The Hutchinson News, Dec. 3
Judging by the explosion of horizontal oil and gas drilling in southern Kansas, our state doesn't have a problem with business-friendliness. Moreover, claims that oil and gas drilling in the U.S. is restrictive are misleading, to say the least.
More than 500 people attended a daylong conference in Hutchinson on Tuesday, including Gov. Sam Brownback and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp of this district. Clearly, the oil and gas industry is expanding rapidly thanks to new drilling technology and Kansas' Mississippian Lime Play oil and gas formation.
Year to date, the state has received nearly 7,000 "intent to drill" notices, up from 4,600 for all of last year.
Producers use a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing - breaking up the rock formations underground with a pressurized, chemically treated sand-and-water mixture - to tap into pockets of oil and gas that would be difficult to extract using conventional vertical drilling.
While exciting for the potential to mine considerably more oil and gas domestically, the technology is controversial. The jury still is out on whether the process is safe for the environment, namely groundwater. It is water-intensive, and groundwater resources are an issue especially in the midst of a serious two-year drought here. Hydraulic fracturing even has raised concerns about the potential to create seismic instability - in other words, earthquakes.
Kansas doesn't seem too worried about these concerns.
"Of all the places we've got operations, not many are as industry-friendly as Kansas," said David Todd, vice president of production for Shell Exploration, which has more than 600,000 acres leased in nine counties in Kansas.
Todd also told the Hutchinson conference that drilling in Kansas costs about a third of what it does in the Bakken formation in North Dakota, another hot bed for horizontal oil and gas drilling.
State leaders would be wise to worry less about the business-friendliness of Kansas, which clearly isn't a problem for oil and gas producers, and exercise a little more scrutiny on the methods being used, to ensure the safety of groundwater and the security of all the state's natural resources.
The Hays Daily News, Dec. 2
When Kris Kobach was campaigning for Kansas Secretary of State two years ago, his top priority was combatting voter fraud. Despite the lack of statistical evidence to support his position, Kansans voted for him in overwhelming fashion. Armed with the lopsided victory, Kobach went about "fixing" the problem.
The problem, as has been well-reported, was that 75 cases of voter fraud had been reported between 1998 and 2008. Zero convictions were obtained, but Kobach believed that was because the cases were not pursued vigorously enough. He also believed the 75 were just the tip of the iceberg.
The state's top elections official likened the Sunflower State to Georgia, as both have significant meatpacking operations and as such both have sizable populations of aliens. And, since Georgia had "identified 2,148 individuals who had attempted to register to vote and who were likely aliens," Kansas likely had the same problem.
Kobach has been fixated on illegal immigrants most of his career. In a letter written to this newspaper in 2010, Kobach noted: "Every time an alien casts a vote in an election, he cancels out the legitimate vote of a U.S. citizen. How many cases is enough to demand action? I'd say that even one alien voting is too many."
As more than a couple of area readers affirmed via their own letters, Kobach was on the right path. State lawmakers felt the same way, and approved the secretary of state's stringent voter ID law. This year's elections were the first for Kansans to show official picture identification at the polls before being allowed to vote.
With results from the general election certified this past week, it strikes us as a good time to assess the effects -- for better or worse.
Zero reports of voter fraud were documented, although Kobach said it might be a few more weeks before problems such as individuals voting in two states would surface. The zero number does not surprise us, as the 75 cases reported during that 10-year period amounts to 0.0009 percent of some 8 million votes cast.
There were 838 voters forced to cast provisional ballots in the Nov. 6 election because they did not have proper photo ID. Of those, Kobach said 306 returned later with their IDs and their ballots were counted. So that means 532 registered Kansas voters were ignored, a number Kobach is just fine with.
"I think the photo ID requirements are going very smoothly, in fact smother than I expected," Kobach said.
For an official supposedly concerned with not disenfranchising even one citizen of Kansas, we're stunned Kobach doesn't mind that 532 Kansas citizens didn't have their votes counted.
Not that they would have made a difference this year. Most contests statewide were lopsided affairs.
That shouldn't be the point. Because of Kobach's irrational approach to his constitutional duties, 532 Kansans were denied their most fundamental right as citizens in order to prevent zero aliens from casting an illegal ballot.
Secretary Kobach's paranoia is not resulting in more legitimate elections. Instead, he's making a mockery of the office. Voter fraud is not taking place at the polls, it's taking place in Topeka.
The Wichita Eagle, Nov. 28
Overhaul immigration system
U.S. lawmakers need to seize the opportunity to reform our nation's dysfunctional immigration system. Meanwhile, Kansas lawmakers need to resist efforts by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to push our state in the wrong direction on immigration.
The 2012 presidential election has caused many Republicans to rethink their hard-line stance on immigration. The Latino vote was key to President Obama's re-election, and Mitt Romney's support of the "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants (a policy championed by Kobach) helped drive Hispanics to the Democratic Party in record numbers.
As a result, a number of GOP lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Even firebrand conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity said he has "evolved" on the immigration issue and now supports a pathway to citizenship.
House Republicans plan to vote this week on legislation that would expand visas for foreign students in science and technology. Some GOP senators are proposing a variation of the DREAM Act aimed at children of illegal immigrants. Those could be positive changes, but lawmakers also need to take bigger reform steps.
For example, former President Bush proposed a good reform plan in 2006 that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already living in the United States and create a temporary worker program, as well as increase border security and workplace enforcement. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed a similar reform in 2010.
It's been clear for many years that our nation's immigration system needs overhaul, but many lawmakers have refused to consider measures other than increasing border security and making life as miserable as possible for illegal immigrants. The new openness of GOP leaders to comprehensive reform is an opportunity that Congress must not squander.
But while national leaders are moving constructively forward, Kobach wants Kansas to move backward.
Kobach has tried in the past to get Kansas to repeal its law allowing the qualifying children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Kansas public universities. He thinks he may now have the votes needed to revoke the law.
Kansas so far hasn't passed aggressive law enforcement measures similar to those that Kobach helped author for Arizona and Alabama. Such legislation also might now be in play for Kansas.
The key to keeping the state from sliding backward is Gov. Sam Brownback. When he was in the U.S. Senate, Brownback supported comprehensive immigration reform and the humane treatment of immigrants before backing away from the issue when he ran for president.
Since becoming governor, Brownback hasn't said much about immigration, other than that he thinks it is primarily a federal issue. Brownback needs to show more leadership and make it clear that Kobach's policies aren't right for Kansas or America.
The Topeka Capital-Journal, Nov. 28
Gov. Sam Brownback has launched a Governor's Weight Loss Challenge to encourage Kansans to get healthier and work together to reduce the state's obesity rate.
It is a laudable goal and it's significant that Brownback has stepped to the forefront and plans to participate by leading a five-member team in the challenge. Obesity is a major health concern in Kansas and across the United States — reports indicate more than two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children are overweight or obese — and all efforts to draw attention to the problem and address it with action are welcomed.
The Governor's Weight Loss Challenge is scheduled to run from Jan. 15 through May 15, during which five-member teams of state employees will compete to lose the most percentage weight, which, hopefully, the participants will keep off.
A similar program conducted in Topeka this year — Get Fit Topeka Style — challenged 20 participants to lose weight. At the end of the program, a six-month challenge sponsored by Jayhawk Pharmacy and Patient Supply, the competitors had shed a total of 604 pounds with the assistance of trainers, dietitians and monitoring by medical professionals.
Members of the group were evaluated by percent of weight lost, percent of inches lost, and improvement in cholesterol, lipids, blood sugar readings, blood pressure and discontinuation of medications related to obesity. Winners were named in the categories of top female contestant, top male contestant and top team.
Get Fit Topeka Style was touted as an inaugural event, and it's hoped it will be continued. All who participated — contestants, trainers, dietitians, medical staff and sponsors — deserve credit for showing Topekans what can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time to improve their health and fitness.
While the governor's primary challenge is to state employees, Brownback is encouraging teams of people who don't work for the state to participate.
A website, at www.weightloss.ks.gov, is available to track the progress of each team in the competition. The website is available to nonstate groups who want to take up the challenge, although they won't be eligible for prizes. Teams can begin registering Dec. 17 on the website.
Brownback has promised prizes to the top two teams of state employees who lose the greatest total percentage of weight over the four-month challenge. Other teams of state employees who beat the governor's team will be entered in a drawing to win prizes.
Just how difficult it will be to beat Brownback's team is unknown. He says he will announce the other members of his team in December. If they all are as fit as the governor appears to be, the team might not have a lot of weight to shed.
Regardless, the challenge is an excellent way to encourage Kansans to focus on their health.