Monday, May 12, 2008

Rough weekend for Mel

Recently, a post of The Kansas Trunkline, the official blog of the Kansas Republican Party (e.g. the one Christian Morgan admits to authoring) asked why the Governor and Kansans might be upset with Melvin Neufeld and the Republican dominated legislature in Kansas. Recent commentary pieces in the Hutchinson Daily News and Kansas City Star shed some light on the subject.

First, the Hutchinson News.

Normally, leadership would be the pre-eminent quality of someone who ascends to the position of Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives.

"Leader," however, does not describe Rep. Melvin Neufeld. Instead, the words that come to mind are irrational, bully and even hypocrite.
That's just the first two paragraphs. The piece touches on more than just the Speakers general unlikability.

The western Kansas Republican obviously will do just about anything to get his way in the Legislature, which this session is all about overturning the decision of the state's top environmental regulator who would not rubber-stamp Sunflower Electric's massive coal-fired power plant proposal for western Kansas.

That includes swapping votes and obstructing other - more important - legislation. It includes misinformation and expression of some downright bizarre viewpoints, such as saying he thinks carbon emissions are good for the crops.

Surely they're done, right? Wrong. On Neufeld's accusation that the Governor bought votes on the coal plant issue by permitting empty seats to be filled on the state plane (by Legisators who purchased their own tickets with their own money) ...

This bizarre behavior probably shouldn't be dignified with a response except that its nonstop outrageousness begs for expression of some relevant observations.

The free rides to the Final Four were easily explained. Some coal plant supporters as well as opponents went on the plane, and legislators paid for their own tickets. Sebelius probably figured it made sense to fill the seats. Now, taxpayers could quibble over the fiscal responsibility of flying a delegation of politicians to the Final Four, but it probably is an event the governor ought to attend.

And, besides, that debate is not about vote-buying.And Neufeld exposed himself as a hypocrite, because he has been accused of vote bribery himself, though of a more serious nature. Neufeld called the wife of a legislator in 1994 to say her husband had been found in a "compromising position" with two female lobbyists in a Statehouse lounge. That reportedly was the follow-through of earlier threats he made to the legislator in an attempt to convince him to vote Neufeld's way on a particular bill.

Maybe the Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske will have a more cheerful view on the Legislature's accomplishments this year.

You’ve probably never heard of Melvin Neufeld, but there’s one thing you might want to know about the Kansas House speaker: He goes well with jam.

Yep, he’s toast. Or, at a minimum, he’s so charred around the edges that hardly anybody will go near him.

Or not.

Get this: A Republican speaker in a chamber dominated by Republicans couldn’t cough up the single vote he lacked at one point on a test vote to see whether the House could override a Sebelius veto of the plants.

Talk about a canary in the mine. Good speakers keep five votes in their hip pockets just for sport.

Hell, even Nefueld's fellow Republicans blame him for the utter lack of any substantive accomplishments from this legislative session.

Disappointment typically soars at the end of any session. Lawmakers almost never get everything they want. But I was over there last week and I’m here to tell you: This session set a record for utter exasperation.

“Veterans are saying this is the worst legislative year they’ve ever seen,” said Rep. Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican.

Lawmakers complain about Neufeld’s closed-door style, his lack of people skills, his unwillingness to accept ideas contrary to his own. His relations with Sebelius are described as uneven. He’s feuding with his second-in-command, House Majority Leader Ray Merrick of Stilwell, who agrees the speaker is in deep doo-doo.

Try as they might, the KS GOP can't even convince their own caucus that Gov. Sebelius and Democrats are to blame. How do they expect to convince the people of Kansas?

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