Moderate Leadership Needed

There is a little over one week left of the Kansas Legislature's break before the veto session. It is becoming more apparent by the day that the session will contain more than veto work, however. You know already that there will be a vote to bring Medicaid Expansion out of committee in the Senate. Now, there are rumblings that the vetoed tax bill for which Legislative Leadership could not muster support, may be back in some form. Of course budget bills remain outstanding, without which Kansas cannot, by law, begin the new fiscal year on July 1, 2019.

One item resolved, or at least kicked down the road past this veto session, is education funding. That issue has been presented to the Kansas Supreme Court. We expect to hear more about in late July, before the new school year begins.

During these slow times, there has been some jockeying by politicians, mostly looking ahead to 2020. Senate President Susan Wagle has made waves in Washington ahead of an expected run for US Senate. The Kansas GOP is trying to remove the Governor's power to appoint vacant statewide positions, as the State Treasurer, among others, is considering a run for US Senate, too.

But these are slow moments, so we thought we'd revisit two points we made last fall, in the interest of generating some discussion on what we think is an important topic.

Many consider the label "moderate" to be one of political position. We do not. We see it as a description of approach, the antithesis, if you will, of "extremist." A moderate is someone who, regardless of party, is willing to acknowledge that others hold legitimate viewpoints, and feel just as passionately about them. A moderate is someone who seeks to move the country, the state, or their community forward, even if it is through compromise. A moderate will fight for their ideals but refuses to burn all the bridges on the way.

We celebrate moderates at the MainStream Coalition.

What many mean when they say "moderate" is, instead, "centrist." There are certainly moderate liberals and moderate conservatives. There are, of course, true centrists whose positions on the issues fall between the other two. At MainStream, we welcome liberals, centrists, and conservatives.

Now, combine this with another assertion we made earlier this year, that the Leadership of the Kansas Legislature is out of line on these issues with the body they lead. Using data from our voting scorecard, we illustrated how the average rating of Leadership was much lower than that of the body as a whole. Senate Leadership stood at 25% with MainStream, while Senate Republicans came in at 35%. House Leadership was at 17% with MainStream, while House Republicans stood at 38%.

In our preliminary data from the current session (we'll publish our voting scorecard at the end of the session, as there are still some potential votes to go) it appears that Leadership in the House has gotten more out of line with our positions, while Senate Leadership has not changed much. Both chambers have gotten more out of line (as we expected after the election). Leadership is still not in step with the bodies they lead.

What are we getting at?

It's not hard to suggest that Leadership is more extremist than the chambers they lead, given numerous instances this session of refusal to consider bills the chambers support. Medicaid Expansion is the perfect example, where House Leadership refused to even hear a bill in committee, much less on the floor, but when brought there by other means, the bill passed with a good deal of support. This is playing out again in the Senate, where once again Leadership turned a blind eye to what Kansans want, and only a procedural move has allowed a vote to take place. That vote will occur when the Legislature reconvenes in May.

Legislative Leadership in the Kansas House and Senate are out of line with the positions held by the elected legislators they lead, and one can presume, with the Kansans who elected those legislators.

That's the perfect example of what we mean when we talk about "extremists." Someone who refuses to acknowledge the position of Kansans, and holds to their position without discussion or compromise.

Contrast that to our current Governor, a Democrat elected by a majority in a state that is majority Republican. She has come to the table with compromise after compromise, on budget, on taxes, on education, on health care...

You don't get to vote for legislators again until 2020, but we urge you to keep paying attention, and vote in 2019, this August and November, for those people who will become future legislators, the mayors, council people, and board members.

Do more than vote.

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