Still wacky, but it could have been worse
The Kansas City Star
In the Missouri and Kansas legislatures, success is sometimes measured by the debacles avoided.
In that vein, we are pleased to report that:
- The Kansas Legislature effectively killed a bill that would have extended deadlines for the state’s utilities to make renewable energy, such as wind and solar, a measurable part of their portfolios. A statute passed in 2009 calls for 15 percent of the state’s power source to be renewable by 2016, and 20 percent by 2020.
Despite an appearance in Topeka by Washington anti-tax (and anti-renewable energy) activist Grover Norquist, and lobbying from Wichita-based Koch Industries, the Senate voted the change down and the House sent it back to committee. Good for the lawmakers. If any state is well positioned to encourage wind energy, it is Kansas.
- A Kansas Senate committee rejected Gov. Sam Brownback’s heavyhanded proposition to make elementary students repeat the third grade if they aren’t reading at grade level.
The goal of students reading up to speed is a good one. But a majority of committee members agreed with educators that retention decisions should be left up to principals, teachers and parents.
In more good news, the Missouri Senate made forward progress by passing a bill significantly reining in the state’s two largest tax credit programs, historical preservation and low-income housing.
By enabling developers to forgo paying taxes, those two programs alone cost the state almost $300 million in the last fiscal year. Incentives have their place, but these two have been allowed to run wild.
Unfortunately, the Senate’s bill faces a rough road in the House.
Lest we give the mistaken impression that sanity has descended on the capitols, consider the events of Wednesday night.
Long into the dinner hour, the Kansas Senate was hard at work debating a measure to require drug tests of welfare recipients who are suspected of using illegal substances. It passed after four hours of chatter, the only consolation to Democrats being a provision that legislators suspected of being on drugs must also be tested.
They probably should begin with all 29 senators who voted for the bill. How else to explain how they failed to notice that their state is effectively broke? Setting aside the moral and legal problems with singling out people on suspicion of drug use, there is no money for needless drug testing of anybody.
In Jefferson City, meanwhile, the Senate was debating a bill aimed at making Missouri more like … Kansas.
A number of Missouri lawmakers, it seems, have been ingesting the same wacky logic as Brownback and Kansas legislators, and believe that bankrupting a state by slashing income tax rates is a smart move. A Senate committee even approved a bill by Republican Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit to pass a $1 billion tax cut.
Action on the bill was postponed, but not before a fiesty discussion about whether Missouri really wants to copy Kansas. We think Democratic Sen. Paul LeVota of Independence won the debate with this remark: “I believe we need to be the Show-Me State, not the ‘me too’ state.”
Thursday was the last day for Missouri lawmakers to file bills. “Or, as I call it, ‘bad idea Thursday,’” Democratic Sen. Jolie Justus of Kansas City said in a tweet.
And there were bad ideas aplenty.
One lawmaker wants to deregulate much of the beauty industry, meaning someone could set up shop to cut hair or do nails with no formal training. We’d like to see the sponsor, GOP Rep. Paul Curtman of St. Charles County, be first in line for that haircut.
Then there was House Bill 672, sponsored by Republican Bart Korman of High Hill, which bans bicycles on “state roadways when there is a state bicycle path or trail running generally parallel and within two miles of a roadway.” Korman’s bill makes an exception for travel from one’s home to work, school or a public facility. In other words, those recreational cyclists can stick to the trails, whether or not it suits their travel plans. Talk about pedaling backwards.