Archive for Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Statehouse Live: Jenkins criticized over comments at another meeting

September 2, 2009, 10:02 a.m. Updated September 2, 2009, 4:38 p.m.


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.

Related document

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.


Bruce Bertsch 8 years, 8 months ago

The legislature has the same strategy for this that they have for all financial issues...let the next session handle it. There is only one way to cure the problem...increase revenues and at the same time, have actuaries recompute the requirements based on a below average rate of return. Not taking care of this issue years ago when it first appeared has made it much more expensive to try and solve now.

ralphralph 8 years, 8 months ago

Topeka is populated by people who can't make it anywhere else. This applies to the financial and government communities there. Think about it: if you were a good investment manager, would you be in Topeka? Didn't think so. The bush league is going broke.

Jingal 8 years, 8 months ago

I appreciate Ralph's viewpoint, but unfortunately (as I understand it) the investment managers don't reside in Topeka; this outcome came from external experts in all the 'best' places where the smart people live. The market returns in 2008 were not a 'local expertise' phenomenon.

And as regards the current benefit structure (again, as I understand it), it cannot be changed retroactively. As such even a new plan with lower benefits won't have an impact on the current obligations.

And while I'd agree that long-term expectations should be lowered (although that will boost the current deficit), they will still reflect 'average' returns. Since an average is always made up of returns above and below, there will always be periods when below average outcomes set everyone's hair on fire in Topeka (and at the LJW).

texburgh 8 years, 8 months ago

KPERS and the benefits it provides are not the reason there is a large unfunded liability. Yes, there is a good arguement to be made about retirement age but the legislature made it low at a time when they wanted to incentify early retirement to bring in lower wage workers. Or when they had a need to reduce workers but wanted to do it in a humanitarian way. Returns over the past year have had a very negative effect. But that is the same regardless of the system - everyone had a negative year. The real problem is that the legislature just doesn't want to fund anything. When times were good for investments, they either reduced/eliminated their contributions or occasionally raided the system for something else. When times are bad, it's too difficult to put money in. The legislature also capped the rate of increase in employer contributions to a growth of no more than 0.6%/year. So - long story short - the legislature raids and underfunds the system; the legislature statutorily limits their own ability to get back on track; the legislature expects the retirees to give up benefits in order to compensate for the legislature's own irresponsible behavior. Welcome to the fiscally responsible Kansas GOP.

james bush 8 years, 8 months ago

Lynn, just keep your eye on the Obama, Pelosi, Reid bunch and forget the petty attack dogs!

RogueThrill 8 years, 8 months ago

Yes, forget that you are nothing but a freshman attack dog and keep attacking.

Sunny Parker 8 years, 8 months ago

Democraps....always thinking someone owes them something! Get your own health insurance if you want it.

If you want insurance, get it and pay for it!

blackwalnut 8 years, 8 months ago


How incredibly poorly informed your comment reveals you to be.

Most of us fighting for reform have insurance, but see others who do not, and see how easily we could lose ours.

You think everybody is as selfish as you, therefore if they are fighting for something it must be only for themselves.

kugrad 8 years, 8 months ago

sunny, I can't understand you, could you take the silver spoon out of your mouth?

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 8 months ago

KPERS used to have a surplus until the school districts retirements were folded into them and then they did not have enough. Leave it ti school districts to hurt all of the state employees.

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 8 months ago

sunny- thanks for reminding us that at no point in your life you've ever needed anyone else's help. You are an amazing human being and the fate of all those around you will in no way ever affect your life or the world you live in.

Commuter- KPERS is an involuntary retirement fund. School district employees have no choice as to whether or not money is taken from their check nor do they have any say in what that money goes into or where it is invested. The transparency in such a program is poor at best.

kansanbygrace 8 years, 8 months ago

Nobody is proposing free healthcare.
Nobody is proposing socialized medicine in the USA. To complain about "Obamacare" or the "Thousand page bill" proves the ignorance of those reactors to the fact that their are 6 different rough drafts being batted around congress and over 190 amendments. Nothing is within shooting range of "final". To complain now is simply an obstruction to any progress toward the needs at hand. Every insurance buyer pays a huge sum for the lack of a system, every time an uninsured person resorts to the Emergency Room for their sole access to medical treatment.
There is no existing "system". There is a hodgepodge of various services. There has never been a comprehensive discussion, either in the disease treatment industry nor in government. The money handlers won't allow it.
Gigantic needs are left unattended while the screamers cut their own throats and empty their own pocketbooks supporting the mishmash of uncoordinated "providers'" of the monopoly business scam we ignorantly refer to as "healthcare".
The most expensive non-system in the world, and the unchallenged occupant of the cellar in quality of care delivered is nothing to defend.

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