Things are getting confusing in the Kingdom of Sam.
Only a week or so ago Gov. Sam Brownback was returning a $31.5 million federal grant that was to help Kansas design a health insurance exchange where small businesses and consumers would shop for a plan that best meets their needs.
Never mind that a number of citizens have put in hours of work brainstorming what an exchange should look like. Or that the state’s elected insurance commissioner and a number of key legislatures were fully behind the project. Or that the rejected federal money was also being used for technology to make the state’s Medicaid program more efficient.
Kansas has to cut the cord with Washington, says King Sam. “There is much uncertainty surrounding the ability of the federal government to meet its already budgeted future spending obligations,” he opined. “Every state should be preparing for fewer federal resources, not more.”
But a few days later, Brownback’s administration was explaining why it is applying for a $6.6 million federal grant over three years to promote marriage. The marriage grant is OK, it seems, because strengthening marriages decreases child poverty.
So does making health care accessible and affordable, but never mind that either. Reducing child poverty is Brownback’s stated top priority, but all paths to that goal must meet the governor’s political and ideological litmus tests.
Then there’s the response Brownback’s office put forth to the news that yet another lawsuit has been filed in protest over the spate of anti-abortion bills that King Sam signed into law in his first term in office.
This one, by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, protests a law that tells health insurance companies they can’t include coverage for abortion in their comprehensive plans.
“There seems to be a pattern here of suing voters when they express their preferences through elections,” said Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback’s spokeswoman.
“Those who fail at the ballot box are turning to the courts to advance their agenda. We will uphold the law as written by the people who express their sovereignty through their elected representatives.”
First of all, the law in question was written by conservative Republicans who control the Legislature, not the people of Kansas themselves.
And beyond that, the U.S. system of checks and balances allows for a judiciary so that citizens can challenge laws written by elected officials that may be unconstitutional.
Brownback knows this very well. He is super enthusiastic about Kansas’ participation in a lawsuit challenging a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires everyone to purchase health insurance, starting in 2014.
Like it or not — and Brownback emphatically does not — the health care law was passed by a majority of the people’s elected representatives in Congress. But in this case he’s fine with “turning to the courts to advance (his) agenda.”
The lawsuit over the abortion restriction on insurance companies brings to mind another question. Whatever happened to The Repealer?
Upon taking office, Brownback announced he was creating an office to hunt out laws and regulations that intrude on private citizens and businesses. The designated repealer, Dennis Taylor, told a group during a recent luncheon in Wichita that he expects to unveil about 300 repeal recommendations soon.
Presumably, the new restriction telling insurance companies they can’t cover abortion if they want to will not be on the list.
Yes, it’s hard to keep track of everything going on in the Kingdom of Sam, but a few patterns are emerging.
Federal aid is unwelcome, except when it isn’t. Laws passed by elected representatives are good, except when they’re bad. Onerous restrictions must go, unless they must stay.
In the Kingdom of Sam, the governor is always right. Except when he isn’t?