Buttinsky state legislators and slighted citizens
The Kansas City Star
Do as I say…
The elected members of the Kansas Legislature — many of whom campaigned on a small-government, don’t-tread-on-me platform — have spent the session leaving tire marks on the backs of other elected officials.
The latest group to protest was the Kansas State Board of Education, which sent a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators asking them to “respect the State Board’s constitutional responsibility for the general supervision of schools….”
The letter is believed to have been prompted by a bill that would toss out the Common Core math and English standards, which provide consistent benchmarks for learning and have been adopted by most states, including Kansas. A number of educators have testified in defense of the standards, and noted the expense involved in abruptly changing course. But some lawmakers regard the Common Core as — you guessed it — a federal imposition. Happily, the move to jettison the standards appears to have run out of steam for this session.
Unfortunately, though, another meddlesome and frankly awful idea — to require candidates for local city and school board elections to run on a party ticket — remains alive, despite protests from local officials and school board groups. Pushed by conservative groups and by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, this is a blatant move to disrupt a longstanding practice that has worked well in the hopes of electing more Republicans.
Time in line not fine
New Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander is making a push for early voting. The Democrat from Kansas City convened a bipartisan, 11-member commission that suggested creating early-voting locations six weeks before elections and allowing mail-in absentee voting without an excuse, as long as voters pick up their ballots in person.
The much-needed idea has bipartisan legislative support. Myron Neth, a Republican from Liberty, is sponsoring a House bill reflecting many of the commission’s wishes.
Not everyone is on board, however.
“We have an Election Day in this country for a reason, and I don’t want to dilute the importance of Election Day,” GOP House speaker Tim Jones told reporters. Jones said he personally never had a problem voting on Election Day and added, “People are going to have to prove to me why they need early voting.”
We are happy for Jones, but it’s not all about him. It’s about elderly people who aren’t up to waiting in line, and working people without the luxury of a long lunch, and business people who get called out of town suddenly.
It’s interesting that lawmakers who question the need for early voting often want to require government-issued photo identification at the polls, and are quite willing to suspend the need for proof that voter identify fraud is a problem.
Just say no
In a ruling that is surely disappointing to defiant state legislators on many fronts, a federal judge struck down Missouri’s controversial 2012 law exempting employers from providing birth control insurance coverage on moral grounds.
The coverage is required under President Barack Obama’s health care law, and the U.S. Constitution is clear that federal laws trump contradictory state laws, U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig ruled.
Conservatives immediately called upon Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to appeal the ruling. He should pass. It is not the attorney general’s obligation to waste the public’s money on lost causes.
Don’t want to hear it
A government survey of parents suggests that one in 50 children may land somewhere on the autism spectrum.
But Kansas parents and their advocates are getting nowhere in their quest to have the Legislature require state-regulated insurers to pay for behavioral therapy for autistic children.
Currently, the benefit is only available to the children of Kansas state employees on a trial basis.
Republican House Speaker Ray Merrick recently pulled a maneuver denying parents the opportunity of a hearing on a bill. They had to settle for an informational session.
Thirty-one states, including Missouri, mandate insurance coverage for autism therapy. Sadly, Kansas parents desperate to get help for their children apparently will have to wait at least another year.