Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Policy: February 2010

Citizen First Responders

BASEHOR, Kan. - In these days of federal, state, and local public services funding cuts, there is a great deal of activity centered around citizens helping themselves during natural or man-made disasters. When public services fail, citizens must be prepared to "do it themselves."

When you mention emergency coordination for widespread disasters, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA usually come to mind. But there is another group of people with a long history of emergency service -- and one that predates DHS and FEMA by several decades. And that group is amateur radio operators.

TOPEKA, Kan. - On February 18th, House and Senate members passed the final version of the rescission bill, which made a number of cuts and adjustments to the 2010 state budget to address the state's $400 million deficit.

The bill affirms many of the same recommendations Governor Mark Parkinson outlined last year. One of the more significant cuts added to the bill was a 5% reduction in pay for all state officials, including legislators.

Even with the passage of the rescission bill, the legislature may need to take up the FY 2010 budget again in the near future. Revenues were lower then expected in January, and the state will likely be short another $40 million by July even with the additional cuts approved this month.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - A press conference was held today at Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (PILR) at 17 S. Main, Hutchinson, to discuss the impact of budget cuts on Kansans in need of services.

The news conference coincided with House Social Services Budget Sub-committee hearings in Topeka regarding the Social and Rehabilitative Services (SRS) budget where Christine Owens, PILR Executive Director, was scheduled to give testimony. Speakers at the news conference included citizen Dawn Allenbach and agency representatives from PILR, Unlimited Mobility L.L.C., Promise Regional Medical Center and Horizons Mental Health Center.

It's All Connected...

WICHITA, Kan. - As President Obama prepares for the bipartisan healthcare summit on Thursday, and in light of the increasingly uncertain future of current healthcare reform efforts in Congress, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out two policy areas that, while not seeming to be directly connected to healthcare, would, were they to be dealt with effectively, have a substantial impact on healthcare costs and effects in this country. We could call this, "how to deal with healthcare without dealing with healthcare."

The first is food policy, and the second is transportation policy. The relation of these to healthcare is evinced by a recent Newsweek article on heart disease, in which both were mentioned. I would venture to say that with the exception of quitting smoking, no two factors would have a larger impact on heart disease than these.

Let's Get Our Priorities Straight

WICHITA, Kan. - I applaud the fact that the State of Kansas will be cutting back its budget by $92 million. I think that most of us were thinking, "It's about time." Knowing that our state is in such a financial crisis while watching improvements being made to the state capitol at the same time seems unethical to me. I have not agreed with most of the cuts our legislators have made up to this point.

Cutting social services and trying to balance the states budget at the expense of children, the elderly, and the disabled is disgraceful. I believe if the state of Kansas is going to make more cuts it should be to everything but schools and services to the elderly and the disabled.

Senator McGinn's Poignant Question

GREAT BEND, Kan. - State Senator Carolyn McGill (R-Sedgwick) asked an incredible question on the Kansas State Senate floor of those who want to outlaw abortion but embrace the death penalty.

Referring to those who commit heinous murders, she asked, in essence, if all people start out as precious children of God from the moment of conception, "at what point in time did they lose that status and who made that decision?"

Most 'Religious Right' folks will try to move heaven and earth to protect an unborn child, but God help that child if he grows up and commits a double murder. Then, it's "off with his head."

Of course, the Religious Right says: "We support innocent human life. But when that life ceases to be innocent, that's different."

WICHITA, Kan. - Friends, if you don't think the mainstream media plays a major role in the formulation of American foreign policy, I would politely suggest you are living in denial. If a hayseed from Kansas like me figured out from multiple news sources that the Bush administration was lying about the "Iraqi threat" prior to the invasion in 2003, how could a majority of Americans and Congress members become so thoroughly fooled and panicked that they virtually clamored for America's first-ever "pre-emptive war"?

Today, we know that the Bush administration knowingly issued 935 proven lies prior to the invasion. So, I can only assume that the Bush administration was following the advice of one of the world's most infamous manipulators of public opinion who said, "It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion ... news should be given out for instruction rather than information."

Where Is All This Money Coming From?

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The stimulus package has become a dirty word in politics, and the Democrats have not done much to change that. Democrats, especially President Obama have not taken credit for positive changes they have made in our nation. As we know the news media covers what they want to. The crazier and the more irrelevant the story, the longer it plays.

We hear about the misuse of stimulus dollars over and over. It is an easy news story that angers people, and elicits emotion. It gets viewers, in turn ratings, and in turn cash for the news corporation. It seems American society no longer wants to hear about what our government is doing right.

TOPEKA, Kan. - I'm glad they're taking a stand on this. I can't see how denying Kansans health insurance makes anyone more free. Such a problem to have; being all tied up with health insurance. Here's the press release:

The Topeka Branch NAACP and the Kansas State Conference of Branches NAACP will hold a Press Conference on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 3:00pm at the Docking State Office Building opposing the Kansas "Health Care Freedom" Amendment. This proposed amendment would block the implementation of any Federal Health Care Reform legislation here in Kansas. With over 300,000 Kansans uninsured, we can't afford to play these partisan games. Join us as we call on the legislature to reject this partisan anti-reform measure and to work for real health care reforms to provide quality and affordable health care for all.

For further information, please contact Rev. Ben Scott at the Topeka Branch NAACP, 26-NAACP (785-266-2227).

Kate's Law

TOPEKA, Kan. - While many Kansas legislators are doing their best to deprive Kansans of any benefits of the health reform efforts in Congress, parents of children with autism, Asperger's syndrome, and other autism spectrum conditions are working to get Kate's Law passed again this year. These parents have found that when they try to get health insurance coverage for their children, they often experience dead-ends, run-arounds, and delays. This even though autism spectrum disorders have long been documented as medical conditions that require medical treatment.

Right now many parents have to change health insurance carriers because of the current tenuous job situation. According to one of these parents, every time her family gets a new health insurance carrier, she goes through months of presenting evidence to the new carrier that her daughter, a teenager with Asperger's, does indeed have a medical condition requiring doctor's visits, drug therapy, and group therapy. This mother was able to have her child diagnosed with Asperger's as a toddler, so the girl does get the school services that she needs. However, she also must have her medical needs attended to in order to be successful in school.

Facing Our 'Crisis of Journalism'

MANHATTAN, Kan. - In 2005, I attended the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis sponsored by Free Press. While I had always been an "activist," this conference change my outlook on US culture and society like nothing else I have even been involved in. In particular, Bill Moyers's speech (you can watch it here) articulated much of the frustration I had and have with the direction our nation has taken since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

For seventeen years following the "Reagan revolution," I lived in Italy and became accustomed to a national press that truly informed along with television and radio that provided a broad diversity of music, content, and opinions with minimum commercial interruptions.

When it came to newspapers, if I wanted to read what the capitalists thought on a topic I read Il Sole 24 Ore; if I wanted to know what the Communist and Socialist Left thought I read L'Unit√° or Il Manifesto. If I wanted to read what the center thought, I read La Repubblica. If I wanted the Christian Democrat point of view, I could read Avvenire. And if I wanted to know what the fascists thought, I could read Il Popolo d'Italia. In addition to these national papers, there was a profusion of local and regional newspapers. All of which received some sort of government support to help balance their budgets.

WICHITA, Kan. - In the wake of massive budget shortfalls and threats all over the state of school closings and funds being cut to our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, I find it extremely distasteful that the Wichita Chamber of Commerce has just announced its intention to lobby against the Kansas State Income Tax. While the chamber admits that it will take years to reach this goal, the timing of the announcement, in my opinion, is just incredibly insulting.

SALINA, Kan. - A new national study finds that nearly a third of the prostituted juveniles taken into custody by police are treated more as criminal offenders than as victims of the pimps and customers who sexually abuse them. This may reflect the controversy and confusion among criminal justice authorities about how to handle this problem.

"Increasingly, police are seeing the prostitution of juveniles as a form of child abuse and exploitation," said the study's lead author, Kimberly Mitchell, of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center.

Prostituted juveniles are more likely to be treated as victims by police when they are younger than 16, female, frightened, dirty, or identified as runaways.

TOPEKA, Kan. - The caps for permanent and total disability payments in Kansas haven't been adjusted for inflation since 1987, remaining at only $125,000. As a state, we are among the worst in the nation when you look at workers' compensation policies. Reform on a large scale is needed, but there's one common-sense measure that we can take now to improve the system on our way to economic justice. That measure is Senate Bill 258.

SB 258 adjusts the permanent and total disability caps to account for inflation. Currently, that would put it at a level greater that $300,000. Workers disabled on the job by no fault of their own deserve more than that, but it is better than $125,000. In addition, this bill takes future adjustments for inflation out of the political process.

My Insurance, My Body, My Choice

TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas House Bill 2564 would prohibit all insurance companies in the state of Kansas from covering abortions, unless the life of the mother is at risk or in cases of rape or incest. A pregnancy caused by rape would only be allowed coverage if the woman reports it. You can read a description of the bill and an account of the subsequent hearing here.

I testified as an opponent to this despicable bill on behalf of Kansas NOW. The following is my testimony given before the House Insurance Committee. An enormous debt of gratitude to Tiffany Campbell for allowing me to share her personal story....

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice today unanimously recommended the domestic violence tag bill to the full body of the Kansas House of Representatives.

HB 2517 would require that domestic violence markers be attached to all criminal cases where the district court finds evidence that an offender committed any other criminal violations against a person with whom the offender had an intimate relationship. The list would include battery, arson, assault, kidnapping, disorderly conduct and destruction of property.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Listening to senate subcommittees discuss amendments can serve as wake-up calls for citizens interested in learning about government spending and whether or not their legislators engage in pork barrel spending.

Here is one example that shows how a Republican lawmaker believes in and supports pet projects that cost tax payers millions of dollars.

The following text was taken from such a meeting held Aug. 4 when Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) bucked majority votes and still came out with a victory for his earmarks.

Not About Sarah Palin

sarah-palin.jpgSALINA, Kan. - This is not about Sarah Palin. Instead, let's talk petro-states. Like Oman. And its sister state, Alaska. In 2007, Alaska produced approximately 719,000 barrels of oil per day. That puts it in the same ballpark as Egypt (710,000), Oman (718,000) and Malaysia (755,000). Its economy parallels Oman's. Its oil revenues account for about 75 percent of export earnings.

Oil rents provide 42 percent of Alaska's annual revenue, more than any other source. Without federal subsidies (the highest per capita in the nation), Alaska's oil rents would account for 53 percent of income.

Wake-up Call: A New Coffee Party

HAYS, Kan. - Christopher Renner filed a story on Sunday that included the full text of George Pyle's keynote address delivered at last Friday's Reality Not Celebrity event in Salina.

Christopher published the full text of that speech here. David Norlin, one of the Kansas activists that instigated the 'counter Palin' event, tells us that there have been many requests for copies of Pyle's speech.

Norlin added, "Many asked how we might get Pyle's keynote into area newspapers. Pyle rightly said that in its long form, it's unpublishable. Therefore, he has provided us a slimmed-down, concise version of about 850 words." For those wishing to have the new version published in their own local newspapers, Norlin recommends, "Contact the editors of your local paper with a request to print it."

We've published the shorter version here, too.

TOPEKA, Kan. - There is one bill sitting in Conference Committee in the Kansas Legislature that actually does something to promote clean indoor air for Kansans, and that's HB 2221. It's ironic that HB 2642 is called the "Kansas Non-smoker Protection Act." It actually weakens many local ordinances already in place by preemption.

Today at a press conference, Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Director, Division of Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment gave the Top Ten Reasons Why HB 2642 is Bad Policy for Kansas. Here they are:

Number 10: It's called the "Kansas Non-smoker Protection Act," but it actually does the exact opposite.

Number 9: It boldly encourages restaurants, bars and other establishments to buy their way out of their obligation to provide healthy environments for their workers and patrons.

SALINA, Kan. - The State of Kansas currently has legislation pending related to distracted driving. The legislation (Kansas House Bill 2132) would prohibit text messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Specifically, drivers in Kansas would be prohibited from sending, reading or writing a "text message by means of an electronic wireless communications device."

On any given day last year, an estimated 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone who used a hand-held cell phone at some point during their drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A recent study in the journal Human Factors has found that texting while driving is riskier than talking on a cell phone or with other passengers while driving.

SALINA, Kan. - Latino voters will once again be a powerful force the upcoming elections. Candidates who want to court their vote will probably need to do more than just say a few words in Spanish.

Latino voters were pivotal to the victories of both President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats during the election of 2008. These voters are poised to prove pivotal yet again in 2010 in a number of battleground U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and gubernatorial races across the nation. Latinos are a core constituency in many less competitive districts as well, including Kansas.

A new report published by America's Voice says, "Candidates for political office in 2010, elected officials, and political strategists would be wise to not just look at how Latino voters are likely to vote this cycle, but why."

WICHITA, Kan. - Joseph Goebbels famously said, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth." As Hitler's Reichsminister of Propaganda, Goebbels used repetition to mold the German public's perception of reality as easily as if it were a clump of wet clay.

Karl Rove, Goebbels' modern-day equivalent during the Bush administration, effectively used Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Judith Miller at The New York Times and other mainstream media to hammer home the lie that Iraq had WMDs. And, according to the Center for Public Integrity, another 934 additional lies as well, which they repeated so often that they successfully panicked the public, stampeded Congress and fraudulently obtained permission to invade Iraq.

SALINA, Kan. - The following is the written speech George Pyle delivered at Reality Not Celebrity, the "counter event" to Sarah Palin's speech in Salina on February 5th.

Pyle's keynote was broadcasted on Community Bridge on February 25, 2010. To listen, click the start button on the player panel to hear the keynote in a streaming format, or click the MP3 button to download the file to your computer. Run time: 46:31.

MP3 File

Good evening, fellow outcasts.

Down in the valley, the respectable and the Republican of the community have gathered in a sports arena to hear from a self-professed maverick woman of the people. Up on the hill, we rabble of liberals and lefties are assembled in the local country club to hear a speech from a bald man who works for Warren Buffett. [though I must hasten to add that I do not speak for Mr. Buffett in any way, shape or form. He is perfectly capable of speaking for himself.]

So. What's wrong with this picture?

Donating our Tax Dollars

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Often times during a recession, middle class feel a raise in their taxes while multi billion dollar companies receive tax breaks. While CEO's still make million dollar bonuses. This is why Kansas must and most likely will, give a huge tax exemption to the TransCanada Pipeline. Approximately 8.5 million a year property tax exemption for ten years. In addition to the property tax exemption it has also been reported, but not confirmed that the pipeline company has signed with the Kansas Department of Commerce for 55 million in tax credits.

TOPEKA, Kan.- The Kansas State Nurses Association (KSNA) will hold its 34th annual public policy day on Thursday, February 11 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. Over 1,000 nurses and nursing students from across the state are expected to attend. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson will welcome the group and provide opening comments at 9 a.m.

The purpose of the day is to discuss policy issues that impact the practice of nursing and the delivery and financing of health care. Andrew Allison, PhD, Acting Executive Director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, will be the keynote speaker at 11:15 a.m. The Kansas Health Policy Authority is the principal health care agency for the state of Kansas. Established in 2005, KHPA serves as the single state Medicaid agency in Kansas, administering the medical portion of the Kansas Medicaid program, as well as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, also known as "HealthWave"); MediKan, which provides coverage for certain low-income, disabled Kansans; the State Employee Health Program; and the State Self- Insurance Fund (SSIF), which provides workers compensation coverage to state employees.

Mike O'Neal should step down

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - Mike O'Neal should resign from the Kansas legislature.

Mike O'Neal should just leave the Kansas Legislature. His history of conflict of interest has become an embarrassment to the citizens of Kansas. While Mr. O'Neal may find nothing wrong with getting his wife a job with the state, we ordinary citizens find it problematic.

When Mr. O'Neal has been paid to represent the legislature in a law suit, we common folks once again found it strange, since we were already paying him to be a legislator.

And now he has decided to sue the state.

DODGE CITY, Kan. - I was moved to write this article after reading the fascinating one concerning third trimester abortions and the flood of comments that followed. It made me think that there are many facts still not revealed about what happens in these cases. My knowledge comes from the time I visited Dr. Tiller's clinic as a new State Representative in the Kansas House. We had been invited, if we were interested in coming to Wichita, to learn what really happens there. I sent in my RSVP and arrived at the gate to present my ID. Dr. Tiller had been shot in the arm previously, so there was, already, a tall fence--a barricade, really, around the clinic. I drove my car to the gate and the guard at the gate allowed me to drive into the compound. There were protesters across the street, holding signs.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Thursday, Senate Bill 169, adding "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Kansas' current non-discrimination statute, came before the Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. The committee voted, five to three, to refer the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

"This is another significant step in bringing fairness and equality to all Kansans," said Thomas Witt, the Kansas Equality Coalition's chairman.

Voting Thursday in favor of referring the non-discrimination measure were Committee Chairman Pete Brungardt (R-Salina), and Senators Roger Reitz (R-Manhattan), Tim Owens (R-Overland Park), Marci Francisco (D-Lawrence), and Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita).

The 'F Word' and My Generation

SHAWNEE, Kan. - In the words of Britney Spears, oops I did it again. I said the 'f word.' Feminism. In fact, I'll say it again... and louder. I AM A FEMINIST. I'm not embarrassed; so why are so many young women I talk with today ashamed to describe herself with the 'f word'? Why does the feminist label harbor such negative connotations with women under 35? The answer to these questions is muddied with the very hurdles that the women's movement has been fighting for decades. Society makes it easy for a woman to believe that she should be complacent with her current role.

Democrazy in Action

HAYS, Kan. - Have you ever wondered what your community would look like if it were financially bankrupt - and voters wouldn't approve a tax increase of any kind? Well, residents of Colorado Springs can tell you what it's like.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Senate Bill 169, adding "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Kansas' current non-discrimination statute, will come before the Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on Thursday. SB 169 expands the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, making it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Kansans have been discriminated against in employment and housing," says Thomas Witt, chair of the Equality Coalition. "No one should be fired or denied the basic human need of shelter because of who they are or who they love."

TOPEKA, Kan. - One day after testifying before the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee in support of new legislation to help track crimes associated with domestic violence in Kansas, nationally recognized advocates Curt and Christie Brungardt are hopeful about the prospects for passage of the bill.

"Today was a very positive day for this legislation," Curt Brungardt said Tuesday. "We are much closer to having everybody who cares about this issue on the same page. "

The Brungardts, whose daughter Jana Mackey was murdered in Lawrence by an ex-boyfrend in July 2008, testified Monday in support of House Bill 2517. The bill would require that a domestic violence tag be placed on all legal documents associated with a criminal act that is based on an intimate relationship.

HAYS, Kan. - My, oh my, oh my. Are the talking heads ever having a gabfest over President Barack Obama's proposed new budget. But I look at it this way. It took President George W. Bush eight years to tax-cut and spend us into this giant hole we're in, and it'll take the current President eight years to tax and save us out of it. And he won't win any popularity contests in the process.

SALINA, Kan. - The policy to ban corporations from using their corporate wealth to influence federal elections, whether by making contributions or expenditures, dates back 50 to 100 years.

Everything changed last week. So much of it was undone last week by an activist right-wing Supreme Court. Not only will corporate interests trump individual or voter interests, but now global interests will trump U.S. interests.

Since corporations have deeper pockets than any citizen or group of citizens, the recent Supreme Court ruling gives corporations implied control over influencing all elections.

It may not even be necessary for corporations to actually invest in every election or even in the majority of them. Just the fact that 'they can' throw their huge war chests into buying ad campaigns is enough of a threat to effectively control candidates and legislators - and the laws that get passed.

In effect, our so-called elected officials will tow the corporate line because they will see this as their only hope of personal survival and continued employment.

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is Policy: January 2010. The next archive is Policy: March 2010.

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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Policy: February 2010 section.

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