Entries from blogs tagged with “politics”
Former Kansas Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave, the newest Republican candidate in the 2nd District congressional race, is currently a registered voter in the 3rd District.
Officials in the Kansas Secretary of State's office confirmed Friday that Soave's voter registration lists him at a residence in Olathe, which is part of the 3rd District.
Soave filed a Statement of Organization form with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday listing the address of his committee, Soave for Congress, at 709 Main St., in Eudora. That is the address of the Eudora post office.
He publicly announced his candidacy Thursday with a press release that bore a Eudora dateline. Eudora is in the 2nd District.
An official in the Douglas County clerk's office said it is possible that if Soave changed his registration in the last day or so through a motor vehicle office, it could take a few days to show up in the voter registration database.
Soave did not immediately respond Friday to both telephone and email requests for comment.
Strictly speaking, there is no requirement that members of the U.S. House be residents of the district they represent. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires only that they must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the U.S. for at least seven years and "an Inhabitant of that State in which he (or she) shall be chosen."
Kansas election law does not add any requirements beyond that. But as a practical matter, it is virtually unheard of in modern times for someone to be elected to Congress to represent a district in which he or she does not live.
Antonio Soave, who served briefly as Gov. Sam Brownback's commerce secretary, announced Thursday that he is jumping into the crowded Republican field for the 2nd District congressional race.
“After prayerful consideration with my family, and so much encouragement from the business community in the second district, I believe now is the time to put my experience to work for Kansas,” Soave said in a press release issued Thursday. “I know what it takes to grow jobs, both as a business owner, and from my experience as Secretary of Commerce, recruiting businesses to our state.”
Soave served as commerce secretary for about 19 months, from December 2015 to June of this year. Before that he was the founder and CEO of an international business transactions firm that helps companies with exporting their products.
During the 1980s, according to his press release, he worked as an intern in the Reagan White House in the Office of Public Liaison.
“We live in a world where tyrants have nuclear weapons capable of striking our homeland,” he said. “I have been working in foreign policy for three decades. I know what it takes to keep America safe.”
Soave joins a crowded field in the 2nd District GOP race. Other announced Republican candidates include state Sens. Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth and Caryn Tyson of Parker, Rep. Kevin Jones of Wellsville, and Basehor City Councilman Vernon Fields.
On the Democratic side, former House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence is running. He faces Kelly Standley of St. Paul in the August 2018 primary.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach received a public dressing-down Tuesday over a column he wrote last week for Breitbart News, and Kobach himself backed away from some of what he said.
In the Sept. 7 article, Kobach said out-of-state voters "likely" changed — through voter fraud — the outcome of New Hampshire's 2016 U.S. Senate race, in which Democrat Maggie Hassan unseated incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte by fewer than 800 votes.
Kobach pointed to New Hampshire's same-day registration law as a weakness in its election security because more than 6,000 same-day registrants used out-of-state driver's licenses to vote in New Hampshire.
Fourteen other states have same-day registration, something that Kobach has said he vehemently opposes. But New Hampshire's law is somewhat complicated because the Granite State makes a distinction between being a "resident" of the state and being "domiciled" in the state.
The law says a voter must be domiciled in the state, but it is possible to be domiciled without necessarily being a resident. A college student, for example, can be domiciled in New Hampshire without necessarily being a resident. The law has been challenged in New Hampshire courts, and the state's Legislature has been working for some time to address technical issues in the statute.
The article sparked widespread controversy because it was published just one week before President Trump's Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, of which Kobach is vice chair, was to meet in New Hampshire. In fact, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat, came under pressure at home to resign from the commission in protest over Kobach's comments.
Gardner did not resign, but he did use Tuesday's commission meeting as an opportunity to publicly chide Kobach for his article.
"The problem that has occurred because of what you wrote is that the question of whether our election as we have recorded it is real and valid, and it is real and valid," Gardner said, prompting applause from the audience.
"The first couple of meetings that we had, the chairman of the commission (Vice President Mike Pence) made it very clear to us that we work in a consensus (manner) and that we work in a way that we don't have any preconceived, preordained ideas about what the facts are going to turn out to be, that we're going to use facts, we're going to search for the truth, and that is something that we all need to stay focused on," Gardner added.
He went on to say the distinction between being a resident and being "domiciled" in the state is difficult for many people to grasp, and that is one of the things the New Hampshire Legislature is trying to resolve.
Kobach, a former law professor who is now running for governor in Kansas, had earlier given a lengthy, legalistic explanation of the law. And he appeared to back away from some of the comments he made in the Breitbart article, saying that he was trying to explain a complicated legal issue into an 800-word article.
But Kobach also insisted that New Hampshire's same-day registration law made it easy for people from outside New Hampshire to engage in what some people call "drive-by voting." He added that when he was a student at Harvard he volunteered for then-Sen. Bob Dole's 1988 presidential campaign, and he knew students who would have been willing to drive to New Hampshire and vote, if the law had been in place at that time.
But Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat whose office is in charge of both elections and driver's licenses, slammed the idea that there is any connection between a person's driver's license and his or her eligibility to vote.
"There is utterly no connectivity between motor vehicle law and election law," Dunlap said. "Primarily, you have a right to vote. Driving is a privilege. We can take away your driver's license, and we do that about 85,000 times a year."
"So making this equation that somehow people not updating their driver's licenses is an indicator of voter fraud is almost as absurd as saying that if you have cash in your wallet, that's proof that you robbed a bank," Dunlap said.
A conservative Kansas lawmaker posted a tweet Wednesday suggesting he would rather give money to North Korea than to Kansas Public Radio.
Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, made that comment Wednesday morning as KPR was trying to raise money during its "Power Hour" event, a single-morning fundraising drive that precedes the regular fall pledge drive.
Around 7:45 a.m., KPR's Statehouse reporter Stephen Koranda tweeted, "There's still time to support KPR and our #ksleg coverage during the power breakfast today."
To which, Claeys replied: "I'd sooner give to DPRK News. At least their praise of dear leader is under duress."
"DPRK" refers to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea.
An outgoing message on Claeys’ telephone indicated that he was out of the country until Sept. 11. However, in response to a direct message via Twitter asking for him to clarify his remark, Claeys wrote: “Why would anyone be surprised that a republican would publicly balk at funding a democrat radio station?”
North Korea and the United States, of course, have been in an adversarial relationship recently and for decades.
During the active period of the Korean War, from 1950 through 1953, the Pentagon estimates that 36,914 U.S. soldiers died in the campaign to repel North Korea’s invasion of South Korea.
So far in 2017, North Korea has launched at least 21 test missiles and had conducted a number of underground tests of nuclear weapons, as part of a strategy that military officials say appears designed to threaten the United States and its Pacific Rim allies with nuclear warfare.
Members of the Kansas congressional delegation have been turning to social media in recent days to express their reactions to last weekend’s violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., but only a few have specifically called out President Donald Trump for his controversial remarks on the subject.
Second District Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican whose district includes Lawrence, posted a statement on her Facebook page addressed specifically to Trump, criticizing statements he made in a news conference the day before laying equal blame on the white supremacists who organized the rally and the counter-protesters.
“White supremacy, Nazis, and the KKK are a blight on our nation. Equal blame is not correct and racism should not be ignored,” Jenkins wrote. “When you use words that excuse their views it only fuels their hatred, further divides our nation, and tarnishes the sacred office you hold. For generations, Americans have fought and gone to war to stomp out ideologies like this. We must not turn our back on their sacrifice. Now is the time for all us to come together as Americans and help put an end to this bigotry.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran also criticized the president for his remarks.
“White supremacy, bigotry & racism have absolutely no place in our society & no one — especially POTUS — should ever tolerate it,” Moran wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening.
Both Jenkins and Moran were responding to comments Trump made during a news conference Tuesday when he tried to draw a moral equivalency between the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who staged the rally on Saturday and the counter-protesters who opposed them.
“I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump said. “What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”
Trump’s comments Tuesday echoed comments he made the day of the rally, on Saturday, after a white supremacist rammed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen others. Then, Trump said there was blame, “on many, many sides” for the violence.
Two Virginia state police officers who were monitoring the rally also died Saturday when their helicopter crashed.
Third District Congressman Kevin Yoder spoke at a predominantly African-American church in Kansas City, Kan., the following day, making a veiled reference to Trump, and then wrote about it on his Facebook page.
“This morning, I attended church services at the First Baptist Church in KCK and spoke to the congregation about how we as leaders need to be clear and direct in how we condemn the hatred, bigotry and racism on display in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend,” Yoder wrote. “The white supremacist ideology fueling those marching in the streets has no place in this world, and by calling it what it is — evil and terror — we will never allow it to grow or prosper.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts also kept his remarks terse in a brief statement on Twitter the day of the rally.
“The hatred & ignorance displayed by the violent & pathetic group in #charlottsville is unacceptable. Their values are not American values,” Roberts wrote.
First District Rep. Roger Marshall of Great Bend was out of the country on the day of the Charlottesville violence as part of a congressional delegation visiting Israel. He returned Monday and immediately commented about it on his Facebook page.
“I condemn, in the strongest terms, this week’s act of domestic terror and hateful rhetoric by white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and KKK sympathizers,” Marshall wrote. “These dangerous factions have no role in a civilized, American society. Their bigotry is incompatible with, and is the opposite of all this country stands for.”
Fourth District Rep. Ron Estes is the only member of the Kansas delegation who has not commented on the violence. His office did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email seeking comment.
Two other Kansas officials with ties to the Trump administration have also been relatively silent about the violence and about Trump’s reaction to it: Gov. Sam Brownback, who is Trump’s nominee to become ambassador at-large for religious freedom; and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a candidate for governor who is vice-chair of Trump’s Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.
Kobach is also a frequent contributor to Breitbart News, a website partially founded by and once led by Steve Bannon, who is now a senior Trump adviser. Bannon once famously referred to Breitbart as a “platform for the alt-right,” a term used to refer collectively to ultraconservatives who embrace white nationalist and white supremacist ideologies.
Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, in a statement released Wednesday, called out both men for their silence, as well as Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
“What happened in Charlottesville — and what is being faced by communities around the country — is no longer a matter of right or left, Republican or Democrat. It’s a matter of right and wrong. And it’s time for the leaders of Kansas to make it known which side they stand on,” Hensley said in the statement.
In response to a request for comment, Brownback issued a statement via email saying, “Racism, hatred, and violence should have no place in American life. Our state was born of the idea that all people are created equal, and that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. I, along with the people of Kansas, condemn any sentiment or demonstration against this fundamental truth.”
Colyer, who will become governor soon, assuming Brownback is confirmed for the ambassadorship, also issued a statement Wednesday, following Hensley’s criticism.
“I have seen the evil extremes of racial and ethnic cleansing first hand in Rwanda and other places around the globe,” he said. “We must stamp out these harmful ideologies and evil doers before they can take root here at home. Kansas has been and will continue to be a beacon of light and hope for those who fight for equality and justice for all.”
Kobach also issued a statement late Wednesday firing back at Hensley.
“It goes without saying that white supremacist views and racism are reprehensible,” he said in a statement emailed to reporters. “I did not comment on the horrific attack in Charlottesville because I am running for governor of Kansas, not governor of Virginia. Apparently, Mr. Hensley thinks that the vast majority of governors in America are all racists too, because they have made no public comment on the Charlottesville attack either. It is pathetic that a man with such poor logical thinking has been teaching public school kids in Kansas for so many years.”
Hensley teaches high school social studies in the Topeka school district.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday he plans to stay in office until he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a diplomatic post in the Trump administration, something he said he hopes will happen as early as next month.
Brownback has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the nation's ambassador at-large for religious freedom, a post housed in the State Department. Speaking informally with reporters Tuesday at the Statehouse, Brownback said he has had conversations with Senate leaders and believes he has bipartisan support for the position. He also said he hoped his confirmation could be completed in September.
The schedule for his Senate confirmation has not yet been announced and probably won't be announced until Congress returns from its August recess. It is expected that the process will begin with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
A swift confirmation would be helpful to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who will succeed Brownback in the governor's office once Brownback resigns, because it would give him a running start in preparation for the 2018 legislative session.
During this year's session, lawmakers passed a two-year budget for state government, but there are always tweaks that need to be made in the second year. Sept. 15 is the deadline for most state agencies to submit their budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year. After that, the next official revenue estimates are due in early November. Those are used as the basis of the budget proposal the governor makes to the Legislature in January.
Colyer has been in a somewhat awkward position since Brownback announced in July that he planned to accept the ambassadorship. Trying hard not to upstage Gov. Brownback during his final days or weeks in office, Colyer has quietly been putting together his own management and campaign teams while also avoiding the news media.
Last week, Colyer announced with a press release that he intends to run for a full term as governor. He also announced the appointment of Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker as his new chief of staff, and former WIBW-TV reporter Kara Fullmer as his new press secretary.
Former state Rep. Paul Davis of Lawrence has scheduled a series of appearances Tuesday where he is expected to formally announce that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District congressional seat in 2018.
Davis, 45, announced in April that he was exploring the 2nd District race, which will be an open contest in 2018. Incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican, has already said she would not run for another term.
Davis, who recently completed a tour of all 25 counties in the 2nd District, has scheduled events throughout the district on Tuesday, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Downtown Ramada and Convention Center in Topeka. From there, he travels to Pittsburg for a noon event at Butler's Quarters. At 4:30 p.m., he makes another appearance at Leavenworth's River Front Community Center. Then he returns home to Lawrence for a 6:30 p.m. event at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St.
Davis was the Democratic Party's unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2014 when he lost narrowly to incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. He points out, though, that he carried the 2nd District in that race, largely due to wide margins in Douglas and Shawnee counties, the two largest counties in the district.
With the 2018 primary elections a year away, the 2nd District race has already drawn a crowded field. On the Democratic side, Davis will likely face Neosho County resident Kelly Standley for the nomination. On the Republican side, state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, of Leavenworth, and Basehor City Councilman Vernon J. Fields are the two candidates who have filed so far, although Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Sen. Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha, and Sen. Caryn Tyson, of Parker, are frequently mentioned as potential candidates.
A national fundraising group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, announced that it is supporting Andrea Ramsey in the 3rd District congressional race in Kansas.
Friday's announcement by the group EMILY's List was another indication that the 3rd District is becoming more competitive. In 2016, incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder won re-election with just 51 percent of the vote while Democrat Hillary Clinton edged out Donald Trump with a plurality of votes in the presidential race.
The nonpartisan political analysis sites Cook Political Report, Sabato's Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections all rate the Kansas 3rd District as "leaning" Republican, a step below "safe" or "likely" Republican.
The district covers Johnson and Wyandotte counties and a portion of northern Miami County. Yoder first won the seat in an open race in 2012. Before that, the seat was held for 14 years by Dennis Moore, a Democrat who stepped down in 2012 after announcing he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
EMILY's List was established in 1985 by political activist Ellen Malcolm. Before then, no Democratic woman had ever been elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right. That changed the following year when EMILY's List helped elect Barbara Mikulski of Maryland to the Senate.
The group's name comes from its slogan, "Early Money Is Like Yeast — it makes the dough rise." It is known for making early endorsements, and early campaign contributions, in order to give its candidates an early boost, enabling them to raise more money throughout the campaign.
EMILY's List also gets involved in state government races. In the past, it has endorsed governors such as Ann Richards in Texas and Kathleen Sebelius in Kansas.
Ramsey is one of at least five Democrats vying for the nomination to challenge Yoder in 2018. She is an attorney who worked as senior counsel for the engineering firm Black and Veatch before she left the private sector to lead Turner House Children's Clinic, a nonprofit safety net clinic in Wyandotte County.
Other candidates who have announced in that race include Jay Sidie, who challenged Yoder in 2016 and had the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; retired U.S. Army officer Joe McConnell; Pembroke Hill teacher Tom Niermann; and Bonner Springs attorney Brent Welder.
There will be competition to fill the 10th District Kansas House seat being vacated by the resignation of John Wilson when Democratic Party precinct committee members in that district meet Aug. 12 to name a new representative.
Brandon Holland, 28, the son of Sen. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, confirmed Monday that he will seek the seat. He joins Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for Douglas County and the city of Lawrence, who announced over the weekend that she is seeking the seat as well.
Douglas County Democratic Party chairman Curt Hall said Monday that he has received calls from a number of people expressing interest in the seat, but that Horn and Holland were the only two so far who are actively pursuing the election.
He said the convention to elect Wilson's replacement will be at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Baldwin City Library, 800 Seventh St.
Holland, 28, currently does maintenance work on rental property and is a student at the University of Kansas majoring in political science.
During a telephone interview Monday, Holland said college affordability and access to health care are among his highest priorities.
"I'm worried about the accessibility of health care, especially with the full anti-Obamacare thing," he said, "Obamacare worked out great for me."
Wilson, 33, announced at the end of this year's record-tying 114-day session that he would step down in order to spend more time focusing on his family and career. He officially submitted his resignation Friday to the Kansas secretary of state's office.
John Wilson turned in his formal resignation from the Kansas House on Friday and announced that he is backing Lawrence and Douglas County sustainability director Eileen Horn as his successor.
Wilson, a Democrat, has represented the 10th District since 2013. It covers a portion of Lawrence southeast of 19th and Iowa and southeastern Douglas County, including Baldwin City.
Wilson announced June 26 that he would step down so he could spend more time focusing on his family and career. That announcement came during the Legislature's Sine Die ceremony marking the end of a record-tying 114-day session.
Horn, 37, is a Lawrence resident who currently directs sustainability initiatives for the city and county. That involves advising departments on policies and practices that promote energy and water efficiency. She also works with local food networks and promotes sustainable agriculture.
Horn is married to Rick Martin. They are also co-owners of Limestone Pizza, 814 Massachusetts.
By statute, the Democratic Party has 21 days from the date of Wilson's resignation to convene a meeting of the precinct committee officials from the 10th District to elect Wilson's replacement. So far, Horn is the only person who has publicly expressed interest in the seat.
With no fanfare, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach changed his official residence recently to his farm near Lecompton and registered to vote in Douglas County.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew confirmed that Kobach changed his voter registration on March 8. He had previously been a resident of Piper, in Wyandotte County.
Kobach's property in Douglas County has been the subject of some controversy. In 2014, he was cited for using the property as a residence, even though he only had permission to use it as an agricultural building.
He later obtained the permits needed to occupy the building as a residence, and he now intends to build an actual home on the property.
"They do currently have slightly cramped quarters, causing most of their possessions to be stored at his parents' house," Kobach's spokeswoman Samantha Poetter said in an email. "His daughters love living out in the country. They expect to break ground on their future home next week."
Kobach has announced that he will run for governor in 2018. If elected, he would be the first state governor of Kansas elected from that area, although all of the state's territorial governors called Lecompton home, including the last territorial governor, George M. Beebe, Dec. 17, 1860-Feb. 9, 1861.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas helped scuttle a Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare late Monday, but he said later Tuesday that he would support a repeal-only bill so that Congress could start fresh with open hearings on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.
Moran was one of two GOP senators who came out against the latest GOP bill, officially known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, Monday evening. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also came out against the bill. They joined GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky in opposing the bill, guaranteeing it would not have enough votes to pass even the first procedural hurdle in the Senate.
“There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” Moran said in a statement emailed to news outlets and posted on social media. “This closed-door process has yielded the BCRA, which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” Moran’s statement continued. “Furthermore, if we leave the federal government in control of everyday healthcare decisions, it is more likely that our healthcare system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase. We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”
Kansas’ other senator, Republican Pat Roberts, had been an early supporter of the bill, saying he would have voted in favor of a procedural motion to send the bill to the floor of the full Senate in order to continue debate and amendments.
The bill had been worked out largely behind closed doors in the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky instead of through the regular committee process.
It would have repealed many aspects of the Affordable Care Act, including the mandates that most individuals carry health insurance and that large employers make it available as an employee benefit. It also would have phased out the expansion of Medicaid, which has been an option for states as a way of extending coverage to the working poor who can’t afford or don’t have access to employer-based coverage.
The bill would have increased federal payments to hospitals in states like Kansas that have not expanded their Medicaid programs. Roberts had cited that as a reason for supporting the bill, arguing that provision would have brought more than $619 million to Kansas hospitals over the next eight years. But health care advocates, including the Kansas Hospital Association, said that still would not make up for the money Kansas is foregoing by not expanding Medicaid.
David Jordan, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a coalition of groups that supports Medicaid expansion, praised Moran for his decision.
“Sen. Jerry Moran deserves credit for taking a courageous stand against politics as usual and rejecting the harmful Better Care Reconciliation Act,” Jordan said in an email statement. “His decision is a testament to his commitment to make Kansas a healthier place to live. Senator Moran’s leadership will protect 120,000 Kansans from losing coverage and protect providers from devastating Medicaid cuts. We thank Senator Moran for his leadership and look forward to working with him to improve the health system in Kansas.”
The announcements from Sens. Moran and Lee initially left Republicans unsure about how to proceed. But Tuesday morning, President Donald J. Trump urged Senate Republicans to move forward with a bill simply to repeal Obamacare and work on a replacement package later.
McConnell then agreed to that process, and Moran said he would support it.
“I support the President’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, and I will vote in favor of the motion to proceed,” he said, according to an email from his office. “This should be followed by an open legislative process to craft healthcare policy that will provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”
This post was updated with new information at 2:20 p.m.
After six and a half years of litigation and four previous trips to the Kansas Supreme Court, the long-running school finance case Gannon v. Kansas will come to another climax on Tuesday. That's when lawyers for the state and the plaintiff school districts go back to the Supreme Court to argue whether the school funding bill lawmakers passed in June is constitutional.
There is a lot riding on this hearing. In March, the court said that the funding in place at the time, a little more than $3 billion a year, was inadequate and therefore unconstitutional, primarily because it left roughly 25 percent of all public school students — including half of all African-American students and one-third of all Hispanic students — scoring below grade level on state reading and math tests.
It gave the Legislature until June 30 to come up with a funding scheme that is "reasonably calculated" to make sure all students receive an adequate education. And the court warned that it would not allow the state to operate schools under an unconstitutional funding system beyond June 30.
That threat to close schools and force lawmakers back into a special session is why a lot of people will be sitting on the edge of their seats during Tuesday's oral arguments, which will be live-streamed on the court's website, listening to the justices' comments and questions for any tell-tale hint about which direction they are leaning.
The justices, of course, know that's what everyone is listening for, which is why they will likely do everything they can to not tip their hand too much so as not to be accused of having prejudged the case.
With that in mind, here are three things viewers at home, or at the office, can watch and listen for as the lawyers are making their cases.
• "What evidence do you have ... ?" At this stage of the lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the state to show that the Legislature has met its duty to adequately fund public schools and that the amount of funding lawmakers provided is "reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public school students meet or exceed" a set of educational outcome standards known as the Rose standards.
Those standards basically say that by the time a student graduates from high school, he or she ought to have a basic set of knowledge and skills to compete in the job market and to be able to fully participate in community and civic life. So, any question that starts with the words "what evidence do you have" especially when directed at the state's attorney, Stephen McAllister, might indicate that a justice hasn't yet been convinced that the state has met its burden.
• Challenging the "successful schools" model: The state, for its part, is going to rely heavily on something called the "successful schools" analysis that the Legislature's nonpartisan Research Department put together, based on previous research done by the Kansas State Department of Education and others. It goes like this:
There are certain risk factors that affect how well students within a district will perform at school. Those include such things as poverty status, chronic absenteeism, suspensions and expulsions, non-English speaking population, mobility and the number of new teachers in a district.
Using those factors, researchers developed a model to predict how many students within a district would be expected to perform at grade level. Then they identified the "outliers," the ones that are performing significantly better than would be expected. They show up on a chart like this:
Lawmakers then identified 41 outlier districts shown in the blue shaded area, looked at how much they were spending per-student and used that as the basis for a formula that gradually raises base per-pupil aid to $4,128 over the next two years.
The plaintiffs are challenging that analysis, arguing that it leads to a select group of large districts whose demographics do not match those of the rest of the state. The extent to which the justices challenge the successful schools model could indicate how much they're buying into it.
• Equity questions: Tuesday's hearing won't be all about the amount of money going to public schools, but also about how fairly it's spread among the state's 286 school districts. And this is where some of the arguments could get highly technical and hard to follow because it involves things like capital outlay budgets and equalization formulas.
Capital outlay budgets are special funds school districts set up to pay for big-ticket purchases like computers, furniture, building repairs and the like. And districts are allowed to levy a separate property tax for those funds.
One of the things lawmakers did in this year's school finance bill was to expand the number of allowable uses of that money to include things like utility costs and insurance premiums.
Plaintiffs in the case say that's unfair because those are really operational costs, not capital outlay costs, and therefore it gives wealthier districts access to more money for basic school operations.
The hearing begins at 9 a.m., and each side has been given 60 minutes to make its case. If the past is any indication, though, the hearing will probably last longer because the justices themselves will have more than an hour's worth of questions.
Health care advocates in Kansas are turning up the pressure on the state's two U.S. senators to reject the latest version of a health care overhaul, even though one GOP senator, Pat Roberts, has already endorsed the plan.
Fellow Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas has not staked out a position on the latest plan, although he opposed the first Senate plan in June.
The Kansas Hospital Association and the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas both issued statements opposing the plan, the details of which were unveiled Thursday.
The plan, officially known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, is the Senate Republicans' attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"The bottom line is that the changes Senate leadership made to the BCRA do little to alleviate the harm the plan will wreak on Kansas," David Jordan, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, said in an email statement Thursday afternoon. "We urge both Senators Moran and Roberts to do what’s best for Kansans and oppose this harmful plan."
One of the key issues for Kansas in any Obamacare overhaul bill will be how states that chose not to expand Medicaid are treated.
Under Obamacare, states have the option of expanding eligibility for Medicaid to anyone in a household with income below 138 percent of the poverty level, and the federal government pays 90-95 percent of the cost of covering those people. That threshold translates to $16,642 per year for a single person or $28,180 for a family of three.
Kansas has never taken advantage of that option, despite strong public pressure on lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback to do so. The Kansas Legislature did pass a Medicaid expansion bill this year with large bipartisan majorities, but Brownback vetoed it and the House was unable to override his veto.
Under the new Senate bill, the option would be taken away because no state would be allowed to expand that hasn't already done so. Furthermore, states that did expand would not be allowed to add any more new people after Dec. 31. And for those people already in the expansion group, it would gradually scale down the federal matching rate to each state's regular Medicaid matching rate.
For nonexpansion states like Kansas, though, the new GOP plan would offer increased federal payments to hospitals and safety net clinics.
According to information from Roberts' office, that would amount to $619 million over the next eight years, and he cited that as one of the reasons why he supports the bill.
"This bill ensures that non-expansion states like Kansas will have help," he said in a news release. "All Medicaid providers and especially the more than 60 Kansas hospitals serving a larger portion of Medicaid patients and the uninsured will have access to $619 million to serve those most in need. Under Obamacare, these providers will continue to receive nothing."
The Kansas Hospital Association, however, says that's not enough.
"Although we appreciate the Senate’s effort to close the gap for non-expansion states, the additional funds are hugely inadequate and do not compare to the dollars afforded to expansion states," the organization said in a news release Friday. "Even with the revisions, the equity funding gap is approximately $5.6 billion over 8 years."
An official in Moran's office said he is still analyzing the bill and has not decided whether or not to support it.
Kansas has done a relatively decent job of balancing its revenues and expenses over the last 14 years, according to a new national study that rated all 50 states for their budget-balancing skills.
The new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that while the state ran a net positive balance of revenues over expenditures from 2002 through 2015, it was a relatively thin one of just 1.2 percent, ranking Kansas 33rd among the 50 states.
Still, that was better than the 11 states that ran negative balances over that time. New Jersey had the worst financial performance over that period, with revenues accounting for just 92.4 percent of expenditures.
What's interesting about the numbers, says Matt McKillop, the Pew analyst who authored the report, is that the numbers don't come from reported budgets, which can often mask over deficits with different kinds of accounting tricks. Instead, the report used each state's "Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports," or CAFR's, which are based on what is called an "accrual" form of accounting rather than cash-basis accounting, such as delaying a payments from one fiscal year into the next or accelerating revenue collections, which Kansas has done numerous times over the years.
"What it does is really give a big-picture look at whether state government as a whole has lived within its means," McKillop said during a phone interview Wednesday. "This takes, for many states, a wider view than the general fund or the budget would."
McKillop said the study went back to 2002 because that's when the Governmental Accounting Standards Board started requiring states to use the accrual form of accounting in their annual reports. The 14-year period covered two national economic recessions: one caused by the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, which some call the post-911 recession; and the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
According to the analysis, Kansas ran deficits in five of those years. Three were during the first recession, 2002-2004, which spanned the transition between Republican Gov. Bill Graves and Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Kansas had another deficit year in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession.
The fifth, however, occurred in 2015, a year of relative economic health nationally. Many have blamed the tax policies championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for damaging the state's financial position. Brownback and his allies, though, have blamed it on what they call a "rural recession" brought on by low energy and farm commodity prices.
Kansas was one of only seven states that ran a deficit that year. The others included Alaska, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon.
"Illinois and New jersey found that their revenue came in below expenses every year, so that trend just continued for them in 2015, but yes, it was unusual for a state to have a deficit in 2015," McKillop said.
McKillop said the study only looked at states in terms of whether their revenues were above or below 100 percent of expenses. For those like Kansas that were above 100 percent, he said there is no particular standard for how far above that mark they should be.
Those like Alaska, Wyoming and North Dakota that all had very large surpluses he described as "resource rich" states that typically use those surpluses to cushion themselves between the economic booms and busts of the oil and gas industries.
In fact, Alaska, which had the largest surplus overall during the 14-year period, had a horrible year in 2015, when its revenues came in just under 70 percent of expenses.
Other states with more diversified economies, he said, may take a more conservative approach and balance their revenues and expenses as closely as possible.
State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald plans to formally kick off his bid for the 2nd District congressional race on Thursday with an event in Topeka.
Fitzgerald's kick-off event is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, July 14, at the Dillon House, just west of the Kansas Statehouse, 404 SW 9th Ave.
Fitzgerald is currently serving his second term in the Senate. He is considered a hard-line conservative who voted this year against legislation to reverse Gov. Sam Brownback's tax policies. He has also spoken out strongly against abortion, same-sex marriage and transgender rights.
A hint about the focus of his congressional campaign was contained in the subject line of an email he sent to reporters announcing the event: "Lt. Colonel Steve Fitzgerald's Congressional Announcement." Fitzgerald is a retired U.S. Army officer.
Incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican, announced in January that she will not run for public office in 2018. Many had considered her a likely candidate for governor next year.
Former state Rep. Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, has said he is exploring getting into the race, but he has not officially filed. Davis ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014.
Also said to be considering the race is state Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker. The only Republican who has officially filed so far is Basehor City Council member Vernon J. Fields.
Former Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp is taking a new job as president of a conservative think tank that is known for rejecting the scientific consensus that Earth's climate is changing due to human activity.
The Heartland Institute, based in suburban Chicago, announced Thursday that Huelskamp will take over as its new president in July. That organization has long argued that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that manmade carbon emissions are having any measurable effect on Earth's climate.
"Overwhelming scientific evidence suggests the greenhouse gas-induced global climate signal is so small as to be embedded within the background variability of the natural climate system and is not dangerous," the organization states on its website.
Huelskamp is a conservative Republican from Fowler who represented the western Kansas 1st District in Congress for three terms, 2011-2017. Known for his firebrand criticisms of political opponents, he fell out of favor with House GOP leaders and former Speaker John Boehner, who stripped him of his seats on the House Agriculture and Budget committees in 2012.
Huelskamp lost his bid for a fourth term in the 2016 elections when Roger Marshall of Great Bend beat him in the Republican primary. Marshall went on to win the general election as well.
The Heartland Institute describes itself as a free-market think tank whose mission is "to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems."
The organization has issued position statements on a wide range of public policy issues. But it made national news earlier this year when it mailed out 25,000 copies of its own book, "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming," in a move that critics said was an attempt to insert climate change denial propaganda into public school classrooms.
Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic who has long been associated with the Heartland Institute, was in charge of President Donald Trump's transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. He suggested as early as January that as president Trump would move to pull the United States out of the global Paris climate agreement, something he ultimately did June 1.
Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas is probably breathing a little easier today after seeing the results of Tuesday's special election in Georgia.
In a suburban Atlanta district that looks remarkably like Yoder's 3rd District in suburban Kansas City, Republican Karen Handel edged out Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, 52-48 percent, in what is being described as the most expensive U.S. House race in history.
University of Kansas political science professor Patrick Miller was among those watching the Georgia race because of its obvious parallels to the Kansas 3rd District.
"I think they’re very similar," Miller said Tuesday afternoon, before the ballots were counted.
Miller noted that both districts have been reliably Republican in recent years. Both are primarily suburban in nature, with highly educated, upper-income, predominantly white voters. But in both districts, Democrat Hillary Clinton fared better than would normally be expected of a Democrat, while Republican Donald Trump fared worse. In fact, Miller noted, Clinton actually edged out Trump in the Kansas 3rd District, while Trump carried the Georgia 6th District by only 1.5 percentage points.
So if there were going to be any political backlash against the GOP as Trump's approval ratings continue to slide, it would probably show up in districts like the Georgia 6th and the Kansas 3rd.
"There are about 20 congressional districts that Hillary Clinton won that are currently held by Republicans," Miller said. "If you’re a Democrat looking for a path to a majority (in the U.S. House), it goes through those 20 districts."
Tuesday night, however, it didn't go through the Georgia 6th District, which might give Yoder reason for a sigh of relief. He has already drawn a number of challengers for the 2018 race, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, has targeted the Kansas 3rd as a high-priority district next year.
In fact, of the four special elections held so far to fill House seats vacated by people hired in the Trump administration, Republicans have held on to all of them, despite Democrats' hopes of making gains from an anti-Trump backlash.
The first such race was April 11 in the Kansas 4th District, vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Republican State Treasurer Ron Estes won that seat against an unexpectedly strong challenge from Democrat Jim Thompson, who has announced he will run again in 2018.
On May 25, Democrats hoped to pick up the Montana at-large seat formerly held by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. But Republican Greg Gianforte won the seat against Democrat Rob Quist, despite Gianforte being charged with assault just before the election for slamming a reporter to the ground.
In addition to the Georgia race, South Carolina also had a special election Tuesday to fill the House seat vacated by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. That race turned out to be unexpectedly close, but still Republican Ralph Norman edged out Democrat Archie Parnell, 51-48 percent.
Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said he generally doesn't look at special elections as predictors of the next round of general elections.
"In a race like that, you always learn a lot about your tactics and techniques, things that work and don’t work. But as far as a bigger picture, predicting 2018, I don’t think there’s a lot to learn," Barker said. "People can over-analyze it. We’re more than a year out, 15 months, from the election, and the world will be different."
The DCCC, however, remains optimistic about the Kansas 3rd District, despite what happened in Georgia Tuesday night, and that organization rates the Kansas 3rd as being more competitive for Democrats than the Georgia 6th.
In fact, DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan sent out a memo Wednesday, after the Georgia and South Carolina races, saying he still believes Democrats have a chance to win back control of the House next year, despite losing an opportunity in Georgia.
"Last night’s results in Georgia were disappointing – we wanted to win and left everything on the field," Lujan wrote. "Despite the loss, we have a lot to be proud of. The margin was close in this deep red district, and Jon Ossoff pushed the race to the limit in both the primary and runoff by impressively mobilizing the base and persuading independents and moderate Republicans. We will carry those key lessons forward in order to compete in districts as Republican-leaning as Georgia, and in the dozens and dozens of districts on our battlefield that are much more competitive."
Among other things, Luján cited an internal poll that showed Trump with a 56 percent negative job approval rating in the Kansas 3rd District, and only a 34 percent positive rating.
Kansas in the spotlight: End of state’s tax experiment resonates nationally as Trump’s plan mimics Brownback’s failure
When Kansas lawmakers overrode Gov. Sam Brownback's veto and reversed course on the tax policies he championed in 2012, it was predictable that the story would be front-page news in all the Kansas papers. What was less predictable was the extent to which the story would resonate nationally.
Much of the attention was certainly due to the fact that President Donald Trump is expected to roll out his own plans for federal tax reform soon, and many believe it will be modeled on the Kansas experiment.
Writers at POLITICO made that connection back in May, when the White House released a one-page summary of Trump's tax plan. "As the White House and Congress begin to debate tax reform and how it could affect the country, they should pay close attention to the plains, where Kansas has suffered fiscal and economic setbacks," the website reported May 4.
"The Kansas Experiment Is Bad News For Trump’s Tax Cuts," a headline on the fivethirtyeight.com blog proclaimed after the override vote. It went on to say the action in Topeka was possibly the most interesting policy news to happen all week, even outperforming former FBI Director James Comey's testimony to a congressional committee two days later.
Money magazine's Ian Salisbury also drew a link between the Brownback tax cuts and the upcoming Trump plan when he wrote, "the Republican-led legislature's reversal makes it trickier for Kansas to serve as a template for national tax reform."
"Donald Trump’s Tax Plan Would Turn the Whole U.S. Into Kansas," proclaimed another headline on Slate.com.
Other news outlets, however, saw the Kansas Legislature's action as a final verdict on the "supply-side" economic theories — dubbed "trickle-down" economics by some and "voodoo economics" by then-candidate George H.W. Bush — that economist Arthur Laffer first sold to the Reagan administration in the 1980s before bringing them to Kansas in 2012, theories that are now said to be forming the basis behind the Trump tax plan.
The New York Times editorial page, which was never a big fan of either Reagan or Laffer, seemed to chortle with its headline, "Kansas Rises Up Against the Trickle-Down Con Job."
Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post even declared that Kansas "proved" how "Trickle-down economics is a nightmare."
But it wasn't just the left-leaning editorial pages that sat up and took notice of what happened in Kansas last week. Even the Brookings Institution, the living definition of centrism, called the vote in Kansas a verdict on supply-side economics.
"The Brownback tax cuts were one of the cleanest experiments the country has ever had in measuring the effects of tax cuts on economic growth, and it showed that they were a failure, wrote William G. Gale, a Brookings senior fellow in economic studies.
"Kansas’ experiment with tax cutting failed spectacularly — on its own terms," proclaimed another editorial in Business Insider.
West coast newspapers also took notice.
"It's the end of the road for the GOP's big tax experiment in Kansas," read a Los Angeles Times headline over a story that began, "The grand economic experiment on the prairie has ended."
It's not often that Kansas politics receives so much national attention, and usually when it does it's because of something the rest of the country frowns upon, like when the Kansas State Board of Education tried to downplay the concept of evolution in state science standards.
In 2014, Kansas briefly drew significant national attention when it looked like Republican Sen. Pat Roberts might be on the ropes for re-election, but that faded pretty quickly after he won by more than a 10 percent margin.
What's different about the tax story is that national news outlets are actually using Kansas as a source of objective facts and data to tell a cautionary tale for the rest of the country. And you can tell they're taking the task seriously by the fact that none of the articles mentioned above made any of the corny "Wizard of Oz" references that are usually obligatory in stories about Kansas.
Despite resistance, lawmakers create foster care task force; Brownback signs four more bills as session nears end
The Kansas Senate sent two significant pieces of legislation to Gov. Sam Brownback's desk on Friday while Brownback signed four bills into law.
Among the bills the Senate passed was one establishing a child welfare task force that would spend the next two years studying the Department for Children and Families' management of the state's child welfare system, and the foster care system in particular, and to make recommendations for improvement.
The bill was prompted by a number of children who were either killed or mistreated while in the custody of the child welfare system. But DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore has resisted efforts to impose more oversight, and conservative lawmakers allied with Brownback pushed back against the idea.
The push to establish a new task force comes on the heels of a series of Legislative Post Audit reports that were highly critical of DCF's management of the programs.
The task force would be made up of legislators, court officers, children's advocates, law enforcement officials, social workers and others involved in the child welfare system. That group would break up into a number of working groups to study different aspects of the system, including foster care, family preservation, protective services, reintegration and DCF's general administration of child welfare.
The group would be expected to file a progress report to the Legislature in January 2018, but its final report would not come until January 2019, after the Brownback-Colyer administration has left office.
The bill passed the House Friday morning, 109-10. It passed the Senate a few hours later, 33-6.
The Senate also passed and sent to Brownback's desk a bill dealing with mandatory inspections of amusement park rides. That bill, which the House passed Thursday, delays some enforcement provisions of a new law just enacted earlier in the session making it a class B misdemeanor to operate an amusement park ride that has not been inspected and received a permit by the Kansas Department of Labor.
Meanwhile, Brownback signed four pieces of legislation into law Friday:
• Senate Bill 42, updating and revising portions of the juvenile justice code that underwent a massive overhaul last year.
• Senate Bill 201, amending the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, adding members of the military to the definition of “protected consumers.”
• House Bill 2092, making various changes to Kansas criminal procedure.
• And House Bill 2132, authorizes port authorities to conduct certain sales.
Brownback has now signed 91 bills into law this session and has vetoed three. His veto of an income tax overhaul bill was subsequently overridden this week.