Kansas City Star. May 14, 2021.

Editorial: GOP blames Kelly for delays getting Kansans the unemployment checks they want to end

On Thursday, we learned that state GOP officials want to make some campaign videos starring Kansans who struggled to get all their jobless benefits during the pandemic. Also on Thursday, we learned that Republicans think jobless benefits are for freeloaders and deadbeats.

Sure that’s cynical, but the state’s three GOP House members issued a joint press release, urging Kelly to stop the $300 weekly federal checks that will run out in September. “It is critical that we encourage Kansans to get back to work,” said U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner of the 2nd Congressional District in the state.

The unemployment rate in Kansas, in March, was 3.7%. It seems like most of Kansas is already at work, some risking their health to do so. Perhaps Jake and his pals were on vacation — er, district work period — and didn’t notice.

Maybe, though, like Gov. Mike Parson in Missouri, they want to disguise the real motive for their zeal to punish the poor. As the COVID-19 pandemic nears an end, workers are asking for real wage increases, particularly in low-paying positions.

Many are rethinking careers. Some are still struggling with child care, or sick relatives, or rebounding from the pandemic. That they want to be paid for their work does not make them slackers.

Business owners don’t want to pay higher wages and benefits that would cut into profits or raise prices.

Instead, they want everyone to go back to work with substandard wages and working conditions. It’s that simple, and that obvious. In his press release, Rep. Tracey Mann called it “normal order.”


None of this means Kansans should ignore problems in the Department of Labor during the pandemic. We were among the loudest voices criticizing the governor for the lack of responsiveness and transparency in the department. Thousands of claimants spent frustrating months trying to get the checks they had earned.

It was hard to get someone on the phone. The computers crashed. Misery spread.

But we also believe a fair examination of the DOL problem must include a deep inquiry into the Sam Brownback-era budget cuts that left the department largely helpless in the face of the pandemic.

Why did Republicans reduce funding for state technology upgrades? Why, in 2013, did the Legislature make it harder to file for unemployment benefits?

Don’t we know the answer? Most Republicans detest unemployment insurance. They don’t think people who aren’t working should have money for food, or shelter, or a visit to the doctor. They think the unemployed are layabouts.

So it’s beyond hypocritical that those same Republicans are now contemplating commercials with recipients who had trouble getting jobless benefits. If the Kansas GOP had its way, there would be no benefits. Problem solved.

It is critical for policymakers to understand what went wrong at the Kansas labor department, and how to prevent future crises. Lawmakers and Gov. Kelly took a good first step this year by reaching a bipartisan agreement for improvements at DOL.

That work may grind to a halt. Republicans don’t want answers, they want an issue. They also want to take away $300 a week from those who need it. When you see those commercials, keep that in mind.


Topeka Capital-Journal. May 14, 2021.

Editorial: Nobody wins in effort to gerrymander representation in Kansas. Use independent, nonpartisan redistricting panel.

Get ready, folks. Redistricting is coming for Kansas.

The state House of Representatives has formed a committee that will draw new legislative maps next session.

As a wise man once said, hoo boy.

When Kansas went through the process last time, it was a brutal and ugly fight. No consensus was reached, and the courts had to step in to draw the maps.

Former Senate President Susan Wagle gave away the game late last year.

In a meeting with donors recorded on video, she said: “I guarantee you, we can draw four Republican congressional maps, but we can’t do it unless we have a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House.” In other words, the GOP needed supermajorities in the Statehouse to target U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids’ seat.

Don’t get us wrong. If by some miracle Democrats held supermajorities in Kansas, they would no doubt be looking to ensure their continued control as well. That’s why Gov. Laura Kelly was correct last year to call for an independent, nonpartisan redistricting panel.

Such a panel would put the needs and interests of Kansans first, rather than partisan political bosses. We shouldn’t look at redistricting as a tool for political brawls — it’s meant to simply redraw district lines to account for population shifts. Nothing more, nothing less.

This will take a bit of sacrifice on the part of Republicans, of course.

But we ask them to look at the bigger picture. Across the nation, we see GOP legislatures rolling back voting rights and attempting to shrink the size of the electorate. They seem to be unified with a clear message: We can’t win fairly, and we’re not even going to try.

We believe Kansas Republicans are better than that. We believe they can win honestly, if they campaign on appealing ideas to voters who turn up at the polls. They shouldn’t be skewing the process in their favor.

Compete honestly, guys. You can do it.


Lawrence Journal-World. May 15, 2021.

Editorial: The year wasn’t great, but these graduates sure are

It is an important time in Lawrence and Douglas County: graduation season.

The University of Kansas is hosting its first of two graduation weekends today. The second — for last year’s class that was deprived of walking down the Hill — will be a week from today. Baker University had some ceremonies for various schools Saturday, and its large ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be May 22 at its historic Baldwin City campus. Haskell Indian Nations University, which has been in virtual mode for the school year, had a graduation celebration May 7, thanks to the good work of many volunteers who stepped up when school administrators largely fell down on the task of creating a graduation ceremony.

Lawrence High’s graduation is set for Tuesday, May 25, while Free State’s is scheduled for Wednesday, May 26. Veritas Christian School is having its graduation today, while Bishop Seabury will host its ceremony on May 28. Eudora and Baldwin City high schools both will have their ceremonies on May 22. Perry-Lecompton hosted its graduation Saturday.

That’s a whole lot of graduations. That’s a whole lot of great news.

When the school year began, it was far from certain that it would end with a traditional graduation ceremony (maybe some of them will even be mask free, if we simply follow what the CDC says is allowed.) Only a few things were certain at the beginning of the school year. That it would be different was assured, and that it probably wouldn’t be as good as most was pretty likely too.

Let’s be honest, that indeed was true. It wasn’t a great school year. It wasn’t from a lack of effort, though. It is one of the sadder truths of the pandemic, but so many people — teachers, staff, students, parents — worked harder but got less from this school year.

There’s probably a lesson there. Maybe it is that life isn’t fair, but jeez, we’ve all had plenty of opportunity to read that textbook before. Talk about a class that you would like to sleep through. Hopefully there is a better lesson than that to come out of this.

It will take time to determine, but perhaps it will be a lesson in delayed gratification. It sure seems like that is a specialty of the pandemic. Think about it: There was no immediate gratification in wearing a mask. You did so because you thought it would prevent you or someone else from getting sick in the future. Even the vaccine wasn’t immediate with its reward. You have to wait a couple of weeks before you really are inoculated.

Perhaps this is the way to think of this: a waiting period for inoculation. This school year, at times, was like a long, slow vaccination. A needle that never seemed to end. Then there is a waiting period, where you don’t feel like you have much to show for it, other than a sore arm.

In reality — just like the actual vaccine — it was one of the most important things you ever did. The tragedy of the pandemic would have grown at least tenfold if the American education system had truly shut down. Every teacher, every administrator, every staff member, every student, every parent deserves the country’s gratitude for the efforts and sacrifices they made to keep it functioning.

But the importance of this school year goes beyond that. It is much more personal. It was your own inoculation, of sorts. It is not the type that guarantees you a life free from sickness, pain or disappointment. But it is the type that injected your mind, body and spirit with a challenge, and taught you how to fight. Yes, we all lived through it, but not all of us lived through it during our formative years. That’s you. That’s your generation. You’ll never love that fact, but there will be a day that you’ll be gratified by what it did for you.

Delayed gratification: Half of that phrase is a lot more fun than the other. For all of us who aren’t in that generation, let’s not delay a second in expressing our gratitude. Graduates — both this year’s and last year’s — congratulations isn’t enough.

We thank you. We love you. We are counting on you. And you will deliver because you’ve already shown nothing stops you.


The problem here is obvious. Republicans want to draw maps that favor their party. You can call it gerrymandering, but legal cheating works just as well. There are more than enough Democrats in Kansas to elect U.S. representatives from their party — but if you draw the districts differently and split the votes in Lawrence and Kansas City, Kansas, suddenly the GOP takes all the seats.