Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Policy: November 2009

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Monday 22 November was a black day for our state and our public education system. Declining tax revenues did what the conservatives in the legislature have been unable to achieve as Gov. Parkinson cut an additional $36 million in funding to the state's public education system and a recommendation not to fund the $155.8 million increase based on revised estimates of property tax revenue and student enrollment.

As a result of the Governor's action on Monday, the base state aid per pupil for the current school year has been cut $421 per pupil. Kansas has approximately 455,000 students on our K-12 public education system. You do the math. Education organizations like KNEA and Kansas Families for Education believe this is as deep as K-12 cuts can go without jeopardizing federal Recovery Act (ARRA) funds.

Close Encounters of an Undocumented Kind

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Next month, the Spanish edition of Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives is coming to bookshelves near you. Edited by Peter Orner, Underground America is the third installment of McSweeney's Voice of Witness series. It consists of 24 first person accounts from one of the most silenced groups in America: undocumented immigrants.

According to the 2006-2008 state censuses, 66.1 percent (plus or minus 3,628 people) of the 167,159 foreign-born Kansas residents are not U.S. citizens. Even with Lou Dobbs off the air, undocumented immigrants, who account for four percent of the total Kansas population, are still seen by a large group of people as foreign opportunists, preying on the innocent United States of America.

But, as Underground America reveals time and time again, this couldn't be further from the truth. And this truth hits close to home.

Kansans Want Health Care to Change

HAYS, Kan. - Do Kansans want lawmakers to improve health care? A recent survey of Kansans, conducted by the non-partisan Docking Institute of Public Affairs, addressed that question as well as others. The survey was designed to provide insights about what Kansans think about Kansas.

One particularly interesting aspect of the study involved the collection of opinions about the general state of health care in Kansas, as well as opinions on the government's role in ensuring that all citizens have adequate health care coverage. Half of our state's citizens think that health care in our state needs 'major change.'

Altogether, 83 percent of Kansans believe that health care in our state needs to change. A small number, only one-sixth of Kansans, expressed that health care in Kansas is 'adequate.'

HAYS, Kan. - The Ellis County Zoning and Planning Commission met in its monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 18.

The one piece of business discussed by the commission came from Commissioner Keith Campbell. Mr. Campbell proposed that the commission adopt a bylaw which said that when considering board business, if a commissioner "anticipated the opportunity" to personally benefit by the action of the board in the value of $1000 or more, that commissioner should publicly state that. Any recommendation then going forward from the zoning board to the Ellis County Commission would include the notification of the anticipation of opportunity.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty held their annual meeting in Topeka on November 16th. The event was attended by 30 people and featured a keynote
Sam Millsap & Donna Schneweis
speech given Sam Millsap, former Bexar County (TX) Prosecuting Attorney.

During the 2009 Kansas legislative session, proponents of the death penalty were successful in getting the Senate's Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on a bill to repeal the current death penalty law and voted out the bill to the full Senate. Conservatives in the Kansas Senate, lead by Sen. Derek Schmidt, blocked the bill from being voted on and had it referred back to committee.

Following this effort, The Wichita Eagle, Iola Register and Hutchinson News, all issued editorials calling for a repeal or seriously questioning the need for the death penalty in a state that has not executed a capital offender since 1965.

Liberal? Conservative? On What Issue?

OLATHE, Kan. - One of the things that has always fascinated me about politics--and in our everyday discussions with each other--is the way we tend to categorize and generalize people. And what I find really curious are the words "Conservative" and "Liberal," or even "Progressive." When someone says that so-and-so is one of those words, my first question is, "On what issue?" They look at me with a blank stare, and I ask again, "Liberal on what issues?" "Conservative on what issues?"

I use myself as an example. I consider myself reasonably "progressive" on many issues: Gay marriage? Sure. A woman's right to choose? Absolutely. Corporations paying too little income tax? Definitely. Universal health care? I've been arguing for that since the 1970s. When it comes to other issues such as illegal immigration or gun control, then I have to disagree with many of my "progressive" friends whose opinions are different.

WASHINGTON - The goal of health care reform, according to the Obama administration, is to provide quality, affordable health care for every American while preserving what works in today's system, expanding choice, and containing costs.

In the first years, the Health Insurance Exchange is targeted to serve employees of small businesses, the self-employed and the uninsured. That means that tens of millions of Americans will be eligible to purchase the plan in the first year. The only place the public option will be available is in the 'Exchange.'

The public option will not be limited to just a few Americans; it will be available for purchase, from day one, by all Americans that are uninsured, self-employed, or work for a small employer with less than 26 employees. Also, that first year, even those who work for large employers will be eligible to purchase the public option plan, provided that their employers did not offer them an opportunity to participate in a plan through their jobs. The second year all of those just named, the uninsured and self-employed will still be able to buy the public option but it will also be extended to even larger small employers, including those with less than 51 employees. By the third year, small employers with less than 101 employees will be folded in, including all of the self-employed and all those uninsured.

Support Fundamental Basic Rights

WASHINGTON - Not only did the legislators listed below support the House health care reform bill, they also voted against the Stupak-Pitts amendment. Please support these House members.

The list of House Democratic members who represent right-leaning districts is as follows...

dennis-moore.jpgWASHINGTON - The White House overcame a major hurdle for health care on Saturday when the House of Representatives passed a bill that includes a public health insurance option.

The bill that passed in the House was far from perfect. What it did accomplish, is to provide a foundation upon which to build. No bill is perfect. While many are not satisfied with the final bill of passage it is important to recognize there is in place a health care policy that will compel legislators in the future to fix what does not work and expand on what does. Once Americans come to see this bill much like Medicare (that familiar voices vehemently opposed) actually is good for them, constituents will drive the need and desire to improve an imperfect bill.

While dozens of conservative Democrats sided with big Insurance to vote against the Affordable Health Care for America Act, one single Kansas Legislator stood tall. Congressman Dennis Moore, KS - 3 not only voted for the bill, he also voted against the Stupak amendment.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Last week, Rep. Dennis Moore published an editorial in newspapers across the third Congressional district announcing his support for the House health insurance reform bill. As he explained last week:

I will be voting for this bill because it addresses the issues of affordability, fiscal responsibility, quality and choice. We can no longer afford to do nothing. We must meet this challenge head-on.

This bill will not only dramatically improve the health care system for those who already have insurance they like and want to keep, it benefits those who don't have insurance...

Congressman Moore delivered on that pledge by voting for the bill Saturday.

It's times like these that we need to take a moment and let Rep. Moore know that we appreciate his hard work and dedication. So we've set up a hub on our website where folks can thank Rep. Moore by writing a personal message to him. We'll deliver your personal messages to him on Friday.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A foundational problem with our health care system is the government health programs are duplicative, laden with paperwork, and incongruent rules and regulations.

America is the only industrialized nation to have different bureaucracies for different groups of citizens.

Every other industrialized nation has one health bureaucracy for all of its citizens. One for all. This bureaucratic duplication is complex and expensive. Therefore, the first step towards lowering the cost of health care is to consolidate, simplify, standardize, and digitize.

Gay Rights Are Civil Rights

TOPEKA, Kan. - Equal rights for gay and lesbian people are very important to me. As an unmarried person at age 31, people sometimes assume that I am gay because of my fervent support for these issues. It's at times like these that I remind people that civil rights aren't just about us as individuals, but all of us collectively as a society. The world will judge us on how we treat fellow members of our society, as it should.

Lately, I have been very disappointed in referenda across the United States. In 2004, we had the Constitutional ban in Kansas, even though gay marriage was already illegal. Oh, the things the right does to whip up their base. Then there was Proposition 8 in California, supported by voters at the time they selected our nation's first African-American president. A tad bit of irony there. Most recently, we had Question 1 in Maine. It was a relatively close vote, but a failure nonetheless. I see myself as a strong populist who values democracy, but I think certain measures are too sacred to be placed on the ballot. Civil rights is one of those measures. We might not have made the progress we did if civil rights were placed on the ballot in the 1860's or in the 1960's. Same thing with gay rights today.

What Health Care Reform?

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Saturday night's vote in the House of Representatives was a real disappointment to me. As a member of the uninsured, I was hopeful that Obama and the Democrats would lead as they had on Social Security, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare and fulfill Obama's promise to "fundamentally transform the United States of America." But instead the party "of the people" has in the words of Rep. Massa (D-NY) enshrined "in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry."

This isn't what health care reform was supposed to do.

For 17 years I enjoy national health care in Italy. Broken bones were mended, allergies brought under control, kidney stones dissolved. All at no cost to me. Whenever I needed to see a doctor I could either go down to the local clinic or make an appointment with a specialist and my tab was covered.

wabaunsee-county.gifMCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - We've heard of "earthshaking decisions"--but the Kansas Supreme Court's October 30 decision affirming Wabaunsee County's ban on commercial-scale wind-energy conversion systems (CWECS) was an earth-saving one. It allows predominantly rural Wabaunsee County to protect its endangered tall grass prairie from industrial-scale wind "farms." The Nature Conservancy has called CWECS one of today's greatest threats to grassland ecology, in particular the keystone species of grouse, including prairie chickens. The green flag which wind energy wraps itself up in has prevented many people from taking seriously the environmental damage which CWECS can inflict. But Wabaunsee County looked through the green rhetoric and came down firmly on the side of the prairie.

women-not-pre-existing.jpgHAYS, Kan. - If it becomes law, the bill currently passed today in the U.S. House would end the practice of setting premiums higher for females and denying coverage to women simply because of their gender.

Today, too many women in Kansas depend on a health care system that is failing them. 16% of women in Kansas report not visiting a doctor due to high costs. According to a 2008 report by the National Women's Law Center, typical 25-year-old women paid between 6% and 45% more than 25-year-old men for the same insurance market or health plans. Older women faced similar, and often even greater disparities.

Though some states offer protections against using gender to determine premiums, Kansas law does not protect women from gender discrimination. In Kansas, insurance companies can charge women more. Kansas insurance companies are also allowed to reject a health insurance application from a woman for a variety of reasons including her uniquely female medical history or her current health status, unique only to her gender.


WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) signaled yesterday that it is his expectation is that the actual vote on the House health care reform bill will take place by 8 p.m. today, but may possibly be delayed until next week. Hoyer said this morning that he expects this bill to pass.

For most of today, though, debate will be lively. A 4-hour debate is now underway on floor of the House. For those that don't have a C-SPAN on cable television, the debate can also be followed online here.

BASEHOR, Kan. - In an October 27, 2009 press release, the Institute for New Economic Thinking announced its formation with a pledge of $5 million per year for the next 10 years from George Soros, the billionaire financier and hedge fund manager.

According to the press release, one of the Institute's first activities will be to sponsor a conference in which it will,

"...explore the reasons why prevailing economic theory failed to predict the financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2007-2008. We will also examine the implications for reform of regulatory regimes that reflect the logic of the economic paradigm that has failed profoundly in guiding society in its recent history."

Soros himself said, "The entire edifice of global financial markets has been erected on the false premise that markets can be left to their own devices, we must find a new paradigm and rebuild from the ground up. I decided to sponsor INET to facilitate the process. I hope others will join me."

SHAWNEE, Kan. - No matter where you live in Kansas, the Kansas City Young Democrats are hoping that you will join in their March for Health Care Reform, on Saturday morning, November 7. The marchers are meeting at 9:45 at the northeast corner of Johnson Drive and Cody, at Blue Jacket Park / Old Shawnee Town in Shawnee.

Organizers are asking that progressive activists from elsewhere in Kansas, regardless of age or affiliation, join them in this demonstration. A member of the group, Benjamin Lindner, told us, "We need all Kansans who care about real health care reform to come and show their support."

The purpose of this march is to drive home to U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore that Kansans want a strong public option included in the health care reform in Congress - and, to stand up against Kansas State Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook's Health Care Freedom Amendment being considered in the state senate. Cook's state amendment would make it possible for the state legislature to prevent the public option, if passed in the U.S. Congress, from being made available to citizens of Kansas.

The Young Democrats are opposed to Pilcher-Cook's amendment. They don't want any Kansans to be left out of the health care reform that passes in Washington.

TOPEKA, Kan. - American Nurses Association (ANA) President Becky Patton sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the nation's nurses strongly supporting HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. ANA has always been and remains committed to "the principle that health care is a basic human right and that all persons are entitled to ready access to affordable, quality health services." One of the chief roles that a nurse has is that of patient advocate, so it is no surprise that nurses support this legislation on behalf of the people we serve.

As a registered nurse and a member of the ANA in Kansas, I am proud that the primary national professional organization representing our nation's 2.9 million registered nurses has taken a stand on what is clearly an essential component of reform, the public option. Nurses are the largest group of clinical health care professionals that exist in our system, so Congress should listen to us when we step up in support of legislation that is vital to the well being of our patients. The public option is the only reasonable approach to ensure choice and competition. Anything less is a facade.

WASHINGTON - Today AARP announced its endorsement of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) and the accompanying Medicare physician payment reform bill (H.R. 3961), both put forth by the Democratic leadership in the House.

"Known as the "quiet crisis," the number of people with health insurance who might be bankrupted by a medical crisis is growing. We have heard a lot about the 47 million without any health insurance, but we've heard less about the tens of millions of middle-class Americans who are underinsured. More than half of underinsured adults go without needed medical care. Even while scrimping on care, more than half of America's underinsured have debt due to medical expenses." (from AARP's Divided We Fail)

Today's endorsement from the 40-million-member organization marks the first time in this legislative battle that AARP has put its full weight behind a comprehensive health care reform package.

TOPEKA, Kan. - The state will have about $235 million less than the legislature had planned on in passing the state budget in May, 2009, says the estimate from the Consensus Estimating Group and released today by the Governor's office.

The $235 million deficit amounts to about 4.2% of the budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2009, and runs through June 30, 2010.

Governor Mark Parkinson promised last week that he would take executive action to cut the budgets of state agencies to keep state spending in line with the declining revenues. This line of action is in contrast with the actions of former Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who--when faced with revenue shortfalls a year ago--preferred to have the legislature take action when it returned to session in January.

BOGUE, Kan. - In good times, we Americans sing "Hallelujah, praise the Lord" and buy stuff. Sometimes we need it. If we don't, well, it looks so soooo cool on TV. No cash? No problem, we got plastic. God will come through on principal and interest later.

For decades, consumer spending was a critical 70 percent of our "robust" economy. Then the deregulated, under-regulated financial sector predictably collapsed. Speculators (including banks) who thought they had money really didn't. Neither had they credit. The whirlpool began.

Businesses are in business to sell goods or services. If they sell more, they hire more workers, or pay them better. But if businesses sell less, not only does the boss earn less, she cuts jobs, or hours, or benefits-- or wages. Those who earn less (or nothing) spend less. Result? Still more businesses sell less, cut jobs...or hours...or wages...or benefits. And so the whirlpool spins faster and wider, sucking down more and more employers and employees.

HAYS, Kan. - In June 2009, a New York Times/CBS News poll reported that "most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector." Half of those questioned said they thought government would be better at providing medical coverage than private insurers, up from 30 percent in polls conducted in 2007. In early summer 2009, 72 percent were in favor of a public option plan.

Mainstream media received some criticism in August for calling attention to the disruptive attendees in some town hall meetings. Critics expressed concern that by photographing and interviewing those that were carrying signs or shouting in meetings, the media may have inadvertently given the impression to readers and viewers that the opponents of health care reform were greater in number than those in favor of reform.

Did the media cause the August down-tick in support through the media's showcasing of that minority of dissidents? Did the media fairly report the news - or can it be held accountable for actually creating the news? Opinion in the coming months is hard to predict, but as the media shifted away from the town halls and back to the core issues and policy facts in the legislation, it appears that the public has renewed its confidence in reform legislation.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - What makes a good leader? Confidence? Enthusiasm? Exemplary character? Vision? All the above? Now, how does a leader, say the president, meet the challenge of transforming US society and becoming a transformational leader of our history?

Not your typical everyday conversation starters, but the Turman Library's Howard and Virginia Bennett Forum undertook this challenge on November 1st.

Unity Temple on the Plaza was the setting for a conversation between four distinguished panelist on Presidential Leadership in a Transformational Times that included: Joseph Nye, Jr., dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post; Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect; and, Timothy Naftali, director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

The panel examined the characteristics of transformational presidents - from Jefferson to Roosevelt, Lincoln to Reagan, and considered whether Barack Obama can fulfill his pledge to "fundamentally transform the United States of America."

For the panel, Obama is drawing a mixed report card at best and downright worrisome results at worst.

Opting Out of Military Telemarketing

WICHITA, Kan. - Opt-Out notification forms, forms that notify military recruiters that students don't want to be contacted, have been included in the packets sent to parents in the USD 259 school district in Wichita for four years. Every year, Janice Bradley, member of the Peace and Social Center of South Central Kansas, asks the school district for a report on the number of parents opting their students out of contact by military recruiters. And every year, this number has increased. After four years, the number of those opting out of military recruitment contact in Wichita high schools has reached 57.1%, an increase of 5% from the 2008-2009 school year. Wichita parents are using the The Opt-Out Notification for Military Recruiters form, which became available in 2005, to prevent the automatic release of their sons and daughters' names, addresses and phone numbers to military recruiters.

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The previous archive is Policy: October 2009. The next archive is Policy: December 2009.

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