Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Lawrence Journal-World. November 6, 2021.

Editorial: Kelly is wrong about vaccine mandates on multiple counts

Here’s an experiment for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who recently criticized vaccine mandates as strategies that “tend not to work” in Kansas: Cancel the state-issued mandates for school children to be vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella.

Then, wait a couple of years and see if the percentage of vaccinated children in Kansas public schools has declined. Don’t kid yourself; school populations would be less vaccinated. Those mandates have been in place for decades, and they work.

Kelly knows that. She also knows that when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, mandates work too. New York City firefighters, a group that has vocally opposed that city’s mandate, have seen vaccinations increase by 19 percentage points since the start of the mandate. Thousands last weekend alone got the shot, motivated by the mandate.

And here’s a question for Kelly: Do COVID tests also not work? Remember, President Joe Biden’s mandate for private employers of 100 or more employees doesn’t require vaccination. It gives people who don’t want to get vaccinated the option to get tested every week. Those tests work, don’t they, Governor? There’s value in trying to figure out who has the virus and who doesn’t, isn’t there?

Kelly is just playing politics, which is allowed when you are running for governor. She’s just not playing it very well. It should be well understood that Kelly is going to be an underdog for reelection as long as she is running against someone other than Kris Kobach. But she has a path to victory. It is such: 1. Work like heck to beat the virus and then celebrate the normalcy that has returned to our lives. 2.Tout the impressive gains in new business and major investments from Kansas companies that have happened on her watch. There is a success story there. 3. Propose a big tax cut. Better than expected tax revenues and gobs of federal money make it feasible.

Instead of playing that hand, Kelly now is trying to convince voters that she doesn’t believe in mandates? She’s already tied to mask mandates from earlier in her term. Is she going to do some sort of public contortion about why she would choose a mask mandate over a vaccine mandate? That doesn’t seem sensible.

Thus far, her strategy seems to be that Kansas has this figured out and it is unfair and frustrating for the federal government to now be stepping in. Really? Kansas’ vaccination rate is well below the national average. Don’t tout that system, Governor. It stinks.

Of course, we also are at a moment where we need to think beyond political games. The worst aspect of Kelly’s negative comments about vaccine mandates is that such comments are dangerous for humanity.

COVID-19 is bad. It has created too many needless deaths. But don’t fool yourself into believing that we are competing against biology’s A-team. We aren’t. Biology can throw a much deadlier, more contagious virus at us. (Let’s hope that COVID-19 doesn’t mutate into such a virus as we allow it to stick around.) We can never know when biology will throw that virus at us. But when that day comes, no responsible government should sit by and tell the population that it is their personal choice whether to get a vaccine that can stave off extinction.

Of course, Kelly didn’t exactly put her opposition to this mandate in those terms, but she’s now part of the group of politicians who deserve to be asked the question: Are you really against vaccine mandates, or is there some virus somewhere that could produce enough death that you would support a vaccine mandate? If so, throw us out a number. Maybe we can make a deal.

What a position to put yourself in. But Kelly has been in Kansas a long time, and she just knows these mandates tend not to work here. She’s not the only one who has been in Kansas a long time. Here’s an observation from that group: We’ve got a governor playing politics and running scared.

Talk about things that don’t work in Kansas.

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Topeka Capital-Journal. November 5, 2021.

Editorial; Forget stranger-than-fiction panel. Legislature should focus its energy on policies to help Kansans.

The first day of hearings before the Special Committee on Government Overreach and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates had a stranger-than-fiction quality to it.

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl reported the most striking moment came in the afternoon, when Cornell Beard, a representative of a Wichita machinist union, compared requiring masks for unvaccinated individuals to the Nazi demarcation of Jewish residents during the Holocaust.

A committee member, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, appeared to echo that sentiment in her response to Beard’s testimony, applying it to vaccine requirements.

“You’re right,” Landwehr said, adding “it is to the point to where this is racism against the modern-day Jew, which is anybody that disagrees with” vaccine mandates.

Legislators heard and discussed testimony for roughly six hours. Some of which promoted bunk theories on the COVID-19 vaccines. And the positions seem to be drawn along party lines, with Republicans calling President Biden’s vaccine mandates overreach and Democrats calling the committee a waste of time.

With litigation pending challenging the mandates lawmakers aren’t certain what is the best action to take anyway.

“I would call this the overreaction committee, rather than the overreach committee,” said Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka.

Bahl reports the panel is set to convene an additional four hearings before Thanksgiving, with a set of recommendations likely to come afterward will guide legislative action when the full body returns to Topeka for the 2022 legislative session.

“When January comes … I can promise you, something will be done,” said Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover.

The thing is, and this might be difficult for some lawmakers to accept, the science supports vaccination. If we want to get past this pandemic, we should listen to our scientific and medical experts.

Keeping that in mind, why are lawmakers wasting their time with this doctrine?

Instead, why not focus on things we can control?

Perhaps take a stab at issues of importance, such as redistricting, providing broadband to rural communities, helping revitalize the Department of Labor, fixing the many problems facing our at-risk children and families, or even combatting rural flight?

These are issues Kansans care about and could offer more than just bluster. Take one or several of these issues up. Invite citizens to testify. Hear their thoughts, ideas and concerns and maybe fix a solvable problem.

That’s what the Legislature is supposed to do.

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Kansas City Star. November 6, 2021.

Editorial: Kansas Legislature doesn’t need a special session to ‘debate’ COVID-19 misinformation

Kansans, and their representatives, should firmly reject any special legislative session on COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

A special session would be wasteful and dangerous. Vaccine exemption legislation would likely be illegal, and would certainly be unnecessary. And if recent hearings on the subject are any indication, a special session would amplify the voices of misguided, unhinged opponents of public health.

We’re confident Gov. Laura Kelly will not call lawmakers back. But the Legislature can call itself into a special session with a two-thirds vote — and it might just happen.

Sunday, state Rep. Ron Highland of Wamego urged lawmakers to call themselves back to Topeka to review federal vaccine mandates.

“We are witnessing the unthinkable and unconstitutional demands of turning over our private and personal health care decisions to the control of the government or lose your job!” the Republican wrote.

First, it must be said: Highland seems far less concerned with government interference in “private and personal health care decisions” when it comes to reproductive rights.

But vaccine requirements are fully constitutional. “There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good,” the U.S. Supreme Court said in 1905, upholding a Massachusetts vaccine law. “On any other basis, organized society could not exist with safety to its members.”

Yes. Vaccine requirements, and other protections against the COVID pandemic, are meant to protect everyone — not just the person getting the shot, or wearing a mask, or staying home when sick. The misguided rants of anti-vaccine zealots repeatedly miss this point: It isn’t just about you. It’s also about us.

And Kansans know this, because they’ve enacted laws requiring almost all children to be vaccinated against polio, measles and other infectious diseases.

But the concern for public health doesn’t end there. Did you know Kansas has something called the Tuberculosis Control Program? Did you know that any case of tuberculosis in Kansas must be reported to the local or state health department within four hours of diagnosis?

Here’s a partial list of other infectious diseases that must be reported to Kansas public health officials within the four hour window: measles, mumps, diphtheria, smallpox, polio, cholera, rabies and rubella. Dozens of other illnesses must be reported within 24 hours.

The reason for these rules is obvious. They help reduce the spread of killer sicknesses. No reasonable person objects to them. Somehow, though, when COVID-19 is involved, disease reporting and vaccine mandates turn into tyranny.

That sentiment is the real cause for concern with a special session. Lawmakers, emboldened by the testimony of loopy conspiracy theorists, might push past COVID rules and restrict all public health measures in the state.

Already there are dark discussions in other states about lifting all vaccine requirements. We know what that means: Smallpox and polio could come roaring back. Measles and mumps would be common again.

The White House COVID-19 vaccine mandate is reasonable. It applies to federal workers and contractors. Unvaccinated employees at private businesses with more than 100 workers can keep their jobs if they get weekly tests. The rules will make Kansas more safe.

Instead, Kansas legislators are considering surrendering public health policy to people who think safety masks represent the Holocaust, or whose profanity-laced tirades are so offensive they’re edited from the record. A special session to do that is unacceptable, and must be rejected.

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