Giving up a bit of freedom today: Expanding the intrusiveness of government which reducing the opportunity for citizens to express their wishes at the ballot box

TRACKSIDE © by John DíAloia Jr.

February 18, 2003

How can we give up a bit of freedom today? We can let politicians concentrate power unto themselves, reduce the opportunity citizens have to express their wishes at the ballot box, and expand the intrusiveness of government. This is exactly what the Governor, her cohorts, and the statists in the Kansas Senate are trying to accomplish. A flurry of introduced bills this past week, coupled with an executive reorganization order signed by the Governor, illustrates the attempt.

Where to start. Letís start with Senate Bill 220, introduced by a Democratic senator. The bill abolishes the elected offices of State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner, and transfers their responsibilities to the Department of Administration. (Please, no snide remarks about the efficacy of these offices.) Can the legislature eliminate an elective office? But of course. The two offices were created by law - they donít appear in the State Constitution - and they can be abolished by law. Should SB220 survive, the Governor, with a stroke of the pen, would be eliminating two elected offices that provide the electorate the ability to place opposition party officers in the governorís administration, no matter who the governor. By signing SB220, the Governor would be eliminating two opportunities for citizens to be heard while at the same time increasing the suzerainty of the Department of Administration, a department closely aligned with the Governorís office.

The same senator introduced SB217, transferring the powers and duties of the Governmental Ethics Committee to the Secretary of State. As noted by one citizen, this puts the fox guarding the chickens. The person who is supposed to operate an unbiased elections system, devoid of any political taint, would be given the ability to judge on whether or not the ethics of elected officials and candidates are in accordance with the Byzantine ethics laws and regulations. What an opportunity for mischief for those in power. Then there is SB 212, a bill that criminalizes campaign rhetoric which has been recognized as political free speech since day one of our Republic, but that is another story.

The Governor signed Executive Reorganization Order #30 which abolishes the Division of Housing within the Department of Commerce and Housing and transfers the title and responsibilities to the Kansas Development Finance Authority. The Governor is within her job description to make the transfer if she believes that such a move would enhance the operation and efficiency of state government. (The State Constitution gives either house authority to kill the order by a majority vote within 60 days of the orderís date.) What makes this change suspect is that it sets in motion a forecast by an astute political observer about the Governorís governance strategy. The forecast was that she did not press for major spending and tax increases in her budget because the intent was to use the broad bonding powers of the KDFA - and expand the powers through legislation - to spread borrowed money around to favored constituencies. Such spending would not show up as state expenditures, but ultimately, the taxpayers would be on the hook. The forecast gained credibility with the introduction of SB222 which gives the KDFA the authority to get into the business of providing mortgages directly to "moderate" income families with the agency allowed to define "moderate." Combine ERO#30 and SB222, and you have the state being set up to be in direct competition with private sector mortgage providers and be looked upon with regularity as a source of money. Taxpayers are being set up for future tax demands. It will be interesting to see what other spending and bonding authorities politicians try to give to KDFA as a funding source for state spending that would not otherwise make it through the appropriations process.

And how is this one for giving up freedom. The Kansas Bill of Rights, Article 7, Religious Liberty, states that "The rights to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; ... nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, ..." SB186 ignores this restriction, directly exerting control over and interference in what is clearly the practice of religion. SB186 states that ordained ministers have a legal duty to inform the authorities if they suspect child abuse or neglect as a result of their penitential communications with a person. This bill makes ministers carrying out their sacramental responsibilities, responsibilities undertaken "according to the dictates of conscience" and with the expectation of confidentiality stated in Kansas law and the protection of the Kansas Constitution, snitches for state government.

See you Trackside.


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