Some so-called leaders in the Kansas Legislature rarely learn from their mistakes.
Since 2013, we’ve seen proof in major and repeated setbacks fostered in large part by Senate President Susan Wagle, who joined Gov. Sam Brownback in endorsing unfair income-tax cuts that wrecked the state budget, and block-grant funding for K-12 public schools ruled unconstitutional — among other anti-public education changes.
Like the governor, Wagle is wed to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate bill mill that provided the blueprint for various botched policies in Kansas.
Wagle sat on the ALEC board, as did former House Speaker Ray Merrick. And both ultraconservatives failed to lead their chambers toward solutions as self-inflicted fiscal woes spiraled out of control.
Unfortunately, Kansas didn’t gain much when Merrick left the Legislature, as the House chose another ALEC-influenced GOP lawmaker in Ron Ryckman, Jr., to be speaker.
On Monday, a committee led by Wagle and Ryckman held up on approving what was sizing up to be another foolish, self-serving maneuver — one leadership never should have considered.
Wagle and Ryckman lead the Legislative Coordinating Council, which was poised to hire former state senator and Brownback-Wagle ally Jeff King to assist in crafting a new school finance formula.
But King’s bias clearly made him ill-suited to advise lawmakers in such a way.
A Republican, he chose to not seek re-election in 2016.
Previously, as Senate vice president and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he publicly bashed the Kansas Supreme Court for deeming school spending unconstitutional. He endorsed the block-grant scheme, and even sought punitive actions against the judiciary because of rulings he didn’t like.
There’s zero chance he’d be independent and objective in helping lawmakers work toward lawful school funding.
As House Minority Leader Jim Ward, also a lawyer, correctly noted: “They’re looking for an attorney that gives them the answers that they want, not the answers that are required by the Constitution.”
Enlisting King would indeed be business as usual from an ultraconservative faction that routinely puts politics above pragmatism.
While the plan involving King stalled, it did prove far-right leadership still wants to shove its ideology down Kansans’ throats — whether we like it or not.