Sending sympathy and best wishes as Kansas begins another round of democratic governance

"Typically, I would deliver the State of the State address to the legislature and the public from the House Chamber in the Capitol building," Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said in a video posted to her Facebook and YouTube channels on Jan. 12. "But, these aren't typical times." (Screen capture by Kansas Reflector)

Who else tuned in to Facebook for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s State of the State speech Tuesday night because our definition of entertainment has changed during the pandemic and democracy’s death watch?

It turns out there are lots of new ways Kansans can entertain themselves.

The Legislature is, after all, on YouTube. Instead of NPR or Spotify for soothing ambience, everyone working from home can tune into the taxation committee! (A schedule of each day’s hearings with links to listen is here.)

Legislative leaders have promised that AV upgrades will turn the Capitol into a giant streaming service that, fingers crossed, should allow more people throughout Kansas to participate in democracy remotely instead of trudging to Topeka for the potential superspreader event known as the 2021-22 legislative session.

As the session began on Monday afternoon, the streets surrounding the Statehouse were oddly empty. Inside, polished floors gleamed brilliantly, unscuffed by crowds of lobbyists, staffers, families, tour groups and anyone else who’d normally want to observe the session’s kick-off.

Meanwhile, news was breaking of the FBI’s warning that “armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the US Capitol from 17 January through 20 January.”

No one seemed particularly alarmed on Monday, perhaps because Jan. 16 was a long five days in the future and this was a time for celebrating, swearing to uphold the Constitution and quoting the Bible while promising to work together for the good of Kansas.

Accepting his gavel, newly re-upped House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Republican from Olathe, said representatives had an extra duty this year: to keep each other safe (he was talking about the virus, not looming insurrections).

“As Kansans, we know that divisiveness, blasting others from the shadows of social media and talking past each other will not achieve the results that we have a duty to deliver,” he said.

The governor agreed.

“As leaders, we must commit ourselves to set an example. In how we conduct ourselves. In the things we say to each other, what we post on social media, in what we tell people back home in our communities,” she said in her State of the State speech. “This year, we must show Kansans that, even when we stand on opposite sides of the aisle, we still always share a common bond as Kansans and Americans.”

When things get tough, House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Democrat from Wichita, recommended Psalm 118, verse 24: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Probably not rejoicing on Monday was U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, based on other news that was breaking as legislators took their oaths.

Hallmark, whose political action committee had contributed $5,000 to Marshall’s last two campaigns, wanted its money back. The greeting card company was not pleased with the Kansas senator and his election-challenging frat brother in Missouri, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley.

“Hallmark believes the peaceful transition of power is part of the bedrock of our democratic system, and we abhor violence of any kind,” the company said. “The recent actions of Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall do not reflect our company’s values. As a result, HALLPAC requested Sens. Hawley and Marshall to return all HALLPAC campaign contributions.”

Since we’re doing stay-at-home democracy: Corporate (and individual) contributions to the Kansas Congressional delegation’s other democracy deniers — Jake LaTurner, Ron Estes and Tracey Mann — are easy to find at OpenSecrets.org and the Federal Election Commission.

Here, for example, are just three nuggets among more than 1,500 entries for LaTurner:

  • $2,500 from Home Depot
  • $3,000 from AT&T/Warner Media
  • $2,000 from Verizon

And for Estes:

  • $2,500 from the Gap
  • $1,000 from both Coca-Cola and Pepsi
  • $3,000 from Burns and McDonnell

And for Mann:

  • $2,500 from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City
  • $2,000 from Verizon
  • $5,000 from the Kansas Medical Society

The same information’s available for state representatives and senators thanks to an easy campaign contribution search tool at the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

While you’re busy with that, I’ll be eagerly awaiting Hallmark’s new product line: “Get well soon” cards for those who’ve fallen victim to conspiracy theories, and sympathy cards for everyone whose loved ones will never recover from the lies Republicans have told them.