Kansas Tidbits
(Some federal issues affecting Kansans are included, as noted.)

Sebelius Appointments - Kansas Office in DC - Food Safety Inspections - Licensing Clinic - Family Leave - Immigration, Illegals - DUIs, Medical Errors and Malpractice - License Plates - No-Call List - 2004 Election, Kansas - Party Politics - Kansas - 2004 National Election - Early Primary Elections - Human Cloning - European Trade Partnerships - Media, Conservative vs. Liberal - Open Meetings -

 

Sebelius appointments
Filling vacancies in political office
2/28/03 The Senate approved a bill that would apply for all governmental offices in the state. It would require that when the governor fills a vacancy in office, the appointee should be in the same party as the office holder who previously filled the position.

02/21/03 Adrian Polansy, Belleville farmer, as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.
Pamela Johnson-Betts, Secretary of the Department on Aging. Johnson-Betts was formerly Executive Director of the Kansas African-American Affairs Commission since 2000. Department of Human Resources (acting Secretary) Revenue (acting Secretary) Juvenile Justice Authority (acting Secretary)

New Appointment Policy for Kansas Secretary of Agriculture
02/27/03 Clearing the Senate Committee, a bill would change the appointment of the Secretary. Currently, a nine-member Governor's Advisory Board of Agriculture interviews applicants and nominates three finalists. The Governor makes the final selection. The Governor has the option of requesting additional applicants. The bill would allow the governor to independently choose the Secretary as the other eleven Cabinet positions are selected. The Senate Ag Committee Chair said the governor should be able to select the person of choice. The Ag Committee declined to abolish the board, which would still review proposed regulations and advise the governor on policy.

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Kansas office in Washington D.C.
2/27/03 The governor thinks an office in Washington could out outweigh costs. Opponents think it would cost too much at a itme when the state is short of cash and because the state laready has two six members of Congress. Sebelius believes a person in DC would be in a prime position to search out milions of dollars in federal grant programs.

Food safety inspections
2/27/03 For years we have heard that too few inspections are carried out to the detriment of citizens. Frequently the cause is said to be lack of funding. There is a move in the Senate to make the State Dept. of Agriculture responsible for all food inspections effective July 1. Currently that department shares inspection responsibilities with the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment. Sen. Derek Schmidt, Chair of the Senate Ag Committee says he supports the idea but thinks more time is needed to work out details. He prefers to appoint a special House-Senate committee to study food safety programs and report to the 2004 Legislature. Las year, a state audit discovered that about 1/3 of 12,000 food establishments weren't inspected as required. The Dept. of Ag has a $22 million budget--more funds to work with than the KDHE with only $190 million.

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Licensing of clinics
2/21/03 A bill in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee would regulate clinics more stringently--but only abortion clinics. The bill is sponsored by more than 50 state representatives. This bill is top priority for Kansans for Life. Opponents say the real purpose of the bill is not to improve quality of patient care; rather it is to force abortion clinics to meet requirement that put an undue burden on patients and staff. Women's Services, Inc., Planned Parenthood, and other oppponents say that abortions are safer than other outpatient surgical procedures; therefore, the bill's standards are excessive.

The bill would require abortion clinics to be licensed by the KS. Dept. of Health and Environment and meet a long list of standards. KDHE would be required to set minimum space standards for bathrooms, interview and counseling rooms and patient dressing rooms. Likewise, standards would be required for equipment, lighting, ventilation and exam tables. Every clinic would be required to have a doctor as its medical director, a licensed nurse present during physician exams and to have ultrasound equipment if it offered abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. The bill also states what physicians must ask in compiling a patient's medical history. Currently there are seven abortion clinics in Kansas.

Only one is licensed as an ambulatory or outpatient surgical center. That Overland Park clinic is run by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, and comes close to meeting the requirements of the bill. A Kansans for Life spokesman said the other clinics are considered to be physician's offices under the regulation of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. Under the bill, the clinics would be known as 'abortion ambulatory surgical centers' and would be required to set aside areas for counseling and equipment for life support systems. Each clinic would also be responsible for follow-up care. A similar bill passed the House last year, but was not considered by the Senate. Critics of the bill told the Committee that abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures, and the bill would only increase costs and make it more difficult for women who are seeking an abortion. They said the bill unfairly targets abortion clinics without including all other outpatient surgical centers.

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Family Leave
2/21/03 A 1993 federal law gave about 46% of private-sector workers the right to unpaid leave for family health reasons. A recent study publcihsed in the February issue of Demographys magazine said that the Family and Medidal Leave Act hasn't made much impact. Some say financial pressures limit the use of unpaid leave. The study included 3,803 women and 4,574 men who reported a child birth between 1991 and 1996, and also looked at unpaid leave use through 1999. There was little use of the act by fathers. New mothers' use was more likely in the first three months after birth compared with the birth month. The conclusion was that new mothers used other kinds of leave such as vacation for the first month. The report concluded that "If unpaid leave is not a viable option for a sizable number of families with newborns, then the United States will have to move forward with policies that provide paid leave." Other studies I have read indicate that, although family leave is provided for, other factors put pressure on fathers and mothers not to take the leave, or to return to their job as quickly as possible.

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Immigration-Illegals
2/27/03 Committee Vote expected the first week of March. A bill in the House would allow illegal aliens to obtain drivers licenses by saying that people who have an IRS individual taxpayer ID can get a license. It isn't the responsibility of the IRS to enforce immigration laws; they collect taxes--from legal and illegal aliens. Illegal aliens are not able to get a Social Security Number, so in 1996 the IRS began issuing the ITINs so illegal aliens could file tax returns. (Many other citizens, by choice, prefer to use the ITIN in some circumstances instead of their SSN. The IRS has issued more than 5.5 million ITINs. All taxpayers can claim exemptions for dependent children and other dependents living in Mexico or Canada (or other countries).

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is trying to enforce immigration laws which require that employers verify the employees' identity and eligibility to work. Usually, a driver's license or SS card is required by the employer. The INS advises employers to accept evidence as offerred unless noticably questionable--or it could be considered an unfair practice.

About 7 million undocumented aliens were in the United States in 2000 and about 47,000 in Kansas. (The number was 13,000 in 1990.) Supporters of the bill say the undocumented workers are wanted to work in Kansas and should be able to drive legally. They also believe it would promote highway safety. The Kansas AFL-CIO opposed the bill saying a better solution would be to legalize the aliens in the United States. The union believes about 3/4 of the ITINs are fake. Unons have a hard time organizing the undocumented workers because employers threaten to get them deported. Jim DeHoff, Executive Secretary of the Kansas AFL-CIO said after the Committee hearing that "They're the most abused people in the United States...it's back almost to slavery." Other opponents of the bill said issuing drivers licenses would violate federal law, and would also allow undocumented aliens to vote.

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DUIs
2/28/03 I will add to this as I find articles, but increasingly, people driving under the influence and/or without a license because of previous DUIs are having accidents, frequently resulting in significant injury or death. A large number of adolescents begin drinking in their early teens (if not earlier). It was especially disappointing that two members of the Senate, already this year, were arrested for driving under the influence. This week the Senate passed a bill which would require those convicted of DUI to attend at least a 10-hour alcohol and drug treatment program. Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen, who was arrested this week, voted for the bill. Sen. Edward Pugh of Wamego, who was charged in January with DUI after an accident, abstained.

Medical Errors and Malpractice
2/23/03 For additional information, search the Internet for "malpractice" and for "medical errors." The New York Times, as reported in the Kansas City Star 2/23, A-11, lists major medical errors in some of the country's most prestigious hospitals. The NY Times research concluded that "Lapses in basic quality checks and in the ordinary standards of patient care lead to most of the accidents. The hospitals pay too little attention to the simple things that are crucial for success--such as checking whether the blood types are compatible or whether the proper dose of a drug has been prescribed. In 1999 the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences reported that medical errors kill 44,000 to 98,000 people a year and that many of these deaths could be prevented. Most errors do not result from individual recklessness, but from basic flaws in the way hospitals and clinics operate." Unfortunately, many doctors and patients don't think there is a problem. An Institute of Medicine survey showed that both groups think such mistakes are only a minor problem and thought 5,000 deaths might have been caused by preventable accidents. They were also more likely to blame the person who made the mistake rather than the hospital that might have prevented it. In the recent case of the Mexican child who died due to receiving type A organs for her type O body, at least Duke University Medical Center quickly admitted their mistake, did everything they could to correct the error, and adopted new procedures to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

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Specialized License Plates
Last year, as I was researching material for the KAFCE lesson on issues, "What do YOU stand for?" I thought the special plates were allowed only for Veterans and Kansas Educational Institutions. More recent newspaper reports indicate that Shriners and agriculture are also allowed special plates. Recently a bill was offered that would have banned all new special plates. Now comes another bill in the Senate for plates to support public education for $30 per year. The funds would be used to buy classroom suppies in the 303 public school districts. It is said that a similar program in Alabama has raised as much as $750,000 for schools. In Kansas, the plate would be issued only if at least 500 were purchased statewide under the legislation. The Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) would approve the design. The Kansas City Kansan reports 2/28/03, Page 2, that Kansas already offers 38 specialized plates. Sen. Jay Emler opposes the bill, saying there are too many already. Many other people have pointed out that same fact and that any group that wants to raise money might better sell front plates. The rear plates are primarily for the purpose of identification.

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No-call list
"Favorite Links" on this website provides a link to sign up for the Kansas No-Call list. The next deadline is March 24, with the list published on April 1. The next following deadline will be June 23, with the list published on July 1. You can also register for the list on the Attorney General's website http://www.ksag.org, or you can call the toll-free number at 1-866-362-4160. Mail-in registrations are not allowed. The act applies only to home phone numbers. Telemarketers have a 30-day grace period to remove your name from their call lists. The registration is valid for five years, then the consumer is responsible for reregistring. After a complaint has been received, a member of the task force calls the offending caller, followed by a written notice. After three complaints, a telephone solicitor is required to pay a civil penalty, and after a fourth complaint a recommendation is then made to prosecute the case. To date, the Kansas Attorney General's office has filed complaints against four companies for violations. Four other cases have been verbally settled and $33,500 in penalties and fees have been greed to be paid. At one time, the No-Call was mostly self-policing; however, changes in the law remedied that problem.

A federal no-call program is also under consideration.

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2004 Election - Kansas
02/08/03: Dennis Moore recently stated he would not file for Senator Sam Brownback's office. He will run again in the 3rd Contressional District for a fourth term and is expected to make that announcement within the next few days. Brownback filled the last two years of former Senator Bob Dole's term, then was elected to a six-year term in 1998.

A possible challenger to Brownback is reported to be former U.S. Rep. Dan Glickman, who represented the Wichita area. He was U.S. Agriculture Secretary under President Clinton.

Party Politics - Kansas
02/08/03 Larry Gates of Overland Park is expected to be elected Democratic State Chairman.

2004 Election - National
02/28/03 National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice will not run against Democratic Sen. Barbara Toxer in 2004. She is, however, interested in running for Governor of California in 2006.

Early Primary Elections
Washington D.C. has approved legislation to make the district the first contest in the nation--on January 13. Their measure will go to vote by the full Council next week, and members want to include language which would ensure that the district would hold its primary before any state until DC residents have full voting rights in Congress and autonomy over their affairs.

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Human Cloning
2/28/03 Federal. The House passed a bill endorsed by President Bush that would ban human cloning. Violators would be sentenced to prison and would face fines as high as $1 million. The vote was 241-155. Some members wanted an exception for research which could work toward cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes. This issue is expected to have a tougher battle in the Senate, where Republicans don't have the 70 votes necessary to end debate and force a vote. Area votes mostly followed party lines: The vote to ban: Kansas Democrat Moore-No, Republicans-all Yes. Missouri Democrats-No (except macCarthy and Gephardt no-vote; and Skelton reported as voting Yes in one source and No in another). Republicans-all Yes. Other votes refused to allow imports of medical treatments produced abroad as a result of therapeutic cloning outlawed in the U.S.

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European Trade Partnerships
02/28/03 Larry Kudlow suggests in the Kansas City Star, C3 the following: U.S. imports of goods and services to other parts of the world increased 19.7 % for the year ending December '02. U.S. exports of goods and services sold to the rest of the world increased 4.8%. U.S. exports to 'old' Europe were down 15.6% (Germany -11.9% and France -13.6%. Meanwhile, exports to Spain were +27.6%, Italy +16.1%. 'New' Europe +25.5%. Broken down, export to Poland and Hungary are a about even or a little negative. Other countries including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Baltics are +53.9%. Kudlow reminds us that these latter countries are the ones who signed the Vilnius 10 letter of support for the U.S. in the war against Hussein. With all this in mind, he raises the question, "Why not a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement with the willing members of old and new Europe...anchored by a trade pact with the United States and Britain...."

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Media representation--conservative vs. liberal
03/01/03Last week, I heard a report on National Public Radio (NPR) of some research on political representation in the media. Among other things it was reported that six corporations/conglomerates own the vast majority of all media (print, radio, TV). Nearly all reporters interviewed said they practiced self-censorship, considering the impact of what they would report on their owners and their advertisers. NPR makes a conscious effort to report both sides of issues. In spite of that, they receive much criticism that they are too liberal. As a result, this study found, NPR actually leans more toward the right than toward the left in its programming. (You might be able to find more information about this on NPR.com.) The research also found that, while there are numerous conservative talk shows (notably Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh), there are few liberal talk shows. Most conservative editorial writers also have their own talk shows or appear frequently on the talk shows of others. Not so with the liberal writers. A day or so later the Kansas City Star (02/28/03 A-2) reported that Phil Donahue, whose MSNBC talk show was canceled this week is joining others who criticize MSNBC's turn to the right. The network has hired three conservatives (former House majority leader Dick Armey, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough and radio talk show host Michael Savage). In regard to Savage, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Organization for Women are asking supporters to protest his hiring. A spokesperson for GLAAD said Savage's program is "a platform to spew hateful, defamatory rhetoric targeting women, people of color, immigrants and gays."

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Open meetings
02/26/03 A bill would require advisory committees and task forces created by incoming governors to have open meetings. The bill is a response to the 'top to bottom' review of state government by teams appointed by Sebelius prior to her taking office. The bill originally applied to any task force or advisory committee created at the state level. A subcommittee recommended limiting the bill to groups appointed by an incoming governor. The League of Kansas Municipalities objected to having local governments included in the bill. The bill is expected to pass in the House and Sebelius has said she will sign it. Under this bill, advisory panels, task forces and commissions appointed following the election of the incoming governor would be subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act.