Editor's Mail

Editor ignores risk of porn, need for budget priorities

Rep. Chuck Weber (R-Wichita), 85th District

The recent editorial by Rod Haxton (Defining what is really obscene) is an outstanding example of “ultra-extreme-over-the-top-reactionary-overreach” and the glaring distortions that pervade much thinking in the public square these days. Mr. Haxton is, in a word, wrong on many levels. I will address a few.   

It is of course curious that I am the “ultracon,” yet joined by every other member of the House, save one, in passing a resolution that acknowledges pornography as a public health hazard. Are those who voted for this resolution “ultralibs?” or “ultramods?”

It was gratifying to see mostly Democrats come speak on behalf of the resolution during the initial House floor debate.

The highly charged testimony about the anti-porn resolution heard in Fed and State Committee from parents, teens, police investigators and others stands in stark contrast to the collective “meh” that Mr. Haxton promulgates.

As a former board member of my local Sexual Assault Center, I’ve learned firsthand from law enforcement, prosecutors and sexual assault victim advocates that pornography is indeed a public health hazard closely linked to crimes of sexual assault, child sex abuse, human trafficking, human slavery and more.  

There was a time - perhaps many will recall it - an endless stream of doctors and researchers claimed cigarette smoking was not harmful. I think we all know where that ended up.  

Let’s talk priorities. As the father of a son with disabilities and the caregiver of my Medicaid-assisted mother who we care for in our home, I am ideally positioned as both client and legislator to review and help reform KanCare/Medicaid. 

Securing the current social safety net is my legislative priority. This is where I spend most of my time in Topeka. (Side note - the mentally ill and intellectually disabled are among pornography’s most obscene, hidden victims).

I am leading a bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives to re-fund community-based mental health centers (CMHC’s) in Kansas which have lost $30 million over the past nine years.

I oppose Medicaid expansion, primarily because it will greatly exacerbate an already critically low level of providers (doctors, dentist, etc.) for the truly vulnerable on KanCare/Medicaid - the disabled, the mentally ill, the elderly and pregnant women. We have challenges - Medicaid expansion is not the answer. 

I campaigned on and recently voted for an overturn (rollback) of Medicaid reimbursement cuts to providers.

I supported - on the record and as a member of the Social Services Budget Committee - protection of CIF (tobacco money).  One of the many factual errors (they are too numerous to address) in Mr. Haxton’s hit piece - no CIF Programs have been impacted. (About $7 million was “swept” last year, but no programs were impacted). 

As a member of the KanCare Oversight Committee I spend nearly all of my available time attending forums, researching and reading and talking with healthcare-related stakeholders across the spectrum to make the KanCare system work better. 

Speaking of facts, I didn’t vote for the 2012 tax plan, nor would I have, as it did not address spending.  I’ve never said I would not raise taxes. This last week I was in Topeka (off session) for a day-long budget study and discussion, looking for solutions. Little known fact: 17% of Kansans pay nearly two-thirds of the state income tax revenue. Forty percent of Kansans contribute 1% in state income tax revenue. Advertisers to this newspaper are exempt from paying state sales taxes - much to the benefit of the editor and owner.  How is that fair? I am intensely interested in the “fair share” of tax discussion.  

What is your priority? Another billion dollars for schools?  Close to a billion dollars for roads? Hundreds of millions in KPERS payments? My priority is securing the safety net for the most vulnerable - the disabled, elderly, and mentally ill who are currently on KanCare.      

Even with a massive tax increase, we can’t do it all. Too many Kansans are already facing stiff headwinds to make ends meet. We must be careful before we take more money from the family paycheck. How much more of your money is needed, and what will taxpayers get in return? 

I get it - somehow people think you can say whatever you want if they don’t think or vote your way.  Mr. Haxton’s mind is clearly made up - why confuse him with the facts?  If people wish to have a civil discussion about the many issues facing Kansas, I’m in.

If one wishes to walk in lockstep with other editorial writers in poisoning the well of legitimate issues debate, I’m not on board.

I think - I hope anyway - we might all share a common goal of making Kansas better for our citizens.  I would caution the readers of this newspaper not to succumb to emotion-based, boiler-plate rhetoric like that in the Haxton piece.

Are we all going to agree on policy? We are not. But hopefully we can discuss issues and come to an amicable resolution as we search for the common good.

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Lawmakers must be willing to serve the greater good

Rod Haxton, publisher, The Scott County Record

State Rep. Chuck Weber’s defense of his anti-porn legislation is an apparent attempt to portray himself as being on the front line in the battle against smut.

Instead, Weber has demonstrated an ability to go after low-hanging fruit by passing a resolution declaring porn is bad. How much courage and conviction did it take to get that through the legislature?

First of all, how many lawmakers weren’t going to sign the resolution for fear that some campaign material would appear in mailboxes prior to the next election declaring them unfit for public office?

As you noted, there was one lone dissenting vote. He took a far more courageous stand than you ever could by reminding legislators there is a little thing like the First Amendment and freedom of speech whether we like the form of speech or not.

Secondly, the resolution was completely meaningless. It accomplished nothing.

What next, Chuck? Are you planning a resolution that says teaching math in school is good? But, don’t worry, we wouldn’t expect your amendment to also include a promise to adequately fund education. We understand that someone like yourself has certain principles.

We empathize with your situation regarding your son. We’ve been there - times two. It’s also commendable that you are the caregiver for your mother.

That should provide some additional insight into the needs of Kansans facing similar struggles. It should provide an added level of compassion.

As a result, you say that your priority is a safety net for the most vulnerable. But, given how KanCare has failed to respond to the needs of these individuals and given how the safety net has been cut for thousands of families in poverty, your concern rings pretty hollow.

You further claim that only $7 million was swept from the Childrens Initiative Fund last year and programs were unaffected.

If you’re interested in some facts, here are a few:

According to the Kansas Action for Children, the number of children receiving child care assistance has declined from more than 19,000 in 2006 to less than 13,000 each month. That’s not because of less need, but because of less funding.

In addition, the KAC says that since 2011, when Brownback became governor, more than $100 million has been taken from investments in early childhood education and health.

Russell Child Development Center in Garden City has cut staff which means fewer families are being served. Contrary to what you want to believe, programs are impacted.

These may not be your children, but they are someone’s children, and they matter just as much.

You are also opposed to Medicaid expansion, even as more hospitals are put at financial risk. According to the Kansas Hospital Association, the legislature’s decision not to expand Medicaid has cost Kansas $1.8 billion in federal funding.

That’s a fact you might be interested in considering.

Medicaid expansion might have been enough to keep Mercy Hospital in Independence from closing in 2015.

Republican lawmakers in the region ignored warnings from the KHA and others because listening to them would mean challenging the rhetoric being pushed by their party. It took the closure of a hospital in their backyard for attitudes to change.

Rep. Jim Kelly (R-Independence) said he wasn’t concerned about Medicaid expansion until he found out about the financial struggles of the hospitals in his district.

“Quite frankly, before the shock of the hospital hit me, I was leaning against (Medicaid expansion),” added Rep. Doug Blex (R-Independence).

It’s kind of funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s not my problem until it becomes my problem. The crisis isn’t going to end at the Independence city limits. Medicaid reimbursements are being cited as one of the reasons for the closure of St. Francis Health in Topeka.

“Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott is next on the list,” warns Rep. Adam Lusker (D-Frontenac), making the argument for Medicaid expansion.

Sumner Regional Medical Center in Wellington is also struggling to keep its doors open.

You can’t be willing to address a problem only if, and when, it affects your family and your community.

You’re right, Chuck, my mind is made up. I’ve determined that the state is failing its obligation to its most vulnerable citizens in order to protect the interests of the wealthy few.

And you share in that responsibility.

You act as though our priorities are limited. Choose between schools and roads. Choose between KPERS or a safety net for the most vulnerable.

We don’t have to choose. We’ve been able to satisfy all those priorities in the past and we can do it again with a responsible tax policy and lawmakers who understand their obligation to serve the greater good.

If you aren’t willing to look beyond your own special interests and consider what’s necessary to make this a better state for everyone, then you’re in Topeka for the wrong reasons.

Anyone can go after the low-hanging fruit. It takes leadership to tackle the real issues facing our state.

 

User Comments

  • With You Rod

    "I'm with you Rod on this subject. It doesn't seem to matter what part of the state these representatives live in, they are only doing what their party dollars tells them and most of the time it is against anything good or beneficial to the people in this state. I'm beyond sick of these people who keep getting elected by the no-nothings in this state."

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