Hit and Run Over by a Kansas Govt Going the WRONG WAY

05/02/2012 08:00

by Rep. Charlotte Ohara


Well, what an interesting, or perhaps more accurately described, dysfunctional and dismal Legislative Session. Though some progress has been made on a few issues, the bulk of major initiatives have been mired while the drama unfolds around redistricting.

The Kansas House completed its redistricting map early in the Session and was set to move on to working bills on education, taxes, budget, social services, etc. The Senate, however, chose a different priority – self-preservation and clinging to power, all at the expense of any meaningful progress on issues important to Kansans.


Liberal Republican senators are making a desperate attempt to maintain control of the Senate. Let's call it Senate President Steve Morris's Last Stand. Morris, a 20 year incumbent is facing his first serious re-election challenge, and even if he prevails in the fall, is at risk of losing his leadership post should his coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats not survive the election cycle. As a result, Senate leaders are pulling out all of the stops to draw challengers out of incumbents' districts, giving up whole districts to the Democrats, and even proposed converting the 2nd Congressional District into a Democrat leaning district all to secure votes for Mr. Morris to remain in power.

Rather than admit to their shenanigans, Senate leaders blame the process rather than the people manipulating it. In contrast, the Kansas House map passed with overwhelming bipartisan support redrawing 125 districts. The Senate needs only to deal with 40 districts, yet at this late hour in the Session continues playing political games.


The fog of redistricting has made other issues less visible, but there are many important issues yet to be addressed. One item overlooked is energy. Now this is a great story! I received notification from KCP&L of a 12.9% rate increase request it has submitted to the Kansas Corporation Commission. Why an increase? Here are the reasons stated by KCP&L:

a) The addition of our second wind generation facility in Spearville, Kansas, which will help us meet our requirements under the Kansas Renewable Energy Standards Act;

b) Significant environmental retrofits at the La Cygne power plant that will ensure the facility meets future EPA regulations; and

c) Increased investment in electrical infrastructure that is necessary to maintain reliable service for KCP&L's Kansas customers.

So, two of the three major reasons for a rate increase are costs directly associated with Federal and State government Green energy mandates. Ironically, on the heels of the rate increase notice, I received a media release from the Governor's office titled:  'Governor Applauds Wind Farm in South Central Kansas'

Umm, KANSAS green energy mandates are singled out as a justification for electrical rate increases, yet Governor Brownback applauds the ground breaking of a new wind farm? Here is a quote from the governor's press release: 

"The development of the Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm is an important component to achieving balance in our country's energy production and revitalizing rural Kansas," Gov. Brownback said.  "Our state has a rich abundance of this home-grown, renewable energy and we are happy to add it to our list of Kansas export commodities alongside oil and natural gas, beef and wheat."

Left out of the press release is that Kansas taxpayers once again, in the form of rate increases, will be subsidizing this new "export." Wind energy isn't the only hot air blowing through the Legislature. After all of the hype surrounding tax reform at the beginning of the Session, expect little more than window dressing. The "march to zero" we were promised has been watered down to a slow jog. A bill is expected from conference committee this week with encouraging changes, but leaves intact a complicated tax code and lacks the promise necessary to achieve the economic vitality expected from earlier proposals. As a result, faster growth plans like the Fair Tax, look at this point to have no hope for House floor debate and vote.

Taxes are but one side of the ledger. On the spending side, overall, we have managed to hold the line on spending for fiscal year 2013. However, we increased the State General Fund expenditures by 8% for fiscal year 2012 over 2011. Sadly, despite getting a vote by the full House on freezing spending at 2011 levels last Session, the common sense proposal garnered only 8 votes. Too many legislators are far too eager to spend "other people's money'“ YOUR money.

So, on it goes, taxpayers once again have been hit and run over by a Kansas government going the WRONG WAY. All we can do is continue to stand and fight. Here are some of my thoughts on changing the game in Topeka:

  1. Change the Senate. Even when commonsense, fiscally responsible legislation makes it through the House, the "tax and spend" alliance of Democrats and liberal Republicans in the Senate block the measures, or gut the provisions and add new taxes or spending. This is one primary election season where your voice must be heard, be sure to vote either in advance or at the polls in August.

  2. Record all votes: Rules should be adopted to require all votes, whether in committee or on the House floor, to be recorded. Currently, the only votes ALWAYS recorded are on final action. We need to do away with rules of which require a formal request by a legislator, accompanied by at least a showing of support from a minimum of 15 colleagues, to achieve a recorded vote.

  3. Challenge the State Republican Party to track of all votes of Republican Representatives and Senators. If any of their votes stray from the party platform, publicly request an explanation of that vote. We must hold our elected official's feet to the fire if we are to have any hope of changing the political reality in Kansas.

  4. Begin to wean the State of Kansas off of federal money by requiring all requests for federal grants to be approved by the Legislature, not just the bureaucrats burrowed deep inside state agencies. First, it's not "free money..it's YOUR money (actually, probably China's money that was borrowed in YOUR name); and second, those funds always come with costly strings attached.

Small steps, to be sure, but common sense must prevail to bring our government back from the brink. Please hold me in your prayers.