Capitol Watch: Missouri and Kansas legislatures talk freedom and engage in follies

The governors have delivered their State of the State speeches. Committees are in session. Intrigue is building and the Capitol Watch is back to spotlight some of the goings-on in Topeka and Jefferson City.

We’ll get right to it.

Worst idea

This would be the attempt in Kansas to relieve citizens of the need to apply for a permit and take a safety class before carrying a concealed handgun. More than half of the members of the Senate have signed on.

Supporters call it “constitutional carry,” even though courts have repeatedly said the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment doesn’t mean everyone can do so free of restrictions.

Permits are an essential restriction. The application process gives sheriff’s departments a chance to spot people, like felons, who shouldn’t own a gun. And gun safety courses, at the very least, inform new owners how to prevent accidents that can turn tragic.

Terry Bruce, the Senate majority leader and the bill’s primary sponsor, told a reporter that removing the permit requirement would “lead to more protection of individuals.” He added: “Most incidents, I believe, they resolve themselves with the gun being brandished.”

Actually, credible research suggests that more guns in circulation enhances the probability of homicide. Let’s hope some of that emerges during hearings, and that Bruce and others listen.

Best move

Missouri Sen. Ryan Silvey scored with a proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility for veterans and their families.

This would help about 50,000 vets who fall into the gap where they make too much to qualify for Medicaid under Missouri’s stingy guidelines, and too little to receive subsidies in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges.

The goal is to get the legislature to expand Medicaid for about 300,000 Missourians who are left out of coverage, but conservative Republicans keep blocking that move. So Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, North, who has seen the light, is trying the foot-in-the-door approach. Measures to help veterans are generally well-received, and many vets do struggle with health care access.

“I’m trying to change the conversation,” Silvey said.

People will point out all kinds of technical difficulties with Silvey’s idea, but give him credit for trying to move the ball forward. Missouri and Kansas both are harming their citizens and economies by refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility.

You buying?

With calls for ethics reform accelerating in Jefferson City, this would be a good time to avoid any show of excess. But apparently Lyndall Fraker missed that memo.

Fraker, a Republican from Marshfield, is chairman of the House utility infrastructure committee. He posted a notice of the session’s first meeting, to be held not in one of the Capitol’s committee rooms, but at the Jefferson City Country Club.

The meeting, to which members of two other committees have also been invited, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The dinner hour, in other words. Which signals that lobbyists will be picking up the tab. And also that most members of the public will be missing.

That’s precisely the wrong way to conduct the people’s business. And, unfortunately, it’s business as usual in Jefferson City, where lobbyists have spent more than $1.8 million over the last two years providing lawmakers with food, drink, trips and entertainment, according to an eye-opening analysis by St. Louis Public Radio.

Worth watching

In Kansas, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, and another lawmaker have introduced a “revenge porn” bill, which would forbid someone from posting sexually oriented material online without permission, even if it was developed within the confines of a relationship. The legislation was prompted by reports of ex-lovers or spouses seeking revenge against former partners. It’s a depressing, but seemingly necessary, sign of our times.

Border war

“Take Kansas. Their latest harebrained idea is the construction of a 360-mile aqueduct to siphon off more of our Missouri River water. We can’t let that happen.”

That’s Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon in his State of the State speech. It’s unclear whether he meant that Kansas has a lot of harebrained ideas in general or just about raiding Missouri’s water supply. But rarely is a governor so up-front about dissing a neighboring state.