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Noonletter: Sept. 18, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

And a quarter-century later …

In 1991, Anita Hill’s testimony that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her nearly stopped him from taking a seat on the nation’s highest court.

Now a California professor has come forward contending that current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when the two were in high school. Both are tentatively set to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee next week — perhaps interrupting Kavanaugh’s glide path to confirmation.

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran both have said this week that the allegations need to be studied before moving forward on his appointment. But Roberts complained that Democrats have made the scrutiny of Kavanaugh overly partisan.

Now this

The Department for Children and Families and its contractors have struggled with ballooning numbers of children in state care. Critically, the agency been unable to find enough foster homes and, at times in recent years, been forced to keep children overnight in the offices of the contractors who place those kids in temporary homes or facilities.

DCF has made progress. The number of kids sleeping in offices has dropped this year. But the problem persists.

Now The Kansas City Star reports that an 18-year-old has been charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old at a suburban Kansas City child welfare office in May. Michael Anthony Hamer was charged last week with rape and aggravated indecent liberties of a child. His bond was set at $500,000. The incident apparently happened while one adult was supervising Hamer, the alleged victim and another child.

What’s more, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe expressed a broader concern about the KVC Behavioral Healthcare office in Olathe where the attack allegedly happened.

“This is not an isolated incident involving criminal conduct at the KVC offices involving children,” Howe told the newspaper. “Our office and Johnson County law enforcement are extremely frustrated by the situation.”

Kassebaum backs Kelly

Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker — a name rich in political tradition — has lined up behind Democrat Laura Kelly’s campaign for governor. That’s a Republican, popular in Kansas during her 20 years in the U.S. Senate and in the two decades since, snubbing her party’s choice for governor in favor of a Democrat from the state Senate.

Kassebaum, a moderate-to-liberal politician, also represents of a wing of the state’s GOP that’s waned in eras of Sam Brownback and, now, Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

“Kelly,” Kassebaum said in a Kelly campaign news release, “studies the issues and is willing to work with others for solutions to real problems. Her competence, understanding, and dedication are leadership qualities that Kansas needs at this time.”

Who’s there?

The ACLU of Kansas has filed suit asking for the release of the names of people whose provisional ballots in the August primary in Johnson County were ultimately rejected.

By getting the names, the organization contends, voters can know that their votes went uncounted and why.

That way, the group argues, those voters can take steps such as making sure they go to the correct polling place, that their signature on file with election officials matches the way they sign their names now, or other things to clear them to vote in upcoming elections.

“We aren’t asking to see who they voted for or any private information,” the ACLU said in a news release. “(But) people should know whether their vote counted or if people faced any unnecessary barriers to voting. The public interest here is just transparency.”

Schools and candidates

Kobach has said Kansas schools don’t need more money so much as they need to spend less of it on bloated administration.

He claimed in a recent debate that a single Wichita high school had a dozen assistant principals on the payroll. The Wichita Eagle debunked that. Kobach then said he was passing on something he’d been told by a legislator. His campaign later replied that between Wichita’s East High and North high schools, the number of principals and assistant principals combined adds up to 12.

On KCUR’s Up to Date program on Monday, independent candidate for governor Greg Orman said the state’s education system needs to gear itself more toward job training. For starters, he said vocational programs should have the same kind of scholarship money available for a liberal arts education.

“If you want to get a welding certificate,” Orman said, “you’re on your own.”

Kelly has also backed state aid for trade schools and more state support for public school districts.

Who’s packing?

Orman also said on the KCUR talk show that Kansans shouldn’t be able to carry concealed weapons without permits.

“It’s just ludicrous that someone would be able to carry a concealed, loaded weapon without a minute’s worth of safety training ... in our schools and our hospitals,” he said. “That’s just ludicrous and ridiculous.”

Kobach, who's campaigned with a Jeep sporting a faux machine gun, supports the existing law that says you don’t need a permit to carry a concealed gun.

Kelly has shifted her position on guns over the years and voted for the right to conceal a weapon without a permit. But she’s also voted to ban concealed weapons from university campuses, state hospitals and adult care homes.

Country business

Orman has released his plan for boosting the rural economy in Kansas. It calls for expanding markets for farm commodities, including within the state; for spending on water conservation in western Kansas; for building more housing in small communities; and for improving internet access in rural areas.

Belly up, online

It’s getting easier for booze makers and suppliers to register brands and new liquor permits in the state. The Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control says that starting next month, wineries, microdistilleries, microbreweries, and manufacturers can sort out those bureaucratic issues over the internet. The new system also eliminates some fees.

Health care work requirements

A new report, put together by Harvard researchers for the REACH Healthcare Foundation and Commonwealth Fund, throws water on efforts to tie Medicaid coverage to a work requirement. Both the Trump administration and Gov. Jeff Colyer — although he’s run into resistance from lawmakers — have pushed the idea.

In fact, a compromise floated to expand Medicaid coverage in the state and draw in more federal dollars would add a work requirement.

But the new study suggests that bargain might not have great impact.

The authors of the report say “our data suggest such a provision would likely have little impact on employment in Kansas, where most potential Medicaid enrollees are disabled or already employed.”

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. 

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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