Topeka — Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, has pre-filed legislation that would require the governor to make public the names of people who apply for an appointment to the Kansas Court of Appeals.
Last year, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and his conservative allies pushed through a change in the way Court of Appeals judges were selected.
Now those judges are selected by the governor subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Prior to the change, the governor selected an appeals court judge from a list of nominees provided by a nominating commission.
Brownback selected his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, as the first nominee under the new law.
The new selection process became more controversial when Brownback refused to divulge the names of those applying for the vacancy on the state's second highest court. Under the former system, the nominating commission released the names of those applying, its final recommendation and had even opened up to the public its interview process.
Brownback declined to make the applicants' names public, saying it would hurt the chances of getting qualified individuals to apply.
Under Senate Bill 252, the governor would be required to make each applicant's name and city of residence available to the public once the application process is over. The 2014 legislative session starts Monday.
Brownback’s former tax consultant criticizes federal minimum wage as ‘black teenage unemployment act’
Art Laffer, the $75,000 consultant who helped shape Gov. Sam Brownback's tax changes, called the federal minimum wage "the black teenage unemployment act."
While on Fox News on Wednesday, Laffer said the minimum wage "makes no sense to me."
He added, "I mean, honestly, it's just the teenage — black teenage unemployment act, and this is the very groups that we need to have jobs and not be put out of work because of the minimum wage."
Laffer argued that more teenagers would be hired if employers could pay them less than the $7.25 federal minimum.
His comments were made during a discussion on the possible extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.
In 2012, Laffer, who is considered the father of supply-side economics, was hired by the Brownback administration for $75,000 for consulting work on the governor's tax plan.
Laffer championed Brownback's plans to cut income tax rates, eliminate credits and deductions and rely more heavily on the sales tax.
At the time, Laffer also supported Brownback's plan to end the state portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low-income, working Kansans. Later, Brownback backed off that proposal.
Topeka – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis announced that three former legislators, all Republicans, will lead the campaign's Republicans for Davis group.
“I am deeply committed to restoring the Kansas tradition of bipartisan cooperation in the governor’s office," Davis said Monday.
Davis, from Lawrence, is the House minority leader and likely Democratic challenger in November to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
In response to the announcement, Brownback's campaign spokesman David Kensinger referred to Davis' support of President Barack Obama.
"There are only so many Kansans willing to vote for a guy who doubled down on the Obama agenda as an Obama Delegate in 2008 and 2012," Kensinger said.
And James Echols, chair of Democrats for Brownback, issued a statement, saying that many Democrats appreciate Brownback's leadership. "Sam Brownback has shown the right mix of courage and vision to lead our state," said Echols, president of the board of Economic Opportunity Foundation Inc., of Kansas City, Kan.
Davis said he wanted Republicans and independent voters to be part of his campaign and administration if elected.
The three Republicans who will serve as co-chairs of Republicans for Davis are former House Speaker Wendell Lady of Overland Park and former House members Charlie Roth of Salina and Fred Gatlin of Atwood.
Lady said Brownback's income tax cuts, which included eliminating income taxes for nearly 200,000 business owners, "is the most unfair tax legislation ever enacted in Kansas." Brownback has said the cuts will stimulate the economy.
Roth said the state was going in the wrong direction under Brownback and that Davis has helped engineer bipartisan passage of key legislation. Gatlin said Davis would bring people together.
In Kansas, Republican registered voters outnumber Democrats by more than 341,000 out of the state's 1.7 million voters.
Topeka — The presence of the American Legislative Exchange Council agenda in the Kansas Legislature can't be denied, but Gov. Sam Brownback thinks the perception of ALEC's influence is "overblown."
"They do model legislation, they have meetings, but there are probably hundreds of groups that do model legislation and hold meetings. I think it gets overblown a lot," Brownback said during an interview Monday with the Lawrence Journal-World.
ALEC describes itself as a group that promotes free markets, limited government, federalism and individual freedom. But its critics say it is a front for corporate interests that push legislation in Statehouses across the nation.
Both Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, have held high-ranking positions with ALEC over the years.
Approximately 50 Kansas legislators, all Republicans, are members of the group.
In recent years, the Republican-dominated Legislature and Brownback have approved numerous ALEC-developed bills.
Brownback's personal and business income tax cuts are modeled after ALEC policies. In 2011, Brownback wrote a foreword to ALEC’s annual report, “Rich States, Poor States,” which is written by economist Art Laffer, whom Brownback hired as a $75,000 consultant on Kansas’ tax-cutting plan.
Brownback also signed into law the ALEC-inspired Health Care Freedom Act, which was designed as an impediment to federal health reform.
In recent years, ALEC has come under increased criticism and has been losing corporate members after civil rights and government watchdog groups complained about ALEC's push for voter ID and so-called "stand your ground" laws.
A poll one year before the 2014 gubernatorial election may not be that significant, but the SurveyUSA poll released last week that shows a close race between Democratic challenger Paul Davis and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has some interesting highlights.
Overall, the poll shows Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, with 43 percent of the vote to Brownback's 39 percent. The survey has a plus or minus margin of error of 4.4 percent.
The result follows an earlier SurveyUSA poll that showed Brownback with high disapproval ratings and Davis with low name identification, so the subsequent poll showing Davis ahead may be the result of an anti-Brownback sentiment more than a pro-Davis sentiment.
Minority voters and women break toward Davis, but what I found most interesting is that in the age categories, Brownback wins 18- to 34-year-olds, 43 percent to 38 percent, but Davis wins 35- to 49-year-olds, 42 percent to 35 percent; and 50- to 64-year-olds, 50 percent to 34 percent. The two split the 65-plus vote.
Think of people in that 35- to 64-year-old range. That's responsibility time. Raising families, getting kids through school, into college, etc. And a big chunk of the folks in that age range have been tempered by the Great Recession economy and its aftershocks. These folks, according to the poll, are supporting Davis.
The poll also asks voters what are their top issues. When the top issue is education, Davis is far ahead of Brownback, 75 percent to 14 percent, but when the top issue is the economy, Brownback leads among those voters, 46 percent to 37 percent, and when the top issue is crime, Brownback leads again, 46 percent to 33 percent.
Probably the most positive aspect of the poll for Davis, is that among those voters who describe themselves as moderate, Davis leads 58 percent to 28 percent. Davis and his lieutenant governor running mate, Jill Docking, must collect votes from independents and moderate Republicans to win a year from now.
The old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same is certainly true in politics.
The likely election contest featuring the Democratic team of Paul Davis and Jill Docking running against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has already produced themes that sound similar to those used in 1996 when Docking battled Brownback for a U.S. Senate seat.
The 1996 campaign was an intense, sometimes bitter race.
Brownback accused Docking of being a tax-and-spend liberal and linked her to national Democratic figures including then-U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was unpopular with Kansas voters.
Docking said Brownback represented an extremist right wing agenda on social issues as she tried mightily to win over moderate Republicans.
Fast forward to the current political climate and what do we see?
Republicans are trying to link Davis and Docking to national Democrats; in this case, President Barack Obama, another unpopular pol in Kansas.
Meanwhile, Davis and Docking are trying to appeal to moderate Republicans and independents, saying that Brownback represents a right-wing faction that is more interested in giving tax breaks to the wealthy than funding education.
In 1996, the Docking-Brownback campaign was for the unexpired term of Bob Dole, who was the Republican nominee for president. Docking was a political newcomer, although she came from a famous Kansas political family. Brownback was an up-and-coming conservative who, as a freshman U.S. House member, bucked state party leaders by defeating in the GOP primary Sheila Frahm, who had been appointed to replace Dole.
In the general election, the Christian Coalition played a heavy role, putting out voting guides that said Docking supported "taxpayer funding of obscene art," which Docking denied.
Polls had indicated the race was tight, but Brownback won by more than 10 percentage points.
While some of the campaign themes seem similar to today, one thing that was novel in 1996 won't be in 2014. When the returns rolled in, state election officials posted the results on something called the Internet.
A new SurveyUSA pollfinds that Kansas' Republican political leaders have high job disapproval ratings.
Fifty-eight percent of Kansans disapproved of the job Gov. Sam Brownback was doing while 35 percent approved. U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran had 53 percent and 50 percent disapproval ratings while 35 percent and 37 percent approved, the poll said.
Although within the margin of error, the Republicans' approval rates were even lower than President Barack Obama's, a Democrat, who had a 42 percent approval rate and 56 percent disapproval.
The poll also shows that Democrat Paul Davis, who is challenging Brownback in the 2014 election, has low name identification.
Eight of 10 voters were either neutral or had no opinion about Davis when asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. In fact, his name ID was so low, the pollsters referred to him as "Paul David" instead of "Paul Davis."
Davis' campaign said SurveyUSA planned to re-do that portion of the poll. But Davis' camp said the point of the poll was that it showed that their candidate at this point lacks name ID.
When the poll asked individuals' opinion of Brownback, 22 percent were favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, while the remaining were either neutral or had no opinion.
Meanwhile, Davis was at 7 percent with a favorable opinion, 13 percent unfavorable, while 80 percent were either neutral or had no opinion.
In addition, only 29 percent of those polled approved of the job the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature was doing, while 61 percent disapproved.
The poll of 532 registered voters was released earlier this week and conducted on behalf of KWCH-TV in Wichita. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. Of those polled, 41 percent were Republicans, 30 percent Democrats, and 29 percent independents.
Paul Davis' campaign for governor has released a 5-minute video in which Davis and his family talk about Davis' values and how he has met personal challenges and adversity.
Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, is the presumptive Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014. He faces a steep climb against Brownback. Republican voter registration in Kansas far outstrips Democratic registration.
"The essence of Kansas is really the sense of community and neighbors helping neighbors," Davis says in the video. "Whether they're Democrat or Republican, I usually don't know and don't care. I know that I'm their representative and it's my job to listen to them and it's my job to help them if I can," he says.
Here is a link to the video.
Gov. Sam Brownback's administration says recent state tax collection figures are positive, but his presumptive Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, has a different view.
Davis says the plummeting tax revenues and increasing unemployment rate are signs that Kansas is lagging because of Brownback's policies.
"Gov. Brownback's `real live experiment' is not working," said Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence.
Earlier this week, the Kansas Department of Revenue said taxes collected during the first quarter of the fiscal year were slightly less than expected.
Of the $1.37 billion in taxes collected from July through September, the figure was $8.5 million, or 0.6 percent, below projections.
A dip in corporate tax revenue may have been caused by businesses investing more than expected in machinery, which receives tax breaks, the Brownback administration said.
"We believe that all of these numbers show that Kansas businesses are investing and citizens are spending more money," Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said.
The $1.37 billion collected during the first quarter was $135.8 million less than what was collected in the first quarter of the last fiscal year. That's a 9 percent decline.
Such a decrease would have set off alarm bells in previous years, but this was expected. That dip is the result of the income tax cuts signed into law by Brownback, which he has said will spur the economy, but which Democrats have said will underfund essential government functions and favor the wealthy.
As far as spurring the economy, Kansas' unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in August, which is lower than the national rate of 7.3 percent. But the national rate has been declining this year, from 7.9 percent in January, while the Kansas rate has increased from 5.5 percent over the same time period.
The Kansas State AFL-CIO executive board has endorsed two Democrats, Paul Davis for governor and Jean Schodorf for secretary of state, in the 2014 election.
Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, is the presumptive Democratic nominee to take on Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican.
Schodorf, a former Republican state senator from Wichita who switched to the Democratic Party, has announced she will seek the Democratic nomination to face Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican. Mission Hills businessman Randy Rolston, a Democrat, has already filed to run in the race.
"Union members are looking ahead to new leadership for a stronger Kansas," said Bruce Tunnell, executive vice president of the Kansas State AFL-CIO. "We are proud to support Paul Davis for Governor and Jean Schodorf for Secretary of State. We are confident that Davis and Schodorf are the right candidates for the job at hand," he said.