Legislators prefer inane agenda to pressing matters


February 10, 2014 - 12:00 AM

With the legislative session almost one-third underway, Kansas lawmakers have spent their time on a frivolous agenda.
To wit:
• Whether to fluoridate public water supplies;
• Whether to abolish no-fault divorce;
• Whether to allow discrimination of gays;
• Whether to recognize funding makes a difference to the education of Kansas students, and,
• Whether to call it a crime to carry a firearm while drunk.
Lest one think these issues are no-brainers, the discussions have proved otherwise.
Yes, once again, Kansans are debating the value of fluoridated drinking water. Seems generations of children with minimal tooth decay are little proof of fluoride’s efficacy. Rep. Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican, not only wants fluoride banned from municipal water supplies, but, if allowed, to have such water labeled as dangerous and liable to “damage the IQ in children.”
Three-fourths of U.S. municipalities, including Iola, fluoridate their water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regard fluoridation as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 21st Century.
It wouldn’t be Kansas if legislators didn’t want to control our morals.
Olathe Republican Rep. Keith Esau has introduced legislation requiring couples seeking divorce to prove wrongdoing by one party. Incompatibility would no longer serve as a valid reason, as the state’s current no-fault divorce policy allows.  Instead, Esau wants proof of culpability in order for a marriage to be dissolved.
Still in the bedroom, a House committee has approved a bill that says it’s OK to discriminate against same-sex couples, as long as they say the bias is for religious reasons.
Yes, I know. Doesn’t sound exactly constitutional.
As for our schools, legislators are seriously considering “evidence” purported by Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute that a good education and the funding of schools are not related.
Trabert is president of the Kansas Policy Institute, a Wichita-based think tank that promotes limited government and is a pet project of Wichita billionaire Charles Koch. To our knowledge, Trabert has no background in the study of education.
Test scores in Kansas schools have fallen over the last five years along with a steady decrease in state funding, testified Diane DeBacker, state education commissioner. Last year, the state’s rankings were the lowest in a decade.
While Trabert does not deny the lower test results, he contends they are not because of lack of money, but rather the disparities between household income and ethnic makeup. It’s not hard to guess what Trabert really thinks about minorities and the disadvantaged and what a drag they are on state finances.
And then there’s gun control — or the lack of it.
A House committee is studying whether carrying a gun while being under the influence of drugs or alcohol should be considered a crime.
Not if an occasion for self-defense arises, they agreed.
“You know, if I have two glasses of wine with my dinner, I’m fully capable of defending myself,” said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, in testimony before members of the House Federal and State Committee.
They were duly moved.
If approved, the measure will strip cities and counties of any power to regulate guns.

SEX, DRUGS and politics. Just another day at the Kansas Legislature.
— Susan Lynn

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