Lawrence Journal-World, March 3
How is the public supposed to know what is going on relative to the dangers facing this nation when major news media — in this case, the Associated Press — fail to report two diametrically differing opinions on a single subject voiced by two very senior government officials in Washington?
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry told members of a congressional committee that the United States and its citizens are safer today than in years and that there have been fewer killings around the world in the past several years than at any time in the past century. Almost the same day, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told members of another congressional committee that the threat of terrorism has never been this high in all the 45 years that terror risk data have been compiled.
Who is the public to believe? Kerry, as secretary of state, is supposed to support and deliver the story line coming out of the white House. Clapper, a professional in the field of national security, is supposed to report the facts, not the political spin.
It's obvious there is a huge disconnect in Washington among individuals who are supposed to be leveling with the public. Unfortunately, it appears many in the news media either are refusing to report what is going on or are lazy and don't think these reports are important.
Either way — deliberately or by accident — the public is being shortchanged.
Wichita Eagle, Feb. 26
So much for concealed-carry proponents' assurances a decade ago that permit holders would have to pass a background check and undergo eight hours of training.
This week 31 Kansas senators said with their votes for Senate Bill 45 that they now see no need to vet or prepare adults before allowing them to carry concealed guns, and that Warren Theatres owner Bill Warren and other business leaders are wrong to worry that the bill may increase insurance rates or cause other problems.
Let it be said that, as predicted by gun-rights advocates, concealed-carry has been a nonissue in Kansas, with no sign of the Dodge City-style shootouts that some opponents predicted despite the issuance of 90,000 permits since 2007.
But permitless, no-training-necessary carry of concealed guns would be quite a change for Kansas, as was this week's dismissal by supposedly pro-business lawmakers of the concerns of an important Wichita-headquartered company. Warren told The Eagle he had been informed that his insurance rates would increase if he allowed people without training to conceal and carry in his theaters.
It's not a compelling argument that open-carry is already lawful statewide, as that's not widely known or practiced (thank goodness) and in such cases the firearms are visible.
The insanity as Warren and others see it is that this bill allows carrying of unseen guns by untrained, unvetted individuals.
And Kansas would be only the fifth state to do so - a sharp contrast to its status as the 47th state to allow some form of concealed-carry.
Proponents say Warren could still restrict his theaters to permit-only concealed-carry, pointing to the very system they seek to dismantle (although Kansans who want to conceal-carry in other states could still choose to go through permitting).
If so, that would call for Kansas businesses to spell out their limits with new signs - and concealed-carry proponents have criticized businesses for posting no-gun signs.
Now the debate moves to the House, where Kansans can hope there will be a more frank debate about the pros and cons of the bill and more serious regard for what businesses say it will cost them.
It's disappointing that Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, didn't let her reservations keep her from voting "yes," and now wants business owners to get involved in the House debate and, she said, "help the Legislature separate fact from fiction to eliminate any unintended consequences."
Doesn't the Senate, traditionally thought to be the more deliberative chamber, have a responsibility to get its own answers before passing bills?
The biggest question: Is the National Rifle Association now so all-powerful at the Statehouse that what it says matters more than what Kansas business owners say?
Topeka Capital-Journal, March 2
Having previously suggested the Legislature had more important things to do than regulate sexually oriented businesses out of business, we now feel obliged to acknowledge the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee's wise decision not to push Senate Bill 147 further along the legislative path.
Letting the bill die in committee (although there's no guarantee it won't be somehow resurrected), was the proper course of action, as Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, noted as he explained his vote Wednesday against passing the bill out of committee.
King, who in other years had voted for measures similar to Senate Bill 147, made reference to a conversation he had with a constituent who told him: "Senator, I'm a Republican. I'm a conservative. I've always voted for you, but I don't have a way to feed my family. My neighbors don't have a way to feed their family. Why are we talking about strip clubs before you help us find work?"
King told committee members legislators had a lot of things to work on more important than Senate Bill 147. Other legislators should take his words to heart.
With Republicans firmly in control of the House and Senate, it's easy for them to pass legislation. However, they sometimes pass bills because they can, not because they should. Given the serious financial problems facing the state, now is the time to focus on doing what they should and what they must.
Senate Bill 147 would have severely damaged the ability of current sexually oriented businesses to turn a profit and imposed daunting restrictions on opening new adult-themed establishments in Kansas.
King and other senators questioned the state's role in dictating morality and adopting laws in an attempt to alter societal norms. Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said such issues as SB 147 could be entrusted to people elected to local levels of government.
Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, supported Senate Bill 147 and the Legislature's responsibility to act on morality issues.
Knox said former Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, probably lost his bid for the governor's office because it became public Davis had visited a Coffeyville topless club about 20 years ago.
Frankly, that information might have hurt Davis, but it didn't defeat him. Ads that suggested Davis would appoint judges and justices who would be soft on killers and other hardened criminals did much more damage to Davis' campaign.
But that election is over. It's time to focus on the state's pressing issues, and they don't include Senate Bill 147.
Salina Journal, March 3
Maybe Kansas hasn't suffered enough. Maybe facing yet another self-inflicted budget deficit that has one senator proposing to raise taxes on ag land by an average of 479 percent, and the government cutting school and university funding and raiding the highway fund isn't enough to get some people's attention.
Maybe Kansas just needs to bleed a lot more before some in Topeka get the message that it's the economy that people are concerned about, not porn, guns, the teachers union and other social-engineering efforts.
Senate President Jeff King, R-Independence, said the recent loss of 1,000 jobs in southeast Kansas got his attention. In a recent Topeka Capital-Journal story about going after sexually oriented businesses, King, who previously had voted for such bills, spoke of a conversation he had with a jobless constituent. The man told King:
"Senator, I'm a Republican. I'm a conservative. I've always voted for you, but I don't have a way to feed my family. My neighbors don't have a way to feed their family. Why are we talking about strip clubs before you help us find work?"
Then, there's meddling with education. In the 2014 session, in an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, legislators eliminated due process rights for teachers.
This session, they've discussed proposals ranging from allowing teachers to negotiate contracts on their own, to prohibiting university professors from using their official titles in newspaper columns, and moving to the fall local elections, such as those for school board.
There are bills to force parents to opt-in if they want their child to receive sex education at school, and another to remove the legal protection from criminal charges that public, private and parochial school educators have from using materials viewed as harmful to minors. These two might be our favorite bills because they combine two of the three obsessions of conservatives — sex and schools. If only they could work open carry of firearms in there, they'd have the perfect bill.
Maybe it's time for legislators to worry less about teachers, guns and pornography and more about fixing the tax structure that has us facing an estimated $600 million budget deficit for next year. If they don't, the cuts are just starting.
Or, maybe Kansas just needs to bleed some more..