Wacky bills, drug tests, GOP tough-love
The Kansas City Star
The most ridiculous bill introduced so far, and other antics from the Kansas and Missouri state capitols.
The winner is…
Competition has been stiff, but credit Kansas Sen. Greg Smith for introducing the most ridiculous bill of the year.
Smith, an Overland Park Republican, has filed legislation to require employers to rehire Kansas lawmakers who become unemployed as a result of losing their elections or retirement. Not only that, the returning legislators would have to be hired at comparable positions and pay as when they left.
Federal law has a requirement like this for returning members of the military. Service in Topeka can be grueling, but it’s not exactly combat duty. And Smith’s legislation seems a poor fit with the “business-friendly” theme so popular among his peers.
Smith appears to have caught a touch of “capitolitis.” That’s an ailment which causes loss of perspective and may make lawmakers think they are more important than others regard them. Let’s hope he is able to recover.
Runners up in the outlandish bill competition are Missouri Rep. Paul Curtman, a Republican from Pacific, who for a second consecutive year has introduced legislation to promote the use of gold and silver as legal tender; and Kansas Sen. Jeff King, Republican of Independence, who has filed the annual bill requiring drug tests for welfare recipients — and also people who obtain unemployment compensation.
King’s bill raises intriguing questions: Should legislators who lose their re-election bids qualify for unemployment insurance? And would they have to be drug-tested under King’s legislation?
We certainly like the last part.
How should I know?
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget estimates $30 million in savings over the next two years by folding the Kansas Turnpike Authority into the Kansas Department of Transportation.
But how, exactly? Transportation Secretary Mike King punted that question at a Senate committee meeting this week.
“There has to be a significant amount of duplication,” he said.
But what, exactly? Said King, “we do not have that list.”
Apparently the plan would be for the turnpike authority and highway department to start working on the savings if the Legislature approves the merger.
That’s a leap of faith the Legislature should not make. King’s testimony ought to cause legislators to ask what other fantasy “savings” are tucked into the governor’s budget.
Behind closed doors
The liberal group Progress Missouri managed to get a tape recorder into a strategy session attended by Republican lawmakers and people pushing for “right-to-work” laws on the national level. The group posted the audio on its website.
It was a tough-love kind of pep talk, in which Republicans were told the eyes of the nation are upon them, and they dare not fail.
“What you’re doing here, what you’re part of here, is a national movement, and you’re well positioned to keep this battle alive,” one speaker exhorted.
Another loaded on a not-so-veiled threat: “If you don’t take on the fights, and these guys that are giving money? I mean, this is just all basic 101. You’re going to start losing donors.”
Still another speaker added a layer of reassurance: “… we want to make sure your backs are covered when it comes time for re-election. And that’s where we come in. To have the groundwork laid for you. So your backs can be covered.”
The tape leaves little doubt that the push to decimate unions in Missouri by forcing them to represent employees who pay no dues is part of a national movement driven by “free-market,” groups. They care nothing about the wounds that would be inflicted if this unnecessary battle accelerates. But legislative leaders should.
Seen on Twitter
Brownback’s inclination to turn Kansas into a test lab for free market theories got a member of the twitterverse thinking: “The bison has long been the state mammal of Kansas. Brownback and the Legislature seem hell bent on changing that to the guinea pig.”