Thursday, March 10, 2016

We're So Not In Kansas Anymore

Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback
It's one thing to listen to the leading Republican candidates talk about abstract campaign promises to deploy tactical nuclear weapons against ISIS to see "if sand can glow in the dark" , make the U.S. military torture people, or construct a big wall along the southern border with Mexico.

But if you really want to get an idea of the kind of America that extremist Republicans have in mind should they win the White House and retain control of both houses of Congress, look no further than the great state of Kansas.

Hyper-conservative 2nd-term Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and his Republican-majority state legislature have come under fire in recent years for trying to create a bizarre "conservative utopia-slash Tea Party lab experiment" which has plunged the state economy to the brink of turmoil and adversely affected the lives of tens of thousands of Kansas citizens.

Brownback and his cronies have used their power to slash state spending on education, social programs (like their bizarre restrictions on how welfare recipients can spend their money) and basic government services to finance outrageous tax cuts for guess who?

The tiny fraction of the population made up by the wealthiest folks in the state.

Most recently the mad scientists running the state legislature were up in arms after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that severe cuts to the education budget they'd inserted into the budget had disproportionately and unfairly affected schools in the state's poorest districts - leaving at-risk school districts underfunded in violation of state mandates on educational funding.

After lawyers filed suit on behalf of local school boards, the state Supreme Court told the legislature it has until June 30th to revise budget expenditures to restore millions in public school funding back to the poorest schools.

Republican Kansas State Senator Mitch Holmes
In response to that ruling, and other court rulings on hot-button conservative issues like abortion, Kansas Republican lawmakers are trying to pass Senate Bill 439, a law that would radically expand the ability of state legislators to impeach judges

As the editorial board of the Kansas City Star noted in an op-ed, on Tuesday, even though Kansas legislators already have the authority to impeach judges for improper behavior or conduct, Senate Bill 439 would authorize lawmakers to impeach judges for striking down legislation passed by the legislature.

Why undermine the basic system of checks and balances between the legislative and judicial branches in Kansas?

As the author of the bill, Kansas state senator Mitch Holmes (pictured above) told the Associated Press, "I believe the court has a tremendous problem with overreach."

Now let me just repeat that because I'm still trying to wrap my head around it myself after reading about this on DailyKos - Republican legislators in Kansas want to be able to impeach state Supreme Court justices who rule against legislation they pass; even if it violates the state constitution.

It's the kind of reprehensible abuse of political power concocted by the right-wing brain trust at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that Tea Partiers like Senator Ted Cruz salivate over - remember his efforts to single-handedly shut down the federal government?

Like voter repression and illegal redistricting, Kansas Senate Bill 439 is part of the Republican party's vast efforts to allow a numerical (and shrinking) political minority to maintain control of state and national government - even if it means tramping on ethics, decency and the basic foundations of Democracy.

Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was right a few weeks ago when he said that the GOP has gone "bat shit crazy".

Nowhere more so than Kansas.

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