Topeka 4:48 p.m. Another town hall meeting for U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, and another controversy.
This time, Kansas Democratic Party online director Mike Nellis criticized Jenkins “about her incredibly cold response” in an exchange Jenkins had with Elizabeth Smith, 27, at a meeting last week in Ottawa.
The meeting was videotaped. Smith, a waitress and single mother with a 2 1/2-year-old son, asked why there was no affordable insurance plan for her.
Nellis said at one point, Jenkins laughed at Smith, but Jenkins’ office said that accusation was false.
A statement from Jenkins’ office given to the Kansas City Star’s Prime Buzz added, “Instead of playing gotcha politics on blogs and zipping off press releases to MSNBC, and using the young woman’s situation as a fundraising appeal for her political party, Congresswoman Jenkins’s office is looking into current resources available to the mother in existing programs.”
But in an interview with the Lawrence Journal-World, Smith said Jenkins’ office hasn’t offered any help. Smith said she was not approached at the meeting by Jenkins’ staff, nor has she been contacted since the meeting.
And Smith said she was pretty sure she was a registered independent. She said she had to leave the townhall meeting a little early because her son was getting antsy. She said one man at the meeting, who was a war veteran, told her to look into the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to get coverage for her son, and she said she planned to do that.
Jenkins’ remarks in Ottawa have angered local Democrats. Franklin County Democratic Party Chairman Caleb Correll said there will be a rally at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Franklin County Courthouse in Ottawa in support of a public option health plan.
“She failed to serve her uninsured constituents when she laughed in the face of Elizabeth Smith and her son,” Correll said.
Jenkins caught flak for something she said at an earlier townhall meeting, She used the phrase “great white hope” in talking about potential Republican leaders. Jenkins later said she didn’t know the expression had racial overtones and said she was sorry if it offended anyone.
3:37 p.m. Kansas will receive $6 million as part of the record $2.3 billion settlement between states and the federal government with Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug manufacturer.
“This judgment, along with our other recent drug cases, should send a strong message to the pharmaceutical industry that we will not tolerate deceptive and misleading drug promotion,” Kansas Attorney General Steve Six said Wednesday.
Pfizer was accused of illegally marketing some drugs under the Medicaid program for medical conditions different from those that the drugs had been approved for by the federal government. And Pfizer wooed doctors to promote its drugs through inappropriate resort junkets and other perks, according to the allegations.
Under a separate consumer settlement against Pfizer, Kansas will receive an additional $570,478.
Retirement Funding Issues ( .PDF )
10:48 p.m. The House-Senate Pensions, Investments and Benefits Committee today will hear about problems with the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.
KPERS investments have been battered in the financial downturn, bringing its unfunded actuarial liability to $8.3 billion as of Dec. 31, 2008 — the day officials took a snapshot of the system. That represents a $2.7 billion increase from the previous year in the unfunded liability, which is the difference between the system’s assets and future pension obligations.
Glenn Deck, executive director of KPERS, says that current retirement benefits are safe, but that the state needs a long-term strategy to reduce the liability.