Opinion

Kansas lawmakers should add these representatives to their list of ‘tedious’ colleagues

March 26, 2021 3:33 am

Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, says she knows teachers who’ve been shopping at Dillard’s and lying on the beach in Florida during the pandemic. (Feb. 1, 2021, photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Here we are, friends, in that gloomy and unpleasant stretch of the year that is not-quite-springtime on the Great Plains. Also known as partway through the Kansas Legislature’s annual session.

So it’s appropriate that lawmakers spent time this week using the word “tedious” in full sentences.

On Tuesday, Rep. Vic Miller, a Topeka Democrat, spoke for two hours in an effort to demonstrate the ridiculousness of Kansas House members objecting to federal legislation that would expand voting rights. Republicans cut off his filibuster by deploying rule 121.1: “No one is to speak impertinently, or beside the question, superfluously or tediously.”

The existence of this rule was exciting news to me, so I’d like to impose it retroactively on two other House members for comments made at the beginning of this month.

Back on March 1, Rep. Trevor Jacobs, a Republican from Fort Scott (who hasn’t proposed much original legislation but is among the four co-sponsors of a bill to declare Sept. 24 “a day of prayer, fasting and humiliation in Kansas”), had issues with House Bill 2238, which would do away with a limit on how much money individuals or entities can donate to libraries.

“We all know that libraries are essential to us,” Jacbos acknowledged. “It is with donations possibly from entities that are not kindly or friendly to the United States, like the CCP or the Muslim Brotherhood or Boko Haram or something like this, to bring donations to build up particular libraries with their names on it.” (His comment begins at about 1:40 on the YouTube video of that day’s proceedings.)

Jacobs did not specify whether Kansas libraries should also reject donations from the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon. But perhaps he was busy preparing his remarks for the next day.

On March 2, the House voted on House Bill 2259, which would make it easier for sexual partners to get treatment for STDs. Jacobs voted no, and he needed to explain why:

Joseph Stalin said America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold. Its patriotism, its morality and its spiritual life. He continued and he said, 'If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.' Mr. Speaker, I vote no on HB 2259. When government continues to push sexual perversion, and indoctrinates children in schools, what other outcome does the state have to expect? This legislation does not stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in our society. On the contrary, it encourages more sexual promiscuity. With little care for personal responsibility, the prevention of sexual diseases is more prudent, is a more prudent standard to live by, and would drastically reduce or eliminate sexual diseases if we the people would return to the moral absolutes that God has given us to live by. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

– Rep. Trevor Jacobs, R-Fort Scott

It’s worth listening to the full version of this speech, where Jacobs has trouble spitting out “promiscuity” and, in what might or might not be a Freudian slip, seems to say an ounce of “provision” — rather than prevention — is worth a pound of cure when it comes to sexual promiscuity:

 

It’s great to see Jacobs display his understanding of the separation of church and state. Perhaps he should take a civics test. We’ve heard a lot about civics thanks to Rep. Steve Huebert’s House Bill 2039, which would require high school seniors to pass a civics test before they could graduate.

The full House debated Huebert’s bill for nearly an hour — some might say tediously — on March 3. Many representatives gave speeches. The most fascinating one was by Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane who identified herself as a teacher.

Among other things, she was having “a lot of emotion” about comments made by a group of social studies teachers who had sent lawmakers a letter about how best to teach civics in schools, which is not through multiple choice tests and rote memorization. Helmer took offense.

She also had some dirt on some Kansas teachers:

Number one, a multiple choice test is one of the hardest tests any student will ever take because it’s quite confusing, and those are a lot of the tests that students take. And everybody knows, and I know, that students aren’t in school right now. I know a lot of students that aren’t in school. They’re out playing. So this letter to me is quite insulting to know, as I know that right now, and I hate to say it, I’m not going to say names, I know three of my teacher friends that are laying on the beach today in Florida, because school’s out so they’re on vacation. They’re supposed to be checking on computers with kids, doing computer school but no, the third time, they’re down in Florida on the beach. I’ve gone to Atwoods and teachers are at Atwoods at noon. I’ve gone to Dillard’s and teachers are at Dillard’s at noon, so this letter to me is quite insulting. I know teachers all over, from Cowley, Sedgwick and Sumner, and so I can identify the ones that are out shopping and out doing different things.

– Rep. Cheryl Helmer, R-Mulvane

Consider yourselves warned, teacher friends of Helmer!

The Mulvane representative (who was among four sponsors of a bill that would put physicians in prison for providing services to transgender children) continued in ways some viewers might consider impertinent, beside the question, superfluous — or just concerning:

 

What Helmer didn’t address was whether her teacher friends in Florida might possibly have been conducting classes remotely from the beach, which would be fine with me. Because my friends who are teachers work even when they’re on vacation — I’ve witnessed them doing this poolside when they should have been reading trashy romances instead. And if anyone deserves a trip to the beach, it’s Kansas teachers.

Whether a certain opinion writer deserves a vacation at this point in the legislative session is also worthy of debate but is not up for a vote. After carefully researching safe methods of travel, I’m making the trip I was supposed to take a year ago — so you’ll be spared my own meandering and tedious comments for a while. I will not be at a beach, but I’ll will be happily far from Kansas Capitol and all of its perversions.

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C.J. Janovy
C.J. Janovy

C.J. Janovy is a veteran journalist with deep roots in the Midwest. She was the Opinion Editor for the Kansas Reflector from launch unit l June 2021. Before joining the Reflector, she was an editor and reporter at Kansas City’s NPR affiliate, KCUR. Before that, she edited the city’s alt-weekly newspaper, The Pitch, where Janovy and her writers won numerous local, regional and national awards. Her book “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas” was among the Kansas Notable Books of 2019.

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