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Off in Dreamland

2/21/2014

I had a dream the other night. Well, it was more of a nightmare.

I had a dream the other night. Well, it was more of a nightmare.

I had been elected to the Legislature. I'm not sure if I was in the Senate or the House. Might have been a combination of the two.

Shortly after I was elected, I was invited to a gauzy mansion where my host bore a striking resemblance to Vladimir Putin. He said to call him the wizard, but insisted he was not from Oz.

"Welcome," he said. "Welcome to the Bizarre Bazaar of Legislative Delights! We are here to serve as you assume your wondrous and awesome new power. Just let us know your interests, and we will provide the language."

Hmmm, I thought, this doesn't look like what I had experienced in my innocent youth. I had been an intern in the office of House Speaker Wendell Lady in 1979, the first year he was speaker. You know, back in the days before there was much influence from groups outside the state trying to manage our business.

But, I thought, it's a new day, and I had better get with the program.

"This is a candy store," my host told me, "and we know you have a sweet tooth.

"I am interested in religious freedom," I said, beginning to feel the first stirrings of my new authority.

"We have just the thing for you," the wizard said. "This is called the Religious Freedom Act (wink, wink), but it really provides protection from those evil judges. It looks like they are close to overturning the constitutional amendment many states, including yours, passed banning gay marriage.

"Here's the deal. Sell it as a way to allow those who don't believe in gay marriage to refuse to help in any way with their marriage services.

"But, and this is an important point you won't want to talk about, we slipped an extra comma into the text. That extra comma means no one will have to do anything for those people."

Oh, I thought, this is getting good.

"What if someone reads the bill before we pass it?" I asked.

"Just quote Nancy Pelosi," my host sneered. "We need to pass this bill in order to figure out what is in it. Let the Senate do the reading."

"OK," I said, "now I want something that will help rein in all those out-of-control local governments." Although I ran for office under the guise of promoting local control, I had observed the local yokels in action for many years. They -- and their voters -- couldn't be trusted.

"We have just what you need," the wizard said. "We had the same problem back in my home country. Over there, we just shipped those folks off to a labor camp. If they happened to die from a beating, well, those are the breaks.

"But, we know it doesn't work that way in Kansas. So, we have these catch-all gun rights bills."

"We call this cute little number the Second Amendment Protection Act. It's a great way to get started because it puts the feds on notice that their agents aren't welcome in the state."

"Wait a minute," I said. "The Legislature passed this one last year."

"Oh, that's right," he replied. "I forgot how forward-thinking Kansas is. How about this one? It would preempt all local gun ordinances. Pass this, and you can keep a loaded pistol on the seat next to you and you will never have to worry again about whether you are violating the law."

Oh, my.

"And, in the spirit of your request, stuff these additional bills in your pocket," the wizard said. "This one takes away the mortgage registration fee counties unfairly impose. This one would stop those yokels from taking advantage of increases in property values to raise additional property tax revenue. You just can't trust them."

"Wow," I said. "You have a full arsenal here. And, you really understand how irresponsible those local officials are. Whoever said that government closest to the people is best didn't know what he was talking about. All wisdom is centered in Topeka."

Finally, my gracious host took me behind a curtain. There, in bright pink neon, was a flashing sign. "Bruisers welcome," it said. The room was dimly lit. Desks lined the walls. Rough characters, some of whom might have been refugees from the sex-offender program at Larned, stood in huddles, talking in hushed tones. But, they all were smiling.

"What's this about?" I asked, starting to get nervous.

"This is my favorite," he said. "This is where the Stand Your Ground laws were written. This is where we cook up our finest, and you should see the latest."

He whipped out a bill. I scanned the language quickly. My eyes stopped at a section defining "corporal punishment." Great, I thought. Corporal punishment "means up to 10 forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm ... of a child ... acknowledging that redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result." And the power to punish can be delegated.

"You can't have this one," he said, as he grabbed if from my hands. "We found a Democrat from Wichita to introduce it. A Democrat! Can you imagine?"

I finally awoke in a cold sweat, but felt a sense of relief as I realized I had been having a nightmare.

Then, I opened the morning paper.

Bruce Buchanan is president of Harris News Enterprises, which owns The Hays Daily News.

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