For the past year or so, those interested in the partisan political scene have focused much of their attention on the 2004 presidential election, the severe splits in the United States among liberals, moderates and conservatives and the near stalemate in Congress between Republicans and Democrats.
Most people agree there are serious issues that need to be addressed, but, prior to the election, no one knew who would be elected president and how the House and Senate elections would turn out.
President Bush ended up with a record popular vote, and Republicans strengthened their positions in the House and Senate. However, GOP margins in both legislative bodies are not strong enough to override filibusters to stymie legislation favored by the GOP and Bush.
So, it appears there are likely to be major battles and a continuation of standoffs unless majority and minority leaders in both houses can figure out a way to bring a more congenial environment to these bodies. Also, the president can play a major role by trying to work with all legislators.
However, Bush won the election, the GOP strengthened its position, and the president is committed to seeking and gaining passage of legislation he thinks is best for the country, both in domestic and foreign affairs.
Given the tensions, bitterness, anger and almost hatred that existed at the national level, it is understandable this ugly situation captured most of the public's attention.
However, similar concern should be given to the political climate in Kansas.
Fortunately, there has not been the bitterness in the Kansas political scene, and it is hoped this same respectful environment will continue in the upcoming legislative session.
Kansas has a Democratic governor while both the House and Senate are controlled by a strong Republican majority.
The issue facing Kansas is how to move the state ahead, how to help Kansas become a leader in this part of the country and a state that is distinguished by its vision and commitment to taking advantage of its past and recent history. Kansas needs to be aware of the level of competition presented by our neighboring states -- Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma -- and use this knowledge to set an example for the rest of the nation.
There is no reason this cannot be accomplished if everyone will work together for what's in the best interests of the state and its residents.
There are many important issues including generating sufficient tax revenue to adequately fund programs and operations that depend on state support. Some of these programs include education at all levels, health care and economic development.
Excellence and modernization should be the goal of the governor and state legislators. Kansas cannot remain locked in the same pattern that has existed for the past 50 or so years. The state's leaders must dream and have the vision of how to plan and how to operate the state in the 21st century, not approach challenges in the same way our grandfathers did.
Today's challenges are different and perhaps need different solutions if we are to move forward and deserve to be called the "lighthouse on the prairie," as one former powerhouse dreamer and entrepreneur used to describe Kansas. We can't abandon the honesty, common sense and fiscal integrity that were a hallmark of so many of this state's leaders in previous generations, but we need to have challenging goals, visionary leadership and a commitment to excellence.
It appears Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is likely to seek a second term. This being the case, it is understandable she does not want to push legislation or call for actions that are likely to cost her votes in the next election. At the same time, she probably would pick up votes, appreciation and support if Kansans thought she had the political courage and common sense to call for action that would strengthen the state and place it in a better position to compete with other states in this part of the country or, better yet, elevate Kansas to a position of true national leadership.
Former Gov. Bill Graves had the opportunity to be an excellent leader, to challenge Kansans to plan and dream of a better state, but, for whatever reason, he failed to excite the public and lead the state into a position of regional or national prominence. He had high public popularity, large majorities in the House and Senate and, because he couldn't seek a third term, he didn't have to worry about offending voters. He wasted a rare opportunity.
Some states are going to display leadership with citizens and elected leaders, working hard to have their states looked upon as true leaders. Why not have Kansas be in that category?
Although there is a split with a Democratic governor and a Republican Legislature (which has splits of its own), that should not be used as an excuse not to cooperate and pursue a common goal of having Kansas set an example for the rest of the country in how to plan and execute for excellence in the 21st century.
Just because there may be brutal battles in Washington is no excuse for similar political standoffs in Topeka and throughout the state.
The competition for growth and excellence is so intense Kansas and its residents cannot afford to be handicapped by a failure of people to work together for a better, more prosperous state.