Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Strange and Stubborn Rhetoric

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Strange and Stubborn Rhetoric

Article excerpt

While lawmakers in Topeka proved that they were capable of passing a bipartisan tax bill in the 2017 session, it's no surprise that a few of their conservative colleagues were eager to express their adamant opposition. Ideological diversity is to be expected in a deliberative body comprised of 165 members, and most of the legislators who condemned Senate Bill 30 did so without resorting to extreme rhetoric or silly, theatrical behavior. However, the same can't be said for everyone -- some conservative lawmakers were more interested in political posturing than having a substantial debate about policy.

When the Senate passed a different tax package at the end of May (House Bill 2067, which failed in its chamber of origin), Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, held a $100 bill in the air and said, "This is my property." To amplify the dramatic effect, he crumpled the bill and tossed it on the desk in front of him -- a gesture that was supposed to demonstrate how Kansans' property rights were being crushed. It's one thing to argue that a tax bill is too onerous or to anticipate harmful economic effects (which is what plenty of Pyle's fellow conservatives did), but it's something rather different to insist that the government is stealing its citizens' property.

Disingenuous, hyperbolic rhetoric is Pyle's specialty, as he's proven again and again. When the Senate debated House Bill 2178 (a slightly more modest tax bill than SB 30) in February, Pyle likened it to a thief snatching cash out of a liquor store's register and predicted that it would convince people to flee the state: "You're going to see some businesses leave Kansas. You're going to see some people take off and leave. So if you want to get what's in their checkbook and their accounts, you'd better grab it today." When a state senator accuses lawmakers of petty theft, he isn't just failing to make a productive contribution to the debate -- he's actively undermining the norms of civil discourse in the Legislature. …

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