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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday December 30, 2010

Kansas Meadowlark blog recast. Earl Glynn of Overland Park has reformed his Kansas Meadowlark site from a blog to a news site along the lines of the Drudge Report. Glynn’s full-time job is working for Kansas Watchdog.

Longwell site noted. A website supporting the candidacy of Wichita Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell for re-election to his current position has been spotted. Title: Vote for Jeff Longwell.

Kansas legislative issues to watch. Fort Hays State University political science professor Chapman Rackaway lists the things to watch for in the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature, which opens on January 10. Here’s his list: The budget, K-12 education funding, economic growth, higher education, entitlements, a balancing act between the “interests of the center-right and polar-alliance wings of the party,” and redistricting. The full article is in the Wichita Eagle at Seven legislative issues to watch in 2011.

Local governments are a model. H. Edward Flentje, public affairs professor at Wichita State University, explains the difference between the finances of local governments — cities and counties — as compared to states and the federal government: “So, why aren’t our cities and counties wallowing in red ink? For the most part, they do the basics right. They keep revenues and spending in balance. When times are tough, they tighten the belt. In good times, they pay off debt or pay for projects that might otherwise require debt. They maintain reasonable fund balances that buffer economic downturns and avoid unnecessary tax increases or draconian cuts in services. They use debt sparingly but never for ongoing obligations.” He also mentions the role of professional managers in local government, something that Kansas has a long tradition of using. Flentje plays a role in educating and training these managers, and served a stint as interim city manager for Wichita a few years ago. The full article is at State of the State KS at Insight Kansas Editorial: Local Clues for Stemming the Flow of Red Ink.

Truce in culture wars? Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner: “The fact is that there is an ongoing truce on the social issues, because for most Americans they have been overshadowed by concerns raised by the weak economy and the Obama Democrats’ vast increase in the size and scope of government.” Somehow I don’t think this message has made it to Kansas. As reported by Fred Mann in today’s Wichita Eagle: “Before Kansas lawmakers consider such a bill, Kinzer said, they will take up a host of previous abortion measures that were vetoed by former Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, and that are more likely to be approved by incoming Gov. Sam Brownback.” Lance Kinzer is a member of the Kansas House of Representatives from Olathe and a member of Governor-Elect Sam Brownback’s transition team. Barone, in the article mentioned above, writes “Abortion remains controversial. But we are not going to see abortion criminalized, not in a country where the Supreme Court has been ruling for 37 years that it’s a right. At the same time, we are seeing abortion disfavored and restricted by state laws that are widely popular and have at least in some cases been upheld by the courts.” In Kansas, though, anti-abortion forces are preparing a number of laws that concern, according to Mann, “tightened reporting requirements for late-term abortions, remedies against doctors who violate the laws, and provisions allowing a woman, her husband or parents to sue a doctor if they thought a late-term abortion was performed illegally.” The biggest danger is the culture war in Kansas will take our focus off the state’s economy and the need to get it on track. Chapman Rackaway, in his piece mentioned above, wrote: “If Brownback can successfully balance pragmatism and the interests of the center-right and polar-alliance wings of the party, he can be a rousing success as governor. If open warfare breaks out between wings of the party, all could be lost.”

Wind power: the transmission subsidy. From The Wall Street Journal column The Midwest Wind Surtax: The latest scheme to socialize the costs of renewable energy: “You’d think poor Michigan has enough economic troubles without the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission placing a $300 million to $500 million annual surtax on the state’s electric utility bills. But on December 16 FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff announced new rules that would essentially socialize the cost of transmission lines across 13 states in the Midwest. … This is another discriminatory subsidy for wind energy that will raise electricity prices on everyone, notably on those who don’t rely on wind for electric power. … Let’s be very clear on what’s happening here: Mr. Wellinghoff and FERC are trying to establish by regulatory fiat a national energy policy that Congress has refused to endorse. Last summer Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s renewable energy standard law because it would have inflated power costs.” In Kansas, outgoing Governor Mark Parkinson is proud of his accomplishments in forcing more wind power mandates on Kansans.

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