Thursday, November 20, 2014

HAWVER: Is it campaign season already?

By MARTIN HAWVER, At the Rail | 8/26/2013

This is the week that ... hold your breath ... members of the Kansas Legislature start thinking in earnest about just how — or whether — to make political points during the special session of the Legislature that starts next week.

Do they propose to amend that fix for the state’s “Hard-50” murder sentence that the U.S. Supreme Court says is unconstitutional because it allows a judge, not the jury, to decide whether the standard 25-year sentence can be doubled to 50 because of aggravating circumstances in the commission of the crime?

This is the week that ... hold your breath ... members of the Kansas Legislature start thinking in earnest about just how — or whether — to make political points during the special session of the Legislature that starts next week.

Do they propose to amend that fix for the state’s “Hard-50” murder sentence that the U.S. Supreme Court says is unconstitutional because it allows a judge, not the jury, to decide whether the standard 25-year sentence can be doubled to 50 because of aggravating circumstances in the commission of the crime?

Do they let the Special Committee on Judiciary — made up of House and Senate members — put the microscope to Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s proposed fix for the problem, then quickly pass it and head home in maybe two (not the governor’s suggestion of three) days?

Oh, there are political points to be made — or lost — here.

Long speeches that all come down to “tough on crime,” proposed amendments that might eliminate the death penalty that hasn’t been used in 40 or more years, or maybe just sitting quietly and voting yes and heading for the door so they can campaign on “getting business done.”

There are political points to be made starting about now (yes, the 2014 campaign season is under way) — bullet-points on those campaign palmcards that we’ll get at parades next year or maybe see carefully threaded between the screen and the door jamb.

Meanwhile, as legislators are considering how to play this special session that starts the day after Labor Day, there’s State Treasurer Ron Estes, who won’t get even a mention because, well, he doesn’t send murderers to prison.

So, with just a year before the next election, he’s come up with a low-key public relations move of his own ... a new, pretty interesting-looking blog for his office: http://kstreasurer.com/

Now, that’s a step or two down the political excitement scale, but remember, state treasurers don’t get famous for doing their job nicely. They just make the headlines when something goes wrong. Anyone remember the former state treasurer, who later became governor, (Joan Finney) who had a $15,000 check blow away while it was being carried to her office?

Well, since Estes now keeps state checks out of the wind, he works with what he’s got. A lot of information about money: The state’s and, probably more politically important in a coming campaign, ours.

Interestingly, Estes is promising a weekly rundown of the top 10 unclaimed properties of each county — money that most of us have forgotten or didn’t know we were given or eligible for. It will be one county a week, starting with Allen County, on the “Treasurer’s Top 10 Tuesdays.” Other days — “Money Matters Mondays,” “Back to the Future Wednesdays,” etc. — will look at debt management, higher education savings accounts and so forth. So far, on a poll on the blog asking Kansans which day’s information they are most anticipating, the Tuesday segment is winning.

Now, we’re thinking that looking at the unclaimed property tips is a pretty good use of time by legislators who have time on their hands during the special session (and after the special session, when they ramp up scouring for votes) ... looking to see whether they have constituents who have money coming to them.

But we’re also wondering, if they find a constituent with money due to them, whether they are going to mention Estes’ name when they make that call from their House and Senate floor phones.

Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. Visit his website at www.hawvernews.com

comments powered by Disqus