much more difficult for them to have an opportunity to shape legislation.

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