Buzz blog contributors who cover politics for The Star regularly chat about recent political news from Kansas, Missouri or our nation’s capital.
Hunter: Jason, I was going to start this off by congratulating you on making it through another Missouri session, but then I remembered the statehouse is still in a special session, right? I’ve started to lose track of Missouri legislative action as the summer has drawn on.
What’s a summer of statehouse action like in Missouri? Kansas legislators dodged having to spend the end of June roaming the Capitol halls, but who knows, they could always return later pending the state Supreme Court’s ruling on the new education formula.
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Jason: Yeah, as Michael Corleone famously said, “Just when I thought I was out…”
The Missouri General Assembly adjourned in May. But Gov. Eric Greitens wasn’t happy with the progress legislators had made (he essentially called them third-graders), so he called lawmakers back to pass a bill aimed at attracting a steel mill to the Bootheel. Now they’re several weeks into a second special session focused on abortion. They haven’t been in the Capitol much, though, as the Senate is sort of waiting for enough people to get back from their summer vacations to pass something.
And so the summer of special sessions drags on.
You may not be in session, but it seems like Topeka is still keeping you hopping these days.
Hunter: Hopping as ever. And that’s because Kris Kobach has me feeling a sense of summer deja vu.
Good thing there’s a Beyonce song with that title to help make the writing flow.
Kobach seemed to always be in the news in summer ’16, whether we were writing about his legal arguing with the ACLU or describing how a temporary rule change his office tried to implement could keep thousands of votes from being counted in state and local elections.
These days, his work with President Donald Trump’s voting commission has ensured his name stays in the news and in court documents.
Speaking of elected officials, what was it like reporting on a Missouri session that featured a new Republican governor?
Jason: When I think of Topeka, the first thing that typically comes to mind is Beyonce.
Eric Greitens certainly shook things up during his first session as governor.
He signed bills Republicans had been working on for years, in some cases (like right to work) decades. But he’s been involved in an ongoing feud with numerous members of his own party that at times has been pretty ugly. Like when he told a senator, “I can see by your pupils in your beady little eyes that you’re afraid of me.”
Most Capitol denizens are working under the assumption that Greitens wants to be president. Back in 2009, he reserved EricGreitensForPresident.com. Viewed through that lens, his actions (trips to D.C., interviews on “Fox & Friends,” using nonprofits to raise unlimited dark money) start to make more sense.
Hunter: There seems to be a fair amount of overlap between our two statehouses, but there is one key difference, and that’s term limits.
Kobach’s campaign website says, “We need term limits for all legislative and statewide elected officials.” I’m interested, as a tenured statehouse reporter, what impact you’ve seen term limits have on #moleg?
Jason: Term limits have impacted every aspect of #moleg. The concept still has its defenders, but most folks in Jeff City now think the impact has been decidedly negative, draining the General Assembly of institutional knowledge and collegiality.
Now, let’s not pretend the era before term limits was all rainbows and sunshine. A speaker of the House was indicted on corruption charges and sent to federal prison during this time. But the consensus seems to be a lot of the issues, especially the gridlock in the Senate, can be traced at least partially back to term limits.
Hunter: So looking ahead through the dog days of summer, is there an end in sight for the special session?
If the session goes on much longer, you may have to make a summertime playlist for the #moleg press corps.
And what’s up with Josh Hawley? Do you think he’ll remain the state’s AG for long, or do you think he’ll make a run for the U.S. Senate in 2018?
Jason: I imagine we’ll wrap up this special session before the end of July. The Senate just needs to pass the House version of the abortion bill and it would go to the governor.
That’s the plan, but after a year where the state Senate regularly functioned as efficiently as a traveling goat rodeo, I wouldn’t be shocked if the wheels fell off and things continued to drag on.
Will Hawley be our attorney general? Will Eric Schmitt be our treasurer? Will Vicky Hartzler still be my representative in Congress? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems like Hawley’s toiling over whether to run, and his indecisiveness has frozen the race.
So right now, state Rep. Paul Curtman of Franklin County is the default frontrunner. He just jumped into the campaign formally Thursday.
But enough about ambitious Missourians. When is Sam Brownback finally shipping off to D.C. or Rome or wherever it is he’s supposed to be heading?
Hunter: It’s tough to say. The governor has been fairly light on media appearances recently. The last time I talked to him, I gave him a hard time about announcing his decision on several major bills in the closing hours of the work day on my latest 20-something birthday.
And who knows, I’m not sure whether or not he’ll still be around Topeka come Christmas time to sing “Jingle Bells” in front of the #ksleg press corps.
Jason: I don’t think our governor will sing to the Missouri press corp. Our relationship has been a little icy. But I bet he’d be down to celebrate with some fireworks.