During a recent discussion with area lawmakers, Garden City Manager Matt Allen came up with a question many Kansans would like to ask.
Allen asked why, with the state budget such a pressing concern, so much attention has been devoted to nonrelated bills during the legislative session.
Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, took a stab at the question. Not surprisingly, he missed the mark.
“There are always policy bills that people want ... to either try to make things better or save money,” Powell said.
But there was little evidence of anything that would “make things better” in legislation already addressed this session.
Consider a sampling of bad bills that passed the Senate:
• SB 45 would enable Kansans to carry a concealed firearm without training or receiving a permit.
Unfortunately, safety isn’t driving the proposal from lawmakers who know supporting such gun-friendly legislation will help them get re-elected.
• SB 56 would amend a state public morals statute, so teachers could be held criminally liable for displaying education material somehow deemed “harmful” to children.
Public schools already have ways to address parents’ concerns. Lawmakers should stay out of what is taught in classrooms.
• SB 34 would in part give Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach authority to prosecute election crimes.
Kobach’s obsession with illegal immigrants supposedly voting has fueled the ridiculous power grab. Local prosecutors and the state’s attorney general can handle the scant instances of election-related offenses.
Powell and Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, voted for all of the above, which was expected. They and fellow far-right legislators follow the American Legislative Exchange Council’s national blueprint for ultraconservative policymaking, one that goes well beyond tax and budget matters.
The political faction also involving the Kansas Chamber, Kansas Policy Institute and Koch brothers have Powell, Love and numerous other legislators ready to rubber-stamp their ideological pursuits.
Meanwhile, there’s no clear (or at least public) plan to remedy staggering state budget shortfalls driven by Gov. Sam Brownback’s radical income tax-cut policy.
Of course, marching orders on that front will arrive soon, as well, which doesn’t bode well for Kansans already shortchanged in numerous ways.