Kansas Leaders Downplay Expectations When It Comes to Social Legislation

Robin Marty

Party moderates seem to be trying to lower the expectations of those hoping 2011 will be a year of conservative social reform in the state.

We’ve already begun pondering the idea that Governor-elect Sam Brownback actually might end up disappointing his new legislative colleagues when it comes to championing social issues in Kansas. Now it seems that even leaders in the Republican party are working to lower expectations of the governor when it comes to pushing bills against abortion, reproductive health and other rightwing redmeat items.

Via KansasCity.com:

“This election was not about social issues. It was about economic issues,” said Andy Wollen, a Lenexa marketing consultant who’s chairman of the moderate Kansas Traditional Republican Majority. “If Republicans dash down the path of social issues — making our culture more conservative — then they’re heading in the wrong direction.”

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The Legislature will open its annual session, also on Jan. 10, with GOP majorities of 31-9 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House.

Republicans picked up 16 seats in the House, and legislators of all philosophies concede it has moved to the right on issues such as abortion, stem cell research and gun rights.

But legislators also don’t see a big philosophical shift in the Senate, where only two seats were filled in special elections and all 40 seats won’t be on the ballot until 2012. While it’s likely to pass some abortion legislation, key leadership jobs will still be held by GOP senators who resist social issues.

As governor and the real leader of the state GOP, Brownback will have to mediate conflicts among Republicans.

It could be tricky. As a U.S. senator, he was a strong opponent of abortion and gay marriage, and his identification with religious conservatives in the past has built expectations that he’ll help them achieve their goals as governor. Yet, as a candidate and governor-elect, he’s warned publicly against overreaching and has made it clear that he’ll emphasize economic issues.

“His No. 1 priority is going to be getting the economy growing again,” said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “The governor-elect isn’t worried about being distracted from his No. 1 priority.”

Steve Cloud, a former Kansas House member from Lenexa who served on the GOP National Committee, said Republicans prospered this year because voters were unhappy with how President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats handled the economy and sense that government spending and the federal debt are out of control.

He said centrist voters supported Obama in ’08 because they were tired of the GOP’s “right-wing” agenda, then switched back to the Republican Party when Obama and his fellow Democrats proved too liberal for them on issues such as health care and the federal economic stimulus.

“If the Republicans in Kansas don’t learn from that and they come back with an avalanche of right-wing issues, then they’re going to push all of the independent and centrist voters back to the Democrats,” Cloud said.

Although there may not be a “big philosophical shift” in the Senate, a big shift may not be entirely necessary to push through legislation once it has been brought to the floor.  The only thing to stop some anti-choice legislation during the last session was a lack of enough votes in the senate to override the governor’s veto.  With a Republican governor in the driver’s seat, a majority is all that is needed, and Brownback could then continue his moderate stance untouched by appearing to champion rightwing social causes.

News Law and Policy

McAuliffe Restores Voting Rights to 13,000 Virginians

Jessica Mason Pieklo

An order issued this week should restore the voting rights to about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people ahead of the November presidential election.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Monday announced he had restored the voting rights of about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people, responding to a Virginia Supreme Court order that had blocked McAuliffe’s more expansive re-enfranchisement order.

A divided Virginia Supreme Court in July struck down an executive order by McAuliffe that restored voting rights to more than 200,000 people who had lost those rights as a result of a criminal conviction. The court said the Democratic governor lacked the constitutional authority to issue an order broadly restoring voting rights, but would need to instead restore rights individually to each person who had applied.

“The process I have announced today fully complies with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before me,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “It also reflects the clear authority the governor possesses to use his own discretion to restore rights of people who have served their time.”

Any person who has been convicted of a felony and is not incarcerated or under court supervision can apply to have their voting rights restored. The voting rights restored this week were for people who had applied before the Virginia Supreme Court blocked McAuliffe’s broader order.

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McAuliffe had promised to personally restore those individual voting rights.

Virginia Republican leaders criticized the move as political and dangerous. House Speaker Bill Howell (R) said in a statement to the Virginian-Pilot that McAuliffe “has restored the rights of some odious criminals.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” Breitbart.com changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”

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