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Entries from blogs tagged with “politics”

Wolf earns big money from government health care programs he criticizes

Dr. Milton Wolf and the medical practice he works for received more than $1.4 million in 2012 and 2013 in reimbursements from the very government-run health care programs that he criticizes in his campaign, according to Medicare and Medicaid billing records.

Wolf, a radiologist based in Johnson County, is also a Tea Party-backed candidate in the upcoming Republican primary for U.S. Senate, where he hopes to unseat incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.

Wolf, also a distant cousin of President Barack Obama, has made opposition to the Affordable Care Act, as well as other forms of government-sponsored health insurance, a centerpiece of his campaign. Last year, before formally announcing his candidacy, Wolf published a book titled "First Do No Harm: The President's Cousin Explains Why His Hippocratic Oath Requires Him to Oppose ObamaCare."

In that book, Wolf is highly critical of all forms of government intervention in the health care marketplace, including Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly. Of Medicare, he writes:

"New layers of bureaucracy and taxes were established to administer the program and coerce compliance. Patients and providers who wished to maintain their freedom from this government coercion faced even higher taxes and other financial penalties, which overall had the confounding effect of increasing private health care costs and decreasing the ability of many patients to afford it. This created a vicious circle of swelling rolls of government dependents and fewer people left to pay the bills."

According to Medicare data made public last week, Wolf personally received $101,001 in reimbursements from Medicare in 2012.

Additional records for both Wolf and his medical practice, Alliance Radiology, that would also cover 2013 have not been made public, despite a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Journal-World in February.

Congress established Medicare in 1966 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" initiative. Within the same bill was another provision establishing Medicaid, a joint state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Wolf and Alliance Radiology have also received substantial reimbursements from Medicaid in both Kansas and Missouri.

During 2012 and 2013, the Missouri Medicaid system paid $1.374 million to Alliance Radiology, which is based in Shawnee, while it paid Wolf himself $1,447.54.

Over the same period, the Kansas Medicaid system paid Alliance Radiology $165,631.29, according to officials at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Wolf himself did not receive any reimbursements from Kansas Medicaid.

Wolf's campaign did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on the reimbursement records.

Reply 12 comments from Larry Sturm Sam Crow Gregdivilbiss Bob Forer Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Jhwkdoc1964 Brandon Young Eric MacDonald Merrill

Sebelius said to be weighing U.S. Senate bid

A report today by the New York Times suggesting that Democrat Kathleen Sebelius might run for the U.S. Senate against her old friend Republican Pat Roberts has been raising eyebrows in Kansas political circles, especially among Republicans who seem to relish the thought.

"We will pay her bus fare," the Kansas Republican Party posted on its website.

But Kansas Democrats say there is nothing to the story, as far as they know.

"Our focus has been and will continue to be electing our great candidates who are working to restore Kansas," party spokesman Dakota Loomis said in an email. "We have heard nothing that would support this tabloid speculation."

Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County District Attorney, has already filed for the Democratic nomination in that race.

The Times story quotes a number of unnamed Democrats who say she has been encouraged to run for the Senate seat and that she's weighing the option.

Sebelius was a popular governor in Kansas from 2003 until 2009 when she left to become secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. There, she became the public face of the president's health care law known as the Affordable Care Act, or more commonly as Obamacare.

Opposition to that program helped give rise to the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party, which used the issue to regain control of the U.S. House in 2010. The program came under even harsher attack last fall amid the botched initial rollout of the new federal health exchange website.

Although the website was eventually fixed and the administration met its goal of enrolling more than 7 million people through the exchanges by the March 31 signup deadline, Sebelius was held personally responsible for the website problems, and she resigned her post April 10.

Roberts, who cut his political teeth in the 1960s working on the staff of Sebelius' father-in-law, former Rep. Keith Sebelius, publicly supported Kathleen Sebelius' nomination to the HHS post in 2009. But he made an about-face last October and publicly called on her to resign amid the troubled rollout of the website.

Meanwhile, Roberts is already being challenged from within by Tea Party-backed candidate Milton Wolf, who has made hay out of the fact that Roberts voted to confirm Sebelius to the Cabinet post.

Wolf posted a picture on his Twitter account today of Roberts and Sebelius together, commenting that the surest way for Republicans to lose the election to Sebelius would be to "Nominate the guy who voted for her ... twice."

Reply 9 comments from Merrill Fred_mertz James Howlette Ludus Scottburkhart Terrylee MerriAnnie Smith Fred Whitehead Jr. Clark Coan

Jenkins out-fundraising Wakefield

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins is enjoying a nearly 2-to-1 fundraising advantage over her likely Democratic opponent, Lawrence attorney Margie Wakefield, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Jenkins, a Republican seeking her fourth term representing the 2nd district of Kansas, which includes Lawrence, raised $249,347.59 in contributions during the first quarter of 2014, more than twice as much as Wakefield raised over the same period. She ended the quarter with $1.76 million in cash on hand.

The Jenkins campaign described that as a "torrid" fundraising pace while slamming Wakefield for being out of touch with the district.

"Congresswoman Jenkins' strong record of promoting the interests and positions of Eastern Kansans is in stark contrast to Missouri native Margie Wakefield and her unwavering support of the Obama agenda," Jenkins' spokesman Bill Roe said in a news release. "From her self-professed "love" of Obamacare, to support for cap and trade, to her full-throated advocation for additional government funding of abortion, Wakefield stands at odds with Congresswoman Jenkins and the interests of Eastern Kansans.

Wakefield reported raising $140,382.92 during the first three months of the year, ending the quarter with $204,952 in cash on hand.

But she, too, claimed the numbers represent dissatisfaction with her opponent.

"The momentum in this campaign is building every single day," Wakefield said in a news release. "It is becoming more and more clear that the residents of the 2nd district want change. I've been meeting with people county by county and what I hear most is that they want a Representative who will work with both parties in Congress and come to principled solutions to our nation's problems."

In 2012, Jenkins won re-election with 57 percent of the vote over Democrat Tobias Schlingensiepen. Since then, she was named vice chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus.

Wakefield, who was born in St. Joseph, Mo., is a graduate of Kansas University Law School and previously worked in Sen. Bob Dole's Topeka office. She currently operates her own law practice in Lawrence where she focuses on family law.

Reply 3 comments from Merrill Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Mike Ford

In new ad, group backing Brownback praises governor for school bill but doesn’t mention repeal of teacher tenure

A group backing Gov. Sam Brownback churned out a commercial praising Brownback for the new school finance bill, but the ad doesn't mention controversial parts of the bill, including a repeal of job protections for teachers.

The spot sponsored by Road Map Solutions Inc., led by Brownback's longtime political adviser David Kensinger, was running this weekend and cites the bill approved April 6 in the Legislature.

The measure, approved with only Republican votes, was passed after a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said the Legislature must increase funding to poor schools. But the bill also includes measures opposed by Democrats and some Republicans that would repeal teacher tenure and provide corporate tax breaks for private school scholarships for low-income children.

Brownback is expected to sign the bill into law.

"We got it done," says the announcer on the new ad. The ad says the bill will provide $73 million more for schools and $78 million in property tax relief.

But the ad doesn't mention those education policy changes that have generated criticism.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the likely Democratic challenger to Brownback, said the repeal of teacher tenure represented "a clear attack" on teachers.

Reply 24 comments from Steve King Merrill Bob Reinsch James Howlette Sam Crow Fred_mertz Bob Forer Floyd Craig Luckenbach Phillip Chappuie and 1 others

Jenkins, Wakefield differ on Paycheck Fairness Act

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, on Tuesday said Democrats were being "condescending" toward women in their push for congressional approval of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Jenkins, whose district includes Lawrence, said Republicans support equal pay for equal work. But she added, "Many ladies I know feel like they are being used as pawns, and find it condescending that Democrats are trying to use this issue as a political distraction from the failures of their economic policy."

Jenkins' comments drew a response from Margie Wakefield, of Lawrence, the likely Democratic candidate to challenge Jenkins in November.

"Many women continue to be paid, on average, 77 cents for every dollar the average man earns," Wakefield said. "This isn’t a women’s issue. It's an American issue. Closing the wage gap would cut the poverty rate in half for working women and their families and would add nearly half a trillion dollars to the national economy."

Wakefield said Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will probably be debated this week in the Senate.

The bill would impose on employers regulations aimed at ensuring women are not paid less than their male counterparts for the same work. Republicans say the legislation will lead to more lawsuits and that discrimination based on sex is already illegal.

Reply 4 comments from Merrill James Howlette Steve Jacob

Poll: Governor’s race tight; Medicaid expansion will be an issue

A new poll shows the race for Kansas governor remains tight.

The poll showed Democrat Paul Davis of Lawrence leading Republican Gov. Sam Brownback 45 percent to 41 percent, with 14 percent unsure. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. It was conducted April 1-3, before the contentious last weekend of the legislative session.

The poll, commissioned by the left-leaning MoveOn.org's political action committee, also shows that 52 percent of Kansans want the state to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage while 35 percent oppose it and 13 percent are unsure.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states can increase income eligibility to allow more people to receive health care coverage under Medicaid.

Medicaid provides coverage for the needy and disabled. Under the ACA, federal funds would pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion for three years and no less than 90 percent after that.

Supporters of expansion of Medicaid say it would help thousands of Kansans who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid or to receive premium tax credit assistance under the ACA to purchase private insurance.

There are 182,000 Kansans within that gap, according to a study by the Kansas Health Institute. Of that number, 78,400 have no insurance, the study said.

Brownback and the Republican-led Kansas Legislature have refused to expand coverage. Brownback has said he fears the federal government won't keep its funding promise.

A bill approved by the Legislature and awaiting consideration by Brownback would ban indefinitely expansion of Medicaid.

According to the new poll, when told that Davis wants to expand Medicaid, 39 percent of those polled said that made them more likely to vote for him, while 34 percent said less likely.

When told that Brownback opposes expansion of Medicaid, 33 percent said that made them more likely to vote for him while 41 percent said that it made them less likely.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling surveyed 886 likely voters in Kansas. Fifty-two percent of those polled identified themselves as Republican, 30 percent Democrat, and 18 percent independent.

Reply 6 comments from Steve King Paul R.  Getto Merrill James Howlette Thomas Bryce Clayton Barker

Private health clubs get property tax exemption under Senate amendment

Some Senate Republicans did some heavy lifting on Friday for private gyms by voting to give them a property tax exemption.

State Sen. Jeff Melcher, R-Leawood, said it was unfair that for-profit private health clubs paid property taxes, while non-profit YMCAs and YWCAs were exempt from those taxes.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka, however, said the YMCAs and YWCAs do public service work, while private health clubs don't.

Hensley handed out information that showed many supporters of Melcher's amendment received campaign donations from the owner of Genesis Health Clubs.

"The people who write the checks, end up writing the laws," Hensley said.

Melcher responded, saying, "It's a shame a taxpayer has to expend so many resources to get tax fairness." His amendment giving private health clubs a property tax exemption was approved 21-17. The underlying bill dealt with a long-running dispute over taxes paid by a concrete company.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, tried to exempt Douglas County from the amendment, saying that there were no YMCAs or YWCAs in the county. "I'm not going to let foolish special-interest tax policy unfairly shift the tax burden onto other commercial and residential property owners in my district," he said. But his amendment was rejected.

Reply 14 comments from Bob Reinsch Thomas Bryce Merrill Bob Forer Melinda Black James Howlette Dave Trabert Phillip Chappuie

Davis camp sends inadvertent email to reporters

A spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the likely Democratic candidate for governor, had an "oops" moment today.

Haley Pollock inadvertently sent an email to reporters that was meant for planners of a pro-school funding press conference scheduled for Monday.

In that email, Pollock advises Game On for Kansas Schools on how to write a press release.

"The release should be a mini version of the press conference though. We basically want to write the story that we want to appear in the paper and include the quote we want to appear in the paper from each speaker," she wrote. "That way even if a reporter can't attend, they still have everything they need to write the story."

Pollock sent a follow-up email to reporters noting the accidental email and apologizing for any confusion.

Reply 6 comments from Merrill Doug Weston Melinda Henderson Steve Bunch Larry Moss Realrealname Thomas Bryce Fred_mertz

Second Democrat announces in 1st District

Jim Sherow, a professor at Kansas State University and former Manhattan mayor, formally launched his bid for the 1st District congressional seat, setting up a rare Democratic primary in the heavily Republican district.

Bryan Whitney, a 2013 graduate of Wichita State University, previously announced he is running for the seat.

Sherow is a former mayor of Manhattan who has taught history and agriculture at K-State for 22 years. He said in an email today that he is launching his campaign from his hometown in Hutchinson and aims to be the first Democratic candidate to hold that office since 1956.

"For the first time ever western Kansas has not had a representative on the Agriculture Committee," Sherow said in an email statement announcing his candidacy.

The seat is currently held by two-term Republican Tim Huelskamp, who was removed from his seats on the House agriculture and budget committees after frequently crossing swords with House GOP leaders. That has upset farm groups, including the Kansas Farm Bureau's political action committee, which so far has not made an endorsement in the race.

Sherow boasts that he has written several books about the High Plains and its water needs.

The "Big First" district covers 69 counties in western and central Kansas and voter registration there heavily favors Republicans. It was previously held by Jerry Moran (1997-2011) and Pat Roberts (1981-1997), both of whom are now U.S. Senators. Before that it was held by Keith Sebelius (1969-1981) and Bob Dole (1963-1969).

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Davis still exaggerating teacher layoff claims

Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, reportedly claimed again last week that school funding cuts under Gov. Sam Brownback's administration have led to "thousands" of teacher layoffs, a claim that has already been shown to be greatly exaggerated.

According to a report in the Kansas City Star, Davis reasserted that claim last Wednesday during a fundraising event in Johnson County.

But even after Brownback compared education to defense spending in his first State of the State speech — a comparison Davis agreed with — the governor submitted a budget the next day with what the Democrat called the largest cut in school spending in state history.

The result: thousands of teacher layoffs and a myriad of school fees that parents must pay.

“This is foolishness,” said Davis, adding that it’s “not who we are as a people. It’s time for us to get things right.”

Although the story itself did not put quote marks around the phrase, Star reporter Steve Kraske confirmed in an email that Davis used the word "thousands" in reference to teacher layoffs.

Davis made a similar claim when he gave the Democratic response to Brownback's State of the State address in January, and the Journal-World reported afterward that the claim was greatly exaggerated.

According to official state data, only 811 teachers lost their jobs due to a "reduction in force" between 2009 and 2013.

Because Brownback didn't come into office until January 2011, only 201 of those can actually be attributed to his tenure in office - those that occurred in the 2011-2012, and the 2012-2013 academic years.

Layoffs, of course, are not the only way to reduce the size of a workforce. Many districts used attrition during the Great Recession - not replacing teachers who retired, changed careers or moved out of the area.

Since Brownback became governor, the total number of full time equivalent teachers employed in public schools has actually grown slightly, from 34,074.8 in his first full year in office, to 34,772.8 this year. That is still below the pre-recession number of 34,978.8 during the 2008-2009 school year.

Officials from Davis' campaign did not return phone calls made last week seeking comment. Davis himself said this week that he would have his office share with the Journal-World the information on which the claim was based, but so far we've not received it.

Reply 13 comments from James Howlette Dave Trabert Keith Richards Mark Rainey Steve King To Sides Thomas Bryce Lane Signal

Law enforcement issues warning against bringing back pot from Colorado

With western neighbor Colorado legalizing marijuana, Kansas officials on Tuesday issued a reminder that the sale, possession or use of pot is still illegal in the Sunflower State.

"Kansas law enforcement has seen and seized marijuana acquired in Colorado and brought illegally to Kansas," the statement said.

The statement was signed by Kansas Attorney Gen. Derek Schmidt, Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Ernest Garcia; Kansas Sheriffs Association President and Gray County Sheriff Jim Kramer; and Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police President and Wamego Police Chief Mike Baker.

"We remind Kansans never to bring marijuana into Kansas from Colorado. Doing so is a crime, and Kansas still enforces its law," they said.

Reply 1 comment from Steve King

Fact checking: Milton Wolf on health benefit mandates

Two years before entering the U.S. Senate race in Kansas, Dr. Milton Wolf of Johnson County penned a 38-page e-Book published through Amazon in which, among other things, he criticizes former Kansas Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius.

The book, "First Do No Harm: The President's Cousin Explains Why His Hippocratic Oath Requires Him to Oppose ObamaCare," is part of a series from Broadside Books called "Voices of the Tea Party." In it, Wolf writes:

In my state of Kansas, for example, under our former insurance commissioner (and current Health and Human Services secretary) Kathleen Sebelius, the increased mandates she employed chased nearly a dozen insurance companies out of the state, diminished competition, and left forty thousand Kansans without health insurance.

Insurance mandates: First, it's important to note that the Kansas insurance commissioner does not have the power to impose new benefit mandates unilaterally. All of the mandated benefits, including those dating back to the 1970s, as well as those enacted since Sebelius left office, were enacted by the Kansas Legislature. Sebelius, however, did lobby in favor of many new mandates while she served as commissioner.

Several paragraphs earlier in his book, Wolf writes dismissively of benefit mandates, saying: "State insurance commissioners, greased by the lobbying machine and eager to promise all sorts of new goodies to voters, mandated that insurance companies wishing to operate in their state provide whatever service they arbitrarily demanded — podiatry, chiropractic, in vitro fertilization, midwifery, acupuncture, radiology, whatever — whether the patients want it or not."

However, very few of those services are actually mandated in Kansas.

The Kansas Insurance Department website provides a comprehensive list of the benefit mandates that apply in Kansas, some of which date back to the 1970s.

Those that began when Sebelius was commissioner (1993-2003) include: mental health prescription drugs (2001); diabetes supplies and equipment (1998); prostate cancer screening (1998); dental anesthesia for children and disabled individuals (1999); breast reconstruction for mastectomy patients (1999); osteoporosis treatment (2001); off-label cancer medications (1999); and well-woman exams (2001).

Companies leaving Kansas: Wolf argues that those mandates caused insurance companies to leave Kansas, resulting in less competition in the marketplace. It's an argument he has repeated many times, including a 2012 op-ed piece he wrote for the Washington Times, without ever citing a source to substantiate the claim. His campaign did not respond to an email request Tuesday asking for a source.

The issue also came up when Sebelius campaigned for governor in 2002, and the response at that time was that it was the result of mergers and acquisitions within the insurance industry, not the result of coverage mandates.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Insurance Department said the agency does not track the number of insurance carriers on a year-to-year basis, so they were unable to confirm or deny Wolf's claim. Insurance industry officials, however, say the trend has continued over the last five to seven years, again due largely to mergers and acquisitions, but there have been no new entrants into the Kansas health insurance market.

Rise in the uninsured: Wolf's claim that 40,000 Kansans lost their health coverage as a result of the mandates comes from a 1988 study by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a free-market think tank, which asserted generally that "as many as one of every four uninsured people lack health insurance because state regulations have increased the price of insurance."

That study has been criticized as flawed for several reasons. For one, it ignored the possibility that high costs in some states were what spurred the new regulations and mandates, not the other way around.

The claim is also contradicted by data from the U.S. Census Bureau that shows the number of Kansans without health insurance actually fell during the time Sebelius was insurance commissioner.

In 1994, the year Sebelius was first elected to that office, the Census Bureau estimated 12.9 percent of Kansans had no health coverage. Based on the state's population at that time of 2,554,047, that translates to roughly 329,472 Kansans uninsured.

By 2002, the year Sebelius was elected governor, the uninsured rate had fallen to 10.9 percent, or roughly 293,038 people uninsured, based on the population that year - a decline of 36,389 people.

Reply 1 comment from Caughtinthemiddle Kris Norton

Brownback getting national media buzz

Gov. Sam Brownback was the subject of two national pieces this week.

Yahoo News focused on his potential as a 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

"His quiet, yet ambitious, work in Kansas has proceeded without major controversies of the sort that have helped define Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who fought a pitched battle with public-sector unions, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was a magnet for viral controversies even before the recent allegations of misconduct surrounding the closure of George Washington Bridge lanes," wrote Chris Moody. Here is a link to that story.

And The Daily Caller dissected the pros and cons of Brownback's tax policy in this story.

This attention follows a Feb. 13 piece in the New York Times, headlined "Brownback Leads Kansas in Sharp Right Turn."

Meanwhile in Kansas, Brownback faces a tough re-election challenge against House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. The race is neck-and-neck, according to a recentpoll.

Reply 9 comments from Bob Smith James Howlette Frankie8 Merrill Bluekansas Cille_king

Sea monster invades Statehouse

School children visiting the Statehouse on Thursday quickly gravitated toward the building's newest addition — a 17-foot juvenile mosasaur hanging on the wall in Gov. Sam Brownback's ceremonial office.

"It's kind of like lightning in a bottle, the way I see it," said Alan Detrich, of Lawrence, a fossil hunter who discovered the dinosaur several years ago in Gove County in western Kansas.

"Once you get a kid interested in dinosaurs or fossils, they want to read about it, and on the way to becoming a paleontologist they might accidentally end up being a doctor, or a governor, or a state representative," Detrich said.

Detrich has loaned the mosasaur to the state for an indefinite period of time.

The mosasaur arrived as the Kansas House gave final approval to make the tylosaurus, a type of mosasaur, as the state marine fossil, and pteranodon as the official state flying fossil.

The designation started with petitions from school children in Lecompton Elementary; Liberty Memorial Central Middle School and New York school, both of Lawrence; and Santa Fe Trails Middle School in Olathe.

Amanda Martin-Hamon, the daughter of the late Larry Martin, who had been Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Kansas University Natural History Museum, said her father would have been proud of the designation because it will be used as an educational tool. "He felt like paleontology was a really great way to do that because kids love fossils, they love dinosaurs. It sparks their imagination to think that sea monsters were real," she said.

Martin-Hamon's daughter Teagan, a third-grader at Lecompton school, helped spur the petition effort of having a state fossil.

The mosasaur, coiled up in its "death pose" on display, was a swimming reptile predator common to Kansas when it was under an inland sea millions of years ago.

Mosasaur fossil was brought to the Statehouse on Thursday. It is on loan from fossil hunter Alan Detrich.

Mosasaur fossil was brought to the Statehouse on Thursday. It is on loan from fossil hunter Alan Detrich. by Scott Rothschild

Reply 1 comment from Doug Weston

Lawrence Republican Scott Morgan considering run for Secretary of State

There's talk in political circles that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach may face a challenge in the Republican primary, and it may come from an unlikely source — a Lawrence Republican.

Former Lawrence school board member and one-time Washington, D.C., staffer Scott Morgan told me today that he is considering a run. I'm not sure what I would peg the chances of him running at, but he certainly didn't want to close the door on the possibility.

"I'm considering lots of things, but so are a lot of other people," Morgan said.

Morgan said he is part of a group of moderate Republicans who are increasingly becoming convinced that the far right wing of the Republican Party needs to be challenged more in primaries.

"These movements come and go, but they only go when people stand up and try to push them back," Morgan said.

Morgan served two four-year terms on the Lawrence school board, but got started in politics as a staff member for Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and later for Sen. Bob Dole. Morgan also served as a nonvoting member of the Federal Elections Commission in the mid-1980s, when Dole was Senate majority leader. More recently, Morgan unsuccessfully ran for a state Senate seat in Lawrence in 2008, losing to Democrat Marci Francisco.

Kobach already has drawn a Democratic challenger. Jean Schodorf, who previously served in the state legislature as a Republican, switched parties to challenge Kobach.

Morgan said he has no desire to find an alternative party, but said he is concerned about Kobach's leadership. Kobach has been a champion for a law that requires proof of citizenship for voters.

"The burden of proof should be on the government, not on the person wanting to vote," Morgan said. "This is too basic of a right to let government block people's right to vote.

"It is such a weird attitude for a secretary of state. Instead of going after the fraud, you put out a blanket litmus test to stop the wrong type of people from voting, I guess."

Morgan said he doesn't have a timeline — other than the June 2 filing deadline — for deciding whether to run.

Reply 1 comment from Lieutenant Ksfbcoach

Repeal of mortgage registration fee approved by committee

A bill that would phase-out the mortgage registration fee over five years has been approved by a Senate committee.

Bankers and real estate agents have been pushing for the end of the fee, saying it hurts their business and consumers.

But county officials statewide, including those in Douglas County, have said the lost revenue would need to be made up some other way.

Senate Bill 298 was recommended by the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee earlier this week.

The fee is equal to $2.60 for each $1,000 borrowed on a home mortgage, or $390 for a $150,000 mortgage. It isn't collected from people who pay cash for real estate.

In Douglas County, the fee generated about $1.8 million last year, and officials estimate a 2-mill rise in property taxes would be needed to replace that money.

The bill approved by the committee would also phase-in over four years a $4-per-page increase in fees for documents handled by county registers of deeds. But county officials say they won't produce nearly enough to replace the mortgage registration fee.

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Tea Party Express endorses Wolf for U.S. Senate

The Tea Party Express, a California-based political action committee, formally announced its endorsement today of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Milton Wolf. The announcement is being made in a series of public events around the state, including one scheduled for 3 p.m. this afternoon at the Celtic Fox, a restaurant and bar in downtown Topeka.

Wolf is challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts in the Aug. 5 primary.

The Tea Party Express was established in 2009, mainly to promote opposition to President Obama's health reform law, commonly called Obamacare. According to an early article posted by Talking Points Memo, it received initial financial backing from Our Country Deserves Better PAC and Americans for Prosperity, a group largely funded by David and Charles Koch.

“Dr. Milton Wolf has intimate knowledge of America’s healthcare system and is the perfect person to tackle President Obama’s failed healthcare policy," Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said in a statement. "He even has proposed his own alternative to the Obamacare train wreck, Patient Care. It’s that kind of conservative leadership that has been largely absent for far too long in D.C. I am confident Dr. Wolf will join the ranks of Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul when he is elected.”

Reply 1 comment from Scott White

Dinosaur debate advances, but some oppose

The Kansas House advanced a bill to designate the Tylosaurus and Pteranodon as the official state fossils, but not before a lecture from a state legislator that the action was a waste of time.

"This foolishness has to stop sometime," said state Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe.

He said the proposal would have no benefit and the Legislature should spend its time on school finance and funding services for those with disabilities.

But other legislators said designating a state marine fossil and state flying fossil would expose Kansas schoolchildren to the natural scientific history of Kansas.

And it would spur tourism, they said, especially at the Kansas University Natural History Museum and Sternberg Museum in Hays.

In fact, famous fossil hunter Alan Detrich will bring a juvenile Tylosaurus skeleton to the Statehouse on Thursday for display.

House Bill 2595 gained preliminary approval 93-13.

Reply 9 comments from Cg22165 Ron Holzwarth Ludus Wes Gapp Frankie8 Melinda Henderson

Tea Party Express to rally for Wolf; Roberts releases TV ad

The Tea Party Express plans to hold a series of events Thursday featuring Republican U.S. Senate candidate Milton Wolf, who is trying to unseat incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts in the GOP primary in August.

Meanwhile, Roberts today released the first TV ad of the campaign season, blasting Wolf, a Johnson County radiologist, over recent revelations that he once posted grisly X-ray images of gunshot victims on a Facebook page and made inappropriate comments about them.

Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for the California-based Tea Party Express, wouldn't say whether the group plans to endorse Wolf. He would only say that there will be an announcement at the events.

The nearest event will be from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Celtic Fox in Topeka, which is directly northeast from the Kansas Statehouse.

Wolf has been portrayed as a Tea Party candidate since announcing his candidacy in October. He has written a book about his opposition to the Affordable Care Act that is available only in e-book format through Amazon. It is part of a series of treatises from Broadside Books called "Voices of the Tea Party."

Last weekend, the Topeka Capital-Journal published a story about Wolf's Facebook posts that generated national attention.

Today, the Roberts campaign released an ad highlighting that story. It ends by asking the question, "If Milton Wolf is so irresponsible as a doctor, how can he possibly be trusted as a U.S. Senator?"

But Roberts has come under withering attack himself from the Wolf campaign. That was fueled by a recent story in the New York Times that reported Roberts does not really have a residence in Kansas but declares the Dodge City home of a friend as his voting address.

In recent press statements, Wolf routinely refers to "Sen. Pat Roberts (R-VA)" and calls him Virginia's third senator.

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Publication lists Kansas governorship among ‘most likely to flip’

National Journal, a non-partisan political publication, includes the Kansas gubernatorial election among its list of 15 governorships "most likely to flip" from one major political party to the other.

"By all rights, Kansas should be safe Republican territory, but it features the sleeper race of the cycle," the National Journal states, ranking the race between Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, No. 10 among the top 15.

The article mentions past Democratic successes for governor in Kansas, the warfare between moderates and conservatives in the Republican Party and polling that indicates a tight race.

Reply 2 comments from Cille_king Frankie8

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