On Thursday last week, we held our first forum of the legislative season, title "What now? Kansas Politics in 2017." You can watch it in its entirety on our YouTube channel here:
Here's the executive summary: Kansas voted to reject the politics of Governor Sam Brownback, the same politics that are sweeping the nation (if by "sweeping" you mean: voted into power by only about a quarter of the electorate). But that good news does not mean the fight is over, not by a long shot. The hole Brownback and his allies have dug for Kansas is so deep that one, two, even three years won't be enough to fill it up. And that is if there is no resistance. There are still 26 legislators who voted for the 2012 tax cuts returning to Topeka, 14 in the Senate, and 12 in the House, though some of those now claim to have seen the error of their ways. Here is an excellent summary of just how low we are starting.
But the message on Thursday was not all about how bad off Kansas is. It was also one of hope and determination. Kansas is turning the corner. Even the extremists have started to moderate their tone. Sen. Jim Denning (0% on our scorecard) and Sen. Susan Wagle (0% on our scorecard) have been sounding downright conciliatory of late. There is the possibility, not just of stopping extreme bills, but maybe passing good ones!
But the most important point from the forum was this.
Even if no further extremist legislation is passed, even if the Governor bows to the will of Kansans and does not veto any bills, even so, the legislators sent this year to Topeka to fix the mess will be required to make hard, unpopular decisions. This is the way it goes, the extremists promised deep, irresponsible tax cuts that would bring prosperity and puppies for everyone. They slashed taxes, then cultural funding, then education, then services, then even the most basic of government functions. Now, when the responsible legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, work to undo all the damage by raising some taxes and restoring some services, the extremists will cry foul and try to pull the wool over the eyes of Kansas voters once again.
The moderate Republicans and Democrats sent to Topeka this year must have the support of all of us as they begin what will surely be a thankless task.
What can we do? What can you do?
Today, we want to remind you to get informed. This is the only way to combat the lies, the half truths, the fake news. Read the news, follow the groups that fight for what you find important, and talk to your legislators. To that end, here is your action this week:
Learn who will represent you in Topeka in 2017
Who will be your Kansas Representative? Who will be your Kansas Senator? Many of the lists online have not yet been updated, but this one will at least show you your KS Senate and House Districts. Then you can look at our updated list of 2017 legislators and find who will represent you.
- Look up your Kansas House and Senate Districts at OpenStates, or Vote411
- List of Kansas Legislators in 2017-18 by chamber and district (.pdf)
Your legislators represent you. Find them online, send them an email, or call them, or tweet at them, but let them know you're paying attention. Tell them what three issues matter to you the most. Education? Fiscal sanity? Expanding health care? Women's rights? Transparent government? Guns? Tell them you will be in touch throughout the year. Let's hold them accountable.
How can you stay informed?
Besides staying in touch with your legislators in Topeka, there are numerous groups around the state fighting for the issues we care about. They all want to hear from you, and they all want to keep you informed on their issue. MainStream sends out this email weekly, and sends action alerts during the legislative session. Our forum panelists also have regular email they send on issues. Here are some lists to consider:
- Your legislators all send out email, ask to be put on their lists!
- Kansas Action for Children
- Alliance for a Healthy Kansas
- Kansas Center for Economic Growth
There will be local, municipal, county and school board elections in the Fall of 2017. Then in 2018 statewide races including Governor, state races including your Kansas Representatives, and a multitude of local municipal, county, and school board races. It will be a busy two years, and we need to stay informed so we know just what is happening and what it means.
Today, do more than vote means get informed, and stay informed.