CC by-nc-sa 2.0 Justin in SD
Issues, SEK

If I Were a Betting Man

On the 24th, news came out of Cherokee County of another group interested in petitioning the state for the construction of a casino in southeastern Kansas. They join two other projects also underway that are making similar proposals for Crawford County. This is interesting, because in the end, only one project can proceed – not all three. Kansas is divided into four “gaming zones,” and each zone can only have one casino that is under the leadership (in various weird and bureaucratic ways) of the Kansas Lottery Commission. The SEK gaming zone is the last one without a  casino operating in it.

This is, mostly, good news for SEK. While I myself am not much of a gambler, I’m a big fan of the dining establishments that frequently accompany them, not to mention the concerts. I’m also a supporter of letting people game with their money if that’s what they feel the need to do. And with Amazon leaving Montgomery County, having a casino built in the area will give a huge boost to the job and tax pool in the entire area. Lord knows we can use all the revenue flow we can get these days. So, a whole lot of upside to this process. Continue reading

National, Politics

Executive Orders and You

Obama and Bush have both come under serious fire in the past 14 years because of their use of executive orders. Agree or disagree with their motives, but it’s important to remember that the Constitution itself grants no such power to the president. Instead, presidents have used the act under the idea that it’s existence is implied by other wording in the Constitution. This does make some sense, but only as it applies to the context of the Constitution in which it’s read. For instance, the idea is that the president can issue directives – to his branch – to see that the laws passed by Congress are enforced. Basically, it’s because simply administrative and procedural processes don’t necessarily need the full power of a law to back them (simple example – directing an office to put Documents A in File Cabinet Y and Documents B in File Cabinet Z). People have limited time, so it’s prudent to make sure he has the power to say “spend more time on X, not Y,” for instance.

A good example is actually one of Obama’s most recent ones: EO13681 (Improving the Security of Consumer Financial Transactions). In theory, good executive orders are the ones you never hear about, because they can’t and shouldn’t affect citizens directly. In this case, Obama is telling the offices they need to make sure they’re using payment transaction processing with better security. That’s not something you need an act of Congress for. It’s just the President saying “we need to make sure we’re doing the best we can when taking money from people for things.” Easy.

I would argue that the current usage in the cases folks are up in arms about is far from the original intent, implied or not, however. The idea was that the president was in charge of seeing that laws were faithfully executed with respect to the Constitution. He was Chief Executive of the government, e.g. making sure things could be executed. Neat how those words – executive and execute – have the same root. He could be a mouthpiece, and he could raise issues when a passed law was being inconsistently enforced, for instance. Every president has done it, but Washington creating the presidential cabinet and directing enforcement of Native American treaties is pretty blasé business by comparison (fun fact, the term “executive order” didn’t come into use until 1862). But the idea that executive orders have the power to just “make law happen” is mostly just an invention sent to us by DC. And there are a troubling number of cases where this issue is crossing far too fine a line.

Regardless of the orders’ intent, it’s one more case where the water is muddied by politicians exercising power and authority they don’t really have when they should be more time adhering to the letter of the law, not pushing the envelope with what they can get away with. Even though you might agree with Obama’s intent and efforts via executive orders, look very carefully at exactly how those orders are crafted. And similarly, remember how up in arms you were with some of Bush’s executive orders. Or vice-versa if you’re Republican. You didn’t bat an eye while Bush Jr. issued order after order (To date, 51% more than Obama has ordered), but you’re fighting Obama tooth and nail over it. Maintain perspective, and hold them all to the same standard.

(Photo Credit: CC by 2.0 U.S. Army)


The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
George Washington, September 19, 1796

Washington on Party Politics

CC by 2.0 Alan Cleaver
Kansas, Politics

The Power of the Purse

Exciting news coming out of Topeka this week, as a panel of economists have determined that through 2016, Kansas is expected to have nearly a billion dollar shortfall. Naturally, Democrats are dancing in the streets declaring this to be evidence of Brownback’s epic failure in tax policy. Administration Republicans are stoically optimistic, confident that good times are coming, and in the mean time see being forced to scale back as A Good Thing™. “Living within our means,” they call it. The reality is, the Republicans are more right than wrong in the matter. The budget isn’t nearly so simple as “fire bad, tree pretty.”

They certainly are far from right though, too. The trick is in how we, as a state, find opportunity in the position we are in. One of the important lessons in Buddhism is the idea that good and bad are very fluid, relative concepts. The worst event in your life can simultaneously be the catalyst for the best. Being put under financial stress gives us a great opportunity to do work that we otherwise don’t (or won’t) do when our budget is flush. Rather than making a mockery of Brownback’s failings in this area, or complaining about how hard the next four years will be, Democrats should be focusing on how to find success strategies within the scaffolding available. If Brownback and company truly fail Kansas, we’re all hurt by it. That leaves only room for constructive countermoves, not criticism and vitriol. As a result, my patience for the “Brownback is destroying Kansas” troupe is somewhat limited. Complain less, do more.

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CC by 2.0 Randy Heinitz
Kansas, Politics

It’s All About the Benjamins

Last Tuesday, Kansans agreed – by an overwhelming margin – to amend our state constitution to include language that will allow charitable organizations to hold raffles for fundraising. What? Raffles were illegal in Kansas? Yes, they were. Like running a pot in a fantasy football league, it was considered a form of illegal gambling. Though the state obviously wasn’t beating down folks’ doors over the matter, they wanted to codify approval of the practice. And that’s A Good Thing™, right? Well, not so fast. When it comes to all things government, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. To be upfront, I was one of the 25% of people that voted no on the issue, and it’s not because I don’t want churches to be able to raise money to fix their roof. The problem wasn’t the principle, it was the policy; in my mind it would be much harder to authorize that policy and then scale it back to protect the principle rather than just draft a better policy.

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