All Politics are Local

It is an old saw that all politics are local. It holds that, because voters vote on what matters to them (their backyard, usually) then the epicenter of political change begins in that backyard. It is why Presidential contenders eat corn dogs at state fairs.

It is also held widely that the conservative side of the aisle is a strong proponent of local politics, that they chafe against anything that smells of "Federal control," and willingly rise up against the unjust yoke of Big Government.

How ironic then, that the fundamentalist GOP in the Kansas Legislature should work so hard to put that same yoke around the necks of communities and counties in Kansas. The examples are legion, from statewide gun laws that prohibit cities from enacting laws suitable to their residents, to statewide prohibitions on school districts managing their own curriculum needs.

Last week brought two more examples. In HB 2595, the Kansas House sought to prohibit local governments from enacting "nutrition" laws more stringent than statewide regulations. Thus, cities like Lawrence, whose voters have elected city officials who have enacted anti-junk food laws in school vending machines, must roll that back and let the high-fat, high-sugar foods back in. The people in Lawrence spoke, and the Kansas Legislature have turned their back, fingers in their ears.

The second bill, HB 2576, would prohibit local governments from enacting employee regulation and wage laws that are stricter than Kansas law. There was a spirited, if one-sided, debate about raising the state's minimum wage, but in the end the amendment was soundly defeated in favor of "letting the market decide." The final bill, put forward for passage, would prevent any local government from enacting a local minimum wage that was higher than Kansas law. Wyandotte County has a history of raising the minimum wage requirements, actions taken by officials elected by the people of Wyandotte County. Again, the people spoke, and the Kansas Legislature has turned a deaf ear.

The examples get even more extreme when you shift from enacting law for everyone, to enacting morality for everyone. Just this session we have seen laws trying to curtail fact-based, health-focused sexual education; funding religious schooling with public money; allowing tax-funded discrimination based on religious faith; outing transgendered children in public schools; and continued attempts to control women's private health decisions.

The fault in the phrase, "All Politics is Local," is that it only holds true in election years.

This, however, is an election year.

Make politics local, get informed, get involved, and do more than vote.

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