Brownback wisely backs off on Medicaid changes
The Kansas City Star
Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has wisely backed off of its insistence that services for developmentally disabled Kansans be turned over to private insurance firms.
The governor announced that home-based care and other long-term services won’t become part of the “KanCare” Medicaid reorganization program until January 2014.
Even that might be too soon for some families and advocates of disabled citizens, who understandably worry about turning over their support systems to private companies committed to their profit margins.
Still, the move represented a crack in the administration’s obstinacy after months of pleas from disabled citizens.
On a related front, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom confirmed that the Justice Department was investigating complaints that Kansas’ refusal to allocate adequate funding for disabled citizens is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Civil rights staffers of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had tried to negotiate a plan for reducing waiting lists, but failed. Brownback noted this week that the waiting lists had started under former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who, of course, is now the director of HHS.
“Effectively, Sec. Sebelius decided upon joining the Obama Administration that Gov. Sebelius and her policies were in violation of federal law,” Brownback said.
Touché. But the Justice Department involvement is serious.
Don’t say gay
The Missouri House has taken up a lot of ridiculous legislation this session. It has passed bills making gun owners a protected class, outlawing the use of Islamic law, guaranteeing the freedom to participate in rodeos and threatening federal officials who enforce the Affordable Care Act with jail terms.
But nothing else has caused a furor like House Bill 2051, aptly dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill. It directs that “no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.”
This bill effectively denies gay and lesbian students a chance to find a supportive haven at school. It bans school-sponsored gay-straight alliances and appears to prohibit teachers and administrators from cautioning against bullying based on sexual orientation.
It is vile legislation, made worse because the two top leaders of the house, Speaker Steve Tilley and Majority Leader Tim Jones, are co-sponsoring it.
The chief sponsor, Republican Steve Cookson of southeast Missouri, a retired school superintendent, no less, told a local television station that his bill has been misunderstood, and he only wanted to shift the discussion of sexuality from schools to the home. Jones said much the same thing, and Tilley has not been heard from.
All this confirms that some of Missouri’s top legislators really do dwell, figuratively, under a rock. Do they really think the topic of sexual orientation can be expunged from classrooms and hallways and consigned to the family dinner table?
Fortunately, the chairman of the House education committee says he doesn’t intend to give Cookson’s bill a hearing. But an apology from House leaders is in order.
It’s a tradition
Moderate Republicans in the Kansas Legislature received some back-up help this week from the old guard.
Nearly 50 former GOP officeholders, including a lieutenant governor, Senate president and Republican Party chairwoman, announced they had formed “Traditional Republicans for Common Sense” and intended to speak out about some things going on in Kansas government.
Those would include proposals to reduce income tax rates for the wealthy while making the poor pay more; cutting funds for education; and a well-funded political attack on GOP moderates.
It’s doubtful that this group is causing fear and trembling in the governor’s office and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which is one of those deep-pocketed special interests. But the development is more evidence that, while Brownback is determined and in charge, he is not quite beloved.