Capitol Watch: A ‘poor’ politician and Kansas’ new sex education bill

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder says his $86,000-a-year salary is grinding him into “gradual impoverishment.”
Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder says his $86,000-a-year salary is grinding him into “gradual impoverishment.” The Associated Press

In an unusual turn of events, this week rolled by with no eyepopping announcements emerging from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s office. That in itself was news. And dutiful politicians on both sides of the state line provided us with much more.

Kinder’s quest

Republican Peter Kinder emerged from the seclusion of Missouri’s lieutenant governor’s office to announce his next big cause.

It isn’t to bring down Obamacare this time. It is ... himself!

It seems the $86,000 annual salary Kinder receives, plus health care and other benefits, for his mostly ceremonial job won’t cut it.

Kinder has a home in Cape Girardeau but has to be in Jefferson City a lot. And that gets expensive, what with having to pay for housing and meals that aren’t provided by lobbyists. In an interview with the Associated Press, Kinder referred to his plight as “gradual impoverishment.”

So Kinder wants an allowance. He suggests $103 a day whenever he’s in Jefferson City to preside over the Senate or attend meetings of boards and commissions.

That’s the same per diem legislators receive. But, unlike the lieutenant governor, they are required to have a residence in their districts. If Kinder feels impoverished, he could always move to the Jefferson City area and cut down on housing expenses. Or pass up a bid for a fourth term.

Still, everyone deserves a periodic raise. And Kinder must be feeling some solidarity with low-wage workers. So we’ll propose a deal: Let the lieutenant governor lead the charge for an increase in Missouri’s $7.50-an-hour minimum wage. Once he gets that done, he’ll have earned his allowance.

No thanks

Kansas parents have the right to opt their children out of sex ed. For the second year in a row, the Legislature has invited a raucous discussion on whether schools should have to ask parents to specifically opt in.

A House committee meeting on a bill introduced by Rep. Willie Dove, a Republican from Bonner Springs, drew a packed house. Dove wants to require parental consent before schools talk about sexuality or distribute materials on the subject. Schools would have to send all course materials to parents for review.

Opponents said it was the schools’ responsibility to inform students about their bodies and human sexuality. Many parents say they own that role, but few actually act upon it, they said. Supporters argued that things had gone too far. For proof that morality is on the decline, just look at “50 Shades of Grey,” the new R-rated film that is smashing box office records, they said.

This should be a policy issue for local school boards, not the state legislature. Plus, Dove’s bill is wildly impractical. With cuts in school funding, no one has time or money to be copying course materials and seeking out parents. Those who are genuinely concerned will make the effort to opt out.

The “fix” is in

We’d like to see the Missouri legislature opt out of its annual voter ID debate this year. Alas, that is not to be.

The House has forwarded proposals to the Senate that would ask voters to amend the constitution and require citizens to produce government-issued photo identification at the polls.

Court rulings, a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon, and legislative deals have stymied similar efforts for several years. Last year the Senate let a voter ID bill die to prevent a Democratic filibuster on a different measure.

Another year, and another election, have not produced any instances of people trying to vote under someone else’s name. But Republicans continue to insist they need to “protect” Missouri elections.

The annual voter ID exercise threatens low-income people, college students and senior citizens who still lack driver’s licenses and other acceptable types of ID. Finding the necessary documents to establish identity, like a birth certificate, would be daunting for some. What’s being proposed is a voter suppression law, plain and simple.

You bet

It’s hard to quibble with state legislatures when they legalize things that most people assume are lawful already. And so, a hat tip to Kansas Rep. Brett Hildabrand, a Shawnee Republican, for introducing legislation to legalize participation in fantasy football and baseball leagues. Let’s hope the rest of the Legislature acts quickly. After all, spring training has already begun.