Martin Hawver
Guest Columnist
Two may-turn-out-to-be interesting things happened at the Statehouse last week—little twists that don’t easily fit into the regular newspaper stories—that you ought to know about.
One was a fairly dramatic change in welfare policy by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services; the other was one of those learning experiences by opponents of most things that Gov. Sam Brownback likes from people who are generally Brownback fans.
The welfare issue: Tightening rules for qualification for welfare and the amount of public support recipients receive. The announcement—another of those late-Friday missives from SRS Secretary Rod Siedlecki—makes a significant change in computing the income of a poor household that needs state assistance. One part of the rules would include the income of live-in but not-married boyfriends and girlfriends in computing just how much state assistance the household needs to take care of its children in a manner that Kansans want.
That sounds reasonable to most Kansans, but you almost have to wonder why it took nine months of a new administration to take that step…and if it turns out to be a sensible reallocation of tight budget money to the state’s poor you have to wonder why it wasn’t done years ago.
Is it part of the SRS-Brownback administration push for Kansans to marry? Might be. Suddenly, the unmarrieds living together will qualify for less state money. It might just pencil out for some households to go ahead and marry, there being no fiscal advantage in arrangements that the administration has so far avoided calling “living in sin.”
Or, it might be read as a heavy-handed attempt to force couples into marriage.
What we’ll be waiting for is how this works with same-sex households. Hmmm…
Second of those might-be-interesting Statehouse events: A rally that was in favor of about everything that Brownback isn’t.
Those of us who hang out at the Statehouse have seen a summer and fall of anti-Brownback single-issue rallies. They’re, separately, pro-choice, pro-school finance spending increase, pro-Kansas Arts Commission, pro-gay marriage. Those rallies drew small crowds.
But last week was the first time that anti-Brownbackers pulled together a wide range of groups with distinct interests to bulk up the crowd on the Statehouse steps. It’s the mirror image of the TEA Party events we’ve seen around the state that often draw big, newsworthy crowds.
The TEA Party approach: Let ‘em all in, the anti-welfare, anti-tax, anti-immigration, anti-gay marriage, and probably anti-Daylight Saving Time folks, to bulk up the crowd and mingle and protest.
Friday, a Lawrence-based (of course) group called Kansans United in Voice and Spirit played the TEA Party card with diverse rallyists who like choice, the arts, school funding, separation of church and state, and most of the liberal causes you can quickly think of.
Similar to TEA Party events where people mingle and learn new issues to be conservative about, the Friday crowd mingled, learned new things that Brownback likes that they don’t, and probably made friendships or at least found new blogs to watch.
It was a lesson on crowd-building for moderates and liberals…that they learned from conservatives…
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