It is difficult for Democratic lawmakers in Topeka to make headlines. Most legislation proposed by the minority party simply is ignored, both in the Statehouse and outside.
The internal nature of the situation basically is a numbers game. With only eight members in the Senate and 33 in the House -- and barely any moderate Republicans left to partner with, the odds are stacked against Democratic proposals receiving a hearing, let alone make it out of committee, through both houses and on to the governor's desk.
The second variable quieting this faction is the extreme nature of the other. Having an overabundance of ultraconservatives allows a multitude of extreme positions to dominate all conversations. Whether it's legalized discrimination of gay people, threatening the federal government with arrest if attempting to do its job in Kansas, ignoring the state Supreme Court's ruling on school funding, making voting more difficult than necessary, or cutting off benefits to the needy, it is not difficult for pundits to find worthwhile material.
But it's generally the Republican Party making the news.
One Wichita Democrat seems determined to change the dynamic. Rep. Gail Finney wants to give parents, teachers and caregivers the legal right to spank children harder.
Just so there is no room for misinterpretation, here is the language proposed in House Bill 2699: " 'Corporal punishment' means up to ten forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child and any such reasonable physical force on the child as may be necessary to hold, restrain or control the child in the course of maintaining authority over the child, acknowledging that redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result. As used in this subsection 'child' includes a person over the age of 18 who is enrolled in high school."
This is what is the matter with Kansas? We don't beat our children enough?
Finney, who is single and childless, said she's merely attempting to restore parental rights and improve discipline.
"What's happening is there are some children that are very defiant and they're not minding their parents, they're not minding school personnel," Finney said Tuesday.
Hitting them even harder hardly seems like the appropriate response. More parenting should be the answer, not more hitting.
Kansas law defines battery as "knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm to another person; or knowingly causing physical contact with another person when done in a rude, insulting or angry manner." That definition, ironically, exists in the very statute Finney hopes to amend.
Perhaps there is a bigger picture that needs to be considered. Another piece of legislation, HB 2450, calls for changing all state statutes that refer to the "best interest of the child." Instead, the preferred term would be "least detrimental alternative."
The proposed spanking bill so shocks us we only can imagine what comes next. More leniency for spousal abuse? Improved disciplinary measures at the discretion of employers? Shaming in the public square?
There is no excuse for the obscene HB 2699, unless Finney saw it as the only way for a Democrat to get press coverage in the current Statehouse environment. If that's the case, congratulations.
Now, withdraw the bill and return to your room. A timeout is needed; not a spanking.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry